Category Archives: Non-fiction

Reader’s dilemma

Choosing a book to read is like walking through a minefield for me. If I haven’t read something by the author already, I risk picking up something I won’t like. Horror!
You used to be able to weed out the dross by going with a publisher you had luck with in the past, but self-publishing has become popular – even for authors who could get a publisher to take them on if they asked. The small payments from book sales means cutting out the middleman is a sensible thing for authors who want to make a living at writing novels, but it makes choosing a good author much harder.

I read over a hundred books a year, mostly novels – and I still will not impact the list of books I want to read. That list keeps growing. I am getting older, and as time goes by, so does the potential I have to read all of those lovely stories.

Don’t waste my time with a book that you took too little time writing, editing or researching (or all three)! Make your finished book worthy of the effort you will have to put into it to sell it.

I can forgive mediocre writing if I am reading a non-fiction book for information, but in a novel it is extremely distracting. Poor grammar, punctuation and sentence structure makes me focus on that and then I miss the story-line. No matter how good the plot is, it is ruined by sloppy writing.

Along with my hatred of bad writing comes the joy in the variety of topics and ideas that now come to be available in vast quantity. Maybe sacrificing quality is the result, but I hope that discerning readers will find a way to filter out the less worthy before such authors become successful and set the new and lower standard.

The Trunk

I was an efficient packer, back in the day. That is, when I went somewhere that I needed to pack for. When I went off to the big city for the first time, my father presented me with “The Trunk”. It may have been something from WWII, but it did the job and doubled as a sturdy item of furniture all through college. All my worldly possessions went into this heavy item, all except my electric kettle. You are not even allowed to keep a kettle in dorm rooms now!

I was reminded of the trunk when one featured in an Hercule Poirot episode I saw on Netflix recently. I remember it fondly and wonder where it ended up. A thing like that never dies! The trunk is a fantastic item of luggage if you have a porter or other strong person ( I was tempted to say ‘man’ there, but I am getting the hang of all this nonsense about gender-neutrality. I meant man. I would never ask a woman to lift things for me.) As having a porter is something requiring more cash than I will probably ever have, I am also glad of the lightweight carry-all; but am also grateful that I now have a car with an extensive flat area in the back.

On the subject of the car, I think the amount a child (young adult?) takes with them when they go to college is related to the volume of storage area made available during the exit. In retrospect, if I had rented a U-haul, my eldest daughter might not have left enough of her worldly goods in her/my bedroom to sustain a normal person for a lifetime when she ‘left’.

I managed with a trunk about four feet by three feet by two feet. Just the one. I may have packed the wellies separately… I didn’t need a pharmacy of products for hair care and skin attention because, well, I was going to college to study. And all the people I was with understood intimately that I was a poor student, not a runway model. I also paid very little attention to having coordinating linens. In fact coordinated anything was not part of my kit.  I expect I would be shunned in today’s dorm. I do remember finding a deal on a family sized instant coffee can (thank you Nescafé and Woolworths) which made my room a very popular place after classes, and before classes, and sometimes while we were supposed to be in classes.

We start our children off very young with the amassing of stuff. Most of it is rubbish, wont last, and is not even made to last as long as you might use it. We buy all these things and then feel obliged to house the stuff in ever larger houses, storage lockers and sheds. It promotes a disdain for things of real value and working towards anything, or for things. Everything must be instant and easy to get. We end up working to pay off the debts for things we bought, but no longer own; or perhaps it is just that we can no longer find them amid the rest of the rubbish we have since amassed.

The Quest

Life is driven by the need to answer questions. The trick is understanding the nature of the question and then determining how much you really do want to know the answer. I am a curious, maybe trending to a nosy type, with an insatiable appetite for information. I panic sometimes when I feel my ability to store and retrieve information is dimming from what I remember, on good days, as a once brilliant radiance. I have days now when I can’t remember the simplest word or person’s name. Having a grandmother and aunt who had severe Alzheimer’s, albeit in their 80s, is probably what makes me feel this more acutely than most. Forgetfulness increasing with old age seems to be the human norm. It might be hubris, but I intend to fight this all the way.

My success with losing weight (basically just getting my tiring body off the seat and moving forward at a pretty good lick) has inspired me to greater achievements in other parts of my life. I want to achieve very desperately. Perhaps it will be a sign of my independence but it is also one of the few things I feel able to work on and succeed. I want to be fit when the average woman of my age is complaining of their ailments; and I want to be productive when they are retired and idling. It is how I want to be remembered.

The quest for the questions is my theme. I enjoy the answers but the quest is the thing that drives me on. Competing. I had no idea that I was so competitive.

I’m a loser!

52lbs down in twelve months, and 9 to go in Phase 1.

I forgave myself frequently over the past year for eating incidents. No guilt. I enjoyed the Tiramisu, the vodka, cider and gin, and the baklava. Then, I got back to the sensible diet and I walked. Oh boy did I walk. (671 miles so far this calendar year.) It isn’t a chore any more. I look forward to listening to the music, breathing in the fresh air, and letting all the nonsense swirling around in my head sort itself out while I get into my pace. Now that the winter days are here I am finding it more difficult to get the mileage in. I may have to resort to the dreaded stationary bike – Jim.

Thank you to the Loseit app for my weight loss, and to my Fitbit Flex for a much fitter body.

Next spring – running. That is the plan anyway.

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1)Still Life by Louise Penny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this read, with its compelling characters that maintained their flaws and foibles through a nicely complex plot. The scenery was well described, but the rich character development was what made the story.

This isn’t the first I have read of this series, but reading the books out of sequence is working for me. I think this is a tribute to how Louise Penny has maintained the characters and setting through this series.

Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team investigate a death in the very small village of Three Pines. The residents provide a closed environment so suitable for a murder investigation.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Pirate King

Pirate King

by Laurie R King

read 26 May 2012

Mary Russell, Sherlock Homes’ wife, is inveigled into joining a film company producing a film of a film of the Pirates of Penzance. She chaperones a crew and a lot of young actresses to Portugal and to Morocco, in hopes of discovering what happened to the director’s previous assistant.

I got the impression that Laurie King might have read the same historical fiction about the corsairs of Salé as I had… (The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson) Considering how much historical fiction I trawl through, it was odd that this topic has not surfaced in my reading until these last few months – and now three times if you count Clive Cussler’s Corsair.

The Postmistress

The Postmistress
By Sarah Blake
Audio finished 14 May 2012

England is at war with Germany and the US is resisting it. A Doctor from a fictional town on Cape Cod goes to London to help out in the Blitz of World War II, and also to escape the town where his first death-in-childbirth has happened.
The postmistress is a strange spinster who falls for the local town defence man. She is all about order and procedure. She has a letter from the doctor to give to his wife if he dies. She breaks the rules and reads a letter that suggests he is dead but can’t bring herself to let down the wife.
A radio correspondent meets the doctor and sees him die in an accident with a taxi after an air raid. She takes a letter from him but following the horrors of the fleeing Jews she records in Vichy France, she visits the Cape but can’t bring herself to give the letter to the doctor’s pregnant widow who doesn’t know he is dead.
The story describes the effects of recording people’s stories, and how a story keeps existence going. Other themes include how people deal with secrets, the truth and the telling of it.