The TBR Pile Challenge 2014 …..

I’m signing up for the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader, because I need something to remind me how many good books I have waiting for me on my own shelves.

2014tbrbuttonIt works something like this:

Pick a dozen books that you have owned for more than a year and not read. Pick two alternates, just in case one or two of that dozen, doesn’t work out. Read them in 2014.

I’m only picking books I really want to read, because life is too short and there are too many great books to do anything else, but I did set myself some other criteria.

I’ve picked my books from different shelves around the house so that I look at all of the other books that aren’t on the list along the way.

Every book I picked has acome from a different place – not for any particular reason, just because I wanted to see if I could work things that way.

And none of these books are on my Classics Club list or anything to do with any other projects, because I want to read a wider range of books next year.

So here are the twelve:

Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson

This one came my way courtesy of ReadItSwapIt a couple of years ago. I really do want to read it, because I like the look of one or two of the books later in the series.

Devotion by Nell Leyshon

I picked this up from a book stall because I recognised the author’s name. I loved The Colour of Milk and I have high hopes for this rather different, contemporary story.

The Phoenix’ Nest by Elizabeth Jenkins

I spotted this one in a local bookshop, sadly now closed, not knowing at the time that it was rare. Searches have revealed noting, it doesn’t get a mention in the author’s biography, but the opening suggests that it is set in an Elizabethan theatre …

The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

I bought this second novel when it was brand new in local bookshop, because I loved Ali Harris’s first book.

The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing

This one was sitting on a charity shop shelf, and I had to bring it home.

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

I spotted this one at a fundraising sale for our local museum.

Eden’s Garden by Juliet Greenwood

This one was ordered from the publisher after reading Claire’s review.

You by Joanna Briscoe

This one dropped through by letterbox, unsolicited, a few years ago, and I like the look of it but I’ve never quite got around to picking it up.

Darkness Falls All Over Again by Nigel Balchin

I bought this one when I was living in London. I remember listening to the radio, hearing somebody pick this as their favourite book set in London. and saying that it was like ‘The End of the Affair’ – but better.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

This was a gift from a very generous Virago Secret Santa a couple of years ago,

Two-Thirds of a Ghost by Helen McCloy

This is a green numbered Penguin that I picked up in a very good second-hand bookshop in Falmouth.

A Wreath for the Enemy by Pamela Frankau

I can remember my fiancé – a trained spotter of Virago Modern Classics – coming home with this one.

And here are my two possible substitutes:

The Children’s Book by A S Byatt

I pounced on this brand new hardback copy when it was being sold very cheaply at a library sale.

The Heart of London by Monica Dickens

This one came from a bookshop in Redruth, on a day when I had to be very picky because there were so many books I would have liked. It made the cut because I love Monica Dickens, and it is such a lovely editions.

Wish me luck!

Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris

“I gaze out of my bedroom window into the dark winter morning as the snowflakes fall softly outside. Is that it? I wonder. It’s not a sudden change in the wind, like the one that carried Mary Poppins to the Banks family, or the tornado that carried Dorothy to Oz, but maybe, just maybe, this downfall is the universe’s way of telling me that my life is about to change …”

That’s Evie Taylor, waking up on the first day of December.

She hasn’t quite got back on her feet since the first boyfriend, who she had thought was going to be her one true love, abandoned her. So she lives a quiet life in London, lodging with her sister and her husband and children, and working at Hardy’s.

Hardy’s is a department store, on the wrong side of Regent Street. It used to be wonderful, magical, but now Hardy’s has fallen out of fashion and into hard times.

Evie works in the stock room, though she has the talent to do much, much more, barely noticed by many but good friends with all of the other who worked hard but went unnoticed. Cleaners. The security guard. Delivery men. The lady in the teashop.

One overheard conversation changes everything: Evie learns that, if Hardy’s fortunes don’t turn around by Boxing day, the store will be closed.

Evie is horrified. She has loved Hardy’s ever since she was a small child and her mother told her wonderful tales of the days she worked there. So Evie sets out to save the store.

That leads her on a wonderful adventure. An adventure with so many ups and downs. It will change Hardy’s. It will change the Taylor family. And, of course, it will change Evie herself.

Evie’s story was a joy to read. Her voice was warm and engaging, and she brought to life so many wonderful characters and painted such vivid pictures of the store she loved so much.

At times I had to suspend disbelief, and I was more than happy to. Because this is a book with so much charm. And because the emotions ring completely true.

It made me think of Cinderella. It made me think of the Tailor of Gloucester. And when a small group visited a tavern on Lambs Conduit Street I thought of Persephone Books. And of Miss Pettigrew.

Most of all I thought of Frank Capra.

I’d love to see Miracle on Regent Street on the big screen.

To see the vintage clothes that Evie loved. To see the wonderful merchandise that Evie found in the darkest corners of her stockroom: gold compacts, vintage trilbys, satin corsets …

To meet the people. Felix, a security guard with many talents. Sam, a delivery boy with grand plans. Lily, the tea-shop lady who carried on with style – as she had ever since Hardy’s heyday …

To see Hardy’s come to life, as it did so beautifully on the page.

And most of all to meet Evie again, and share her emotional journey.

Her story has style, substance, and just the right mix of reality and magic.

It was a joy to read.

While Briar sleeps at her end of the sofa ….

…. I have been busy at my end.

Kate has mailed out the schedule for her year-long readalong of Les Miserables. And she mentioned that she has marked the weekly installments on her copy.

I loved that idea and have done the same thing with my copy.

I may fall behind, I may get ahead, but I am sure that seeing the installments so clearly will help me through.

And I’ve been knitting a hat. And, for the very first time, knitting sideways instead of bottom up,

I love the pattern and I have learned, and now love, Japanese short rows No more wrapping stitches and getting confused about what to do with the wrap for me!

And I should mention that the pattern is Anlalya by Mary Kay Gumayagay.

And, of course, I’m reading. Miracle on Regent Street is a wonderful book to get lost in. London in December with just a touch of fairy dust.

I was particularly pleased when the story took me to a tavern in Lamb’s Conduit Street. Oh to have been there and to have had the chance to nip out to the Persephone bookshop. I should love to introduce Evie, the heroine, to Miss Pettigrew …

Meanwhile Briar sleeps. She did head to the front door, but when I opened it and she saw the rain she turned around, glared at me and climbed back on to her cushion.