ness talks books

three horrendous things i do to books

I know, I know – this may seem quite trivial – but to versions of my past bookworm self? It is NOT. As I go through life, I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to let go of things, to refrain from making judgements, it’s okay to be wrong and … it’s totally okay to break a book’s spine.

BREAK THE SPINE

New paperback books are difficult to read – you have to wrestle to make sure that they stay open. And then, if you’re called away, you put them face-down for one moment and suddenly they’ve sprung up and closed. If I’m confronted with this problem and if I own the book? I will happily, merrily, and easily break the spine. I won’t flutter an eyelash. I’ll even take satisfaction from it.

(Am I … a monster?)

(Pfft. No.)

DOG-EAR THE PAGES

Sometimes, keeping track of a bookmark is tricky. I always lose the nice ones; by putting them in books it’s taking me years to read or putting them in a place to ‘keep them safe’ (AKA so safe I will never find them again.)

I’ve used tissues, receipts, pens, hair ties – everything and anything. Probably a spare sanitary towel too, if I got very desperate. However, lately I’ve been embracing simply turning the corner over of the pages.

And you know what? It works. It’s like being environmentally-friendly-self-sufficient-y. The page is there. You don’t need anything else. Turn the corner. Boom. Page marked. You know where you are. No scramble for the closest item that will magically morph into a bookmark.

UNDERLINE / HIGHLIGHT

I’m rereading the Amelia Peabody mysteries again and this time – if there’s something funny or an iconic character is introduced or if it’s just a good quote? You can bet that I’m underlining it. It’s like leaving a note to the future me. It’s a way of making the books my own, of engaging with the story. But I’d like to again note: only do this if you own the book.

ONLY DO THIS IF YOU OWN THE BOOK

otherwise: MUCH judgement and side-eye

I love second hand bookshops with books that look old and well-read. Because I don’t just see the book and the pages and the cover – I’m seeing the ghosts of past readers. It’s the most introverted way of connection I can think of. So break the spines, dog ear the pages, and underline as much as you like! Engage with the story! (You’ll find ‘hahaha’ scrawled in some of my books. I hope, in the future, someone reads that in a monotone: ha. ha. ha.)

(This would amuse me greatly.)

Ultimately, how you treat your books is down to why you own them – if you are a collector or want everything in pristine condition – keep them perfect. Here – I give you permission. Protect them. It’s okay. But if you are reading them for the story, don’t stress about keeping your books perfect. You don’t need to. Life is too short. The creases, the notes, the broken spine – it all shows that a book is well-read and also?

Well-loved.

*sniff* such a beautiful sentiment

Wow. I feel like this is a super impactful moment. We are bonding. Thank you for coming on this journey with me. Also, I don’t think I used enough gifs.

happy reading!

ness rambles, ness talks about life

things, they be happening

I don’t know if this is a me thing or if this is an everybody thing but- say it’s a Saturday and I’ve got a friend coming at 2 o’clock – can I be productive in the hours leading up to the Fateful Meeting? Do I get things done? Do I fill every minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run? Do I not only seize the day, but seize the hour! The minute! The second!

Ha.

Hahahahahahaha.

No. The answer is no. I browse the internet. I surf. I dawdle. I while away the hours, my brain consumed with the upcoming time when Things Will Happen. I am incapacitated. I am held in stasis. I cannot function.

In short, I have Something Happening that day and nothing else will happen until that something has happened.

I suppose the answer is a change of mindset. Being aware of the problem is surely half way to solving it, isn’t it? Anyway, I digress:

On the subject of Things Happening …

THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED:

  • I walked some of Hadrian’s Wall. It was a perfect hoot. I am now a weathered outdoorswoman.
Artist’s impression of me, weathered outdoorswoman / Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com
  • I slept in a tent for three nights and let me tell you, I was a Princess and the entire ground was made of peas that first night. I tossed and turned and was as anxious as a YA heroine caught up in love triangle.
  • Nebuchadnezzar AKA the guppy whose name I could never spell – is dead. Deceased. No more. It’s pretty horrible and I’m quite upset. Also: I can’t find his body.
  • I have the proofs for a Most Irregular Prophecy and have held my book child in my hands.

THINGS HAPPENING SOON:

  • A Suffragist Abroad AKA A Most Irregular Prophecy is having a cover reveal and POSSIBLY A RELEASE DATE??? (I AM EXCITEMENT) (I always have to double check that spelling as I live in horror and dread of accidentally writing: ‘I am excrement’)
  • Our Intrepid Heroine is having a facelift AKA a cover reveal.
i just like this gif
  • I’m going through some personal life changes which are … exciting and yet also terrifying.
  • An existential post-quarter-life-crisis will probably loom. (Pop that in your diary.)
  • But mainly: bookish things should be happening
  • I’ve ordered a new pair of reading glasses

happy reading!

ness talks about 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!

ness talks books

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!