Learning to Love my Kindle

I would like to say that my absence during October was due to a flurry of crafting and creativity. I’d be lying, though. It was actually due to a lot of reading and the excitement attendant upon counting down the days to the end of a hated job. Yup, I got to leave debt-collecting for a much more me kind of job as a proof-reader.

In between times, though, I also dusted off my Kindle, went through the titles on it, removed a lot, and have begun to process of restocking my library.

I bought my Kindle many more years ago than I care to remember, back when they were relatively new and shiny and an internet connection was not as standard. In my excitement, I filled it full of classics I ought to read, and modern freebies which sounded interesting. I didn’t read very many. I discovered that I preferred a Proper Book. Especially for the classics. I was more easily distracted from my reading on my Kindle.

And so, pulling my Kindle out of storage, I reduced the titles on it from about 120 down to under 30. All of those worthy classics, gone. The freebies I never read, gone. I was left with those few which I had read, and enjoyed, and a plan to collect those books which I own in print, but which space dictates remain at my parents’. My Heyers, for instance. I find I can read eBooks, but only if I’ve already read and liked it in print. Or those few eBooks I collected, read, and enjoyed in the early days. In the main, though, I’m building my eBook library to reflect my print library, for travelling purposes, and perhaps getting copies of the library-books which I enjoy. The Judith Flanders’s Sam Clair mysteries, for example (most entertaining, by the way; makes editing seem a much more exciting and adventurous sort of career).

I’d forgotten how much I liked Horry, in Heyer’s Convenient Marriage.

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Time to Read

One unfortunate side-effect of growing up seems to be reduced time available for the simple pleasure of reading. Too many other things competing for time and attention, including an increased appreciation for sleep.

Reading’s one of those hobbies I once read was a bad one to write on CVs – something to do with it being a solitary activity which doesn’t really show such good qualities as teamwork and sociability. On the other hand, it does show your ability to read. Being literate is quite a useful thing, after all.

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But back to the time-issue.  I remember when I was in my final year of primary school, my teacher questioned whether I really had begun and finished Pride & Prejudice in one day. Well, evening, really. She’d set me a reading challenge of about thirty new books, which I completed in a month, and P&P was one of the books I’d chosen. Most of the books I read were similarly “grown-up”. I read one a night. Aged eleven.

Quite simply, I was awake until after midnight most nights, sucked into new worlds, unable to sleep the story was over. Sleeping wasn’t nearly as important.

These days, though, I can just about manage a short story or a chapter before I fall asleep. It’s a very sad state of affairs. I also tend to be fussier than I was. If something doesn’t grab me in the first chapter or so, I put it down.

Limited time means limited patience. Fortunately for Poe, short stories are rarely long enough to bore, it’ll just take me far longer than I would like to finish the collection.

 

Earthly Delights – Kerry Greenwood

When you prefer Golden Age detective fiction (by which I mean anything of the Christie/Sayers era of about 1900-1960), it can be tricky to find good, contemporary such novels. So many seem to think that what readers really want is a thriller, in the style of James Patterson, all fast-paced and action-movie-like.

And maybe that’s true of a lot of readers. But if the story in front of me is so very action-movie-like, I do much prefer to watch it. It doesn’t need to be a cosy Poiret-style detective novel for me to like it. Just slower, with chapters longer than three pages of wide-spaced words.
So I was quite pleased with Earthly Delights, by Kerry Greenwood, creator of Miss Phryne Fisher.
Set in Melbourne, which I will admit to not knowing, except through Miss Fisher, and I’m not sure that 20s Melbourne is the same as modern Melbourne.
Earthly Delights follows Corinna Chapman, a baker who finds a junkie in the alley behind her shop one morning and a letter accusing her of being a scarlet woman pushed through the letter-box, as she tries to work out what’s going on. Especially when her neighbour Mistress Dread also receives such a letter. Mistress Dread does not take kindly to this accusation.
I like the characters, Mistress Dread in particular, and the cats which patrol the bakery to keep out any rodents.
If you like Miss Fisher, give Corinna a try.

Advice for Writers about Reading

Advice for aspiring writers is that they should read. Read often, read widely. Fiction, non-fiction, picture-books. Whatever, whenever, as long as you read.

I had a conversation a month or so ago with my mother on the subject of reading How-to-Raise-a-Baby books. There was something in the paper, and I idly asked her if she’d read them before my siblings and I were born, fully expecting her to say no. She’s not that sort of a person. To my surprise, she said yes, she’d got them from the library. The thing was, though, with those sorts of things, that you pick the ones which agree with your own prejudices. So really what you’re doing is finding an ‘expert’ to justify your own ideas on how to raise Baby.

The same, I suspect, applies to seeking advice for all walks of life. Whatever you want to find out How-to, chances are you can find a book which tells you How-to in the way you were going to do it anyway.

Including writing. So I’m probably going to expose my own prejudices on the subject of Writing, by talking about Advice from the Greats (ie, already published).

On the subject of reading, the late great Sir Terry Pratchett said something along the lines of writers needing to read everything but the genre they write – in case of unconsciously recycling what you read.

And this, of course, simply justifies me in my faith of my ability to write fantasy, when I don’t tend to read fantasy as a rule. A version of the advice was given to me years ago by my sister, when I was first attempting a novel. Of the comments she gave me, the one which stood out was “Stop playing Warcraft”, probably because I had stuffed the land with every mythical creature you can think of, including leprechauns, and everyone was a terrible stereotype. I subsequently stopped playing Warcraft and there isn’t even a whiff of gold at the end of a rainbow in my current WIP. Whether this makes it better is entirely subjective. I know there are people out there who happen to like cheesey, cliche novels. Must admit, I’d like it if Regency-romance writers would stop nicking Heyer’s characters and story-lines.

But writing, like raising a baby, is very subjective, and what works for one novel might not work for the next. So read, or not read, the genre you write. Presumably you write it because you enjoy it, and you should enjoy writing because it takes so long to create a good novel.

But you should remember this piece of wisdom from my mother-in-law, who read all the baby-books:

You might have read the books, but Baby hasn’t.

What to Say, or Not…

They say that to become a good writer, you must first be a good reader. By which it is meant that you must read. Anything and everything.

Of late, my reading has been sketchy, mostly being just what I find on the internet. I try not to buy many books at the moment for the very simple reason that my current home has not nearly enough space.

Happily, my last week at home home has meant that I’ve been surrounded by the library I collected as a teenager. I have had the time and comfort to curl up and reread the stories I’ve loved for years.

I knew someone once who couldn’t see the point of rereading books. Once you’ve read it, you know how it ends. No surprises, so what’s the point?

I find rereading books I’ve enjoyed to be like catching up with an old friend. Reminiscing about things we’ve enjoyed, learning new details. My reading this week has mostly been Georgette Heyers, her detective novels as well as some romances. It’s been interesting comparing her approach to each.

The romances are filled with sartorial details, the mysteries not so much. I was particularly looking out for this because apparently someone somewhere, according to my mother, once said that the important difference between Heyer and Jane Austen, despite them writing about the same period, is that Austen was considerably less interested in the clothing choices of her characters. The reason for this is that Austen was writing about her own period. Her readers would know about the clothes and fashions. Heyer, on the other hand, was writing at least a century later and needed to help her readers set the story. I need to reread Austen to check this theory.

However, having compared Heyer’s romances to her contemporary mysteries, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was found to be true. She, and the readers, would know about the pre- and post-WWII fashions. Detailed descriptions unnecessary.

It’s made me think about my own writing, about my fantasy world, and the necessity of detailed descriptions. I’m not sure quite what I’ve decided about it just yet.

What do you think? Do you like knowing the details of clothes, down to the last trailing thread? Or do you skip them because honestly once you’ve read one description of a dress you’ve read them all?

Flapjack Cream Tea Cheesecake

Apparently, I’m pretty rubbish at reading, and writing about, a Shakespearean play a week. I think it’s best if I make it an every other week thing. I shall have to find other things to read and write about in the alternate weeks.

Mostly, though, I think I just need to find discipline. I’m a sedate person by nature (sounds so much better than lazy!). I am content to let the world go by. Although, I suppose another word could be hedonist, but not necessarily in the stereotypical sense. I’m hedonistic in the sense that I like to have fun and I see no reason at all why life must needs be an unpleasant experience. It’s too short.

However, I feel like I need to have a go at this discipline malarkey, or I’ll never finish a novel. Just keep starting new ones. Besides which, I was pretty much up with the sun yesterday, and I managed to remain relatively energised until it went down again. Neither was I overly hungry, being sated by quantities of water and ice. And despite spending most of the day at work. Most odd.

But the discipline malarkey. I’ve heard a lot about the magical early dawn hours for writers. I want to find out if it’s true. If I can write well when I follow my circadian clock better. My clock is quite good. Especially as regards the being sleepy when it’s dark. Which means that I won’t be writing much in the winter, if this system works…

I’ll let you know how this experiment goes.

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This week’s recipe is Flapjack Cream Tea Cheesecake. I was being too lazy to make a scone base, you see. I know there’ll be purists out there saying that it can’t be a Cream Tea without scone, and I’d agree. But I’ve heard some “purists” say that the only cream to use is whipped/extra thick double. I try to live and let live, but with Cream Tea, actually, clotted cream is best. Double cream, whipped or not, just isn’t a good substitute for butter. If you can, get Westcountry Clotted Cream.

It’s very simple. Pick your favourite flapjack recipe for the base and use to line a normal cake-tin. Allow to cool. Top with a mix made from: 1 tub Clotted Cream, 1 tub Cream Cheese, diced strawberries and icing sugar to taste. Make sure it’s all well mixed before dolloping on top of the flapjack. Decorate with strawberry halves. Pop in the fridge to set a bit, if you can resist.

Serve with tea in proper china with a saucer. And any remaining strawberries. I’m going to try this with a scone base at some point too.

Actually, this would be good for breakfast too.