Category Archives: Thoughts and other Miscellany

Some recent abandonments

In keeping with recent resolutions to decrease the number of books in my house, I’ve been pretty brutal on a couple of books recently. I didn’t stick with them long enough for them to get proper DNF reviews, so I’m just recapping here briefly.

The Last Refuge by Craig Robertson – I read the starts of his earlier novels, which are set in the tough parts of Glasgow; this thriller set in the Faroe Islands just didn’t get going for me. It’s quite Scandinoir, so might appeal to fans of that.

Savage Magic by Lloyd Shepherd – this arrived unsolicited from the publisher and was therefore on shaky ground (or shaky ice as the extended RWT family like to call it) before it plopped onto the doormat. It seems to be a cavort through Georgian London and Surrey in the context of witchcraft and madness and magic. Perhaps a good book for November or January? Not July in a heatwave.

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler – I’ve had this for more than a year now and haven’t made it more than 20 pages in. It’s the intertwined stories of the youngest daughter of a family who goes off on a gap year and comes rushing home when her family are finally able to reach her, to tell her their father has a few weeks to live from pancreatic cancer, and some unknown homeless man who has some connection to Alice. The chapters in each viewpoint were just too frustratingly short.

A Study in Revenge by Kieran Shields – a sort of Sherlockian tale in Portland around 1900, in which a police deputy and his off-beat offsider try to figure out why a petty criminal was dug up from his grave and burnt brutally in a staged murder. Meanwhile the offsider is supposed to be solving a mystery for a local wealthy family, but by page 80 we didn’t know the connection of the wealthy family to the main story (there will be one, presumably), nor did we know what mystery it was he was solving. Readable, but slow.

All of these have gone to the local Tube stop bookswapping shelf (whose coming into existence has made me deliriously happy), so if any of them sound fantastic, get yourself to Oval Tube in the next day or two!

book exchange

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Sunday Salon – speedy Jack!

TSS

So… despite Halfords’ best attempts to waste all of my weekend with both corporate and staff incompetence, this is the newest addition to the RWT stable… meet Jack!

Jack

OK so Jack looks a little different from this picture (credit: Halfords website), because

a) he has pedals

b) he has a pannier rack to help him carry all my stuff.

Notes on a name: my first car, the beloved white Nissan Micra, 10 years old at date of acquisition, was called Algernon. My current car is called Bunbury. My lovely trusty bike which has carried me thousands of miles around London and specifically 100km around London overnight a few months ago, is called Cecily. If you can’t spot the theme, go read some Oscar Wilde.

Notes on a purchase: I did the Nightrider on Cecily, and didn’t have too much of a problem with the distance, but the hills nearly killed me*. As the German, my cycling buddy, whizzed off into the distance up Alexandra Palace hill on her beautiful road-bike, Cecily and I chugged up the first quarter of each hill and then I gave up and walked. Cecily is lovely, but a heavy, large, entry-level hybrid. While I’m not going to throw Cecily out or sell her, it was time for an upgrade for special occasions and long cycles to work.

*OK I’m exaggerating.

Work re-opened their cycle to work scheme, so £430 of bike and bike stuff is going to cost me £360 over a year, pre tax so really that’s about £250 of take home income. Plus the service was so appalling that they threw in a bunch of accessories for free so I ended up with a serious lock and a bike cleaning kit that I wasn’t expecting. Which is a win (considering the 2.5 hrs it took me to pick up the bike today and the 40 mins of a wasted trip yesterday).

I know this has nothing to do with books.

Fielding in the rain

(languishing in the drafts folder, I thought this deserved to see the light of day. I’m at the cricket today – watching MCC v Rest of World, it’s essentially an exhibition match for the stars of yesterday – so it seemed appropriate)

As you may know, I like to play a bit of cricket. I also normally work too hard. So on the day when I got up at 3am because my body thought it was midday, it clearly made sense for me to go to cricket training in a corner of London which is not near where I live.

And it didn’t occur to me until we got to the club that it might rain on our training (that’s in England, in April). And then we couldn’t find a way into the club house because no one had a membership card. Finally got in, changed from work clothes, and walked through to the oval… Into drizzle.

As we went from short catches to longer range throwing, the heavens opened. We got soaked. We squealed, and laughed, and got even wetter. It did make learning to do sliding stops easier… Not sure I’m going to want to try those on a non-muddy day though! Eventually it was bad light that stopped play, not rain (even with daylight saving time, it’s still pretty dark by 7.45pm in early April).

I write this on the train, feet slowly drying outside my soaking drenched trainers, jumper drying on the seat next to me. The other passengers are kindly not staring at my t-shirt and bare feet in 10C at 9pm, and not muttering about the smell of wet dog emanating from my sodden jumper.

Fun!

Recent DNFs

A couple of DNFs from the last few weeks which I thought were worth rounding up, but not worth full reviews (I didn’t give them the 100 pages / 25% that I set myself as a minimum to write a DNF review).

THE SEA CHANGE – Joanna Rossiter

This was a review copy from Penguin, I think, although it has the look of a free book with a magazine. Anyhow, I got 45 pages into this and in one storyline, there was a woman frantically searching for her husband in a tsunami, in 1970s India, and in the other story, her mother was reliving her childhood as the parson’s daughter in an idyllic English village. i.e. loads was happening in one storyline but we weren’t staying there long enough to figure out what was going on, and in the other, nothing was happening.
DNF. And leave in the hotel lounge somewhere.

NAGASAKI – Eric Faye

A middle-aged man in Japan is convinced that a person or some other presence is helping themselves to the contents of his kitchen while he is at work every day. This is a very slim volume, not even 160 pages of large text, but 60 pages in nothing was really happening, so out it went.

THE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO BROKE ALL THE RULES – Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

Bought this because it looked very similar to The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared – and it was, after a sense. Martha is tired of sub-standard service in her retirement home and is determined to break free to a better life. With a group of friends (The League of Pensioners), they go in pursuit of the wealth of the rich and famous. It really was a lot like The Hundred-Year-Old Man (I’m not typing out that whole title again), but not as funny, and it felt very much copied. 65 pages in and I wasn’t really invested in the story. I think the author made a difficult task for herself having 5 major characters – they became impossible to develop separately.

BORN IN SIBERIA – Tamara Astafieva

This is a very personal account of life in Stalinist Russia as a child – the text is collected from notebooks and poems left behind by Astafieva and edited into a memoir of sorts by a friend. If you’re interested in life in twentieth century Russia, this could be right up your street. It wasn’t for me.

Too many?

Whisper it very, very quietly, but I’m starting to think I might have… too many books. Even if I could read 100 books a year (which I’ve never managed: I got to 98 in 2011), it would take me 8 years to read my current stock. Which would mean not accepting another review book, book as gift, not using a library, not borrowing books from friends, for 8 years.

The Physicist has suggested that I make myself a rule: start at the top left of the bookcase and read down. If I don’t want to read it right now, it goes in the bin – if I pass over it now, it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever want to pick it up again.

And hey, if I do, there’s bookshops that need supporting.

What do you think?

Update: I’ve removed 38 books from the bookshelves since I first wrote this post and taken them to work to donate in the charity box there – just picked them off the shelves as “realistically, I’m never going to read this”. Don Delillo’s Underworld was a hefty volume among them.

Sunday Salon – slumpy

TSS

I am TIRED. I did play some cricket earlier today and score a few runs and then bowl 5 overs, but still. Tired.

Work is ok although the usual unexpected “we want to sign all of these by 30 June” rush on accounts. Never mind, we always get there in the end.

The summer in Bedfordshire is opening up in front of me… I went to get a new car radio installed the other day because I cannot face another summer of so much time on the road, listening to podcasts through a handsfree earpiece. Apart from the fact that the guy didn’t install it properly so it forgets its presets every time I switch off the car, I’m delighted with my all-singing and dancing purchase. It does Bluetooth handsfree and connects to my phone with a USB cable and plays stuff off my phone including podcasts and Spotify, and is generally excellent.

Cricket has gone ok this season in general.

Since I got back from Croatia, I’ve only picked up one or two books – something (I can’t even remember what it was) got binned early in the week, and I’m making slow but enjoyable progress through Sebastian Faulks’ A Week in December. I LOVE novels set in London that really show off their knowledge of London. This one even has a Tube driver in it.

What should I be reading next? I’m trying to be a bit ruthless at the moment… need to clear some of these books off my desk and get charging through the bookshelves.

Orwell, censored

Spotted here, via the @booksaremybag Twitter account, this amazing Penguin cover design for 1984. How cool is this?

1984

Musing Mondays – books on holiday

musing mondaysMusing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! 
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

This year, (at time of drafting this post) I’ve read 19 books. Of which 7 have been on holiday in a different country (or on some form of transport related to going on or coming back from that holiday). All 7 of those books I’ve really enjoyed, I’ve finished them (unlike a non-trivial number of DNFs at home), and it has taken me weeks/months to get around to reviewing them (nothing special there then).

What does this tell me? That I don’t prioritise reading when I’m in my normal life? (see previous thoughts on that topic) That I save my best reads for the beach?

Sunday Salon – Slatina beach

TSS

Back from a little four-day jaunt to Croatia:

1. Spent at least 50% of my waking time either on the private balcony of our hotel room, or the hotel’s public terrace, reading/blogging/talking while looking at the sea.

2. Managed to only read my work email twice.

3. Read 4 books, reviewed 2 of them, and DNF’d another one (and left it in the hotel lounge).

4. Returned to London 3 books lighter than I left.

The week ahead holds:

1. A busy time at work.

2. Nice weather at home.

Sretan nedjelja! (Happy Sunday, in Croatian)

Home Decor 2

I was scrolling through some old posts, and found this one, with this photo:

 

reading nook

I’d completely forgotten that I had found this. How amazing does that sofa INSIDE a bookshelf look?

*runs off to find the Physicist to tell him that this WILL be built into our forever house one day…*

 

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