Life

reading books, writing books, and buying fish, and so on and so forth

I haven’t completely dropped offline, but my blog has been sadly neglected. Here’s some of the devious things I’ve been up to …

REREAD THE AMELIA PEABODY SERIES

It took six months – but it was six months of reading pleasure. More on this later, but let me tell you it was wonderful. (Also, read it in publishing order not chronological because by George … no, I shall save that little rant for later.)

In short, there isn’t a series I’ve read that surpasses this one.

BOUGHT BOOKS, READ BOOKS, STARED AT BOOKS

The book ban feels like quite a while ago, but I must say that my bookshelves are looking terribly interesting; there are some books that I’ll be soon reading about Georgian Britain and the Victorian era that just look so brilliant, I can’t wait!

(Also I’m currently reading ‘How To Be A Victorian’ by Ruth Goodman and DID YOU KNOW THAT THE VICTORIANS GAVE THEIR BABIES OPIUM???!!! HOLY CHEESE CRACKERS, MY DUDES!)

Also a book about Alexander Dumas?! I’m eying up the Count Of Monte Cristo too.

Still haven’t finished a Dickens. I’ll get there. Eventually. Probably. Yup. ‘fo sure.

FINISHED WRITING A BOOK

Originally given the dignified working title of ‘Unicorn Poop’, these days it is called A Suffragist Abroad and will be coming your way next year. As long as I can get past this editing stage, that is.

Lord willin’, a friend and I will be having a writer’s retreat in a little cottage on the coast in November where A Suffragist Abroad’s edits will be completed. While, I’m there, do I expect to:

  1. solve a crime
  2. walk through mist-laden countryside in a nightgown and cloak
  3. stumble upon an ancient mystery that’s been hidden for centuries

… yes. Yes, I do.

BOUGHT A FISH TANK. ALSO: FISH

This is still quite recent. The tank is called ‘Abbey Road‘ and John, Paul, and George have been recently introduced to it. I’m sure it will go swimmingly. (No. No apologies will be made for this pun. NONE.) But I’m also terrified that I’ll wake up and find them all dead and floating on the top and oh my word what have I done- AGONY!!! BEYOND POWER OF SPEECH!

ETC.

Life doesn’t feel as though it is wildly adventurous, but there is more than enough to keep me busy and I find it hard sometimes to carve out the time for dedicated reading sessions – but that’s okay too. There are books lounging in every corner of my room and all of them are interesting.

(I sometimes feel bewildered by the sheer amount of choice I have – which is admittedly a very privileged position to have.)

I’m trying to learn that it’s alright to not live up to my own expectations (which I never reach and are always far, far too high), it’s alright to plod, it’s alright to take things slow – just … just keep going.

I hope you are doing well – thank you for stopping by!

happy reading ūüôā

Books, Life

a visit from aprils past

I’ve been keeping of words and books for a long time now. It’s not long when compared to some blogs, but if you compare it to the lifespan of a mayfly … my gosh! It’s been an age.

april 2018 … i read disturbing things

I was in Canada and borrowing heavily from the library. I learned about the Opium Wars which made me think: my word, Britain, what the heck were you DOING? And then I learned about the Rape of Nanking … which is probably one of the most horrifying books I’ve ever read. I had to stop reading it on the bus because it was driving me to tears. So that was that.

april 2017 … prolific! I was prolific!

I wrote a total of FOUR BLOG POSTS IN ONE MONTH!! I know. Given my current track record, this is amazing. I wrote about two lessons I’d learned that month (novels on the high seas aren’t always my cup of tea AND IT IS POSSIBLE TO ENJOY A YA BOOK!! WOOT WOOT!)

I did a writing tag (but called it ‘the writing stag’ because it was funny), told everyone why I loved one star reviews (and then had a crisis because I felt bad for liking them) and rejoiced that a YA duology DID NOT HAVE A LOVE TRIANGLE WHAAAAATTT?!!!

april 2016 … I GOT MY EARS PIERCED

I got my ears pierced and wrote about the gory details (turns out … I REALLY don’t like getting holes pUNCHED INTO MY FLESH!!), admitted that I had read neither Pride and Prejudice or Lord of the Rings and donated some books to the charity shop – one of which was a Georgette Heyer. Do I regret it? Yes, I do.

april 2015 … a lot happened. Also – I wrote four posts AGAIN

I spent a whole weekend reading a Bronte and was VIOLENTLY unhappy about it and ranted a great deal. I read ‘The Tailsman Ring’ by Georgette Heyer and loved it. And spread the love. I drove seven hours to buy some books and I HAD AND STILL HAVE NO REGRETS. And lastly, I used a prompt from Rachel Heffington’s blog to write a short story about cupcakes – I enjoyed it immensely.

april 2014 … I WROTE FIVE BLOG POSTS WHAT ON EARTH?! HOW I HAVE FALLEN SINCE THEN!!!

I wrote a how to guide on how to acquire books without becoming penniless (and my guide still holds to this day.) I wrote about some useful links – I still listen to Dan Carlin’s podcasts by the way, and I STILL highly recommend them.

In a historic move, I merged two of my blogs and made them into of words and books so I guess April is of words and books’ proper birthday month. (Woot woot!) I once again used a prompt from Heffington and also posted some snippets from Trials of a Blacksmith – the trilogy of which … still isn’t finished. Oops!

And those are all the Aprils in which I’ve posted on my blog. How time flies! Some of these memories – reading Villette in the garden, collecting Heyers and writing about my love for them, giggling about taking a prompt of ‘travel-by-foot’ and turning it into a story about people dressing up as cupcakes – are so close that if I shut my eyes, I’m there again … basking in sunshine or tapping away at my computer with a laugh caught in my throat. However, there’s some distance.

The Ness of then and the Ness of now has changed. Grown up – a little or more than a little, who knows? But one thing hasn’t changed – I still love writing, I love reading, I adore adventures. Life is hard sometimes but life is also beautiful. And with a book in hand and a story in my soul … oh, it’s a grand adventure.

Happy Reading!

Books, Recountings

i have been reading disturbing things

*** warning: my recountings are of books with quite horrific subject matter. If you have a¬†delicate stomach perhaps don’t read¬†***

So I’m sure you have many pressing questions for me (WHERE DID YOU GO AGAIN? DID YOU GET BITTEN BY A RADIOACTIVE CATERPILLAR? CAN YOU¬†SPELL YET? WHY DO YOU DISLIKE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM?) that you probably spending a large portion of your days simply agonizing over.

Also – why on earth did you shill out for a laptop and then … not use it? (Ah, yes. My good life decisions. I make so many of them.)

I’ve been reading, living, and finding out that Mt. Royal isn’t actually where I thought it was. (How can a mole hill mountain move? you ask. I DON’T KNOW EITHER.)

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THE OPIUM WARS:

THE ADDICTION OF ONE EMPIRE AND THE CORRUPTION OF ANOTHER

[aka wut teh british empire was pretty rubbish huh]

Iopiumwars‘m not sure how much I knew about the Opium Wars before I cracked open this book. But what I found here was¬†awful – if I get the details right …

  • ¬†we were buying a heck of a lot of tea from China
  • China weren’t buying a lot of things from us
  • basically, this was kind of uneconomical and so instead of … doing better market research, for instance, we forced them not to ban our opium from India [The ‘Just Say No’ slogan ran more in the ‘Say Yes Right Now’ direction]
  • and destroyed the Summer Palace
  • and the British Drug Lords were horrible
  • Lots and lots of egos on both sides were involved
  • and a horrifying number of people in China were addicted to opium (I believe the book mentions that at one point 90% of the Chinese army were addicted)
  • and lots of time was spent in trying to work out how the British officials could bow to the Chinese¬†high ups¬†without actually bowing to them.
  • and the Emperor only¬†heard what his advisors thought he’d like to hear. Which wasn’t the best thing when trying to run a war. And led to quite a few bad decisions.

It’s fascinating stuff – the book is well researched and contains excerpts from¬†documents on both sides. It’s also rather depressing and made me take sidelong glances at my cup of tea.

Also, depressing subjects seem to be a common theme in my latest factual reads. Yay.

THE GLADIATOR:

THE SECRET HISTORY OF ROME’S WARRIOR SLAVES

[aka … that’s just not right]

thegladiatorI wrote an extensive review after finishing this book [Actually, it was a page BUT THE WRITING WAS SMALL] and then I found out that Dan Carlin of Hardcore History had released a podcast on the same sort of subject ‘Painfotainment’ … which I haven’t listened to fully yet – but my point is (YOU HAVE ONE?) that this book affected me and I didn’t like it and I decided that I was quite right in¬†loathing some of the Roman Emperors. Seriously. They were jerks.

My problem with this book didn’t lie in the actual history it was recounting – history, is after all, history. You can get mad¬†at it and rave at it¬†but you¬†can’t change it. No, my issues lie in one of the chapters¬†– the crowning chapter of the entire book –¬†in which¬†it describes how a slave is raped and then commits suicide to avoid the games. And this is fictional. To use the story medium as an illustration for how¬†life was back then. A sort of ‘How We Lived and How It Stank’.

Cool. But no. When I read history, I want to read history. When I want to read historical fiction, I pick up a book of historical fiction.

History is bad in plenty of places; give me the facts but by golly, don’t wallow in it. I don’t want to read fictional¬†gratuitous violence in my history book.

And, yes, I did get upset about that chapter, and yes, you’d be right in thinking me absolutely off my rocker for picking up this next book – but there is a difference – one was fiction, and this one? This one is horrible, brutal reality.

THE RAPE OF NANKING

by Iris Chang

nanking.jpgIn December 1937, the Japanese army invaded the ancient city of Nanking, systematically raping, torturing, and murdering more than 300,000 Chinese civilians.

This book tells the story from three perspectives: of the Japanese soldiers who performed it, of the Chinese civilians who endured it, and of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved many.

This was an awful read. I don’t believe in avoiding the worst points of the world’s history; you can’t understand humankind if you glance at their achievements and virtues. Darkness¬†shows how bright the light can be.¬†But at the same time … what horrors people have done and are capable of …

I think it’s when you look at your fellow man¬†and think of them as less – less than human. Less than nothing. When you forget your humanity, or forget theirs, and then well, you can do anything to them, can’t you? Most of us will think nothing of squishing a bug and there’s nothing wrong with stamping on dirt, is there?

It’s hard reading. I had to put the book down for a while, just for a break. But I finished it and I was glad I did.

Ultranationalists denied that¬†the Rape¬†happened, and for a long time,¬†this atrocity against humanity was a mere lukewarm line or two in Japanese history books. But this book puts the truth out there. It’s¬†terrible and it’s horrid and it’s brutal and awful. But it shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten.

As the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel warned years ago, to forget a holocaust is to kill twice

The more I learn about history, the more I realise that the answer of humanity¬†does not – nay, cannot –¬†lie within ourselves.

Also, my next factual book after I finish The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over The World is going to be about fish.

Just for a break.

Life

how to survive without a laptop

Well. So much for posting twice a week. I do have a reason for my absence; my laptop (or rather, the laptop belonging to my brother) decided to retreat behind an eternally black screen. I was not overwhelmingly happy with this decision.

PANIC LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW

You know, like ‘party like there’s no-‘ fine. my blogging skills are rusty.

It is a second of extreme crisis – that moment when you realize that technology has Failed You. History fans out before your very eyes. (Interestingly, history is mostly represented by Mongols). How on earth did they survive without a laptop, you demand of Wikipedia.

(Oh. Wait. You can’t look up anything on Wikipedia. Your laptop is as responsive as a stone.)

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ACCEPT YOUR FATE

After brief moments of panic in which the future is hopeless and your life void of joy, you realize that … you can survive this. The Mongols did. The Vikings did. Robin Hood didn’t need twitter or, or a blog to have his valiant adventures.

(Actually. He didn’t exist. Probably. Except in your head. Diverted, a moment of quiet, sad reflection is spent on this thought.)

You can survive this absence of technology.

You can use your iPad, kindle, and phone.

You can cope.

EXIST. LIVE- NAY. THRIVE!!

Suddenly you find that you aren’t wasting time, whiling away the hours surfing the web. (You are versatile – you find other ways to waste time.)

Instead of being distracted by your blog, you write Greenwood unintelligibly by hand, your letters formed with grace and skill that a drunken chicken would be proud of.

You write twelve pages.

And then, you snap. You’ve had enough. Why?

  1. You have to edit a project
  2. It just … is a different experience, writing without a laptop (You like it. to an extent. but not to a very large extent. And certainly not for an entire six months)
  3. You are never – in a million years – going to be able to reread your handwriting

TO HECK WITH IT. BUY ANOTHER LAPTOP

It doesn’t have to be flashy. It just has to have Word, a (working) screen, and a keyboard. (Definitely a keyboard.)

Yes. It will cost money, and yes, Dickens and Austen authored books without the aid of computers (and yes, that makes you feel like a second-rate writer, but … pfft. Time travel. They could have time traveled.Hypothetically speaking.) but you know what’ll it save you?

Squinting at your own handwriting.

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So, I have a new laptop. His name is Ivanhoe. He is fast in the way of glaciers, with more memory than a gnat. But he has Word, a screen, and a keyboard. And so life is good. Nay. Life is beautiful.

Books, I think I just rambled, Life, On Writing, Uncategorized

this bookish thing

This is a ramble. There is no other way of putting it. And worse – it’s a rambling ramble. I’m not sure what the difference is, but you have been warned.

// the lift of the book ban, the rise of my bills //

georgetteheyeronstairsI gave up buying books for the entire month of September. My bank account thanked me, but ohhhh white chocolate it was hard.

It’s now October. And the book buying ban has been lifted. Amazon is sending me books. Can I refuse them? No. No, I can’t. It would be rude.

Thus far, three books have arrived through the post box: a biography about Georgette Heyer, Simon The Coldheart by Georgette Heyer, and a look at the Regency world found in the books of … Georgette Heyer.

I’m starting to suspect that I might be a fan of hers.

// ‘anything you can polite, I can polite betterrrrr’ //

At work recently, I served a customer. This is not an unusual thing. I serve customers all the time. However, this¬†customer chucked me headfirst into the most excruciating battle of ‘Who Can Out Polite The Other’ I’ve ever accidentally been in.

We thanked each other for every. little. thing.¬†I was quite exhausted by the end of it. He won. For certain. He was the most determinedly polite person I’ve ever met.

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it was this, in verbal form … but worse

// words and words and words //

Due to one thing or another, I’ve been struggling to write. But no more! This autumn, I am finishing the rewrite of The Dragons We Hunt. Bring on the murderers! Throw in the dragons! Let the adventure and blood and sweat and late nights and tears begin!

25930798// … and he used an axe. AN AXE! //

At the moment, I’m reading Joan of Arc by Helen Castor. (Let’s not talk about how many times I’ve had to renew it at the library.) And it’s really good –it’s a bit of history that I’m not too familiar with, from a perspective that I’ve never really considered. It’s quite gripping.

I mean … plot twist I wasn’t expecting what happened to John of Burgundy to happen.

My jaw dropped and I wanted to grab a nearby co-worker and rant about it but:

  1. I didn’t want to go down in modern history as ‘The Mad Woman In The Staff Canteen’
  2. The co-worker wouldn’t have appreciated being grabbed and told ‘so, there was this bridge and this Dauphin and this duke and ohmergosh THEY ACTUALLY DIDN’T HAVE PEACEFUL INTENTIONS AT ALL!’

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Alas, I don’t think they would’ve shared my shock

have a great weekend!