Books, Life

the bookworm’s guide to reading on a budget

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I’m currently Saving Money For The Greater Good Of My Future. It’s a trial, but I’m just about bearing it. Here’s how …

The Open Library

for those who like to enjoy the wonder of the library from the comfort of their home (AKA those who avoid other humans at all costs)

You have to sign up for this website, but once you’ve done it – huzzah! You’ve entered a secret cult of booklovers and teadrinkers just accessed a library with zonks worth of books that are yours to read FOR FREE!

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Project Gutenberg

for those who do not wish to sign up for anything. and like older books. you rebels you.

I’ve spent countless hours using this website. In fact, I read the great majority of G.A Henty’s books on Project Gutenberg and I regret nothing; for now I, too, can write a tale of an honest looking youth – not handsome, mind – around the age of fifteen who is VERY VERY COURAGEOUS! and has MUCH PLUCK! (not the kind of pluck one would do on a chicken’s feathers) and lives an exciting life interspersed with a droning, monotonous voice that says Lord So and So moved his armies to such and such a place in the year something or other.

(If you have ever read a Henty, you will appreciate the very great wit which I have just employed. Probably.)

I also read The Rose-Garden Husband, discovered what a love triangle was (SPOILERS: the heroine chose Bill. Or was his name Bob?), and found Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of the Lammermoor to be disgustingly miserable.

Also – it’s been over eight years and I still can’t spell Gutenberg correctly. I add an extra ‘u’.

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LibriVox

for those who cannot afford Audible. and don’t mind listening to strangers talking. for hours.

LibriVox is the spoken form of Project Gutenburg Gutenberg. Some of them are awfully good. I once tried to persuade my brothers that The Scarlet Pimpernel was a magnificent book of magnificent proportions.

It is, and it was, but I didn’t realise that a) Marguerite had so. many. emotions and b) the emotions took up such a great deal of space. I had to reassure my poor brothers that the really AMAZING AND AWESOME PART was coming up soon. It did not, in fact, come up soon. It was at the end of the book. They were not overly impressed.

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The Library. Your Local Library.

for those who are willing to leave the shelter of their homes in search of books. introverts around the world salute you.

I have nine books out right now. Nine. One of which is the hefty five book trilogy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Do you know how much money that would have cost me to purchase? A fortune. A massive fortune.

Do you know how much money I spent? Nothing. NOTHING.

I ordered a book in the other day – instead of buying the ebook version for £4.74, I spent 45p ordering it. FORTY-FIVE PENCE.

It is a universal truth that libraries make you feel good about yourself. They are peaceful places – unless there is a mother and child group in the children’s section. In which case you will be serenaded by the sweet, sweet sounds of The Wheels On The Bus (Go ‘Round and ‘Round). 

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Since making the agonising decision to save money on books (it is painful, I can assure you) no less than THREE books have been published by authors I quite enjoy. But if one must have principles, one should probably stick to them. I am using three libraries – my personal one (if I can call my kindle collection, and bookshelves that), my local one, and the online version.

It can be done, my friends. It can be done.

happy reading!

Life

mucking around on boats

I’m on holiday at the moment. After much agonising, I decided which books to take with me (a new-ish release, something of Heyer, and Mere Christianity) and which to leave behind (three other books. It hurt my soul).

At 1:32 in the morning, I jammed some clothes, a handful of odd socks and whatever miscellaneous I could find into a bag. I had priorities. My clothes were not priorities.

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One does not think one’s best in the wee hours of the morning. In fact, a life rule of mine is: never think deep thoughts beyond 12:00 at night. I end up coming to the most depressing conclusions and become the single most gloomy hedgehog in the history of ever.

Consequently, as it was late and I’ve established that I don’t think well late at night (I can write, but I cannot think. It is most odd), I forgot to pack certain things.

Things I Tragically Forgot To Take With Me:

  • A blanket. I really could have done with one. (This is England. There is chill.)
  • Aristotle, my bunny. (One always should bring their bunny with them. The fact that I’ve never done it before is beside the point.)
  • Something pretty to put in my cabin.
  • A book by Georgette Heyer; I’m reading a book about her work, but I should have KNOWN this would make me want to read one of her books.

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My ambition this holiday is to finish A Crown of Wishes, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, write a short story and go back to editing Insalted (I brought the manuscript with me. It is heavy. Very heavy.) If my ambition is as lofty as Everest, the reality will probably be as high as a molehill.

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Georgette Heyer’s Regency World is proving to be extremely interesting. For one who thought factual books weren’t her cup of tea, I actually quite enjoy them.

Why I Enjoy Factual Books:

  • They give the illusion that my brain cells are growing in intelligence
  • They intrigue me
  • I can now quote accurate facts. You can’t really say ‘oh, did you know that Lady Jane was actually a shapeshifter? And she survived and had a lovely life with her true love who was a shapeshifting horse?’ because you will receive Odd Looks and people will (for some reason) disagree with you mightily.
  • An example of what I’m learning: the Regency period is considered to be from 1780 to 1830. Oh, I’m going to be quoting that one. If I can remember it.

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happy reading!

OH AND DID YOU KNOW THAT THE REGENCY PERIOD WAS FROM 1730 TO 18SOMETHING?!!!

Books, Life

two lessons learned in april

I was going to do a sort of april round-up/what I did/how I’ve yet to conquer the world post (WHY IS THIS YET TO HAPPEN? Oh. Wait. I’ve got to do something for it? Pfft. Nah. Forget that) but … the best laid plans and all that sort of thing.

Instead, here are two lessons I have learned recently. The world is ever my classroom (or something like that …)

1 // pirates are not my cup of tea

I suppose it’s because there’s only so much adventure you can have when stuck on a boat in a massive stretch of ocean. (And yes, some may vehemently disagree as to the truth of this statement. But I digress.)

Whilst I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora* (I’m actually pronouncing the title correctly nowadays. Clue: it isn’t The Lies of Loch Lomand) I didn’t enjoy its sequel Red Seas Under Red Skies quite as much.

Why?

  • The heist made me feel as though Lynch was going to give me the most marvelous white chocolate cake in the history of ever … but then he didn’t. Instead, he gave me some horrendous milk chocolate sponge abomination.

(Thanks, Scott Lynch. Thanks a lot.)

  • High seas. Ship speak. Me … nope. Look, my Uncle once quizzed me about which side was port and I thought deeply and carefully about the alcoholic substance known as port and why you’d pass it around the table and whether there was a tradition about passing the glass around- I don’t do ship speak. (Port is on the left, I think. Or the right. One or the other. I can never remember.)
  • Once again, I can’t get the title right. So far, I’ve called it Red Skies Under Red Sails, Red Seas Under Red Sails, and Red Sails Under Red Skies. It’s confusing.

But those are mere quibbles. I am still enamoured with the character of Locke. Enough to risk the next novel. Maybe.

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2 // i enjoyed a ya novel

I’m shocked. SHOCKED! I tell you. However, I bought Shatter Me because I suspected it was terribly melodramatic. (I was feeling in the need of something terribly melodramatic.)

And it is.

Ohhhhh it is.

It is the most delicious, melodramatic piece of purple prose I have ever – EVER – been fortunate enough to read, and I’ve read fanfiction. (And written it but *cough* that’s beside the point.)

It’s well done purple prose. It’s creative purple prose. It’s unique purple prose. It’s beautiful purple prose. But it is the purplest prose to have ever posed as prose.

I let myself be gleeful, and I let myself read it. I didn’t take it very seriously, for I’m an old codger and can be as sympathetic as a very sympathetic brick.

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There are issues. I would like to point out to Juliette that not everything is solved, or resolved with tulips. And by tulips, I mean chew lips. (I’m sorry. That was funnier in my head.)

At one point, I looked at myself in the mirror (as all humans have fled my presence, I am left with the companionship of the mirror. It’s okay. I find it to be a very reflective companion) and said:

This is rubbish. I LOVE IT.

Shockingly enough, the mirror did not respond.

*The Lies of Locke Lamora is an adult fantasy novel about thieves. Ergo, there is quite a bit of crass language (thieves do not, as a rule, speak Queen’s English), plenty of guts and gore, and the occasional unsavoury situation. Ye have been warned.
Books, Life

why i like one star reviews

DISCLAIMER BEFORE THE PITCHFORKS ARE FORKED, OR ER, PITCHED (?) IN MY DIRECTION: By ‘reviewer’ I do not mean ‘a malicious troll’. I mean a reviewer who is stating their opinion on the book in a fair, truthful, and often amusing way.

I am not a villain, cackling away behind the anonymity of a computer screen. However, I must admit that I like to read sparsely starred reviews. Yes, those ones. The ones that can often state – in clear, precise words – why the reviewer views the book as a tragic waste of tree, space, time, money, and so forth.

I drink that stuff down like a toddler who’s just discovered Coca-Cola.

Why? How could I? I write, I’ve self-published some novellas, surely I’d want EVERYBODY to have glorious and glowing reviews *throws confetti*

But … I have my reasons. Let me share them with you …

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i have an inherent distrust of good news

If the book is a fantasy and the reviews are mostly positive – I’ll listen. But if the book is a romance …. then I am wary and proceed with caution. If all the reviews are full to the brim of gushing words about the swooning romance, dreamy heroes, wonderful adventure, fantastic writing etc etc etc … I won’t take it at face value.

I’ve been burned and so I am painfully shy; I read the bad reviews. Because:

a) I am a practical optimistic pessimist (a state of being which I’ve just invented. join me) – if I know the worst, I can decide if it’s worth badgering my bank account for it

b) some folks’ idea of romance isn’t mine

and

b) … the reviews can be extremely entertaining.

eloquence, m’dear. it’s the eloquence

Sometimes, a reviewer can find a book – any book – to which they suffer an allergic reaction. This can provoke a beautiful response – full of sweeping prose, breathtaking analogies, and excellent use of gifs.

In short, it’s terribly interesting to observe this kind of reaction; reviewers are often very eloquent when they decide that this book is not for them and here is why etc.

I grab my popcorn and settle down to read, mesmerized.

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it can lead to beautiful things

I don’t always trust people who love every. little. thing that they read. Because I am a little cynical; how can I believe that this is the BEST BOOK EVAH!!! if you’ve said that every other book you’ve read is the BEST BOOK EVAH!!!?

(Maybe you do find every book you read to be wonderful. That’s fine. But again, my cynicism strikes like a pimple before a wedding. I can’t help it.)

If you are honest in your reviews, I can measure the bad against the good. You hated this book? You’ve stated the reasons why? Well maybe I agree with you – maybe I’ll search for your other reviews; for the books you really liked.

Maybe I’ll like them too.

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It’s a roundabout way to get a good book recommendation. It also works in the opposite way; if you hated this book, and I loved it … then maybe I won’t like the books you love, maybe I’ll like the books you hate – another way to a book recommendation. (Or if you loved this book and I loved it … we will both congratulate each other on our exceptional taste and stalk each other. Politely. In a friendly fashion.)

in summary, bad reviews can …

  • give a more rounded perspective of a book
  • save money
  • cost money
  • be entertaining

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Books, Recountings

recountings: georgette heyer and how to run a drug cartel

I’ve been reading a steady stream of factual books. This is shocking, for my reading habits generally are ‘fiction with a sparse, tiny, weeny smattering of factual’.

But no. Not this month. Nor last month. I’ve been reading books and they’ve all been off my factual shelf.

(Quite literally. I have a shelf dedicated to factual books. It’s at eye level. I haven’t necessarily read them all, but they do make me feel intelligent.)

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Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller

by Jennifer Kloester.

I wouldn’t say that I loved this book – I’ve even removed a star, for I like to re-award stars after a little thought marination.

I liked to learn of Georgette’s personal life because I’m a stalker even though what I read was a tad depressing.

Why I Didn’t Love This Biography:

  • There was a heavy focus on bills, and the need to pay them. Georgette was the family bread-winner and she had to write to keep her family’s head above water. It was a little depressing to be constantly reading about them – and it must have been even more so to have this heavy burden.
  • Her letters were one-sided. We only really read her letters to people and though I love the woman’s work, constantly reading of her very. strong. will and so very self-deprecating nature was a little … overwhelming?
  • I don’t think we’d have got on. I know. It’s an enormously sad fact, but I rather think I’d be diving under the sofa or out of the window if she was coming. She sounded like a strong character who I’d rather admire from a distance. A great distance.
  • Rather unconventional, she seems. (Like Yoda, I speak.) Her relationship with her husband was a meeting of minds and hearts, but quite passionless. And for me, I find this rather dispiriting. She wrote such wonderful novels, and I’d like to think she had a complete Happy Ever After.

She once said that she was to be found in her work. I think I’ll enjoy finding her there, rather than in her biography.

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Narconomics: How To Run A Drug Cartel

by Tom Wainwright

This book. This book. I couldn’t put it down. I came home from work, found this had arrived, picked it up, and gobbled the whole thing down in one afternoon/evening.

It. is. so. interesting.

I’m not entirely sure how Wainwright does it, but once I’d finished reading this book, I felt that I’d completed a course in:

  • business studies
  • economics
  • criminology
  • how to run a drug cartel
  • how to destroy a drug cartel

and found it all fascinating. Every bit of it. This is quite astounding for business and economics are not two words that bring much excitement to mind.

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oh yes. I just love the thought of business studies

He is one of the luckiest journalists alive just to have survived his research,‘ says the Washington Times in the first page blurb. And he is.

But honestly, if you want to be informed about the war on drugs, on how it could be more effective, on how the drug cartels work and how their franchising is a bit like McDonald’s (for realz!) I’d highly recommend this book.

It’s the best one I’ve read this year.

Happy reading!