ness talks about life, ness talks books

endurance, and the tragic woe of the library computers being down

let’s time travel a little …

I’m in a busy coffee shop because the computers in the library are down and I can’t write the perfectly thrilling sci-fi novella series that is currently filling my brain.

(An integral part of my work day – nipping into the library and writing during my lunchtime – has been horribly disturbed. No one asked my permission. I am bitter.)

But, in a smooth segue, another part of my work day has recently ended – listening to Astronaut Scott Kelly talk in a dry monotone about space for 11 or more hours as I drove to and from work.

At first, I was dubious. Wasn’t sure I could last. Wasn’t sure I even liked the audiobook. Reader, I was very, very wrong. Not only did I enjoy it, I may have loved it? I like the dry monotone now? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME?

Also I know so much about being an astronaut now. I feel fully prepared to strap myself to a rocket and shoot to the ISS.


Endurance flip-flops between Kelly’s one year stay on the ISS and the life journey it took to get there. And you know what? It is, to borrow a phrase from Spock, fascinating.

It was a difficult road and it is told in meticulous detail. The grit and determination it took can’t be understated. The perseverance required was inspiring.

It also sounds exhausting – the one track, driving push to reach your goal. But Kelly did it. He managed it. And he wrote a book and read it to me, personally, in the car. For two weeks.

I’d better vamos, the lunch hour is almost up. There is a couple on a lunch date sitting at the table next to me. My coffee waffle is eaten. Ice cream for lunch? Yep. That happened.

Zero regrets.

Also I tried to take a picture of my lunch and the flash was on and I can never come here again. The end. Have a good day.

it is an embarrassing moment, but using the lessons I’ve so recently learned – I didn’t give up. Look! The carcass of my lunch!

Wait. Forget that. There is a man cradling what can only be a chihuahua in a jumper on his lap. I must come here again. Always. Forever and ever.

books, ness talks about life

the bookworm’s guide to reading on a budget

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I’m currently Saving Money For The Greater Good Of My Future. It’s a trial, but I’m just about bearing it. Here’s how …

The Open Library

for those who like to enjoy the wonder of the library from the comfort of their home (AKA those who avoid other humans at all costs)

You have to sign up for this website, but once you’ve done it – huzzah! You’ve entered a secret cult of booklovers and teadrinkers just accessed a library with zonks worth of books that are yours to read FOR FREE!

walking in bluebells

Project Gutenberg

for those who do not wish to sign up for anything. and like older books. you rebels you.

I’ve spent countless hours using this website. In fact, I read the great majority of G.A Henty’s books on Project Gutenberg and I regret nothing; for now I, too, can write a tale of an honest looking youth – not handsome, mind – around the age of fifteen who is VERY VERY COURAGEOUS! and has MUCH PLUCK! (not the kind of pluck one would do on a chicken’s feathers) and lives an exciting life interspersed with a droning, monotonous voice that says Lord So and So moved his armies to such and such a place in the year something or other.

(If you have ever read a Henty, you will appreciate the very great wit which I have just employed. Probably.)

I also read The Rose-Garden Husband, discovered what a love triangle was (SPOILERS: the heroine chose Bill. Or was his name Bob?), and found Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of the Lammermoor to be disgustingly miserable.

Also – it’s been over eight years and I still can’t spell Gutenberg correctly. I add an extra ‘u’.

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for those who cannot afford Audible. and don’t mind listening to strangers talking. for hours.

LibriVox is the spoken form of Project Gutenburg Gutenberg. Some of them are awfully good. I once tried to persuade my brothers that The Scarlet Pimpernel was a magnificent book of magnificent proportions.

It is, and it was, but I didn’t realise that a) Marguerite had so. many. emotions and b) the emotions took up such a great deal of space. I had to reassure my poor brothers that the really AMAZING AND AWESOME PART was coming up soon. It did not, in fact, come up soon. It was at the end of the book. They were not overly impressed.


The Library. Your Local Library.

for those who are willing to leave the shelter of their homes in search of books. introverts around the world salute you.

I have nine books out right now. Nine. One of which is the hefty five book trilogy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Do you know how much money that would have cost me to purchase? A fortune. A massive fortune.

Do you know how much money I spent? Nothing. NOTHING.

I ordered a book in the other day – instead of buying the ebook version for £4.74, I spent 45p ordering it. FORTY-FIVE PENCE.

It is a universal truth that libraries make you feel good about yourself. They are peaceful places – unless there is a mother and child group in the children’s section. In which case you will be serenaded by the sweet, sweet sounds of The Wheels On The Bus (Go ‘Round and ‘Round). 

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Since making the agonising decision to save money on books (it is painful, I can assure you) no less than THREE books have been published by authors I quite enjoy. But if one must have principles, one should probably stick to them. I am using three libraries – my personal one (if I can call my kindle collection, and bookshelves that), my local one, and the online version.

It can be done, my friends. It can be done.

happy reading!

books, ness talks books

Writing Slumps, Reading Highs

I haven’t been writing. There – I admitted it. What I have been doing is widely known as ‘Raiding the Library’ and ‘Reading A Lot’. Below are a section of the books I have devoured.

It’s funny how you can make memories with books. What I mean is, I read one of these books on a warm summer day, curled on a comfortable black chair, eating cheese and sipping tea. And now when I think of that book, I remember the cheese.

… aannnndd that doesn’t sound nearly as poetic as it was in my head.

Dandy Gilver & The Reek of Red Herrings

In Which the Book is Cold, Wet and Gruesome

I picked up this book because its title was extremely excellent. While I enjoyed the characters (Dandy! Alec!) I did not so much enjoy the setting. I live in England. It is summer. Reading about wind and sleet and cold is not my favourite thing to do right now.

The murder mystery itself is rather, well, gory. When I approached the main ‘Reveal’ I felt rather sick in my stomach, but the apprehension was worse than the actual scene.

A book to read when it is cold, when you have a blanket tucked about you and a warm drink at your side.

Three Stars.

Of Mice and Men

In Which I Have No Idea What To Think

Let’s be honest: I had no clue as to what this book was about. And then I read it. Yeah. Lennie – poor Lennie – was frightening in his innocence.

Mice, puppies and velvet. That’s all I’m going to say. Nothing more

Not a cosy read. Probably best not read during your lunch break.

No Clue How To Rate

The Eagle Has Landed

In Which I DNF

I gave up. I’d slogged to the half-way mark, watched Devlin land in Norfolk and fall in love and then just … gave up. Alas, the book didn’t hold my interest, though the idea of writing it from the German POV was quite intriguing.

Perhaps I missed the most exciting part of the book – when they actually arrive on English Soil and commence their Devious Plot, but I’d had enough of multiple characters getting introduced and nothing much happening.

Read if you have patience and enjoy a slow building up of plot.


Catherine, Called Birdy

In Which The Heroine is Magnificent

Set in medieval Britain, Catherine, Called Birdy is mostly about Catherine attempting to avoid the suitors that her father has for her.

She. Is. Hilarious.

My only quibble is that I wanted more of an ending. I wanted to see after she had come to her conclusion. But no, it was not to be.

Read curled up in bed.

Four Stars

To Kill a Mockingbird

In Which I Love It

Yeah. I finished this one late last night. (Ah-hem, and when I say ‘late last night’ I actually mean ‘the early hours of this morning’).

I’ve never read To Kill A Mockingbird before, and I’m glad that I haven’t. Because I’ve now had the chance to savour it – to enjoy Scout and love Atticus and every little subtle detail that Harper Lee inserts into her book.

I’m not sure the tears in my eyes were from tiredness or the emotion of the ending.


Five Stars


How To Acquire Books Without Becoming Penniless

Every so often, I find an author I really like and I go on a bit of a splurge. Last time it was Georgette Heyer and her detective novels:

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Can you hear that? It’s the sound of my bank account. Groaning.

I really enjoyed reading them, not for the murder mysteries – but rather for the wit and the characters (I even did two Quotable posts on them).

Murder begets murder,’ said Jim. ‘You didn’t murder Clement, Adrian. His murder just put the idea of murdering me into your head.’

Sir Adrian wrinkled his brow. ‘I never take my ideas at second-hand,’ he complained.

– They Found Him Dead.

How To Buy Books Without Becoming Penniless

While Sir Adrian may not take his ideas second-hand, I most certainly buy my books second-hand. Now, there are two options open to me:

  1. Buy a book for one penny off Amazon (plus £2.80 postage and packaging)
  2. Go to a charity shop

The first I would heartily recommend. Though just today a hard cover book came and I opened it to find that it smelt er, powerfully bookish (the sort that makes you take a deep breath at the faintest whiff and then realise that it is actually quite difficult to breath in its general vicinity).

Also a previous owner may or may not have written in another of my purchases (and for the first couple pages written suggestions as to the relationships of the characters – someone’s lover? This person’s cousin? Oh, and also underlined words which perhaps the definitions were unknown. But I’m not being snobbish – I didn’t understand certain words either and the underlined words prompted me to look ’em up).

But these happenings (smellings and underlinings) do not occur often in my experience. Out of the second-hand Heyer’s that I bought, only one was written in. If you don’t mind having a used book on your shelf then go ahead and venture onto Amazon.

(And if a book does come with an overwhelming smell of musk, then there is always the option of putting a peg on one’s nose.)

However, if I am buying a book for someone else, I would buy it brand-new. Other people may not appreciate worn books like me.

Going to a charity shop for books is definitely the cheaper option out of the two. BUT … it is a lot like fishing – you simply haven’t got a clue what you will ‘catch’. (And here’s a tip which you may or may not already know: paperbacks are generally quite a bit cheaper than hardcovers.)

How to Read Books Without Becoming Penniless

No, no – I don’t mean ‘How to Steal Books and Read Them Without Becoming Penniless’. This way is very much sticking to the straight and narrow. There are of course, plenty of ways to read books which are in the public domain for free (Project Gutenberg, for one) but what about the more modern books?

Have no fear! If you don’t want to visit your local library and don’t mind peering at a screen to go on an adventure … then click on these two little words:

Open Library

With a lending library of over 200,000 books, the Open Library is my number one call when I want to read a book but don’t necessarily wish to hand over some dough for it (fine, fine – I won’t use film noir lingo anymore. Punk). All you have to do is sign up – don’tpanicdon’tpanic – for FREE and then – voila, the books are yours to borrow.

Yes, sometimes a book is already taken (by very mean and cruel people other lovely readers) but you can hop on the waiting list and you’ll get an email when it’s free.

And you don’t need to read online – you can download the Abode Reader and read the books offline (with no worries about the loss of internet connection). However, I find this way a little difficult to read as the scrolling system is rather slow, but this may be just my computer and the exception rather than the rule.

Happy Reading!