Whimsical Reading – Family Relationships


As I mentioned when I was talking about my aims and intentions for 2014, this year I’ll be continuing with my whimsical reading challenge, if you need a refresher of the rules, check out this page.  Today I thought I’d share some suggestions for the ‘Family Relationship’ category; there are tons you could pick, but here are a few I would recommend:

Mama Rose’s Turn by Carolyn Quinn

This fabulously written biography tells the story of Rose Thompson, the infamous stage mother of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc. Rather than mulling over the already well publicized lives of her daughters, Quinn looks into the wild and controversial life of the woman who shaped their destiny.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Most people say their favourite Dickens novel is Great Expectations, but this is mine. I’d never been that interested in reading his work before I was given this as a set text, but I have definitely been converted! Check out my review (link above) for more ramblings.

Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler

Feiler’s memoir documents his battle with an aggressive form of cancer, and the way he chooses to deal with it – by putting together a group of men to help raise his twin daughters after his death. I know I’m making it sound quite morbid, but it’s more of a celebration of all the men that have influenced his life.

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

This was one of my favourite books read in 2013. I first decided to read it when I start the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club challenge, and I’m so glad I did – I absolutely loved it. The story starts as Katie finds out that her sister has died while travelling of what appears to be a suicide. Overtaken by grief, she uproots her life and follows in Mia’s footsteps, with only her journal as a companion. It’s indescribably well written, hugely emotive so unbelievably worth reading.

Granny is my Wingman by Kayli Stollak

Granny is my Wingman is based on the blog of the same name, and tells the story of Kayli and her Grandmother’s experimentations with online dating. It’s a fun light-hearted read.

Mother’s Curse by Thaddeus Nowak

This is the first instalment in a fantasy series by Thaddeus Nowak, which follows the quest of Stephenie, a princess with a curse, attempting to flee her evil mother and find her brother. Throw in a lost city, a ghostly love story and a few big betrayals and you have a recipe for fantastical excellence. Enjoy!

There really are soo many you could pick for this category… what would you go for?

D x


Best in Book Blogging 2013

2023 - the best of book blogging

So this is the second instalment of the bookish survey I found on the Perpetual Page Turner (for the first part, click here).

New favourite book blog you discovered in 2013?

Hmmm… there are a few… I really love A Novel Idea (I participated in their event ‘Love Triangles 101‘ earlier in the year, which was a lot of fun) and Semi-Charmed Kind of Life (which hosts some really great reading challenges).

Favourite review that you wrote in 2013?

I don’t really have reasons why, but I think my favourite was Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. However, the ones that you guys seemed to enjoy the most were The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke and The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro.

Best discussion you had on your blog?

I really enjoyed the Non Fic November discussions we all had, I think this one was my favourite. I also had a lot of fun debating the pro’s and con’s of love triangles with you.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Ooooh that’s a tricky one… Armchair BEA was amazing… I just wish I’d have found out about it sooner, I ended up cramming it all in over a couple of days. I also really enjoyed the Mother’s Curse/Daughter’s Justice blog tour (partly because I got to rediscover my love for fantasy, partly because the author interaction was great).

Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?

I think maybe my best book blogging moment was pulling off Non Fic November… it was such a lot of work, and I was so unbelievably glad when it was over, but I definitely got a little buzz from pulling it off! The best moment from my ‘book life’ was reaching my reading goal on Goodreads… over the past few years my reading habits have slowed a lot, but this year I really managed to pick up pace again 🙂

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My most popular post of 2013 wasn’t even one that I wrote this year… and it definitely wasn’t one that I’m particularly fond of, but The Art of Benin is a popular with those studying the Arts Past and Present with the Open University. The next two most popular were two of my arty posts, the ‘myth and magic’ note card tutorial I published a while ago, and how doodling helps me to de-stress.

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Is that a trick question? All of them!

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I discovered a couple of really fun book memes this year, particularly Top Ten Tuesday and Book Chat – they’ve led to me making some great book blogging friends, and helped me to find some fab new blogs to add to my daily reading list! I also discovered NetGalley this year, which has been a really good way to discover new authors, even it has added a lot of ‘review pressure’.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Well as I mentioned before, I managed to complete my goal of reading 50 books this year. I also stuck to one of my New Year’s Resolutions by hosting my own reading challenge (that I will be continuing with next year).

All in all, I’m glad with the way my blog has developed over the past 12 months, even if it is getting progressively less ‘bookish’ and leaning more towards the creative side of things… I’ve really enjoyed redesigning the layout of my blog, and learning so much more about how to generate great content and work on the visuals… I’ve even become brave enough to share Doing it the Open Way with everybody I know (which was a HUGE step for me). How about you? I’d love to hear what you’ve enjoyed doing to your blog this year. Do you have a favourite post you’d like to share?

D x

Best in Books 2013

2013 - A Year in Books

The other day I came across this survey from the Perpetual Page Turner, and I thought it sounded like a great way to sum up my reading achievements for the year. There’s a second part heading your way next week, so stay tuned!

Best Book You Read in 2013. If you need to cheat you can break this down by genre.

There are many, but all are mentioned at some point in this post so for now I’ll just talk about:

Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold

After twenty years of marriage Chloe comes home to find that her husband Nate has left her with nothing but a cryptic note, telling her he’s returned to their home town, the place they’ve been avoiding for the past two decades. While waiting for him to get in contact, she comes across a notebook of his, written in a code they made up when they were children. From this point, we’re told their story from two perspectives – through Chloe’s recollections as an adult, and Nate’s diary entries. Each memory is triggered by the mention of a book they’d read together at a significant point in their relationship… it’s hard to tell which they loved more, books or each other! The fact that Nate’s diary is written in code foreshadows the suspense that is built later. Arnold increases the sense of mystery consistently throughout while dealing with a boat load of ‘issues’ – from teen pregnancy, to abortion, to abortion, religious fervour, murder, adultery, terminal illness… All surrounded by the air of an unnamed evil getting closer and closer. Book of Secrets was a subtly crafted, heart wrenching pleasure to read, and I would definitely recommend that you give it a try.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t.

Little Beauty by Alison Jameson

From the blurb of this book I was expecting a light-hearted Maeve Binchy-esque treat, and that’s very much the way it started… but before long I was faced with frustrating characters, unappealing plot twists, pointless sadness and a general air of disbelief. The writing itself is great, but I just didn’t like the story.

Most Surprising (In A Good Way) Book of 2013.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

I used to avoid non-fiction (specifically memoirs), but reading Escape was like a turning point… since then I’ve been much more open to reading memoirs. Some (like What Falls Away) have been amazing, others (Teaching the Pig to Dance) not so much, either way, I’m glad I’ve given a different genre a chance!

Book You Read in 2013 That You Recommended to People Most.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

This book kicked ass. I don’t remember a time when I’ve been faced with a collection of character so real, so vivid and so flawed. The story was gripping, and surprising, and emotional… I’ve recommended it to everyone who’ll listen to me on Twitter, to anyone who dares talk to me at the pub, and I’ve even bought a couple of copies for friends. I think really I just wanted someone to talk about it with me!

Best Series You Discovered in 2013.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I hate that everyone was so right about The Hunger Games – I usually like to avoid the books that everyone raves about… but these were fantastic. I read the lot over the course of three days (and then got upset that I’d finished them so quickly) I can’t wait to go see Catching Fire at the cinema!

Favourite New Author You Discovered in 2013.

Isabel Allende – she wrote two of the books I’ve loved this year, Island Beneath the Sea and Zorro. To be honest, I’m not sure if I first picked up Zorro because I saw that she’d written it or because I adored the film… and I’m really, really glad the book didn’t try to deal with the same areas of the plot that the movie did. It took me quite a while to read, but it was so much fun… I’m a sucker for the swashbuckling adventure!

Best Book That Was Out of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre For You.

Mother’s Curse and Daughter’s Justice by Thaddeus Nowak

When I was little I used to love fantasy, but I’ve definitely stepped away from it recently. I really enjoyed getting back into the genre (and I can’t wait for the third installment of the series!)

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book in 2013.

The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro

I think we all know that I’m a big fan of crime novels, and this one was FAB. It’s been a while since I discovered a new mystery writer that I loved, but this one was electric. Disturbing at times, but electric.

Book You Read in 2013 That You’re Most Likely to Reread Again Next Year.

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

Written by my favourite Gilmore Girl, I knew I was going to love it. It was just the kind of book that I could read over and over – check out my review for more information.

Favourite Cover of A Book You Read in 2013.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

I have a bit of a thing for the colour grey, and I just live the quirky, doodled effect. It was a hard choice though (because I judge most books by their covers!)

This is actually the book I’m in the middle of reading at the moment (does it still count?) I’m really enjoying it so far… I’m a big fan of retellings, and this one is a reinterpretation of the legend of Odysseus, told from the perspective of his faithful wife Penelope and her twelve hanged maids.

Most Memorable Character in 2013.

Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore

You can just tell from the title that this has to be amazing… and the characters in it were just… indescribable. It took some thinking to pick a favourite, Tuck the playboy pilot came close, as did the cross-dressing navigator with a talking bat… but nobody could surpass Beth Curtis, the ex-stripper, current Stepford wife and part-time Goddess. Pure genius.

Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2013.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This magical realist novel has to be one of the most breathtaking books I’ve ever read. Everything is described so spectacularly that it seems to appear before your eyes. It is not merely a beautifully written story, with beautifully vivid characters, but it showcases a beautiful (if dangerous) world. We get to be part of the most beautifully tragic love story, while being let into the truly beautiful Circus of Dreams…. the whole book is just a big load of beautiful!

Book That Had the Greatest Impact On You in 2013.

Germinal by Emile Zola

It seems like such a long time since I read this, but it wasn’t even a year ago… It was one of my set books for AA316, and it’s quite hard to explain why it had such an impact… A lot of the ‘classics’ I’ve read have been good, but didn’t incite any particularly strong emotional responses… Germinal, on the other hand, was so deliciously dark, and grim, and tragic that it sparked a whole new appreciation for those dusty volumes stacked at the back of my bookcase. the best part? It’s part of a twenty volume series!

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited UNTIL 2013 To Finally Read.

Hmmm… probably The Hunger Games trilogy again… they really were so good! Although, having said that, I wouldn’t have wanted to read it at the same time as the rest of the world. The endless gushing I hear from everyone reduces the pleasure I get from reading.

Favourite Passage or Quote From a Book You Read in 2013.

I don’t really have one… I’m not really one for picking out quotes from the books I read (unless they’re set books of course). However, I did really enjoy a lot of the very poetic passages from The Awakening, for example :

“The voice of the sea is seductive; never-ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.” 

Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2013.

Robber Bride (528 pages) by Margaret Atwood

This book took me forever to read… partially because of the length, but also because it wasn’t particularly fast paced or compelling. The characters were very well designed, and three-dimensional, but they were all pretty hard to like. The narrative is peppered with beautiful, well-crafted phrases, but the story was just illogical; I couldn’t understand any of the characters’ motivations at all. I really, really, really wanted to love it, but I just felt there was something missing…

Bones in Her Pocket (64 pages) by Kathy Reichs

This was a teeny, tiny, straight to e-book short story from the Tempe Brennan series (which I love).

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The Hunger Games was absolutely full of these moments, and What Falls Away had me ranting about the evils of men, but I think the book with the single most OH MY GAAAD moment had to be Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie. Read it then we’ll talk.

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc). 

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

This was a book filled with great relationships – some inspiring, some maddening… but I have no idea which was my favourite, Mia and Katie? Katie and Finn? Finn and Mia? They were all pretty kick-ass!

Favourite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

I’ve loved every Nicholas Sparks book I’ve read, they’re so easy to immerse yourself in… and it rarely takes more than a day to get through one. Safe Haven is probably my favourite one so far, it was touching and surprising, and the movie is on my Christmas list!

Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The quintessential romance from the Regency period infused with gossip, gowns and gentlefolk… To be honest, I only read this book because everyone kept pestering me to – if I had 5p for every person who describes it as the best book ever written I could probably buy another house. I liked the plot of the actual story, but then my love of Bride and Prejudice (the Bollywood adaptation) could probably have told you that! I also really enjoyed the character of Mr Bennett, he was so wry… he just reminds me of my Grandad! However, I thought the style of writing was quite convoluted (and not just in a ‘it was written hundreds of years ago’ kind of way). I didn’t think it was a particularly compelling story, certainly not compelling enough to be described as the best ever! I also thought most of the characters were quite superficial, I don’t mean frivolous (although they were); I just thought they could have been developed a lot more.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

That would have to be non-fiction! Non Fic November is definitely partly to blame, but I also read quite a few memoirs earlier in the year…

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Well Diego de la Vega (from Zorro) is my favourite rebel-hero EVER, but I’ve loved him ever since he was Anthony Hopkins, so technically he’s not a new fictional crush… A very close second would be Charlie from The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud (because who doesn’t love a tortured loner), with Finn from The Sea Sisters as an even closer third (because he’s just lovely. And tall.)

Best 2013 debut you read?

The Biscuit Witch by Deborah Smith

Despite my preference for longer books, I really enjoyed this novella, and as the first of three installments there’s plenty more good stuff to come!

Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013? 

Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing

After reading it, I found out that Circus of Ghosts is actually sequel of The Mesmerist (which I have since added to my collection). Ewing creates a vivid, magical snapshot of turn of the century New York (with a sprinkling of decadence from Silas P. Swift’s extraordinary circus)… the characters are totally eccentric, and totally loveable (apart from those dastardly baddies of course!). The balance of humour, mystery and heartache is just perfect… you really can’t help but get invested!

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Enough said.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

I’m not really a big crier, but there are quite a few that may have provoked a tear or two this year… The Sea Sisters, Becoming Indigo, The Hunger Games, The Sweetest Hallelujah and Charlie St Cloud were probably the main ones. Don’t tell anyone.

Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

Natural Causes by James Oswald

This book was part of the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club List, and in my opinion it was one of the best. However, it seemed to be missing from any ads that were around at the time, and I couldn’t even find a copy at WHSmiths or my local library!

If you fancy playing along I’d love to hear your responses to these questions!

D x

P.S. Will be link up to this week’s Book Chat, don’t forget to come check out the other entries!

{Recent Reads} From Non Fic November


Today I thought I’d share a summary of all the books I managed to read during Non Fic November… I didn’t manage to get through everything on my list, but I’m still pretty please with my efforts 🙂 I’ve already reviewed Granny is My Wingman and The Burglar Caught By A Skeleton for you, but here are the others I ticked off my list last month:

Mama Rose’s Turn by Carolyn Quinn

This was one pretty epic book, and kind of the example that proves the rules that non-fiction takes forever to read! Despite it taking a few weeks of investment, I really enjoyed it. I have a bit of a thing for the underdog, so I really loved that the author consistently defended a personality typically viewed as a bit of a monster. Her research was impeccable, and rather than filling in any blanks with guesswork, Quinn held her hands up and said “I’m not sure what really happened but I’d like to think it was this“. The life of Rose Thompson was a whirlpool of eccentricity, scandal and dedication, and I would fully recommend you immerse yourself a little. This is a woman who carved out stellar careers for two daughters, inspired three memoirs and a Tony award-winning musical as well as multiple films, a newspaper series and a character in a crime novel. You owe it to her to get to know her.

What Falls Away by Mia Farrow

In a nutshell, Mia Farrow has lived a ridiculously fabulous life. Every memoir I’ve read before this one has been about a person who started off with a normal life but went on to do something that would put them in the public eye. Farrow, on the other hand, was born into the glamorous Hollywood bubble of stardom. The book was a pleasure to read; her narrative tone is welcoming and compelling and I love that she makes no apologies for any of her life choices, despite overwhelming judgement and pressure from the media. The way she talks of her marriage to Frank Sinatra makes me nostalgic for a time I never even experienced… and her astounding grace in the face of a horrific and highly publicized event just makes me love her. I encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself, because no review will do it justice.

Jump Start Your Creativity by Shawn Doyle and Steven Rowell

I read this in the hope that it would re-inspire me… as I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut recently. Unfortunately I found myself very disappointed. Rather than stimulating my artistic cells, it almost bored me to death. If you want to coordinate some cringeworthy team building or generate some ‘creative solutions’ to business problems, then this book is for you and I’m sure you’ll find there to be some valid tools… it just didn’t fit my purpose. I also found the writing style to be quite fake – it felt like reading a sales pitch rather than a helpful guide. All in all, not my fave.

American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life by Amelia Simmons, An American Orphan

Erm… first observation… it has a really long title… After really enjoying the ‘food history’ aspects of How to Avoid a Soggy Bottom I wanted to read an olde worlde cook book during Non Fic November. Originally published in 1796, this one definitely fits into that category, and is actually the first known recipe book to have been written by an American. The ‘God Bless America’ mentality is evident from the very first page (actually, it’s evident from the front cover…) but it’s more quaint than annoying. I’m probably not going to cook anything from the book, but I love some of the phrases she comes out with (my fave being the assertion that garlics are far better suited to the brewing of medications than to foods… because the French use garlic, and you know what they’re like…) What a gem!

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I would love to say that I’ve been a Tina Fey fan for years, that I watched her religiously on Saturday Night Live, that I have every episode of 30 Rock on DVD, and that I went to all of her early improv shows. However, then I would be telling you four lies. To me, she’s the teacher from Mean Girls. Despite not really knowing who she was (and being far too English to have noticed the infamous Sarah Palin thing) I really enjoyed the book. She’s just so funny! I’ll admit that there was the odd joke that I didn’t enjoy, or rather, that I didn’t think was completely necessary (I’m more of a wry/sarcastic/satirical person) but there were a few instances of embarassing ‘laughing on the bus’ while reading. Bossypants is really accessible, and offers a fascinating peek into the world of comedy, something I know next to nothing about… I would definitely recommend this book to anyone out there that finds non-fiction a bit dry… because this is anything but!

And here concludes all of the Non Fic November posts for 2013, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along… but let’s get back to those novels!

D x

{Non Fic November} A Summary


So Non Fic November is officially over! It was a lot of hard work, but so worth it, I’ve got to read some really great books and some really great posts by my blogging friends… If you’ve been playing along too, I hope you’ve had a great time – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Do you remember at the start of the month I wrote a list of books I wanted to get through? Well I didn’t manage to get through all of them (I was quite ambitious…) but 5 out of 7 isn’t bad (plus some of them were really loong!) – I’ll post some reviews up soon, but for now I’ll leave you with a round up of the posts we’ve enjoyed this month:

An Introduction to Non Fic November

Daire’s Non Fic November Reading List

Review: Coal to Diamonds by Beth Ditto

Julie vs Julia and Why Beth Loves It

Pangs (An Extract of Life Writing)

Book Chat: Non Fiction (by Jessica)

Book Chat: Non Fiction (by Me)

When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

The Things I Hate About Non Fiction

Holocaust Fiction – Inspired by Fact

Review: The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton

Review: Jigsaw Man

Beth’s Favourite Autobiographies

The Death of the Novel

A Documentary Update

Non Fic On Screen: Film Adaptations

On Parenting Manuals

Review: Granny is my Wingman

Gabby’s True Story

I would just like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped out with this event – I could not have done it on my own! It would be great if you would head over to all their blogs and leave some love!

D x



Granny is my Wingman


Based on the blog of the same name, Granny is my Wingman tells the online dating horror stories of author Kayli Stollak and her brash, short-tempered grandmother.

Following the catastrophic breakdown of her relationship with ‘soul mate’ Charlie, Kayli brings us along on her attempts to get over the ex love of her life and move on while encouraging her granny to do the same. I found this book really accessible – the narrative tone is very chatty… it really is much more like reading a blog than reading a memoir. In some aspects I found it quite easy to relate to Kayli – I too have dabbled in the world of online romance (and Facebook stalked an ex), but I also got the impression that she’s a little shallow at times. Although this is very realistic (because let’s face it, we’re all a bit superficial sometimes) it didn’t always make for the most endearing character.

Granny, on the other hand, is simply fabulous. My favourite parts of the whole book where the bits that involved her. She offered the BEST dating advice, even if she wasn’t the best at following her own rules…

I thought there were times when the book could have been a bit funnier… but that’s a matter of personal preference. When some people write their memoirs they think nothing of exaggerating or omitting details to create something a little more comedic, but Kayli stuck to the truth (I am not criticising her for this, but as a reader I enjoy embarrassing myself by laughing out loud on public transport).

One of the things I found most bizarre (and at the same time the most fascinating) was that she also helped her grandmother to sign up for online dating. Not just that, but she actually talked to her about S.E.X… I don’t think I’d even dare think that word in the same building as my grandma! We’re partners in crime in most other areas, but there’s a line!

Although I couldn’t describe it as particularly literary, I did enjoy reading it. It was a fun, light-hearted way to ease myself into reading non-fiction… it didn’t take me ages to get through (which you may remember is one of my pet peeves), and it was divided into nice short chapters, so I could fit it in and around my assignments. If you enjoyed this book, or feel like weighing up your options before investing in it, you should check out Kayli’s blog.

D x

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{Non Fic November} The Death of the Novel


It’s only a brief post coming your way today, but I just wanted to talk about one of my FAVOURITE online resources… Librivox. For the uninitiated, Librivox is a free online database of audio books (think Project Gutenberg for the ears). I found this site really handy when studying the Nineteenth Century Novel, as I was able to listen to a few of my set texts when out and about.

When I first embarked on the Non Fic November adventure, I had a little look through Librivox to see if there was anything to take my fancy… and there was! I always knew that the site was filled with novels in the public domain, but during this new exploration I found tons of old articles… perfect for if you don’t have a lot of time to invest!

The one that peaked my interest this time was ‘The Novel is Doomed, Will Harben Thinks‘, first published in the New York Times in 1915. It was hilarious, in an unintentional way. In a nutshell, Will Harben (a novelist) believes that novel-reading is on its way out due to the development of film and cars. You can understand why he might think the cinema would be a threat to the written word, but his main concern seemed to the ‘automobiling’ – he mentioned multiple times that the youth of today would lose the desire to read if they had the power to drive around all the time… magic. So what do you think? Is the novel still doomed?

The original Jack the Ripper articles have also caught my eye – they’re going on my list of things to listen to before the month is out! If you come across anything fabulous be sure to come back and let me know!

D x

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The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton


The Burglar Caught by the Skeleton, by Jeremy Clay, is the first book I read as part of Non Fic November. When I first picked it out I expected a book filled with lively retellings of a few bizarre stories from Victorian newspapers, but that’s not really what I came away with.

Pretty much all the stories were quite sensational, but I still got quite bored. This was a very long book, filled with lots and lots of pretty similar articles, divided into sections (Animals, Love, Marriage and Family, Eating and Drinking, Health and Medicine, Coincidence and Luck, Sport, Hobbies and Pastimes, Inventions, Life and Death, Superstition, Belief and Supernatural, Crime and Punishment, Wagers, Accidents and Disasters, Fashion and Clothes, Arts and Entertainment). I would have preferred him to include less stories, and expand on them himself. Is it bad that my favourite parts of the book were Clay’s chapter introductions? He’s funny, and charming, and has the kind of voice that makes you want to keep reading… however, he had this habit of describing a story in quite a lot of detail and then putting that same story in the section… it seemed like slightly unnecessary repetition. I just wish he’d have included more of his own writing in the book!

I quite enjoyed the glaringly obvious creative liberties taken by the journalists of yore (which were so extensive I’m not sure this book should count as non-fiction), and the sheer volume of articles entitled ‘a remarkable incident’, but I found it quite a dry read. When I was younger (well, ever since first reading Jane Eyre really) I used to dream about living during Victorian times… but after reading about all the escaped lions, and poison, and death by coffin, and dodgy medicine, I’m just not so sure!

I wouldn’t recommend reading it as a you would a novel – it just doesn’t have the best ‘flow’ (and it took me FOREVER to get through!). However, I would say this is a great book to dip into if you’re looking for a bit of writing inspiration… it’s definitely a great source of interesting plot lines!

D x

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GUEST POST: Top 10 Non-Fiction Books


Hi, I’m Janet and I blog about books, music, craft, travel, and other daily goings-on at Words That Can Only Be Your Own.  I’m an avid reader, but as an English teacher my reading tends to be focused on fiction.  However, some of the books that have been most inspiring and life-changing were non-fiction, so I loved Daire’s idea for Non Fic November.  And so, without further ado, here are my top 10 non-fiction books (in no particular order)

non fic top 10


1. Ed. Michelle Tea It’s So You: 35 Women Write About Personal Expression Through Fashion & Style

A collection of essays musing on the often thorny topic of how clothes and make-up contribute to women’s personal identity and expression of self, I particularly enjoyed Diane di Prima’s (b.1934) essay Ideas of Fashion from the Great Depression to Today and A Torrid Affair by Cookie Woolner, who writes, “The mainstream fashion and beauty industries exist to keep us alienated from our bodies and desires, in a constant cycle of consumption and false expectations.  Fashion should be about joy and expression, not fear and loathing – loving and truly inhabiting our bodies, not hiding from them.”   She had me nodding along frantically!  I loved this book, which got me reflecting on the style choices I have made over the years (and made me excited about trying out red lipstick for the first time in my life: turns out it looks great, who knew?).  Be prepared for it to change the way you perceive the contents of your wardrobe and your make-up bag.

2. Tom Hodgkinson How To Be Free

I read How To Be Free two summers ago, just after returning from America. The trip had already got me thinking about the way I lived and my work-life balance (or lack thereof), and Tom Hodgkinson’s book – which is part comic writing, part political polemic, part philosophy, part manual for changing your life – was just what I needed to bring my thoughts into sharper focus.  It kickstarted my Not Buying It experiment in autumn 2011, and indirectly led to my £100 Challenge in autumn 2012. As a result of reading this book, I cut my hours at work and managed to pay off a large chunk of credit card debt. It genuinely changed my life.

3. Mark Salzman True Notebooks

An account of writer Salzman’s first year of teaching creative writing at Central Juvenile Hall – a lockup for Los Angeles’s most violent teenage offenders – this is a sometimes uplifting, often depressing, always inspiring book about the power of education, the power of the written word, the impact of teachers on young people’s lives, and more besides.

4. Jeanette Winterson Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Winterson’s autobiography covers much of the same ground as her debut novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. I loved this beautifully written, poetic account of Winterson’s childhood and her adult struggles with her past and her adoption. As much a paean to the power of literature to change lives as an autobiography, I especially enjoyed her musings on working class identity, the changing face of the North, and feminism.

5. Amy Raphael Never Mind The Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock

A seventeenth birthday present, this is a collection of interviews with the women who were making waves in music circa 1994-95.  From big stars such as Bjork and Courtney Love, to Britpop frontwomen like Echobelly’s Sonya Aurora Madan, reading these women’s own words was inspirational to me as a teenager.

6. Sara Marcus Girls To The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

I can’t recommend Girls To The Front enough. It’s a heartfelt, passionate and beautifully written account of the genesis of Riot Grrrl, focusing on the Olympia and Washington DC scenes but encompassing the stories of girls and women from all over the USA. If you are at all interested in the 90s, in feminism, or in music history, then this is a great read.

7. Mark Yarm Everybody Loves Our Town: A History of Grunge

A really wonderful oral history of grunge and the Seattle scene that birthed it.  Full of great gossip and fascinating recollections, it’s a must-read if you enjoy early 90s music.

8. Tom Gallagher, Michael Campbell & Murdo Gillies The Smiths: All Men Have Secrets

This book was a Christmas gift almost 20 years ago (yes, I am actually THAT old).  A collection of fans’ stories about Smiths songs, my copy is full of penciled notes and underlinings in true adolescent style.  A lot of the tales are – rather like the songs themselves – rather keen to wallow in their own misery, but it’s a great reminder that when you think Morrissey is singing just to you in your loneliness and isolation, there’s no doubt someone next door thinking exactly the same.

9. Bill Bryson A Short History Of Nearly Everything

A book that should be required reading, it represents an incredible achievement by Bryson: to write a science book that is truly for the layperson.  Covering everything from quantum physics to geology and biology, it is as entertaining as it is educational.

10. Caitlin Moran How To Be A Woman

When I was a teenager I wanted to be Moran, who was a writer for Melody Maker by the age of 16 and presented Channel 4 yoof show Naked City in all her Doc Marten-ed, dyed red hair, size sixteen-glory. I loved her book – which is part memoir, part feminist polemic – and still can’t quite get over the fact that it won the Galaxy prize for best book of 2011. Even if this book was rubbish (which it’s not: it’s funny and moving and incredibly clever), I’m excited that a book about feminism is at the front of WH Smiths.

Thank you for posting for us today Janet! (But also, DAMN YOU for adding more to my ever-increasing ‘to read’ list!) D x

{Non Fic November} The Bad


A lot of the Non Fic November posts so far have been ‘yay to non-fiction’ but today I thought I’d talk about the things I don’t like about a lot of non-fiction because there really are several good reasons that 95% of my reading is fiction.

– The writing can be really dry. A lot of writings can be so full of facts that there’s no drama or intrigue to propel you forwards. 

– Some can lack any reasonable amount of research and end up being based on rumours and myth.

– Anyone with a semi-interesting story seems to think they should write a memoir, regardless of writing talent.

– The covers tend to be less than attractive (and I’m a superficial being!)

– A lot of the times they’re just too long. Edit, people!

– A lot of the subjects seem to be quite faddy. I know it’s the same with fiction (vampire love story, anyone?), but because non-fiction is factual there’s so much less variety in the stories of three thousand books about Tudor Queens.

– They’re not promoted in the same way, so I don’t discover works of non-fiction that I’d love to read at the same pace.

– There’s a tendency to be serious. Sometimes I want some frivolousness in my life

So how about you? I know a lot of the Non Fic November participants are big fans of non-fiction but what do you think? Any pet hates to share?

D x

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