Books, Life

the book buying ban is lifted

me, a bookworm – flippin’ glad to be holding the 45th and final book in my hands.

On the 30th of May, I finished That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis – the forty-fifth book in my book buying ban.

I was finished. I was done.

181 days had passed without a single book purchase. I’d read 45 books that I’d owned and never read before.

I’d love to tell you that I bought one book, or perhaps two. Or three.

Reader, I did not.

I splurged. I feasted. I laid waste to my bank account. I had a list, I crossed off that list. I crossed off books that weren’t even on the list. I made brutal decisions on which books to buy and which books to leave behind. It was cold and calculated and amazing.

I splurged on books on sleep, classical poetry, on hieroglyphics, on classics, on current events, on the Amelia Peabody series, on children’s books, on research books and so on and so forth.

I didn’t know why on earth I’d done such a stooped thing as to ever embark on a book buying ban in the first place. What a half-wit! What a nincompoop!

I was a fish returned to her natural habitat: the sea.

And then it abated. (These things tend to.)

(A lean month of penny pinching followed. Your actions, dear friends, have consequences.)

Also – to quote from a certain post:

“I’m all for building a personal library, but I want to do it in a mindful manner. Not in a frenzy of buying a stack of books I’ve haven’t read.”

*crickets chirp*

I have no defense. For the bad grammar (PRESENT PERFECT? Here? Pfft. What a noob.) or for ignoring the lesson. I was a bookworm drunk on power. I have learned lessons and after the ban, I chose to ignore those lessons. It was glorious.

I’ve learned that as a reader, I should enjoy the things I have – the books on my shelves. No book left unread! and all that.

And as a ban-parched bookworm? I’d like to think that I’ve learned to appreciate the prospect of new adventures and to look for books of interest. Not mindlessly reaching for just any old book ( LOOK! A BOOK IN THE WILD! GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL!), but to think about the ones I’d like to read.

Because of that book on sleep, I’ve learned the value of sleep, get more than five hours per night (huzzah! There can be miracles!!) and the black sacks under my eyes are less evident. (I mean – they’re still there but I feel better about them. )

Books have power – to inspire, to give you knowledge, and to whisk you away to worlds unknown.

I love it.

I truly do.

If this book buying ban has taught me anything it is this: reading is a delight to me – a real delight.

May it ever be thus.

Happy reading!

Books, Recountings

yes, i am judging these books by their covers

I’ve owned most of The Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen for at least three years. I’ve read the first one, it wasn’t EXACTLY my cup of tea, and I wasn’t keen on reading the rest.

So I decided to pretend that I have – and to recount them to you. Guessing the plot from their front covers. You’re welcome. It is chaotic. There are plot holes probably. You have been warned.

*** My apologies to the author and any fans of these books ***

Dragon’s Blood

AKA THE ONE I DID READ

This is a book about a dragon fight club in a world not unlike Jakku and I’m not here for that. A dragon fight club is simply depressing. Dragons? In a fight club? Controlled by humans? I cannot allow it. How awful. How tragic for these mighty beasts!

I read this book and was very frustrated with Akki, the female character. She was too … she was too much. That’s what she was. Sometimes reading about girls who are stubborn and mysterious ALL THE TIME etc etc tire me out. It wearies the brain. Strains the nerves. Beats me why, but there we are.

I think the hero, Jakkin, is going to be a misogynist, but the girl will Teach Him Not To Be. Also, there is a dragon that he’s bonded to. Yes, I know. Very shocking. Totally unexpected. Also, I hate the front cover because the dragon looks like the kind of dragon who tells dodgy jokes and expects you to laugh at them and is probably a relative of Jar Jar Binks but worse.

It’s not a bad story. In fact, it might be someone’s favourite book. If it is – forgive me … and maybe don’t read the rest of this post?

Heart’s Blood

AKA THE ONE I HAVEN’T READ.

So, at the end of the last book, Akki had left, leaving Jakkin with his bonded dragon, Heart’s Blood. However, Jakkin’s having difficulty sleeping. Because he misses Akki, and he’s allergic to beans. (However, he bought far too many beans from a trader and they’re all he has to eat. So. Fun times.) To stop the insomnia, Jakkin reads books to his dragon. They’re all romances.

(His local library is very limited and all the trainers of the pit dragons adore romance novels.)

Heart’s Blood is a bright dragon. She figures out that maybe if she gets Akki back to Jakkin then maybe Jakkin won’t use her to viciously fight her own kind. Because of the power of love.

(Heart’s Blood is a pacifist and hates fighting her kind in the ring. Night after night she slays them. It’s getting to her. She’s Too Old For This.)

Anyway, Heart’s Blood decides to heck with this and sends a Dragon Letter to Akki. Akki doesn’t get it, mainly because a) Heart’s Blood can’t write and b) dragons don’t have a postal system.

So. That plan fails.

Until one fateful day when Akki turns up. She needs Jakkin, it’s all very mysterious and she says that TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE and suddenly they are being chased in the dark. They crash into something and BOOM! PLOT TWIST! IT’S HEART’S BLOOD!! Dragons don’t have mail but they have devious plans and dragon-speak telepathy! (Heart’s Blood forgot about that when she tried to write a letter.)

(Heart’s Blood could never be accused of being particularly bright.)

Heart’s Blood captures them in her wings and cackles evilly. (Though Heart’s Blood has taken a dragon vow of silence so she could be choking silently. That’s a possibility too). Jakkin and Akki don’t know Heart’s Blood is evil though – they think they are safe – but then they turn around and see what is chasing them AND IT’S …

We end the book on a cliff hanger. I have several crucial questions:

  • why has Heart’s Blood turned evil? Has the blood shedding gotten to her? Has she snapped? WILL THERE BE REDEMPTION?
  • who is chasing them?!!
  • why does Akki need Jakkin?
  • why is the climactic scene on the front cover of the book? Geez! No one thought that through.

A SENDING OF DRAGONS

AKA I HAVEN’T READ THIS ONE EITHER

First of all, none of the questions I asked were answered. A METAPHOR???

Okay. I know what we’re all thinking: Heart’s Blood keeps Akki and Jakkin as slaves to feed its offspring.

It is another SURPRISE! METAPHOR! Something about dragons taking princess only Akki and Jakkin aren’t royalty but shush, don’t tell Heart’s Blood that. (She isn’t aware of the precise nuances of the feudal system. She also doesn’t know it exists.)

The entire book is a deep Dragon Discourse as Heart’s Blood Tells All to Jakkin about the history of dragons. It’s a Moby Dick length book. With entire chapters on scale care. The only shame is … Jakkin doesn’t understand Heart’s Blood because of the vow of silence thing, and Heart’s Blood doesn’t know sign language.

It’s a frustrating book, but also very deep.

We conclude the series with the protagonists sitting around the fire, Heart’s Blood falls asleep after her discourse is finished. When she wakes up – it was All A Dream. More specifically, Jakkin’s dream that Heart’s Blood was stuck in because of the whole mind bond thing.

With a roar of rage Heart’s Blood eats Jakkin.

As if she would take a vow of silence!


If you have read this series – drop a comment down below and tell me how VERY CLOSE I WAS TO THE ACTUAL PLOT. I think I must have hit the nail on the head.

Yup.

For sure.

Life

living under lockdown

Shopping trips now are gloved, masked affairs where avoiding other shoppers a major priority. It’s bizarre and surreal. And yet food needs to be bought, these trips have to be made.

No more is there a 45 minute-1 hour commute to work. My desk is at the end of my bed and there’s no need to wake up at 5:15 am. No need, but I still try to get up at six because a routine is important damn it. Meetings are held over Microsoft Teams and instead of the radio, my own music plays.

Every day we are told the amount of people who have died – what caused alarm when we heard Italy’s, Spain’s and France’s death tolls, now seems part of the every day.

(Seven hundred today, I would call across the hall to my dad.)

(These are people – PEOPLE! With lives, and families and loved ones and hopes and dreams – all snuffed out and gone, leaving unfillable holes behind. A damn tragedy that can’t be communicated by numbers.)

(It seems that the Sword of Damocles hangs over everyone’s heads.)

It feels as though we are in a tonally off novel – I and my family are spending so much time together, enjoying nights around the fire in the garden, playing on the x-box, sharing meals, staring at the stars – and yet the world outside is one in which the illusion of immortally is thinner than ever and death seems even more present.

Reality intrudes in the form of crossing the road to avoid other pedestrians, a firm two metres between those queuing, the news online, tales from colleagues and friends on the front line, and delivery men who no longer wait for signatures but deposit their parcels on the doorstep.

And then the door closes, hands are washed and we are quiet again.

Keep going, friends – one foot in front of the other! Be kind – to yourself and others. Take comfort in beauty where you can find – a soft breeze, a blackbird’s song, a good conversation with a friend over Zoom or Messenger, or diving into a really good book.

I’ve found myself reading more than ever: Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Peters, and C.S Lewis are keeping me company these days. I will keep blogging, I’m sure, but I often pull up a draft and stare at the blank whiteness of it and think but why?

And that’s okay. I’ll post again, soon – rambles about books and things I find interesting and all that sort of thing – but for now, this will do.

Stay safe!

Ness


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

psalm 46 v 1-3
Life

art, march, and goals for april

I can’t draw. Or at least, that’s the excuse I’ve used for years to hide the fact that I was incredibly disappointed with myself because I didn’t emerge from the womb a full-fledged Da Vinci. (No, I NEVER create high standards for myself. Pfft. Why do you ask?)

At the beginning of March, I thought – NO. MORE.

this was my first attempt at watercolour. his name is harnick. he is not a sea lion as i continuously referred to him. he is a seahorse.

I decided that I would take up sketching and sketch as often as I could. I would have an art journey and it was going to be long, arduous, and painful but I wanted to have a before and an after and draw a super duper eye gosh darn it!

I might not have talent, but I could pour in some time and see what happened.

It’s been a month now (what a month) and I find myself picking up the paintbrush rather than a pencil, choosing to use colour in a notebook rather than words on a document.

It’s so relaxing. So very relaxing. I focus on the page and the paint and not on the world which is whirling round and round with so much panic, confusion, hurt, and death and- I promised myself that it wouldn’t be a post about COVID-19. Dang it.

My writing has come to a standstill, but my hope is that in April this will change. My family is currently self-isolating, I am working from home and our country is in lockdown … so that should cut out commute time and free up some extra time.

(THIS IS LIKE BEING IN A DISASTER MOVIE.)

three brothers, me, and a work colleague wearing a mask – also SO MUCH TALENT HAHAHAHAHAHA. This will be a ‘before’ in my art journey i think maybe. i hope. I HOPE.

(Also, the idea of writing of worlds when my own is in such disarray seems preposterous to my subconscious mind.)

I look back on my ‘goals for march’ list and I could laugh at how much didn’t happen. I survived work, and we are currently weathering the virus. That’s what happened. Everything else, didn’t.

But that’s okay. March has been horrendous and surreal and just very much not normal. I’m not entirely sure what normal is going to look like. (My mind flies to one of those YA novels where everyone wears grey and the heroine is sixteen and suddenly THREE BOYS LIKE HER OH WOE IS HER HOW WILL SHE SURVIVE AND THE WORLD IS SO BLEAK AND ALL THE SKYSCRAPERS ARE ABANDONED AND FALLING DOWN LIKE BABEL.)

April goals? I’d like to write more. If it’s possible. I think I’ve managed to wipe off OneDrive from my computer (I AM A GENIUS!) and have tried to reload it and it’s just not working, dang it.

Ironically, the ‘surviving work’ goal for March has now transformed to ‘survive’ for April. Wasn’t quite expecting that. So. Plot twist.

oh yes, i can see this being a possible career move

This is Lilabet, by the way. She is calm, serene, and UNBELIEVABLY humble. Her hair has Medusa snakes and she’s spray-painted them brown. Rumor has it that that hand? It’s not hers. It could be plastic. From a mannequin. It’s far too small to be her natural hand.

(I CAN’T HELP IT – EVERYTHING I DRAW/PAINT HAS A BACKSTORY. Even a butterfly. I was painting its wings red and I just knew that they were angry wings and basically THE BUTTERFLY WOULD BE AT HOME IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.)

Keep going, old chum. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay at home. Pray. Look out for others – via phone, or email, or shouting over the fence. And try not to get dragged into the depressing cycle of endless Twitter and news websites. It’s no good. Nope. Nuh-uh.

As the newest Cinderella puts it:

have courage and be kind.

Poetry

the rainbow

the rainbow – leslie coulson

I watch the white dawn gleam,
To the thunder of hidden guns.
I hear the hot shells scream
Through skies as sweet as a dream
Where the silver dawnbreak runs.
And stabbing of light
Scorches the virginal white.
But I feel in my being the old, high, sanctified thrill,
And I thank the gods that dawn is beautiful still.
From death that hurtles by
I crouch in the trench day-long
But up to a cloudless sky
From the ground where our dead men lie
A brown lark soars in song.
Through the tortured air,
Rent by the shrapnel’s flare,
Over the troubleless dead he carols his fill,
And I thank the gods that the birds are beautiful still.
Where the parapet is low
And level with the eye
Poppies and cornflowers glow
And the corn sways to and fro
In a pattern against the sky.
The gold stalks hide
Bodies of men who died
Charging at dawn through the dew to be killed or to kill.
I thank the gods that the flowers are beautiful still.
When night falls dark we creep
In silence to our dead.
We dig a few feet deep
And leave them there to sleep –
But blood at night is red,
Yea, even at night,
And a dead man’s face is white.
And I dry my hands, that are also trained to kill,
And I look at the stars – for the stars are beautiful still.

I found this poem in a book of World War I poetry. Leslie Coulson died during the war, in 1916. Among other poems, he wrote Who Made The Law? which is gripping in its gathering horror and repeated demand. I find The Rainbow‘s contrast between the death that was happening and nature that continued on to be striking – hopeful, because though awful things are happening, beauty still persists; horrible, because the two are happening at the same time. One does not stop for the other, though it feels like it should.

And I look at the stars – for the stars are beautiful still.