Thursday, 22 January 2015

Dark Matter: A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver

Started: 16th Jan
Finished: 18th Jan

Picture from Amazon

Now then, this is what I call a ghost story!! Beginning in 1937, a group of scientists set sail for Northern Norway, far into the Arctic, to study the biology and geology of the area, and to perform a meteorological survey. Two of the five drop out early on, but the remaining three make it to the bay where they will set up camp for a year, along with a pack of huskies.

As the story progresses (written as Jack's journal), we learn of the history of the area, particularly of the trappers and miners who had previously lived and worked there. The captain of the boat which had taken them to the bay had been reluctant to go all the way there to begin with; he'd hinted that something sinister had happened there in the past, and it later transpires that a miner was murdered there.

A few weeks into their stay, two of the three scientists have to leave, and the third, Jack Miller, stoically offers to stay on alone to continue with the survey. He has always been a loner, so being on his own (albeit with a pack of dogs) doesn't worry him at first. However, as time passes, and with the Arctic winter (24 hour darkness) looming, he becomes more and more unsettled. His journal entries become more paranoid and erratic, and he even admits that his neat handwriting has become a scrawl. He experiences feelings of terror and dread, and sightings of what, he soon realises, must be the ghost of the miner.

The author describes the bay - Gruhuken - so expertly that I felt I knew exactly what it looked like. I can't quite comprehend the idea of months of perpetual darkness, but again, it was described in such detail that I could understand the effect it had on Jack. After days of sitting in the cabin with the lamps lit, conscious of the blackness outside the uncovered windows but also aware of how visible he was, Jack frantically tacked blankets over them all. And then found himself constantly lifting back his improvised curtains to peer outside, just in case.

The 'ghost' sightings were actually quite few and far between, but it was the overall sense of isolation and unease, and that fear of what might be out there, in the darkness, that made this book such a good ghost story, in my opinion. I feel that this genre definitely benefits from a 'less is more' approach - the suggestion of something sinister is far more powerful than a full-blown description of the ghost or paranormal activity.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even more so because it meets two of the criteria of my 2015 reading aims - it's a ghost story, set in Norway! I'd definitely recommend it if you like a bit of an eerie tale.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Started: 8th Jan
Finished: 14th Jan

Picture from Amazon

This was one of the first books I actually bought and downloaded onto my new Kindle. I'd heard a lot about it, especially since they've made it into a film now, and I really just wanted to see what all the fuss was about!

It's Amy and Nick's fifth wedding anniversary, and Amy suddenly disappears without trace. All the evidence seems to suggest that she's been murdered, and Nick quickly becomes prime suspect, but as each chapter unfolds (either narrated by Nick in the days following the disappearance, or as entries in Amy's diaries dating back to when they first met), we soon find out that all is definitely not as it may have seemed with this couple. There is an interesting twist about halfway through, and the ending wasn't what I was expecting, although I've never been good at guessing what might happen, or 'whodunnit'.

I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely a page-turner (or should that be a page-swiper, on a Kindle?) - I didn't want to put it down. The chapters were fairly short so it was really tempting to think "just one more..." I'm not sure if I liked the ending or not, although I can't think of a better one!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Shepherd's Cross by Mark White

Started: 1st Jan 2015
Finished: 6th Jan

Picture from Amazon

This was the first book I downloaded onto my new Kindle HD. I signed up with Amazon Prime just before Christmas, which means that I can 'borrow' one book per month from the Kindle Lending Library, for free. This was from the library.

It's described as a 'supernatural thriller', and relates the strange events that happen in a remote moorland village which becomes even more isolated when it is cut off from the outside world due to heavy snowfall. I'd mistakenly assumed supernatural meant ghosts, but the villagers were faced with a different kind of threat, and it's not one that I particularly enjoy reading about - I probably wouldn't have chosen this book if I'd known. Once I realised what was going on, what the 'supernatural' bit was, I had a kind of "oh... that", shoulder-slump moment.

Having said that, it was still quite a page-turner; I was mostly reading it in bed, an hour or so at a time, otherwise I probably would've got through it even quicker.

So, not bad, but not great - I'm glad I didn't pay for it!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Book Giveaway

I've made a start on number 2 of my New Year Resolutions, which is to get rid of some unwanted books. I haven't actually parted with any yet, but I had a really good sort out of my shelves the other night, and I've pulled loads out that I just don't fancy reading, plus a few recent ones that have been read, either all the way through, or abandoned at some point.

I've been feeling really overwhelmed by the amount of books I have, and the fact that I have very little time to actually read them, plus the shelves were looking cluttered and untidy, which I don't like. I've been wanting to make some space on them for a while for a couple of reasons - one, to make an area where I could put whatever crochet I'm working on, out of everyone's way but where it's still in easy reach for me, and two, to make a space for Mischief to hide, because Junior is at the "must-chase-the-cat!" phase and I want Mischief to be able to get away from him, but stay in the room if he wants to.

So the only thing I could think of was to start getting rid of books, even though I haven't read them. I was a bit annoyed that I was having to do this, but as I started taking books off the shelves, I actually began to find it quite liberating. I read the synopsis of each one, and there were so many where I thought "why did I ever buy this book?". There are a lot of the 'chick-lit' type of genre, which I don't really enjoy at all. There are also some novels which I've kept because I felt like I 'should' read them - Moby Dick, for example, or Heart Of Darkness, or Brighton Rock. I 'should' read them, but I don't necessarily 'want' to read them. So I'm not going to. Life's too short to read a book you don't enjoy!

One of the things I've realised is that my reading tastes have really narrowed down, and become quite particular. I think it's really good to read a wide variety of styles and genres, if that's what you want to do, but I also don't think it's a bad thing if you only want to focus on one or two.

This year, I think I'm going to focus on the following:
1) Books set in Scotland, particularly the Highlands/Islands/West Coast. You might as well read about places that you love! I absolutely MUST buy every other book that Linda Gillard has written; I enjoyed Emotional Geology so much (I don't think all her novels are set in Scotland, but I'll make an exception for her!). I also want to read Ann Cleeves Shetland series, and a series by Peter May, which I think is set on the Isle of Lewis.
2) Non-fiction books about Scotland! I already have several books about Scottish history, events like Culloden and the Highland Clearances. I feel like I owe it to my favourite part of the world to learn about and understand it's history.
3) Books set in / about Scandinavia, particularly Norway. As above, Norway is another country which I love so I'm keen to explore some Scandinavian fiction or possibly non-fiction.
4) Ghost stories. I love a good ghost story, me! And if it's set in Scotland or Norway (like the one I've just finished) all the better! That's not essential though, I just want a good, creepy, unnerving ghost story, something along the lines of The Woman In Black by Susan Hill.

I'm not saying that I won't read other books which don't fit into these categories, but I definitely feel that the above list is where my reading interest lies. It's been really good to finally acknowledge that, and like I said, quite liberating to part with the books which don't fit the bill any more.

I've updated my 'Books I've Read' page up to the end of 2014, although at this time of writing I've only listed the books, but there are no photos or reviews. I'll try and finish it off, if I can remember the books! I don't think I'm going to continue with that page any more - I think this year I'll just write my book reviews (if you can call them that) as normal blog posts, as and when I can get around to it.

All of the books in these photos are the ones I'm giving away - 86 in total, if I've counted correctly. If you see anything you like, please get in touch - I'd be more than happy to send a book or two your way. If you wanted to help out with a small contribution to the postage (via a Paypal donation), I wouldn't say no ;-)

Friday, 9 January 2015


So I said I'd have a look back at last year's resolutions. Here goes:

1). Read some books. Well, yes, I read 'some' books, so I suppose I could tick this one off. I haven't updated my 'Books I've Read' page, at the time of writing, and it says the last book I finished was Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, on the 10th March. Apparently, on the 11th March, I started reading (again) Songs Of The Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult, her first novel, but I abandoned it (again) on the 9th September. As much as I love Jodi's books, I just can't get into that one. However, on the 9th September I started another JP book, and I think I read a couple more towards the back end of the year. So I did read a few books, but not as many as I would've liked. I was supposed to be taking part in the Empty Shelf Challenge, but clearly that didn't happen either, and I've rearranged my bookshelves so many times since, I don't even know which books I started with.

2). More crochet, and maybe some sewing. I don't think I did too bad on the crochet front, it was kind of slow and steady. I'm terrible at remembering to photograph items though, so there probably wasn't much to show on this blog. Highlights were definitely my Wicked Scarf and Junior's Cardigan. I also briefly thought about making crocheted items to sell, so quite a bit of time was spent on making a few sample items, but that idea went out of the window fairly quickly - partly due to the arrival of Junior, and partly because I'm just not cut out to run my own 'business'. 2014 also wasn't the year that I bought a sewing machine, so there was no sewing to speak of.

3). Watch less tv, spend less time on the internet. Obviously I could say I'd done brilliantly at this and you'd have no way of knowing whether that was the case. Truthfully, I probably stuck to it for the first half of the year, and less so towards the end. I didn't turn the tv on as often, and I think I did try to stay off my laptop and read or crochet more instead. At some point though, I think the tv and internet started to creep back into my life. I still wouldn't say I'm an addict, but the tv is definitely there as 'background noise' a lot of the time. Having Junior around means that I can't really go on my laptop during the day, but once he's gone to bed I find that I lose a lot of precious 'me-time' in the evening to scanning Facebook or scrolling zombie-like through my Twitter feed, and before I know it it's time for bed.

4). Give up the news. Ah, now this one I consider a resounding success! I definitely managed to avoid watching, listening to or reading the majority of news items, for the whole year. Chris still sometimes watches it, so I haven't avoided it completely, and I didn't think there was any harm in keeping up to date, but only to the bare minimum. I was particularly proud of the fact that I went completely cold turkey on the Daily Mail website, which had previously been something of an obsession. I hadn't looked at it once, all year, and then just a week or two before Christmas someone on Facebook posted a link to a yarn-related story. Before I had time to realise my mistake, I'd clicked the link, and was mortified to discover it had led to a DM article! But apart from that one blip, I'd avoided that site for a whole year, which I think is amazing!
As I explained last year, the reason for this resolution was because I felt that I absorbed too much negativity from the news, and it was generally just making me feel a bit down all the time. Since 'giving it up' I do think my mood improved, especially right at the start. I'm not happy-go-lucky all the time, things still upset me and I still have off days, but it's not so much because of what's happening around the world now. Like I said, maybe I'm in denial, maybe it's not very socially or morally acceptable for me to want to ignore all the bad things that are happening, but that's how I've decided to deal with it.

5). Lose weight. Yeah, right. I don't even weigh myself these days. My clothes don't feel any looser, so I'm assuming this one hasn't happened.

6) Already did that.

7). Organise photos. No, this hasn't happened, and the situation is getting worse. I desperately need to do something about this, before something terrible happens and I lose them all forever.

So that was last year - what about 2015? This is what I've come up with so far, in no particular order:

1). Read more! Oh look, there it is again! Chris bought me a Kindle Fire HD as a joint birthday and Christmas present, so I want to download some books onto it and start reading again. I'm also thinking of registering with Audible so that I can listen to some audiobooks, and then I might finally have a solution to my wish that I could crochet and read at the same time!

2) Get rid of some books. Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron after number one, doesn't it? I have six shelves of books, and on most of them the books are in double rows, one in front of the other. That's a lot of books. As much as I want to read them, I just don't seem to have time, and the thought of trying to plough my way through all of these books completely overwhelms me. So I've decided to have a cull. There are quite a lot that I'm not too bothered about reading - from paperbacks I picked up in charity shops that sounded interesting at the time, to Booker Prize winners that were part of a box set and which are probably a bit too 'intellectual' for me - so I'm just going to get rid of them. There are some books I still might buy in paperback, from favourite authors, but otherwise I'll probably try and download everything else onto my kindle. I'm looking forwards to my bookshelves being a lot less cluttered, and being able to read the books that I'm genuinely interested in, once I can find them again.

3) More crochet. That's it, really, I just want to continue with my crochet, but maybe try and be a bit more productive. I think I'd like to make an item of clothing for myself, or get around to using some of the gorgeous yarn that I bought at Yarndale and the Armley Mills Wool Festival.

4). Deal with things more promptly. I have an awful habit of 'putting things off'. Like opening mail, reading it, putting it back in the envelope and then putting it on a pile to deal with later. And then about three weeks later, the big pile of stuff I haven't dealt with gets swept into a carrier bag and taken upstairs into the spare bedroom, to be dealt with later, when I can have a proper 'sort-out' of all my 'paperwork'. This is a bad habit I need to change.

5). Be happy/get more sleep. Bit of a strange one maybe, but it's something I've been thinking about lately. I find sometimes I can get quite annoyed about things, like maybe something Chris has or hasn't done, and I can be quite moody and irritable. It can be hard to see past it at times, but I've managed to realise that the only person who can make me feel better, is me. I know that I need to change my perspective on certain things, and instead of instantly feeling annoyed, I need to have a kind of mental shrug of the shoulders and think, "oh well, nevermind". The other day I googled 'how to be happy' and I read about 6 different articles, and the one piece of advice that they all had in common was to get enough sleep. I certainly haven't been doing this - I get up early every morning, but go to bed late in order to have some 'me-time' on an evening. I've now accepted that I need to be in bed, asleep, by 9pm every night, or as often as I can, so I'm trying to get to bed earlier now, although I'm not beating myself up over it if I don't.

6) Continue to avoid the news.

7) Organise photos - as mentioned above, this needs urgent attention!

8) Continue to use my Filofax(es). My Malden came into it's own last year after Junior arrived, keeping up with appointments and his social calendar! I want to continue to use and improve it so that it works best for my needs, but as I received a zipped personal Holborn for Christmas from my mum, I also need to think about how I'm going to use that. At the moment it's storing last years pages in it, but it's too nice to be just an archive, so I need to work out something better for it.

I think that's all for now. The wind is absolutely howling outside - I think we're experiencing 50-60mph gales, but I know other parts of the country, especially Scotland, are suffering much worse, so my thoughts are with everyone up there.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Just popping in quickly to say Happy New Year - I hope you had a lovely Christmas too.

Our first Christmas with our little boy was lovely and special, something we've been looking forwards to for a long time, and which at times, felt like it would never happen. He's a bit young to really understand what was happening, but he loved all the visitors and he did help with the unwrapping of presents (which lasted for three days). This was the first time since Chris and I have been together that we didn't go to our respective parents' houses - instead my mum came here on Christmas Day (which was great, but I quietly missed my dad more than ever - he would've loved Junior so much), and then Chris's mum and dad came on Boxing Day, and later his sister and her kids arrived after a day shopping the sales in York (rather them than me!).

I can't believe how quickly Christmas has been and gone, but I suppose it's the same every year. The build-up to it takes so long, and then it's all over after one day (I'm afraid I'm one of those people who always feels a bit sad from Boxing Day onwards, and then just can't wait till Spring!)

So here we are, 2015. Have you made any resolutions? I always start thinking about things I want to do, change, achieve at the start of the year, but it's usually forgotten about by February! I wrote a post at the start of 2014 with some resolutions on - at some point I'm going to have a look back and see whether I managed to stick to any of them. That should be fun!

But now, it's getting late and I think I'm going to crash on the sofa for a bit before bed.

Back soon(ish)

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