Tag: discussions

Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted January 14, 2019 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

Since last week, I’ve picked out my colour palette (such as it is — my wife was involved, and she loves a riot of colour) and ordered the yarn! So I thought I’d update on the chosen colour palette. Here’s an image with some colour swatches to give you a better idea:

Graphic showing the colours I've chosen for my blanket and what each one means
Graphic showing the colours I’ve chosen for my blanket and what each one means (click to embiggen)

In other words, looking at the table below, for each square I’m going to make the centres out of a colour chosen based on the genre of the book (table A) and then a round in a colour chosen based on the source of the book (table B). If the book covers two genres, I’ll do two rounds for the first genre and two rounds for the second genre.

Table A: Genres and Colours

ColourTurquoiseStorm BlueClaretLobeliaGoldBright PinkGrass Green

Table B: Genre and Colour

SourceBacklog 2011-2015Backlog 2016-2018Acquired this yearLibrary, ARC, borrowed, etc
So a book that’s a Mystery/Romance, bought back in 2014, will get two rounds in Claret and two in Bright Pink, followed by a round or two (I haven’t decided yet, it will depend on the size when made) in Bottle. That will have a border in Cream, which will also attach it to the next square. I need to look up how to join with crochet in a blanket, but that shouldn’t take too much effort!

All the colours picked were Stylecraft Special DK; I also got a refer-a-friend link which will get you 15% off a first order from LoveKnitting, which will also give me 15% off my next order for anyone who signs up! Click here for 15% off yarn from LoveKnitting!

Finally, I also picked out the design: I’m going to keep it simple and go with an expanding geometric hexagon, with the pattern from CrochetSpot — circled in red on this photo from their pattern:

Okay, that’s all for this week! Hopefully next week I’ll have some progress on the actual blanket to show you.

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Discussion: Book Blanket

Posted January 7, 2019 by Nicky in General / 8 Comments

While clicking around on Twitter, as you do, I learned about an awesome project some other book nerds are doing. (Full credit: I heard about it from a booktuber, Claire Rosseau.) I’m not much into Instagram or Youtube or whatever, so if there’s a linkup anywhere for web bloggers, someone gimme it and I’ll be right over like a shot.

Anyway, what is this awesome project? A book blanket! Basically, for every book I read in 2019, I crochet a motif to be part of a blanket. Each motif’s colours will be dictated by the book I just read (so for example, if I just read a fantasy book, I’d make a purple square). At the end, I should have a massive blanket of around 250 motifs, if I read roughly the same amount I read last year. It’s going to be epic! (And unlike some of my other blanket projects, it’s very deliberately piecemeal, and so I should be able to do it in little bits as I go along.)

And of course, I’ll blog about every step of the project. When I have an update, I’ll post about it as my discussion post for the week (and when I don’t have any news, which will be most of the time, I’ll think of something else, or post a book review instead). I’ll probably do a couple more of these in January covering my decision process, though, because here I get to combine crochet and books, and that’s pretty awesome.

So! What have I decided so far? I’ve decided that I’ll use acrylic yarn. Any wool-mix is out for me, due to sensitive skin: I can just about work with wool-mixes without problems, but they irritate my skin a lot. Cotton is nice, but could get expensive, and can also be really stiff — not what you want in a big snuggly floppy blanket. So acrylic is my decision: generally hard-wearing, easy to wash, and not too expensive either. And I think I’ll go for DK for the yarn weight; smaller is fiddlier, and there’s a lot more variety available in DK. Chunky yarn is a love of mine, but with 200 motifs, it’d come out too big.

How am I going to join them? Having laboriously sewn a blanket together at the end — a small blanket, at that — I’m going to crochet them together with white yarn. That will give each of them a border, look nice, and can be done as I go along. So I’ll need an extra skein of yarn in white.

To LoveKnitting.com! Having worked with it before and looking at the huge colour selection, I think I’m going to go for Stylecraft Special DK. I’ll probably try and keep the whole thing in the same brand of yarn, to ensure that as much is kept similar as possible, but it shouldn’t matter too much as long as the material and the weight are the same for all the motifs.

Posts to come: colours! Motif type! Maybe a tutorial video or step by step post in which I show you how to make the motif if you want to give it a try!

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Discussion: When To Give Up

Posted December 10, 2018 by Nicky in General / 11 Comments

It’s probably not a shock to anyone reading this that I have a large number of books I own, in both ebook and dead tree, that I haven’t yet read. Somewhere around 1,200, I would guess. No, I don’t mean that’s the number of books on my wishlist. I own them, and will quite possibly be crushed to death by them if I’m not careful. My darling wife (who knew full well what she was in for when she married me) kindly went through and figured out exactly how many I have remaining from each year, after Chuckles’ post breaking down her TBR inspired me!

2011: 28 unread (60 listed) – 47% unread
2012: 152 unread (208 listed) – 73% unread
2013: 363 unread (519 listed) – 70% unread
2014: 198 unread (392 listed) – 51% unread
2015: 103 unread (255 listed) – 40% unread
2016: 109 unread (228 listed) – 48% unread
2017: 101 unread (233 listed) – 43% unread
2018: 158 unread (210 listed) – 75% unread

It looks like I was amazingly bad at picking books I actually wanted to read at some point in the last five years in 2012 and 2013 — but it’s not quite so, since the pre-2013 lists don’t include books I bought and had read before the blog started in late 2013. 2018, I put down to the year not being finished yet. The dust hasn’t settled!

The reason this entry is titled “When To Give Up” is because I don’t know when that is. It’s very rare for me to strike off a book on my backlist without trying it, and sometimes even when I have tried it. I guess I’m just reluctant to miss out on something that could be good through feeling like I should have fewer books. Also, I know I’m a mood reader and that you never can guess when I’ll suddenly want to read something obscure from the backlog.

Still, as a little experiment in public accountability, I’m going to include some stats in my Weekly Roundup posts from now on: number of books in, number of books read, and number of books from the backlog read. Let’s see how that goes! I suspect it’s going to find that I am easily distracted by — oh look, a library!

Anyway, there, Mum — was it as bad as you thought? And other readers, how do you think you compare? Do you read books right away, or hoard them like a book dragon?

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Habitica Bookclub: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Posted December 3, 2018 by Nicky in General / 2 Comments

This month’s randomish pick for the Legendary Book Club on Habitica is Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I’ve been seeing it around a fair bit, but haven’t read it — and then there it was, in a buy-one-get-one-half-price sale in Waterstones. It seemed like the ideal time, so I added it to the stack, and now it’s my pick for the book club run solely by my own caprice.

I’m particularly interested in the fact that it’s based on experiences of race from a British non-white perspective. So much of the discourse online is based around the experience of black people in the US, which I’ve always been convinced is a different kettle of fish — cue the protests of white Americans who think that I’m being racist to suggest that maybe race isn’t experienced in the same way universally. The idea that it might be different for a African-American person born in the South whose family has been in the US since the 1700s and a hijabi born in Bradford whose parents emigrated as children… is not really widely considered, at least in the circles I run in. The model of racism discussed online has always been rather US-based, ignoring those differences. (And of course the inevitable differences in the ingrained ways of thinking about race.)

I’m also interested because people have such a kneejerk reaction to it, but often when you actually read pieces like that, it turns out the title is really all a lot of other folks have read. (See also: Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit. So much kneejerk angsting from men over an essay that is plainly talking about the habits of a certain kind of man.)

So that’s the background! Assuming I actually get to reading this book within the month this time (alas for The Genius Plague), I’ll try and get a review up and maybe even a discussion post. For now, feel free to comment here if you’ve read the book/plan to read it/think it’s obvious rot from the title alone, and let’s chat!

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Discussion: ARCs

Posted November 26, 2018 by Nicky in General / 10 Comments

For some book bloggers, life seems to revolve around ARCs (that’s advance reader’s copies, if you haven’t caught the bug). Getting them, reviewing them, swapping them, collecting them… Some people seem to forget that really they’re being put out there to encourage people to buy the book, especially when it first comes out.

I mean, bloggers end up practically swarming the American Library Association’s annual event, taking along a big suitcase so they can fit in as many review copies as possible — copies really intended for librarians, to help them decide what to order for their own libraries, what to recommend to readers, etc. Some bloggers then go online right after and start selling their ARCs (which if you didn’t know, that’s a big no-no: they’re specifically not legal to be sold).

I mean, I get the appeal, obviously! You get an awesome book before anyone else. I apply or ask for or just receive ARCs in the mail pretty often (mostly apply and ask for, not just get them — or when I do get them, sometimes they’re actually genres I wouldn’t read). Occasionally a publicist will even reach out to me and offer me one! That’s all great. But sometimes… sometimes, guys, I think that book bloggers have lost the plot. ARCs aren’t something we should receive as a right. They cost money to produce, and often a blogger won’t buy a copy of a book they got as an ARC, especially when it’s a print ARC. It can help with buzz, but buzz isn’t sales, and that first couple of weeks is really important for a book — you need readers to be fired up and desperate to get their hands on it!

Often, these days, I think part of it is the “next day delivery” phenomenon (I don’t know about you, but I used to wait a week or two for my book orders, but now I get irrationally annoyed if they take more than a day), the urge to have things right now. Isn’t it an awesome feeling to get it before everyone else?

I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to trying to live more in the moment. I don’t read half the ARCs I’m so grabby about before the book comes out anyway. Let’s get excited about pre-orders again, about reading the book all together the day it’s out instead of on our own months before.

I mean, not that I’m staying off Netgalley or anything. But I’m also not going to whine if I don’t get the book I want. Pinky promise.

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Discussion: Book Club

Posted November 19, 2018 by Nicky in General / 8 Comments

I’m somewhat convinced to post an opener for my book club choices on Habitica here, starting in December, but in the meantime I wanted to ponder a little about picking books for a book club. It can be really difficult: do you want to pick something people will like, or something people will discuss? Often those won’t be the same thing at all: a book group I was in had months of fruitful discussion about a book we universally loathed, while a book we loved had maybe five comments in the whole thread. The discussion is often better if a book is divisive, too: if one person criticises it and another digs in to defend it, and nobody’s feelings get hurt, there are hours of discussion to be had.

Confession: mostly, I pick the books for the Habitica book club with three criteria: 1) it’s a different genre to the last two months’, 2) I own it and 3) I want to read it sometime soon. The whole intent was to cut out the difficult bit where people vote on a choice or someone forgets that it’s their month to pick or whatever, and just make sure that it’s a book I already own, want to read, and think could prompt some discussion if anyone feels into it. (Most successful pick in a while for the latter is this month’s pick: The Genius Plague, by David Walton.) To a great extent, it’s a commitment device: I told these people I’ll read it, so I guess I’m gonna have to.

(Sometimes it works.)

If I’m picking for a book club in the real world, discussion is probably the primary thing on my mind — but also trying to balance everyone else’s known likes and dislikes. Is this book going to provoke a political argument? Is this book going to just bore X silly? Is Y going to be a child about what happens in chapter ten? Just sharing a book I enjoyed or expect to enjoy has never really worked, mostly because I feel like other people expect something worth discussing.

I’d love a book club where people abandoned lists of discussion questions or considerations of what other people would like. Every month, a different person would bring along a book they just really loved. Okay, discussions would sometimes just be handflappy “omg the bit with X and Y doing the thing!”… but that sounds kind of nice, and I have no doubt that discussions would still arise organically, not due to intent but simply because books are like that, if you give them half a chance. There would be a strict rule about never telling someone else their taste sucks just because it differs.

To be quite fair, my favourite book club is pretty much like that and consists of two people: me and my wife. Discussions are random, tastes mostly align without total agreement ever being likely or desired, and I’ve never had to offer to crown her with a tub of guac. (Sorry, Robert.) Someday, for the sake of Wife Book Club, I might even get round to reading Republic of Thieves.

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Discussion: Regular Features

Posted November 12, 2018 by Nicky in General / 14 Comments

A lot of bloggers participate in various features every week — Stacking the Shelves, Top Ten Tuesday, What Are You Reading Wednesday… Personally, I kind of cooled on the Top Ten Tuesday themes I was seeing, but there’ve been a couple I liked recently, and maybe I should keep a better eye on that. I prefer to keep my blog mostly reviews, though at the moment it’s kind of half-and-half as I’m not posting a review as well on most days (been reading kind of slow, I guess — I don’t have reviews to post!) that I have another feature running.

At the same time, with features like this I get kind of lazy. I turn out my posts for the regular features and then don’t go and comment on others, and that just feels unfair. It helps if there’s interesting topics and I’m likely to meet other thoughtful bloggers who actually want to discuss (rather than just drop a random comment to get a follow), though.

So, out of curiosity, any you’d like to see me do? And conversely, any that you really hate and wish people would stop posting? I can’t think of any in the latter group for me, though I’m unlikely to participate in any that are just about posting covers.

Really, I’d like to participate in more that encourage talking about books and reading (or sometimes blogging) in a way that promotes discussion and exposure to other people’s thoughts. I do a monthly readalong on Habitica, for instance, and I keep wondering if I should post about that here as well, maybe even come up with some discussion questions, and try and make a bigger thing of it…

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Discussion: Film Adaptations

Posted November 5, 2018 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed how I feel about movie adaptations in general. It’s a bit of a hot button topic among book lovers, isn’t it? “The book is always better” purists and those who just don’t trust Hollywood on principle (smart move)… Me? I don’t watch films or TV much at all, so it’s a bit of a moot point. I think comic book movies work really well: it’s a visual medium being adapted into another visual medium, so it’s not quite as tricky, and actors like Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans have done a good job at somehow embodying the larger than life characters from comics. When it’s done well, it can even bring a new cohesiveness to disparate material — I don’t follow how the fuck most of Marvel’s comics fit together most of the time, but the Cinematic Universe has allowed a lot more interlinking.

(On the other hand, maybe too much. Civil War was billed rather awkwardly as a Captain America movie when it was clearly an Avengers movie. It was about the whole team, not Cap as such. You wouldn’t get away with that in comics; a lot of people follow particular headline characters, not teams and crossovers.)

Books, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. They’re not a visual medium, and the translation can be harder. I think some movies have done it extremely well — Lord of the Rings, but not the Hobbit, for instance — by taking pains to be as close to the source as possible. Some have been super boring because they stuck close to a book that didn’t translate well, either through narrative voice or through much of the action being in thought rather than deed. Others have benefitted by going off at a right angle (Stardust, Howl’s Moving Castle). Some have just bombed by doing that (The Seeker).

All in all, I think adaptation is an art in itself, which you have to keep in mind as well as film-making. The same goes in the opposite direction — I’m sure a very good book can be written based on a movie, but it can’t just repeat the action word for word. It’s an act of translation to a new medium, and really you need to understand the needs of both media.

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Discussion: Likeable Characters

Posted October 29, 2018 by Nicky in General / 19 Comments

For ages on Goodreads I had a really annoying follower who would always complain when I reviewed a book on the basis of liking or not liking the characters. Honestly, I’ve lost track of why they felt that was the case, but it was based on some idea of how one should actually appreciate books, and particularly given the fact I was an English Lit student (and later graduate, and then postgrad).

Friends, it’s bullshit. You can like or not like a book for whatever reason you want on your own time. Personal reading for pleasure has nothing to do with an academic assessment of a book’s merits — if you even think that the job of academia is to sit in judgement over whether a book is good or not (which I think would’ve had the entire literature department at daggers drawn if it was truly what the study of literature is all about).

So yeah. I’ll come right out and say it: likeable characters are a big part of whether I enjoy a book or not. They don’t have to be perfect (that’s just boring), but mostly I do need to be able to root for them, care about what happens, and not just be waiting for them to hurry up and die. It’s part of what adds tension to a story. If you don’t care whether the characters live or die, that climatic scene with the big bad doesn’t mean very much.

There are books you like in spite of characters — and characters who are terrible people but engaging anyway, too! Likeable doesn’t have to mean in the right, either. And characters definitely don’t have to be relateable in the sense of sharing experiences with me: what’s important is that I can understand why they think and feel the way they do.

So, how about you guys? Characters? Or could they be cardboard cutouts for all you care?

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Discussion: Returning comments

Posted October 15, 2018 by Nicky in General / 8 Comments

Normally, I have a policy of commenting back on the blogs of everyone who comments here. It slipped for a while due to complete lack of time between working, studying and moving, but I’m trying to get back into the habit now. However, during the last week someone commented on my blog and I blithely went to comment back on theirs… only to find that they hold views completely repugnant to me.

I’m (somewhat) okay with having friends who disagree with me, who even think that (for example) homosexuality is a sin, support Trump, support Brexit, think that trigger/content warnings are political correctness gone mad, etc, etc. But those friends are usually friends who mostly keep it under their hat when around me unless we decide to discuss it in a civil manner: they don’t openly rank homosexuality with paedophilia, or tell me my wife should have been turned back at the border, etc. I don’t usually make friends with people who openly declare that they think I’m going to hell, and to be quite frank, pushing one’s boundaries and not living in an echo chamber is one thing — putting up with someone who sounds honestly gleeful about how disgusting they find me and people I love is quite another.

And, being honest… I know another blogger can’t do anything to harm me, but going to their blog to find their comments about homosexuality being a sin and perversion felt like a bucket of ice cold water being dumped over my head. I was scared. People like that make the world a frightening place for people like me. Even if they themselves do nothing but talk, people like them followed me and my sister around at school telling us we should kill ourselves; people like that leave people like me for dead on the side of the road, not just historically but now (with homophobic attacks in my own country up almost 80% in the last four years). People like me have to be careful.

It was a harsh reminder that sharing a love of books with someone doesn’t mean we share anything else. Maybe if their top review hadn’t contained a disgusted comment about the book involving homosexuality, we’d have had a short chat about books and parted none the wiser. But I did see that.

So, should I have commented? I don’t know. In the end, I decided that they too would probably prefer it if I didn’t comment, given the givens. I definitely felt safer not doing so.