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!

I think I just rambled, Life

these days

Work is no longer a car journey away. It’s at the desk at the end of my bed. It’s hard to switch off sometimes – work and its worries have a way of attempting to follow you around. I think I’m doing better. I know I’m fortunate to be working – even more so to do it from the comfort from my home.

I’ve finished a scarf. It is a bit too short (even though it is taller than me) and is wibbly and wobbly, full of holes, different colours, and dropped stitches. I love it. I’ve worn it to the dentist today.

(Yes, the dentist. I have been to a different place and seen different people!)

Sometimes, I go for a walk in the park. The grass is growing muddy there now – too many footsteps of people not allowed to go far from their homes. The river was swollen, and the trees bare of leaves.

this is VERY MUCH MY LOCAL RIVER IN ENGLAND. YEP. IT IS THIS. THIS IS IT only: no hills, no chalet, no snow, wide, brown, some beauty, such cold / Photo by Rhiannon Stone on Pexels.com

It is cold and it snows now and then. It rains too.

I’ve plunged into editing Project If. No. Wrong verb. ‘Paddled’ would be better. It’s two years old this month. Had a year to marinate. It’s on my calendar in big, bold letters scrawled across each week: X Character Must Die it says for one week. Dark Knight of the Soul is across another. (The ‘k’ is crossed out. I am very good at spelling.)

A Suffragist Abroad is with her editor. I am tempted with the idea of putting a care package for them. They’ll need it.

I’ve read a lot this past weekend. Recharged my batteries. There’s a short course in hieroglyphs I’m taking. I’ve realised that Turkish Delights are delightful. The birds sing earlier in the morning now. The days are getting longer.

Sometimes I catch myself – when I’m walking, masked and avoiding passing people too closely, when I read the news and see headlines with death tolls and vaccines and fishermen’s woes, when I’m talking with my family and wondering what the world will look like when it’s over and saying ‘Uncle X has had the vaccination’ – and I think: wow, this is bizarre. If I time-travelled and told past-me, she would have gaped.

literally haven’t seen one of these for years. but I’M PUTTING IT HERE BECAUSE IT’S PRETTY. let me have this okay? / Photo by Annika Thierfeld on Pexels.com

I haven’t been to church in a year, I miss it, but God is not confined to a building. The world keeps spinning, and life keeps moving onwards. It doesn’t wait for us, and yet we can steal moments – in the garden, beneath the stars, or wrapped up warm, with a book in our hands – to breathe.

happy reading!

Books

good books and future-to-read books and nunneries

I’ve read about 180+ books this year. Here are some of the highlights that I’d recommend:

THE AMELIA PEABODY SERIES

Seriously. All of them. Especially The Falcon At the Portal, The Ape Who Guards The Balance, and He Shall Thunder In The Sky – it’s important to read the books before these ones because my gosh, it will hit differently. Ramses! My poor heart. Torn! Cut out of my chest! Sold on the black market to- okay, too far? Too far. (Also: RAMSES.) Oh! And The Deeds of The Disturber which is a personal favourite.

If you want to read an entire book series which sort of embodies The Mummy, with an epic heroine, her husband, son, and a cast of characters who will soon become dear friends … if you want to read about murder! humour! Egypt! Archaeology! Romance! This is the series for you.

Amelia Peabody bravely strides in where angels fear to tread, parasol brandished and steel-grey eyes flashing. She’s the sort of role-model we need.

THE ELEMENTS OF ELOQUENCE BY MARK FORSYTH

If you are a lover of words, this is a brilliant book to discover the world of rhetoric – Forsyth makes it all very delightful. I’ve hooted with laughter (YES. HOOTED. I AM USING THIS VERB) when reading this book. 10/10 would recommend. It has increased my love of language. I’m rereading it for the second time.

MEDITATIONS BY MARCUS AURELIUS

Okay. I saw this mentioned on Twitter by Russell Crowe (though I prefer to think that I discovered this in the bowels of a dusty, mystery-ridden library) and I was like hmm, that sounds interesting.

(It was interesting.)

I underlined a lot. It read like a personal diary, which in a way it was. It was like Ecclesiastes if Ecclesiastes was written by a Roman Emperor. I enjoyed it. I recommend it etc etc etc.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS BY MARIE BRENNAN

Yes. It’s like the Amelia Peabody series in a way – but instead of mummies, she studies dragons. AHHHHHH. How could you not want to read that sort of thing? I haven’t read the rest of the series but this is one I would definitely continue.


The above are a few books that I read – I read *cough* quite a few romance novels (full of melodrama! pet penguins! very realistic circumstances!) and slipped in a few comics (Batman: White Knight was pretty good though it suffered from a lack of Catwoman.)

BOOKS I WANT TO READ NEXT YEAR:

I’ve got a list. Or at least, I had one mentally. Now I’ve got this one. Life is good. Here’s the list. Or part of the list:

  • My collection of Georgette Heyer murder mysteries (‘They Found Him Dead’ which honestly is up there with Falling In Love With His Wife levels of book titling)
  • One simply entitled ‘the nunnery book’ which I’ve been reading for approximately five years or more. It’s a history of nuns and it is very fascinating. So fascinating I’ve been spacing it out for … a long, long time.
  • Rereading a few favourites – the only zombie book I own and also Nine Coaches Waiting which is peek gothic lit as far as I’m concerned.
  • Finishing off a few books I started this year (Why We Sleep and Frankenstein which really are not related in the least.)

All in all, I have 45 books listed in my cramped hand. Of course, I may disregard some quite callously, and add a few more just for larks. Why not? Reading has, as ever, been a blessing this year – I’m sure it will be the same in 2021.

What books did you enjoy in 2020 / are looking forward to reading in 2021?

I think I just rambled, Life

disappointing marcus aurelius

The stack of books by my bed is as tall as my bed itself. I’ve recharged my kindle and read it most every night. This year, I’ve managed to read 182 books. I’m not sure what I should do with that number. There were so many good ones, and some infamous ones which weren’t quite my cup of tea.

Photo by Caroline Feelgood on Pexels.com

I’m knitting a scarf – it is hideously ugly and terribly done and I am enjoying it immensely. It’s quite refreshing to just do and not be anxious about getting it perfect or doing it well.

(I hadn’t put my finger on my striving to always do things correctly and the ludicrous amount of stress that entails, until I picked up the knitting needles.)

A Suffragist Abroad is still being editing – the final stretch, before it goes to a beta reader. I’m going through it as though I’m the reader instead of the author and it’s quite lovely. (Bonkers, weird, slightly mad – those words apply too). Let me tell you, I cant wait for you to meet Vi and Mr. Sorrow.

you will definitely read it just like this / Photo by Life of Wu on Pexels.com

The UK is still in the clutch of Tier system and Christmas won’t be the same for many, many people. The stars are still shining though. I checked for you, last night. In spite of the clouds (‘the Milky Way is moving quickly’ was quipped with great humour) and the drizzle, the heavens peered down and two shooting stars streaked across the sky.

Work has been hectically busy. As the dad from Calvin & Hobbes would say ‘character building’. It’s gut-wrenchingly disappointing to discover that you can’t do everything and that you will, eventually, have a mild breakdown in your dressing gown one evening because there aren’t enough hours in the day and work has built up and up and your ability to cope has plunged like a heavy anchor in a turbulent sea.

(YOU WILL PRY PURPLE-PROSE METAPHORS FROM THE CLUTCHING FINGERS OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS.)

It’s because of that, the fact that you can’t really nip off to Mongolia and discover Genghis Khan’s tomb, and my brother having my sister-in-law dye his hair grey that … well, I’ve dyed my own hair. It’s now a slate blue-grey. Ta-da.

Granted, this is somewhat of an extreme reaction, but what can you do? (Dye your hair grey. Apparently. That’s what.) Sometimes, you react reasonably to things, you sit down, you contemplate life, and you sip tea. Other times, you simply don’t. You book a visit to the hairdresser’s and you agree for your hair to be more blue than you anticipated. Marcus Aurelius would probably be excessively disappointed.

I haven’t been a good Stoic. If I was a Stoic. Which I’m not. But if I was, I’d be a bad one. Life is full of disappointments and unmatched gloves.

The point of it all, I think, is just to keep going. To keep looking for the good. (And there is good. There’s so much of it.) To keep plodding on. To reach out if you do need help. (It’s not a weakness, you know. It’s wisdom.)

If you’re reading this (still?!) – I wish you a lovely Christmas. Even if it isn’t quite the usual sort.

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?