Tag Archives: books

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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Lazy Bones

Happy New Year to all, I hope you have had a good festive break.

As always the start of another New Year brings with it the inevitable question of ‘What are your New Year’s resolutions?’ Personally I don’t make them, mainly as I don’t believe in them. Just because the year is one number higher, why does that suddenly mean you are going to stop being lazy and actually do the things you’ve talked about?

I’m a great procrastinator (at work anyway), and nowadays blame the internet. I suspect that there is a direct correlation between people who say they don’t have enough time to do things, and those who spend the most time surfing the net and playing on facebook. Maybe everyone should make a New Year’s resolution to go cold turkey and give up the internet one day a week for 2013. If we all did that, and then spent that time buying and reading books, we would make James Daunt and Waterstones very happy!

Apparently (well according to Wikipedia, the font of most of my knowledge) resolutions originally stem from the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Well that sounds like a silly resolution to me, returning all the books I’ve borrowed and accidently forgotten to give back would take me til 2015 to do.

Of course sometimes resolutions do have their place. Take the Hilda’s for example (for new readers this should explain them) Hilda1 is having teeth implants next week to straighten her wonky teeth. After this she is going full out for a makeover with a new hair style and some new clothes. Whilst Hilda2 was talking about going on holiday to somewhere snowy so she could go bottom boarding whatever that is. Never mind that 1 is in their 80s and 2 is in their 60s, its a new year and they are going do something. As  Du Plessis says in Wild at Heart ‘Its how you live your life, not how long you live it for that counts’ which the Hilda’s would obviously agree with (although they seem to be going for both how and how long).

Whilst I don’t do resolutions, I do like ‘to do’ lists which I suppose in a way are mini resolutions. Lists of things to do over the holiday, lists of housework that needs doing, lists of tv programmes I’d like to watch. My favourite list is my list of books to read, which is a list I’ve never yet completed. For every one I finish I usually add four more. Maybe I should make a New Year’s resolution to actually finish one reading list before starting another. But thats the thing with resolutions apparently 88% of them fail anyway, so why waste time making them!

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The Memory Game

I suspect that people read less nowadays then they used to. Obviously I have no scientific evidence for this at all, but I think its probably common sense. When Charlotte Bronte was penning her stories up in Howarth her other options for entertainment were housework or painting (or maybe polishing the church pews!) so writing and reading would have been all she had to do.

Nowadays of course, we not only have tv and radio, but computers, the internet, games consoles, mobile phones the list goes on. I read somewhere recently that nowadays people go for months without hand writing anything. This means that soon adults will forget how to write completely and will only be able to type. I think it’s hard not to argue that tv and social media has had a massive effect on reading as well and definitely its had a negative effect on peoples ability to concentrate.

TV shows tend to treat us as though we have the attention span of a half dead goldfish. I recently watched an hours show about criminal psychology on Channel 5 (I know, it’s the red top of the terrestrial tv world) It started by telling us what they were going to show in the programme, then we had 10 minutes of actual show, before we got ‘Coming up…’ Then of course we had the first of 3 ad breaks (all over 3 minutes long) Then back to the show which spent 5 minutes telling us what we’d seen before the ad break, just in case we’d forgotten in the space of those 3 minutes.

This went on for the entire show. I imagine if you added it up (which I may try shortly) you would probably only get about 30 minutes of unique material in the whole hour.

This is why I think people no longer read books. Unless they can actually sit and read them in a whole session (Do they still make Dick and Jane books?) then people forget what they’ve read the following day. They are so used to having everything repeated and repeated that without someone going – ‘Welcome to chapter 2, in Chapter 1 we found out…’ – they can’t remember what happened.

Maybe this could be a new business idea? In a recent conversation with a friend she pointed out that my ability to read very fast is a great attribute. Maybe I could use that to start a whole new series of books. I’ll read a book and then turn it into the equivalent of a channel 5 documentary with a few pages at the beginning of each chapter summarizing what you are about to read, and a few pages at the end of each one saying what is about to happen in the next one. Of course this will definitely have to only be available as kindle editions – can you imagine the size of a Mark Billingham novel if you did this?

It could be a winner though and yet another great reason for owning a kindle. I’m off to contact Amazon now (This idea is copyright of acrimereadersblog…)

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Nothing to fear

As an avid reader who travels by trains a lot the purchase of a kindle was obviously a no-brainer (especially thanks to a generous donation by my Gran!) The idea of being able to have thousands of books all on something the size of an average paperback is to me pretty amazing.

I should say at this point that I am not a gadget person. I don’t get excited by new phones, or flashy IPads, and my perfectly functional computer is about 10 years old. Gadgets to me are similar to assembling flat pack furniture, something I leave to my sister. However the kindle is a different matter. It doesn’t flash, sing or dance, it looks like a book, acts like a book, in fact it is just a book but better.

Now don’t get me wrong, they are not perfect. For a start it is way too easy to buy books on them. All you have to do is click a few buttons and you have the whole of Amazon at your fingertips – for someone like me who has a real fear of running out of things to read this is dangerous. (I wander if there is a term for that, nobookaphobia maybe?)

I still love real books, and personally despite predictions I don’t think the printed word will ever be completely taken over by kindle. At home I would still rather read a real book. I love browsing in bookshops, and can easily spend hours wandering round Waterstones. There is something satisfying about seeing a row of books lined up waiting to be picked that will never be replaced by a simple list in a kindle. At home I have shelves of books in my house and am always slightly disappointed that when I read a book on a kindle it won’t get added to those shelves.

You can’t share Kindle books with others either. I enjoy swopping books with friends, if I’ve really enjoyed a book I like to be able to pass it on to someone else and say read this. Telling someone that you’ve just read a great book on a kindle is not the same. I think people are less likely to read a book if they have to write down the title, look it up on amazon and then buy it themselves. Many a time I’ve been given books by someone that I would never in a million years have actually bought myself, no matter how good someone told me it was. The Twilight books are a good example, I was given the first one by a friend so I read and really enjoyed it. I didn’t think I would though so if she hadn’t put that physical copy in my hand I would probably have never actually read it.

Another thing that is a shame with a kindle is that you have no idea what other people are reading. On a train or in a bar I think its interesting to see what people are reading and I think there is no better advertising than having your book read by a load of people sat on a train. Of course the fact that no one knows what you are reading can be a good thing sometimes. As an event organiser I spend a large amount of my time out of the office, so with a kindle in my hand I could be reading important work related documents. Then again…

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May 15, 2012 · 5:25 pm

A bad day for pretty

Today is International Women’s Day, which apparently started as far back as 1908 when 15 000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights and better pay, although it was first celebrated in Europe in 1911.  In this country women demonstrated in the streets, went on hunger strikes, threw themselves under horses all to fight for equality with men. A century later and Women now have the vote, can drive a car and finally I’m sure Emmeline Pankhurst would be incredibly pleased to know we also now have pink lego!

This was something that had passed me by until this weekend. As a teacher and a mother of two young girls my friend is a bit more au fait with current child trends than me. So for the past 50 years or so, girls have not played with lego because it wasn’t pink. Really? Are we really all so utterly brainwashed by stereotypes that we can only buy lego for a girl if it’s pink? It’s the demise of the last non-gender specific toy in the world. (According to my friend who was rightly very annoyed by this)

Apparently the world has come full circle, and we’ve skipped right past the equality that women were aiming for, and gone straight into everything for girls being pink and fluffy. Take dressing up outfits for example, girls get princesses or fairies, boys get superheroes and doctors. I would much rather be a superhero flying out to save the world, than a princess stuck in some castle bored stupid.  The same issues can be seen in the world of literature, as it seems people believe women will only read books if they are pink, fluffy and branded as ‘chicklit’, whereas boys read everything not just ‘cocklit’ (Short for Cockerel thank you).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot of so called ‘chicklit’ over the years, some good some bad, mostly following the same premise – boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy is bad to girl, girl moans to gay best friend, quiet nerd next door befriends girl, girl realises she has been in love with nerd from the start. Some of these are funny, and very cleverly written, and I’ve enjoyed reading them, but just like I didn’t need my lego to be pink, I don’t need a book to have a nice fluffy cover in order for me to pick it up.  

Personally I would say modern day crime fiction has managed to bypass this pink stereotyping and is read by both males and females. Somehow I can’t imagine the likes of Patricia Cornwell writing ‘Last Cupcake of Death’ with a pink cover and glitter all over it (not to be confused with her Scarpetta Cookbook, the only Patricia Cornwell book I haven’t got a copy of, not sure its one for a vegetarian)

At last years Festival the sessions we went to seemed to have quite an even split between male and female attendees and looking at the programme for 2012 there isn’t a huge bias one way or the other when it comes to authors. Of course there are probably statistics that disprove me, however ignoring the ‘fireside crime novels’ of the likes of Agatha Christie, or M.C Beaton I don’t think people choose their crime fiction based on whether its got a male or female protagonist, or if its written by a man or a woman. Some excellent novels are written by both males and females together, such as Nikki French for example, and there are even serial killers who are females killing just for pleasure not for a man.

Mind you saying that, I picked up the Chelsea Cain novels purely because they had a female serial killer at the centre, plus one of her novels had a heart on the front (albeit one drawn in blood) so maybe us women really are swayed by pink and hearts…

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