The New School Year

Oh it is nice that pretty much anytime you want to make a change there’s a New Year of some variety just around the corner to justify New Beginnings or what-have-you.

Of course, most of my changes tend to be necessitated by, ahem, long breaks in writing or posting anything. Life has got in the way; I have more than one unfinished craft project lying by the wayside, several chocolate ‘trips’ planned, and writing projects galore.

That all said, I also have ideas to revive and remould my wordy sort of blog. Not as books: I find writing reviews a bit forced. I’m a Yay or Nay sort of person, sometimes with good reason, usually none. I’m going to be changing how I write about books here, by the way.

As previously discovered, though, I have not the time in my life to maintain two blogs with many weekly posts. I seem barely to have the time for one blog with a thrice-weekly schedule. Certainly haven’t the time for that plus all the crafting required for a weekly craft post.

Instead, I have decided on a once-weekly post, with a loose schedule involving crafting (crochet and sewing), chocolate, and books.

Crafting will be as it always has been, with projects. Chocolate will be recipes and my chocolate ‘trips’ for single-origin bars. Books will be a monthly round-up of my reads, accompanied by a Yay or Nay.

We’ll see how this goes…

 

Camp NaNo Catch-Up: Gardeners and Architects

Apparently, there is a George RR Martin quotation out there about how writers are gardeners or architects.

Some writers have an idea and run with it; others have an idea and plan the story. Of course, as with all things, most people are not really one or the other, but a mix of both. Normally, I get about half way through the planning stage and then start writing and see where it takes me. I’ve never been very good at endings, though. I might be seeing things, but I suspect there’s a link between that and where I cease to plan…

It’s been an interesting time for me, this month, with my focus being on planning; every now and again I get the urge to just start writing, I have enough notes and plans, and anyway that part of the story won’t happen for ages, and by the time I get to that bit I’m stuck on, an answer should have presented itself. Right?

I’ve written before, with just an idea. It was a struggle. Especially when I got stuck, and all I had for inspiration was how the entire story was supposed to end. Not knowing how to get there – not really a good way to write, I found. Led to a lot of writer’s block. I don’t, yet, know if writing from a comprehensive plan is going to be any different – no doubt I shall meet with other problems causing the same effect – but I’m not going to know until I try. And the hope is that I’m going to be addressing the most major plot-holes in the planning stages, and not half way through the writing. Starting over is never fun.

CampNaNo

I find, with the planning, that I enjoy it more. It’s easier to see progress and to feel optimistic about the story. I’ve found a couple of things which help me. They might be simple; they’re the sort of things you already know, but kind of ignore.

The first is good old pen and paper. I carry my notebook around, and write on any old scrap of paper to hand. Ideas, plot-points, problems, they’re all ticking away at the back of my brain, figuring themselves out. My brain is always half away with the fairies.

The second is my desk. Or, if I decide to work on the sofa, my table-top ironing board, which makes an excellent substitute. And means that it finally has a purpose, since I think life’s generally too short for ironing.

How do you write? Are you a gardener or an architect?

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

I’ll be honest. I picked up Natasha Pulley’s Watchmaker of Filigree Street because of the gold etchings on the cover and the green edges to the pages. I suspect it counts as Steam Punk, which isn’t really a genre I’ve really read before.

In 1883, with Whitehall on high alert because of a bomb threat from Irish republicans, Nathaniel Steepleton, the Home Office telegraphist who picked up the threat, is mysteriously left an expensive gold watch. It doesn’t appear to work, but he carries it around anyway. And then it saves his life from the blast which destroys Scotland Yard, and he goes in search of its maker.

I really enjoyed The Watchmaker. There is a lovely cast of characters – my favourite probably being the clockwork octopus Katsu – and the plot is detailed and beautifully woven together.

It ran like clockwork…

Going Postal

I like snail mail. I like opening envelopes to find out what’s inside. Even the post at work. I’m nosy like that.

I watched Going Postal several years ago – I think it was a TV movie, possibly by ITV, like the adaptation of The Hogfather. I’ve been trying to work my way through Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series ever since. Slowly, though. As I find them in charity shops or the library. And find the moment to read them.

This week, finally, I found the time to read Going Postal, which concerns a con-man’s attempts to resurrect the state mail service in Ankh-Morpork alongside the much faster, almost mafia-controlled clacks (think telegrams).

Come hell or high water, the mail must get through. And there’s a lot of hell for Moist von Lipwig, the new Postmaster. It wasn’t his first choice of career, but Lord Vetinari made it clear: Postmaster (with a golem for a probation officer), or be hanged for his various con-man crimes.

I remember greatly enjoying the film back then, and now I greatly enjoyed the book. It is, I feel, one of the better Discworld novels of the half dozen or so which I’ve read.

TBR Book-Tag

For various reasons, but largely because of time and trying to do too much, and because I’m lazy, my Library is making its way into the Cocoary.

I used to talk books here, occasionally, and then, just over a year ago, I decided to create a book-space and focus more on Life and Crafts here. Now, though, as a result of much soul-searching and discussions about the future, my books are returning here. For those who did find the Library, you may recognise some of the content, as I transfer the books. I shall endeavour to break the old up with new as I go.

DSCN0131

A portion of our book-collection…

However, I thought, to begin, I should start with my To-Be-Read pile:

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Physically, I have a small pile of books by my bed, and I have a good memory for my books, bookshelves, and those I have already read. Otherwise, I have a very long list of titles spanning several dozen pages of those I’d like to read.

2. Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

Print. My Kindle has been neglected for…oh, pretty much since I got it. It has its moments, but I prefer print books.

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

Does it need to go back to the library soon? If there are no library books in the pile, how am I feeling? Which looks the most interesting or entertaining?

4. Book that has been on your TBR the longest?

I can’t remember the title – something like Under the Sky, can’t remember the author (Harris, maybe? Barry? Radcliffe?) – but I was given it for my birthday as a teenager, and I still haven’t read it…I can picture both the cover and where it is on my shelf, and I know it has something to do with WWII.

5. A book you recently added to your TBR?

To the pile: Mark’s Warhammer novels. Does that count? There’s quite a few of them, and the collection is growing…

To the list: Black City Saint, by Richard A. Kraal.

6. A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?

 The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, in the Waterstones edition. So pretty! I read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street because of its cover too, and enjoyed it. Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover…

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?

The rest of Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles. I read the first, doubt I’ll read the rest. And I doubt I’ll ever read the aforementioned war book…

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

Probably the next Cormoran Strike novel, although that isn’t specifically on my list. I don’t know which on my list are unpublished. That’s the thing with working in the book-industry. I come across all sorts of books but don’t very often pay attention to the publication date.

9. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Although I am slowly working my way through them. I’ve had a lack of recommendations recently, though, and I don’t keep up with current bestsellers – see below.

10. A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?

Probably most of the current bestsellers. I haven’t yet read the Peculiar Orphanage series – Ransom Riggs, is it?

11. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

Can’t think of one – such an emotion about a book only really occurs with series, and I’m not currently in the middle of one. Unless you count the Strike novels? But I can wait for that one.

12. How many books are in your Goodreads TBR shelf?

No idea. My Goodreads bookshelf, like my Kindle, has been neglected since shortly after opening the account… I know, I’m terrible with technology.

 

If you feel inclined to answer the above questions yourself, consider yourself tagged.

 

 

 

A House Without Books

According to American politician and educational reformer Horace Mann, a house without books is like a room without windows. (The rest of that quotation makes me suspect that he would cry child abuse at any parent without books in the house.)

To the Roman politician Marcus Tullius Cicero, it was even more dire, comparing a book-less room to a body without a soul.

Not everyone is in the fortunate position of having books in every room, but I do agree with Mann: every house should have books. It’s no secret that I’m a bookish sort of a person; if I could, I would have bookshelves on every wall, and when I win the lottery, my house will have a proper library. I am very attached to my books. I have to really dislike a book to banish it from my collection.

Tomorrow is National Library Day. It’s supposed to encourage people to join their local libraries and support them against local council cuts. I agree, I haven’t heard of it before, either. But I think it’s a good idea.

For those who can’t afford new books, for those who haven’t the space to keep vast numbers of books, for those who simply like books, the local library is an excellent resource. It’s usually free to join, and you have access to the entire collection, and they can generally order in any specific book you want but which isn’t on their shelves. You can try out new authors without having to actually buy a book you’re not sure about. And being a member of the library gives you access to their online resources as well, including that wonder of wonders the OED Online.

Now I’ll admit, me trying to keep all the libraries open isn’t entirely altruistic. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone needs such an access to books, but there’s something else. You see, I collect library cards. Wherever I live, I join the local library service. One day, I’d like to be able to create a map of the UK in library cards. But mostly, I just like having library cards.

Library Cards

The Lighthouse – P.D.James

Having begun the year with Poe, I have come to the conclusion that he is best appreciated in small doses, and inbetween other reads.

This is partly because, while I was doing the mini-spring-clean which has provided me with an office, I picked a book off the shelf, as you do when you’re cleaning (or is that just me?), and that was the end of the cleaning. I was supposed to be doing the rest of the flat. I only did the office…

The book, well, that was The Lighthouse by P.D.James. I have no idea how I came by it, but apparently I did, and it was the book which leapt out at me.

Now, I like murder mysteries, but I have a hard time these days finding the sort I want to read: I’m not so keen on the fast-paced, conspiracy-theory-heavy thrillers, or those that provide every possible detail to prove the writer knows his/her police procedure; but I like Commander Adam Dalgliesh, and I like James’ writing. It is evident, but not in-your-face that she knows her stuff (and given her working life before writing, she probably ought to).

The Lighthouse is set on a fictional island off the Cornish coast. The sort of mystery with a limited suspect-pool and the murderer can’t get away, but everyone’s cooped up with him/her, so s/he’s likely to get desperate as the detective gets closer to the answer. This particular island is run as a very exclusive get-away for the over-stressed professionals, and they pay for the island’s privacy. And then one dies.

Dalgliesh is a sensible, robust sort of detective. If he lacks the eccentric flair I normally like in my detectives, there is a comforting solidity about him. Having found a much earlier James, from the ’70s, I’ve come to the conclusion that Dalgliesh must be a sort of Peter Pan character, since The Lighthouse is from 2005, but then, I haven’t read all the others to know what happens in his life between then and now, and nor do I know even his approximate age in either novel.

It is my intention to begin a P.D.James collection, and no higher praise can I give to an author.