January 2024 book blog

January and the first half of February were about writing more than reading, and I’m very happy to announce that I sent book 3 to the copy editor today. Hearts’ Home will be self published, just as the two previous books in the Ransomed Hearts series were. Of course, writers gotta read, and I pretty much spent January reading ‘Screams from the Dark’ a monster 470 page trade paperback sized anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. Appropriately enough, the theme is ‘Monsters’.
There are 29 stories in this book, and as with most multi-author collections, some hit the spot and others didn’t quite do it. The stories, and the collection as a whole, doesn’t shy away from the idea that humans can be the worst monsters of all. Because I don’t have any other books to talk about this month, I’ll go into some detail here. Beware spoilers.
Ian Rogers’ ‘You Have What I Need’ is a cool little vampire story set in a busy hospital. Fran Wilde’s ‘The Midway’ harks back to the Golden Age of SF and horror, evoking both Bradbury and Lovecraft with a touch of Free Willy.
I’ve learned to watch out for Gemma Files stories, they’ll eat into your head and seed your nightmares. ‘Wet Red Grin’ has a title that made me think immediately of Barker’s ‘Rawhead Rex’, and whilst the plot doesn’t echo that classic horror story, the vibe certainly does. Probably one of my favourites of the book.
Daryl Gregory’s ‘The Virgin Jimmy Peck’ grabs the ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ trope and sends it through the Buffyverse to a tragicomic and unnerving conclusion.
Priya Sharma’s ‘The Ghost of a Flea’ was a bit above my head. I’ve heard of William Blake, but until now the only John Varley I’d heard of was the USian SF writer. I’m afraid this story fell somewhat flat for me, although it was well written and plotted, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Brian Hodge’s ‘The Atrocity Exhibitionists’ catches the zeitgeist. It’s one of those stories that will doubtless age poorly, but is enormous fun today. The monster is us, and our unrelenting social media demands on celebrities. The monsters are the celebrities who feed on clicks and adulation and will do anything to protect their fame. It’s not subtle, but it’s fun.
Joyce Carol Oates is a welcome contributor to any anthology, and with ‘The Father of Modern Gynecology’ she brings to our attention a true monster of his time.
Continuing the theme of monstrous males, Indrapramit Das’s ‘Here Comes Your Man’ is a tale of predatory men and a young couple from the city.
Siobhan Carroll’s ‘Siolaigh’ makes a welcome and enjoyable contribution to the sea monster / folk horror / sacrifice genre.
‘What is Love But The Quiet Moments After Dinner’ is a tasty little treat from the very reliable Richard Kadrey. Sometimes, you meet your soul mate, and when that happens, the results can be messy.
Norman Partridge’s ‘The Island’ is a mythic vampire tale that takes a while to get over.
Garry Kilworth took the theme pretty literally with ‘Flaming Teeth’. It’s a story about an ogre, and some people who got really, really out of their depth. I loved it.
Caitlin R Kiernan’s ‘Strandling’ is about love and death and the end of the world. It’s a beautiful story.
‘The Special One’ served as my introduction to Chikodili Emelumadu. I very much enjoyed this creepy little story of self delusion.
Glen Hirshberg’s ‘Devil’ wouldn’t find itself out of place in a horror anthology from the last few decades, it has a remote location, innocent tourists, a ghost story and a monster. This is another of my favourites.
A C Wise absolutely creeped me out with ‘Crick Crack Rattle Tap.’
Stephen Graham Jones takes on an urban legend in ‘Children of the Night’ and turns it into one of the most entertaining vampire stories I’ve read in ages.
Kaaron Warren’s ‘The Smell of Waiting’ is an inventive, creepy tale that draws you in, but didn’t quite pay off for me. Am I allowed to be sad about an unhappy ending in a horror story?
Livia Llewellyn’s ‘Now Voyager’ was my only DNF in the collection. It didn’t grab me, but bear in mind that I was reading all these stories right before bedtime, and I may have loved it if I’d come to it with more energy.
Carole Johnstone’s ‘The Last Drop’ is another story based on historical facts. Mary Timney was the last woman to be publicly hanged in Scotland. This story explores the monstrousness to be found in all of us.
Nathan Ballingrud’s ‘Three Mothers Mountain’ reads as a fairy tale, and leaves behind a haunting feeling of wanting to return to the world he’s created in this story. This is probably the only story in the collection that has left me wanting to know more.
Margo Lanagan’s ‘Widow-Light’ is another of my favourites. Every year, a girl or a young woman is chosen to be sacrificed to the monster on the hill. One year, the villagers pick the wrong victim, and things suddenly change.
Joe R Lansdale’s ‘Sweet Potato’ is a luscious little story that I very much enjoyed.
Brian Evenson’s ‘Knock Knock’ is a scary story about a monster that just wouldn’t stay dead. Rules are rules, until they’re not.
Cassandra Khaw’s ‘What is Meat with no God’ is fantasy horror. The undying soldier, animated by magic, is a fearful creature, but what would it be like to be that soldier?
A new Laird Barron story is a treasure, and ‘Bitten by Himself’ does not disappoint. Some men are just born to be monsters.
The mother / daughter / sister relationship is fertile ground for horror, and Kristi DeMeester digs deep in ‘Burial.’
I found myself thinking about Jeffrey Ford’s ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ several times in the weeks after I read it. Again, it has echoes of Rawhead Rex, which the universe is clearly telling me to re-read. We have a secret government experiment, an isolated community, and a dreamlike telling of the chaos that ensues.
John Langan’s ‘Blodsuger’ is one of the longest stories in the collection, and brings the book to a close. I do enjoy a story of European monsters transplanted to the US. This would make a great film.

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December 2023 book blog

I finished reading ‘The Plague Dogs’ early in December, but reviewed it in November. I passed my battered old copy to my sister, who remembered it from our teenage years. Books have history.

My next book was ‘The Firework Maker’s Daughter’ by Philip Pullman. This is a nice little children’s story that made me smile. I was out at a craft fair without anything to read, and found this at the bottom of a bag. No idea how it got there! I read it and passed it on to a friend who has a small child. A plucky girl sets off on an adventure, followed by a concerned friend or two, and everyone learns something about themselves. It’s nice to read a kids’ book now and again.

The following day also found me at a craft fair, business was quiet, but I’d had the forethought to drop a slim book into my bag. Slim books are best for craft fairs, it’s easier to find your page again when you drop everything to make a sale. This particular novella was ‘Ghost Wall’ by Sarah Moss. It started with a fair bit of promise, but the ending was rushed and felt clumsy. It’s a novella that would have made a great short story simply by stripping away half of the characters. I loved the idea of the story, but the protagonist is too thinly drawn for her plight to really draw me in. I passed the book onto a friend straight away.

I’d been saving King’s latest, ‘Holly’, for a rainy day, and we got a lot of rainy days last month. I started off by nibbling quietly at this book at bedtime … just a little taste. It didn’t seem quite the usual thing, but I persevered, taking bigger and bigger bites, until I realised that I loved it so much I didn’t want to stop and devoured the whole thing in one big sitting. Some people have said that this is King’s ‘Covid book’, but it’s not really. The virus is there, in the background, playing its part, adding tension and colour, but it’s a minor character that adds depth and emphasis to the Big Bad, which isn’t supernatural or paranormal, but is still breathtakingly monstrous. This is a Stephen King book, so I shouldn’t have to point out that it’s not for the squeamish. However, just so you can’t say I didn’t warn you … it’s not for the squeamish.

This was the month that I found my way back to the library. There was a brand new shiny hardback from Naomi Alderman just waiting for me, with not a single stamp on it. It would have been rude to go home without it. So, if you’re looking for a fast paced near future techno thriller … yeah, it’s all that. Three tech multi billionaires know they’re wrecking our civilisation but their main response is to build themselves a bunker or ten. Four of the people closest to them realise that something has to be done. It’s not the greatest book ever written … if you like this kind of thing, go to Doctorow or Gibson … but it’s OK, and it kept me reading to the end, even though … spoiler alert … one of the narrative voices doesn’t tell us everything. Secrets and lies, right to the end.

December is Birthday month, and R.F. Kuang’s ‘The Poppy War’ was a requested gift, based on how much I’d enjoyed their Babel. It’s odd how I started and ended the year, pretty much, with war based fantasy. ‘The Poppy War’ is a formulaic fantasy with strong TWs for rape, genocide, torture and anything else you care to mention. Apparently there are sequels. I will be reading them, because some formulae work if they’re written right, and Rin is a wonderfully tragic protagonist.

Another Birthday book was Kelly Link’s collection ‘White Cat, Black Dog’ which came recommended by Lisa Tuttle in her regular Guardian column. I’d made a note back in March and put it on ‘The List’. I was overwhelmed when I finished it. OK, I don’t even feel worthy as a person to give this book five stars. It’s so far above me that I’m just going to let it simmer for a while and think about it. I daren’t review it. I’ve already read Skinder’s Veil in one of Datlow’s ‘Best ofs’ and honestly, it felt like a new story to me, there was so much, so so much, that I’d missed the first time round. Buy it, read it, keep it, read it again and again.

My final book of 2023 was John Scalzi’s ‘Starter Villain’. I’ve heard the author’s name mentioned many times on social media, but had never seen any of his work in the wild. And yet, there it was, on the ‘new books’ section in the public library, with only one other reader so far. I was tempted, and checked it out. ‘Starter Villain’ is fast moving, easy reading and fun. I read it in a day, but isn’t that why we have Christmas? Broke, divorced and barely employed, our hero finds himself drawn into the world of the superwealthy and their plots and spats.
This is the second book that I’ve read this month concerning the problem of the superwealthy and what to do about them. ‘The Future’ was kinder to them.

So, that’s it for 2023. According to Goodreads I read 52 books in 2023, which is a satisfying number. Of course, there were a few unpublished books that I beta read for other writers, and lots of magazine articles that didn’t get logged, but I think I’ve commented on every published book that I read. 2024 is here, and eight days in I’m still reading the huge Ellen Datlow anthology that I started to read on NYE. I’ll tell you all about that one next month.

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November 2023 book blog

Wow, it’s nearly 2024, so I’m a little bit behind with this. Now, where were we? Oh yes, ‘The Fiends in the Furrows II’. These themed anthologies are very moreish, and I’m going to have to get my hands on the third instalment soon. I was greedy, I read I and II back to back. Folk horror has a few things to say about greed, but I’ll pretend that I didn’t notice. So, Nosetouch Press has got editors Neal and Scott to gather together a motley collection of creepy stories, and has also scored an introduction from folk horror star Andrew Michael Hurley. It’s also got a closing story from my anthology sister, the talented and terrifying Tracey Fahey. I am developing a theory that a Tracey Fahey story is a great way to end a themed set of stories, she has a knack of writing tales that linger, and her ‘Dearg-an-Daol’ deals with love, duty, family and superstition with her usual deftness.
With any themed anthology, the variation in voices risks a few stories missing the mark with any individual reader, and I confess that not every tale in this book hit the spot for me, but I am but one glutton with an endless supply of stories at my disposal, your opinions may well vary. Speaking of gluttony, one recurrent theme of this book is the environmental apocalypse that prompts people to turn back to the old ways of the land in a desperate attempt to survive. However, one of my favourite stories in the book is set a thousand years ago, far from our current mess. Jack Lothian’s ‘A Deed Without A Name’ was rightly included in Datlow’s Best Horror 13 and is a genuinely brainchurning side trip from a very well known tale.

My second book for November was Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘More Than Human’. It’s very odd to think that this book is seventy years old, it feels modern. First, a history of this copy. It was obviously a library book at some point, it’s been read a lot. Then it found its way into private circulation, and somehow ended up in a charity shop, where I bought it. It would have been a while ago. Since then it’s lurked around the house, been packed away and brought out again, and at last it found its way to a shelf, from which it was chosen last week. Soon it’ll be passed on, as I loved it, but I need to reduce the number of books in the house, for reasons of sanity.
Second, a kind of review. This book made me happy, for all sorts of reasons. It’s a very well written book. It has a whole load of sympathetic characters, who remain sympathetic even when they’re being obnoxious. It has great plot, that winds around and circles back on itself, but is ultimately satisfying and rewarding. It’s the ultimate buddy book, a group of undesirables, lost and unwanted and frustrated alone, find each other and discover that together they are more than the sum of their parts. And at the end, it gets even better.

From Sturgeon to Tuttle, and her ‘My Death’. A book from one of my favourite authors, a book that is almost twenty years old, a book that I didn’t even know existed until a few weeks ago. Ah well, thank goodness for social media eh? This is probably the paradigm of Lisa Tuttle books. It has the building blocks for many of her books and short stories. Insecurity? Imposter syndrome? A sense of impending doom and loss? It’s all there, all mixed together with a slowly growing fix of body horror. Of course I loved it.

‘The Plague Dogs’ spanned several weeks of November and December, but as I’ve read a fair books already in December, I’ll include my thoughts in the November roundup. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great book, but it just struck me that the plot is nearly identical to Enid Blyton’s ‘The Secret Island’, another book that I read again and again and always cried at the end of.This is a wonderful book, it is very descriptive, lyrical about the beauty and desolation of the Lake District, unforgiving about the machinations of reporters, politicians and scientists, and deeply sympathetic to the plight of its protagonists, being two dogs who have escaped from a research facility only to find themselves cold and hungry on the fells.I used to re-read this book a couple of times a year, back in the late seventies and early eighties, but this is my first dip into it for decades. I realised that I’d missed Snitter and Rowf a lot.Not for the faint hearted, but well worth a read.

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October 2023 book blog

I was reading the print version of Interzone 295 at the beginning of the month, but I can’t find it anywhere – I must have decluttered it. I do remember a stand out story titled ‘Hollywood Animals’ that deserves to be in a year’s best anthology. Definitely worth buying the issue for.
From the last print issue of Interzone for the forseeable future to a rare foray into non-fiction for me, with ‘Entangled Life – How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures’. This is a fascinating tour of the biology, ecology and cultural history of fungus. We start off by looking at truffles, head off to visit lichens, take a nice long look at mycelia, then finish off with yeast. I learned a lot, and was hugely entertained in the process. I’ll never look at a mushroom the same way again.
After that, I was in the mood for an old friend, so I went to my Stephen King shelf and chose ‘The Dark Half’. A re-read, of course. Probably the third or fourth for this one, it’s never been one of my favourite King stories, but I think I appreciate Thad Beaumont as a flawed protagonist much more this time round. His flirtation with his dark half seems much more understandable now, and adds a bit of spice to the story. So, for those who haven’t read it yet, this is a story of a writer (not Stephen King) who outs his alter ego pen name (not Richard Bachman) who has been the public name of the gorier stories that weren’t quite what he wanted to be associated with. Said pen name turns out to be a bit annoyed at being killed off, even though he was never alive in the first place, and embarks on a journey of bloody havoc.
So, a magazine, a non fiction hardback, and a revisited King – by now I’m in the mood for some new horror, and luckily I had Rachel Halsall’s gorgeous anthology ‘The Grave Bell’ on my tbr pile. This is a very readable selection of gothic goodies from my anthology sister (Hauntings). It is a very pretty book, beautifully and carefully produced, and the stories are a choice and delicious collection of very, very gothic tales. There’s a familiarity to them, as if they’re stories that you always knew, but just needed reminding of. Take one a day and digest carefully.
I moved from Halsall’s full on gothic tales to a closely related anthology of folk horror. ‘The Fiends in the Furrows’ is another beautifully presented paperback, this time a themed anthology rather than a single author one, but with Hallowe’en coming up, what better time to get stuck in? This had been on my tbr pile for months now, and was unusually ‘nicked’ from my pile by my husband, who also enjoyed it.
I was out fundraising, and the customers were few and far between, so I got the chance to read the whole book in one go. I have to say that there were a few confusing moments in some of the stories, where some sentences seemed to be a little jumbled, but on the whole these stories were really satisfyingly creepy. A couple were already familiar to me from Datlow’s ‘Best New Horror’ anthologies, but that made them more fun to read the second time around, if anything.
I started the second book in the series on Hallowe’en, but will review it in November.

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The Decluttering Blog – part five

It’s a constant battle isn’t it? I’ve bought the new Stephen King novel, because that is who I am. I’m the woman who buys the new Stephen King novel as soon as possible. I also have the ‘new’ Pratchett anthology for review, and have very sensibly promised it to a friend as a gift as soon as the embargo lifts. Still, as you’ll see at the end of the blog, the book balance has gone down.  

I didn’t mention the trip to the tip last month. Is it ‘decluttering’ when it’s all stuff that was sorted for the recycling centre months ago and has just been sat around in the garage since then? Whatever, it’s gone now. There was a bright yellow plastic inbox / outbox tray in that batch of stuff, I remember the day I bought it and brought it home. I was determined to get things a bit more sorted (haha) and it was also the day that I first spoke to the young man who is now my husband. A bit of a wrench, throwing those cracked old plastic trays in the skip, but hopefully they’ll have another life somewhere.

I took five old cassette storage boxes to the car boot sale last month. When I say ‘old’, we’re talking decades, as in forty odd years. They were snapped up as soon as the buyers got to the stall, I may have underpriced them, but they’re gone now. They took up a fair amount of space, so that’s a win. I also sold some paper crafting kit that I decided to sell four years ago, and have been carting around to events for the last year.

In an unsurprising turn of events, I then brought home a fair amount of paper crafting stuff and ribbons that had been donated to the charity. Some I will use / have already used, some will go to another volunteer, and some I have paid for as I gave it to a young relative. The ‘Thank You’ cards that I made have now gone to the charity for its use, along with some labels that I designed and printed. The cards count as decluttering, but the labels were in a box that is still taking up just as much room, and will be replaced when it’s empty, so I can’t count them. I can count the plastic wallet that I packaged them in can’t I? This is getting desperate, isn’t it? I’ve also made a start on our own Christmas cards for this year, and I’ve made some cards for the stall. Hopefully they’ll sell. All that cardmaking has made a tiny dent in the envelope stash, as well as the washi tape stash.

Yarn, ah, the yarn. No new yarn in for several weeks, which is good, after the silliness of last month, but then I took about 500g from another knitter. Whoops. Mum took 100g of her cousin’s yarn back, but there’s still a lot of it still in the car, ready to be knitted up. I’m busy knitting hats and scarves as gifts with the Aran wool that I bought last year. Two of the acrylic Aran hats from last month has been gifted, that’s four gone, the rest are in a storage bin, neatly labelled with the size and the fibre content. My next three knitting projects are already planned out! I’ve also been given even more yarn to sell or give to volunteers. Some of it has been sold.

I’ve also washed a mattress protector, sheet and duvet cover for a single bed, which we’ve had absolutely no use for. I’ll give them to a relative, who can use them. That’s emptied a drawer, which is good.

Ebay and other online sales have helped me to get rid of some knitting and crochet patterns and eight books. Also, 700g of yarn, which was donated to the charity and arrived on a Tuesday and was sold and posted the following Thursday, and another 500g which was also sold and posted within 48 hours. I’ve also bought some items off the stall and put them away as gifts, which is more moving things round than decluttering, but they’ll be out of the house eventually.

I took a full box of old books to the charity stall at the supermarket, and I also got rid of three or four at the last car boot sale. That has actually made some space … or it will once I throw the box away.

So, it’s been swings and roundabouts really, with wins on the books and some slight losses on the yarn, but I am getting through old paperwork at a fair rate too. I’m still decluttering!

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September 2023 book blog

The month began with ‘Wonder Worlds’ by William F Nolan. Another farewell read, for a book that’s been on my shelves for decades. It’s been a long time since I read these stories, and only a few felt familiar. This is a collection of dozens of short short stories, some of them almost flash fiction. Some are shaggy dog stories, some what ifs, but they are all of their time. There is humour in there, and some great ideas, but ultimately they haven’t aged particularly well. I think the author must have had a lot of fun writing them though, and I wouldn’t begrudge that of the author of ‘Logan’s Run’.

On to something a little more up to date. ‘The Curious Affair of the Missing Mummies’ is the third book in the Jesperson and Lane series of paranormal detective stories by Lisa Tuttle. I’ve read and enjoyed the first and second books, and thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the adventures of the Victorian detective duo.
The pair have been professional partners for nearly a year now, and the story starts with Jesperson being quite bored by the lack of interesting work, dismissing potential cases with a Holmesian disregard. And then, he spots a young man approaching the house, and deduces immediately that this could be the next big case.
There follows a riveting and rollocking yarn that takes in a beautiful orphaned girl, mummies aplenty, venomous snakes, a possessed tomcat and even a brief non-appearance by the Prince of Wales. Recommended.

My next read was a very welcome review copy of ‘A Stroke of the Pen – the Lost Stories’ which is a collection of early and mostly unpublished short stories by the wonderful Terry Pratchett. My ‘official’ review is in my last blog post, but as this blog ultimately serves to remind me of what I’ve read and what I thought about it, I’ll do a quick summary here too. There are a couple of Introductions that explain how the collection came to be, then a fair number of very short stories. In ‘How it All Began’ a caveman invents fire, and gets carried away, he keeps on inventing whilst his companions wonder what will become of them all. ‘The Fossil Beach’ is a cute time travel story. ‘The Real Wild West’ is a crime caper set in Welshest Wales, but which has more than a hint of Hamish MacBeth. ‘How Scrooge Saw the Spectral Light …’ tells of how Scrooge embraced Christmas and then commercialised it beyond all reason. It’s the first of a run of Christmas themed stories. ‘Wanted – A Fat Jolly Man’ tells the tale of when Father Christmas quit his job and looked for another suitable post. ‘A Partridge in a Post Box’ is one of my favourites from the book, and looks at how a postman deals with someone’s true love sending all kinds of things through the post in the run up to Christmas. The next story introduces us to Blackbury, a town where odd things happen. ‘The Great Blackbury Pie’ is a parable on the importance of understanding the specification before embarking on the project. ‘How Good King Wenceslas Went Pop’ is a story of a well meaning old chap finally getting what he deserves. ‘Dragon Quest’ is a quest with a difference, that lets us know that dragons are people too. ‘The Gnomes from Home’ sees a business minded gnome take over a suburban garden – and a suburban gardener get the upper hand. ‘From the Horse’s Mouth’ is a shaggy horse story about a talking horse, and about learning respect. ‘Blackbury Weather’ has a real Discworld feel to it, and reminds me of the Unseen University stories. ‘The Blackbury Jungle’ is another deft little story about a silly event. ‘Mr Brown’s Holiday Accident’ is a Pratchettesque take on the Truman Show trope, with an added dollop of bureaucracy and 1970s TV. In ‘Pilgarlic Towers’ a haunted house is slated for demolition – but that won’t happen if the resident ghosts have anything to do with it. ‘The Haunted Steamroller’ was another favourite, it made me wonder how we’d be able to tell if an appliance was being run by an AI, or was haunted. ‘The Money Tree’ is literally about a money tree, and perhaps about being a bit too greedy for your own good. ‘The Blackbury Thing’ delves into the world of UFOs and escapees. Finally we come to ‘The Quest for the Keys’. This is the longest story in the book, it was initially serialised and we’re lucky that all the episodes were found. It has strong Discworld vibes, with a dodgy wizard and a hapless hero working through a series of quests to a typically Pratchett ending.

Since I finished the Pratchett collection I’ve not read much at all, I’ve been dipping into Interzone 295, and have nearly finished it. That’s a review for October, methinks.

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A Stroke of the Pen. The Lost Stories – a review by Jeanette Greaves

This one’s for the fans, it’s also for anyone who would like to make a good attempt at being a fan, or those who used to be fans but forgot. Oh, just read it, it’s fun and it’s Pratchett! I count myself as a fan, and loved this chance to explore Pratchett’s early work. A lot of these stories were published under a pseudonym in a local paper, and the story behind the stories is kindly provided in an Introduction by Neil Gaiman.
It was an utter delight to read this collection of early short stories by the man behind Discworld, and to enjoy again his humour, wit and humanity. Themes that will be familiar to his readers soon emerge, there is a good deal of absurdity and silliness, but through it all, his stories tell us that ‘people are people’ in all their glorious fallibility.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

The front cover of Terry Pratchett's collection of early short stories entitled 'A Stroke of the Pen. The Lost Stories'
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The Decluttering Blog – Part Four


There are two aspects to decluttering. The first one is the charity stuff, I need to drastically reduce the amount of stock for the stall, and then keep sales ahead of donations. My primary goal is to raise funds for the charity, my secondary goal is to make sure that things sell as fast as possible,
The second aspect is my own, personal journey to reduce the amount of things in the house. A lot of it is books, a lot of it is yarn, and a lot of it is papercrafting paraphernalia. Several boxes contain stocks of my own Ransomed Hearts books. I am happy to give some of the read books away, but will be keeping as many as possible. Once I’ve found out how many books I actually have room for, I will institute a very strict one in, one out policy. Maybe two out, if the new book is a thickie. Oh yes, please buy my Ransomed Hearts books, they’re good.
Destashing yarn, at the moment, is a big NO. I get why I feel that way, it’s under control, in boxes, and there are no hidden piles anywhere. I will use it. I like owning it, I like the potential for creativity and for making gifts for other people, or items to sell on the stall. The same goes, in a big way, for the papercrafting stuff. Right now I have a lot of cards in stock, made by other people, to sell on the stall. They’ve caused a bit of a bottleneck in terms of my own papercrafting, but the volume of cards is going down, and meanwhile I’ve made some space to cut some labels, the lack of which has been niggling for a year or so, since my cutter went into storage. I’ve sold some cards on the craft stall though, which has helped.
I’ve been doing craft fairs on Thursday evenings to try to move more stock, but they’ve not been that successful, and most of the items that I’ve sold have been smaller things. I have moved a shoebox of cards to another volunteer though, which has helped. Happily, the fairs have led to other sales, which has slightly reduced the stock.
Ebay sales haven’t been bad over the last month or so, and I’ve taken several shopping bags full of stuff to the post office. I’ve also priced up some more cards ready for the big sale that we had at the beginning of September, I hadto make sure that all the boxes of greetings cards are full, with priced up, well organised cards. That’s another large box emptied into an existing storage space, so even though the cards are still in the house, they’re taking up a lot less space. I did sell a dozen or so cards on the day.
In a typical craft stall scenario, a lovely friend of mine bought something, and gave me an equal volume of items to sell. I can’t feel bad about it, her cards are beautiful.
I’m continuing to go through files on an almost daily basis, there’s a lot of paperwork around that I’ll never need again, and honestly, I’m not responsible for archiving 21st century daily life. I need to remember that. I filed a bank statement within 24 hours!
I’ve taken some ‘useful’ cardboard boxes and large carrier bags to another volunteer, she’ll make good use of them. I’ve also binned a damaged storage bag. No, it will NEVER come in useful. I also took some ornaments that a neighbour had given me for the charity. I did well, I only brought one hardbacked book back with me, for eBay. Oh, and that twenty year old tote bag, I did give it a gentle wash before donating it to the charity, but it wasn’t as well made as it looked, and fell apart. Maybe the dirt was all that was holding it together, as they say. It’s in the recycling tub now, ready for a trip to the recycling centre. I also took some empty ink jet cartridges for recycling on the day I replaced them. I think that’s a first, for me.
A neighbour is moving soon, we’ve given him a dozen or so large cardboard boxes and have promised him a large box of packing material. We’ve been keeping all that stuff in case it was needed, and lo and behold, here is someone needing it. It’s actually cleared a fair bit of space. I’ve also been to the recycling centre twice and got rid of two buckets full of recyclables.
I’ve used cards from my existing stash for three August birthdays.
Additions – I bought a keyfob from another stallholder, I’ve given it to my husband as a surprise gift. I also bought something from another stallholder as a gift for an upcoming family birthday, which I’ve posted already, along with a lightweight tote bag that I bought last year as a potential gift. I also bought some aran yarn from a fellow volunteer who was selling her late mum’s yarn stash. About 500g, max. Yeah, I don’t have a yarn problem at all. I’ve finished that giant ball of grey yarn and all of the ‘new’ aran, and have now made a start on some beautiful pure wool aran that I bought a year ago. I’ve also found a home for some half used craft kits and associated yarn that I saved from being thrown away, it’s going to a friend of a family member, who will use it. That’s another big carrier bag full of stuff that’s gone. However, it’s been replaced by lots of random yarn that’s basically unsellable because it’s in part used balls, or because it smells a bit from storage. The only option is to knit it up, wash the finished items, and add them to the craft stall stock.
I’ve tackled a box of donated books, several of them are too damaged to sell, so they’ve gone to the recycling centre. I’ve listed fourteen of them on eBay, and sold nine so far. There’s another box to go through when this lot have gone, and then I’ll have some free shelf space in the garage. I have plans for that shelf space! I also gave away the last two books I’ve read. Go me! I also took a box of books to the car boot sale to sell for the charity, and said goodbye to four of them. I brought the rest back, but they will go somewhere. I also added to the book problem by buying a lovely hardbacked non fiction book from a charity bookstall. I’ll make it my next read and let it go when I’ve done with it.
I’m really struggling not to add to the book collection, lots of my favourite writers have new books out, and I’d usually just buy them, but I have more than enough books, including many unread ones, some by those same writers.
We’ve cleared the huge pile of boxes in the ‘spare room’ now, a lot of the stuff in them is either under the bed in plastic storage boxes, on the bookshelves, or in my study. We’ve also gone through our collection of framed art, and hung about two thirds of it. Two or three items have been donated to a local charity shop, and I’ll try to sell the rest of the pictures.
The decluttering has given me the space to do some cardmaking, and I’m making a couple of dozen Thank You cards for the charity. It’s a drop in the ocean, but it’s something.
So, progress is still happening, but it’s slow. More news next month.

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August 2023 book blog.

Some books have just been there, my entire adult life. The Stand is one of them. Along with ‘IT’, this novel is one of the Stephen King books that I can’t imagine being without. Complete and uncut, this is the third time that I’ve read this edition, my readings of the book as a whole is probably in double figures now. I’m definitely getting to the age where a whopper of a book like this is as much a physical undertaking as a mental one, this book weighs a fair bit! Still, most of the time, I didn’t notice the size of the book, because I just fell into the story and stayed there until my eyelids started to droop. The Stand, even this updated version, is showing its age. There are words and scenes and points of view that King probably wouldn’t write now, but they weren’t that jarring back in the late seventies when the original book was published. That aside, this book’s greatness isn’t in its ambitious story telling, or even its politics, the reason I love this book and repeatedly come back to it, is the cast. Stu, Fran, Larry and Nick are part of my life. I know them as well as I know many ‘real’ people in my life, and it was an absolute pleasure to go back and meet them again.
So, from an old friend to something very new, a relatively recently published book by an author I’ve never read before, at least at novel length. ‘Hell Sans’ by Ever Dundas came very highly recommended by several people whose opinions I respect, but it never quite gelled with me. I admire the courage and imagination that went into this book, the changes in perspective in both first and third person are bold and central to the concept of the book. The world building is deft and the plot is intrinsically exciting, but sadly I just could not get into it. I made it to the end, and am glad I did, because this isn’t a bad book. I just need to feel some empathy for at least one protagonist in order to care about the story, and I found both of the central characters very hard to get on with. Four stars because it’s technically very competent and as a writer myself I found a lot to admire in some of the twists in the writing.
And … back we go. If you’re reading my decluttering blog, you’ll realise that I’m saying goodbye to a large part of my book collection. Some have been ruthlessly packed away and sent to a charity shop, others are getting a final read before they go. Clifford D Simak’s ‘Enchanted Pilgrimage’ makes that cut, primarily because I have no recollection of ever having read it. It’ll be a charity shop / market stall buy from years ago that got shelved then lost. I know why I bought it, Simak was one of my introductions to science fiction. My grandma bought me one of his collections at a jumble sale, probably closer to fifty years ago than forty years ago, and I read it avidly and repeatedly for a long, long time. So, here I am, suddenly finding myself with an unread Simak novel, and this is what I thought. This was very much a ‘few pages before bedtime’ kind of book. There were several lovely characters, who got great introductions but then seemed to fall by the wayside and become part of the background. A group of nice people find that they have a range of quests which lead them to the same place, so they decide to travel together. Their journey introduces some great ideas and the plot reveal would make a great fantasy book, but sadly this isn’t it. It’s a shame, I have a soft spot for Simak’s short stories, but this novel felt somewhat stretched. Great ideas, lovely characters, just a bit too fast paced if anything. At times it reminded me of Pratchett, which is, of course, a good thing.
I finished the Simak in early September, but will include it here because a two book month looks a bit sad, even if one of those books was The Stand Complete and Uncut.

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The Decluttering Blog – Part Three

I’ve been keeping notes, and for the sake of brevity, I’ll collate the results. First of all, books. There are a lot of them. I am putting some on eBay, but if they don’t sell fairly quickly then they go to the charity shop to make way for a new listing. I’ve put three tatty old 1960s / 1970s pulp paperbacks in the book recycling box at the local recycling centre, sold two books on eBay, and donated two dozen to charity. That’s nearly thirty books gone in two weeks. I’m not going to pretend it was easy, but it’s done. One of them was a pretty and new hardback from a favourite author that I read and enjoyed, but it’s unlikely that I’ll read it again, so I’ll release it into the world to find new fans.

I paid my credit card bill as soon as it arrived, and filed the statement. Pre-emptive decluttering, or just being a grown up? Not sure, don’t care. I also filed some stray bank statements and some receipts. I now have a specific box for receipts that I need to keep.

A huge ball of yarn that arrived as a charity donation without a label had been taking up space on a shelf. It was going to be hard to sell without an identifying ball band, so I bought it myself and made some beanie hats to give out as gifts. Ironically, a fellow stall holder saw me knitting the last one and asked me to make him one in dark grey, so I then bought a 400g ball of grey aran yarn. I’m making the third and penultimate beanie out of that yarn now, two of them have homes to go to. So, I guess until I give away the original beanies, I have to chalk this down as a failure, I started off with about 350g of yarn and ended up with 550g of yarn and beanies.  

I found a prescription receipt in my bedding drawer. Ahem. It’s gone into the shredding pile. Theatre tickets from a cancelled 2019 event have also gone in the shredder. Also, a four metre strip of plastic ribbon that I ‘saved’ from a hamper, several years ago, has been thrown away.

Another failure, I went recreational shopping with a friend and my mother. I rarely shop recreationally, and when I do it’s for books or yarn. I bought forty cute buttons and 500g yarn. It’ll get used, I’m not worried about it. I also gave away 100g of yarn oddments and some old buttons to my mother for a knit and natter project, not quite balance, but it’s better than nothing.

Four knitting patterns have sold on eBay, they’re not really big enough to be noticeable, but there is enough space in my ‘selling’ folder now to list another small pile of patterns, which are on a shelf and are noticeable. It’s re-organisation rather than disposal, but it still makes the place look tidier.

I had a fairly good weekend at the craft fair, covered the stall hire and more besides, and came home with less stock than I went with. I’ve bought a birthday gift for a friend, and some bird food, which I’d run out of. I managed to refuse an offer of about 2kg of yarn, and am glad I did, for reasons which will become clear later on.

I’ve filed more paperwork, and got rid of a bucketful of magazine inserts and scrap notes. I’ve sorted out some yarn and stuffing for a lady who is crocheting some items for the stall. Then things get cluttery –  we get a delivery of craft related stuff to sell for the charity. There is half a car full. I took two large shopping bags full and will take more as it sells. Most of it is now listed on eBay, including some unopened crafting magazines complete with freebies. I’ve given away a pile of magazines and will give the rest away soon, they’re not something that sells well.

Last week I was feeling glum, for existential reasons as well as having a house full of stuff, but eBay sales continue to trickle in. A drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made of drops, so I’ve been told. I’ve listed four more knitting patterns / booklets today, and put two damaged and unsaleable booklets in the recycling. I’ve also tidied up a crafting kit to car boot selling level, should get a pound for it, and have retrieved some gift tags that may also sell.

I’ve parted with some training course notes from ten years ago, the lever arch file has gone to the car boot sale, the notes in the recycling. The damaged booklets, the tidied up craft kit, the unlabelled yarn and the gift tags are all things that are donated in good faith but need to be worked on.

Sales from the craft stall continue to pay for the stall rent and bring in a few extra pounds. Taking the stall out increases the visibility of the charity, so all sales are a positive. They also reduce the clutter as I move things from carrier bags to the stall boxes.

I’ve sold four smallish blankets online to someone who saw one of my posts on Twitter. That’ll help the charity, and has made room for more blankets in my craft fair boxes.

Addition – I won a nice candle in a raffle at a craft fair, it will make a nice stocking filler for someone.

Years ago, we bought ten rolls of packing tape, and are still working through them. I finished a roll off today.

There doesn’t seem to be any real reduction in the amount of stuff yet, probably because most of it was hidden in a storage unit until last month! I’ll keep ploughing through.

There’s a large box that’s open that had various balls of knitting yarn in plastic bags. I can move them to the main stash. There’s a tote bag that has seen better days, it was a 40th birthday present from a friend, nearly twenty years ago. It has holes in it. It can go. There was also a pebble in that box, it’s been around for a long time, I can’t even remember where it came from. It’s in the garden now. That’s another box emptied.

After the last craft fair I got home to a lovely surprise, my husband had put some shelves up in the garage and reorganized things so there’s space to cut some card for price tags etc. I tackled that old tote bag too, there was a Christmas cracker prize that will go for recycling, some knitting tools that I’ll put in the right place, and lots of bits of yarn. Some I’ll throw away, some I’ll use. I’ll give the bag a wash and take it to the next car boot sale. I don’t need it.

I’ve opened a donated box of hand made greetings cards, I’ll distribute them to other volunteers for fundraising once I’ve priced them up.

I’ve also repaired a damaged pull up banner, it can go to another volunteer to be used. I now have a fairly large amount of stuff ready for redistribution, I just need to get it to the right people.

Finally, I’ve gone through my ‘car’ file, and got rid of several years of service records and a cardboard folder, also an exercise book that I’d filled with notes from my language courses. I don’t need to keep it.

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