the reading slump

books in black wooden book shelf
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The words all mix together like

A lumpy soup, luke warm and sad

They don’t excite the way they should.

The pages turn so slowly with

A painful wait between the chapters

Not sure these words are understood.

I’m in a dreaded reading slump at the moment. I have two books on the go and I’m not enjoying either of them and it is one of the worst feelings that a reader can possibly suffer.

Diving into a book gives me release from a world that is sometimes not very nice, so when I’m stuck in a bad book I feel like a door has been closed to that other world. I am quite literally locked out of the place that will make me feel better.

There is the argument that I could just put the book down and start something new, but I fall into the camp that hates giving up on a book. I do occasionally DNF a book, but it hurts my soul to do that and I would rather soldier on miserably.

I am into the last 30 pages of one of the books so I am almost there and I can’t wait to get to start another. It feels like the final few miles of an ultra marathon; not very pleasant at the moment, but it will feel worth it when I post my star rating on Goodreads.

And then there’s the fact that the quality of a book is so subjective. I’m slaving away through this novel while others are lapping it up and loving every word. I wish I could like everything, but alas, being human involves having likes and dislikes and going through little dips where reading feels like a chore.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the perfect first date

assorted books
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I read a tweet today that said a perfect first date would be to go to a used book store and buy each other a book. I don’t think I could think of a better way of getting an indication whether you could get along with someone in one book.

Books are so personal and they hold so many memories and feelings. I don’t think that he would have to pick me a book that I liked; I would just care about the story behind it and why he thought that it would be a good book for me.

And what a beautiful way to spend an afternoon!

When I lived in Cape Town, we would often wander down Long Street where there were just endless vintage bookshops. I could spend the whole afternoon going in one after the other and finding quirky little books that you would never find anywhere else.

Follow that with a coffee and a slice of cake in one of the cafes that plays cool jazz music and has waiting staff that are pierced and tattooed and you have yourself a weirdly wonderful date. We wouldn’t even need to talk, we could just read the books that were chosen for us and let the pages do the talking.

Much Love

Rachel xx

dark academia

vintage typewriter on wooden counter top
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The boys wear pinstripe suits

While girls read books in dusty attics,

Skulls are balanced on their books

And deathly thoughts will occupy

Their writings in those leather books

Until one dies in ghastly ways.

I went to visit an English teacher friend today and I was obsessed with her bookcases. They were filled with highbrow texts, arranged in arty ways so that the shelving units looked more like beautiful structures.

The titles were invariably written by women who ended up killing themselves in fits of passion, which instantly makes them more interesting to study – because everyone loves a hysterical woman.

And balanced amongst the books was a phrenology head and a human skull (not real, I hope). It reminded me of the dark academia novels that I went through a stage of loving. I could imagine my friend writing in a dusty loft, using a quill and a leather bound book.

I now feel like I have to work on my own book shelves as mine feel comparatively trashy – filled with thriller novels, written by women for women and all with the word ‘girl’ in the title.

Does anyone have a human skull that they wouldn’t mind me taking off their hands?

Much Love

Rachel xx

Charlotte’s Web and Kipper’s Party

The books that lined our primary school shelves,

Stickered with their reading levels

Like a rainbow ladder leading to the library

Where picture books will fade away

And books with words alone will dominate,

Opening the gates of love, of hate

And every shade of hot emotion

Burned into the page.

When you are at Primary School, here in the UK, we begin our reading journey with books that belong to a series called the Oxford Reading Tree. They are predominately about a family of five who live with their dog Floppy.

I remember the first day that I was allowed to go and pick up the first book and take it home to read to my mum. It was the first book in the series and it was called Kipper’s Party. It was literally the most exciting moment in my life at aged four and a half, and that love for reading has never really left me.

Every step along the way has felt equally as exciting and I still feel sentimental whenever I come across any of those old books from my childhood.

When I was seven I progressed to the ‘real’ books that weren’t full of pictures and it was Charlotte’s Web that catapulted me into this new world. I had to read a section for my SATS when I was in Year 2 and I was hooked so I had a copy bought for me during the summer holidays.

Every so often I stumble across one of these books in the library or a charity shop and it just reminds me of the magic of those early reading days. When I find them my heart actually beats faster and I feel a bit like I’m coming face to face with an old boyfriend who I never really got over.

Here’s to the books that will always have a special place in our lives.

Much Love

Rachel xx

books about books

black tablet computer behind books
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To be lost in worlds

Within another world,

And several hours to bathe

In something different

From this washed out world.

Bit of a book review today. I recently read a five star book and it just reminded me just how much I love books, which is always a nice thing to remember.

The book was Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink and it was a memoir about her life through the medium of books. The chapters alternated between one about her life and then a corresponding list of books that Cathy suggests we could read.

Memoirs are so hit and miss for me. Some I adore (Wild by Cheryl Strayed) and some I just can’t even get to the end of. I did read somewhere that a famous memoirist said that to be good at that genre you have to be prepared for the reader to hate you. You have to be willing to show your ugly side.

Now, Cathy didn’t make me hate her at any point, but she did talk about her lack of confidence and that must ring true with lots of introverted book worms the world over.

There was also a lot about grief as her brother tragically died when they were teenagers and I think that as human beings we all want to see how other people cope with that emotion. We all have to lose people and there is no easy way to get through that pain.

By the end of the book, I just wanted to read some more. And, as an English teacher it was nice to read about someone who was equally as passionate about getting people to read, especially those who have not yet been introduced to reading as something fun.

Much Love

Rachel xx

book review: the stranding by kate sawyer

I haven’t done a book review in a while, but I read a bit of a cracker last week and I thought I owed it to the world to let them know how fabulous it was.

The book in question was The Stranding by Kate Sawyer; a book about the end of the world as we know it. The story is about Ruth, who is a primary school teacher in London. She is really not happy with her life, with a boyfriend who treats her like crap and a colleague who appears to just be using her for sex.

Ruth decides the that only way to fix her problems is to run away, so she books a ticket to New Zealand with the plan of doing a bit of soul searching as she travels.

Bubbling underneath this story are the news stories that the end of the world is coming because the nuclear superpowers are about to press their big red buttons. But like a lot of us, Ruth wants to bury her head in the sand and avoid the stories.

There is a dual timeline, flitting between her life in London before she goes to New Zealand, and then alternating chapters follow her in New Zealand after the bomb has gone off.

I don’t know what made me love this book so much, but something just resonated with me. Perhaps it was Ruth’s need to run away and that reflects the way I often feel in times of panic and stress? Perhaps it was because of the stories of war and nuclear terror that are dominating our own news channels at the moment? Who knows – but something struck a chord.

The writing was beautiful and the story made me fall in love with the characters rather than being swept away with the action. It reminded me very much of the movie, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World which is one of my all time favourites. These stories aren’t about the bomb or the asteroid – they are about the friendships that are formed.

If you’re looking for a good read, then I definitely recommend and it got a big fat five stars from me.

Much Love

Rachel xx

inhaling those words

woman on the body of water
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The beautiful binding that deserves so much care

It also needs to be ripped from the pages

So that the thick cream pages

Can be torn to shreds

And the words can be eaten

Or inhaled in the deepest of breaths

The letters are rattling in lungs and in brains.

I was walking through the supermarket one day when I spotted the new book by one of my favourite authors. I think that I may have let out a little squeak as I stood in the aisle, staring at the most beautiful of front covers.

I scooped it up and carried to the checkout like it was a baby. I stroked the cover at one point (because I do love a hardback book and so stroking them is totally normal).

The feeling when I got it home was that I wanted to eat the book. That sounds so strange, but it was overwhelming. I didn’t want to eat it because I was hungry, but because I wanted the story in my head immediately. I knew it was going to be so good that I couldn’t even bear to spend the time needed to read it.

I’m a huge fan of Lucy Foley and her new book is coming out soon and I’m having a similar feeling. I’m preparing for that moment when I see it in Sainsbury’s. This time I’m going to play it cool and not squeak when I see it though.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the charity shop book shelf

light inside library
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Through the musty racks of clothes,

Saturday morning shoppers, shuffling

Through the shelves of china cups

And ornaments from ugly houses,

Somehow boxed up when a person dies.

I wonder if someone will buy

The porcelain cat or dancing lady

As I make my way to find the books,

The place I can escape to like

The wardrobe through to Narnia.

I did a little bit of book shopping today – in the charity shop, of course, because I’m not extra enough to buy those things new. I do just love charity book ships though.

There is something so lovely about knowing you are about to enter a world that somebody has already walked through. I see books a little bit like theatre for one – an immersive experience that you come out of the other end, feeling like a slightly different person.

And when you buy a second hand book it’s like entering that theatre on a ticket that somebody has already used. The performance will be different because we all interpret words in our own special way.

Some people would never dream of buying a book that has already been read, but I think it’s special. And the biggest treat of all is when there is a beautiful message scrawled in the front – an extra special link to my predecessor.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the book signing at the waterstones in charing cross

top view of library with red stairs
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I sat in a creaky chair right at the back,

Deliberately hiding myself behind

A woman in a hat, smelling of Chanel No. 5.

You were in a far more comfortable seat,

Smiling smugly across your audience,

You always said you wanted to be interviewed,

To talk about your words, printed permanently,

A legacy to be left, haunting us all.

I purchased your book at the till, and it sits

At my feet in the bag, awaiting your signature

If only I had the courage to join that queue.

Your talk was intelligent, and the audience laughed

At the jokes you told; ones I had taught you.

The title was mine, too. I whispered it one night

Into your ear, and you’d shrugged. Maybe,

You said, but probably not.

And look at you now, as I near your table,

Your head bent low as you scribbled on pages.

I turned before I could reach the front,

My nerve giving out, I ran from the shop,

Taxis and buses cutting through anger

As I marched from the Waterstones

On Charing Cross Road.

the first and the last page

opened book on tree root
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Opening the book and cracking the spine,

The excitement of diving in through the words,

Those black and white portals

Where new people live, never before

Met by another, and dancing through pages

They’re waiting for you. You bring them to life

For just a few days you exist together,

Loving and hating til death do you part,

And when the last page is turned and they leave

They take a small piece of your bright bursting heart.

I can’t be the only person who feels like a little part of me has died whenever I finish a book. Especially when you adore the characters – how difficult it is to move on and leave them behind? Or are they moving on and leaving you behind?

I sometimes feel like the best characters do carry on with their lives at the end of a book, in some parallel universe that I will never be a part of.

It’s heartbreaking when you close a book and find yourself having to say goodbye and I wish you luck with the rest of your life. I wonder if those book characters ever sit on the other side of the story and think about me?

Much Love

Rachel xx