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Books I stopped reading: An on-going list

This will be a set of reviews of books I have stopped reading because I stopped enjoying them.

My principle is to read either 40-50 pages or 25% minimum to give each author a chance to hook me into the story. The problem they have is – that as I read so many books each year – I am a picky reader. I will not waste much of my time reading books I am not enjoying when there is a veritable cornucopia of books out there to choose from which I may enjoy more.

Thus this blog will be updated as I stop reading any book and will become a list.

It starts with:

Hit and Run by Maxine O’Callaghan

I initially enjoyed this book but I then found that the story dragged once I was ¾ of the way through. So I stopped reading.

There was insufficient happening and too much re-iteration of the dire circumstances of the PI – we got it – it had been described in detail several times already..

I started by feeling sorry for the PI but ended up being irritated by her.

There was an interesting possibility of a story with the old man killed before he was ru over, but it was laboured. I rather liked the feisty shop-lifter though…

A NetGalley Review.


Dream Student by JJ DiBenrdetto

Bored by this book. I read 25% and gave up- as going nowhere fast – and thus obvious how they could make a series out of it – they really stretch the story-line out!

a book about two university students who meet up physically after they ;share’ a dream. The dream gives them an emotional connection – but after 25% of the book this is as far as they have got.

Just what the series could contain I cannot guess and definitely do not want to explore.


Carry Me Down by MJ Hyland

This was a book chosen for my f2f book club and is an Irish coming of age story.

I seem to be having a struggle at the moment with Irish writers. I have not really enjoyed any that have been chosen by the Book group. There is a dark atmosphere to most Irish stories that I come across recently with very slow action and under-currents that I find very disturbing. This book gets very disturbing as the discussion with the book club members showed. Just why did the boy sleep with his mother? And what did she do with him there? The grandmother was an interesting character too with her table manners and hiding important items – just why didn’t she trust the family to know when she won money. And then there was the father. Why wasn’t he working? why did he think he was clever enough to go to university now? And just what effort was he putting into preparing himself?

Irish family dynamics baffle me and thus I find these books very hard to understand and so stop. Yet I can read complicated law and crime and thrillers with no problems, so it isn’t the complications…

Suicide is for mortals

By Alyson Miers

I am afraid that this another book that will go on my ‘incompleted’ list.

I got to 22% but gave up. I just couldn’t get interested in the differences between predatory and non-predatory vampires and the mortals they are trying to protect. The story just didn’t seem to go anywhere after the author was ‘turned’. Just a lot of chat and wanting to go back to being mortal and so on…

What more can I realistically say except that it was very simple in style and storyline and I prefer things to be more complex and complicated – where I need to think and be challenged by the story.


 

 

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Cognitive Psychology and Knitting: Pattern matching and selective attention

There is a very interesting book called Things I learnt from Knitting by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

In her introduction/foreword she discusses the idea that Knitting is a very strong example of certain Cognitive Psychology concepts. Namely those of Attention;  Pattern recognition; Object Identification; and Time Sensations.

In Cognitive Psychology they are interested in how people choose what to focus on, the way patterns are recognised even though they may be very different in apparent appearance, and how time is perceived.

Filtering and attention relate to how we use our mental energy. How we decide on what we should pay attention to and what we should ignore, what we will store in our neuron and pathways and what we will discard or not pay sufficient attention to for it to register in our brain.

Thinking about pattern recognition, the theory states that pattern recognition describes a cognitive process that matches information from a stimulus with information retrieved from memory.

So consider the letter a. As a child we are taught how to read and write, but each book we read uses a different font or paper size and thus font size and so on, and yet after a while we recognise all the letter ‘A’s we come across. I realised this fact just recently as I was being read to by my grand-daughter. we had written each of us, our own books on small folded pieces of paper – concertina books –  and I had written in cursive script – clearly I thought but… It was a different cursive from the one she was used to and thus some letters she had difficulty in recognising eg I use the continental way of writing a cursive ‘z’ and my ‘s’  was different and so on. Yet once explained she knew them and recognised the letters when they came up again. Reading is her joy at the moment but she is still learning how the combinations of letters make words and how they can be pronounced differently in different contexts eg ‘bow’.  English is very tricksy!

In a crowded train carriage my husband dons his noise cancelling headphones. I get out my reading and knitting. Which of us hears less of the noise made by the loud chatterers? Which of us knows where we are in terms of stations? Not me, that’s for sure. I am immersed in what I am doing and all the other sensory information within the train carriage passes me by. I am not paying attention to it. I am focussed on my tasks.

Sensory information comes in four formats:  visual; auditory; tactile; and olfactory. It is more than just simple registering of sensory information… it involves some sort of interpretation of that information. We can ignore that part of the sensory information that surrounds us if we are focussed on our tasks. We filter and pay attention only to that which interest us.

Broadbent (1958) argued that information from all of the stimuli presented at any given time enters a sensory buffer.  One of the inputs is then selected on the basis of its physical characteristics for further processing by being allowed to pass through a filter.  Because we have only a limited capacity to process information, this filter is designed to prevent the information-processing system from becoming overloaded.  The inputs not initially selected by the filter remain briefly in the sensory buffer, and if they are not processed they decay rapidly. We therefore lose them and do not remember them.

Alternatively Treisman’s (1964) model retains this early filter (Broadbent’s) which works on physical features of the message only. The crucial difference is that Treisman’s filter ATTENUATES rather than eliminates the unattended material.  Attenuation is like turning down the volume so that if you have 4 sources of sound in one room (TV, radio, people talking, baby crying) you can turn down or attenuate 3 in order to attend to the fourth.

It is my experience that we can do both – we can choose which model to follow – or at least I can. Sometimes I am completely immersed and nothing will come in from the external world, sometimes I am not so focussed – I am not paying enough attention because what I am doing does not require me to – perhaps it is very familiar – eg knitting plain and purl stitches – I can do this without looking at the needles and the wool as I very familiar with the feel and pattern my hands need to make to complete the physical task.

Yet when we knit we can focus on our counting, our pattern changes and the rows we need before we change colour etc to such an extent that the external world fades away and the world is concentrated in the movement of our hands.

Many different patterns can all be recognised as examples of the same concept. We use pattern recognition all the time we understand a stitch or the regularity of a decrease on a sleeve so that we do them automatically. We know when something has gone wrong – when what we are knitting does not look right.

We also use object recognition to know what a stitch or a pattern looks like on different items – a hat Vs a coat or a scarf, and in different colours; and when we know and understand that one sleeve is different from the other in the sweater we are knitting.

cable patternfairisle

What the author claims is that by virtue of knitting we change the way our brains work in terms of those cognitive functions. We train our brains to work in different ways from those people who do not knit.

 

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The Fairies are Faeries and Fae

I bought a set of ten Faery Realm novellas recently as something fairly light to read as the book club book was too depressing – but that’s another blog…

So here are some brief reviews of 10 books – some seriously as long as some novels and some just a few pages really with the idea for a longer story incorporated within the text if it could be extracted. Most of them come with 4 stars – and some are parts of series and some I have already bought and read the next book…

Book number 1 was by Rachel Morgan entitled The Faerie Guardian was about Creepy Hollow the place where guardians are trained to deal with nasties.

This is a YA with a kick-ass heroine – usually top of her training class in all areas including boxing and sword play, archery and martial arts who has serous ‘powers’. In this fairy story the fairies have very cool hair with streaks which match their eye colour, which is nice if your eyes are therefore blue, but not so good if your eyes are scarlet!

As with all teenagers there are some rebellious ones who like to flirt with danger and thus go to an ‘Underground’ club to dance and listen to the music. Not so bad you would think except that the Underground is where the seriously bad fairies live. And is definitely forbidden territory.

They have living plants above ground which for sure have a mind of their own. Especially Nigel the Vine.

Book 2: The Withering Palace by Alexia Purdy is about a ‘living’ palace and queendom (hardly a kingdom as never any kings only consorts) where the Queen is chosen by a duel with the previous Queen, usually her mother.  Another YA novel when it starts for sure but as the new Queen ages there is evidence that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The palace is also involved in this as it helps to choose who it considers to be the rightful queen and assists her in her duel and during her life.

Book 3: Dark Promise by Julia Crane and Talia Jager is the story of a changeling. This idea of fairies swapping human children for their own comes up and usually means something bad about the fairy child – they are evil or something. The human lives on without magic but in the stories about changelings we usually don’t hear much about them. In this story, as is traditional, the babies were swapped soon after birth. But we do find out what happened about the human child and we do find out that the fairy mother had a good reason. Though this doesn’t really endear her to her child overmuch and it takes a very long time for any sort of reconciliation to take place and then only because of some extreme circumstances.

Book 4: Feyland: 1st Adventure is by Anthea Sharp and is the prequel to the Feyland Trilogy – which I have read book 1 of already. Feyland is the computer based world that becomes reality when Jennet hacks in. A very dangerous world and of course a very precocious young heroine.

Not recommended reading if you have young gamers as I might just encourage them to find out just what they could hack into! They just might like this idea too much…

Book 5: Blood Faerie by India Drummond. I really liked this book – it is based in Scotland – which is a favoured location for other worldly beings and is a really good story that introduces a series. O confess to already having read book 2 and having bought Book 3 to savour later.

An elf who has been banished for her unusual grasp of magic teams up with a somewhat unusual Scottish policeman to solve crimes.

Druids and the isle of Skye also feature, as well as dark magic that uses blood – as if often the case – to strengthen it.

Book 6: Hood and Fae by Tara Maya is a refreshing re-telling of a favourite fairy story – with a ‘hood’ that is fashion conscious.

As I have said before a good funny kickass heroine really makes a book for me – if I need a bit of a lift and the really dark and psychologically challenging are just a bit too much to cope with…

Book 7: Dark Fae  by the prolific Terry Spears  is another YA book. With a number of questions that arise. Who is the mystery girl? And who were her parents? And were they Royal? And is this a ‘take’ on Cinderella? Kidnap or worse?

Fae politics are very complicated indeed.

Book 8: Ehriad  by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson is about a monster hunting bounty hunter – looking for creatures from the ‘otherworld’. Portals in various odd places permit movement from one world to another.

In this story The Morrigan is the Celtic goddess of War and Strive.

Book 9: Once: A gypsy story by Dana Michelle Burnett – not really my cup of tea this one with gypsies and I skipped over very fast. Fog and Grandmothers and superstitions’.

Book 10: Fae Horse is a very short story by Anthea Sharp  is about  the nasty Night Mare – the horse that gives us bad dreams and if you encounter her – don’t ride her!

 

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Some thoughts on how to read:

These are really just my comments – you may like what I have written or you may not.. but they are ideas that have helped me when i was ‘blocked’ on what to read next.

  1.  Start by looking at some recommendation sites and work out which ones are closest to your interest. Some good ones are: For Books Sake which specialises in women authors; opening the book.com/which book; bookreporter.com send a regular email with reviews and details from author events such as talks they go to. US oriented but…
  2. Join GoodReads and then look further at any sites they recommend. In GoodReads you will find a large number of sub-groups which are chatty or specialise in particular genre. You can find friends to discuss books with and also lots of book reviews. Some groups pair you up with a buddy to read a set book with over a month or two and then you can swap ideas.
  3. If you are confident you can read fairly fast and can write a review of each book you read – then join NetGalley as a reviewer. You will be given free books – as document downloads – some of which as proof copies and thus will have spelling/grammar or formatting mistakes. Ignore all of these and concentrate on the story, style and general quality of the writing in the book. They have some information about how to review a book well also. If you can manage to write good reviews – not necessarily praising the book, but explaining and justifying your comments, and are prepared to post onto Amazon and GoodReads, then you may be auto authorised by some publishers, which means you will always obtain their books.  Note: you will not always be given the book you ask for. Check out what the publisher says they want from a reviewer and see how your bio agrees with it.
  4. Build a reputation as a reviewer, if you want to read free books. Start a WordPress blog that has lots of book reviews on it. Look at other WordPress sites for book reviews and how they do it and what they are reading. You  will find lots of people writing about books on WordPress and Tumblr so ensure you look through them as you will find lots of ideas for books for you to read also.
  5. Try and have a mix of genres when you are reading and try and read some non-fiction as well as fiction (or vice versa of course). Stretch yourself into genres you wouldn’t have first thought of – keep that mind active! You may surprise yourself.
  6. Don’t force yourself to finish every book you start. Read around 40-50 pages or 1/3 of the book. If you still don’t like it. Put it aside – delete it from your electronic book store but try and think why you didn’t like it – you can build up a review of pet hates in books that way!
  7. Join a book club. Physical or Virtual – or more than one. You may hate what people have chosen, but you will be forced to try new things.
  8. Look at the Bibliotherapist at the School of Life where you can get recommendations for reading for ‘what ails you’.
  9. Follow authors. Read their blogs and comments.
  10. Finally. Ensure that you are warm, comfortable, and have your favourite tea/ coffee and biscuits/cake near at hand. Get your cat to sit on your lap and start…

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Fearing evil? Ghosts , Ghoulies and Debbie Johnson

I love my crime fiction, especially lady sleuths like Kinsey Millhone and VI Warshawski, as well as more comedic heroines like Stephanie Plum. But I am a child of the Hammer era, and also grew up fascinated by horror, by ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night. I’d never found a book that combined all of them – humour, investigation and goosebumps – so I decided the best thing to do was write one! I have a girl crush on my lead, Jayne McCartney, and love her humour, and toughness, and intelligence – I wanted to write a heroine who I’d like to go to the pub with! I also really wanted to create something set in Liverpool, where I live, that reflected both its glories and its problems.

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