Tuesday Thingers

This week’s prompt: “how many books do you have cataloged in your LibraryThing account? How do you decide what to include- everything you have, everything you’ve read- and are there things you leave off?”

Right now I’ve got 907 books catalogued. My default is that if I own it and it’s a book-like object, it gets catalogued. I’ve now catalogued most of the books I currently have physical access to (a lot are in storage), and I usually add books to the catalogue as soon as I acquire them.

“Getting rid of books” was not part of my worldview until recently, but I’m facing up to the fact that I need to be realistic about whether I will read a book again. As I dispose of books, I’m going to leave them in my LT catalogue, but tag them as disposed of (probably with an annotation as to how they were disposed of). If nothing else, I want a record of the fact that I once owned the book and was willing to part with it, so that I don’t accidentally buy another copy.

So far I haven’t added books that I’ve read but never owned. My original reason for getting a LibraryThing account was to have a catalogue of my book collection for insurance purposes, so what I wanted was an accurate record of books that I owned, or had owned but no longer did. And I haven’t read many books that weren’t my personal property in the two years I’ve had a LibraryThing account — something to do with an excellent second-hand bookshop being closer than local library at the time I started the account. But I’ve been writing reviews of the few library books that I have borrowed, and I’d like to post the reviews on LT; plus it would be useful to have those books in my catalogue to feed into the various useful social networking features. So I may start adding “read but not owned” books, suitably tagged. I might have done so already, but I wanted to wait for the long-promised collections feature.

So far I haven’t left off anything, but I did think long and hard about some of the books I’ve bought for writing research. They’re not books I really want to have conversations about with workmates and family… If collections ever happen, they may end up in a private collection.

Index post for the blogring’s responses to this week’s prompt.

Tuesday Thingers

Yes, it’s Wednesday. By the time I got around to checking the master post at our esteemed host Bostonbibliophile, I was too flattened by the day’s distractions to write something sensible. Prompt for the week is:

Discussion groups. Do you belong to any (besides Early Reviewers)? Approximately how many? Are there any in particular that you participate in more avidly? How often do you check?

22 that I’m a member of or have on my watch list, though I’ll dip into others from time to time. The first group I joined, and the only one I was active in for a long time, was Folio Society Devotees. What got me out of there and active on some of the groups about the site itself was an early spam incident. I received a friend request from an author that was clearly purely an attempt at promoting his new book, and I went looking for somewhere to complain about it… I’m moderately active in Early Reviewers, Site Talk, New Features and Recommend Site Improvements — i.e mostly geeking about the site itself.

How often I check depends on how busy I am and whether I’m in any active conversations. I’ve been known to check every ten minutes when I’m desperately trying to avoid work and there’s a fast moving conversation going on. :-) More typically, every day or two for the four I’ve mentioned above. Others I sometimes check only every few weeks. I’d read the Folio Society group more often, but I’m trying to avoid temptation as we’re currently in a small flat and I have been told that I am not allowed to buy any more bookcases, and no, I may not leave the books in a pile on the floor instead.

One of the things I like about the groups is that it’s generally interesting conversation that mostly manages to stay good tempered. I have other places to hang out on the net where I can find that, but it’s always good to have more. Not bad for something I only joined so that I could easily catalogue get my books for insurance purposes.

Writing: culture clash

[Note: this is a copy of an article originally posted at Britwriters.]

The US and the UK have a lot of things in common, including (more or less) a language. But now and then you trip over something where the culture is so wildly different that people on one side or the other may not even be able to grasp how utterly different the other culture is. That can be a significant issue in writing for an audience on both sides of the Atlantic, because you can end up leaving one half of the audience scratching their heads and thinking your writing is sloppy, when what they see as a plothole is an accurate reflection of the culture the story is set in.

Continue reading

Writing: Britwriters blog

A group of British writers, including yours truly, have a new group blog at Britwriters. To quote one of the fine people who came up with the idea for the blog:

If you’re from the UK and you’re a published author, and you’re looking for a place to promote your books, then the new Britwriters Blog might be for you.

http://wulfwaru.wordpress.com/

If you’re not from the UK, but you’ve considered writing a book set in Britain – whether a contemporary or a historical – then this blog should have something to interest you too. And if you’re not a writer but you’re just interested in our peculiar little country, I’m hoping this will also give you an occasional giggle ;)

More details here: http://alex-beecroft.livejournal.com/28328.html

I’ve just posted my first article, a piece about considering cultural differences when writing for a mixed US/UK audience. I’ll mirror it here and on my main blog, but you’ll find the original here: http://wulfwaru.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/writing-culture-clash/

Book review: Andy Lane — Slow Decay (Torchwood)

This is one of the trio of tie-in novels released for the first season of Torchwood, and is set early in that season, after Gwen’s settled in but before Cyberwoman. Tie-in novels can disappoint, but this is a solid story that’s well-written and that fits the Torchwood universe well; a dark tale about the things that come through the Rift and their misuse by the locals. It’s actually better than the first couple of tv episodes, because the sex and violence is used to good effect in the story, rather than feeling as if it’s tossed in just to see how far the show can go in a post-watershed slot.

There are two interweaving plots here. The main plot concerns an outbreak of killings involving cannibalism, and their link to a very dubious weight-loss clinic. The team’s hunt for the solution is given added urgency when Gwen realises that Rhys has taken one of the clinic’s pills. The minor plot concerns Tosh’s research into a series of alien devices.

There’s good exposition and world-building, and I think this book will work for someone who hasn’t yet seen the show. The characterisation’s not that deep, but it’s not bad for an early tie-in where even an author who’s a fan or involved with the show’s production wouldn’t have had much to go on, and it’s accurate. With one exception there’s not much reference to specific events in the tv series, and even the exception is blended in nicely as something that will be simply a character quirk to people who haven’t seen the relevant episode.

The book focuses strongly on the relationship between Gwen and Rhys (and does so very nicely), but generally doesn’t neglect the rest of the team. There are some decent bits for particular characters: Tosh gets a decent word count, even if she spends it being girl geek as usual; there’s a good storyline for Owen where circumstances force him to interact with an attractive woman as a person, rather than just a shag. On the other hand, Ianto’s barely mentioned; but when you do see him he’s spending a lot of time lurking in the remote archives and discouraging other team members from wandering into them, which is appropriate for this point in his storyline, and he gets some good interaction with Tosh.

Physically, it’s a hardcover with a perfect-bound book block, which is what you’d expect at this price point for a hardback. It’s solidly constructed with no loose pages, and there’s a good cover design which links in with the other two books in the set. Designer Lee Binding’s done a nice job with stock art here.

Slow Decay is a good read for both the plot and the characterisation, and I expect I’ll be re-reading it soon. Well worth the money.

at Play.com
at Powell’s

Thinging Through Tuesday

It’s two years this week since I set up my LibraryThing account. The original motivation was to get an off-site catalogue of my books for insurance purposes, but it’s become a lot more than that. The social networking side of it is *fun*. Amongst other things, I joined the Early Reviewers programme, which does pretty much what it says on the tin. Publishers supply review copies of books, programme members indicate which ones they’d be interested in, and the LibraryThing database is used to select good matches to review the book based on what people have in their catalogues. We get free books, and the publishers get reviews and word of mouth.

This week I did two things connected with LT. I posted my first review of a book I received through the Early Reviewers programme. And I set up a WordPress account to join a group blog, which meant I had a spare personal blog lying around as well. I decided that it would be a useful place to mirror my book and DVD reviews from my LiveJournal — and then wandered over to the LibraryThing forums and found a thread suggesting that we set up a book blogging circle for the ER group. Serendipity…

So you’ll find the new bookblog here: https://julesjones.wordpress.com/
I don’t expect it to have anything that’s not on my LJ, but it’s another way to pick up my reviews, LT-related posts, and the occasional serious writing post. There’s a section on the blogroll for the LibraryThing Early Reviewers blogcircle, and we’re planning to do a regular LibraryThing group blogging exercise. The Boston Bibliophile is our host for Thinging Through Tuesday, and the first post is here.

Book review: Albert Sanchez Pinol — Pandora in the Congo

I got this book as part of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer programme, and probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I’d simply seen it in the bookshop. But the description in the ER programme intrigued me, and I’m glad I read it.

It’s a multi-layered pastiche and parody of the old pulp African adventure stories, with two interlocking stories set early in the twentieth century, narrated by one of the protagonists as an old man late in the twentieth century. As the novel opens the narrator, Tommy Thomson, is scraping a living as a young man by ghost writing pulp adventure stories. He’s frustrated by the need to pander to the extreme racism and disregard for facts of the pulp market. He loses the ghost writing job, but is offered the chance to write a true African adventure story — ghost-writing the story of a man who is awaiting trial for the murder of his two employers on a gold-hunting expedition in the Congo.

Tommy is drawn ever deeper into Marcus Garvey’s story. It’s very like the pulp adventures he’s written before, but with one twist — this time it’s a tale of brutal and amoral English aristocrats abusing first the black Africans and then a strange race of underground people, white but not entirely human, with a low-class servant who is the flawed hero. This tale of derring-do is interwoven with the story of Tommy’s own life over the course of the years he writes Garvey’s story, interrupted by his service in the First World War. Tommy thinks of his own life as boring and humdrum, but it’s an enchanting read with some fascinating secondary characters.

There are multiple levels of unreliable narration, so things aren’t quite as they seem. Part of the game is deciding who is unreliable and how far, and the author plays fair in the end. In the meantime you get a cracking read, with a lot of homages to other works.

I enjoyed the book a great deal, but I did have some minor problems with it. There are a lot of anachronisms, a couple of which threw me out of the story (in particular, singing “God save the Queen” in court at a time when a King was on the throne). These felt like mistakes by the author rather than being deliberate. One of the signals that part of the story is unreliable simply doesn’t work if you’re used to reading science fiction or magic realism. If you’re an sf fan, switch into mainstream reading protocols when you’re reading this book. And be warned that there is some gruesome imagery which might be a bit much for some readers.

One particular point — this is a translation of a novel written in Catalan. Translations vary a lot in quality and can sometimes feel stiff and lifeless, but this one is excellent. It flows very well and is a joy to read.

Enormous fun, and well worth the time.

Pubisher’s website
Pandora In The Congo at amazon.uk
at Powells