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Happy (33rd) birthday to me!  As usual, I am celebrating by sharing my five favourite libraries from the last year of “Library Lust” posts.  Enjoy!

Wormington Grange (photo credit: Hugo Rittson-Thomas)

credit: Town and Country

credit: Bruce Wilkin Design

via House and Home

For more stunning libraries, check out past birthday editions from 2018201720162015201420132012, and 2011.

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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 glorious spring has turned to winter here.  There is snow everywhere and I hate every single flake of it.  But, on the plus side, there are plenty of books to keep me entertained when I am not fixating on how much I hate snow.

Something Wonderful by Todd S. Purdum – A thoroughly entertaining look at the partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  I adore musicals so sped through this as soon as I picked it up.

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr – A classic I’ve yet to read.

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice – I recently discovered the very wonderful Sentimental Garbage podcast, the first episode of which is devoted to this novel.  My own copy is in storage so, desperate to reread it, I turned to the library.

What did you pick up this week?

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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.

Sharlene has the Mr. Linky this week.

Two VERY exciting books for me this week:

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal – When I picked up The Calculating Stars last week, I wasn’t sure how it would go given my mixed feelings towards Kowal’s previous books.  By the time I was a third of the way through it, I was hooked and racing to place a library hold on this sequel.  Kowal has created such a fascinating world, with the exploration of space completely reimagined in the wake of a meteorite hit in the early 1950s that speeds up global warming and forces humankind to look for ways to colonize space as the planet becomes uninhabitable. I am so excited to read more.  (Book Depository)

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden – IT’S HERE!!!  Originally scheduled to be released last August, I feel like I’ve been waiting ages and ages for this final book in Arden’s Winternight trilogy.  The first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, was one of my favourite reads of 2017 and I sped through the second book, The Girl in the Tower, early last year.  I can’t wait to see how Arden concludes the series. (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.

Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley – I wrote about this swimming memoir over the weekend but to sum it up: I couldn’t put it down.  Highly recommended. (Book Depository)

Darling Ma edited by James Roose-Evans – Do I know much about Joyce Grenfell?  No.  Do I need to in order to enjoy these letters she wrote to her mother?  We’ll find out.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal – An alternate history with a decidedly feminist twist from the always intriguing Kowal. (Book Depository)

Buttercups and Daisies by Compton Mackenzie – Simon really enjoyed this last year, which is reason enough for me to try it!

(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living by Mark Greenside – With my May trip to Brittany booked, I’m eager to read all I can to get myself in the mood.  However, there is a lamentable lack of travel or expat memoirs about the region.  Thankfully, Greenside, an American who has been living part-time in Brittany for decades, published a new memoir last year. (Book Depository)

A Question of Honor by Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud – I was in the mood for really well written popular history and few people do it as well as Lynne Olson (here writing with husband Stanley Cloud).  This fascinating book focuses on the story of the Kosciuszko Squadron, Polish pilots who played a vital role in WWII.  And, since I can never recommend it enough, a reminder that you must read Olson’s Last Hope Island, about the contributions made by occupied countries to the war effort. (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).  

Garden Path in Spring by Duncan Grant (1944)

It feels like spring is just about here.  I’ve spent much of this weekend wandering about the city, where signs of spring can be found everywhere.  Snowdrops and crocuses, camelias and early rhododendrons, and, best of all, the first blossoming cherry trees.  After two extraordinarily harsh winters, it’s wonderful to see this and be reminded of how joyful it is to live in Vancouver at this time of year.  My measurement of whether it was a normal spring when I was growing up was whether the daffodils were in blossom on my birthday (February 19th).  This looks entirely possible this year.

It was an active weekend but I still had plenty of time for reading.  I read two great books over the last few days and wanted to share my thoughts while both were fresh in my mind.

On Friday, I managed to read all of Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley despite a full work day.  On my commute and over my lunch hour I happily sped through Heminsley’s tale of how she came to embrace swimming in her thirties.  Heminsley, a Brighton-based journalist and writer, had written an earlier book about taking up running (Running Like a Girl, which I haven’t read) so was no stranger to athletic pursuits but was clearly uncomfortable with the water when her journey began.  It’s wonderfully written and is so observant of the way swimming resonates with women in particular.  Yes, there are the hateful magazines and features on “bikini bodies” every spring but Heminsley finds a true community of swimmers, and recognizes how body shape and size out of the water has little to do with how you move once in it.  And how little vanity is involved in a changeroom.  Heminsley focuses quite a lot on body image towards the end, when her own body is undergoing transformations due to IVF treatment, and I’m excited to hear that her next non-fiction book will focus on this.

I’ve been swimming my entire life and can’t remember there ever being a time when I did not love the water.  I still swim regularly but, unlike Heminsley who finds herself in oceans, rivers and lakes, confine myself to pools during winter months.  That said, I spent Saturday morning walking the seawall here in Vancouver and the water was beautifully clear and flat – the way it often gets in winter.  It looked perfect for a swim.  Maybe one day…

(Also, Heminsley thankfully does not use that awful phrase “Wild Swimming” to describe swimming done anywhere other than pools.  This seems to be a uniquely British piece of linguistic idiocy.  Good riddance, where do they think the majority of people do their swimming?)

On a more practical note, Heminsley’s own frustrations with poorly fitted goggles inspired me to go and buy a new pair this weekend that I am absolutely delighted with.  Considering my last few pairs have all been salvaged from the lost and found, anything would have been a step up.  How luxurious to have goggles that fit and where the anti-fog coating hasn’t worn off!

The Heminsley book was a nice jolt back into fun reading but I was still left longing for a very specific kind of book.  For a few weeks, I’ve wanted something non-fiction, ideally diaries, preferably by a man, with humour and kindness and a bit a something special.  Helpful, yes?

I’d picked up Patrick Leigh Fermor’s letters (Dashing for the Post) last weekend to see if they would suit, but they didn’t hit the spot – close, but not quite.  I thought of returning to Harold Nicolson’s diaries – because, really, when is that not a good idea? – but then had a brilliant idea: why not pick up the Alec Guinness diaries I bought after loving A Positively Final Appearance?  Within a few pages of starting, it was clear: My Name Escapes Me was exactly what I needed.

The diaries start in January 1995 and carry through to mid-1996, a period when Guinness was in his early eighties and, to all intents and purposes, retired from acting.  He and his wife were both suffering from health issues and his friends were dying off at an alarming rate but his outlook is remarkably sunny.  He finds pleasure in old friends, beautiful music, and many books.  His tastes are joyfully eclectic and entirely unsnobbish.  He loves classics, taking pleasure in Shakespeare and Dickens, and gets wonderfully excited about books from favourite modern authors, like Tessa Waugh and John Updike.  An enthusiastic reader is the best kind and his comments (like this one on Anthony Trollope’s The American Senator) were a highlight of the book for me:

Finished Trollope’s The American Senator.  The opening chapters are a bit wearily confusing but once he has got thoroughly underway it is enthralling.  Arabella Trefoil is a great creation and for sheer awfulness matches Sylvia Tietjens in Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End.  I’ve come across her several times, in various disguises but always recognizable, in London, Paris, Cairo and New York – but she lives mostly in Sussex.

And the spirit of kindness and humour I was looking for?  Guinness was full of them.  His regrets are always that he might have made someone feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, the true sign of a kind soul, and almost every day he finds something to smile or laugh over.  The best way to live, really.

I’m off to find a new book to end the weekend with (possibly Elizabeth of the German Garden, which Kate reviewed recently and reminded me how much I want to read) but I’ll leave you with a last word from Guinness to put a smile on your face:

It seems a pity that the good old phrase ‘living in sin’ is likely to be dropped by the C of E.  So many friends, happily living in sin, will feel very ordinary and humdrum when they become merely partners; or, as the Americans say, ‘an item’.  Living in sin has always sounded daring and exotic; something to do, perhaps, with Elinor Glyn and her tiger skin.

If you’d like to buy the books I’ve mentioned (or read a professionally and far more coherently written synopsis of them), check them out using the Book Depository links below.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you):

Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley

Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor

The Diaries of Harold Nicolson

The Alec Guinness diaries – both My Name Escapes Me and A Positively Final Appearance – are both now out of print but second-hand copies can be easily found online