Category Archives: blogging

First thrills

This weekend I was very excited to write my first ever guest post which was featured on the wonderful cleopatra loves books site.

My post was part of a series she runs called put a book on the map. I was discussing Eva Dolan’s series of books which are set in my home town of Peterborough.

I really enjoyed writing the post, however it is very nerve wracking to see your own words on someone else’s blog. I knew when it was going to be published but I was almost too scared to look. When the comments started coming in I had to turn my tablet off and didn’t dare read them until I had a couple of wines in me. This was absurd as I don’t worry about posting on my own blog in the same way. I usually type them out and post after a quick spell check. For my guest post I wrote it and read it and rewrote it and read it and rewrote it again. I know Cleo has a much bigger following than my blog does, but honestly I spent more time on this than I ever did on any of my university essays’. Mind you this was much more interesting than anything I ever did at University.

This series is a great way of finding out about new books and brings to life the places where the novels are set. I think I even managed to make Peterborough sound like a place you should visit. Judge for yourself here. https://cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/put-a-book-on-the-map-bookonthemap-peterborough/

Whilst this was my first guest post I hope it’s not the last, and next time I might not be quite so worried about the response!

 

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The Missing

A lot of book bloggers create a list of their top ten or twenty (or more) books of the year. I’d love to do the same but I have two problems with that:

1) I can’t remember all the books I’ve read and have to admit that due to time constraints I probably only review about half of what I read.

2) I would really struggle to narrow down all the books I loved to only five or ten and would get myself very worked up about what I was missing.

Therefore I’m going to do a slightly cheating version and instead pick my top lists that other bloggers have created.
First on my list is the excellent blogger Cleopatra loves books. Her top ten included a couple of my favourite books of this year including Val McDermid’s Out of Bounds which I had as an audio book and as with all her books it completely drew me in. Cleo’s list also includes the Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish which I have heard nothing but good reviews of and is high on my list of books I want to read.
A blogger who always astounds me with how much reading and reviewing she manages to fit in is Linda’s book bag. Her top books of 2016 include the excellent Valentina by S.E Lynes which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend. Valentina also makes an appearance on DampPebbles book blog  alongside Black Eyed Susans which was another cracking read this year
Of course it wouldn’t be a post of other people’s top books of 2016 without mention of one of my favourite and most prolific bloggers Raven Crime Reads. Whilst we disagree on Gone Girl, as I know she wasn’t keen and I really enjoyed it. We complete agree about Pierre Lemaitre’s Blood Wedding which was a fantastic novel. It was the first of his I read and I was lucky enough to meet him at last year’s festival.
Finally the blogger with the list that most closely resembles those I’ve read is Tracey’s book blog.  Her top ten includes 6 that I have read and really enjoyed.
Obviously this is by no means an exhaustive list of bloggers I follow, there are way too many to mention but these are some of my favourites. One of the great things about being part of a book blogging community is the sheer volume of blogs out their relating to crime fiction (and any other type of hobby you might have)  Of course the biggest problem I find with looking at all these blogs is that they mainly just end up adding to my own tbr pile. As always it is a case of too many books and never enough time. However it would be a very sad state of affairs if I ever ran out of books to read, luckily I’ve got lots of book bloggers top ten lists to keep me going for a while.

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Mud, Muck and Dead Things

So this weekend was finally the dawning of Mr F’s big challenge. As you may know in his wisdom he had decided that he wanted to raise money for a charity he is involved with. Mr F thought that cycling the length of the Leeds to Liverpool canal and back in two days would be a good way to do this. Of course this meant that being the selfless kind of partner I am, I jumped at the chance to drive the support van. Apparently I’d find lots of lovely café stops along the way, have loads of time to enjoy reading in the sunshine and generally find it a thoroughly relaxing couple of days for me. Well Mr F talks utter nonsense. 

After months of planning and training (Obviously Mr F concentrated on the cycling side of things, my contribution was to make sure I had enough books packed to keep me entertained) things started well. 4.30am the sun was almost shining, the van was full of energy drinks and sandwiches and I had a pre-programmed satnav telling me where to go. Skipton was the first stop for me and an early morning Costa Coffee plus the magic toilet key from the Canal Trust meant it was a nice leisurely start in the sun with a new book (Death in the Dales in case you are interested)20160630_185455

If I now tell you that 4 days later I am reading that same book and some of its pages are still damp, you might guess that it wasn’t the leisurely couple of days I was hoping for.  The weather was horrendous, rain was heavier than I’ve seen it for ages, there was thick mud everywhere, journeys took much longer than they should have done, there were mechanical failures, a crash and at no point were feet dry.  I don’t think Mr F had much fun either!

muppetsThe first day was definitely the worst. The weather meant that everything was running behind. Even when the sun came out there was so much mud that it was dangerous to ride it. Two hours I stood with Mr F Sr. on a bridge waiting for the cyclist to appear, we looked like we were auditioning for the parts of Statler and Waldorf. At least on this stretch Mr F did learn that sometimes it’s best to go round puddles not through them, and flying over the handlebars headfirst into them is definitely not a good plan.

Some of the parts I visited were very pretty, there were some lovely canal moorings and if you managed to see through all the rain it was probably very beautiful. There were some lovely people we met on the way and the fried egg sandwich that Janet and her baps provided on the Friday morning was possibly the best one I’ve had for years. However all in all this was quite possibly one of the most stupid ideas that Mr F has ever had. It does just prove how stubborn he is though as he did the whole 255 mile journey and finally got back to Leeds very wet, very cold, very muddy, but having raised over £2500 for Africa’s Gift which made it all worth while (probably!)

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Body of Evidence

As you all hopefully remember a couple of weekends ago the clocks all went backwards an hour. This meant that for one day only everyone had an hour extra in the day. I very smugly used this extra hour to go for a run, although this meant in reality I was in bed by 9pm that night. Of course the clocks changing cause it to be pitch dark by 5 at night. Which means our street is even quieter than normal as when it’s dark older people do not venture out. At least that is what I always thought.

They do say it’s the quiet ones you have to watch, and on the surface it doesn’t get any quieter than our street but I’m now convinced this just hides a dark secret. As I’ve touched on briefly before there is a real element of Stepford Wives living down our street. The lawns are all mown to stripy perfection and the windows are always shiny. However I’m beginning to think it’s even more sinister than that. I suspect there is an entire criminal underworld operating down my street, the Stepford Wives of Apple Drive is just the cover up. Apple Drive is actually the ‘go to’ place for body disposal.

Once you look for it, the evidence is there for all to see. Despite the fact we live on a cul-de-sac with very little traffic all day,  suddenly at 4am you’d think we lived next to the M25 there are so many cars going up and down in the middle of the night. Then there is the chap up the road, who always carries a carrier bag with him. He walks up and down past our house at least five or six times a day. Firstly nobody needs to go shopping that often, and secondly his bags are always full on the way out, and empty on the way back. He is the main ring leader, The Chopper. The bodies get dropped off early morning, he chops them up and then buries body parts across the city. It’s the obvious explanation.

He’s not in it on his own, it’s a full street effort. The old couple over the road with the daily deliveries are receiving the cash payments. Why else would they get so many parcels delivered? Howard 2 is the driver for when they need to move heavy torsos. He comes across as deaf as a post, as he shuffles round with his walking stick. Yet once a week he goes out in his car in the middle of the night. The only way we know he’s been out is because invariably in the morning the car will be parked at some random angle across the drive way, or one night he’d backed it straight into his garage door.

Betty up the road disposes of smaller parts that it’s not worth burying. These she just puts into the wheelie bins around the street. You’ve never seen someone so keen to put other people’s bins in and out. As soon as the bin collectors have gone she’s off like a rocket putting everyone’s dustbins back, so she can check all the body parts have gone from inside. Mr Emmerdale Farm Extra cleans up after The Chopper, that’s the reason for the wellington boots and wax jacket. Even the grandkids of the old couple over the road get involved, the young boy looks like he’s innocently kicking a football around or riding his bike, but in reality he’s acting as look out and messenger. How else does The Chopper know how many bodies to expect?

Once you look at it like that it all fits. It also explains why the street is so quiet during the day, everyone is worn out from all the night work. I know the publicised reason behind the clocks changing is something to do with farmers, but I’m not sure that’s the real reason. I think it’s to help out body disposal groups. More darkness in an evening gives more chance for them to get bodies delivered. I’m definitely going to stick to early morning runs in future, less chance of me getting caught up with The Chopper.

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The End of the Wasp Season

Well the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is only two weeks away. Therefore the 2015 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Challenge (try saying that quickly after a couple of glasses of wine) is very nearly at an end.

By my reckoning there are 56 authors appearing during the main three days of the festival. Of those there are 28 authors that I haven’t read. That is a pretty poor show by anyone’s standards. I’m actually beginning to think that this might be an impossible challenge. I think I need to join forces with some of my fellow bloggers who are attending. I’m sure if we all put our heads together and combined our reviewing forces we’d be able to cover all the authors. Maybe I should arrange for us all to meet for a coffee at Harrogate and we can see if we’ve managed it?

On the positive side however, the TOPCWFC2015 Lite as I’m now calling it is much more manageable. The aim of this one is to read at least one author in every session. Again by my own calculations removing things such the dinner, and the reader awards there are 16 sessions. Currently I have read at least one book by an author in 15 of these sessions. I think with two weeks to go that is pretty good going, so it’s just one more book to go.

Of course the actual blogging is very far behind the reading
I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone who was saying they used to write a book review blog, but found that they read more than they had time to review so gave it up. I completely understand what they mean, I definitely read alot more books than I actually review. I suppose it depends on what you like doing most. If you let yourself get bogged down in it, the reviews start taking over your life, the unwritten ones becoming as annoying as a wasp round your glass of wine. I enjoy writing this blog and I like to think that occasionally someone other than my family actually read it, but for me it’s always the actual reading that is the best part. The blog is just an added bonus. On that note, time to stop writing and get on with some more reading I think. Challenge completion here I come.

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The two faces of January

Well once again Christmas is over, last year’s calendars have been taken down (well nearly, I keep forgetting about the one in the bedroom but it does have a lovely orang-utan picture on it) and New Year’s resolutions have been made ready to be broken.

It seems this year that rather than making actual New Year resolutions, the more popular options are to just make changes for January with numerous challenges being advertised. There is Jantastic (which I must confess to taking part in) where you set an exercise goal for the 4 weeks. You then hope to achieve your goal by telling everyone who’ll listen that you are doing it and hopefully someone will remember enough to ask you how you are getting on later. Luckily you can change your goals at any time so if you don’t quite make it then it’s easy to change them.

There is Veganuary, which as you can probably guess is where people give up all animal products for the month. This is something I’d quite like to try as have always fancied giving veganism a go. Unfortunately there are two problems for me with this. I’m addicted to mayonnaise, and we currently have enough cheese in our fridge to rebuild the entire moon. I hate to waste food so maybe not this year.

There is also of course the popular Dryathlon, where people ask for sponsorship for giving up drinking alcohol for a month. I’m sure everyone would agree that cutting down on alcohol is a good idea. However there is something about this event that just makes me a little uneasy. There are lots of people out there for whom drink is a real battle so maybe all donations should be given to AA instead. Not that I’m knocking anyone doing it, every little helps as Tesco says. Any event which raises money for charity as well as raising awareness of the cause is a worthy thing to do. However I just wonder if rather than putting up a poster and ticking off the days until the next alcoholic drink, maybe raising money for cancer research by cutting down alcohol intake for a whole year would be more beneficial rather than this current all or nothing approach.

Personally I think rather than doing a month of something and then stopping whether it be exercise, diet or learning a language it would be much better to try and make permanent changes. That’s why I like the reading challenges going around. They are for a year not just for January. Obviously most people are focussing on Mark Zuckerberg and his personal ‘read a book a fortnight’ resolution. Yet before he jumped on the bandwagon there were others out there doing similar things.

The excellent Goodreads website encourages people to say how many books they want to read in a year and tell people on their website (https://www.goodreads.com/challenges/3082-2015-reading-challenge) If ever there was a suggestion that people don’t read anymore this surely proves them wrong, so far over 580 000 people have signed up pledging to read an average of 51 books, that’s a lot of books to be read in 2015.

Of course these are all just the challenges and resolutions that are newsworthy and I’ve no doubt that all over the world people have made their own targets for 2015. Personally mine are to read 50 books, to participate in at least 5 10ks this year (note I don’t say run them all!), to swim at least twice a week and to remember to take down the 2014 calendar that’s in the bedroom. Fingers crossed I remember what I’ve said by the end of the month.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dead run

I have recently taken up running again. Now I’m never going to be a marathon runner, but I would like to be able to run a full 10k eventually. Therefore I started small and downloaded a couch to 5k programme on my phone, got myself a new audio book (Jeffery Deaver, the skin collector) and started pounding the streets.

I do like the idea of being a runner, the whole running along the beach with the wind in my hair looking carefree and gorgeous really appeals to me. However the reality is not quite like that. Apart from the short hair not really blowing in the wind, more times than not I run for five minutes and turn into a red faced sweating machine unable to string a sentence together whilst cursing the blisters on my feet. I know all the theory, I buy the magazines and I’ve read umpteen books on running however I’m just not very good at it. I know that like anything it takes practice and in order to become a runner you have to actually put the effort in but sometimes I’m not sure the effort is worth the outcome.

I suppose my problem is willpower, and I’m the same with reading. I love reading and always have a few books on the go. However there are some books that although I really like the idea of having read them I never actually get to the end. Take Jane Eyre, I roughly know the story but if I was actually quizzed on it I don’t think I’d know the answers. Pride and prejudice is another of those classics that it seems the majority of the world says they’ve read, but I haven’t. I have read the story of Charlotte Bronte’s life, but not her actual books despite part of me wanting to. Its the effort I suppose, and like with the running I often start but never quite finish.

I don’t think it’s because I lack stamina, I’ve posted 131 times on this blog for example so obviously I can keep up with some things. Although even with this I’ve read many more books over the year than I’ve actually reviewed on here. I suppose its just about effort level.

Sometimes things just click, for example I have read Gone with the Wind which would come under the long classics bracket, and I really enjoyed it. Equally last week I had a lovely run along the canal and although there was still alot of walk breaks being taken actually I felt like a runner, but other times things just don’t seem to work.

I suppose it’s all about how much you want the outcome, and accepting that maybe you just don’t want some things quite as much as you think you do. Therefore I’ll keep reading crime and reviewing, I’ll keep attempting to run and ignoring the worried looks of passer by’s as I run up behind them and they suspect a herd of elephants has got loose, but I may just have to accept that marathons and the complete works of Shakespeare are just never going to happen.

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