I turned 30 earlier this year and, whether I feel much different or not, it is a milestone that’s made me introspective. Turning 30 means being a real adult, at least in my mind, even though it hasn’t actually heralded any life changes. It would be a lie to say that sometimes I didn’t wish I was still 20 and living with my friends at college. I could never overstate how much I loved school and learning – and how much I miss it. What strikes me most about this particular age is how much I have grown up and changed over the last decade, how much I am not that girl any more. I might not actually feel like an adult most of the time, but occasionally it strikes me that I really am.
I have an example. This week was my company’s whole team meeting, where nearly 170 people get into one room (it’s a cinema, so it’s big enough for everyone) and various senior people in the company tell everyone about company performance, updates, and some of the cool stuff we’re doing. This time round, I was one of those senior people. I had to stand up in front of that many people and tell them what had happened in the world of SEO in the last six months. If you had known me when I was 21, or 24, or probably even 27, I’d never have managed it. Oh, I’d have done it – I have spoken before in front of groups, but never particularly well, and I really hate it. This time, though? This time I knew what I was saying. I was still terrified, but for the first time in my life I had knowledge and confidence to go up there and speak well. I wasn’t sure I was going to, but I did (or at least, that’s what everyone says). And I am so pleased with myself, even though to others this may not seem like a big deal, because I know how far I’ve come to be able to do that. I have been so shy and quiet for so many years of my life, and still am most of the time, that what I am now capable of truly astounds me. I’m the girl who never spoke up in class. I’m the girl who lurks and decides not to say anything, for fear of criticism. I’m the girl who doesn’t know how to start a conversation, who hates parties and networking and socialising unless I know someone to anchor me. I’m a wallflower. I often wonder how I ever found myself in a job, in a *career*, where most of what I do relies on talking to and influencing people. Being good at SEO and being good at managing, influencing and representing a team of SEOs are very different things. While I still definitely have a long way to go at my job, and I am plagued with doubt and uncertainty and frustrations most of the time, I feel like I’m on the way to being better. All I can do is try to be better. Yes, someone else may have done a better job than I’ve been able to. Someone else might have done it differently. But maybe I wasn’t a bad choice for this role. Maybe I can do this. Will my doubts go away? No, of course not. Will I look at other people and think they would have been the best choice? Yes, I still will. But I need to hold on to this feeling when I am overwhelmed, when I’m sure everything is all wrong.
And will I still be nervous getting up in front of all those people in six months’ time, assuming I again get the opportunity? Of course. I might be different on the outside, but inside I’m still so very shy.
So, now that I’ve popped out from the woodwork, what else have I been up to in the last few months?:
- Gaming. I tend to go through hobby phases, and I’m in a gaming phase at the moment. I’ve been playing a lot of a game called Stardew Valley, where you are a farmer attempting to revive your grandfather’s farm, alongside making friends with villagers, mining, fishing, and a few other tasks. It’ll sound familiar if you’ve ever played any of the Harvest Moon series of games, but it’s grounded more firmly in the real world (as much as a game like this can be). It’s so much fun, I’d highly recommend it. Before that, I played The Witcher and I’m partway through The Witcher 2, in an attempt to get to The Witcher 3.
- Just yesterday I crocheted for the first time in months to make this little turtle (hobby phases, like I said):
- We spent Easter weekend in a gypsy wagon in Cumbria. The weather didn’t work in our favor at all, but we had a lovely log fire, some castles nearby, and I took a lot of pictures of daffodils:
- And, of course, I’ve still been reading. That’s one thing I never stop doing. I’ve still been enjoying the freedom to re-read that comes with not blogging; I just read The Raven Cycle over again by Maggie Stiefvater and loved all of it so much, now that it’s finished. My other favorite I’ve read so far is Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which was everything I’ve ever wanted in a book. And the surprise of the year for me so far has been Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith / J.K. Rowling – I am not sure why I chose to pick it up, but I did, and I’ve been barely restraining myself from inhaling the next two ever since. I think it’s the way Rowling draws characters. I’m not normally a mystery person, but I loved that one.
That’s it from me for today – happy May, everyone!
Hello there, blogging friends! I’ve had a couple of life changes since last we spoke, namely these two:
I have also been making things, like this baby blanket:
Went to see my parents and visited Thomas Edison’s workshop, home, and grave:
Visited Boston for the first time in several years and was honored to take part in my best friend from university’s wedding:
Went to Bletchley Park and saw where lots of exciting codebreaking happened – plus visited reconstructions of the oldest computers:
And visited places closer to home, like Rievaulx Abbey below, with friends:
I’ve also finally started volunteering at two museums here in York on Saturdays, getting a little back into history.
There are, of course, a lot of other less positive events going on, but all things considered, the last few months have been okay, and I feel I’ve made good use of summer 2015.
I’ve been doing lots of re-reading, and reading more chunksters. I’m in the middle of re-reading the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews; I love these books and rediscovering that has been a joy. I hadn’t read the latest two because I did want this re-read first; it’s paid off, just like my Robin Hobb re-read earlier in the year, which I also finished during my hiatus. I spent a month reading a book about Alan Turing after visiting Bletchley Park; I’m now way behind on my reading goals, but it was fascinating. I’ve also read some books that I was really excited for, like A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson and The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I am sorry I didn’t write about them, because they both haunted me in different ways, but there’s still time.
It will be my challenge this autumn to rediscover my blog, and either keep it up or let it go. In the meantime, though, I hope you all enjoy the end of your own summers.
It’s been a full month since I last published a blog post, which is my longest unannounced break from blogging ever. To be perfectly honest, my heart hasn’t been in it for a very long time, and the longer I leave blogging, the harder it is to return. It isn’t as though I don’t have things to say about the amazing books I’ve been reading; it’s just that I seem to have lost the will to sit down at my computer at the evenings or on the weekends and write them.
I’m sure I’ll be back. But not just yet.
It’s that exciting moment in the life of a series reader – the book that you’ve been waiting for has finally come out, and whether it’s arrived in the mail or you’ve gone to pick it up from the bookstore or the library, it is in your hands and you can’t wait to open it. In fact, you start reading it immediately. Right?
Not so much.
I’m not going to deny that getting a new book in one of my favorite series on release day is genuinely exciting. I am a huge series reader. I love so much about books in a series; interconnected stories, characters I can continue to revisit again and again, the opportunity for expansive world-building that can rarely happen in a single book. Years before I blogged, I fell headlong into love with epic fantasy and invested hours of my life reading The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, Kushiel’s Legacy, and the Farseer books among others. I have always felt that a talented author can often do more with a series than they can with a single volume, although there are plenty of stand alone books that I love too.
But that very interconnectedness and world-building means that I am hesitant to start that new book. I always have a compulsion to reread the rest of the books in the series before I start the new one. You see, I am also a reader who likes to read books in one sitting. I like to experience everything as close together as possible, mainly because I am forgetful. If it’s been a year since I read the last book, multiple years since the ones before, I know I will miss something. I’ll be disappointed because I’ve forgotten how the author has managed to tie volume 7 into volume 3. There are recaps, but they are never as good as just reading the books again.
I also know that I’m going to love rereading that series. For instance, Robin Hobb has just released Fool’s Assassin, a book featuring FitzChivalry Farseer, a follow-up to what has to be one of my favorite series of all time – in memory. But I’ve forgotten so much about these books because I read most of them over a decade ago and I don’t actually think I’ve reread any of them, ever, despite mostly keeping up with the newer releases. I’m half excited to reread them and half daunted by the prospect of rereading at least 9 books before I can get to the beautiful hardcover I bought a month ago. I hope I’m going to love them again, but 9 books, and large ones at that.
Seriously, it’s ridiculously gorgeous.
The other two I have waiting? Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews and The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire. I love these series. I want to reread them actively and they’re short, too, so I think I can just sneak them in between newer books.
I know I should just give in and read these books I so anticipate already, and in fact that’s probably what you readers are thinking. But there’s always that temptation, and this time I do want to give in to it.
I think I need a rereading month. What do you think? And am I the only one with this particular bookish dilemma?
A little late in deciding these is better than never, right?
I’m not that good at goals. I go into January certain I’m going to accomplish everything ever and then slowly the year wears me down with minutiae and I lose what I want to accomplish. But, it’s still worth making some goals, and trying to stick to them. Here are mine:
- Either start, or at least sign up and pay for in 2015, a real class again at the university. A language or a creative writing class, or perhaps photography.
- Get better at taking pictures! Take more pictures with what I currently have and learn a little bit more about how to take good ones. Take at least a picture a week.
- Cook real food more often, rather than ready meals / takeaway / going out. I actually tried really hard at this for most of the latter half of 2013 and then totally fell off the wagon in November and December. I want to cook from scratch more often because it’s both healthier and more satisfying, not to mention cheaper. Goal here is to make lunch for work and cook from scratch 4 days a week (doesn’t have to be the same days).
- Exercise. The perpetual goal, and again, totally gave up in November and December. Christmas didn’t count, but the previous month and a half sure did. I’d like to exercise 3 times a week at minimum. I don’t need to lose weight (very thankfully) but I do get creaky and sore and out of shape when I don’t make the effort.
With reading goals, I’m actually relatively happy with my reading this year. I still think it’s worth setting some goals:
- Read 150 books. I’m going to stick with this. I think it’s a reasonably healthy, realistic amount for my own personal reading speed and with everything else above going on.
- Read more non-fiction. I set this goal last year with a specific number – more than 18. Instead I only read 17, probably because I wasn’t really keeping track. But I tend to really, really enjoy the non-fiction, especially history, that I do read, and it’s crazy that these are just a small fraction of my total number of books read. I’ll go for more than 17, this year.
- Read more books that have been on the TBR for longer. Again, the same goal as last year, although amazingly when I do pull books out and decide to read them I seem to manage. It took me most of the year, but I did read all of last year’s Long-Awaited Reads. I’m really hoping that magic works again this year. Last year’s goal was to read one book a month acquired pre-2011. I only read 6, so I got halfway there (I managed 37 books I’d acquired before 2013, which still isn’t a great amount). This year I’ll just say books acquired 2012 and earlier, one per month.
- Start making a genuine effort to diversify my reading. I’d like to read more books by people of color and either set or written outside the UK / US. I need to grow my awareness of this a lot because I currently don’t pay that much attention except for special events, and I should, because I know the world is big and if I don’t encourage diversity in my reading it isn’t very likely to happen naturally. It’s not much but again I’m going to aim for one book per month on each here.
What are your goals for 2014?
I did it!
It was really hard going, especially when I got behind.
I worked hard to catch up over the last week. At one point I was almost 8,000 words behind and I honestly thought about giving up. I didn’t fall out of love with my story this time (that’s what happened in 2011, I had an initial idea but no clue what would happen with it and that didn’t work) but I did have trouble maintaining any momentum. Writing is hard. But, instead of just giving up this time, I sat down in this chair every day after work for the last week and wrote and wrote and wrote – see the steeper curve starting on day 23.
It’s a pretty bad drawer novel, but it’s done, and I can actually finish a story.
- PLOT. I really need to learn how to sort out what’s going to happen and when. I knew the beginning, middle, and end roughly, but how I got there? Challenging. I think I might next time operate within a more detailed framework that I develop before I write anything. I got lost around the mid-way point and didn’t really know what I should write next. I also didn’t really have a central conflict, which I only realized once I got going. I introduced one, but I didn’t put enough thought behind it.
- Characters need flaws. Mine were way too perfect. And the bad guys were way too evil. It’s only practice, but it’s important practice.
- Descriptions are good and I should include them.
I’m going to take some time off writing now, possibly a couple of weeks, but I feel energized. Maybe I can do this writing thing, after all. Also, I’m proud of myself for not giving up. I’m not that good at keeping myself to goals when I get stressed out or busy through methods I can’t control (namely, the day job) and the fact that I did it means that hopefully I can keep on doing it.
Back to book blogging soon, I promise!
I don’t often take official breaks from blogging, but this week I really need to. I’m fairly certain I’m getting carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists, which makes typing very painful. Since I have to spend all day on a computer for my job, the blog has to take a rest until I’ve recovered. So, I’ll be staying away from the computer and typing in the evenings all week and I hope to see you back here next Sunday. I’ve got some reading to catch up on, especially MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, which means I will return with lots to say at least. Plus, these:
Have a wonderful week and an excellent start to October everyone!
Hello everyone. It’s been silent here for one of the longest stretches in blogging memory, and I only managed to post a review last week because I’d written it significantly ahead of time. My family have had a rough week and a half as my grandma passed away last Sunday night, and I flew home to the United States last Tuesday for her wake and funeral. My grandma was a wonderful woman, and my favorite grandparent by far, so this has been a difficult time, and was a really hard end to June. But at least her struggles are over and she can rest in peace, and life will now resume some semblance of normality for the rest of my family too.
As you can imagine, I spent a lot of June buried in books. And not writing reviews of them. I really had very little enthusiasm or energy for anything at all. I had a brief period where I started to get my energy back and I had three days of posts in a row, and I’m hoping that will happen again and stick around this time in a couple of weeks. I’ve read so many amazing books and I really do want to talk about them, so I intend to do so eventually, even if only in mini reviews. (And this week I will choose winners of my giveaway – apologies to those waiting for the news!) I’m as usual reading a lot of series, and I think I’ll probably write little cluster reviews rather than individually review books, like with the Confederation novels by Tanya Huff.
- The Heart of Valor, Tanya Huff
- The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim
- Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters
- Deception, Kris Kennedy
- Three Parts Dead, Max Gladstone
- The Better Part of Darkness, Kelly Gay
- Have His Carcase, Dorothy L. Sayers
- Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers
- Busman’s Honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers (yes, I went on a binge)
- Graveminder, Melissa Marr
- Shapeshifted, Cassie Alexander
- Elisha Barber, E. C. Ambrose
- Pompeii, Mary Beard
- The Churchills, Mary S. Lovell
Favorites of the Month
I continue to love the Confederation novels; The Heart of Valor made me instantly buy the next two in the series, after which I *think* it ends. I also spent a good week immersed in the world of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, but Gaudy Night was (predictably) my favorite, as it not only brings up a lot to think about and an interesting perspective on academia for women at the time, but also shows Harriet’s opinion of Peter changing beautifully for the better. And Pompeii was just fascinating. All recommended.
What’s Ahead in July
More posts, I hope! Here are the books I have lined up to read over the course of the rest of this month:
I’m actually looking forward to all of these books without exception. You can see that I want to finish the Confederation novels, as they’re both on the pile. And look, there are even two works of historical fiction, so I might actually feature a book that is in my “niche”. Crazy.
What’s ahead for you in July?
Since I’m not particularly inclined to writing reviews right now, I thought it might be fun if I talked a little bit about the myriad of books I’m reading at the moment and how they’re going. I’m not reviewing a very big portion of my books right now, so this might be a fun way to let you all know and comment on some of the rest of those reads a bit, if you’d like.
So! First up, I’ve been re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. I re-read A Game of Thrones and found myself completely swept up in it, despite the fact that I’ve read it twice and seen the show. I’m now in the middle of A Clash of Kings and I actually love this one, too. It’s so nice to get swept back up in a world that feels familiar, and I’ve been having a strange sort of fun picking out the differences between the show and the book. There are parts of the show that I’m convinced didn’t happen, so I’m looking forward to finding out whether this is true or not.
The whole reason I am re-reading the books is that I can’t remember what happens in A Storm of Swords, which is the current book / TV show, and it is irritating me. In addition, I haven’t actually read A Dance with Dragons, which is the fifth book (although I have it in two volumes, it is one book), so re-reading these means I will finally get to it.
The other book that I’ve been reading for what feels like a short eternity is The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark. It attempts to re-evaluate the causes of World War I, and since my husband has been interested in World War II and *its* origins, I’ve been trying this out for him as a background to the background, if that makes sense. I like history, he wants to make sure he’s reading something that will explain things to him properly, so it works out. Unfortunately this feels dense even for me, who loves history. I think it’s just because I don’t recognize any of the names or places in eastern Europe, so I quickly lose track of the significant Serbians simply because my brain doesn’t want to process their names. It’s annoying, and I’m actually very interested in the subject matter, so I’m persevering.
Finally, the last book that I’ve just started is The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell. I’m only about 20 pages in, so I don’t have any real thoughts on it yet, but I’ve put it off for 3 years, so I’m clearly not madly excited to read it. I’m still hopeful that it will be worth the time I intend to spend reading, though.
What are you currently reading?
Happy New Year! 2013 completely snuck up on me; I spent the last week of the year in the United States with my family and wound up taking an impromptu blogging break. I wish you and your families all the best for the New Year!