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?

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 🙂

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.

Life

living under lockdown

Shopping trips now are gloved, masked affairs where avoiding other shoppers a major priority. It’s bizarre and surreal. And yet food needs to be bought, these trips have to be made.

No more is there a 45 minute-1 hour commute to work. My desk is at the end of my bed and there’s no need to wake up at 5:15 am. No need, but I still try to get up at six because a routine is important damn it. Meetings are held over Microsoft Teams and instead of the radio, my own music plays.

Every day we are told the amount of people who have died – what caused alarm when we heard Italy’s, Spain’s and France’s death tolls, now seems part of the every day.

(Seven hundred today, I would call across the hall to my dad.)

(These are people – PEOPLE! With lives, and families and loved ones and hopes and dreams – all snuffed out and gone, leaving unfillable holes behind. A damn tragedy that can’t be communicated by numbers.)

(It seems that the Sword of Damocles hangs over everyone’s heads.)

It feels as though we are in a tonally off novel – I and my family are spending so much time together, enjoying nights around the fire in the garden, playing on the x-box, sharing meals, staring at the stars – and yet the world outside is one in which the illusion of immortally is thinner than ever and death seems even more present.

Reality intrudes in the form of crossing the road to avoid other pedestrians, a firm two metres between those queuing, the news online, tales from colleagues and friends on the front line, and delivery men who no longer wait for signatures but deposit their parcels on the doorstep.

And then the door closes, hands are washed and we are quiet again.

Keep going, friends – one foot in front of the other! Be kind – to yourself and others. Take comfort in beauty where you can find – a soft breeze, a blackbird’s song, a good conversation with a friend over Zoom or Messenger, or diving into a really good book.

I’ve found myself reading more than ever: Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Peters, and C.S Lewis are keeping me company these days. I will keep blogging, I’m sure, but I often pull up a draft and stare at the blank whiteness of it and think but why?

And that’s okay. I’ll post again, soon – rambles about books and things I find interesting and all that sort of thing – but for now, this will do.

Stay safe!

Ness


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

psalm 46 v 1-3