Tag Archives: reading

Getting that Fix

Currently reading: Vlad, CC Humphreys (and The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick)

Currently hearing: Guards! Guards! and Going Postal, Terry Pratchett; Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden; The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood.

Alright, so I’m cheating on my “no new books” thing. I’ve got four audiobooks on the go that are books I’ve read before, but the audios are newly purchased. Sort of. I decided to cancel my Audible account because while £14.99 isn’t breaking the bank, I’m not actually using it. So I had 12 credits of books to buy. Can’t waste that money! And audiobooks are reeeeally expensive! So I bought some audios of books I already own, and yes, a couple of new ones that I really want to read but technically can’t because I’m working through my To Read pile. But… but… OK it’s not really an excuse.

As for cycling through four in one go… my brain needs stimulation! And these things are many, many hours long. I like them for listening to while crafting or pottering about, because I don’t need my eyes or my hands to enjoy them, and they’re less distracting. But hearing the same voice for hours on end means eventually you start zoning out. I’m trying to cope with having less to occupy my brain by feeding it more fiction. Usually that works.

I’m also cheekily re-reading The Summer Queen. I didn’t even read it that long ago, but I was at the optician’s yesterday with my new tablet, and I’ve only just put Kindle onto it, so I didn’t have many books actually downloaded. So I HAD TO read what was to hand. HAD TO. And I was there for an hour and a half in the end, so I think I did the right thing. Also, I have ordered new glasses. It’s about time. I’ve had my current frames a good four years at least, and they were chosen when I had longer hair. I don’t feel like they suit my face as well since I had the chop. So that’s exciting!

I’m signed up to a craft swapping deal at the moment as well. It’s Christmas themed! I am pretty excited about it; you know how we love Christmas in Crow-Spicer-Quinn towers! I have to make a tree decoration of some kind, but I don’t think I can stick to that! I was Pinteresting earlier and have a lovely inspiration board. There are loads of cute ideas for small decorations that you could even stack up to make wall strings or mobiles so I’ll probably make a few things and connect them somehow. Or just make a complete tree’s worth of decoration, haha. VERY EXCITED. That also means more craft project photo blogs.

I broke my sewing machine earlier this week. Well, I snapped a lever with my WOMAN STRENGTH. But I soon had the screwdriver out to take the machine apart. I eBayed a new part and it’s in and ready to start levering again. That’s good because it meant all work on Rivka’s Christmas present had stopped. It’s pretty much taking over the craft room. I’m still excited though. There’s time to do some more work on it before dinner. It feels like there’s still a lot to do, but in the way that hopefully it’ll suddenly come together. Hopefully.

The nights are starting to draw in, the fire has been lit, and it’s cosying up time. Now is the season of quilts and spices. I effing love autumn. The next few weeks are going to buoy me up, I can tell.

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Federal Bureau of Instigation

Currently reading: Stephen Hunt, Secrets of the Fire Sea

Feeling: Potent! (in the sense of “full of things that will burst forth with glorious purpose!”)

Whiiiiiich immediately makes me think of this

Whiiiiiich immediately makes me think of this

Hello, hello. Well, I’ve been on holiday, and I have *thunderclap* read a book that was not on my list. But I couldn’t help it, because I was at my parents’ house, and it was just lying there… and I was bored… it was The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie; a series of shorts – twelve in fact – about the famous moustachioed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. AND I’M NOT SORRY. Also, bloody hell, the olden times were misogynistic!

I went out bureau hunting today. It wasn’t so much a hunt as going to a shop and saying “yes, we’ll have that bureau, please”, but hey. Let’s make it an adventure. It was not a bureau for me, dear reader, oh heavens no! I’ve had a bureau for a while now. It’s lovely and foldy and has cubbies. What sort of self-respecting writer doesn’t have a bureau? Tut tut. How could you doubt me? I love it almost as much as the cocktail cabinet of joy. I have a cocktail cabinet. FEAR ME.

Anyway… I helped my friend buy and transport the bureau in my lovely, battered old car. We also did some gardening. I can feel myself levelling up to a new and impressive state of middle-class-ness. Hurrah for furniture that needs a key, I say!

I’m sorry to say that over my holiday I did not manage to get the draft of Once Bitten re-edited. I did pretty well with it, but the middle third needs a bit (a lot) more punch. Looking at it objectively (ha!) I can see a few holes that need some narrative polyfilla to appeal to an audience that isn’t me, or in on the joke. So Broadening The Range is the new goal. I’m happier with it than I was. I feel like it’s improving with revision, so I’m going in the right direction. I’m transferring the draft to Novlr as I go along (with a back up, of course! Never again, NaNoWriMo 2012!) and enjoying that process. It’s a pretty simple interface at the moment, more or less WYSIWYG, but they’re adding new features and fixing bugs as they go, and it’s working for me.

I’ve got a little crafting to do over the next couple of days so perhaps I’ll photoblog the things. Perhaps. Gotta leave ‘em wanting more *nudge nudge*

Onwards and upwards!

velmakelly

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Vacate your mind, but not your bookshelf

Currently just finished: The Magicians

Alright, guys and gals, it’s round-up time.

I’m still working on my master list, and have just crossed another off. I need to cheat a little though, because I just got my ARC of Mildred’s Resistance by Katie Cross, and I’m really looking forward to diving into that! Katie wrote me a really sweet message as well, just to butter me up a little 😉 It’s the prequel to the Network series (Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and Antebellum Awakening) ahead of the third main timeline book set for this autumn!) and will give the back story for Mildred and Evelyn… two witches who were once best friends… BUT THEN. *thunderclap*

I also roped myself into a book challenge.

book bingo

I’m hoping that doing this bingo card will help me tear through some of my list over the summer, too. Found via Katie who found it via My Little Book Blog who found it via Savidge Reads who did it last year with Books on the Night Stand. You can make your own here. There are loads of prompts – hopefully it’ll help me clear the decks a little.

I’m on summer break now from work, so I’ll have plenty of time for reading. Haha. Hahahahaha. And all the sewing. And anything else I want to do. Plus holidays with the girls I lived with at uni and seeing family. It’s going to be back to work time before I know it! I’m still going to try keeping up with photo blogs for Rivka’s Christmas craft present, and I’ll schedule some posts ready for December and January (the crazy organisation!) as obviously I can’t say what it is or share it now or it’ll ruin the surprise. But soon… sooooooooon…

Ooh, it’s clouding up! Hopefully time for another storm. It’s been crazy hot here north of the Wall, and while summer is welcome (and it’s a lot easier to cope with now I’m not at work and restricted to things like clothing choices and professional language) it has been ridiculous. A good cloud burst will do us all good. That might have been thunder I just heard! Or a tractor. It’s hard to tell round here.

So I just finished The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I ripped through it, and I kinda like it. It’s a mix of The Catcher in the Rye and The Chronicles of Narnia, which don’t feel like they should gel. And on places they don’t, but that’s sort of the point of the book. I think? I would recommend it though if only because you’ll spend hours trying to work out the rules of Welters – a sort of magicians’ chess with the players as pieces. There’s a sequel, grumble, not that I’m at liberty to get it yet. Grumble.

Try not to melt, you guys. Be like this otter.

MjvGBan

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Every day I’m Hustling

Yesterday I saw one of those little things that restore’s one’s faith in humanity. I had parked in the little pay and display that is one of the cheaper ones at the top of town and so is usually chocka. I was happy I even found a space to start with. Then I got to the ticket machine and saw that people had left their still-valid tickets stuck to the machine. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be so I bought a ticket myself, but it made me smile that people would leave them. I’m sure it isn’t a new thing – I’ve been known to physically offer my ticket to someone if I’m leaving and someone’s just parked – but this fluttering display of tiny kindness made my afternoon. When I came back to my car I went and stuck my own ticket on the machine – there was an hour left on it – and all the other tickets were gone.

Rivka and I went to the cinema last night and after a bit of debate finally settled for American Hustle. I quite enjoyed it but Rivka wasn’t so sure. I didn’t know anything about the real story that it borrows from, so I didn’t know how it was going to end. It was hard to follow the genre of the film: I was unsure if it was a proper caper or a serious thriller. There are some funny moments – some intentional, some not – and the actual performances were top notch (Jeremy Renner’s hair piece should get an award, as should Christian Bale’s combover) but it couldn’t quite make up its mind. It was good though because I kept trying to guess who the focus of the movie was meant to be and how that would affect the outcome.

I kept guessing wrong on the plot turns (not twists; they weren’t so dramatic and unpredictable as to be called twists) but that’s not unusual. I’m not very good on plot predicting. I was kept interested because of that though: was Bradley Cooper going to get in on the con game and leave the FBI? Was the Florida Mob going to be arrested? Who was going to get the girl? Would Jennifer Lawrence burn the house down? Who would die and who would live and who would get away with it… it was all on the table. I was wrong about pretty much all of it.

Through the film there’s a story being told by Bradley Cooper’s boss that never gets finished. Cooper keeps guessing the ending and annoying the boss so he refuses to tell the rest of it. Not knowing that was just as frustrating as the rest of it. It’s a decent film with a rocking late seventies soundtrack, though.

I’m currently about halfway through an amazing book called Conversations with Spirits that is rocking my world. I only seem to get through big bits when I’m in the bath, but that could be because the author, E O Higgins, is usually pictured therein and it influences my decision making. I am thoroughly enjoying myself reading it. It’s about a man who has been asked to debunk a medium, set in 1917, and as it is a first-person narrative, the language is exquisite. I’ll let you know when I’m done.

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Out of the Silent Blog

I know, OK? I know. I’ve been mysteriously and possibly to some of you thankfully silent for a few weeks. What a month it has been! I have barely read anything, although I did start reading The Written by Ben Galley (currently free!) last night on my tablet and I’m looking forward to the rest of that later in the week when I’m not so ungodly busy. I can sometimes be put off by books with a really detailed map in the front because I’m not in it for the geography, but we’ll see how it goes.

You wouldn’t think I’d just had two weeks’ holiday. Oh yes, I put the apostrophe in.

Do you know what I really feel like reading at the moment? Twilight. I’ve got a hankering for something so vacuous that my brain has a holiday. Rivka and I were discussing Twilight the other night and we came to the cautious agreement that it wasn’t all that bad. I’m currently building a palisade (out of sharpened wooden stakes, of course) to protect our home from screaming Twi-fighters. It’s a book/series with issues, yes, but as an adult reading a YA book, blessed with a brain and the sense I was born with, I can appreciate it as a light read. I’m not about to get sucked into a creepy relationship with someone who watched me sleep before we even became friends, or who forbids me from seeing my friends, I’m not going to get married at eighteen (that ship has sailed, anyway) and I’m not going to spend hours looking pale and biting my lip. I’m just going to read it.

I tell a lie, I have been reading the Cosmic Trilogy, by CS Lewis. I’m halfway through Perelandra at the moment and by ‘eck it can be tough going. I have pretty much zero background in Philosophy and Theology (I have a GCSE in RE, and a term attempting to teach Critical Thinking to teenagers under my belt as well as a failed attempt to read Sophie’s World when I was younger) so I’m a little dazzled. I’m enjoying it though. Out of the Silent Planet was interesting though the pseudo-twist was quite clumsy (I suppose it was to thoroughly hammer home the moral point), and the linguist in me was happy with the way the narrator describes learning the language of the Malacandrians, and the different accents of the Hrossa and the Sorns. It was also quite short, which was good. I’ve got the trilogy in one volume, and That Hideous Strength is pretty much all of the second half. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to that or not. I’m glad I’m reading it as it’s making me think. It’s on the shelf for now though until I’ve recharged my brain a little.

So what else have I been doing? A little NaNoWriMo prep (it’s that time again) for my fifth run at 50k in 30 days, and hopefully my fifth Win. I’ve been sewing like mad for a wedding I’m going to this weekend, and we spent an amazing hour or so in Dobbie’s looking at all the Christmas stuff on Saturday night. We bloody well rock, in our house.

Yesterday was pretty autumnal. It was misty and damp and it just felt like a day for adventuring. So what did we do? We did a bit of cleaning (I still haven’t hovered…)* and we made butternut squash and bacon soup. Rivka made a nut roast as well, which we had with roasted vegetables and chibbly potatoes. We also watched Welcome to the Punch (I did sewing at the same time). Interesting. Just realised that the guy who plays Wearns the beardy guy was Neil in The Fades. Knew I knew him from somewhere…

Probably time for more updates as I procrastinate during NaNoWriMo. In the meantime, try not to let yourselves be drugged and kidnapped for a mission to Mars, eh?

*EDIT: Rivka read this and pretty much died laughing, imagining this:

Hovering

 

…at least I hope that’s what she meant when between fits of the giggles she connected Tom Cruise and hovering in her brain. Otherwise… she’s probably just shouting her superpower again. Right, Rivka? “Toooooommmm Cruuuuuiiiiiise!!!”

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Depth of the Ocean

Right. At the moment I am re-reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Mr Neil “Pretention is genuinely my middle name; check my gold filigree birth certificate” Gaiman. Just joking. It’s carved into a narwhal horn.

In all seriousness, I do like a lot of stuff Gaiman writes: Stardust, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys and one of the best New Who episodes, The Doctor’s Wife. No disputing, when he’s on form he’s pretty good. My main issue with him is the massive fuss over American Gods which is overlong and the tangent sections are way more fun than the main story.

Anyway, Ocean. I mentioned on the Fantasy Faction forums that as a “child story for adults”, I prefer the superb The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Mind you, I’ve read that more often. They have some similarities: a young boy obsessed with books, a trickster, a quest to save a family member from doom, and some personal growth along the way.

TBOLT is a little darker, in true fairy tale style. I think it is perhaps a little unfair as Connolly adapts a lot of existing stories (the stories from the books on David’s shelf) and weaves them through the narrative whereas Gaiman’s tale follows the structure but with completely his own characters. Perhaps that familiarity is what I prefer about TBOLT, or perhaps it’s the descent into almost the unheimlich (showing off my university education there, folks) that I like about it. The unheimlich, or uncanny, is something familiar that is twisted into the unfamiliar, or something that should be safe that is dangerous, or something that at a glance looks normal but on closer inspection isn’t. The uncanny is a lot of things: overly realistic dolls, or living dolls (Chucky is a good example); mirror worlds; false eyes that are actually real eyes… things that unsettle without us quite knowing why. When David is on his journey, he meets the real Snow White and her Socialist Comrade dwarves, Red Riding Hood’s wolfman, flowers with the faces of children at their centres, and animal-child hybrid creatures among other things.

Ocean stays in the real world and sticks with more conventional surreality, and magic hidden in our own world. The Hempstock’s farm is the centre, where every meal is the best ever, and chores possibly do themselves. Lettie, Mrs H and Old Mrs H seem perfectly at home with a foot in each camp and their practicality makes a lot of the weird action seem normal. This is good, because to them of course it is normal, but bad because it makes the story a little less fraught and a little more child-safe despite being for adults.

TBOLT is for adults or mature teens. Connolly sinks his teeth into the macabre and doesn’t let go. He is writing for adults and he knows it. There is a seediness and a sleaziness –a roiling underbelly of loathing and peevishness – that I really like. It is unsanitised. David is a child moving through an adult world. The world was created by someone else and he is reacting to it; there are things he doesn’t understand because is not old enough but they are seen and described nonetheless. The narrator of Ocean is in his own world and perhaps it’s the first-person POV but there is an innocence to his description that I just can’t warm to. I suppose that says more about me.

I do like Ocean, and I am re-reading it to see if I missed anything the first time round. I like Ursula Monkton and her development. She is my favourite thing, I think. The Brollachan-style first appearance, the sweet exterior (I can almost smell her makeup), the slyness and the pride… once again proving that Gaiman really can write – if only the whole book was as strong.

Mentioning the Brollachan, Ocean compare quite nicely with Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath where children combat evil magic in our own world. They are children’s books with a simpleness perhaps borne of its time of publishing, but there is a mature feel to Gomrath especially that keeps the interest as an adult reader. Maybe sixties children were just more gung-ho. Gomrath wins on the Wild Hunt alone, to be honest.

I know I will continue to read and re-read Garner’s two Alderley Edge books, but Ocean just doesn’t grab me. I’m really trying to give it a fair go. Perhaps it’s because the protagonist of Ocean is really quite young. He has a babyishness that colours his view of the world a little too much. He’s, what, seven going on eight? David in TBOLT is eleven or twelve (and more on a level with Lettie Hempstock) as are Colin and Susan in Garner’s books. Maybe that’s what I don’t like. He’s not practical enough.

Fairy stories are all about really nasty things happening to children. The relish is in either snotty brats getting a hideous comeuppance, or in the children overcoming the villain by being smarter or more cunning (often having been underestimated by adults). Ocean sort of… aims for that but just falls short. It’s too stark and clean. It’s just not twisted enough.

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Go! Go! Go!

A late post today, since my paid job isn’t blogging, and I thought I should do what I’m paid for for a change. To be fair, I actually was quite busy today with only a half hour break between 8:45 and 3:45. That’s like slave labour for me. Every Tuesday is going to be like this now…

I’m taking a break from fantasy and reading The Racketeer by John Grisham. If you check my next five TBR list on Fantasy Faction, you’ll see that this book does not feature. But I can explain! I went to Shropshire at the weekend and took Best Served Cold with me (that one is on my TBR list! Yay!) which I read in chunks over the train journey. The problem was, when I got back to Inverness on Sunday evening, I had to wait two hours for the train out again. I had to wait TWO HOURS to go ONE STOP up the line. So I finished BSC and needed something new to read to pass the time. The Grisham was the best of a bad selection at Morrisons, assuming I didn’t want to read erotica with grey covers (I didn’t).

I read mainly fantasy, but I will read pretty much anything if it stands still long enough, as I think I’ve mentioned before. I have read some of the weightier, classic Grishams like The Firm and The Testament, so I felt a little let down by this very slim volume in comparison to such tomes. It’s ticking along quite nicely so far though, and I might read a bit more before bed tonight.

Oh goodness, I’ve just remembered all the train drama. I always seem to have adventures on trains, have you noticed? First there were two pensioner brothers who had very foghorny voices who insisted on blaring out their Scrabble scores in the QUIET COACH. Fair play for bringing something to keep you entertained (they were going from Pitlochry to London) but I consider random number shouting to be “unnecessary noise” and in the Quiet Coach; DAS IST VERBOTEN. An even older man got on in Perth and tried to turf one of the Foghorns out of his seat, claiming it was his. It turned out he had indeed booked that seat number in that carriage…

Foghorn 1: “Gosh, that is the same seat number; you’re right.”

Foghorn 2: “Well, just sit here and wait for the conductor and ask him about it.”

Foghorn 1: “Where are you heading, anyway?”

Old boy: “Inverness.”

Me: “Ah, well that’s your problem: this is the southbound train.”

Old boy: “Oh. Shit.”

When I changed at Edinburgh, chaos ensued. Apparently, while we’d been hurtling southward, half of Scotrail had imploded somehow. There were three trains’ worth of extra people on our train due to cancellations and breakdowns. So it was somewhat crowded. The conductor was trying his best, and taking all the unused reservations off to try and find seats and alternative trains for people, and the majority of passengers were just getting on with it. On arrival at Preston a very rude woman appeared. She had four children and a male friend? Brother? Partner? (I don’t want to assume but they looked like typical Prestonians and I say that having lived there for 20 years) and immediately set about conquering the reserved seats in the name of bolshiness.

She fair barrelled up the gangway and began displacing people with the extremely rude “You’re gonna have to move!” No preamble. No “Excuse me”. I mean, they were her booked seats. They genuinely were. But she didn’t give anyone the opportunity to move, and in some cases they wanted to move but couldn’t because of all the other passengers going up and down the carriage. She ousted the final two in this way, then proceeded to make snidey comments to her man like “I can’t believe people would sit in someone else’s reserved seats!” “Some people are so rude!” and so on. While she was still standing and someone needed to get past, she smiled and apologised to them claiming “Sorry, I know I’m in the way but there are people sitting in my seats and I’m just waiting for them to move!” all sweetness and passive-aggressive light. The two men in her seats were only too happy to move, but made the mistake of trying to explain. They said the train was really busy and they had only been sat there until someone came to claim the seats, and that they did have reserved seats elsewhere but hadn’t been able to get to them because of the crowd. The rude lady then snapped “Well I don’t care! Go find them then! Why are you in my seats? You’re gonna have to move!” All of us who had been crammed in since Edinburgh just couldn’t believe it. I mean, she was obviously entitled to sit in her reserved seats, but you at least start with “Excuse me”, and look apologetic. You don’t start in with bolshy. I would have offered one of the men my seat in compensation, but I had been wedged in myself by then.  I later had a lovely vestibule conversation with a lad from Wem, who had been skiing in Manchester (indoor) on my way to Shrewsbury on a packed rush hour train with only two carriages. It was quite warm.

Sorry, blogging interrupted by a new series of The Great British Bake Off. It’s going to be a crazy series, I think. I was just discussing the early favourites with a friend on Facebook when my best friend chipped in “…I used to think you guys were cool.” How rude! It’s funny how serious it gets, though, and then you take a step back and remember it’s only cake.

Anyway, I’m still commenting on the Locke Lamora read along, and frankly I’m a bit disappointed by the number of comments so far. People were so up for it on the forum, but they’re not taking part in discussion and I really feel for Marc who is writing really detailed summaries and bringing some great discussion points.

RIGHT. I am determined to get to be at a reasonable time. See you Friday, folks.

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