Category Archives: Book Hauls

Christmas Book Haul

I’m sure (ahem) that you’ve been waiting in a state of frenzied anticipation to see what books my family and friends got me for Christmas. I’ve finally managed to get my lazy bum in gear and dig out the camera to share the book love… ta da!

How lucky am I?

How lucky am I?

A definite fairytale theme going on. I’m looking forward to reading them all.


New Library Card

It’s taken me nearly a year to sign up to our local library after moving house, but I’ve finally gotten around to it. Check out my snazzy new library card, key ring card and book mark. Thank you Abingdon Library!

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret- Glynis Ridley

I made a vague new year’s resolution to read more non fiction. I like to keep my resolutions vague because it means that failure is less of an option. However, I am making an effort with this and kick started my non fiction year with The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley, an English professor at the University of Louisville.

Jeanne Baret was the peasant born mistress of William Commerson, the botanist, who disguised herself as a man to enable her to join her lover on the first French circumnavigation of the globe. On this trip she helped discover the Bourgainvillea. In her book, Professor Ridley attempts to offer “a forgotten heroine a chance to bloom at last” if you’ll forgive the pun in the blurb (she was a herb woman/botanist). I couldn’t really. I’m just like that.

While Prof. Ridley’s book was certainly well written and engaging, I found myself very frustrated by it.  For me it suffered from the same problem that plagues so many books about the less famous mistresses of famous men- the majority of historical records associated with the woman are actually about her more famous and powerful lover. In Baret’s case there are contemporary records which tell some of her story but they are of questionable integrity (which Ridley addresses very well) and require a degree of interpretation. Ridley’s methods for interpreting these records involve detailed exploration of the lives of Commerson and Bougainville in order to contextualize the records about Jeanne Baret which is really the only way to proceed under the circumstances, but results in a book which, for me, was more about Commerson than his mistress, making the title The Discovery of Jeanne Baret something of a misnomer.

Working in academic publishing, I read a lot of books like Ridley’s as a part of my day job and I think that my expectations as a result of this may have tainted Ridley’s book for me. It’s a dangerous strategy as a publisher to bring out a book with a very academic tone which attempts to cross over for the general reader. The book is poorly referenced throughout and though it includes some passages by way of evidence, much of the time I found myself muttering to myself “Where’s your evidence for that? What are you basing this on?” to the point where I felt that sweeping of (admittedly quite lovely prose) were pure conjecture which could easily have been remedied by replacing phrases like “Jeanne would have felt” with “Jeanne might have felt”. I’m not a fan of speculation presented as fact in these books, it read more like an exercise in gender studies than a historical account.

This is worth a read if you are happy to skip over the material which is presented in the footnotes of more academic texts. It has been well written and well researched, but I felt that by attempting to be a hybrid text it overlooked the level of detail and integrity its readers might look for.

Have you read this book? Would you disagree?

Birthday Books

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me! I’ve had a great day and received loads of lovely presents including these books which I am so, so, so excited to read. I’m going to start with The Dovekeepers and Charles Dickens: A Life is pencilled in as my Christmas read.

Yay! Whooo hooo!

Everything Alice- Hannah Read-Baldrey and Christine Leech

My Cheshire Cat microwave beanbag

I haven’t been reading as such this week. The reason? Everything Alice: The Wonderland Book of Makes. I picked it up in Waterstones, Oxford on Alice Day, and arrived too early to meet the authors so was left kicking myself that I bought it from the rude and surly Waterstones staff instead of The Alice Shop who also stock it, though I hadn’t realised this at the time.

It’s easy to see why this handbook of Alice in Wonderland themed crafts has spent several weeks at number one in the craft category on Amazon. Not only is it packed with ideas for food, drink, needle craft, accessories, overhauling furniture and more (no really!) but the book is absolutely gorgeous. Decorated with papercut illustrations, full colour photographs, antique looking poster style pages based on the original text and sprinkled with many of my favourite quotes from the Alice stories, this book really is a little gem.

When I was little, my grandmother often used to say (with disdain or admiration, depending on what had prompted the comment) that I could amuse myself for days with just a piece of string. In all honesty, that hasn’t changed very much, and when not reading, I love to fiddle around with some kind of project. But plenty of my friends who have very limited interest in craft have picked the book up and browsed it when they’ve been round for tea (one was even caught “borrowing” it!) so it really does have something for everyone.

So far I have made

  • The lavender dormice- I love them and have lined up a row on the arm of the sofa to freak my landlord out when he shows people around our flat
  •  A giant Cheshire cat handwarmer which also contains lavender and is satisfyingly weighty.

I have attempted to make the duchess macarons but those call for an entirely different blog post!

Prototype dormouse and "sexy mouse"

My only warning is that this book has hidden costs attached. Oh you could make the crafts with the scraps you have lying around the house as I did with the cat and first dormouse. But velveteen will always feel nicer, and who could resist leopard print velour at a knock down rate on ebay to make sexy mice with? Most people probably, but I couldn’t. Oh, and don’t tell my boyfriend but the new food processor is to grind ground almonds into dust…

On the other hand the book might just save you money. I have plans to buy my crafty friend a copy for her birthday, and the family will all be getting dormice in their stockings this year. Not to mention the white rabbit I have planned for my niece’s birthday…

Follow the ladies who wrote the book on twitter @EverythngAlice or visit their website which I will one day send a picture of my dormouse army… they have a new book coming soon. I wait with bated breath.

The macaron saga... to be continued...

Panic Buying in Waterstones


I spent about four hours looking for a nice, reasonably priced black cardigan in Oxford today. I was not very successful. Fortunately I had more success in spending my Waterstones Christmas gift card (which given the financial trouble I didn’t want to hold on to)  buying the books below, which I am looking forward to reading, and a booklight which will let me read in bed when I can’t sleep without the boyfriend whining at me. At least, that’s the theory. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Waterstones Book Haul


Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has a wonderful 2011. You may have noticed that I’ve been fairly quiet over the festive season (and a bit before if we’re being honest). There have been a number of reasons for this: flu, hibernation tendencies, a brief fetish for cross stitching (thanks Kirstie Allsop) and of course, Christmas parties.

The biggest reason though is I’ve been stuck with a completely uninspiring book. I’ve been at it for about two weeks now and I’ve only made it 200 pages through A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. I’ll save it for the full review for you to have a breakdown of it, but it’s really dragging and has even managed to make me disinclined to write reviews of some other books I’d read before this.

The Children's Book

Eight weeks in my handbag have taken their toll on the pretty cover

On the bright side though, I’m looking forward to getting started on some books I received in December. I had my birthday as well as Christmas in that month, and my family passed on a few books as well. I managed to avoid any celebrity biographies/autobiographies which was nice (an amusing breakdown of the genre from Eva Wiseman here) in fact my older sister, most likely to be guilty of gifting such a crime, gave me some YA fallen angel fictions that I’d fancied on my last visit to her house. I’m on a mission to finish the bloody Children’s Book before I start on What The Dickens? the only book my father got me for Christmas this year, but it looks just the ticket.


Book Gifts

Book Gifts

When I make it through my unread book pile (which has grown considerably during the Byatt lull) I also have a Waterstones voucher from my boyfriend’s mother which I am sure I will enjoy spending 🙂


The Book and Chocolate Bar

I had a bit of a rant today in work about the Galaxy books give away, my friend had just entered her chocolate bar wrapper without success and I was complaining that I eat more chocolate than is strictly healthy and have NEVER won.

Then Lo! and behold, I entered the code in my Galaxy caramel and I’d won! I had a choice of Her Fearful Symmetry, Knots and Crosses and a few Chick Lit novels. As you’ll have seen from my review, I’ve already read the Niffenegger, so I chose the Rankin.