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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.

Kings of the Yukon by Adam Weymouth – By the time I’d finished the first 30 pages of this book I’d already recommended it to three people.  Weymouth spent four months canoeing down the Yukon river, moving against the migrating Chinook (also known as King) salmon, and observing the relationship between the fish, the people who live along the river, and the landscape.  The writing is staggeringly good and it’s easy to understand why it won multiple awards on publication last year.  (Book Depository)

Expiation by Elizabeth von Arnim – A von Arnim novel I haven’t yet read!  There are only a handful of these left so I’ve been spacing them out for a bit.  Coincidentally, I just discovered (on searching to see if this was still in print) that Persephone will be reissuing it in October!

Handel in London by Jane Glover – I read a review of this in the Financial Times last autumn and have been looking forward to it ever since. (Book Depository)

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde – A new book from Fforde is always something to be excited about! (Book Depository)

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport – I’ve borrowed this before without ever getting to it but I’m still eager to read it.  It’s a history of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution told using first-hand accounts from foreigners who were in Russia at the time.  Rappaport is always wonderfully readable so, assuming I can make time for this, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it! (Book Depository)

Help Me by Marianne Power –  A memoir from a woman who set herself the challenge of spending a year living by the edicts of self-help books.  I couldn’t put this down once I picked it up, completely absorbed and unexpectedly moved by Power’s disastrous experiment.  (Book Depository)

Miss Palmer’s Diary by Gillian Wagner – I picked this up on a whim, always being intrigued by diaries – particularly Victorian ones.  There was a blurb from Roy Strong, whose taste in books is usually pretty trustworthy, and that’s really all I’m going on here.  (Book Depository)

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – I thought it would be fun to reread this (I loved it the first time around) while I wait for my library to get a copy of Cho’s new book, The True Queen. (Book Depository)

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – Oh dear.  This won several awards last year for best fantasy debut.  Sharlene even gave it five stars on Good Reads.  I picked it up and tried to understand why but found it absolutely unreadable.  It feels like YA (which it is not marketed as) in the worst possible way, with obnoxiously 21st century dialogue in a historical setting, no sense of time or place, and a loathsome heroine who has the Harry Potter-esque curse of being the Most Special Person Ever in lieu of having a developed character.  Awful stuff.  (No BD link for this.  Do not buy it, do not borrow it, do not read it, just banish it entirely from your mind.)

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).  

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After seven excellent years of The Captive Reader, I’ve decided to follow my passion for travel and start a new and (to me) exciting project.

The Ambling Adventurer is my new travel blog, focused on slow travel adventures and tips for travellers of all ages and activity levels.  I know lots of you have enjoyed my travel posts here over the years.  Now I finally have somewhere that will be all travel all the time!

Come follow along with my adventures!  You can visit the blog or find me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and (though I’m still finding my legs here) Facebook.

And don’t worry – The Captive Reader isn’t going anywhere.  My posts may be less frequent (though they’ve been that way for a while now) but the site will remain active for you to comb through the archives.

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Five WindowsI hope you are all having a lovely Valentine’s Day, enjoying the people and things you love.

Speaking of lovable things… the most delightful discovery of my week was that Greyladies has now released their reprint of Five Windows by D.E. Stevenson.

Five Windows is the story of David Kirke from his Scottish childhood to his early adulthood in London.  It follows him through five different homes: the manse where he grew up as the only child of loving parents, the townhouse in Edinburgh where he lived with his uncle while attending school, the seedy London boarding house where he lives after first arriving in the city, the cosy flat above a bookshop which he has the pleasure of making his own, and the house just outside London where he begins his married life.

It is one of my very favourite of D.E.S.’s books and I have been looking forward to owning a copy since I first read it in 2013.  Rereading it last year only confirmed my love for it and my desire to own it.  However, used copies were prohibitively expensive.  Greyladies to the rescue!

 

 

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Babbacombe'sOn Friday afternoon, I returned home after work to that most delightful of things: a package of books.  A few weeks ago, I shamelessly begged Shirley at Greyladies to send me two of their Noel Streatfeild books and now here they were: It Pays to Be Good and, written under her penname of Susan Scarlett, Babbacombe’s.  Lacking any willpower whatsoever (reminder to self: spend rest of today studying), I curled up last night next to the fire and read Babbacombe’s start to finish.

The story begins as Beth Carson leaves school.  A well-respected and much admired Head Girl, she is now transitioning from the world of children into the world of adults.  She is, proudly but also nervously, about to start work at Babbacombe’s department store, where her father, George, has worked for more than thirty years.  George is delighted to share his work world with his much-beloved daughter and confident that she will do well as an assistant in the Gowns department.  Her mother, Janet, is glad of the contributions Beth will be able to make to the always-strapped family finances now that she is earning.  Beth’s four younger siblings are proud but also cheerfully indifferent towards their sister’s new career, more interested in their own lives (proving again that Scarlett/Streatfeild knew what she was doing when it came to writing children).

Into this happy family comes Dulcie, George’s seventeen year-old orphaned niece.  George and Janet take her in out of family feeling, however, it’s not long before they realise that Dulcie is a cheap, nasty piece of work.  With no interest in building a career at Babbacombe’s (why bother, she thinks, when she plans to marry young?), she takes a position as an elevator girl, enjoying the dashing uniform and the male admiration that comes with it.  At work she is merely lazy; at home, she needles, complains, and takes a particular dislike for Beth.  The two girls are similar in age but that is all they have in common.  When Dulcie discovers that David Babbacombe, the owner’s son, has taken an interest in Beth, her animosity only grows.

Beth is, essentially, an Anthony Trollope heroine.  She is, in the words of another Greyladies book featuring a Trollope-esque female (The Glenvarroch Gathering by Susan Pleydell), “very, very pretty and neat and you noticed how good her manners were, and yet she was comfortable and full of fun.”  She is honest, dependable, hard-working, devoted to her family, and, from the beginning of their relationship, deeply conscious of the social gulf that exists between her and David Babbacombe.  Indeed, like a true Trollope heroine Beth spends a significant amount of time halfheartedly pushing David away because she thinks he, despite his father’s humble origins, is too far above her touch.  David heartily disagrees and pursues her in a gentle way (assisted by his delightful dachshund – his most trusted confidante – and a friendly and romantic dentist ).  Dulcie does her best to get in the way (trying to attract David and create trouble for Beth) but generally fails: David is not divertible and Beth has confided to her parents all her romantic woes.  To Dulcie’s dismay, she discovers how difficult it is to create drama when everyone else is honest and straightforward.

I loved the warmth of the Carson family, the kindness of Mr. Babbacombe, the romance between Beth and David, and, yes, the awfulness of Dulcie.  It’s always so satisfying to have an odious character to loathe.  This was just the right sort of cosy, light book for this weekend.

Now back to studying.

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Library Lust

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Read Scotland 2015

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Peggy Ann is hosting the Read Scotland challenge again this year and, despite having failed spectacularly to meet my goal last year (5 books reviewed rather than the 13 I was aiming for), I can’t wait to get started.  There are few enough challenges out there that appeal to me but this one is just right.  I’ve signed up for the more modest Highlander (5 to 8 books) level this year and will be tracking my success on my Challenges 2015 page.

But where to start?  I loved The Crow Road, which I read last year, so might have to try more of Iain Banks’ works.  I’m very keen to read Rory Stewart’s The Marches, which I believe is finally coming out this summer, and, while I’m considering non-fiction, I’ve had Adam Nicolson’s Sea Room sitting neglected on my bookshelf for far too long.  I’d love to finally read something by Compton Mackenzie – I keep borrowing Whiskey Galore and The Monarch of the Glen from the library and then returning them unread.  And, of course, there is always my beloved D.E. Stevenson; I have read most of her books now but would happily return to them, especially the ones I didn’t review first time around.

No, there is no shortage of Scottish books on my reading list, for this year or any other.  Now I just have to focus on overcoming last year’s hurdle: actually reviewing the books!

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Library Lust

National Library of Russia

Something a little different today: an exterior instead of an interior. In honour of the start of the Sochi Olympic Games, we have here the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. I adore the winter games (I can hardly believe it’s already been four years since we were hosting them here in Vancouver) and know I’ll be spending far too many hours over the next couple of weeks watching the action from Russia. I’m especially excited about the speed skating, which starts today. What are you looking forward to?

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