Book Review: Watch the Wall, Miss Seeton by Hamilton Crane

Have the smugglers made a grave mistake?

Customs & Excise are tracking a gang of cigar-smugglers who operate on the quiet Kent coast near Plummergen, home to retired art teacher Miss Emily Seeton. Their attempt at a midnight ambush goes wrong, and a man is found dead.

As Miss Seeton sketches the most notorious tomb in Plummergen churchyard – the one built for 19th-century smuggler Abraham Voller – she meets a young American tourist. He claims to be a descendant of the Voller family, but is he a truly innocent ancestor-hunter, or do smugglers inherit their trade?

When the school concert includes a performance of Kipling’s “A Smuggler’s Song” it begins to seem that everyone is at it … but we can rely on Miss Seeton to ensure that the police will get their man, and the smugglers’ dreams will go up in smoke!

Serene amidst every kind of skulduggery, this eccentric English spinster steps in where Scotland Yard stumbles, armed with nothing more than her sketchpad and umbrella.

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Sometimes the simplest tools are the best

A variation of the below first appeared as a comment on the following blog post, Where Abby Glassenberg responds to a follower’s email.

 

Why I Run My Business on a Yellow Legal Pad

 

Work TO Do lists

Once in a while I go looking for electronic tools to help me out on things like “to do lists”. I have tried things like Evernote etc., but have never managed to settle on any one piece of software in particular.

I’ve got out of the habit for various reason, but one of the things I did (back before we used Portable Computers with wifi at work, haha), was have a notebook to take notes of meetings, and I would also have multiple post it notes somewhere….During meetings, generally when I was bored, or my mind was skittish with too much to do, I’d write my to-do list on the post-its. Easily movable, ditch-able, etc. Great for working!

At work I now use the “check flag” option on emails, which creates an annoying pop up, or create a specific task, again for the annoyance factor. Surprisingly effective, at least for me, in order to get work stuff done one way or another.

suzy hazelwood to do list

Personal To Do Lists

I have yet to find an equivalent for home, though I am currently looking at the hardback diary sitting on my table, barely used. My handbag is already heavy – for some unknown reason, and I don’t want to add more stuff in to make it even heavier.  My iPad already comes with me.

I use the “notes” app on my ipad to start writing anything up to a blog post.  I never get a full blog post on the notes app – there are things like spelling and formatting that get to be done on a computer with a writing app before the post ever gets published.

What do other people use to do things like to do lists? The thing that put me off with Evernote is that it seemed to need a permanent connection to the internet in order to work properly.  There didn’t seem to be a “off line” version, where you could store your info locally and have it sync the next time you were on the wifi.  Am I wrong in this?

Blog Posts and Media Content Packs

When I had more blog posts to schedule, I made use of an excel spreadsheet, with a sheet per month, and I added in posts (either complete or ideas).  It allowed me to get into some kind of predictability – a book review post on alternate days, a book related essay alternate Sundays, a craft related post alternate Fridays.  Having used up my stock of posts, I have no more post to schedule that far in advance. Posts now come out within a few days of me writing them.  There is currently no formal schedule (sorry).

However………I do have a version of a media content pack, to help me with content.   It provides me with several things:

  • a list of post titles and links.
  • Each post should be marked against at least one category. e.g. Romance. Historical. Textiles.  Therefore if I want to tweet about a specific subject (e.g. May holding Free Comic Book Day, so lets talk about comics), I can find my posts about Comics and focus on them……
  • A sheet per month (similar to the above) which reminds me of anything specific, such as a specific day or month. e.g. June 2019 will be dedicated to a friend talking about Persephone Books; 13th May is Daphne Du Maurier’s birthday, so should I be reading or writing about her books during that week or month?; etc.

 

Bullet Journals

In looking for images for this post, I was reminded of one thing I’ve never really gotten into – Bullet Journals.  What do you know? Love em? Hate em? Cant do without?

bich tran Bullet Journal

So you, Constant Reader

What tools to YOU use to keep things on track?

 

What I Learned from Keeping a List of Every Book I Read

This post was written as a reaction to this post over on LitHub:

 

What I Learned from Keeping a List of Every Book I Read

 

I started logging the books I read a number of years ago. For some time, I had suspected I read *a lot* but didn’t know what “a lot” meant or anything. In starting to gather some reviews together in order to start publishing my book reviews on my blog, I realised that

a) some of my posts were *appalling*

b) there was a good percentage of the books I had no memory of reading, what the plot was about or whether I liked the book beyond knowing that it was a “good read”.

So, in 2011, I started to use Goodreads and their “Reading Challenge” function (as well as optional year-read shelves), to keep a track of the books I read during a year. The first few years I challenged myself to read around the 100 book mark, but after a few years I became aware that in at least 6 weeks of the year (generally from mid-November through to New Year), I was reading short or unchallenging books in order to get my numbers up.

In trying to think back to the books I had read when I was younger (pre teen essentially) I was surprised at the books I could remember having read (and sad about the books I must have read, but don’t remember). I do remember going to the library and being “upped” to the adult lending rates early, as the librarian realised that not only was I reading the maximum child rates each week but I was understanding them (I wasn’t exactly given an exam, but I’m sure I was certainly questioned each week about what I brought back).

When it came to setting my Reading Challenge numbers in 2016, I decided that I would read what I wanted. If it meant that I only read 20 books a year (down from the 100+) then so be it.

This year (2019) I’ve not set a specific number of books, but I’ve decided to use two Reading Challenges, in part to get rid of the books in my house that have spilled out onto sofas and coffee tables. The challenges (Paper Only and Historical Fiction) are designed to get rid of a good percentage of the books that fulfill these criteria.

In realising the number of short and/or easy books I’ve been reading over several years, I’ve come to realise that I’ve lost a certain amount of critical thinking. Books I would have considered easy when I was younger I now consider “hard”….I have to do things, like remember character names, relationships etc. Gasp! This is certainly one of the reasons I’m reading a lot slower than I was before. That’s not to say the books I’ve read in previous years were *bad* (although I’ve discarded my fair share of those that were BAAAAADDDD), they were just like Krispy Kreme doughnuts  – lovely in the moment, tasty, yummy, but minutes or days later, you have to ask yourself if it was truly worth it in the long terms (yes? hahahahha).

There is the facility in Goodreads, as well as Librarything, to export your books into a huge spreadsheet, that will allow for much greater data mining. I know some people do this – I’m not there (yet).

I know that my reading over the last few years consists mainly of

  • White Western women authors
  • Writing usually about Women, presumably also white (few state otherwise)
  • With the historical books, the stories are usually about members of the *ton*, which therefore implies a certain level of education an money, even if the overarching story s about women overturning the patriarchy.

I know that my paper books are much more diverse, so by switching away from e-books, I am already expanding my reading material.  I’ve read male authors writing about male characters (ok, still white, but please bear with me); male scifi writers producing the most appalling misogynistic/sexist material (wow, I forgot that was still a trope in the 1970s); non white writers of either sex, writing about whatever.

I do expect my book reading to become more diverse n the next few years, however, I am restricted by budget and the fact that my current TBR is HUGE – I’d rather read the books that I already have (even if the selection is still relatively narrow) than pick up the current trends, only for them to be lost in all the other books I have. I will read a book because I want to read it, not because it’s fashionable or someone tells me I should.

 

So, Constant Reader, what about you – do you know what you’re reading/have been reading?

Book Review: Master and God by Lindsey Davies

From “New York Times” bestselling novelist Lindsey Davis comes an epic novel of first-century Rome and the Emperor Domitian, known to all of the Roman world as “Master and God”
Set in the reign of the Emperor Domitian in first-century Rome, “Master and God” is Lindsey Davis’s meticulously researched epic novel of the life and times surrounding the last of the Flavian dynasty of emperors. Gaius Vinius is a reluctant Praetorian Guard the Emperor’s personal guard and a man with a disastrous marriage history. Flavia Lucilla is also in the imperial court and she is responsible not only for having created the ridiculous hairstyle worn by the imperial ladies but for also making toupees for the balding and increasingly paranoid emperor. The two of them are brought together in an unlikely manner a devastating fire in Rome which then leads to a lifelong friendship.Together they watch Domitian’s once talented rule unravel into madness and cruelty, until the people closest to him conspire to delete him from history. As an imperial bodyguard, Vinius then faces a tough decision. “Master and God” is a compelling novel of the Roman Empire from the height of power to the depths of madness told from the perspective of two courtiers and unlikely friends who together are the witnesses to history.”

 

Via my bookgroup, this is the next book to be added to both my #HistoricalFictionReadingChallenge and #PaperOnlyReadingChallenge

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Book Review: One night for Seduction by Erica Ridley

When the Wicked Duke dares the Duke of Colehaven to find a suitor for an unmanageable ward, Cole immediately accepts. He’s on a winning streak, and besides, how unmarriageable can a pretty young lady be? He appoints himself bodyguard and duenna, only to discover his own desires may be the greatest danger of all.

Supposed wallflower Diana Middleton lives a double life, bringing dishonest businessmen to justice. Shaking off a meddling duke should be child’s play. Yet the more they lock horns, the more she wants to lock lips. Her scandalous secrets would derail his political career. But surely there’s no harm in one little seduction…

 

Received as an ebook from Netgalley. Much as I hate to admit this, I think I’m going to have to step away from these kinds of books for a while – I found this particular story too close to too many others by the same author (she:   bookish woman, very good at maths hides her skills from men in order to not surrender anything to anyone, but now she finds love etc……he: a duke who runs a tavern that allows men from most levels of society to drink).

The execution was fine, there was a good relationship between the two main characters, I have just read this same story too many times in the last year or so, so I’ve become more than a little jaded on it.

Book Review: The Ghost by Robert Harris

From the No. 1 bestselling author of Fatherland; Enigma; Archangel; Pompeii and Imperium.

“The moment I heard how McAra died I should have walked away. I can see that now. I should have said, ‘Rick, I’m sorry, this isn’t for me, I don’t like the sound of it,’ finished my drink and left. But he was such a good storyteller, Rick — I often thought he should have been the writer and I the agent — that once he’d started talking there was never any question I wouldn’t listen, and by the time he had finished, I was done for.”

 

From my book group (I *Think*!), this is a paperbook, and the latest addition to my #paperonlyreadingchallenge

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Book Review: The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman

The year is 1507, and a friar has arrived in Tierkinddorf, a remote German village nestled deeply in the woods. The village has been suffering a famine, and the villagers are desperately hungry. The friar’s arrival is a miracle, and when he claims he can restore the town to prosperity, the men and women gathered to hear him rejoice. The friar has a book called the Malleus Maleficarum—“The Witch’s Hammer”—a guide to gaining confessions of witchcraft. The friar promises he will identify the guilty woman who has brought God’s anger upon the town; she will be burned, and bounty will be restored. Tierkinddorf is filled with hope. Neighbors wonder aloud who has cursed them and how quickly can she be found? They begin sharing secrets with the friar. 

Güde Müller, an elderly woman, has stark and frightening visions—recently she has seen things that defy explanation. None in the village know this, and Güde herself worries that perhaps her mind has begun to wander—certainly she has outlived all but one of her peers in Tierkinddorf. Yet of one thing she is absolutely certain: She has become an object of scorn and a burden to her son’s wife. In these desperate times her daughter-in-law would prefer one less hungry mouth at the family table. As the friar turns his eye on each member of the tiny community, Güde dreads what her daughter-in-law might say to win his favor.

Then one terrible night Güde follows an unearthly voice and the scent of charred meat into the snow-filled woods. Come morning, she no longer knows if the horror she witnessed was real or imagined. She only knows that if the friar hears of it, she may be damned in this life as well as the next.

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