Tag Archives: books

Endless Night

Now I never thought I would have to write the following sentence.

Apparently some people don’t like crime fiction.

I know it’s quite unbelievable isn’t it? How can people possibly not enjoy a good tale of murder and intrigue? Personally I don’t get it. It’s like people who don’t like red wine or cheese. I know people like that exist but these are not people who I’m likely to become friends with.

However maybe investigating life outside crime fiction isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have recently read The History of Bees. I admit this is not something I would have picked up myself. Mr F bought it for me, as he’d seen something about it (on facebook I imagine!) Not being particularly at home in a bookshop he’ll have dashed in, asked a shop assistant for a copy and dashed out again. Clearly this is not a crime fiction book. I’ll be honest when he gave it to me I did start to wander if he knew me at all. However in the interests of home harmony I gave it a go. Well once I started I couldn’t put it down, this is a superb novel. I’d highly recommend it to everyone and I’m very glad I was given it, as otherwise I don’t think I would ever have read it.

That’s one of the great things about World Book Night, it encourages people to not only read more but to read stories they wouldn’t necessarily pick up. York Libraries are celebrating World Book Night in just that way. As well as encouraging people to donate books for Bookcase For All, they are also sharing the book love by asking people to donate a new copy of their favourite book to a library for others to enjoy, and to encourage a friend or neighbour to join the library. They are also getting people to read something different by asking the librarians for recommendations of books that have inspired them or going onto goodreads to tell people what books they enjoy.

As readers of this blog will know I am passionate about reading, and think anything that gets people reading is a good thing, I also think that people who love books also love talking about them. That’s why World Book Night and York’s celebration of it is such a good idea. Although I do think one night isn’t long enough, it should be endless!  We all love to talk about books, and when you read something that is really gripping you want to tell everyone about it. Running ‘bookcase for all’ is another excuse for me to bang on about books and reading. It’s such a thrill for me when someone comes back after having taken a book I’ve recommended and asks if we’ve anymore by that author (admittedly in a recent case he asked if I had any more by Mark Birmingham, fingers crossed he meant Billingham or he may have been rather disappointed!)

So maybe there is something to be said for broadening one’s horizons in the reading world after all (I’m never going to like white wine though!)

World Book Night is on the 23rd April. Find out more about York’s celebration at York Explore or via the York Press

Also keep an eye out for Bookcase For All on Look North next week, potentially Monday!

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The Book Case

So Tuesday was my first trip out with Bookcase For All. For those who don’t know the idea is that we provide books for the homeless and vulnerable in York. When people think of the city of York they think of historical buildings, great tourist attractions, and for those of us of a certain age the Blue Peter competition to design a boss for the ceiling of York Minster. Whilst there is no denying that York is a beautiful place and we are very lucky to live here, like most places there are those who are struggling with the high cost of living, and with life in general. York has a high population of homeless and it seems like this is a problem that is just getting worse.

One good thing however is that there are some fantastic organisations within York providing essential items to people in need. The Lunar Project concentrates of period poverty and provides an outreach service twice a week, as well as providing boxes of towels and tampons in schools. Another excellent project around is Kitchen for Everyone York (KEY). They provide a hot meal on a Tuesday night as well as a cooked breakfast on a Sunday. Mr F can sometimes be found cooking sausages and bacon at KEY on a weekend (which is great for me as it means he’s not stinking out my kitchen frying it!)

One idea that had been brewing with me for a while was the idea of providing books for those who would like them. You often see people on the streets quietly minding their own business reading a book. As someone who reads a lot it bothered me that not everyone can afford to buy books, and whilst I am a huge fan of the library, without an address you can’t get a library card. Having done a bit of research there was no specific place I could donate books to try and reach vulnerable people. Therefore the idea for Bookcase For All (BFA) was born, and thanks to KEY a venue was offered to trial.

Everyone warned me not to get too disappointed if I didn’t get any takers to start with, it takes time to build up trust with people. However, my first outing was a huge success with over ten books taken and lots of requests for different genres and themes. What struck me both at BFA and when I went out with the Lunar Project, is the absolute lack of greed of people with nothing. When we were out offering hot drinks, alongside socks and gloves people were only taking items if they needed them. At BFA anyone who came up to chat was told to take anything they wanted from my pile of books, yet people were not just grabbing anything. They were picking up, and looking and choosing just like a proper library.

The other thing that surprised me and really shouldn’t have is that readers are all similar no matter what their home life. They all love books. They love to talk about books – what they have read, what they would like to read, what they are currently reading. People who like to read all like to talk about what they read.

However, the big thing I noticed is how narrow my own reading choices are.  As you know I read crime fiction, therefore 99% of the books I own are crime fiction. Therefore all of the books that I had for my first BFA were crime fiction. To me this didn’t seem to be a problem, yet apparently there are some weird people out there who don’t read crime fiction. Luckily I was saved by a donation from a friend which meant I had a much more eclectic mix of books to offer.

What it has taught me though is I’m definitely going to need a better source of books than just my own bookshelves, so if anyone is in York and has any books they could donate do let me know.

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The black ice

The ice is out in full force at the moment which means my walk to work takes on a whole new challenge, where just staying on your feet becomes a task equivalent to reading war and peace. This takes on an added dimension when the ice is combined with the fun that is recycling day, where it is not only the invisible black icy patches that have to be avoided.

This being York, nearly everyone recycles. Down our street where the average age is about 152 the recycling boxes are mainly just newspapers, with the odd plastic container that probably contained Horlicks thrown in. We obviously have a few more glass items in ours, although this week I was incredibly embarrassed putting out the bottles. There was only 4 in there, what must people have thought. I promise I’ll try harder this fortnight.

Obviously down the main street there is a much wider variety of recycling coming out of the big houses. Despite the obvious dangers of tripping over escaped caviar pots or rolling champagne bottles I must admit I find the chance to see what people are buying fascinating. Before recycling became popular the only way to know what complete strangers had for tea was to go through their dustbins which is borderline stalking apparently. However now just walking down the street allows those of us with a keen interest in the human race (some people call it nosy, I just like to think I am interested in my surroundings) access behind closed doors.

Of course the problem with that is you don’t get the full picture. It’s easy to see what people had for tea with the abundance of organic M&S ready meal wrappers. There is one house that I swear must buy the same ready meals from waitrose every week. It’s good to have a routine I suppose although personally I prefer a bit more variety in my food.

The ones that really frustrate me are the abundance of amazon parcels, especially the book shaped ones. Short of actually picking them up and hoping the delivery notes have been left inside (which I would do if I thought I’d get away without being seen) there are no clues from the outside as to what was inside. I’d love to be able to see into people’s houses and look through their books. There should be a website where people could post up pictures of their bookshelves for me to peruse. It would be like Waterstones but without the impossible to resist temptation of actually buying books.

Unfortunately until then I’ll just have to continue trying to spot peoples bookshelves through their windows and trying to guess what the latest purchase is. At least once the ice has gone it’ll make the walk a bit safer and I can concentrate on looking at the recycling rather than trying to spot patches of ice.

 

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Under the knife

Well as the eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted there has been another break in the blogging and reviewing here at acrimereadersblog. Unfortunately this time it wasn’t due to anything exciting or involving sunshine. I can however say that I’ve found somewhere that provides even more opportunity to read than a delayed East Coast train, a hospital waiting room.

I’ve recently had the dubious pleasure of a hospital trip. Now obviously that’s never going to be seen as a good thing but looking on the plus side it does provide the gift of time due to the endless waiting around.

As everyone reading this knows I’m a huge book fan. I’ve always thought there is no situation that can’t be improved by ignoring it and reading instead. Well it turns out I was wrong. Despite the saying ‘lose yourself in a book’ no matter how good a story you are reading, it’s not possible to completely disregard the surroundings you are in. This was especially true of the hours I had to spend waiting around for my operation. As if sitting around in paper pants and a back to front gown wasn’t bad enough things went rapidly downhill when across the room came the cry of ‘Can we watch Jeremy Kyle?’ Sadly the nurses refused my request to knock me out then and there.

Unfortunately things didn’t improve much after the actual operation either. I’m sure I’d been cast as a silent extra in ‘Carry on nursing’ When the nurses weren’t discussing whose turn it was to make the tea, they were pushing people round the wards in beds seemingly trying to recreate the Olympics Opening Ceremony with little success. Hearing nurses wandering round in the middle of the night asking if anyone has seen patient x does not fill one with complete confidence. In fact at some point in the middle of the night when I was accused of stealing my own notes (technically even if I had moved them they were surely mine anyway) I was convinced that I was actually taking part in some brand new reality tv show and any minute now I was going to be asked to vote off whichever non-celebrity was pretending to be my nurse (Simon Cowell – if you are reading this and want to buy the rights to Nurse Factor then do get in touch)

Of course it wasn’t all bad. I should be grateful that the hospital stay coincided with the winter Olympics. At least I was saved from the slippery slope that is day time tv by a new found interest in housework on ice. Who knew that watching people sweeping the ice whilst their friends played marbles, or a woman hurtling down a slope on a rather small tea tray would be so fascinating. 

Luckily my stay in hospital was short lived and I’m now enjoying a few weeks of recuperation surrounded by piles of books to read and enough flowers to make Kew gardens jealous.  Fingers crossed therefore that normal service has now been resumed and I can use this unexpected spare time to catch up on my book reviews (although a trip somewhere sunny also wouldn’t go down badly!)

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The keys to the street

Well as you may know, last week was the big move, so it’s now all change for me. This may come as a surprise but I don’t embrace change well. Challenges are fine, I like trying new things, but actual change causes untold bouts of tears and tantrums. Therefore I am officially calling the big move a challenge not a change (Keeping in mind my previous sentence I suspect Mr F would agree with my terminology, it’s a good job I’ve found a patient boy!)

Anyway the challenge is now complete with the help of one man and his van (which was actually two men but one van) It is incredible the amount of stuff two grown adults can accumulate without even realising it. The first van load consisted mainly of books, which have now filled our spare room. I suspect even Mr F was rather shocked by the amount of books I have. Mind you he couldn’t really complain, at least not once I saw the extent of his Tupperware collection. I should point out here as I wouldn’t want to ruin his reputation, his Tupperware collection was second only to his booze stash – we all know which one I’ll be making the most use of.

Of course a new street means new neighbours. I’m pleased to say we have moved into a very nice quiet area. Mainly because I suspect we have accidently accepted the role of wardens in a sheltered housing project. The average age so far looks to be around 112. Our neighbour on the right seems nice, and luckily if we decide to have any wild parties there will be no complaints from him as he is deaf as a post. I’ve not yet met the neighbour on our left, although he did have a rather long chat with the man from Sky Tv. Apparently he wanted to know how he could get a security system installed like ours. Obviously he thinks that our sky dish is actually used for detecting ballistic missiles rather than just picking up Coronation Street.

As always, at least on every street I’ve ever lived on, there are the usual parking wars. On this street it seems that the instigator is Mr Van Man (no relation to our removal firm) Usually Mr Van Man parks opposite our house, which is annoying in itself. Sunday morning we heard him up and about early getting into said van. I’d assumed he was off to work, until closer inspection revealed he had actually just moved it to park in front of his own house. Why I hear you ask (unless you are a member of my family and you will therefore no doubt have guessed the answer) Being a long standing observer of parking wars, it was a standard tactic of obstruction. Their neighbours were having visitors and obviously at some point in the past had dared to park in front of Mr and Mrs Van Man. Therefore Mr Van Man must get his van there first to ensure that it can’t happen again, thereby in his head winning the battle that week.

It just goes to show that it really doesn’t matter where you live as nothing changes that much. The same petty squabbles go on in street after street. I may have swopped the Hilda’s for the Harold’s but I suspect that the gender change is the only real difference (that and I now have enough Tupperware to freeze the entire cake production from a Great British Bake Off)

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The Final Account

Well I have to start this blog with some very sad news. I’m sorry to announce that tthis will be the final account of life on the street. Acrimereadersblog is moving house and the Howard’s and Hilda’s of this rather odd cul-de-sac crew will be left behind.

It’s frankly rather a daunting prospect all round. The street is noticeably upset and I’ve been ostracised even before I’ve left. It’s understandable of course, they have to deal with the possibility of a new neighbour which is always concerning. They might end up with someone who rather than spend their evenings reading books will be more the type to get drunk and fall in the lavender bush, or hold wild parties in the front garden (a garden which holds approximately 4 people so not really sure how wild that could be) They might get someone who is much less polite than me and rather than pretend that they are actually interested in what Mother Hubbards kids are doing, the new neighbours might just ignore her. There is also the worry that me leaving brings the average age of the street up to approximately 107, fingers crossed I get replaced by someone younger or they’ll have to think about getting in some kind of neighbourhood warden scheme.

Of course it’s even more daunting for me, not only do I have to live with a boy and a cat (one of which is housetrained, not so sure about the other) but before I even get to that stage I have to do the dreaded packing.

I last moved three years ago and a friend put up some lovely book shelves for me which I carefully placed my books on and even had some space spare. However three years later not only are those bookshelves filled, so are the ones in my bedroom, and the ones downstairs, plus there are piles of books on my dressing table, on the stairs, there are even some still in bags in the wardrobe. It’s going to take days to pack them all and then there is the unpacking at the other end. I’m not sure there is going to be space for me, the books, the cat and the boy (boy free to good home if anyone is interested?)

Whilst the new house isn’t exactly far from the old house, its definitely on the wrong side of the tracks and I get the feeling there will be no nosy neighbours. The houses are all proper grown up houses and have driveways for a start so there won’t be any parking wars (see a stain on the silence) I imagine that Sundays are spent mowing the lawn in unison, creating nice perfect stripes.

There are even issues I’d never thought about, where are my jiffy bags going to get sent? (winterfrost) At least with the Hilda’s there was always someone to take in a parcel, on the other side of the tracks we’ll end up having to collect them from the post office like normal people.

Things change and the home of acrimereadersblog is moving, although one thing that won’t be changing is the reading. It may just have to be postponed slightly until I can actually find all my books!

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Bad friends

I spent a lovely evening out on Tuesday with some friends. A few glasses of wine and the conversation turned, as it tends to with me, to books and my favourite authors. I was asked to recommend some new authors which you would think I’d be happy to do.
However despite my obsession with all things crime literary, I find it is one of those questions that sends me into a state of panic. Mark Billingham of course is one of the first names that always slips willingly off the tongue but I find after that I get stuck. There are so many authors I love that having to pick one or two is like having to choose between chocolate or biscuits.
There is of course also the fact that I have a shocking memory, so the first author that always springs to mind is the one I’m currently reading. That’s fine at the moment for example as I’m reading Val McDermid therefore that’s would be a very good recommendation for anyone wishing to try crime novels. However sometimes I can be reading something not quite so good or something that just doesn’t go with my image of me. The crime reading heavy metal fan admitting to reading a Mills and Boon would just ruin my street cred (not that I have ever read Mills and Boon of course and to be honest I suspect I’ve always had very little street cred anyway!)
The other problem with recommending books is that I think it’s a huge responsibility. If you tell someone they should read a book and they don’t like it, well it is an awful situation for everyone. They have to tell you they don’t like the book, and that’s like a personal criticism. You then feel bad for putting them in that situation, its a vicious circle. A bad recomendation can suddenly create bad friends!
I think books are even harder to recommend for people than films. A film is usually quite short so even if it’s awful its only two hours of your life thats been taken up. Often the popcorn is worth the outing alone. Whereas books take much more effort. To read a book can take hours and hours (or in my Dad’s case years and still counting) so you have to really invest the time and energy into it. Often people don’t want to spend time doing something like reading a book, when they can get the same story in a two hour sitting.
So it means that the pressure when recommending books really is a serious business and not to be taken lightly. Fingers crossed my friends on Tuesday enjoy Mark!

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