March 3, 2015

The Year in Books :: March 2015


Last month’s choice was Jessie Burton’s runaway success, The Miniaturist. Set in 17th century Amsterdam, it is a novel with a vivid, and often claustrophobic, sense of place. The characters were intriguing, and the attention to detail was admirable. I liked this book a good deal, but there were nevertheless some aspects of the plot that perplexed and even frustrated me. I’m currently reading How to Catch a Frog, the autobiography of sewer, blogger and all round creative, Heather Ross. It was recommended by Kat via Instagram and it’s a lovely, slightly quirky read.

My book choice this month, Tove Jansson’s A Winter Book, is a tad out of kilter, seasonally. I read The Summer Book last year as part of this project, and was utterly entranced by it. I hadn’t realised that there was a winter companion until I saw it recently in a #theyearinbooks post on Instagram. I knew that it would have to be my next  book choice. Interestingly, this edition is introduced by Ali Smith, author of my January choice.

This community of bibliophiles, gathered together through The Year in Books project, is a constant source of inspiration to me. My ‘to-read’ list grows ever longer, and I’ve noted down several brilliant suggestions following  #theyearinbooks Twitter chats .They are a regular fixture now, at 9pm GMT on the last Monday of each month. Thank you to all who take part, it’s such a pleasure to chat with you! Do come along and join us if Twitter’s your thing; we’re a very friendly crowd, and it’s a lovely hour spent in gentle bookish chat. (I’m @circleofpines on Twitter.)

You can find Year in Books blog buttons, and all the details about the project on the YIB information page. Here’s a quick reminder of how it works:

The aim of the Year in Books project is to read (at least) a book a month during 2015. It’s not a conventional book club, so we don’t all read the same book, the project is about trying to ensure that we make space for reading in our busy lives, and is a way for us all to discover more lovely books (and lovely bibliophiles). At the start of the month, we blog about the book that we are intending to read, and, if we want to, write a few words (thoughts, comments, a review of sorts) about the previous month’s book.

If you would prefer to share your book choices over on Instagram or Twitter, please use the hashtag #theyearinbooks so that we can find your posts. You can share as many books as you like in this way- it doesn’t have to be restricted to one a month. I am @circleofpines on Instagram and on Twitter, if you’d like to tag me so that I can see your posts.

There’s a Goodreads group for this project, and all are very welcome to join, whether or not you have a blog of your own. Finally, there’s a Year in Books Pinterest board, do follow along for all manner of bookish inspiration. If you would like to pin to the board, let me know in the blog comments and I will add you as a pinner. (If I should have added you, and haven’t, do nudge me! Pinterest is a little problematic on the issue and it sometimes takes a couple of attempts.)

It doesn’t matter whether or not you have linked up before- everyone is welcome and it’s never too late to get involved. Please do link back here from your post.

Thank you, and happy reading!

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March 1, 2015

party in the woods

woods woods-2 woods-7 woods-5 woods-6 woods-8woods-4There is a kind of primal magic in the depths of the forest when woodsmoke drifts through early spring air, and the whoops and catcalls of free-range children echo across the clearing and through the trees. On the day of my eldest’s seventh birthday, we made our way along the undulating woodland path by the side of the gully. At every fork in the path we left a stick arrow, a trail for the guests to follow. Our destination was the base camp of Fireside Forest School.

We gathered around the fire pit, and as the birthday boy lit the campfire with a beautiful hand carved fire steel, we all made wishes to be drawn into the fire. With the fire lit, the camp was ready for action, and the children set off on endless adventures of their own devising: fossil-mining, rope-swinging, stick-whittling, and weapon-carving. Lunch was cooked over the fire: popcorn, hot dogs, and marshmallows toasted with hand-whittled sticks.

Armed with swords and bows fashioned by their own hands, the children gloried in their wildness, embarking upon an ebullient and chivalrous mock battle. As adults, we too were caught up in the unbridled joy of it, the freedom and the creativity, the essence of what childhood is and should be.

Wending our way back through the trees, with muddy faces and woodsmoke-scented hair, we felt heavy of limb but light of spirit. The hours spent in that special clearing had changed us, just a little, for the better. Children walked home taller, adults walked home calmer. It was not just the smoke that clung to us; a little of the sylvan magic was carried home by everyone.

February 28, 2015

patchwork February, 2015


February, last month of winter, has brought a good sprinkling of blue-skied, bright days. We’ve made our annual pilgrimages to the winter beach and to the snowdrops, each time blessed with cool, sparkling light: shining through the trees and reflecting off the water. The air is crisp, but now with the gentlest breath of spring in it. The seasons are on the turn…

Inside the kitchen, February brings the baking of Bakewell Hearts, and the making (and flipping) of what felt like about one hundred pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. I’ve been embracing pen and ink, hand writing a little pile of notes using some gorgeous Wolf and Ink letterpress notecards. I’m completely besotted with my Hatchet and Bear loom, and have almost finished my first piece of experimental weaving. The boys have been fascinated by my progress, experimenting with cardboard looms of their own.

For February’s Styling the Seasons, I gathered pale pretties: snowdrops and paperwhites. Also my Canon SLR, which I’ve been taking out and about on brighter days, some favourite Observer books, and -in honour of Valentine’s day -a couple of sweet ceramic hearts that hang in my kitchen. As ever, I’ve been looking back- to last February’s patchwork – and to the month ahead, with a Pinterest board for March.

March on Pinterest

February 23, 2015

weekending :: unreal city



On Saturday, a trip back to our old home city of Bristol led us to Fujiko Nakaya’s ethereal Fog Bridge. Already slightly obsessed with fog (as my Instagram feed often testifies), I was completely entranced, and found myself with a favourite section of The Wasteland running eerily through my head:

Unreal City, 
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet. 
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

– T.S. Eliot, from The Wasteland

{ Just a little reminder that as today is the last Monday of the month, there will be a #theyearinbooks Twitter chat at 9pm GMT tonight. Do join us for some bookish chat, we’re a very friendly crowd! Find me on Twitter as @circleofpines}