Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts!

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts is hosted by Christine at Bookishly Boisterous – go say hi!

It’s been another busy week at 746 Books and as I am clearly not organised enough to do a review, I’m doing one of these posts instead 🙂

  • It’s all about The OA round our house at the moment – have you seen it? Ooh, so exciting! A girl, Praire, is found alive after being missing for seven years. The twist? She was blind when she went missing and now she can see. What has caused this, and why does she need a band of 5 misfits to help her find ‘the others’? The OA is incredibly smart sci-fi and I can’t wait to see how it ends
  • Last week I had the privilege of meeting novelist Deirdre Madden when she came to HomePlace to chat about her work and her life growing up just down the road from HomePlace in Toomebridge. I’m a major fan of Madden’s work and reviewed Molly Fox’s Birthday here and it was such a treat to meet her.
  • I do love it when books and music meet and so far this month I’ve been listening non-stop to Max Richter’s new composition Woolf Works, the music to a new ballet triptych about the life of Virgina Woolf. Woolf Works is currently on at the Royal Opera House in London and the description on the website sounds amazing.

    Virginia Woolf defied the false order of narrative conventions to depict a heightened, startling and poignant reality. Woolf Works re-creates the synaesthetic collision of form and substance in her writings.

    The music is stunning. Do yourself a favour and have a listen!


A scene from Woolf Works



  • I am starting to get geared up for Reading Ireland Month next month and am prepping like mad. I was lucky enough to get sent a review copy of Lisa McInerney’s new book The Blood Miracles. A follow up to The Glorious Heresies, I can attest to the fact that it is just as good as its predecessor and will certainly cement McInerney’s reputation as a literary force to be reckoned with.


  • Finally, and most excitedly, I have managed to get tickets to hear the amazing George Saunders read at the Mountains to the Sea Festival in Dublin next month. He’ll be reading from his new book Lincoln at the Bardo and the hubbie has offered to buy me a copy so that I don’t break my book-buying ban….I’m a bit of a cheat, I know, but come on! It’s George Saunders! I have to get him to sign my book!

George Saunders,

Has anyone else been up to anything bookish, or not so bookish? Now that I’ve finished procrastinating, I should really go and write a proper review. Or watch another episode of The OA….

Christmas Gifts for Book Lovers

So, as I am still sick in bed, I’ve had a bit of time to do some online Christmas shopping and have come across some lovely bookish gifts perfect for the book lovers in my life and, well, for myself! I’d be delighted to see any of these items in my Christmas stocking.

Take a peek:

  1. We Have Always Lived at the Castle tee

I adore everything on the Out of Print website. I’m the proud owner of a Wuthering Heights tee, a Light in August tee and a To the Lighthouse sweatshirt, but they have outdone themselves with this gorgeous specimen, celebrating Shirley Jackson’s classic tale.


2. ‘Paperback’ perfume from The Library of Fragrance

I have no clue what this smells like, I’m not even sure it would be nice, but come on….something that makes you smell of paperback books? What’s not to love?!

paperback-30_grande3. Ulysses Tote Bag

I have completely fallen for this gorgeous tote bag featuring Leopold Bloom’s musing on the circular nature of life – ‘longest way round is the shortest way home’. There is a great range of totes at the Literary Gift Company website, but this is the one for me.


4. Lady Macbeth Guest Soap

I know I’ve featured it on 746 Books before, but if you have to buy me soap at Christmas, then buy me this soap. Hilarious.

lady_macbeth_soap_1024x10245. Watership Down Mug

Or the Watership Downer mug as it’s known, featuring a rabbit reading Richard Adams classic tale. Poor bunny….

watership_downer_mug_0_1024x10246. Wuthering Heights Scarf

I love these scarves by and the Wuthering Heights one is particularly lovely. Other featured scarves include The Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables and Hamlet.


7. Macbeth Flats

Cute flats? With a Shakespearian theme? I’m in! I just love these cute flats by LeadFootLucy on Etsy. In fact, I’d happily take her whole collection…


8. George Orwell Phone Cover

I don’t know quite what George Orwell would have made of the ubiquity of mobile phones in the present day, but I do know I want this phone cover from Ebay!


9. Literature Ladies Enamel Pin

What better way to celebrate these fantastic women writers (other than reading them, obviously) than by wearing this fantastically cute pin?

normal_literature-ladies-enamel-pin10. Hot Book Girl Sweatshirt

Hey, I may not be hot and I may not be a girl anymore, but I still love this sweatshirt from

Can someone buy it, wear it and I will appreciate it vicariously? Thank you.


And finally, once I’ve decided what I’m going to buy, there’s always the wrapping to think of. Wrapping paper and Virgina Woolf tape are from the Literary Gift Company!

So, is there anything there you fancy adding to your Christmas list?


Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

Despite the fact that I have not one but two reviews to write for 20 Books of Summer and a mere 10 more books to read, I am procrastinating BIG TIME this week. I have lots going on though, so inspired by Elle Thinks, I decided to do a Bookish and Not So Bookish thoughts post for the first time!

  •  Today I am coming to terms with the end of one of my favourite TV shows – Person of Interest. It finished a while ago but we just watched the last episode last night and I cried more than I probably should about an Artificial Intelligence called The Machine, which tried to save people before they killed or were killed. No more kick-ass women like Shaw and Root, no more wondering if Jim Caviezel can speak above a whisper. Hell, no more generally having little idea what was going on but going along with it anyway. I’ve loved this show. I will have to console myself with Season 2 of Mr Robot.


  • Speaking of TV shows, my attempt to catch up on all the Gilmore Girls before the new episodes start looks like it isn’t going to happen. I’m just at the end of Season 4 so three more seasons to go.


  • We got a new print for the living room – just have to get it framed!


  • I am very excited to have made the final 12 of The Stage Critic Search 2016! Last week I went to see one of my favourite plays Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme by Frank McGuinness and was mentored by the fantastic Sam Marlowe of The Times. My review will be in The Stage next week before the final three are chosen!


  • I am working very hard trying to tie up all the loose ends at work before I start my new job next month. Leaving a job requires a leaving night out and a leaving night out requires a new dress. It’s the law. I went for this one…..
  • 9147044528158

  • If you are a fan of short stories, you could do worse that sign up to Thomas Morris’ Tiny Letter page. You get a short story emailed to you every fortnight and so far I’ve been treated to stories by A.M. Homes, David Foster Wallace, Richard Yates and Lorrie Moore. Fantastic stuff.

    • I am addicted to Angry Birds 2. If I didn’t play Angry Birds 2, I would most probably be on at least book 15 of my 20 Books of Summer.


    • In between watching The Avengers and The Force Awakens on constant rotation with the kids, Mr B and I managed to watch a grown-up movie this week, the brutal but brilliant 99 Homes. Starring Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield, this is a thriller set in the world of Real Estate (really) that deserved all the glory that The Big Short got.
    • My beautiful daughter wrote me a beautiful poem this week. Well, it’s beautiful until you get to the last line. As Elena over at Books and Reviews pointed out, at least she’s writing poetry!
    Stella Poem

    ‘My Mum is a very good chum, And a very good lady, And her bum is fat’

    That’s all for now, hopefully there will be a review by the end of the week!



    Bookish Thoughts is hosted by Christine at Bookishly Boisterous. Pop over and say hi!

    Dame Fiona Kidman at the Belfast Book Festival

    On Saturday evening I took a break from reading my 20 Books of Summer, to interview the wonderful Dame Fiona Kidman at the Belfast Book Festival about her new novel The Infinite Air – a fictionalised account of the life of Jean Batten, world famous 1930s aviator known as the ‘Garbo of the Skies’.

    Me & Fiona

    Fiona is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed writers. The Infinite Air is her ninth novel and she has also written seven collections of short stories, five collections of poetry, over 60 scripts for radio and television, a stage play, two autobiographies and various works of non-fiction and journalism. She has won numerous awards – here is just a taste of them:

    • Mobil New Zealand Short Story Award
    • The New Zealand Book Award
    • AW Reed Award for Lifetime Achievement
    • Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Fellow
    • Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters
    • The French Legion of Honour
    • Received an OBE in 1988 for services to literature
    • Appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998


    The Infinite Air is a thoughtful and fascinating account of Jean Batten’s extraordinary life. In 1934 she became a world-wide sensation when she flew solo from England to Australia in 14 days, 22 hours, breaking the previous record. The impeccably dressed, beautiful and elusive Batten was friends with royalty and celebrity, had a rumoured fling with Ian Fleming and had the world at her feet. Yet she died in a pauper’s grave, from an infection following a dog bite, with no one left to mourn her.


    Jean Batten with her aircraft

    Kidman charts Batten’s life from her childhood in Rotorua, New Zealand with her strong-willed mother, philandering father and distant brothers. The precocious Jean could have been a dancer or a concert pianist, but instead, her mother took her to London to train to be a pilot at the famous Stag Lane.

    The depictions of flight are compelling in the novel and Kidman perfectly captures the loneliness at the heart of both Jean’s flights and her life, portraying her complexity and her fragility as well as her determination and grit. There are men in the book, but the central relationship is undoubtedly between Jean and her mother Nellie. Together, they were a force to be reckoned with. It is a fascinating story, told with insight and grace and allows us to reclaim Jean from the notion that she was just a gold-digger who used men to get her own way.

    During our chat, Fiona talked about how we need ‘female heroines’ and now that I have met her, she is one of mine. Determined to be a writer from a young age, she was a beacon for women writers in the 1970’s urging them to give themselves ‘permission to write’. She has also worked tirelessly for the literary community, founding her own Creative Writing School, helping to set up the New Zealand Book Council and acting as Patron of the New Zealand Book Council.


    Now in her 70s, she is awaiting the publication of her tenth novel, researching her eleventh and still inspiring writers and audiences across the world.

    If any of you are in Belfast over the next week, do check out the fantastic events that are going on in the Belfast Book Festival.



    Book Spine Poetry aka Monday procrastination!

    I finished Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf last week for Heaven Ali’s #Woolfalong and I have been struggling to write a review that does it justice, so I’m procrastinating a little bit this Monday morning!

    I was inspired to try some book spine poetry over the weekend when I saw poems that Naomi at Consumed by Ink and Fiction Fan recently created. Naomi’s resulting poems were beautiful, Fiction Fan’s were ‘bitter and twisted’ – her words not mine, I thought they were pretty cool!

    Mine are….strange? What do you think?

    Here are four poems, three from real books and one from my Kindle collection and I have taken a little bit of liberty with punctuation!

    Book poems 1

    Our few and evil days in the forest.

    The visitor, the strangest man.

    Redemption falls,

    this changes everything.

    Book poems 2

    Quietly, a lover sings

    ‘You must remember this…’

    A slanting of the sun.

    Love lies bleeding, this side of brightness.

    Book poems 3

    Lonesome dove

    Grief is the thing with feathers.

    Until I find you this may hurt a bit.

    The death of the heart and the pursuit of happiness.

    book title poetry

    What was lost?

    ‘I don’t know’, I said

    Sleepwalkers, plowing the dark.

    A history of falling things, fallen.

    The dancers dancing, here on earth.

    Let the great world spin.


    Anyone else fancy having a go? I’d love to hear yours! It’s a little bit addictive once you get going!





    2016 Bookish Resolutions!

    TTT resolutions


    I’m not usually one for resolutions and if I do make them, they tend to be small and manageable. However, when I saw that this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and The Bookish was my Top Ten bookish resolutions, I thought I would take a look at what I’d like to achieve at 746 Books in 2016.

    1. To read at least 60 books this year


    Last year I set my Goodreads Challenge at 52 and just managed it, so I’d like to push myself a little further this year and try and read 60 books. It’s not a great difference really, but would bring the 746 down to 586 which would be a nice feeling. I see people who have set goals to read 100, or even 150 books and I am envious of their ambition but there is no point in setting myself a challenge that I have no way of completing and 60 should be manageable for me.

    2. To read 20 books by BAME authors


    When Naomi at The Writes of Women and Dan at Utterbiblio started Diverse December last month, I was shocked to discover how few books by BAME writers I read on a regular basis. It’s not that I don’t own a few, I do, I just don’t seem to choose them for my next read. So, during December I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu and loved them both. I’m delighted to see that Diverse December has grown and will now be a year long initiative – #ReadDiverse2016, so I plan to read at least one book a month by a BAME writer. I know that doesn’t seem a lot, but it’s a start.

    3. To continue my book buying ban


    Obviously this had to be in my Top Ten, it’s the whole point of the blog! I’m still on course and still haven’t bought myself a book in the two years I’ve been doing this, although trips to the library have become more frequent as have Net Galley requests! Still, I’ll keep trying to hold my resolve. I’ve already started my birthday book list to present to my husband (Don deLillo’s new novel; Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh and American Housewife by Helen Ellis) but I’m hoping I can stay strong for another year! Andi over at Estella’s Revenge has started a 2016 no book buying challenge called #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks, so if you fancy limiting your book buying this year, why not join her?


    4. To redesign my blog


    I’ve been mulling over a redesign for a while now and this may be the year I finally try it out. I’m toying with a new logo and a new site theme, if I can manage to decide what I want. I may have to say goodbye to Lauren at some point, although I have grown quite fond of her at this point!

    5. To take part in #Woolfalong


    The lovely Ali over at HeavenAli is hosting a year long celebration of the work of Virginia Woolf during 2016. Shamefully, I have never read any Woolf, but have To The Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway in the 746 so I’m looking forward to taking part

    6. To lose the guilt…

    Sometimes I have to remind myself that my blog is my hobby, not my job. I often find myself feeling guilty for not keeping up to date with reading, reviewing or my Twitter feed. There is no point in worrying about something that should be a pleasure when I have enough other things to worry about! So, I will try and keep up with my WordPress Reader and all your lovely blogs, but if I miss a day or two it’s not the end of the world. And ultimately, if none of these resolutions are kept, then that’s not such a big disaster either.

    7. To continue to explore Irish Literature and promote Reading Ireland Month

    PicMonkey Collage

    The main reason I have been visiting the library more and requesting galleys is my renewed interest in Irish literature. It’s been a real revelation to me over the last two years how much I love the work that comes from this little island and how much there still is to read! Along with Niall at Raging Fluff, I’ll be hosting Reading Ireland Month again during March and this year I’m going to focus on Irish women writers. There are some great initiatives out there – #WakingtheFeminists, which came about as a response to the male centric programme of 1916 Centenary events produced by the Abbey Theatre and #WomenAloudNI which will celebrate women writers from Northern Ireland on 8 March. I do hope some of you can set aside a book by an Irish author in March and join in the craic.

    8. To try and complete 20 Books of summer – 3 is the magic number!

    20 books of summer - master image

    2016 will see my third attempt at my 20 Books of Summer challenge. During year one I read 16 and during year 2 I read 18, so I’m hoping that I can reach the magic 20 this summer. I will need to choose my books wisely…

    9. To connect more through Instagram

    I have become quite fond of Instagram in the last few months and plan to use it more to document my reading life. If you are on Instagram, why not follow me at CATHYB746. Be warned, you will also see dangerously cute photos of the twins and pictures of my dinner, but there is bookish stuff there as well!

    10. And finally and most importantly, To have fun!

    One thing I’ve learned from blogging is that I have no idea what might happen next. The bottom line is that I love reading, I love books and I love talking about them and you are all a great bunch of people to do that with. I don’t pay too much attention to my stats, I mainly just enjoy the conversations, so I plan to have more of them, have fun and be open to whatever comes my way!

    So, there we have it. Ten bookish resolutions that I can look back on in a year and regret not having completed! If that is what happens, I will refer directly to No 6 again!

    Do you have any bookish resolutions? Any resolutions at all? I’d love to hear them.

    The TBR Book Tag!

    I was tagged by Naomi at The Writes of Woman to take part in the TBR meme. Given that my whole blog is my TBR it kind of made sense to take part!

     How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

    I don’t. I was so proud of myself for actually counting them all on that fateful day in December 2013, that I have made no other effort to catalogue or track what I’m reading. I have a vague intention of listing the books on my TBR when I get to around the 400 mark, but we’ll have to see about that.

    Is your TBR pile mostly print or e-books?

    I would say about 60% print and 40% e-books. I was buying A LOT of e-books in the run up to my book-buying ban as it was just so…easy. But I’ve been buying books pretty seriously now for over 20 years so there are a lot of print books that I have yet to get around to reading.

    How do you determine which books from your TBR to read next?

    I don’t really have a system, I usually go by my mood. Sometimes I turn to you guys for a Reading Roulette pick and other times I like to see if I can join in with a reading challenge that’s going on. I enjoy those because they often nudge me to read books I wouldn’t have thought of picking up. Often I have to look up a book on the internet to remind myself of what it’s about and why I may have bought it, which is a little embarrassing!


    What book has been on your TBR the longest?

    I had a discussion on Twitter with Naomi about this and came up with Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, which I bought when I was in second year at University in 1990 (there goes the secret of my age!). However, on reflection, I realised that my Dad bought me a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens when I was 10 and I haven’t read it yet. Yeah, that one is 34 years unread. That’s scary.


     A book you have recently added to your TBR?

    Anyone following the blog will know that I haven’t bought a new book FOR MYSELF for almost two years, although my husband has been very good in buying a few books for me for birthdays and Christmas. The last few books that officially got added to the 746 were The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. That was my last binge before starting the blog and the no-buy challenge.

    A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?

    I try not to say that I will never read a book, because obviously at the point when I bought every book on my TBR pile I wanted to read it. The one I think might be the last in my challenge is Infinite Jest. I have tried to read it about 10 times. The furthest I’ve ever got is page 100. And if you’ve seen Infinite Jest you’ll know that’s not too far into that big, big book. It would take a lot to make me pick it up and try it again, although if I’m going to finish what I’ve started, then I’ll have to read it at some point!*

    *and best not mention Ulysses……


    An unpublished book on your TBR?

    Nope. None. Obviously.

    A book that is on your TBR because of the cover

    Probably more than I would care to admit to. A few include Swell by Corwin Ericson; St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell and the stunning Building Stories by Chris Ware

    A book on your TBR that everyone recommends

    The Hound of the Baskervilles. It keeps getting recommended to me and I keep threatening to read it. Someday, I promise.

    A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you

    I sometimes feel that I am the last person on earth (Ok, the blogosphere) to have read anything by Virginia Woolf. I intend to get around to Mrs Dalloway sometime soon. I also wonder if there is anyone else who has yet to read Stoner?


    A book on your TBR that you are dying to read

    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt but I keep putting it off because I think it’s not going to live up to my expectations.


    How many books are on your TBR?

    Officially it stands at 654 at the moment, however I’ve read two more books that I haven’t reviewed yet.

    So 652.

    I’m managing to read about 50 a year, so I guess I’ll be here until about 2028…..


    Niall at The Fluff is Raging

    Naomi at Consumed by Ink

    Barbara at Book Club Mom

    Melanie at Grab the Lapels