One helluva crazy week!

June 28, 2008 at 6:56 am (Books and Authors, Life gets in the way...) (, , , , , , , , , )

From start to finish, this has been a pretty hectic week with highs and lows all over the place!

Monday: Sick as a dog!
The week got off to a cracking start with me feeling rather queasy when I got up on Monday morning. By the time I was walking to work, the fresh air was doing me good and I felt a little better, but by 10-o-clock, I was flushed, roasting-hot and feeling absolutely terrible. To be honest, I looked rather waxy and horrible so I got sent home pretty quick-smart. I was feeling a little better by that evening and more able to face the day come Tuesday, so I made an attempt on the second day of the week to return to work and managed to get through the day safely.

Tuesday: Meeting MacBride
On Tuesday night, I got to go to the first Posh Club Book Group meeting I’ve been able to attend in months (I’ve been missing it due to attending my short-hand evening class on Tuesday nights until earlier this month when it finally finished – hurrah!) and we would be discussion the latest book by one of my favourite authors, Stuart MacBride, who writes gritty crime thrillers set in Aberdeen. As if that weren’t exciting enough for me, Stuart MacBride himself had agreed to join us and talk about his books and writing in general – I was in seventh heaven at just the thought of it!

Macbride was wonderful – he was friendly and personable, open and earnest, and it was a joy being able to discuss not just his latest book but the previous ones and his future plans too. At the end of the night, after asking about a gazillion questions, I asked him if he would mind signing my copy of Flesh House (his latest novel) and he wrote in it, “To Kell, Good luck on the thing growing in your tummy…” which had me laughing like a loon. Such a nice guy!

Wednesday: Shock Announcement
On Wednesday mornings the Chief Executive has a video conference with all his Area Managers (the Directors are also in attendance, but they work in the same building so they’re physically present). However, after the meeting this week, the Chief called us all into his office and made a shock announcement – he had just handed in his resignation! He was quick to point out that he is NOT retiring (despite being almost 62) but that he hasn’t yet decided what he’ll be doing when he goes in a few months’ time (he’ll be staying in the position till October/November).

I have to admit, there were a few tears in my eyes that were not entirely due to me being pregnant and hormonal, and I wasn’t the only one. The Chief is a lovely guy and a great boss – he’ll be a very sad loss to the Council which has just received an extremely positive audit (so he’s leaving on a high, rather than a low!). Things are going to be very different without him…

Thursday: Almost-Driving Dale
Dale passed hs driving theory test with flying colours, despite managing to convince himself that he would fail dismally. I, on the other hand, was very certain he’d sail through it and I was proven right – hurrah! It gave him a major confidence boost and I think it was just what he needed. We’ll be going car hunting this Sunday, as he’s anxious to get our own car as soon as possible so he can practice in it while he’s taking lessons and get as confident as possible before Tadpole arrives.

Friday: A leaving “do”
Friday saw the departure of my other boss – the PA to the Chief Executive – who is taking very early retirement. It was rather emotional as she is also a wonderful person and a fantastic boss – our team is very close! So, yesterday afternoon we had a big send-off “do” with many colleagues coming along from all over the council to say their farewells to someone who has been a major part of the Council for 15 years now.

Afterwards everyone headed off for a few drinks (I went home and got changed, missing out the “drinks session” section of the affair) and then headed to a nice restaurant for a meal too. The food was lovely but it took forever to arrive. We were seated shortly after 7.30pm and not everyone ordered a starter, but the main course didn’t get served until 9.10pm, by which time I (who was one of the starter-less folks) was absolutely starving! Anyway, the beef stroganoff tasted very nice, but wasn’t particularly hot (which was a shame) and because I had waited so long to eat, I could barely even manage half of it – I’d passed hunger and gone to the other side.

I had a taxi coming to pick me up at 10pm and it wasn’t a second too soon as I was exhausted (both physically and emotionally) and I fell into bed within minutes of arriving home, feeling slightly sick. A sad end to a very sad day.

Saturday: Surprise delivery
I had originally planed to meet the girls for a cuppa and catch-up this morning, but had to cancel as Argos were delivering our bedroom furniture this morning – I had been told to expect a phone call half an hour before their arrival and so I set my alarm for 7am, thinking that would give me plenty time to get dressed and make myself presentable for their arrival.

Not so.

At 6.25am the door buzzer rang. “Argos with a delivery for you!”

I was not only still in bed, but naked and still in bed! So now I had to leap around like a maniac (well, waddle around like a pregnant maniac!) throwing on a few clothes so I could let them in. I thought perhaps my alarm had failed to go off and it was maybe 9am or something, but no – the clock was right – it was only 6.25am! To say I was a little annoyed is an understatement. Yes, I was glad to get our furniture, but I was (and still am) feeling a little sick from the night before and being rudely awoken at such a stupid hour on a Saturday wasn’t what I was expecting.

So, even though I no longer have to wait for the delivery guys, I still won’t be going out as I’m now feeling particularly gross and tired – unfortunately I’m one of those people who can’t just go back to bed once they’re up, so sleeping is out of the question for me right now. Instead I shall sit here and complain. Grrrr!

So, an emotional roller-coaster ride this week from start to finish. Fortunately I have next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off work and, since I have an antenatal appointment on Thursday afternoon, I’ll only be working the morning that day too – plenty of time to recover from this week’s excitement – I hope!

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Yule Book Haul

December 25, 2007 at 11:58 am (Books and Authors, Life gets in the way...) (, , )

Dreaming books

I look forward to the festive season each year with great excitement, because, without fail, I can expect a lovely haul of books beautifully wrapped and presented as gifts. Some folks might complain that they can predict their gifts, but I love that I get a mountain of books each year that will take me through to the end of January at the very least.

This year, Santa must have decided I’d been a VERY good girl, because I got an impressive stack of no fewer than twelve books, all of which are tickling away at those braincells reserved for reading (i.e. ALL of them!):

  1. Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong
  2. Scottish Folk Tales (Lamond Books)
  3. Scottish Myths and Legends by Judy Hamilton
  4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling (adult hardback)
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling (adult hardback)
  6. The Wit and Wisdom of the Discworld by Terry Pratchett
  7. How to do just about everything (Collins eHow)
  8. The Lost Barkscrolls by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
  9. Making Money by Terry Pratchett
  10. Peony in Love by Lisa See
  11. Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre
  12. The Generals by Simon Scarrow

The two Harry Potter books are to replace the children’s cover paperback versions I already have, as I originally bought the first four in paperback, as I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like them (numpty!) and then bought the last three books in the series, as they were released, in hardback with the beautiful adult covers, so I decided to replace the earlier ones so they would all match up. In the case of the Pratchetts, the Armstrong, the Brookmyre and the Scarrow, I get all their books are they are released, but I had been banned from buying them for myself, so had to wait till now to have them. The Lost Barkscrolls will complete my set of The Edge Chronicles. I recently read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See and instantly knew I wanted whatever she next wrote, so that one was in the bag. The others were complete surprises and very welcome ones at that!

So, I now have a dozen extra books to add to Mount To-Be-Read, and a massive smile on my face to boot!

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Books Galore!

December 3, 2007 at 2:48 pm (Books and Authors, Life gets in the way...) (, )

Hurray!

Call me lucky, but it seems that when it comes to things going my way, they always seem to come in batches of three. For example, over the last week or so, I have received notification of three books that I will be receiving free of charge – two from competitions and one for review from Library Thing – all three by authors who are completely new to me.

The first competition was at Have a Hoot – I won a copy of Legend by David Gemmell, which looks to be an interesting fantasy. The second comeptition was at The Book Club Forum – I won a copy of E11even Terrible Months by R. L. Royle; a dark, supernatural thriller which should be exactly my sort of thing. The third book is an Early Review book from Library ThingBoy A by Jonathan Trigell, which is now a major feature film, about a troubled youth.

All three books are very different from one another, but I shall enjoy them all the more because I wasn’t expecting to receive any of them!

 

Legend by David GemmellE11ven Terrible MonthsBoy A by Jonathan Trigell

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Hard Luck for Hardbacks!

November 21, 2007 at 10:25 pm (Books and Authors, News) (, , )

Pile of books

I tend to avoid the news as much as possible because, inevitably, I get angry or upset – one or the other, it doesn’t matter, both are negative emotions and I prefer not to inflict them on myself if I can possibly help it. Today, however, I followed a link to an article at The Sydney Morning Herald and read, to my dismay, that Picador have made the monumentous decision not to produce hardbacks for book launches any more!

As the eighth-largest publisher in the UK market, this sets a terrible precedence for other big publishers to follow suit and this is something that makes me very sad. Yes, hardbacks can be clunky, unwieldy, difficult to handle and expensive, but they are durable and look beautiful on the shelf. I’ll freely admit that I love a good paperback as much as the next person – they’re light, cheap and they fit into my handbag to cart around with me when I’m on the go, but paperbacks have always seemed so much more, well, disposable. I do sell on many of my books (if I didn’t, I’d have no room to move in my small flat and my husband would divorce me for filling every nook and cranny with nothing but novels!), but most of the ones that pass on to new owners are paperbacks – I tend to keep my hardbacks. One of the main reasons I do that is because when I buy a book by an author I know I love and that I’ll want to read again, I get it in hardback. Paperbacks are my cheap, try-out-someone / something-new-without-too-much-risk option and they’re usually second-hand (albeit copies that are in excellent condition).

If hardbacks do die out, it will be a very sad day for bibliophiles around the world. We’d have to find a modern-day Don McLean to write a song about The Day The Hardback Died, and we’d weep every time someone sang the full-length version at a karaoke bar. We would tell tales to our grandchildren of days gone by when books (yes, dear, those words that you download onto your little screen gizmo) would come in hard covers (no, dear, not a machine) that bound the pages together (yes, dear, with glue, or stitching in the more expensive ones – some of them were bound in leather you know! No, I’m not making it up!) and we’d sit in front of the fire (that was when we had a fire in the house, darlings, not everyone had radiators then) and feel the comforting heft of a hardback in our hands.

Ah! Those were the golden days!

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The future of books?

November 20, 2007 at 7:01 am (Books and Authors, Life gets in the way..., Shameless Plugs) (, )

Amazon Kindle

I heard, just today, about the brand new e-reader available from Amazon – the Kindle. From all accounts, this slimline, wireless, hand-held device can hold up to 200 books and has up to a week of battery time before you need to recharge (if you switch it off between uses and, I’m guessing, don’t read quite as much as I do). Now, I’ve had a look at it at Amazon’s own website and here are the few observations I’ve made right off the bat:

 

  1. It looks a little tacky to me – like some retro version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The white and grey plastic cover just looks slightly cheap. Now, if it were a smooth, sleek, brushed metal cover, it would look FAR more attractive and modern! This is supposed to be a revolutionary new device, but it looks like it was designed in the 80s.

  2. It costs $400. To me, this seems a little much for initial outlay, especially when there are other perfectly good e-readers out there for less than half the price. I even found a much nicer-looking one made by Sony for $299 and it has changeable covers available.

  3. It holds up to 200 books. What size of books? Are we talking thin novels of around 250 to 350 pages? If so, I read a LOT of books that are way heftier than that – anything from slimline volumes of 250 pages to hefty tomes that have a page count close to 1000 – that’s got to seriously change the amount of books it can carry, so I’m estimating that I’d probably be able to load between 75 and 100 onto mine, which is a big difference. Also, what do you do when you’ve read them all and want to download more? You have to pay for each book, so I don’t know about you, but I like to keep many of my books and re-read them. Where do I keep them when I’m done, so that I don’t lose them and have to pay a second time if I decide I want to read it again?

  4. It’s currently only available with a 2-pronged plug, so if I were to get one, I’d have to pay extra and get an adapter so that I could use it in the UK.

All that said, I’d still be interested in one. However, I’ll be waiting till the price comes down a bit and the plug is UK-friendly. It would certainly be great for sticking in my bag and reading on the go. At present I carry maybe one or two books in my bag, or, if I’m travelling long-distance, up to half a dozen, and that takes up a lot of space in my luggage. This would be a welcome way to have wider chioce when I can’t physically acces my own library, especially as the downloads are wireless, so I could get another at the drop of a hat – and the larger screen would mean my eyes wouldn’t boggle while I’m trying to read.

And hopefully, by the time the device becomes readily available in the UK, perhaps they’ll have updated the case a bit…

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Cornering the market?

November 8, 2007 at 6:09 pm (Books and Authors) (, )

Book Case

As you probably already know, I’m an avid reader, but even with my own diverse taste in reading material, I find there are certain genres I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole – not for a million pounds! The thing is, the books that turn me off seem to be some of the biggest sellers  at the moment and have been for several very frustrating years now.

No, I’m not going to complain about sci-fi or fantasy or even romance (all of whom seem to get avoided by swathes of readers for one reason or another, mostly down to perception of the genres) – it’s two very specific types of books that send me storming away from the book shelves as fast as my size fives* can carry me.

The first section of books that I avoid like the plague are the swathes of child abuse stories that seem to be taking over entire areas in every book shop I visit.  I don’t even have to get close enough to see the title to know what they’re about, because they all have identical covers – a pale background, a small child (often tearful) and a title that looks like it’s been handwritten. A few months back I was in an airport book shop and counted no less than twenty identi-kit child abuse stories without even having to look very hard. I’m sure there were more, as those were just the ones that were face-on to me, rather than with their spines to the edge of the shelf. I swear I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who has gone through a troubled  or abusive childhood, but there seem to be hundreds of cases hitting the best-seller lists at the moment and I can’t help thinking that theremay be some of them (just some) who maybe didn’t have such a terrible childhood at all, but are jumping on the bandwagon and cashing in on this growing genre.

The second set of books I cannot stand are all the “I’m a celebrity and here’s my life story” autobiographies by the people who were also-rans on Big Brother (and other reality TV programmes). These people are NOT celebrities – they are just wannabes who are desperately clinging to the limelight in an attempt to put off the inevitable return to their jobs slinging burgers at McDonalds or sweeping up hair at their local crappy salon. Not only that, but they’re all in their early-to-mid twenties – they haven’t lived enough to have interesting stories to tell! All they manage to come out with is how being “famous” has caused them to go into rehab six times due to the pressures forcing them into drink and drug problems. Oh, boo-hoo! All I can say to these people is “Grow up, get a life and SHUT UP!”

The books of both these types follow the same formulae every time and it amazes me that they’re getting away with flooding the market with utter trash. I know everyone has different tastes (it’d be a boring world if we all liked the same things), but it seems like these books are taking over the stores and I’d love to just be able to browse the bookshelves and find something actually worth reading, instead of having to wade through shelf after shelf of drivel before getting to the tiny section that houses the rest of the books…

* I’m actually a four-and-a-half, but I can never get shoes in that size, so I always end up with the next size up.

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Shameless Plug for Karma by Holly A. Harvey

October 26, 2007 at 8:32 pm (Books and Authors, Shameless Plugs) (, , , )

Karma by Holly A. Harvey

It’s not often that I find a new author about whom I get really excited. Sure, every now and then I pick up a book by an author I’ve never before read, but the rest of the world already knows about them and I’ve been late in cottoning on, but it’s unusual for me to find a real undiscovered gem whose praises I can sing.

In this case, I was introduced to a novel by my good friend Suzie, who had decided to take a chance and buy a book written by a fellow member on The Book Club Forum. The novel is Karma, the author is Holly A. Harvey, and I was blown away.

Initially, the reasons I agreed to give it a try were that Suzie enjoyed it and the author is from the same area I spent my childhood years, but I wasn’t expecting to almost snort coffee out of my nose whilst reading the first page.

Yes, you read that right – I actually had to fight to keep the coffee in my mouth, where it was supposed to be, as opposed to be forced out my nostrils by my trying to contain my laughter. And once I’d swallowed, I stopped trying to keep it in and laughed out loud.

I’m sure my colleagues thought I was having some kind of hysterical fit, but it’s rare for me to identify with a lead character from the first few sentences and find the prose laugh-out-loud funny.

And on top of the book being an excellent read, the author is a really lovely person too – friendly, funny, sunny and intelligent, with a sparkling wit that shines through. So, I decided she warrants a little plug from someone who enjoyed her book immensely and can barely wait for her next one.

When can we expect another offering to tickle our funny bones, Holly?

If you’d like to read my review of Karma by Holly A. Harvey, you can find it HERE.

For more information on Holly A. Harvey, visit her website HERE.

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Hard-hearted Harry-writer sues religious festival organisers for hogging Hogwarts

October 11, 2007 at 8:21 pm (Books and Authors, News) (, , , )

Hogwarts

I’m all for ownership of intellectual property, but when Britain’s richest writer tries to sue the organisers of a religious event for copyright breach because they’ve built a marquee that looks like Hogwarts, I think it’s a bit much. I could understand it if they were reproducing the books on the cheap to sell on to kids and keep the cash, but they’re not – they’re holding a religious event.

From personal memory, I can remember the books giving a general description of the castle, but I do not recall, at any point, seeing schematics within the pages that gave an exact representation of the now-famous school of young witches and wizards. In fact, the only place I’ve seen that is in the films…

… Which brings me to the point – surely the only people who are eligible to sue are the producers of the box-office hits? Do I hear them crying out for compensation? No, I do not – I only hear about J. k. Rowling and her publisher, Bloomsbury, demanding 2 million rupees ($50,000), which the organisers of the event cannot afford to pay. They say they don’t know what to do.

Here’s a bit of free advice to those organisers – rearrange a couple of towers and battlements and call it Warthogs instead. Next time, ask people if they mind you using their idea well in advance of your jamboree, and make sure they’re someone who might be a bit sympathetic to your cause.

And tell that money-grabbing Rowling to stuff it – she’s not exactly strapped for cash.

(Note – I didn’t use a picture of Hogwarts in case I got sued!)

Read the full story HERE.

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Stephen King – not your average horror writer!

October 3, 2007 at 9:25 pm (Books and Authors) (, )

It always makes me laugh to think that Stephen King is pegged as a “horror writer”, because to me he’s one of the great cross-genre authors! Yes, many of his books have an element of horror to them, but so do millions of other books that are NOT pegged as “horror” (take a look at anything about WWII and when you get to some of the atrocities committed by the Nazis – well, that’s pure horror to me!). I find him a very versatile writer – he seems to be able to turn his hand to pretty much anything. Overall, I think he’s mostly a writer who looks at the human condition and studies society as a whole – and he’s a very interesting man to boot!

Take a look at this nice little interview:

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Spreading the Joy

September 11, 2007 at 9:15 pm (Books and Authors) (, , )

Spreading the Joy

Spreading the Joy

What do you do when you don’t have a lot of funds available to feed your book habit? Or if you do have the funds, but don’t have the space to house all your new acquisitions?

The answer is simple – you swap. You take stock of what you’ve got, you take out the books you don’t read any more (tastes change, after all!), you clear them off the shelf, leaving space for new books to take their place and … then what?

Now you have several piles of books heaped around you and you don’t know how to get started. Where do you turn?

Well, here’s a handy idea straight off the bat – you could always join The Book Club Forum and list your books there for other members to see (membership is free and you get to chat to fellow bookworms who may well introduce you to new authors and genres). Quite a few of our members have swap lists as long as your arm, just waiting for someone to snap them up, and in the case of swapping, all you’re paying is the postage on the book you send in return!

There are also sites dedicated entirely to swapping books with other people. One particularly reputable one is Read it, Swap it. This particular site only caters for residents of the UK, but if you live abroad and have buddies in Blighty, I’m sure you could sweet-talk them into helping you out if there’s something particular that you’re after. They have thousands of books listed by bookworms up and down the country, and again, the only cost is 2nd class postage, which can be as little as 58p (depending on the weight of the package). I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a bargain for any book!

If you live outside the UK, you might like to try Book Mooch – another swap site that works on a points-based system: You don’t have to choose a book in return for any you send out – instead, you can save up your points and choose the books you want, when you want them.

Another neat idea is to start a book swap circle. Get together with all your bookish buddies and organise a Swap Meet. You all gather for a coffee (or something stronger) and take your swapping books along with you. Then you can make recommendations to your pals and have a rake through their books too, leaving you all happily headed home with some great new reading material.

And if you like the idea of keeping tabs on where your swapped-out books get to, you could always try registering them on the Book Crossing, which has been running since 2001 and keeps track of many thousands of books that are now out exploring the world. Each book is allocated a unique ID number and a sticker is popped inside the front cover to let the next person know where to make a note when they receive the book.

All these things add up to one thing – you get a bit more room for some new books AND you get new books to fill up the space. Who could resist that? And the best bit is; when you’re done with those books, you can start the whole cycle over again…

Written for The Book Club Forum by Kell Smurthwaite, 2006 ©
(edited 2007 ©)

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