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badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon – Just one book for me this week but it’s an excellent one.  I am loving this look at the power of reading aloud and learning all sorts of interesting things about child development along the way.  I’m off to visit my 20-month-old niece (and brand new nephew, born last Thursday) next week and am getting very excited about bringing lots of books to read aloud to her! (Book Depository)

What did you pick up this week?

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It’s a lazy, rainy Sunday here – so welcome in the middle of hot summer – and it seems like the perfect time to sit down and share some photos of the lazy, rainy time I spent visiting Giverny back in May.

Monet’s gardens at Giverny are world-famous and well-loved, welcoming more than 500,000 visitors each year.  Within day-trip distance of Paris, the tiny village of Giverny explodes during the day as tourist arrive, filling the gardens and the village with garden-lovers from all over the world, only to contract again in the evening to a sleepy place where only two restaurants are open.

I started my trip this year in Giverny, going there directly after landing in Paris (where I connected with my mother who had started her trip a week earlier in the Czech Republic).  Staying at a cosy B&B within the village, I got to relax in its quiet bird-filled garden and stretch my legs after a long travel day by walking the path between Giverny and the nearby town of Vernon.  After airports and airplanes, it was such a relief to walk through fields and be surrounded by flowers, fresh air, and, delightfully, cows.  Then it was back to the B&B to laze in the garden until dinner and read Mad Enchantment, Ross King’s excellent history of Monet’s paintings of the water lilies.  I love being able to match my reading to my holiday destination and this was the perfect choice.  Reading about Giverny and Monet’s life there added so much to my experience of the village and the house and gardens.  Stopping to see the family grave in the small cemetery, all the names of his family members meant so much more to me because of what I learned about them in the book.

The next morning, with our pre-purchased tickets in hard, we showed up at the gardens right at opening time.  We strolled around the water garden (devoid of water lilies in mid-May), posed on the wisteria-laden Japanese bridge for the ubiquitous photos, and enjoyed the general calm of the gardens before too many others arrived.

We then made our way to the gardens surrounding the house, where row upon row of irises were in full bloom.  There was a light mist of rain that morning, which made the vivid blues and purples of the irises stand out more than they would have in full sun.  Iris are one of my favourite flowers so, for me, this was absolutely the perfect time to have visited the gardens.

After spending the bulk of the morning in the gardens, we visited Giverny’s small but well-curated Impressionist Museum, strolled about the village, and spent another lazy afternoon back in the B&B’s garden.  I absolutely loved staying in Giverny for two nights and not having to rush about like the many day trippers we saw visiting, who seemed too worried about catching their buses and making it to their next destination to enjoy the many small charms of the village.  It was such a pleasure to be able to see everything in a relaxed manner, especially after so many years of looking forward to visiting. And it set the laid-back tone for the rest of our time in France, when we left the following morning for the stunning Brittany coast.

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson – Jackson Brodie is back!  Everyone’s favourite private investigator was last seen in 2010’s Started Early, Took My Dog and while Atkinson has been busy writing solid stand alone novels since then (including the outstanding Life After Life), I’ve missed Brodie and am happy to be reunited with him.

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben MacIntyre – MacIntyre has a gift for finding amazing topics and turning out non-fiction written with the pacing of a thriller.  This tale of Cold War espionage promises to be another absorbing story and the reviews have been universally glowing.

Homeland by Walter Kempowski – Recently published for the first time in English (and well translated, according to reviewers), Kempowski considers German guilt in this novel about a Cold War-era road trip into Poland (formerly East Prussia).

What did you pick up this week?

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

I basically no longer read.  Yes, I can be found with a book during my commute and during my lunch hour but the happy hours at home that were once devoted to reading have, for the last couple of weeks at least, been focused on my television where I have been binge watching A French Village.  It took ages to get the first season on DVD through the library but once I discovered how fantastic the series is it was thankfully quick to track down the subsequent seasons.  Set in the fictional town of Villeneuve, the series considers what life was like in France under the German occupation, looking at a different year each season (season 1 – 1940, season 2 – 1941, etc).  It’s absolutely wonderful and, clearly, utterly consuming.  There are 7 seasons and I’m just starting season 4 now so don’t expect a lot of bookish talk from me for a while.

Also here to distract me from books in the DVD of the recent HBO adaptation of My Brilliant Friend.  I’m feeling a little torn that I haven’t read the books first but I’ve heard wonderful things about the show.

Now, back to books:

Broken Lives by Konrad H. Jarausch – this is subtitled “how ordinary Germans experienced the 20th century” but it’s actually focused on one very specific generation: those born during the 1920s.  They came of age under the Nazis, survived the war, and lived most of their lives in a country torn apart by communism and struggling to come to terms with the legacy of the Holocaust.  Using more than 60 memoirs by Germans from all walks of life, Jarausch puts together a portrait of a generation and it looks like it’s going to be a fascinating read. (Book Depository)

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – In a world designed for and by men, what is the impact on women?  That’s the focus of Criado Perez’s examination of how a data bias towards men can make things more challenging for women.  Ever wondered why a smart phone is the size it is?  Why women are more likely to be injured and die in car accidents than men?  Or why your office is always so cold?  Read this book. (Book Depository)

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – I’ve been seeing great reviews for this everywhere (most convincingly to me in Sarra Manning’s round-up of best June releases) so thought I’d give it a try. (Book Depository)

The Wine Lover’s Daughter by Anne Fadiman – Anne Fadiman is beloved of readers everywhere for her book-loving essay collection Ex-Libris; a natural topic given that her father, Clifton Fadiman, was one of the most famous readers and public intellectuals in 20th Century America (back when a public intellectual was something America was proud of having).  This book is structured as a collection of essays about Fadiman Senior’s great love of wine but it’s really a memoir and biography of him by a very loving daughter.  A short and wonderful read that I sped through on the weekend (see!  I do know how to do something other than watch A French Village). (Book Depository)

Wilding by Isabella Tree – picking this back up after making it half-way through this spring. (Book Depository)

And, to finish off, two light reads:

The Year that Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly (Book Depository)

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (Book Depository)

What did you pick up this week?

This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository, an online book retailer with free international shipping.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

I had three much-anticipated inter-library loans come in this week:

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett – I’ve been hearing for years from readers who love the Lymond Chronicles.  My library keeps losing its copies (or does it?  Are there guilty Lymond lovers out there hoarding all the library copies for themselves?) so I finally resorted to ILL to get hold of this. (Book Depository)

Good in a Bed by Ursula Buchan – I’m having some frustrations with the Robin Lane Fox gardening book I picked up a couple of weeks ago so requested Buchan’s collection based on her column in the Spectator to provide some much needed contrast. (Book Depository)

A Green and Pleasant Land by Ursula Buchan – While I was ordering one book by Buchan, I requested this as well since it’s been on my to-read list for ages.  How could I resist a book that combines my love of gardening with my even greater love of World War Two social histories?  (Book Depository)


The Horse of Pride by Pierre-Jakez Hélias –  I’m still looking for books about Brittany (just as eager to read about it now that I’m back as I was before I left) and came across this childhood memoir of life between the wars while browsing at the library.  It was apparently a bestseller in France and sounds exactly like the kind of thing I’ll enjoy. (Book Depository)

Walking Home by Simon Armitage – I will eventually make my way through every European walking memoir/travelogue the library owns.  It is inevitable.  (Book Depository)

The Last Mazurka by Andrew Tarnowski – A history of an aristocratic Central European family during the dramatic upheavals of the 20th Century?  Yes please. (Book Depository)


The Fringes of Power by John Colville – These are some of the most famous British diaries of WWII.  Colville was a young, eager civil servant and, though without power himself, was connected both socially and professionally to the most interesting and important people of the day.  The diaries are fascinating and massive – 796 pages.  Despite their heft, I’m still happily lugging them to work with me each day so I have something fascinating to read over lunch.  (Book Depository)

The Inner Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett – Perhaps a case of preaching to the choir?  But I’m always happy to read books that I agree with. (Book Depository)

Farthest Field by Raghu Karnad – Far too little has been written about India’s contribution to the Second World War and this book helps to address that in a most interesting way, through the story of a single family.  I borrowed this back when it was first released but didn’t have a chance to finish at the time.  I’m looking forward to reading it now at my leisure. (Book Depository)

What did you pick up this week?

This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository, an online book retailer with free international shipping.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).

London is the perfect destination for many things.  For visiting extraordinary museums and galleries, seeing fantastic shows (Hamilton!  I saw Hamilton!  And yes, it was amazing), strolling through beautiful neighbourhoods, eating great food, and, for me at least, catching up with old friends.  And I got to do all of those things during my visit a few weeks ago.

But, very close to the heart of my love for London, is my belief that it is especially designed for book buying.

I slacked off this visit.  I didn’t spend my usual hours and hours browsing in used bookshops – in fact I barely visited any – but instead had a laser focus on newer books.

So what did I come home with?

Tory Heaven by Marghanita Laski – no trip to London is complete with a visit to Persephone.  It was pleasantly busy when I stopped in, including a group of three university-age German-speaking girls who each bought a book.  I bow down to their mastery of English; my sad language skills would not hold up if I tried to read a Persephone-level book in French or German.  I had a little thrill looking at the afterword to Guard Your Daughters and myself quoted there and then had a nice chat with Lydia, who showed me the most exciting thing in the entire shop – Mollie Panter-Downes’ kitchen table.  Finally, I left with Tory Heaven, excited to have another book by the always entertaining Laski to read.  Lydia had suggested I go from there to Sir John Sloane’s Museum, which sounds fascinating, but my heart longed for more books so…

The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham – From Persephone I strolled over to the London Review Bookshop and, helpfully, this was right there on the display table.  I am addicted to books about walking and have been wanting this since I first heard about it a few months back.

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps by Ursula Buchan – Also at the London Review Bookshop, I picked up this signed copy of Ursula Buchan’s biography of her grandfather, John Buchan.  I find Buchan – and his entire family – fascinating and was delighted when Kate, an authority on Buchan, gave this her stamp of approval.

And that’s all I bought during my first four days in town.  Such restraint!  Then, in my final 24 hours in town, I managed to pick up three more books:

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers – I met up with Simon and Rachel while in London and, after we’d said goodbye to Simon, ended up getting a tour of Rachel’s beautiful flat.  She happened to have some books in a closet waiting to be given away (I have a stack of the same in my own hall closet which makes it clear that this is completely normal behaviour, despite what I have been told in the past) and offered me my pick.  I’d delighted to have this little, light copy of Whose Body? to add to my collection and remind me of her.

Not That Kind of Love by Clare and Greg Wise – I whirled through the Gower Street Waterstones on my final morning to grab this joint diary showing both sides – Claire, the invalid, and her brother Greg, the caregiver – of a terminal illness.  I am confident I first heard about this on a podcast but cannot for the life of me find which one it was.  I read this on the plane home a few hours later and it was wonderful and also heartbreaking.  There were many, many tears over Greenland.

The Crossway by Guy Stagg – My last minute dash to Waterstones was to hunt down Not That Kind of Love but I couldn’t resist grabbing this as well. Again, I really, really love books about walking (this is a memoir of a pilgrimage) and I’ve been eyeing this one from afar since it came out last year.

The good news was that I could still close – and carry! – my bag coming home, so clearly I bought just the right number of books.

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.


Old Baggage by Lissa Evans –  I loved Crooked Heart (loved, loved, loved it) and am delighted that Evans has written this prequel.  I can’t wait to learn more about Mattie.  (Book Depository)

Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism by Kristen R. Ghodsee – A highly biased but certainly conversation-starting look at how socialism benefited (and benefits) women compared, very explicitly, to the current reality in capitalist America. (Book Depository)

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn – You know me, if there’s a book out there about walking I will eventually find my way to it.  This has won numerous prizes but I’m a little skeptical – it sounds like it borders too closely on the misery memoir genre (Raynor and her partner start their walk after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer and they lose their home) for my comfort but the praise has been so universal that I have to give it a try. (Book Depository)


The True Queen by Zen Cho – It’s here!  I loved Cho’s first novel, the extraordinarily accomplished A Sorcerer to the Crown, so I am thrilled to have the second in the anticipated trilogy here.  (Book Depository)

Thoughtful Gardening by Robin Lane Fox – The Saturday edition of the Financial Times is one of the highlights of my weekend and I particularly look forward to Robin Lane Fox’s gardening column.  This volume is based on those columns – he’s expanded some of them from their original version and added new pieces – so it’s even more of what I already love.  Ideal! (Book Depository)

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole – Cole writes great romance novels and brings some necessary diversity (and intelligence) to the genre. (Book Depository)

What did you pick up this week?

This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository, an online book retailer with free international shipping.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).