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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

OK..... Weird..... But, oh my............ AMAZING.

Random Internet Book Meme Thing...... (Part 2)   

26. Do you like to write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? 

No. I write reviews once – for here. 

27. In general, do you think books are better or worse now than they used to be? 

They’re different. It’s possible to think that they’re ‘better’, however you want to define that, but it’d be a difficult case to make. Modern books tend to reflect modern sensibilities. Give a modern book to someone even 30-40 years ago, never mind 50-100 years ago, and I’m guessing that, once they got over the shock, they’d find a lot of the text incomprehensible. Modern books do tend to be faster paced, generally have more violence, more sex and more profanity than older books, but ‘better’? I’ll leave that for future generations to decide! 

28. Where do you usually discover new books? Physical bookstores? Online? Social media? 

Everywhere. I’m *always* on the look-out for more books. 

29. Have you ever joined a book club? 

No. I like to read what I like/want to read. I think I’d struggle regularly reading books that I ‘had’ to read. 

30. Where do you like to read? At home on the couch? On the train? In bed? 

I taught myself to read on the train (I used to get travel sick so essentially read until I started feeling ill then stopped. Eventually I can read all the time on a train now. Reading on the bus or in a car is still problematic. At home I read on the couch. I only read in bed if I’m ill. 

31. What deceased author would you have liked to meet? 

Iain M Banks so I can chat to him about his Culture novels. 

32. Think about your favorite genre. To you, which author is the master of that genre? 

Favourite genre is still SF (although Crime & Historical are close). No such thing as *the* master of any of them.  

33. Do you judge a book by its cover? Would a shoddy cover put you off? 

Covers are there to attract attention and they work. A ‘bad’ cover would probably reduce my chances of picking it up, but I go more off the blurb and the author/subject matter than the cover. 

34. Do certain tropes attract you? For example, orphans, love triangles, anti-heroes? 

Of that list it’d be anti-heroes. I don’t really ‘do’ tropes. 

35. Are there any books you haven't been able to finish? Why not? 

Yes, BAD ones! 

36. What are some of your favorite quotes or scenes from a book? 

Too diverse and numerous to list. 

37. Did you read books in school? Can you remember which ones? 

I didn’t really start reading voraciously until around 14. But one of the earliest books I read in school, loaned to me by my English teacher, was 1984 by George Orwell. 

38. Are there any books you could read over and over again and never get bored of? 

It’s VERY rare for me to re-read anything. I don’t think that I could read anything over and over but there are a (very) few books I’ve read 3 times, but I’m unlikely to ever read them again, again. 

39. What's the last book you read? 

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips 

40. What's the last book you bought? Did you buy it online or at a store? Ebook or paperback? 

Sunset Swing by Ray Celestin. Paperback from my local supermarket. 

41. Do you like to display your books on a bookshelf or keep them in a virtual library? 

I’d say over half of my books are on shelves, though not all of them are on ‘display’. 

42. Do you prefer flash fiction, short stories, novellas, or novels? 

I don’t even know what ‘flash fiction’ IS! But novels – I like meat on my bones (even if I am a veggie). 

43. What book can you recommend to me? 

None. I don’t know you well enough for that. 

44. When did you last visit a library? 

Well over 5 years ago probably. Maybe longer. 

45. Have you ever had a crush on a book character? 

Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice. 

46. Has a book ever made you laugh out loud? 

Yes, especially the funny ones. 

47. Has a book ever made you cry? 

No, I don’t think so. A few have made me sad though – mostly for what was happening to some of the characters. 

48. Are you generally good at guessing twists or being able to see what's coming? Have any stories genuinely shocked you? 

Part of the fun of reading is trying to ‘guess’ what’s coming next. Sometimes I get things right which is fun. I enjoy getting things wrong though. Books, especially novels, should surprise you – hopefully in a GOOD way. 

49. What's your favorite drink, snack, or beverage to have beside you while you're reading? 

Pepsi Max or Orange soda. 

50. What book will you read next? 

I started ‘Kill Chain – Drones and the Rise of High-Tech Assassins’ by Andrew Cockburn last night. It’s really good – if you’re into that sort of thing. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

I'm guessing he's happy...........

Just Finished Reading: Colonial America – A Very Short Introduction by Alan Taylor (FP: 2013) [123pp] 

Countries, it seems, are born in much the same way as most things – during a time of prolonged suffering, pain and a fair amount of blood. America is no exception to this rule. Far from being an empty and virgin land when Columbus ‘discovered’ the West Indies, the Americas – both North and South – had long been populated by diverse cultures who had crossed the Bering Straits land bridge during the last Ice Age and have been estimated to be in the multiple millions when the Spanish arrived. With talk of ‘golden cities’ to the south other Spaniards soon followed looking to make their fortunes and, with the aid of primitive firearms as well as the far more devastating diseases especially smallpox, spread death and destruction wherever they went. Not to outdone – at least not for long – other European nations, notably the French, British and Dutch set about developing colonies and trading posts further north trading in furs and other easily transportable goods. Here, as in the south, disease and conflict eased the path to European domination. Eventually, after many decades, two nations were left standing – Spain in the South and Britain in the North. 

Colonisation of the ‘New World’ was far from easy and far from a done thing. Early settlements failed for numerous reasons. Empires fought each other on American soil – all sides using the local populations as auxiliaries and mercenaries in their wars - for eventual domination and the right to exploit the rich resources found there. Predictably, the natives did not fare well not matter whose side they chose in the conflicts. When they were necessary, they were used. When they were no longer required, they were either abandoned, ‘relocated’ or eliminated in a number of ways. The natives, as they found to their cost, were simply ‘in the way’ of the ever-Westward expansion. Apart from the exploitation and expulsion of native peoples the other foundation of both South and North America from the very earliest days was slavery. Columbus himself arranged for the enslavement if the island natives in the West Indies whose eventual demise led to the importation of African slaves to fill the shortfall in natural replacement. Some of the Northern territories depended on their very existence on the slave economy to produce the valuable cash crops, such as tobacco and rice (required to feed slaves in the West Indies). Overall, except for a very few, the birth pains of both America’s were neither short nor mild. 

This filled in quite a few gaps in my knowledge of early American history. I knew something of the early colonial efforts in the North as well as the Spanish depredations in the South but it was interesting to see how early trading with Native Americans led, eventually, to war between Britain and France and how this conflict shaped the futures of both what became the United States and Canada. Likewise, it was interesting to see the gradual moves of the original British colonies towards independence (more of which later). It was also interesting to get some general context for some of my family history. I was surprised when I started digging into my families past that I had a number of ancestors who had migrated to America in previous centuries. One relative died in Richmond, Georgia in 1784, while another died in Isle of Wight County, Virginia in 1720. Even further back my ancestors were dying in Charles City, Virginia in 1653 and Boston in 1652 presumably as refugees from the English Civil Wars. An interesting and informative read on many levels. Recommended and, as always, more to come. 

Monday, August 08, 2022

Pretty much what I looked like through most of the '70's.

Just Finished Reading: Murder by the Book – Mysteries for Bibliophiles edited by Martin Edwards (FP: 2021) [304pp] 

Collections of short stories are a great way to ‘try before you buy’ especially when they’re part of a much bigger series of books such as the British Library Crime Classics (BLCC). Before this volume I’d only read a single book from this series (Mystery in White – A Christmas Crime Story by J Jefferson Farjeon) back in 2015 so continuing with it is LONG overdue, I think. The BLCC books cover the Golden era of British crime novels and rescue lost classics and lost authors that are, unfortunately, no longer in print. I think there’s over 100 of these books now in print (I have about 15 in a stack) and although I won’t get around to reading all of them, I’m going to make a stab [lol] of getting a goodly few under my belt. 

I thought I’d start my rest reading (after the failed start in 2015) with something pretty obvious – mysteries related to books. I mean, how could I turn THAT down. Running to 16 stories from the likes of A A Milne (yes, he wrote mysteries too and not just Winnie the Poo), Edmund Crispin and Ngaio Marsh these were stories of frustrated authors, obnoxious or difficult publishers (it’s amazing how many publishers come to a particularly grisly end in detective fiction!) or mysterious rare books that MUST be had by collectors no matter the cost. Most short story collections are pretty hit and miss affairs, but I was impressed here by the majority of the stories. In fact, I think only one of the tales disappointed me – and that was only because the clue was an obscure reference (at the time I presume) which I already knew. My particular favourites where the first story A Lesson in Crime (1933) by GDH and M Cole where an author has a personal demonstration of a perfect crime by a disgruntled reader, A Slice of Bad Luck (1939) by Nicolas Blake where an Assassin’s Club dinner serves up murder along with the port and cigars, Malice Domestic (1946) by Philip MacDonald where a married couple seemingly view each other with murderous intent (and where for a while I suspected the family dog was the, presumably unintentional, murderer), We Know You’re Busy Writing (1969) by Edmund Crispin where an author will murder for some time alone to write his book and, finally, Chapter and Verse (1973) by Ngaio Marsh where a mysterious old Bible from New Zealand causes quite a stir in an English village. 

All in all, I was very impressed by both the range and the quality of the stories presented here. Not only shall I be looking forward to longer works by some of those authors in the coming months/years, but I’ll almost be dipping into other themed short story collections in this series too. Recommended for all lovers of Golden Age British crime stories and anyone interested in bookish mysteries. MUCH more to come from the BLCC collection.