Book Reviews

National Stress Awareness Day and the ‘Readcation’

It was National Stress Awareness Day on 4th November, so we have a recipe for a restful day right here! It’s important to keep your stress levels down and recognise when you need a break. If you’re really smart about it, and stay aware of potential times of stress, you can even schedule a day to de-stress ahead of time. Stress has effects on our bodies, our minds and our relationships, and continued or excessive stress can lead to ongoing health problems or make already-present ones worse. This November, as the days grow shorter, we recommend that you take a day, whether it’s a weekend day or a day of holiday, to give yourself a Readcation. I’m not sure about the name, but the idea is awesome – take a day just to read and relax.

6948738143_850bd94498_hThe idea is simple: you clear your day or choose a time when you know you’ll be able to take some time off, find a comfy space, get some snacks and just read a book for as long as you like! My favourite Readcation day involves chocolate, tea and a big comfy armchair. Preferably with a fleecy blanket as well! Check out this post from Book Riot about a Readcation.

Now we’ve told you the concept, we’ve got some suggestions for books for your Readcation. The book you choose for a Readcation is important, because you don’t want to have to look for another one halfway through, and it should be something that whisks you away into a world of its own rather than something that means you have to keep reaching for the dictionary.

And if more than one of you is having a Readcation in the same house, make it into a reading party! You might have to argue about who has to go and get more snacks, though.

Neil Gaiman – Coraline (QUICK READS 823.91)

coraline2Short enough to finish in one sitting and filled with magic, horror and wonder, Coraline is a book you won’t regret making time for. A young girl feels dissatisfied with her life and finds herself in a fantastical version of her own home with another version of her mother who has black buttons for eyes and lets her do whatever she wants, but she soon discovers that what she really wants is to go back to her real parents. However, the Other Mother won’t give up her daughter so easily, and Coraline has to find her courage to make her way back home. Neil Gaiman is one of the best storytellers out there right now, so let him draw you into his fantastical world.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The Hound of the Baskervilles (BOOK ZONE 823.91)

Ok, so this one is more of a classic, but there’s nothing better on a grey winter’s day than curling up with a spooky story. Sherlock Holmes and his faithful friend Dr Watson investigate a fearsome ghost hound that stalks the moors in this Gothic classic. Sherlock Holmes is adamant that this hound is not a spectre, but that doesn’t make this atmospheric mystery any less frightening. You might want to leave the light on for this one!

Dorothy L. Sayers – Strong Poison (BOOK ZONE 823.91)

Detective novels and thrillers these days are often gritty and grim, but sometimes what you want is a fun mystery with a charming hero and a sense of drama. Dorothy L. Sayers, a writer from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, gives us just that. Lord Peter Wimsey is an aristocrat who solves mysteries for fun, and here he meets his match in the brilliant and witty Harriet Vane, a novelist he immediately falls for. The problem is, she’s being accused of murder!

Philippa Gregory – The White Queen (BOOK ZONE 823.92)

white queenPolitical intrigue abounds in this historical novel about a young widow of a knight in fifteenth-century England who marries King Edward IV and becomes the Queen of England during the turbulent Wars of the Roses. Even though the history of the monarchs of England is usually the story of the men in power, Philippa Gregory tells the stories of the women who were torn between the demands of family, country and their own desires, and often at the mercy of the events that surrounded them. If you want to immerse yourself in another era that was very different from ours, try The White Queen.

Sarra Manning – Pretty Things (BOOK ZONE 823.91)

Misunderstandings abound in this funny romance about a group of friends who keep falling in love with the wrong person. Sarra Manning writes books aimed at teens, but they’re smart enough to appeal to anyone. In Pretty Things, the protagonists’ complicated love lives happen against a backdrop of a production of The Taming of the Shrew, and Manning definitely takes a few pointers from the Shakespeare with this comedy of errors! If you’re looking for an indulgent read that will sweep you off your feet, try this.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death – M.C. Beaton (823.914)

agatha raisinLots of people have dreamed of leaving the bustle of city life for a village in the countryside, but Agatha Raisin actually does it. She quits her high-powered PR job to live in the Cotswolds, hoping for a quiet life, but when the quiche she enters into a baking competition poisons one of the judges, she has to investigate the murder to clear her own name. Filled with the kind of well-observed village characters you might expect from Agatha Christie, this is a new spin on the cosy detective genre. It was also recently adapted as a TV series. Try this if you want to dawdle in the beautiful countryside of the Cotswolds while also hunting a cold-blooded killer!

Jacqueline Wilson – The Bed and Breakfast Star (QUICK READS 823.914)

Jacqueline Wilson’s books are such great comfort reads, but they never get overly sentimental. She deals with pain and grief, but her characters always fight for what they care about. The Bed and Breakfast Star is about a girl called Elsa who wants to be a stand-up comedy star, but all everyone can seem to focus on is how loud her voice is! This is a lovely story about how sometimes things we’ve been told are failings are actually secret strengths, and reading Jacqueline Wilson always makes me feel like I’m being given a hug by a friend.

Arthur Golden – Memoirs of a Geisha (BOOK ZONE 823.91)

memoirs of a geishaSink into the world of the traditional geisha, by turns luxurious and brutal, as we follow Sayuri through her training and work as a geisha. At the same time, American and British influences are being felt more and more in Japan, and the world is on the brink of war. The novel has since attracted a lot of criticism for its portrayal of geisha, but Golden did research the history and customs of geisha and interviewed geisha as part of writing the novel. With the warning that it shouldn’t be taken as completely accurate, enjoy this historical romance which charts one of the most turbulent times in Japanese history.

Dan Brown – The Da Vinci Code (BOOK ZONE 813.54)

Love him or hate him, Dan Brown knows how to write a page-turner, and while lots of people have mixed feelings about The Da Vinci Code, sometimes you want a self-indulgent story about an academic who unearths a conspiracy that has him running for his life. Robert Langdon, a professor of ‘symbology’, is drawn into a mystery surrounding the murder of the curator of the Louvre, which seems to be linked to the history of Leonardo da Vinci and an ancient secret society, the Priory of Sion. While the claims Brown makes at the beginning of the book that the Priory of Sion was real is incorrect (it was an elaborate hoax), this is a fun and silly read.

For more stress-busting tips…

Try Managing Stress by Terry Looker and Olga Gregson (BOOK ZONE 199.5) to learn some handy techniques to avoid and cope with stress, all explained in language that is accessible and friendly.

Tackle the physical symptoms of stress with Yoga for Stress by Vimla Lalvani (BOOK ZONE 613.7046) and Pocket Massage for Stress Relief by Clare Maxwell-Hudson (BOOK ZONE 615.822).

Learn more about what causes stress and how we can cope with it in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky (BOOK ZONE 616.98).

Check out our display in the Information Store for some more great ideas on how to de-stress!

References:

AvidlyAbide (2005) Calm. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avidlyabide/6948738143 (Downloaded: 05/11/15)

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