It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Now that the blog is back up again, time for me to join a few memes again, which I always used to love participating in (though I won’t do them every week). This one is pretty self-explanatory, hosted by Book Date.

Reading in print:daughter's secret

The Daughter’s Secret by Eva Holland – another review copy that’s turned up at some point in the last 18 months. I thought I was going to ditch this one straight away based on the unhappy premise (schoolgirl runs away with teacher aged 15, he goes to prison, now 5 years later he’s being released, what’s the impact on the family), but the first few pages are promising.

Listening to:lesson in secrets

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (one of the Maisie Dobbs series) – borrowed from Westminster Library through OneClick. I haven’t read any of the Maisie Dobbs series, but I’ve seen them highly recommended many times. I’d prefer to start at the start of the series, but this was the only one that was available from the library. It’s started very well, so I’ve got high hopes!

 

What I’m listening to

(or – “to what I am listening”, if like me you are somewhat of a grammar snob)

So what have I been doing with all that commute time over the last 9 months if not reading? Well, my commute is roughly 7 mins walk, 2 mins wait for train, 8 mins train, 5 mins walk, 2 mins wait for train, 8 mins train, 3 mins walk. So while it’s delightful to only have a 35 minute commute (by London standards, that’s pretty good), it is Not Conducive to reading books.

Enter two friends: the podcast and the audiobook.

I’ve become a real fan of podcasts over the last 12-18 months in a way that I hadn’t even contemplated could be possible before. My regular listens are Mom And Dad Are FightingThe Double X Gabfest (both from Slate), Happier by Gretchen Rubin (about whose books I’ve written here, here and here), Ask A Clean Person (yes, it’s a show about cleaning things) from the Heritage Radio Network and No Such Thing As a Fish by the QI elves.

Audiobooks – over the last few months, I’ve listened to all three of the Cormoran Strike books, Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat and Helen Russell’s The Year of Living Danishly, and I’ve started and abandoned Kate Atkinson’s A God In Ruins and Sue Perkins’ Spectacles. Reviews to follow at some point.

I’ve discovered that listening to the spoken word (podcast or audiobook) is just the right amount of entertainment while walking, and perfectly mixed on the Tube with a game of Two Dots (I’ve got rather good at Two Dots). I definitely can’t listen and email at the same time, and Two Dots by itself is insufficiently captivating for the Tube journey.

The podcasts don’t quite come out regularly enough for me – the two Slate ones alternate weeks, so between them there is a new episode on Thursdays, and the other three seem to come out weekly (though Ask A Clean Person is a bit spasmodic and I have actually unsubscribed, though I will re-subscribe). When I’m between audiobooks, that’s not enough material per week.

Any recommendations?

Fun fact – the QI elves are slowly becoming famous – they got their own TV show, No Such Thing As The News a few months back, and I spotted one of the Elves in the wild a few weeks back – it transpires he lives nearby.

And in case you’re wondering, I get my audiobooks both from an Audible subscription and through One Click Digital, Westminster Libraries’ audiobook service.

Start of something new

So here’s a scary thing: I resigned from my job.

“That’s not so scary! Millennials change jobs every 2-3 years!” I hear you cry.

Not this millennial. I’ve had 2 paid jobs in my life, and one was making lattes and dishing up stale croissants during one university summer. I’ve been at Large Accountancy Firm for the best part of 8 years – my first day was 8 Sept 2008. (Side note: Lehman Brothers collapsed on 15 Sept 2008. I try not to feel responsible.)

I’m definitely not going to get into the details of why I left on social media, but if you know me in real life, buy me a coffee and we’ll chat.

So.

That’s big, huh? Particularly because I don’t have a new job yet.

I finish Current Job on 2nd September, so I still have a few weeks of large spreadsheets and accounts proof-reading ahead of me. Anyone got recommendations for reading on my last month of that particular commute?

 

Thoughts on social media and blogging

I used to follow dozens, maybe even more than a hundred blogs. I saved book reviews from them, used them to see what people were generally saying about a book, and linked my reviews to other people’s reviews.

As my favourite bloggers have wandered off (mostly to have kids, though a few of them have come back, or become bestselling authors – I’m looking at Books I Done Read, Iris on Books, The Sleepless Reader, Teadevotee – sometimes to become serious open water swimmers and marathon runners) I ended up with a blog reader split into “favourite book blogs” where there were very few posts and I never read them anyway, and hundreds of unread posts in “book blogs”.

The internet is just too big to try to keep up with everything that everyone is saying. That’s why I like Twitter better than Facebook – no one expects you to keep up with everything that happens on Twitter, whereas I know of at least two occasions warranting at the very least email invitations if not phone call invitations that were organised just on Facebook with the attitude that if the person isn’t on Facebook, they’re not important!? I took a break from social media for the first part of Lent 2016 and while I ended up going back because I felt I was disconnecting from friends I had on Twitter and missing out on enjoying people’s pretty pictures on Instagram, I’m not going back to Facebook in anywhere near as big a way and I’m still contemplating removing myself from it altogether and just making sure I catch up with certain people by email more.

I also moved my blog reader more towards personal blogs and “good living”/lifehacking and a dose of parenting: Modern Mrs Darcy, Back To Her Roots, The Happiness Project, Hey Let’s Make Stuff, Lifehacker, Coffee and Crumbs, Time Management Ninja (which I used to read a lot and now don’t so much). I find these ones so much easier to sift through for things I’m really interested in or where I know I will enjoy reading the content, and just mark as read things I know I don’t care about (this applies to about 85% of Lifehacker posts).

It was blogs like MMD and BTHR that made me think I needed to change the direction of my blog – and it’s probably no coincidence that a lot of these are written by women in their late 20s and 30s who have 1-4 kids. Apparently, subconsciously, I’ve changed the group from whom I want to learn. I used to want to learn (what to read) from voracious readers; now I want to learn how to enjoy this insane season of new parenthood and work and activity. Is it fair to say that these 10 years are probably going to be the busiest and best of my life?

Hence the re-launch and the changes in my reading. I guess reading blogs on the commute became the replacement for reading books – short personal essays (which is really what blog posts are) are much more digestible in 8 minute intervals at 6.40am than a few pages of a novel!

What? there’s still someone here?

New blog, new… what? New me? Definitely not. Slightly changed me, for sure.

This used to be exclusively a book review blog, with occasional life-related chat, and I also used to have a cycling blog which never really got off the ground at Adventures with Cecily*. Now that I do not read anywhere near as much, nor cycle that much, I wanted a more general blog – more in the style of Modern Mrs Darcy, whose blog I adore reading. So – I’m doing a bit of a blog re-launch.

What to expect

Fewer books, though hopefully more books than in the last year or two!

More general life stuff (upcoming: bullet journaling, goal setting, resuming cycling)

More simplicity. I just don’t have time for a million systems any more. I used to log my reading on LibraryThing and on Goodreads, and I’m giving up on both of those. I like some of the community aspects of both, but social media provides quite enough (too much?) community for me already and I wasn’t really getting anything else from these that I’m not getting between the blog, Twitter, a spreadsheet for tracking my reading and, you know, actually talking to people.

Less edited writing. I won’t pretend that my writing was particularly edited beforehand (and I’m such a stickler for spell-checking and formatting that I’ll no doubt be highly embarrassed if I make typos!), but in the interests of just getting posts written and out there (which is what I’m aiming for), some of that gloss is going to be abandoned. I’m doing this so that I have a daily/multiple-times-a-week writing practice, not so I have a super fancy blog from which to make £££.

What not to expect

Me to write any more intelligently, concisely or insightfully. This is my corner of the internet to chat, and if you want to come over here to chat with me, that’s fantastic! But I certainly won’t pretend I have all the answers. (Does anybody?)

Fancy photographs. Ain’t got time for that.

* Cecily got stolen and has been replaced by Jack (speedy road bike) and Gwendolyn (Dutch style bike). Cycling with Other Characters from The Importance of Being Earnest is a less catchy title.

Some recent DNFs

<<mandatory “gosh it’s been a while since I posted. Baby stuff” disclaimer>>

So, maybe my concentration span has been destroyed by the experience of a small person, and maybe I’m just finding it tough to get time to read, but I’ve had a run of Did Not Finish books recently. A quick round-up (I won’t bother with ratings, and I won’t be counting them in my statistics for the year, or noting on LibraryThing or Goodreads that I read them):

The Piper’s Son, Melina Marchetta. I quite enjoyed Saving Francesca, and you can bet I’ll be putting a copy of Looking for Alibrandi in Bookmark’s hands at some point in her teenage years. But this one totally failed to grip me – not least because of the sheer number of male characters referenced but not seen; I found it impossible to keep track of them all. Filched from the box of books Mini-Me was throwing out, read 50 pages, dumped it at the Tube.

piper's son

Disclaimer, Renee Knight. A woman reads a novel which seems to be entirely about her. She tries to get in touch with someone she once knew. That woman’s husband is trying to get in touch with the “character”. There has been some unspeakable event. Much Too Confusing. Abandoned my NetGalley copy.

disclaimer

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins. The world has been going crazy about this one, and I just didn’t get into it. Partly because I found the narrator unsympathetic from the get-go, partly because I struggled to tell characters apart/keep them straight in my head. So… abandoned my NetGalley copy.

girl on the train

Londoners, Craig Taylor. I have been listening to this one since before Bookmark was born (in fact, I was trying to listen to some of it while in early labour…) it’s a good book, but it does not lend itself well to audio format. The individual stories are too disjointed to be able to be retained in the memory between listens. So after renewing it from the library 23498719384 times, I’m abandoning it.

Londoners

The Collector, Anne-Laure Thieblemont – this sounded really attractive on the mailing from Le French Book, but either the writing is bad or the translation, because the language in the first few chapters was too clunky for me to want to carry on with it. I might be missing out on a gem, but I was reading in red-pen mode and that’s a bad sign for a book. the collector

Jane Austen imitations

“Upon my word, Caroline, I should think it more possible to get Pemberley by purchase than by imitation.”

I’m reading Georgiana Darcy’s Diary by Anna Elliott* which is free on the Kindle at the moment. It’s pleasant enough but given my limited reading time these days I think I’ll be abandoning it soon.

During Advent with Austen some years ago, and since, I have got into some of the Austen fan-writing (Lizzy and Jane, Death Comes To Pemberley, Darcy’s StoryJane Austen Made Me Do It), but none of it has really stuck with me.

I’m perplexed by this need to continue Austen’s story. Why must authors take up their pens and keyboards, giving Elizabeth a pregnancy, giving Wickham more terrible deeds, making Jane and Bingley even more nauseatingly happy?

I read Bridget Jones’ Diary as a teenager and it took me most of the book to realise it was a Pride & Prejudice homage – only “Darcy” seemed to be the link! Much less clunky.

Anyhow. End of my whinging. Georgiana is a perfectly satisfactory example of the genre, but I’ve lost patience with the genre as a whole.

*it amuses me that the author has a name so similar to one of my favourite Austen heroines. A nom de plume, perhaps?

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