Books, life the universe

Sunday, 29 August 2010

I'm not a gadget person but . . . .

My Amazon Kindle e-book reader arrived yesterday and I love it! Very easy to use straight out of the box though I did skim through the manual while it was charging just to get used to using it. I tried buying and downloading a book via the 3G telephone network but it is slow partly because there isn't a terribly good signal here. Now it's set up on our wi-fi network and downloading is very quick. It's pretty intuitive to use if you've ever used a mobile phone or a computer. What really intrigues and amuses me is that I can be using the computer and see an e-book I want so I buy it and it's then downloaded to my Kindle provided it is on and the wi-fi connection is switched on. You can switch it off to save battery life.

I was going to say it's like reading a book but it's actually better in some ways than reading a book. You can change text size and appearance, line spacing and the number of words per line. You don't get text lost at the edge of the page as you do when reading a tightly bound paperback. Of course the big advantage is you can store up to 3500 books on it and pretty well anything out of copyright is free or less than £1. Other books - unless they're only just published - are cheaper than paperbacks.

It has to be one of the best things I've bought.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Eek! Where has this week gone?

Time seems to have gone really quickly this week and it's Thursday already! Current reading: M C Beaton's Snobbery with Violence - historical crime featuring Lady Rose who has ruined her reputation by being involved with the suffragette movement. This was originally published under the name of Marion Chesney and I would think has been re-published under M C Beaton to try and entice readers of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth books. I've read about 40 pages and it seems pretty good.

I'm also reading The Fan Tan Players by Julian Lees which has a really pleasing cover picture. It's set in Macao and Scotland among other places in the early to mid 20th century. Well written with some glorious descriptions of places and food, it features Nadia a White Russian exile and Iain a Scot working for an early version of MI6.

Then there's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz which I'm still ploughing through. It is interesting but not that sort of thing you want to read for hours at a time.

I've nearly finished Mean Spirit by Will Kingdom - not I think as good as his Merrily Watkins series written under his real name but still worth reading.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Reading and read

I finished Will Kingdom's The Cold Calling - and enjoyed it. Some memorable characters and a frightening plot. 'Cindy' Mars-Lewis the cross dressing shaman with Kelvyn Kite - the talking bird. Grayle - 'Holy Grayle' - the American journalist looking for her sister, Ersula, and Bobby Maiden - the police inspector whose returned from the dead. The background is the supernatural, shamanism and prehistoric stones as well as the Green Man and someone who is killing people in order to return their blood to the earth. I'm now reading the same author's Mean Spirit which is equally good and includes some of the same characters.

I also finished Kate Muir's Suffragette City and enjoyed it. Some very funny scenes and some interesting characters as well the historical background of suffragette activity in the early 20th century.

I'm currently reading David Hamilton's How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body which is very interesting. Visualisation as a way of helping to heal your body. He makes clear that people shouldn't give up their conventional medication but use visualisation as something extra. He is also honest enough to say that the personal stories he quotes have not been medically verified and they're just how people have sent them to him. As I'm interested in the mind/body link I'm finding it fascinating.

I've also just started reading this Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz - about how we are so attached to being right. I've only read about 30 pages so far so maybe more about this later.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Reading . . .

I am currently reading The Cold Calling by Will Kingdom (Phil Rickman under another name) - very good but not as good as the Merrily Watkins series. Then there's Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took my Dog which is improving the more I read of it and I'm familiar with much of the geographical area she writes about which has to be a bonus. The first 30 pages didn't impress me but it's growing on me.

Also reading Suffragette City by Kate Muir which I've had kicking around for ages. I finally picked it up and started reading it on Saturday and was hooked by it. Albertina is living a somewhat Bohemian life in New York when her grandmother gives her a trunk belonging to Agnes - Albertina's great great grandmother. The problem is that Agnes - in spirit form - keeps turning up and haranguing Albertina about her life and how she's wasting it. Funny and historically interesting.

Pretty mixed bunch there and I'm also still listening to Bill Bryson's At Home - on disc 13 of 14.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Different viewpoints

I was intrigued when someone in the course of a discussion on the internet said to me that they couldn't imagine why anyone would want to live in a village. The main reason for their comment? They would be lonely without hordes of people around them. They didn't seem to understand my comment that you can be lonely in a crowd.

I have no problem with people wanting to live in cities - it's just not my thing. I find people in villages very friendly. When I walk to the the post office - about 5 minutes - I find that everyone speaks to you. The same in the post office and shop. When I go to the hairdressers the conversation is often general and involves the hairdresser's three staff and all the customers there at the time. Same with the doctor's waiting room.

The walk to the post office has been known to take me more than an hour because I've met so many people to talk to. In spite of that life is quiet and much slower than city life. If I wake up about 2.00 or 3.00am everything is quiet outside which it never would be in a city.

Yes there are disadvantages. No theatres nearby, though there is a cinema about 6 miles away. There are libraries and mobile libraries but no art galleries unless you want to travel about 40 miles. There are some specialist museums - such as the bulb museum - that's flower bulbs not electric light bulbs; and there are big houses to visit not that far away - nearest is 10 miles away. With mail order and the internet you can get anything you want delivered and there is a furniture shop about 5 miles away which is very good and very reasonably priced in spite of a captive audience.

I like being able to walk into the doctors and be addressed by name by the receptionists - it makes me feel I belong - though it could indicate I go there too often! Crime is low - virtually non-existent in this village. It's a bit higher in the two neighbouring towns though in both of them you could walk through the town centre at night on your own without any qualms about safety.

Saturday, 7 August 2010


Scandalous by Tilly Bagshawe looks like your typical blockbuster, sex and shopping holiday read but actually it is rather more than that. Sasha is clever and gains a place at Cambridge to study physics. It looks as though she has a bright future ahead of her as a scientist. But thanks to Theo Dexter this is not what happens. Revenge is what motivates Sasha to make a career for herself as a business woman in the USA . But all the time she is looking out for a suitable way of getting her own back.

Set in Cambridge and New York this is a well written book with many very funny one liners and some believable characters. Theo's wife Theresa - a Shakespearean scholar - is one of the protagonists. Both Sasha and Theresa have their faults which make them human. I'm always wary of reading this type of blockbuster fiction because it frequently promises a lot and delivers little. Scandalous is a satisfying read with an intriguing finale. I enjoyed it. Not quite a 5* read but certainly 4*s.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Lessons learned

I have been involved in an argument on an Amazon forum during the course of the last few months. Please bear in mind that it never really annoyed me and it caused me quite a bit of amusement one way and another. I don't believe I wrote anything that was at all nasty as I tried to make my posts purely factual. About the only thing I could be criticised for was agreeing with the person concerned that yes in my opinion she was being paranoid.

The lessons I have learned:

  • Don't ever show something is important to you or you feel strongly about something otherwise you will be ridiculed
  • Accept all abuse without retaliating
  • If someone accuses you of breaking any rules or laws - don't rise to it and defend yourself - you'll only end up in the wrong
  • Everything you think is insulting is actually humorous and you're the stupid one for taking it seriously - no good expecting your own comments to be taken as a joke because they won't be.

I'm semi-serious about those points but I actually think the person I was arguing with has a screw loose.

Some of the problem is that I have developed a reputation for being reasonable and rational and not insulting people and I was consequently arguing with my hands tied behind my back and with a bag over my head while the other person behaved like drifting mist and turned round everything I said to mean the opposite of how it was intended.

Baffled by the whole thing - yes I am. Communication to me is a two way process and I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. I always mean exactly what I write - unless I put a winking smiley at the end of it. Other people seem to take the piss all the time. Oh well we're all different and there's nowt so queer as folk.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sick Notes

I love reading books about people's jobs and Sick Notes by Tony Copperfield is a very good example of the genre. As the title suggests it's about the work of a GP and it's very funny - and sad. The people who really need the GP's services are almost always the ones who fail to keep their appointments. The surgery is often full of the worried well clutching Internet print outs. There are people with many symptoms - none of which fit any known disease and there are people who will talk about everything except the problem they really want dealt with. Women are far better than men at describing symptoms - especially pain. Men just know it hurts women will tell the GP when it started, what it's like, what makes it better and what makes it worse and what they think caused it.

Obviously this is a generalisation but I've read before that women are in general better at describing symptoms of any sort. There are sad cases in the book - the Type 1 Diabetic who is not using her insulin properly and the hypochondriac who does turn out to have something serious wrong with him. But the big thing to take from this book is that 90% of complaints will get better without any medical intervention at all and medical intervention may even make things worse. Your doctor's job is to keep you away from the hospital and away from all the expensive tests - not to save the NHS money but to allow your body to do what it does best - heal itself.

Should be required reading for all patients.