ness talks books

crocodile on the sandbank: amelia is single until she isn’t

Let’s pretend I haven’t taken a long hiatus from this blog (HI HOW ARE YOU FORGIVE ME), and let me tell you about the first book from a series that I would happily tattoo on my body. (Though, because such real estate is limited, I’ll just write about it here.) It’s the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters AKA Barbara Mertz and it is most excellent.

Amelia Peabody inherited two things from her father: a considerable fortune and an unbendable will. The first allowed her to indulge in her life’s passion. Without the second, the mummy’s curse would have made corpses of them all. 

goodreads blurb

This is … the beginning of everything. And I think, once you’ve read the whole series, it’s very much worth coming back to reread this one. You will gain an entirely new perspective. Different interactions will take on a great more worth and meaning once you’ve seen how everything plays out.

CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK

I must admit – I view this book through rose-tinted glasses. With fond eyes. That sort of thing – but if you read this and think oh there’s stuff that I like but other things that are a little meh (cough the mummy cough) then continue on with the series because let me promise you: it only gets better. Everything is up from here. All the stuff you love will be present IN SPADES. Yes. I love this series. No, I don’t have any chill.

THE MYSTERY

There’s a curse! There’s a mummy haunting the archaeological camp! What will we do?? When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout! (I’m a poet …)

“Stop,” he ordered, in a low but compelling voice. “Do not take another step, or I fire! Dash it,” he added vexedly, “does the monstrosity understand English? How absurd this is!”

“It understands the gesture, at least,” I called, thrusting head and shoulders through the window. “Lucas, for pity’s sake, seize it! Don’t stand there deriding its linguistic inadequacies!”

It’s fun. Is it A++ Agatha-Christie-wishes-she-could-write-this? No. It’s not. It’s good, but it’s not great. But I’m not here for the mystery in this one. I’m here for the characters. More specifically, I’m here for Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson.

THE ROMANCE

Amelia starts off single as the last pringle in a pringle tube. She meets Emerson who is … cares for two things: his brother, Walter, and Egyptology. (And not necessarily in that order.) He is handsome. He is tall. He blusters. He immediately starts a battle of wits with Amelia.

Emerson: You, asking for advice? Let me feel your brow, Peabody, I am sure you must be fevered.

EMERSON, A MAN AMONG MILLIONS

It’s a delight to read. I adore it. I subscribe. This is my cup of tea. This waters all the crops I don’t have.

God help the poor mummy who encounters you, Peabody,” he said bitterly. “We ought to supply it with a pistol, to even the odds.

EMERSON, A MAN IN LOVE AND TERRIFIED BY IT

But for those who view his behaviour as Not Nice and excessively boorish, let it be known that he has Peabody’s number and his bark is worse than his bite. He might protest plenty but methinks he protests too much. Also he saves her life from a VERY DEADLY SNAKE and suffers a great deal of worry that he immediately tries to hide.

(He’s Victorian and they are all emotionally constipated. DON’T WORRY – WE WILL HAVE CHARACTER GROWTH.)

which they will handle with grace and aplomb

If you read ‘Amelia Peabody’s Egypt’ – you’ll find that there’s some excerpts from his own journal regarding these events. It’s perfectly delicious.

But let it not be said that Amelia doesn’t give as good as she gets. Forget the mystery, this book is really a tale of two people who are incurably fascinated with each other – and do their best to a) annoy each other and b) hide it in the midst of a potentially life-threatening situation.

I looked Emerson up and down. The clinical appraisal annoyed him, as I had known it would; he squirmed like a guilty schoolboy …

AMELIA PEABODY, EVERYONE

They are entirely suited to each other and – for the rest of the series – they are On Each Others Side. Married. Deeply In Love. But for this first book? We get to witness all the sparks flying. All of ’em. We get to see them reluctantly falling ever deeper in love.

There’s a secondary romance which is very Victorian-esque and suitably dramatic (but in the best way)

“To Walter! May he make Evelyn as happy as she deserves – or I will deal with him!”

“Spoken with characteristic tact,” said Emerson under his breath.

AMELIA PEABODY, EXCELLENT AT TOASTS

So while this book isn’t the very, very best of the series, it’s still good, it’s Elizabeth Peters finding her writing legs. This has to walk, so the rest can run and prod everyone with a parasol. This is the origin story so that we can have the other adventures. And in true, origin story style, it even starts with a dead parent. (*Batman has joined the chat*)

happy reading!

ness talks about life

what to do: a follow up to a life crisis

I know, I know, I’m sure everyone has been burning with an intense desire to know exactly what profound thoughts have been rattling around my head and also – of course – which work sector I ended up gracing with my superb skills.

I have a job. And it will come as a complete shocker that it is not one of the three professions I listed in a previous blog post. Gee. Life is surprising. But working on an offshore oil rig – apparently – was a touch too far. As was being an astronaut (though I am working on that, I’ll have you know) and a saturation diver. Life is also cruel like that.

My brother and I were exchanging genial insults the other day – and then he said to me:

I hope space DISAPPEARS so that you can NEVER be an astronaut.

I’ve never been more proud of him. It’s a level of pettiness I can only aspire to achieve. (I shan’t transcribe the conversation that led up to the above quote, but please do me a favour and imagine that I was marvellously witty.)

However, I digress. I’m writing this because it feels as though I have embarked upon what – in certain circles – is known as:

A NEW SEASON OF LIFE

*throws confetti, accidentally pollutes the environment and chokes one (1) rodent, a rainbow appears in the sky and hits the last migrating goose*

No, I’m not getting married. I, I’ll have you know, am clearly going to be a spinster until I’m a withered husk of bones and wrinkles. You’re welcome, world.

Neither am I – as the scriptures say – ‘with child’. See the above reason. I’m not ready for motherhood. My guppies – George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Neil, Paisley and the deceased Nebuchadnezzar, John, and Paul -would agree.

It’s amazing what making a life change does to you. Being able to quit a job that was growing steadily more pressured, and finding a new one that is far less pressured? It has been such a blessing.

And then, there is of course the life crisis I underwent whilst sitting in the hairdresser’s having my hair dyed partially grey. (The life crisis had nothing to do with the colour, I’ll have you know.) I sat there and was still and so withdrawn into myself it was strange that life was still happening around me; hair was being cut, nails done, and conversations were being had.

I sat and stared at myself in the mirror and thought so hard it was surprising I didn’t ruin my three brain cells. I walked into the hairdresser’s a youngish woman with grey hair tips, brown roots, and a vague life plan.

I left with brown roots shot through with grey and an Idea that was boggling me with the simplicity of it. (Don’t ever limit yourself, by the way. There is more to you than you know/remember.) It wasn’t a book/blog related thing – which, perhaps, is one of the reasons I was so stunned.

So, that’s that. Exciting times. Uncertain too, but isn’t it always the case? (For the love of Pete, if you want to maintain your sanity don’t spend too long on the news or social media.)

this is the ‘moon’. you may recognise it. my camera is truly brilliant.

We hopped in the car the other night – drove into the countryside to crane our heads back and look at the stars. The moon shone so brightly that it almost obscured all other night-sky lights. It shone on the water; made it magical and yet so much more. This was real; an everyday extraordinary sight that added flavour to life.

I didn’t bring a flask of tea with me – an oversight; make sure you have a clean flask with you if you venture out on an autumnal evening.

Anyway, the point – the whole point – of this post is to say: life goes on. What is now isn’t forever. Have a look round – you can do more than you think.

And if you don’t necessarily succeed? Hey, who cares! Sometimes it’s the trying that matters. It’s the journey that enriches. The refusal to stagnate. The decision to keep your eyes open to possibilities and the desire to look for the wonder of it all.

So keep going. You’ve got this.

books, ness rambles

this blog has wrinkles / also: a gift

While the general census of the public seems to be time flies, it hasn’t felt like that here. However, to my considerable surprise, I realised quite recently that it’s been eight years. Eight years since I created a wordpress blog and embarked on a long hunt for the perfect blog name. (I still live in hope that I can find it!)

This blog has grown up with me, in a way. I started it in my late teens; as a kid with long, long hair who loved books immensely.

this picture could be like, a metaphor or something. but i prefer to remember it as ‘standing in a goat field with a book from a blogger i followed so a part of her could be in england’ because my gosh that’s a thing i did.

I’ve rambled about my life; about living abroad, things that didn’t happen on my adventures, ear piercings, hair dyeing adventures, how to make the perfect cup of tea, a bookworm’s guide to makeup – but most of all, I’ve rambled about stories; stories I’ve loved, stories I disliked, and stories I’ve written.

i’ve also taken many, many photos of books. because that’s a thing i’ll be proud to tell my grandnieces and nephews about

I think we all need a place for ramblings – this has been mine. Or at least, it’s been one of them. There are places and there are places for different forms of expression.

And man, this particular one has been fun. Some of my favourite blog posts are the ones in which I forced myself to watch an abomination of a movie, read a book about Batman and was disgusted, and recounted my immensely successful attempt at a Robin Hood retelling.

In our world of views and likes, ‘has it been a popular blog’ might be the first question asked upon hearing ‘eight year blogversary’. And the answer is – no. While it would – in theory – be nice to be one of those big blogs with a multitude of likes and so on and so forth, that hasn’t happened. And that’s okay. This blog has been exactly what I’ve needed it to be.

a place to do whatever the heck i’m doing here, for example – did i even write about the book i’m holding? i’ve no idea

I have immensely enjoyed using this space; I’ve written when I’ve remembered to and how I’ve wanted to. I’ve made schedules and abandoned schedules and then – for sheer larks – made more schedules (and abandoned them too!)

It must be said though: I am very grateful for those lovely souls who have read here over the years. I might not have quantity but by golly, I have quality.

What’s next, then? Good question! I’ve no idea. Who knows what the future holds? The past two years have been … well, they’ve been something. The internet isn’t always the greatest place to be – it can be difficult to navigate its waters, even in little corners like this. But writing about books and about, oh heck – anything and everything – has been a joy.

I can’t say I’ve learned many things over the last eight years – but what I have learned (and then promptly forgotten and then have to relearn) is this: we aren’t promised health, happiness, or even tomorrow. But we can change the way we view things; we can choose hope and we can choose joy and we can choose how to react. We can choose.

And that, my friends, is a God-given miracle.

You might see different posts pop up – on space, on eels, on the books I’ve remembered that I’ve read, and perhaps on ‘bigger’ topics or perhaps not. Either way – as a celebration of the eight years I’ve dwelt here, I’ve placed A Most Irregular Prophecy as completely free for the day. You can grab it – or not! – right here.

If you’ve been reading here a wee while, or are only just stopping by – thank you, and in the words of Guy:

Don’t have a good day. Have a GREAT day.

(happy reading!)

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!