Blog Anniversary 12 April!

 

8 todayToday is the 8th anniversary of BooksPlease. Eight years ago I’d just left work and had more time to read and write about books, so I began this blog partly to help me remember what I’ve read and also to extend the pleasure of reading and to record what I thought about the books. And so ‘BooksPlease‘ was born.

I thought of calling my blog ‘Books Matter‘, or ‘Book Matters‘ but decided that it should be ‘BooksPlease‘ because they do and also because if somebody asked me what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas when I was a child I always said ‘ooh, books please!

Right from the start it’s been more than just a book blog and I’ve also written about art, pets, places I’ve visited, personal anecdotes or thoughts, cookery, walking, travels and holidays, and about crafts, such as knitting and cross-stitch – and well, anything else that interests or pleases me.

On the book front a recurring theme over the years has been ‘what to read next‘. Choosing what to read next is almost as pleasurable as actually reading  the books.

This is the first photo I posted showing a pile of some of the books I had waiting to be read in April 2007. It seems so long ago now!

Choosing books

I don’t always manage to read all the books I list as possibles but in this case, although it took me a while, over the years I have read these books (with one exception, The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron, although I did start it –  my bookmark is still at page 61).

I really enjoy blogging  – the contact with other book bloggers, exchanging views on books and finding yet more books to read makes it even better. I love reading your comments and hope you’ll continue visiting and commenting on my blog – I really do appreciate it.

Happy Birthday BooksPlease!

SevenBooksPlease is 7 Today!

An unbelievable seven years have gone by since I started my blog! There have been many changes in those years but I’m still here on my blog. I love reading and seven years ago I decided to write about the books I read, partly to help me remember what I’ve read and also to extend the pleasure of reading and to record what I thought about the books. And so ‘BooksPlease‘ was born.

I thought of calling my blog ‘Books Matter‘, or ‘Book Matters‘ but decided that it should be ‘BooksPlease‘ because they do and also because if somebody asked me what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas when I was a child I always said ‘ooh, books please!

I can hardly believe that I’ve been blogging this long. There have been, inevitably, ups and downs over the years and there have been times when I’ve thought of giving it up, but it’s become as much a part of my life as reading is and I carry on regardless. One of the unexpected pleasures of blogging has been the contact with other like-minded people all over the world, book lovers I would never have known about, or been able to ‘meet’ who have contributed to my blog with their comments. Thank you to all of you – and I hope to continue ‘talking’ to you as long as possible.

BooksPlease is 6: A Celebration of Books

Today my blog is six years old. Reading has always been a great pleasure and I began my blog to try and capture some of that pleasure. So, I thought that for today’s anniversary post I’d look back at some of the books I’ve read over the last six years that stand out in my mind as being most enjoyable.

It’s difficult with so many books to choose from and there are plenty more I could highlight, but here are six of the best fiction books and six of the best non fiction. I think the books I’ve chosen show the range of books that I enjoy – historical fiction, crime fiction, contemporary fiction, autobiography, history, poetry (just a few poets) and philosophy/psychology.

Over these last six years I’ve seen blogs come and go and there have been times when I’ve considered giving up blogging, but somehow I’ve hung on and looking back over my blog to do this post has proved to me the value of keeping it – it’s not just a record of what I’ve read but also a reminder of what I thought of the books too. And I hope my posts do convey the pleasure reading gives me.

Fiction (one from each year)

2007 – 

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. This is historical crime fiction set  in Cambridge in 1170 during the reign of Henry II. A child has been murdered and others have disappeared.The Jews are suspected and Henry is keen to find the culprit as the Jewish community in Cambridge are major contributors to his Exchequer. He enlists the help of Simon of Naples, who is accompanied by Adelia, a female doctor who specialises in studying corpses. I loved this book, reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales. The medieval world is vividly brought to life and it’s a fascinating murder mystery.

2008 – 

Atonement by Ian McEwan – a book that moved me to tears. It begins on a hot day in the summer of 1935 when Briony, then aged thirteen witnesses an event between her older sister Cecelia and her childhood friend Robbie that changed all three of their lives. It’s a captivating story of the use of imagination, shame and forgiveness, love, war and class-consciousness in England in the twentieth century.

From 2009 – 

Fire in the Blood by Irène Némirovsky – a gem of a book, this is  set in a small village based on Issy-l’Eveque between the two world wars. The narrator is Silvio looking back on his life and gradually secrets that have long been hidden rise to the surface, disrupting the lives of the small community.  It is an intense story of life and death, love and burning passion. It’s about families and their relationships – husbands and wives, young women married to old men,  lovers, mothers, daughters and stepdaughters.

From 2010 – 

Wolf Hall coverWolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – this is my favourite, so far, of Mantel’s trilogy about the story of Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, and his political rise, set against the background of Henry VIII’s England.This first book in the trilogy is about his struggle with the King over his desire to marry Anne Boleyn. It transported me back to that time, with Mantel’s descriptions of the pageantry, the people, the places and the beliefs and attitudes of the protagonists. A wonderful book.

From 2011 – 

Blood HarvestBlood Harvest by S J Bolton. Crime fiction set in the fictional town of Heptonclough in Lancashire where the Fletcher family have just moved into a new house built on land right next to the boundary wall of the churchyard.  I was completely convinced not only by the setting but also by the characterisation that the place and the people in this book were real. It’s full of tension, terror and suspense and I was in several minds before the end as to what it was all about. I had an inkling but I hadn’t realised the full and shocking truth.

From 2012 – 

The Secret River 001The Secret River by Kate Grenville – this book completely captivated me and I could hardly wait to get back to it each time I had to put it down. It’s historical fiction, straight-forward story-telling following William Thornhill from his childhood in the slums of London to his new life in Australia in the early 19th century. Dramatic, vivid and thought-provoking, this novel raises several issues – about crime and punishment, about landownership, defence of property, power, class and colonisation.

Non Fiction:

2007 –

On Trying to Keep Still by Jenny Diski  about her travels during a year when she visited New Zealand, spent three months in a cottage in Somerset and went to sample the life of the Sami people of Swedish Lapland. This is also a personal memoir, and is about being still, being alone, wanting to be alone, phobias and the problems of coping with life and especially with aging.  I can indentify with her feelings such as not wanting to make a noise in case people notice that I’m there, not wanting others to worry about me, and worrying that others are worrying about me; feeling the need to do something such as going out for a walk – not the desire to do it for itself but the feeling that I should want to. It’s a moving, amusing, thought-provoking and original book.

2008 –

Our Longest Days  by the writers of Mass Observation, edited by Sandra Koa Wing. In August 1939, with war approaching, the Mass Observation Organisation asked its panel to keep diaries to record their daily lives and selections from fifteen of these diaries are included in Our Longest Days. Because they are personal accounts there is that sense of being actually there during the air raids, hearing Churchill’s speeches, reading the newspaper reports, experiencing the grief at the number of casualties and deaths and the terrible devastation of the war, the food and clothes rationing and the excitement of D-Day.

also from 2008:

Robert Frost (The Illustrated Poets series) – a slim little book with a selection of Frost’s verse illustrated by American, English and French painters of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Frost’s poems are written in deceptively simple language but they convey great depth of meaning. They are compact and powerful. And the illustrations are beautiful.

2009 – 

The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson, a fascinating look at life in Britain during the summer of George V’s Coronation year, 1911.  It was one of the hottest years of the twentieth century and also a summer of discontent as the country was almost brought to a standstill by industrial strikes and the enormous gap between the privileged and the poor was becoming more and more obvious. It covers a wide spectrum – from King George’s accession to the throne to débutantes  politicians, poets, factory workers, writers, and women trade unionists. There is little about the suffragettes – they agreed a summer truce for the Coronation.

 2010 –

Agatha Christie: an Autobiography As well as being a record of her life as she remembered it and wanted to relate it, it’s also full of  her thoughts and reflections on life and writing. She wrote about her childhood, teenage years, friends and family, and her marriage to Archibald Christie; but although she wrote about their divorce she didn’t write about her disappearance in 1926. She wrote about her travels around the world, the two world wars, her interest and involvement with archaeology and her marriage to Max Mallowan.  I read it in short sections and felt quite sad when I came to the end. It was like having a daily chat with Agatha.

2011 –

Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre – this is about the Allies’ deception plan code-named Operation Mincemeat in 1943, which underpinned the invasion of Sicily. It was framed around a man who never was. The plan was to take a dead body, equipped with false documents, deposit it on a beach in Spain, so that it would be passed over to the Germans and divert them from the real target. Totally outside my usual range of reading this was so far-fetched as to be almost like reading a fictional spy story. I marvelled at the ingenuity of the minds of the plans’ originators and the daring it took to carry it out.

PS – I’ve enjoyed compiling this post so much that I’m thinking of doing something similar for the paintings and places I’ve written about.

Saturday Snapshot

Reading and writing with a cat is not easy – this is the Heidi Handicap:

She likes to sit on my lap when I’m using the computer, or even in front of the keyboard, regardless of whatever else is there – in this case the book I was checking whilst writing a post.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

BooksPlease is 5!

Who’d have thought this blog would go on for five years? Not me, and yet here I am five years later still writing about books and lots of other things that please me. Blogging is now part of my life and I love it. Thanks to everyone who visits and especially to those who make comments – it wouldn’t be the same without you.

Happy Birthday BooksPlease!

BooksPlease is 4 years old today!

I find it hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for 4 years. It seems like it was only yesterday I tentatively clicked on ‘publish’  for the first time.

Over these last 4 years I’ve read almost 400 books and have written about the  majority of them. I’ve also written about places I love to visit but my blog has stayed mainly about books.

The greatest change in my reading has come about gradually over the last two years or so, in that I now read a lot more crime fiction than I ever did before and that’s down to other bloggers, but also because I find crime fiction books are about so much more than crime. There is such variety in crime fiction – dealing with contemporary issues, historical crime (true and fictional), moral and ethical issues, personal and psychological crimes, and organised crime and so on. There are police procedurals, private detectives, amateur sleuths, serial killers and racial and political crime thrillers. And I love variety in my reading.

Books Please Me

I’ve also found that blogging isn’t a solitary pursuit, although it can be if you want. I’ve ‘met’ so many kindred spirits on book blogs and other blogs too. There are numerous reading challenges and memes to join and the opportunity to discuss books with people world wide. I’m very happy that I ventured into the book blogosphere. Thanks to everyone who reads my blog and especially to those who’ve taken the time and effort to make comments.

Weekly Geeks – Overly Critical?

This week’s Weekly Geeks host Tara asks if we are OCRs?

O.C.R. = Overly Critical Reader

Symptoms:

  • not liking characters in the beginning
  • needing the main character to prove themselves before you’ll respect them
  • rolling your eyes while reading
  • needing things to be completely realistic
  • shouting things such as “WTF?!”
  • needing every plot twist and turn to be foreseeable

I don’t think I’m overly critical. I’m quite fussy about what I read in the first instance, so many books just don’t get a look in beyond the first page. I want to enjoy what I’m reading so I don’t start any book that looks boring or as though it’s not well written.

I do get exasperated when I read a description or a fact that I know is wrong, but a book doesn’t have to be completely realistic – I can suspend my disbelief to a certain extent. And I certainly don’t want every plot twist and turn to be foreseeable because that would be far too predictable.

I don’t feel the need to like all the characters, in fact unlikeable characters can be more interesting and necessary to the plot. It would be terribly boring if every character was ‘nice’.

I like reading critical reviews because then it gives me another view from the gushing praise some reviewers give (on Amazon for example), so in my reviews I like to say why I don’t like certain aspects of a book if I’ve found it disappointing or poorly written and give an overall idea of whether I loved it or not. I don’t give ratings on my blog, but I do on LibraryThing, where my average rating is 4 stars (out of 5). I also rate each book privately as I read it; most are between 3.5 and 5, where 5 is excellent and 3 is average. I don’t put it on the blog because it’s very subjective. I’ve noticed that this varies from blog to blog and I’m wondering  if I should start putting my rating in the review?

Happy Birthday BooksPlease!

Three years ago today I began to write regularly on this blog and this is my 846th post.

I started out very tentatively but now feel at home here. My intention at the beginning was to keep a more detailed record of what I was reading, but I soon realised it’s also a good place to record places we’ve visited; actually my first posts were mainly about places rather than books!

I also discovered memes. I had no idea what these were, ‘memes’ up till then were something I’d read about in Richard Dawkins’s books. Booking through Thursday soon became addictive and most weeks I still take part. Actually you could do a meme each day of the week if you want to and I then realised that this was taking me away from reading, so I’ve cut down on them.

Then there are the Challenges. I thought them too difficult at first and didn’t take part. But soon, when I realised that you don’t actually have to complete them I found that they’re a very good way of learning about new books and also of getting down to reading some books off my tbr piles.

So, after three years of blogging what has changed? I written about most of the books I’ve read – see the tabs above for my book reviews and indexes and I’ve learnt a lot, found many other book bloggers who share my love and enthusiasm for books and added loads of books both to my tbr piles and my wishlists, but most of all I’ve enjoyed it all immensely. I love the contact from all over the world and the comments I’ve had -I hope you all keep on visiting!

Awards

i-keep-coming-back-for-moreThis summer I received two awards, which I haven’t acknowledged on this blog (my excuse is house-hunting, we may be near the end of that now, but I mustn’t say too much in case it all falls through).

Cathy of Kittling Books gave me the I Keep Coming Back for More Award. In her words:

The I Keep Coming Back for More! Award is for a blog you just can’t stay away from. If you’ve been busier than a one-armed paperhanger with the hives and your Google reader is over 1,000 unread posts, these are the blogs that you single out to read. These are the ones that are never victims to the dreaded Mark All As Read. There may be many different reasons why you can’t stay away: a taste in books that mirrors your own, the same sense of humor, always knowing the latest in the book world… for whatever the reason, these blogs are flat out addictive and you have no wish to be cured!

I like this award – thank you very much, Cathy, yours is a blog I keep coming back to! I also like your rules:

  • Enjoy the award. If you don’t want to put it on your blog, don’t. Just get the warm, fuzzy feeling that I’m sending your way!
  • You don’t have to reveal any deep, dark secrets about yourself or answer any sort of questions. You’ve already earned it!
  • You don’t have to link back to me.
  • You don’t have to give it to anyone else.

Simple, huh? Now, if you do want to give this award to someone else, that’s a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish.
If you do want to pass it along to some of those addictive book blogs in your reader, just follow the same four rules I outlined above. This is a pay-it-forward award. Nothing is to be expected in return!

As I ‘ve been away a lot recently my Google Reader is overflowing, full to bursting in fact with so many posts to read. Actually I very rarely mark all the blogs in my Reader as read, although I do scroll down them when there are a lot. I wouldn’t want to miss a good post! I regularly click over to the blogs rather than reading them in the reader. I’m passing on this award to:

Thinking about it, I’m also passing it on to all the bloggers in my blogroll as they all write blogs I read and enjoy.superior scribbler award

Then Jane of Reading, Writing, Working Playing gave me the Superior Scribbler Award. I love this image and the idea that someone thinks I’m a “superior scribbler” tickles me pink! Thank you so much Jane.

Again if you’re on my blogroll I’m passing this award on to you.

Not So Wordless Wednesday – Eggsplosion

exploding-eggs-3

To make exploding eggs:

  • Take two eggs and place them in a saucepan
  • Cover with water and put on the cooker to boil
  • Take a cup of tea upstairs
  • Sit down at computer to finish writing a post for your blog
  • Get completely engrossed in writing
  • Wonder what that funny smell is
  • Have a look out of the window to see if next door neighbours are having a barbecue
  • Can’t see them and decide someone must be having a bonfire
  • Go back to writing
  • When you hear an explosion run downstairs to see what the cat has broken
  • Find a burned out saucepan and the cooker covered in bits of egg

 

exploding-eggs-2

exploding-eggs-1

Note to Self : Don’t blog and boil eggs at the same time!

Check out other Wordless Wednesday participants.

A – Z Author Index

I’ve been busy this last week compiling an A – Z Author Index to my blog posts. It’s there in a tab at the top of my blog. Whilst doing this I found that several of my links in my Books Read Pages no longer worked and kept giving me a 404 Error – Ooops where did you find this link? I hope I’ve fixed these and that the ones in my index all work.

I would like to compile a Title Index now, but this will take me much longer, but I may do this some time! If I have time I’m thinking of revising the tags and categories on my posts as I’ve not been consistent at all. This is all just for my own benefit as I don’t suppose anyone else is at all interested.

Keep On Commenting

Whilst I was away Zetor at Mog’s Blog nominated me for an award – amazing, thank you so much. I love making and receiving comments, so I really appreciate this award. I think the comments are as much part of a blog as the posts and making comments is a good way to make connections, start a conversation and share information. And it’s so encouraging to know that other people are actually reading your blog!

The ‘rules’ of acceptance are that you nominate 7 other bloggers to receive the award. This is very hard as so many bloggers are so good at commenting, sorry to leave anyone out (you all deserve the award), but here are my seven – in no particular order:

  1.  A Work In Progress
  2. Table Talk
  3. My Own Little Reading Room
  4. Just a Reading Fool
  5. Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf
  6. My Random Acts of Reading
  7. Read Warbler

Thanks to everyone who’s commented on my blog and if you have commented yet I’d love to ‘meet’ you – just say hello, it’s easy.

Happy Birthday BooksPlease!


Today my blog is one year old.

Actually I set up the blog in July 2006 but I think of that as its conception because I didn’t write another thing until 12 April 2007, when I left work. Then I wrote: “I’ve been meaning to write more, both in this blog and in other writing, but somehow there’s always something else to do. Well, now I have time during the day and I will write.”

From a slow start I’ve been writing ever since – not every day but on average I write about 5 posts a week. But without help from my husband I’d never have got started and he’s always there to help with the technical stuff. I’ve enjoyed writing not only about the books I’ve been reading but also and the places I’ve visited. I really look forward to writing although the downside is that I actually read fewer books now than I did before I left work. The photo is the first one I put on the blog and I still haven’t read all these books! I’ve still got three of them I haven’t even started. It’s just so tempting reading about books other bloggers are enthusing over that I’m easily sidetracked. But I do mean to read Falling Angels, The Sixth Wife and After the Victorians before long.

Blogging is addictive – I love writing the blog, I love reading other people’s blogs (I must expand my list on the sidebar because I read many more than are listed), and I love joining the challenges and linking up with other bloggers. It’s been a good year.

Read More! Not Today!

Yesterday I thought I’d write about Consequences by Penelope Lively. Then I had a good idea (not!) – I’d write it as an expandable post, as I’ve seen this feature on other blogs. The idea is that you display a small amount of the post at the beginning and then users who want to read the rest of the post can click on a link like “Read More” to see the full text. I looked in Blogger Help and there is an article explaining how to do this.

Well, I can’t get it to work and I’ve wasted most of yesterday afternoon, and a big chunk out of today trying to get it to work and it just won’t. I’m getting quite frustrated with Blogger. It puts spaces in my posts where I don’t want them or moves paragraphs together when I want them apart. I write the post in Word first, but inserting photos in the post is a nightmare – it’s so difficult to make them go where I want them and then the spacing has gone wild again.

So the Consequence is that there is no post on Consequences today. Maybe another day.

Me and My Blog (Or Who’s a Silly Blogger Then?)

I’d been thinking about writing a blog for some time and when my husband set one up for me last year I felt I really should use it. So, feeling extremely nervous and self-conscious I wrote my very first post on 22 July 2006. I was still working full time then and didn’t write anymore until April this year after I’d retired.

Basically I am a shy person and at first I found it really difficult to write about what I thought. Who on earth would want to know what I think anyway and why should they? I go to a book group and another member usually asks when we’re deciding which book to read next “who is this person and why should we read what they’ve written?” Thoughts like these were going through my mind and then I thought well no-one will know what I’m writing unless I tell them about the blog and I’ll just write for my own satisfaction and so I began.

Soon I thought this was a bit self-centred and as I got a bit more confident I very, very occasionally dared to add a comment on someone else’s blog, using my blog name as the contact. I was amazed when someone actually added a comment to my blog and that person was an author – Linda Gillard, whose book Emotional Geology I’d mentioned in the post! Brilliant. I didn’t feel I was writing in isolation anymore and I realised I actually like people to read what I’m writing and to add their comments.

Stuck In a Book asked in one of his posts what do you call people you only know through blogging? He suggested “e-friends”. Like him I feel a bit embarrassed talking about FRIENDS when I’ve never met them, but what else can you call them? I feel I do know a bit about some of the people whose blogs I visit, well I know what books you like, what food some of you like to eat and to cook, which places you like to go on holiday, and what your other hobbies are apart from reading and writing. I do think of you as “friends” and I am so pleased you visit my blog.

Through Site Meter or Google Analytics I have some idea of where you live and how you found me. It’s broadened my horizons. I now have a much better idea of where countries are and where for example Connecticut is in America and that there is a town called Cheshire in Connecticut (of interest to me because I was born in Cheshire, a county in the north west of England). I am amazed when I see that people from Cyprus, Scandinavia, India, Italy, Australia, Iran, Singapore, Peru and so on have visited me. I feel so much more cosmopolitan.

Most visitors to my blog are from the US and the UK, but surprisingly after that comes Romania. How did they find me? I noticed that the number of visitors rose quite steeply after I wrote about Lewis Carroll and his interest in photography and all the people from Romania had arrived at my blog to read this post, directed from a site called Fototarget, but how did Fototarget find it? Anyway if you’re reading this in Romania, welcome and I hope you weren’t too disappointed. I knew very little about photography before but now I’ve realised that I am very interested in it and its history. If you can get BBC Four a new series started last night called The Genius of Photography. It’s brilliant and well worth watching.

Another intriguing question is related to some of my posts that have been translated into German and posted on other blogs – why on earth do they want to do that? My post on Astrid and Veronika is in German on “Travel” blog, I can’t imagine why, the book has nothing to do with travel. My last post on the Verneys of Claydon has been translated and put on “Hugh Health” blog. It’s called “Das Verneys von Claydon” and this has such a nice ring to it that the book may become called that in my mind from now on. But I think people reading it hoping to find out about health will be surprised to read about the medical practices in seventeenth century England that are described in the post.

So to all my e-friends thank you for visiting and I do hope you’ll come again and I really like to read your comments.