Goodreads Challenge – June, The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

This is a novel written in modern times but in the very convincing fashion of a Victorian crime thriller. Michael Cox is a history buff of the era so he is a safe pair of hands. The story reads confidently enough, especially for a debut, but reading through the acknowledgements it’s obvious that this has been a long labour of love.

Edward Glapthorn, or Glyver, or others, is our protagonist who opens the story with the most convincing first line I’ve probably ever had the pleasure to read:

“After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.”

Move over Jane Austen! This is exactly the sort of opening line we get told about in writing classes. Grab the reader’s attention, get ’em wanting to read more. And Cox certainly does that.

The world-building is good, with a whirlwind of locations in London (eateries, roads, locales) traversed, often with a helpful Editor’s Note (not that such a thing means a great deal to me, to whom London is a big fog). But beyond that we are immersed in a cultural creation, too, which reminds me greatly of one of my favourite books, AS Byatt’s Possession. Here too we have a poet of the era, convincingly invented, with the irresistible name of Phoebus Rainsford Daunt. And this is our villain, who we barely even see, in a psuedo-Rebecca role. The first half of the novel is devoted to pursuing this man, though we aren’t given the real reason until partway through, at which point Daunt decreases his importance as an agent and instead what he is blocking becomes the bigger goal.

Cox succeeds in creating the typical Victorian style. Hot on the heels of being swamped by Radcliffe’s somewhat clumpy, clunky prose, Cox streamlines it, but only to a suitable point. In Victorian literature, a character doesn’t just leave a room; he admires everything, from the chaise-longue by the window to the writing desk made by the famous carpenter to twenty volumes on the bookshelf. and usually a nugget of information is concealed within all this description, something which throws a speed reader like me.

I really enjoyed this book, even though I read the last 100 pages on the journey down to Castle Combe in a hurry to finish it for the end of the month. At times Edward’s voice started to annoy me, but we were luckily provided with a short reprieve in the form of another character’s account. His hedonism and reliance on substances while he went through his existential crisis phase (or woe-is-me Harry Potter 4 & 5 phase) felt a little stale, but it fit with the obsessive aspects of his personality. The ending was quite satisfying (no spoilers here!). It only took me so long to read because again I had a few other bits to do and I took about a week off reading it.

If you like Victorian literature, murder mysteries or crime thrillers, I definitely recommend it. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for ages. I will also recommend the other book I mentioned, too, Possession by AS Byatt, as I love that book and it goes further to actually create the poetry.

Now I’ve taken on maybe a bit more than I can chew here with July’s choice.

I had a couple of non-fiction reads in the pile that I’ve been steering clear of and so I decided to pick one up. I love anything to do with the sea and one of my own books is going to be partially set at sea in a naval environment, so I’m on with Ben Wilson’s Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy. I’ve read about fifty pages and am really enjoying it, but as it’s a historical narrative it’s taking a good bit longer as I need to concentrate. The font is teeny tiny and a fair few things I don’t have a clue on. Why do all kings have to have similar names? So far I’m keeping up, but Wilson’s style is conversational to the point of being on first name terms with Edwards I – III, to the point where I don’t know which one is being talked about.

I am entertaining the idea of reading one of my fiction books alongside, maybe Lucky Jim, to give two months to read this mammoth beast of a book. I’m determined not to fail in my quest!

How is your reading going?

The Books Everyone Lies About Reading

I heard this on the radio the other day at my mum and dad’s, but before they said what the top book was, the first one I thought of was The Lord of the Rings. It didn’t come out at number one, but was a close second. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve not read No 1 – James Bond (I presume they mean “all” rather than “any”, though I have listened to the Octopussy audiobook as read by Tom Hiddleston, which was a great listen on the commute to work, even if I was laughing sat in traffic at the amount of times he says “pussy”, not very mature I know), but I’ve never said I have read it. So I inspected the list on the original article, found here, and I’ve gone through it with what I have and haven’t read: Continue reading “The Books Everyone Lies About Reading”

April’s Goodreads Challenge: Starting Line

I get to come into April with a bit of a clean slate. Alongside my allotted monthly books I’ve been catching up with Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool series, in anticipation for book 3 coming out soon. I finished the second book last month so have a relatively low on-the-go pile.

While waiting about in the lambing shed I started re-reading a book I’ve attempted many times – Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, Book One of the Dark Tower series. I’ve read lots of Stephen Kings over my time, including what is probably one of the scariest books ever, It. Have you seen the trailer for the new film coming out this year? It looks absolutely terrifying. I mean, clowns, hello! The scariest things out there. When I have kids we are so not having clowns at kids’ parties. And Pennywise isn’t even the big bad in It – he’s just a facet, a mouthpiece.
Continue reading “April’s Goodreads Challenge: Starting Line”

World Book Day

It was World Book Day and if I was dressing up as someone out of literature I think I would have to be the Yorkshire Shepherdess, what with all the farming and such. We were up at the farm feeding up and tidying up and went to pick up a new calf, bringing our total to 7 (including the one with her mother). Only 3 are on milk so that’s not too bad. Where the calves are there is no running water so I have to lug a great drum of hot water about and it’s no easy task. My arms ache, especially when I can’t open the gate because the pin is too stiff for me, I can’t lift said drum over it because I’m too short, so instead I wedge it through the biggest gap in the fence I can find. It’s an ordeal, but looking after calves is my favourite bit so far so I don’t mind.

I think the Yorkshire Shepherdess is a fine person to look up to, and she’s certainly more relevant to World Book Day than the kid my mum saw in a Chelsea kit. The Chelsea Annual? Mmm, I think that’s pushing it a bit. Whenever I’m up at the farm and it’s chucking it down or I’m tired or struggling (read most days), I think to myself what would the Yorkshire Shepherdess do, and I find a reserve of strength (aka desperation) and I get on with it. I’m usually told off later for doing something wrong but I’m sure there are worse things that could happen.

But we all know farming isn’t my big interest. Oh, no. The big thing is the writing thing.

I have 3 weeks to finish my first book in my self-imposed deadline, in time for the How to Get Published conference at the York Literature Festival. I have about 12-15 chapters left to write, depending on how fast I can write/how ruthless I can be. Considering I’ve just written Chapter Twenty-Seven, which in my previous draft corresponded to Chapter Forty-Five, I don’t think I’ve done too bad in my cutting frenzy. It’s hard to fit writing in alongside everything else there is to do: the farm, feed calves, keep the house clean, do washing, rush about getting clothes in when it rains, cook tea, endless reams of washing up, panic about money and how I’m going to pay bills. I’m also going to be starting to work again come April, and before that there’s lambing to worry about. I stuck to my 500 words a day goal, but I think I might have to up it to at least 1500 a day, just so I can get some text down.

Part of developing as a writer is of course being a reader. I love reading – always have done, always will do. I studied Literature at uni at undergraduate and postgrad levels, have filled three houses up with books. As an only child, reading was a way to occupy myself when there was nobody about to play with (until I got a Gameboy, and then catching Pokemon was so much more exciting, but even then, I think I enjoyed reading the strategy guide more than playing the actual game). Reading seemed to naturally lead to writing. When I didn’t have my own stories and characters in my head, I rewrote existing stories, an exercise that helped me in turn appreciate story arcs, purpose and intent.

Being currently a frugal writer on a strict budget, there’s no space for book buying. Saying that, I did go to the second hand bookshop in Pickering a few weeks ago and buy two of Terry Brooks’s Shannara books (can anyone tell me if Book 1 is essential, as I’ve heard it’s vastly different to the subsequent two?). As part of my Goodreads Challenge I’m trying to read books I already have. In my early twenties, while most girls frittered their money away on posh makeup and going out dresses and holidays here, there and everywhere, little old me spent hers on books, music and car insurance. Hence why I can fill three houses with books and CDs and part a car at each house. Not that Millie the Puma can move at the moment.

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I know some people see reading as a waste of time, but the same could be said for watching TV, movies, sitting on Facebook. I use reading in a similar way that I write: for a moment, an evening, half an hour in the bath, I can completely forget my own silly little life and petty problems, and immerse myself in other peoples’ lives. Stories touch us in different ways and there are some books that I feel have changed my life, or my viewpoint, or have opened my eyes – The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, If This is a Man by Primo Levi, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, plus countless others. I’ve read His Dark Materials at so many different points in my life and each time it speaks to me in a different way, a huge accomplishment for what is often simply categorised as a children’s book.

Also, so excited about Philip Pullman’s next series about Lyra!

When I have a child, alongside that child running around outside, playing and learning, understanding the importance of time, and money, and kindness, and gratitude, I will spend time reading with them. I have my mother’s set of Narnia books that she had as a girl and those will go to this as yet imaginary child. And of course if writing is to be (as I hope) my occupation, I’d like my child to understand the worth of that, and the importance of imagination, even if they have no desire to write (which is OK too).

So books are important, yay? I have big plans to make a study/library in Grandad’s house, and that will be my writing cave, where behind closed doors, the magic will (hopefully) happen.

Katy

My Goodreads Challenge – February Review, Burial Rites

So February has been and went and true to my goals, I finished my book for the second month of the year, and this time it was Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. I’ve had this book on my bookshelf for a good long time and never picked it up so I thought now was as good time as ever. I must admit I think my enjoyment of it was certainly marred by the fact I started reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and was utterly wrapped up in that.

Burial Rites is one of those books that was nominated for awards and was on everyone’s TBR list. There was a lot of hype and if everybody didn’t have a copy in their bag, they knew somebody who did. The story sounded compelling, and it fit into a perfect period of time: Nordic/Scandi thrillers, female-led murder mysteries. If it had been called The Girl in Iceland it might have sold even more.

Kent is only a young writer – one of these that have done Creative Writing XYZ and I’m not bitter at all (I half-wanted to do Creative Writing but everybody I spoke to about it scared me away from it with pitchforks and burning torches so there you go). The story is indeed compelling, about the consequences of a murder that has already happened in 19th century Iceland, of all places. Like Colman’s The Rule, a young writer from my neck of the woods, the barren, cold setting is winningly created with effective, sparse prose. I didn’t like the font the book was published in, which is ridiculous I know but when that’s what you’re staring at, it can really bug you if the story doesn’t drag you in and overpower you completely.

And this didn’t. I found it hard to get into for the first half of the book. There were a lot of viewpoints to follow, and the wet assistant reverend wasn’t my favourite of characters to follow, especially when he missed a lot of the action. Agnes, the central character and the only one with a first person POV, was the most interesting, but even when she told us the truth of the murder for which she was convicted and awaiting the death penalty, I didn’t feel gripped by her story. Based on true events, the narrative was haunted by unchangeability, and that was purposeful of course, but it felt like hopes were being raised every so often, all for nothing.

Kent is a good writer, but I felt the two daughters of the family Agnes stayed with were underdeveloped, bit players in the calm before the storm. Their mother was the strongest character, plagued by a cough, and I was happy she didn’t die in the end. As a newbie to farming, it was comforting to read familiar events and tasks in a cold, unforgiving environment. I think our technology on the farm isn’t much more advanced than theirs!

I haven’t picked my March book yet but it will be something short as I’m a little pressed for time. I’m trying to finish my own book before the end of the month plus we have a lot going on at the farm. I also started re-reading Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin (Book 1 of Fitz and the Fool) after I finished Burial Rites, ready to start on Book 2 soon. Robin Hobb is one of my favourite writers, not just fantasy but overall. I’ve read lots of her trilogies and series, but I think Fool’s Assassin has been the hardest to get into. Fitz as a narrator is always compelling and sucks you into both his world and his thoughts, however in this book not a great deal happens over the first half. A plot point is introduced in chapter 1 and not picked up again, and instead we spend a lot of time with Fitz and Molly, and later Bee, in their home life. If I remember rightly, action picks up again, and I’m excited to see where that leads.

A Tale for the Time Being – Review

I do believe that sometimes we read books at a particular point in our lives for a reason – whether it reflects something within us, or something we are looking for. I’m heavily in the re-drafting process of my first book and I think I needed to read something awe-inspiring, just to really inject that spark back into it. This book turned out to be Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.

Continue reading “A Tale for the Time Being – Review”

A glance at my bookshelves (1)

(Top to bottom – New Spring by Robert Jordan, Die Again by Tess Gerritsen, The Rule by Jack Colman, The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and The Magus by John Fowles)

We’ve had a little nosy around Casa Katy, and now here for a closer look at the contents of my shelves.

When I was preparing to move out of Windy Farm, my parents’ house (and, I suppose, my “ancestral pile”, given we have lived there for a couple of years now, and before that, my great uncle lived there, and before him, my great grandparents), I realised how many books I have. Well, it wasn’t much of a realisation – I think that had dawned a good long while ago – but it really cemented just how bad my book-hoarding had become. And, most heartbreakingly of all, how few of my weighty tomes I had actually read! I took a systematic approach – or as much as I could, anyway – to my library, and split into piles: those I had read and those I had not. Easy-peasy. I classify, of course, those I have begun as not-reads.

But then came the tricky part. I was going through a phase of mad well-intentioned badly-executed organisation, which meant some books that had been read really should be taken to the second-hand bookshop (the one in Pickering, you know the one! Surely the best example of how a second-hand bookshop really should look) to be enjoyed by others. I had had a bad experience when I took three great Bags-for-Life full of books and got about seven quid in return, but I swallowed my tongue and reminded myself that this is for the greater good: other people can enjoy these books, meet new characters and explore new worlds. Besides, I probably got more per book than the average author gets. So I divvied the read books into: to keep forever and ever or at least a little while longer, in the hope I might re-read (here’s looking at you, Wheel of Time, Robin Hobb, etc.) and to put in a box for a little while and eventually send on a journey to somebody else’s bookshelves.

So I now stand in Casa Katy with a bookshelf (thank the Lord for Ikea) full of juicy tomes (not tomatoes) ripe and ready to be bitten into!

So here is a little glimpse of this Spring/Summer reading list:

A glimpse at my spring/summer reads
A glimpse at my spring/summer reads

Now some of these I have actually already finished. Go me!

In order:

New Spring by Robert Jordan – I finished the Wheel of Time last year, Jordan’s epic fantasy which he sadly passed away before seeing completion, that falling upon the shoulders of Brandon Sanderson, who also wrote one of my favourite books ever, The Final Empire (part of the Mistborn series). New Spring is the prequel that was published in between (books x and y) and details how Moiraine and Lan meet, and how she sets out following the prophecy that the Dragon will ride on the Wheel of Time once again. I really enjoyed the Wheel of Time – it was my second go at reading it, having managed in a previous attempt to get halfway through I think Lord of Chaos before losing myself. With such a lengthy series – fourteen books, come on! – and such a huge landscape to consider, with seemingly limitless characters, machinations, plots, locations and everything else, if you take your eye off the ball for even a second it’s hard to get back in. I’m super excited to read this prequel though, as Moiraine and Lan are some of my favourite characters in the series, and it’s so refreshing to see a female/male partnership that doesn’t end up in a romantic tangle.

Die Again by Tess Gerritsen – this is one of the Rizzoli and Isles books, on which the popular (and now fast approaching the end of its run!) TV series is based. I started off my dad on reading Rizzles; we loved the TV show and the partnership of no-nonsense kick-ass Boston police officer Jane Rizzoli and the Sherlock-esque Chief Medical Examiner Dr Maura Isles. In fact, I loved the characters so much I named my cat after Maura! I’ve not read any of the series but am familiar with various plots (e.g. Hoyt) from the TV programme, but Dad chucked this one at me saying I would like it because a) it doesn’t rely on too much previous information and b) Maura gets a cat in it! So I might give this a go and see how we get on.

The Rule by Jack Colman – I went to Ryedale Book Festival a while ago with Mum, just to scope out the scene and also to try and chat to a couple of local presses. I happened to speak to a very lovely lady who was there on behalf of her son, who had published his first book, The Rule, after winning a competition. All about Vikings, it was dead up my street, but I was also intrigued by this local lad who had gone and done what I spend most of my waking moments dreaming about. I bought his book and finished it earlier this year. Vikings and Anglo-Saxons seem to be all the rage now: whether it’s the Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings effect, or possibly a desire to look back at the people who played a part in forming our country(ies) and, shock horror, were a lot of them immigrants. But I don’t want to get too political! I enjoyed The Rule – the landscape was sparse and barren, really evoking just why the Vikings (and here the Anglo-Saxon once-upon-a-time scholar in me shudders to use the generic – and incorrect – term) found our island just so irresistible and, dare I say, ripe for the picking. I did find the description on the back very misleading, and as such I was guilty of that classic crime, judging a book by its cover, and found the content and the blurb a bit jarring. I struggled to connect with the lead character, Gunnarr, though I can’t fault his motives, and found the ending particularly heartbreaking.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell – from the raiders in the far distant north to raiders raiding our north! For all I want to call him Bernard Cromwell, I’ve been hankering after his books for a while, and so after enjoying the first couple of episodes of The Last Kingdom on TV (and then missing one and subsequently never catching the rest), I got the book for Christmas. Cornwell is an accomplished writer with a longlist as long as, well, a longship, and so here we follow Uhtred son of Uhtred, the Anglo-Saxon ealdorman raised by the Danes. Personally I was just chuffed that I could recall a lot from my old university days! I enjoyed this romp, though it did curious things with the pacing – something I find a little unsettling with George R R Martin. Here great events and shifts for the characters seem to be thrust upon the reader without much warning, and without much change in pace – none of your standard lulls which build up to a great crescendo, and while maybe it is intended to be indicative of the fast-moving ever-changing world of that time, it did cause me a few hiccups. I might read the next one, or I might catch up with the TV series, but it didn’t grab me with an all-consuming fervour to devour the next one.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – please excuse the lack of correct accent marks, I’m being especially lazy. I’ve had this on my bookshelves since forever and have tried it once before, only to be a bit baffled by the content and all the men with very similar names. One sunny afternoon I sat out in my patio and gave it another go, and now I’m powering through the first quarter, and think I might well make it to the end. I’m still bamboozled by all the Jose Antonio Buendia Aureliano Arcadios, but I think I can about tell them apart. This is a curious little book – I say little fondly, for it’s a monster of a story. Very famous and I think massively influential on many other writers, it combines magic realism and fantasy and warfare and family drama all together with some wonderful humour and wit on the part of Garcia Marquez. It definitely reads wonderfully well in a warm dreamy summer’s eve, of which we have very little of over here at Casa Katy (it’s raining as we speak). It’s also reading much better than another I’m on with, not on this list, and that’s the Master and Marguerita. I’m excited to see where this goes, however just as I get invested in a character’s development or a possible partnership or what have you, Garcia Marquez tends to off them or that plot point in increasingly mad ways. Jose Buendia being strapped beneath the old chestnut tree is a strong image I think that will haunt me for a good while, and I’m sure is something many might like to relate to, in these post-referendum times. Argh, I said I wouldn’t get political!

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and The Magus by John Fowles – now these two are not yet begun, and I intend to dive into once I’ve wrangled a bit of time. I picked up The Piano Tuner in Waterstones on a whim and haven’t a clue what to expect. John Fowles is known to me as a writer, as I read The French Lieutenant’s Woman when I was 16/17 and it powerfully imprinted on me. I would absolutely recommend that to anyone looking for a fantastic read who isn’t afraid of a bit of period setting, and a bit of critique on a period novel within a novel – jolly bit of inception there. I’m excited about The Magus so if I ever get on with the Jose Antonio Aureliano Arcadios, I will dive into this one.

And that’s our lot! Let me know if you’ve read any of these, if you like them, dislike them, and if you’ve any recommendations! Currently I am poor but I am the proud owner of a Malton Library card, so with luck, I might pick up some weighty tomes in there.

I’m also looking to update my Goodreads account, so look for me on there under Katy Allanby.

Thanks for reading!

 

26/10/15 – Retrospective

This is a bit of a late retrospective! It’s been a busy couple of weeks… in that all I’ve done is watch Grimm and Supernatural. Things might be changing a bit soon, but shhh, more on that later!

Listening to

I’ve become a late convert to Spotify: since I’ve been on a slight frugal curve, I’ve put a stop to the worst of my spending, basically my Amazon account. As such, a few albums I’ve not purchased, but have instead streamed off Spotify. One of these was Lana Del Rey’s latest, Honeymoon. I loved Lana Del Rey since I heard the haunting Video Games, which arguably is her best, and somewhat different to all of her other work. I remember reading an interview after Born To Die when she said she wasn’t going to release any more material, as there was nothing left to say; considering there have been two LPs and the Paradise Edition EP since then, I think it’s fair to say she dug a bit deeper. Honeymoon is definitely on the more Ultraviolence themed side of things, musically at least: a lot slower and gentler, somewhat less on the wild vocal lines as Born To Die, but consistently Lana Del Rey in lyrical content. To be honest, I think Honeymoon is much more solid than Ultraviolence: the second half I essentially bypassed, as it all essentially sounded the same, about bad men doing bad things to the starlet persona, with jarring key changes and choruses. There aren’t many bum notes at all with Honeymoon: from High By The Beach to 24 there isn’t a skippable song. Definitely music to get drunk to in a hot dry summer, sumptuous and self-indulgent, but who doesn’t love a good bit of that every now and then?

Watching

I have finished series 3 of Grimm on Netflix and in anticipation of series 5 premiering on Watch soon, I downloaded series 4 off Amazon. Totally binged on it! I’m only a couple of episodes from the end, but poor Nick is having a right time of it. Adalind is seriously getting on my nerves – I’m not necessarily sure that the correct response for someone taking your baby is to disguise yourself as that person’s girlfriend and have sex with them. I know, I know, it was Prince-Not-Eric’s idea, but still, it’s got Adalind up on this high horse and considering she is of no fixed abode, with no reliable income (and, let’s be honest, is everybody really sure that that baby is Renard’s? Paternity test! Paternity test!), and with a track record of rash and questionable decisions, she’s hardly mother of the year material. Renard had it right when he said to her “I so wish I could believe you” (hint about the baby’s paternity??) yet it appears Nick, our puffy-eyed Grimm of woe-is-me, is quite happy to follow Adalind’s breadcrumb trail of deus-ex-machina. It’s nice to see Juliette coming into her own: as a strong character she was getting a bit underutilised as Nick’s piece, though I still want her and Renard to get together: now they would be a powerhouse couple!

Grimm series 5 is on Watch on Tuesdays at 9.

Now, I may very much be late on the bandwagon here, but I’m totally into Supernatural. I’ve been hitting our local CEX and tracking down the early series (is the plural of series serieses?). I stormed through Series 1 and loved it. It is quite scary! I thought it would be more like Buffy, but a lot of it is based on ghost stories – a lot of which are the kind that are represented in every society around – and those are the kinds that in the light of day you can scoff at, but when it’s dark and cold and you’re not sure what that weird tapping noise is outside the window or in the corner of the room, they seem a wee bit more real. I just finished Series 2 and loved it! The chemistry between the two leads is great and there are some fab comedic moments as well as some truly chilling scares. This long-running show will definitely keep me going, especially when I’ve nosied ahead (you can’t help it, SPN fandom is all over Pinterest) and seen demons and angels and what even is Destiel?!

Reading

I’ve finished book thirteen! Bard the Bowman and I now embark on the last one… I am a little apprehensive to tackle A Memory Of Light: the biggie, the Last Battle. Often books that build up to an armageddon conclusion wimp out on the last couple of hurdles. I really hope this isn’t the case! I’m thinking of running a live Twitter feed as I progress through. I’m fairly sure Rand must triumph over the Dark One (does he have a name? You hear Dark One, you think Rumpelstiltskin) but getting there looks like a gargantuan task. This series has some of my favourite female characters in it: Nynaeve, Moiraine and Egwene. I’m pleased that Egwene has solidified her perch as the Amyrlin Seat. I’m also dead chuffed that we found Moiraine, after an age of a hiatus (Moiraine and Thom?!), but I’m sorry, who didn’t see Mazrim Taim coming a mile off? If you like more of this sort of drivel, please follow me on Twitter! I’ll think of a clever hashtag.


Making

While Ma and Pa were in Poland visiting Auschwitz, I had a nice long weekend with my doggy. I attempted another Pinterest recipe (somewhat hesitantly, after the too-simple turkey and sweet potato burgers didn’t quite come off) and made some brownies topped with peanut butter. I have learnt to follow your instinct – this is something that is never new to me, yet I need to be reminded of it constantly. The recipe told me to microwave the chocolate for the spread, but I was tempted to melt it my way in a bowl over simmering water. I wish I had followed my own advice! The result is scruffy but they taste amazing – sickly indeed. I will be such a little fatty after scoffing the lot.

For the past few weeks I’ve turned my hand to cross-stitch, which seems to be the revitalised WI craft of choice at the moment. I got a little one from Hobbycraft to start me off, and I’m pretty pleased with my progress! Since the picture below I have actually progressed a wee bit more, and all the flowers are done and the grass is complete!

What I did this summer

“What I did this summer”

Hmm, that sounds like a horror movie title… well I don’t think my little life is anything quite like an American horror movie!

It’s been a busy summer and I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a few weeks now, to very little avail. 2015 has been a big year for me – though it doesn’t rightly feel like it, but I’ve made some big decisions and I’m happy to say they were all for the best – and it’s not over yet: who knows what will happen? This summer has flown by – and it’s not really been much of a summer. My vegetable garden is about six weeks behind; I’ve only just managed to harvest my first courgette and have been eating fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for the past two weeks or so. But more on my garden in another post! (She says, with all intents and purposes, as if it might actually happen…)

First things first, I’m writing this from my shiny new laptop! My trusty Dell, which I’ve had since third year uni, started spitting the dummy out a few weeks back: halfway through a major plot point in Grimm season 2, my computer decided to overheat and refuse to come back to life for more than 20 minutes. Maybe it was telling me my Netflix habit was getting out of control, or maybe it was just showing its age. Dad took it apart and cleaned up the fan but it was probably just the start of a few more problems – a five year old laptop has probably run its course. So after Dad losing his temper in PC World, with me and Mum chasing after him (queues + back to uni shopping rush = not a good day for the Loys), I picked up my shiny blue HP from Currys Digital in the Prospect Centre and, aside from adjusting to a new keyboard, I’m dead chuffed.

Mum and I entered our village horticultIMG_6954ural show: cue momentous stress and rage as pastry refused to play fair, rules were lately acknowledged (if at all) and little victories. Overall we were pleased with our hauls: a first prize apiece and a handful of seconds and thirds between us, we now have enough cake to last us through the winter.

Recently I got a Netflix subscription: I’ve been addicted to Grimm (Captain Renard, all the way!), caught up with Once Upon A Time, not to mention I’ve bookmarked a whole load of other shows to watch. However after seeing about a million fandom references on Pinterest, I bought the first series of Supernatural from CEX, and now I’m hooked. I may have to take in all my old DVDs, CDs and games to pay for the rest of the series. So instead of blogging like a good little girl, I’ve been sat in the sewing room scaring myself silly watching ghost stories.

IMG_6790When I’m not watching the Winchester brothers or wasting hours on Pinterest, I’ve been ploughing my way through a mammoth book series. At the beginning of the year, shortly after leaving the PGCE, I began to revisit a series I’d gotten about half way through a couple of years back and stalled on: Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I’m currently over halfway through book twelve of fourteen! It’s been a bit of a quest getting hold of the books: I had books 1 – 8 already, purchased generally in bulk from the second hand bookshop in Pickering, but when they didn’t have the next ones, I think I went to every charity shop I could find within walking distance of work (or walking distance from St Stephens, I should say) to track down the rest. I now have all 14 and am so close to the end, it’s a bit scary! Stay tuned for a full post about this series.

Usually summers for me are a bit of a haze. Most people look forward to summers: teachers for obvious reasons, gardeners for the fruition of months of preparation, and others for, I don’t know, warmth, heat, sunshine. When you work in summer schools, it’s a little different: summer is our busiest time (or rather, May onwards). I’ve worked in summer schools now for six summers (which sounds like an age) and so I tend to spend the best parts of summer in apprehension of what’s going to go wrong next; I’m good at forgetting my birthday in the middle of July. Usually the end of summer is marked for me by a trip to the Nurburgring, and this year was no different! We went at the end of August and it was scorching: I got some interesting tan lines as well as a few laps in. Got some pretty good pictures as well, which eventually I will upload in a separate post about this bi-annual pilgrimage. Last trip of 2015 – sad times!

I’ve got a week off work now, hurrah, so will have time to prep a load of posts, but also to do all those things I’ve not gotten round to yet… like watching the rest of Supernatural series 1 and Grimm series 3, and get closer to the end of the Wheel of Time! ^.^

I’ll make a promise here, too: separate posts on what I’ve learned this summer in my garden, a recap of our trip to Germany, and a rambling incoherent piece about my book series.

Until next time!

Little Storyteller – Juvenilia: A Little Life in Scribbles and Dreams

Delving into Juvenilia: Reflecting back on my scribbles and dreams…

A life of scribbles and dreams!
A life of scribbles and dreams!

While I’ve been conducting my Minimalist March Purge (see here: https://notmuchofayoungfarmer.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/decluttering-march-the-month-of-minimalism/) I came across my old stash of handwritten notes, compiling probably half of my Juvenilia. I do have distant dreams of all these scraps of paper being collected up one day, by a bored postgraduate in an archive somewhere or else by my biggest fan, and compiled into a nice big compendium, chronicling where my genius began.

Then when I found it all, I read through it, and realised I was definitely living in a bubble both under the misguided comprehension that I was indeed at all talented and within my own ego.

So this is what happened:

Minimalist March - more of that juvenile writer's life.shreddingIt might seem harsh to shred things that I obviously (upon close inspection) had spent a great deal of time and effort over. But it was probably something on a lower rung from juvenilia, if I’m totally honest: very much baby writing. It will have shaped the stuff I’ve written in earnest since – characters, plot lines and themes have all persevered and in some places blossomed – but there wasn’t much I can do with it. All of it is inside my head anyway.

I have learnt a bit about myself through doing this: I’ve been able to view my current writing in a different light, and revisit things that had once been so important, and which might still contribute to changing my writing for the better.

When I’m interviewing, we often talk about teaching as being a career that is constantly changing, where you are always learning new things and improving, and that is what draws most people in, and is what I thought had drawn me in, but in actual fact, terrified me. On the flipside, I have come to realise that my current writing has been stagnating: it desperately needed to change, evolve; it needed a fresh outlook, in all honesty. So while it was hard initially to feed those first few pages into my shredder, it was useful to do.

Like Nora in The Siren, one of my favourite books (guilty pleasure!) which I may one day review if it’s not a little close to the nerve, who shreds chapters because they aren’t strictly fiction; I too felt like I was shredding the parts that were a little too close to reality…

So now I can put it to a different use! I will use it to line the trenches that my beans will grow in this year. Reusing, recycling!

This has been quite a serious post. Apologies! Minimalist March is very much almost at its end, and I’ve done… what? I’ve cleared out six bags of clothes, three bags of books, listed a whole bunch of stuff on eBay, taken some bits and bobs to the charity shop, aaaand… that’s it. I’ve done a room! Bully for me.

Roll on Minimalist April!

Love Katy

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