Life

nature an’ stuff: the books i read on holiday

We didn’t go on holiday in 2020 and we made up for it this year. I’d looked forward to this break with all the anticipation of a thirst-ridden explorer stumbling upon an oasis in a parched desert. (Not that I’ve experienced that. But if I had have done, I’m sure the metaphor would hold.)

blurry picture of said books and very tidily folded clothes *cough*

I packed light for this trip. I brought just the one bag and that had clothes, laptop, flip-flops, and books in it. (This is saying a lot – in the past, when I’d stay at a friend’s overnight I’d bring multiple bags and a mound of blankets too. Character growth, you say? Yes. Yes, indeed.)

BOOKS AN’ STUFF

I took Steinbeck’s East of Eden – but stalled with the reading. It was going all very well but then a dastardly character was introduced and I wasn’t sure I could continue as the realm of fiction prohibits reaching into a story and punching someone soundly on the nose.

Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution by Ruth Scrurr was finally finished, proving that I can be a reasonably literate adult and still find three hundred ways to spell his name incorrectly. At least I’m not calling him Ropespierre anymore.

Next up on the French Revolution front is none other than a reread of The Scarlet Pimpernel. (Be still my beating heart!)

Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett felt like a guilty pleasure – it was so very much my humour that I was astonished that it was there, in print! (An odd way of putting it, I know – but it’s the only one that makes sense.)

rowing wasn’t oar-ful. hahahahahahaha. i’m so sorry.

I also did another reread of The Goblin Emperor and felt quite ready to reread it all over again once I’d finished it. That’s the mark of a particular kind of favourite – isn’t it? The one that you can read over and over again; that still have, as a bookmark, the note from three years ago when your mum sent it over the ocean to you so that you could be in a foreign country but in a familiar book.

(WHAT a sentence. Someone inform the Pulitzer Prize Board. Ding ding ding! We have a winner on our hands!)

I also brought some Keats with me for culture. I opened my Keats. I looked at my Keats. I closed my Keats. I humbly slid it back on its shelf. Total perusal time was probably three minutes. Or less. Much less. That is all that I’m going to say on that subject.

WAXIN’ LYRICAL ‘BOUT NATURE

nature an’ stuff

I woke up early one morning and stood on the shore – the sun had slid up the horizon, bright and glowing, and the water was still as mirror glass with swathes of golden mist curling low over patches of it.

There was a bluebell wood tucked away behind it all, a carpet of ethereal blue on the ground. The air rang with bird song and was rich with flower-scent.

This sort of thing makes you forget – just for a moment – how turbulent things are in this world of ours. It reminds you that life is worth living. It makes it feel rich and impossibly, endlessly, interesting.

MORE WORDS ABOUT OTHER WORDS

On the writing front, A Suffragist Abroad is inching ever closer to being published (more on that very soon) Our Intrepid Heroine has her new front cover finalised, and Project If is in the process of being pulled apart and put back together again. I’m excited – hoping that soon, soon, they’ll be completely complete and ready to share with you.

Happy reading!

Recountings

books that were not my cup of tea

As every bookworm knows … there comes a time when one must consciously uncouple from a book and promptly yeet it out of the window. Metaphorically speaking.

A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

YA books and I don’t have the best relationship. It’s not them, it’s me. I experienced a lot of dissonance with the characters, the plots, and the writing. (The binding, the front cover designs, the blurbs and the fonts are usually on point though.)

I DNF-d A Curse So Dark And Lonely because frankly I was bored. (I usually am loathe to admit boredom. ‘Only boring people get bored’ I used to tell myself smugly. Oh how the turntables have …) I didn’t care about the characters. The plot felt like porridge with no honey. Bread with no butter! English breakfast tea with no milk! I didn’t connect with the novel, and so therefore, reading it was a struggle.

It seems to have been a well-received book, but unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get it. And that’s okay! Different readers have different tastes, and perhaps if I tried again, I might like it.

MERCY & EAGLEFLIGHT

Christian fiction … ah, yes. Christian fiction. When done well, it is wonderful and brilliant (hello there! C.S Lewis!) when it is done badly … I refuse to accept that Christian fiction should be given a pass just because someone has slapped a label on it and marked it as ‘Christian’.

(If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck IT WILL NOT SUDDENLY TURN INTO A CAMEL OF BRILLIANCE IF YOU JUST PLONK A ‘CHRISTIAN’ LABEL ON IT.)

(That was a metaphor. The duck was bad fiction. The camel of brilliance was a good fiction. Just so you know. Like the book, I am subtle.)

  1. So much telling – we were told everything. There was no subtlety. No nuance. No trusting of the readers to actually grasp the emotional journey that the characters were going through. We must be led through it, holding the author’s hand.
  2. I approach fiction wanting a story not a sermon so perhaps … the fault lies with me, not managing my expectations. BUT STILL !!! I protest. I PROTEST STRONGLY.
  3. The main characters felt very clean and cookie-cutter. Too clean and cookie-cutter. Too 2D..
  4. There were entire chapters of dialogue. This isn’t always a bad thing. But … but I would propose that perhaps the message of the book could have been gotten across with perhaps, say, an article in a magazine, not in a work of fiction.
  5. There is an absolutely foul section where we are given horribly racist character just to show us how bad he is and then we never see him again. It was degrading and it had no place in the book. It felt like a cheap way of making us hate a character. It was an ugly line of dialogue that did not need to be included for us to get the idea that this guy? = bad. There are no excuses.
  6. There’s a point where a female character is sharing the gospel with another male character … and she sends him to go speak to another man because ‘men think differently.’
  7. I’m sorry. I didn’t know that there was a female and male way of talking about faith? Clearly, I must have missed a Bible verse or two.
  8. Ah yes, the inevitable assault on the female character by a villain. A villain who only exists to Be Evil, by the way. Some people are destined to have nuance and character, some others … are not.

… I should stop here, shouldn’t I? I got through it. Sometimes, whilst I read this, my arms flailed, and my entire body cringed and shrivelled up like a raisin.

Is this the book, I cried, that repelled a thousand ships?!

This book was published in 1996 – perhaps Christian fiction has improved since then? I certainly hope so.

JUST ONE DAMNED THING AFTER ANOTHER

The best thing about this book was that it had dinosaurs (!!!!) and the Library of Alexandra. Also: time-travel.

Unfortunately, the story was … MC joins time-traveling organization. Shenanigans and hi-jinks ensue. One thing happens after another, and the plot feels very squint-and-you’ll-miss-it. A character – who has hitherto displayed no rage – lashes out in anger. I felt startled because I’d imagined that he was calm and sedate and then BLAM! INSTANT GREMLIN!

Also – I thought that this was a YA book. And then there was a particular scene that made me place the book down on the bed and stare into the abyss of air. It was not a YA book. A surprising twist.

This is a first book in a series, and of course, sometimes a series takes a book to hit its stride. This may well be the case. Perhaps I’m being too harsh? However, though I felt the concept was TRULY interesting (DID YOU HEAR THE BIT ABOUT HOW THIS HAS DINOSAURS?!!!!) the characters weren’t on the dinosaurs’ level.

But then, I must ask … what is?

Books

i compose book blurbs

In lieu of using Goodreads, I keep my own reading log. It isn’t anything special – just a spiral notebook (a spiral notebook WITH UNICORNS ON THE FRONT. ah-hem), but it has my thoughts scrawled in drunken chicken scratchings. It’s very useful and stops read books getting lost, drained through the colander of my memory.

I was stuck by inspiration – what if, I thought, what if I pretended that I was either a) a famous book critic (THINK: THAT BLOKE FROM RATATOUILLE) or b) an author writing a blurb for someone, who was also HELLA hangry and in need of the loo. In DESPERATE need of the loo.

So I searched my reading log and found the below …

‘I love it but at the same time I don’t.’

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

‘BatCat (More. Screen. Time. Please)’

BATMAN: HUSH (which I read as a comic but apparently I think comics have screen time so … oh-kay then.)

‘Moved like a sluggish river in summer’s drought’

The Rain From God, by Mark Ammerman

‘Initially thought that it was mediocre and uninspiring, however, I was wrong

BOOSTER GOLD: BLUE AND GOLD

‘Contained the soul of Robin Hood’

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, blurbed by: a dramatic goldfish

‘A Christian acid trip’

Perelandra, by C S Lewis

I’m afraid that I amuse myself greatly. Have you read any of these? How would YOU blurb them?

happy reading!

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.