Monthly Roundup – August 2022

august

August has been a mostly good month for my little household. Husband booked a couple of weeks off work – the longest break he has had this year – and we drove down to Exmoor for a walking holiday. I wrote about the hotel we stayed in here and about my teddy bear, Edward’s adventures here. While we were away I left my blog in Robyn’s capable hands and she managed to post three reviews of recently read books. It’s good to have her back as a contributor even if this is likely to be sporadic given her demanding job.

Husband and I opted to return home in time to celebrate my birthday with the whole family. The day started with a Parkrun and finished with a meal at our local pub. In between much cake was consumed and a bottle of champagne imbibed. It was a lovely day.

After our vacation, we enjoyed a staycation. This included an epic walk locally, covering 26k across the beautiful Marlborough Downs. The family all came together again for a bank holiday weekend barbeque. We have been very lucky with the weather during our time off work – the heatwave broke and we managed to avoid being outside during the much needed rain showers.

My usual activities have continued – regular runs, strength training and swims. Our hens have been released from their coop to enjoy free ranging again, but only when someone is around to deter potential predators. I wrote an article on hen keeping for The Vixen magazine (September 2022 edition) which may be downloaded from here.

It has also been a good reading month. I posted reviews for seven books – an eclectic range that I am glad to have read.

As is customary in my monthly roundups, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

after sappho  operation moonlight
After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz, published by Galley Beggar
Operation Moonlight by Louise Moorish, published by Century

constellations  blue hour cover
Constellations of Eve by Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood, published by Platypus Press
blue hour by Sarah Schmidt, published by Tinder Press

knock knock manThe Knock-Knock Man by Russell Mardell, published by RedDoor Press

Translated Fiction

wild horses
Wild Horses by Jordi Cussà (translated by Tiago Miller), published by Fum d’Estampa

Non Fiction

never mind comrade
Never Mind, Comrade by Claudia Bierschenk, published by Tangerine Press

Robyn Reviews

psalmcover  gallantcover
A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers, published by TorDotCom
Gallant by V.E. Schwab, published by Titan Books

boncoverBook of Night by Holly Black, published by Del Rey

Sourcing the books

Robyn has cut down on the number of books she buys but couldn’t resist these beautiful editions.

robyn received august

My book post has been very special this month. The top three titles were birthday presents from my sister, the remainder are review copies.

books received jackie august 22

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their books to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms – your continuing support is always much appreciated.

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and the ability to pause and enjoy all that is still beautiful in our world and lives. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Advertisement

Monthly Roundup – July 2022

july

As anticipated in last month’s roundup, this has been a fairly quiet month on my blog. Reading focus has been on books accepted for review on other sites, and on shorter works from my TBR pile. There were a couple of exceptions, although I only managed to finish one of these in a timely manner. My ability to read for lengthy periods as I once could appears to have evaporated.

Life has also been mostly quiet – no trips away or even nights out. I continue to run several times a week, visit the gym for strength training and to swim in the pool there. Other than these activities it feels as though little has been happening. The heatwave affected me badly while it lasted. I ponder how much of this was down to media scaremongering.

Something a little different from book blogging was a collaboration I agreed to with Chummys Bakery. This led to my first ever food review – you may read it here.

My intrepid teddy bear, Edward, has not had an ‘Explore’ post written about him this month but he did feature in my writeup of the adventures of three of my oldest bears – you may read it here.

I posted reviews for seven books, including the three latest releases from Ration Books. These pocket sized gems provide exactly the sort of writing I enjoy.

As is customary in my monthly roundups, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

badger  on photography
The Badger by Jenn Ashworth, published by Ration Books
On Photography by Wendy Erskine, published by Ration Books

Bartie Bristle The Beginning  wan
The Beginning by Julie Tatchell (illustrated by Jill Fry)
Wan by Dawn Promislow, published by Freehand Books

Translated fiction

day didn't happen
The day that didn’t happen by Gerd Kvanvig (translated by Wendy H. Gabrielsen), published by naked eye

Poetry

sprig of yarrowA Sprig of Yarrow by Jim Ghedi, published by Ration Books

Non fiction

Dont Turn AwayDon’t Turn Away: Stories of Troubled Minds in Fractured Times by Penelope Campling, published by Elliott & Thompson

Sourcing the books

I received a pleasing pile of book post, although am still limiting the number of titles accepted as I attempt to catch up with other commitments.

books received july 2022

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their books to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms – your continuing support is always much appreciated.

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and the ability to pause and enjoy all that is still beautiful in our world and lives. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Book Review: The Beginning

Bartie Bristle The Beginning

“This is the story of a very special bear who lives in a little shop in the beautiful, sleepy village of Beaulieu in the New Forest.”

So begins The Beginning by Julie Tatchell, with illustrations by Jill Fry. I mentioned this book in my previous post, here, so decided a reread and review would be worthwhile. I must apologise to interested readers as I have, as yet, been unable to source any outlet with copies to buy.

The author is now a TV personality, one of the teddy bear ladies from the BBC’s The Repair Shop series. Fear not, however, this is not some ghost written tale cashing in on a name. The book was published well before television came calling.  It was sold in the shop featured, alongside siblings and cousins of the protagonist bear.

The story being told is of how the special bear got his name. To begin with, you see, he was referred to as ‘Logo’, for reasons obvious when the shop he lived in was visited.

Bartie Bristle shop

Logo isn’t the best sort of name for a bear, is it? Being referred to in this way sometimes made him feel sad. So his creator, Mrs T, decided her precious bear should be given a proper name. But how to decide what it should be?

The solution drew together a community of bear lovers, and produced a name worthy of this lovable little fellow. The tale being told is short but sweet, just like the bear, now known as (drum roll, please) Bartie Bristle.

Gaining a name, of course, isn’t an ending, although it did make the little bear very happy.

Bartie bristle illustration

This is a lovely little story that will appeal to adults as much as children. The gorgeous illustrations capture perfectly each of the characters featured.

Although this book may be largely unavailable, I believe Walker Books have plans to release a new book about this bear and his friends, once again written by Julie Tatchell. Perhaps then it will also become possible to purchase the teddy bear’s cousins, as I did in 2013.

Pictured above: Edward meets the original Bartie Bristle, then takes home one of his cousins

The Beginning is a book to enjoy and treasure. I look forward to reading the next instalment when it becomes available, eagerly awaiting Bartie Bristle and Friends.

Bartie Bristle book

Monthly Roundup – June 2022

June has been a busy month once again. On the upside we enjoyed two trips away and celebrated a family birthday. On the downside we lost almost half our flock of hens to a fox attack, and then younger son deflected a hockey ball with his face during a match resulting in a fractured orbital socket and worrying swelling. We can only hope his sight will not be affected longer term.

Husband and I escaped the proliferation of bunting that appeared in our village around the jubilee weekend by travelling to Wales for the long weekend. I reviewed the hotel we stayed at in Devil’s Bridge near Aberystwyth here and wrote of my teddy bear, Edward’s adventures on this trip here. Our second holiday was with the family at the Center Parcs Longleat Forest site. I reviewed our midweek break here – Edward’s adventures have still to be written of. Younger son’s birthday fell in the following week and, having eaten out each day while we were away, he opted for a takeaway. Several bottles of fizz were consumed along with a caterpillar cake. It proved an enjoyable evening.

On a much sadder note, as mentioned above, a fox gained access to my chicken run in a dawn raid and killed six of my feathered friends before a kind neighbour scared it away. I added an account of this distressing event to my hen keeping posts – it may be read here.

With all of this activity, along with my usual runs and visits to the gym, I haven’t managed to find so much reading time. I posted reviews for a mere five books in June, although all were worth perusing. The coming month is also likely to be quiet on the blog as I have a backlog of books to review for other sites and will be focusing on them initially. There may well be other posts, as they tend to be written on a whim, but I am keen not to put myself under additional pressure at a time when there are many conflicting demands on my attention. Books will be read and reviewed when I can fit this into my schedule. To my mind, blogging should remain fun, otherwise why do it?

As is customary in these monthly roundups, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction


Seek the Singing Fish by Roma Wells, published by époque press

Translated fiction


Of Saints and Miracles by Manuel Astur (translated by Claire Wadie), published by Peirene

Translated short stories


Here Be Icebergs by Katya Adaui (translated by Rosalind Harvey), published by Charco Press

Non fiction

 
Multiple Joyce by David Collard, published by Sagging Meniscus
Neither Weak Nor Obtuse by Jake Goldsmith, published by Sagging Meniscus

Sourcing the books

Robyn received her usual selection of special edition hardbacks through her Goldsboro and Illumicrate subscriptions. One day she hopes to find time to read a book again.

I have cut back on accepting review copies due to my own reading slowdown but couldn’t resist these fine looking works

Jackie books june

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their books to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. I may not say it often enough but your continuing support is always much appreciated.

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and the ability to pause and enjoy all that is still beautiful in our world and lives. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Edward Explores: Eating out at his local pub

edward at pub

Edward has been on an adventure this month, which pleased him greatly. With restaurants permitted to reopen after lockdown, enquiries were made at his local pub. Hurray! Restrictions have been lifted and customers are being made to feel welcome again. Younger bearer decided it was time to go out for his delayed celebratory birthday meal. Edward likes birthdays. 

Always eager to be appropriately dressed, Edward chose carefully based on the heavy rain that fell on the day selected for the outing. Thankfully, by the time everyone was ready to walk to the venue, clouds had cleared.

The friendly waiting staff offered a table by bookshelves, giving Edward an excellent vantage point from which to observe proceedings. Drinks were ordered along with a sharing platter. Edward was not entirely convinced this was for him.

Edward eats sharing platter

After a lengthy wait, during which Edward had time to peruse several books, more appealing portions were delivered. These looked very tasty.

Edward eats chocolate brownie edward eats biscoff cheesecake Edward eats sticky toffee pudding

From chocolate brownie, biscoff cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding, Edward chose the brownie. He had to try quite a lot of each before coming to this decision. They were all delicious.

As well as eating out, Edward has welcomed two new friends who came to live with him. 

edward and bumble Edward meets Oskar

Bungle is a rescue bear, spotted in a charity shop window and brought home to comfort youngest bearer who had been feeling a little down. Edward has never been able to understand how loyal and undemanding bears end up in such places but is pleased that Bungle – who provides excellent cuddles – has now been given a new forever home.

Oskar is a one of a kind bear from Susie’s Button Bears, purchased to celebrate a bearer’s new job. He mostly lives on her bookshelves along with some other bears from her extensive sleuth.

Edward hopes you are all keeping as well as is possible in these trying times. He is looking forward to further adventures while his bearers remain free to take him out and about again.

Book Review: Dreamy Days and Random Naps

Dreamy Days and Random Naps is the third picture book for adults (although smaller people are also likely to enjoy the daily dilemmas they explore) published by Mawson, a writer bear who lives with his guardian and many furry friends in Perth, Australia. While Mawson sits quietly pondering the complexities of being, his friends: go travelling, play music, dream of heroic deeds, build inventions such as a Hope-Maker. All come to Mawson to share what they have been doing, seeking his wisdom when worries occur.

One thing all the bears understand is the importance of regular naps.

Mawson has wisdom to share in this, an area of particular expertise.

 

The bears nap and dream, dream and nap. They are not afraid to follow when dreams beckon. The travellers go out and then return. The inventors test their creations. Outcomes are not always what was envisaged.

Mawson understands that dreams can be important, offering hope and the chance to make life a little better.

He also understands the importance of not focusing too much on what might have been, or will be in the future, when there is so much to appreciate in the here and now.

There is a hint of melancholy in many of the bears’ ponders – a desire to be something just beyond what is possible. Mawson provides a fine reminder that what we all have – the ability to be in the moment – can be enough if recognised and permitted by each self.

Mawson’s true strength is in being there for his friends, to listen and support whatever their endeavours. Readers can take comfort in his ponders, and maybe strive to be a little more like Mawson themselves.

This is a delightful addition to a series that offers advice sprinkled with gentle humour. The pictures help bring the bears to life.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.


Across the globe in Wiltshire, my bears benefit from Mawson’s wise words.

Book Review: They Threw Us Away

Although I am posting this review well into November, They Threw Us Away, by Daniel Kraus (illustrated by Rovina Cai), was my Halloween read. A story about teddies waking up in the middle of a massive and putrid rubbish dump instead of in the warm bed of a loving child looked to be the perfect horror story for an arctophile such as myself. The tale turned out to be not quite what I had expected.

In the same way that Watership Down features rabbits but is not exactly about rabbits, so They Threw Us Away features a small group of intrepid teddy bears but is not exactly about teddies. Rather, it is an allegory about what is granted value by contemporary humans and the way we too often ignore, discard and put in danger that which should be cherished.

There are certainly horror elements in the story. A scene in the back room of a store is particularly disturbing, evoking as it does images of survivors in the mass graves of genocide victims. The innocence and cute factor of teddy bears soon gives way to recognition of how people can come to be treated when viewed as an unwanted mass, and thereby dehumanised.

They Threw Us Away opens with Buddy, a blue bear made by the prestigious Furrington Company, waking up in a rubbish dump with no memory of how he got there. Finding himself able to move, freed for the first time from the confines of his packaging, he investigates the unpleasant surroundings. Close by he finds four other bears and sets about releasing them too. Together they try to survive the dump’s many predators before deciding they need to escape.

A teddy bear exists to be chosen by a child whose loving hug will send them into Forever Sleep – the teddy equivalent of Happy Ever After. This is the dream that every bear sitting on a shelf in a shop harbours – that they will be chosen and thereby find fulfilment. They may long for a child rather than a Prince Charming but do not give due consideration to life beyond that moment of bonding.

One of the bears, Reginald, is older and has therefore acquired more knowledge. He tells stories of: the Mother; her personal teddy, Proto; and the eight Originals. Reginald remains calm, willing to join the others but morbidly fatalistic. Buddy and his sidekick, Sunny, remain more hopeful that they can somehow return to the world from which they were so inexplicably cast away. All take care of Sugar, who is the most damaged but retains her sweetness. Perhaps in a hat tip to Watership Down, she has a scary vision that her friends cannot yet interpret.

The bears in this story have innate skills such as an ability to read. Bravery and loyalty feature along with an appreciation of hugs and being there when needed. The longer their quest to find children takes, the more their personalities anthropomorphise. Naturally, this leads to damage and distress.

The voices given to some of the bears did not always sit well with the usual image of a teddy as a gentle and loving creature. Proto in particular is portrayed as rather coarse and self-centred. The rest of the sleuth enabled an exploration of the value to be found in differing characteristics.

The images of the city were particularly well rendered – viewed through the lens of small, now rather grubby beings, who understand the danger of being treated as garbage. People emerge as more threatening than the rodents or vehicles (although headlights in the dark are recognised as a warning to flee). The teddies encounter many dangers and do not survive unscathed.

This is the first story in a proposed trilogy. It stands well alone, with a denouement that offers scope for further developments and adventures. Not every thread is tied up neatly, although from hints given much can be inferred. It is not a difficult read, excepting certain distressing scenes. The numerous illustrations are welcome additions, especially when the story appears bleak. Unlike Robyn (this blog’s intern), who reviewed the book here, I would be wary of recommending this to young readers. It is marketed as a children’s book but has a darkness they would need to be capable of dealing with.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, although it took a while to catch the writing’s cadence. I will be interested in finding out what happens to the teddies next.

They Threw Us Away is published by Henry Holt (Macmillan).  

Book Review: She Ran Away From Love

Mawson is a writer bear whose guardian helps him put his ponders into books, thereby helping other baffled beings navigate their lives. I reviewed his debut here.

In this, his second publication, Mawson tells the story of his good friend, Frilly, a small bear with a predilection for all things pink who goes on a brave quest to find herself. Frilly was frightened and ran away when love shone too brightly on her. She seeks happiness but isn’t sure where to look for it after love proved so scary.

The tale opens with Frilly consulting Mawson and asking some big questions. Frilly wants to be different, less afraid, so decides to boldly go out into the world and find the bear she wants to be.

Only a little bit daunted by obstacles along the way, she at last finds a place where she may be whatever she chooses. This doesn’t offer the satisfaction expected. Frilly returns home saddened and confused.

She asks Mawson how she can ever find happiness. After consulting his many books, Mawson has the answer, yet Frilly still feels sad. Some answers require a little more personal tailoring to be effective. They require effort and reaction.

Mawson doesn’t give up. He knows that Frilly must find her own way to address how she is feeling, but he has helpful suggestions as to things she might try. Between them they manage to work out what Frilly can do to cope with times that prove difficult. In better understanding what happiness is, Frilly is able to move forward and be more like the bear she aspires to be.

The joy of these books is their gentle approach to universal dilemmas. Mawson may not be a typical guru but he cares and has time for his friends. He understands the importance of a hug. He can sit quietly and listen, offering advice but only if requested. He shows no resentment when friends choose to leave him behind, even when staying at home may appear the safer option.

There is humour as well as wisdom in these pages. Readers, whatever their age, can empathise with a small bear whose life has its shadows that will at times make navigation a challenge.

Life advice from bears that is on point but never didactic. What’s not to love?

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.

 

 


Mawson’s latest book being enjoyed by one of my small bears

Book Review: It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In

Today I review a book that is a little different to my normal fare. Sent to me all the way from Australia, although available to buy in the UK, It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In is a 50 page picture book suitable for anyone who sometimes feels confused and lonely in our beautiful world.

Narrated by a sleuth of teddy bears, led by the fluffy author, Mawson, it ponders how one’s importance to a special Some One can change over time. It accepts the pain of loss, makes suggestions about how to cope, and offers hope for future happiness.

The opening premise is that everyone wants to be loved and to have their love appreciated. There is still so much love on offer in our big, bright world.

The problem can be finding that special Some One when the world is so big. We can be primed and ready to give but still have to wait, and time passes slowly when waiting.

The bears remember days of fun and adventure when they explored and played with their Some One, before that Some One chose to go out into the wider world without them.

They ponder how hard it is to keep playing the games that had been such fun, and the difficulty of caring for a Some One who isn’t there.

The bears do their best to occupy themselves but life is so much better when their Some One returns.

The story explores the possibility that one day this won’t happen, that their Some One will be gone, and life must still go on.

The context, of course, is wider than a lonely teddy bear. The story progression offers a reminder to make the most of Some One’s company, be they family, friend or partner, to enjoy each day for what it is. Mawson and his furry friends appreciate the happy days and are perplexed when they end.

If Some One goes, although it will hurt, there is the possibility of one day being found by Some One else. Until that time there are games to be played, even if they aren’t quite as enjoyable as before.

The book could offer solace for anyone in need of company for their adventures, a child who has been let down or an adult who has been left behind or lost a loved one.

The reasons for change may be baffling, but ultimately there is hope.

I admit that I have a soft spot for teddy bears. This little story made me well up, made me want to hug every one of the bears in my (ahem) extensive collection. It also made me appreciate the humans who join me on my adventures. It is a lovely, poignant story with delightful illustrations. It would make a thoughtful gift, including for yourself.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the furry author’s Some One.

My own little bears enjoyed reading it too.

 

 

Teddy Bear

I collect teddy bears. I have always had a soft spot for cuddly toys and this developed into a collection when my husband bought me a small bear, who I named Edward Gainsborough, a year or so after we got married. This delightful little companion joined my childhood bear, a few family bears that I rescued from a dusty, lonely life spent in my parent’s attic, and a number of cheaper, plush bears that I had picked up in my travels through life over the preceding years.

Before our children were born, in the days when tax rules did not make having a company car with fuel included a prohibitively expensive perk, my husband and I used to drive around Cotswold villages on free weekends visiting specialist teddy bear shops. Here I would find adorable bears who were eager to come home with me, along with accessories to make a teddy’s life more fun. I decorated one of our bedrooms and put up shelves to allow my growing collection to be displayed. A few visitors to our house thought that I was creating a nursery; at the time, children were not a part of our plans.

When my husband and I went on one of our many walks, we would enjoy taking a break at a convenient teashop. I got into the habit of bringing Edward along to share our tea and cake. He would also accompany us on picnics, travelling in the wicker hamper we kept in the boot of the car. I would photograph him and smile to myself at the looks passing strangers would give us for our unconventional behaviour.

When the children were born my focus changed and we had less time to devote to such amusing pastimes. I was still very fond of my teddy bears though. Each child was given a Steiff bear for their first birthday to ensure that they had a furry friend to guard them and chase away the monsters that lurk in the dark corners of bedrooms. Edward always sleeps by my bed at night, wherever I am staying.

968790_607923469227422_1760338328_n

It took quite a few years to get to the point where going out did not demand that I carry a large bag full of nappies, snacks, juice and amusing distractions for the children. Once we got through this stage though, Edward once again started to accompany us on days away. I loved the fact that we were all quite happy to be seen out and about carrying a small bear, posing with him at famous landmarks and photographing him on his adventures. We certainly got some strange looks from those around us, but seemed to raise smiles from strangers with our antics, which can’t be a bad thing.

I probably have a couple of dozen teddy bears in my collection. The room that was decorated for them did eventually become our nursery so they were moved to alternative locations around our home. I am tempted to buy bears wherever I go but try hard to contain such desires. Occasionally, of course, I will give in and treat myself.

This summer I picked up a lovely little fellow from a shop in Hampshire called Bear It In Mind. The ladies running this business repair and restore toys as well as selling their signature ‘Bartie’ alongside other British made teddies. They made Edward and I very welcome and treated my passion as perfectly normal.

999410_640901669262935_1180949705_n

Edward meets the original Bartie Bristle at Bear it in Mind.

I have grown used to having my predilection for travelling with my little bear, and photographing him wherever I go, treated kindly. I do not consider it particularly childish but accept that it is eccentric. How boring life would be though if we could not act the way we wish; if every action had to be judged on it’s compliance with cool conventionality. Showing a little love to a small, stuffed toy; conferring him with feelings and a personality; none of this causes harm to anyone else and gives me amusement and pleasure.

Teddy bears are non judgemental, comforting companions. It is my view that the world would be a better place if the same could be said for more humans.