Category Archives: Thoughts and other Miscellany

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?

Top Ten Tuesday – Diversity

TTT

July 21: Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters (example: features minority/religious minority, socioeconomic diversity, disabled MC,  neurotypical character, LGBTQ etc etc.)

 

I’m answering this one because I want to see whether I can actually name 10!

1. The Flavia de Luce series – the de Luce family are Catholic (definitely a minority in the UK, particularly in the 1950s) and the narrator refers to this frequently.

2. Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles – I remember this book so clearly because the idea (to me, as a 9?-year-old) of being so disabled by a common childhood illness was so strange to me. A beautiful, wonderful book – well, it is in my mind anyway!

3. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. All over the news at the moment because of Go Set A Watchman being released, but I think that this, and other books featuring unjust accusation of African Americans in a predominately white society (at least one, if not two or three, of the John Grisham books are in this mold?) definitely deserve a mention here.

4. Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi – being an Italian Australian is almost as big a theme in this as being a child born out of wedlock.

5. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) is entirely about diversity (or lack of it).

6. Narnia! How did I get to item 6 on the list before I thought of the Narnia books?

7. Several of Amy Tan’s books touch on being Chinese in the USA and assorted cultural conflicts.

8. Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto is full of cross-cultural conflict and romance – particularly the romance between Gen (Japanese translator) and Carmen (illiterate rebel native to the unnamed Central/South American country)

9. Anne of Green Gables? Orphan, red hair, often picked on for one or the other…

10. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies – is it a stretch to list Piggy as a diverse character?

This was a real challenge – and several of mine are a stretch!

Books I should have read and which The Physicist says it is embarrassing that I have not read:

Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (“It’s even got 4 different species of characters, how much more diverse can you get?”)

All sci-fi/fantasy, ever.

The Bible (OK, I’ve read most of this in small pieces)

28 before 28

Last year I made a 27 before 27 list, although I only gave myself 6 months to achieve them as I came up with the list on the way home from an exceptionally wet cricket training session in April 2014.

While I didn’t manage all that many of them, I rather enjoyed the process, so I’ve done a 28 before 28. My list included quite a few items that needed to wait until after Bookmark was born (including a weight-related goal!) but in 4 months I’ve already knocked off quite a few of my items. My list is (including the number in brackets of what I’ve managed)

Visit 28 different new restaurants/cafes (11)
Get paid for 28 pieces of translation work (1)
Find 28 photos I love and display them (0 – I want to get some of our wedding photos and some early photos of Bookmark printed onto canvas, or put into a big collage frame)
Cook 28 new recipes (10 – this has been a really enjoyable category and I’ve found lots of new things to cook!)
Remove 28 things from my house (14 – such a therapeutic category)
Watch 28 films which won the Academy Award for Best Picture (0 – we watched Forrest Gump a few weeks ago but that doesn’t count because I’ve seen it before!)
Play the piano for at least 28 minutes 28 times in the year (0)
Do 28 things outside my comfort zone (1)
Write 28 postcards/letters, excluding postcards to my grandparents (10 – they’ve all been birthday cards though)
Discover 28 new artists (2)
Read 28 books (no DNFs) (6)
Eat veggies every day for 28 days (mushrooms definitely count) – I keep having to restart this one! up to 2…)
Learn some computer coding skills for 28 mins, 28 times in the year (3)
Get to a streak of 28 days on Duolingo (0)
Get to 28000 points on Duolingo (0)
Remove 28 books from my house (multiple times?) – done once in late 2014 and done again in Feb 2015
Buy 28 things for myself. (clothes that are needed thanks to baby don’t count!) (2)

-Things that had to wait for Bookmark to make an appearance-
Run 5k in under 28 mins, 28 times
Cut out chocolate for 28 days
Work out every day for 28 days consecutively for 28 minutes
Weigh less than x again
Cycle 28 miles in a day
Attend 28 ballet/yoga/Pilates classes

If you can count, you’ll notice that is only 23 items! Suggestions for the last 5 very welcome

I opened a book again

So it turns out that reading one-handed while nursing is quite the different skill from reading one-handed while eating. Also that 3-in-1 editions of Kinsey Millhone mysteries are not the most physically accessible to the one-handed reader.

That said, I read the first 20 pages that I’ve read since Bookmark was born, and hope to continue!

Also I’ve renewed my loan of Craig Taylor’s Londoners, which I was listening to the day I went into labour (so the loan had lapsed) – our walks are long enough that once I’ve caught up on a podcast, individual episodes are too short. So I’ll be restarting that one too!

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