Category Archives: Other Stuff

Let’s give this another go…

imagesWow!  It’s been nearly two years since I wrote anything on here. Amazingly it still gets visitors.  Until about 4 months ago I still received the odd review copy.

My blogging sabbatical coincided with me going back to work after a long career break.  It has been tough to balance my work and home life and find time for the various clubs and hobbies my family and I have.  More recently though, and probably because I am a bit fed up at work, I’ve felt a nagging desire to get back to my virtual safe haven.  I’ve got this feeling that If I don’t start writing soon I may turn into the sort of miserable character you find in Modern Toss work cartoons.

I’ve never been good at writing, but I always loved chatting about books and reading.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess, depending on how you look at it!) I’m not going to have the luxury of time to write the long-winded, spoiler-filled essays I used to.  So I’m going to attempt to write my book thoughts in 10 sentences or less – wish me luck!  First post tomorrow.

 

Where have I been?!

Oh dear.  It has been exactly a month since my last proper blog post (can you tell I was educated at a Catholic school? That sounds very like a confessional!).

The last review I wrote was of Clay by Melissa Harrison.  That same evening I went to an event at a local library and met Melissa.  She read a passage from her book and then spoke to lots of readers, including me.  It was lovely to meet her, chat about her influences and her memories of Guildford, which was her haunt as a teenager (actually her words were “I used to come here for nights out and to snog boys” brilliant!).  She also brought a lovely box of things, which were instantly recognisable as TC’s bits and bobs he keeps under his bed.  She read my review while on the train to the event and we talked about skills and knowledge handed down through generations.  She told me a sad story about a horrible break-up that drove her to Dartmoor to be alone to get over it.  While she was there she remembered things from her childhood – trees, birds and plants and this knowledge memory acted as a form of therapy.  She said her next challenge is to teach herself to identify trees in winter.  To a lot of readers our conversation may seem dull, boring and a bit geeky, but we also had a sideline chat about Mixmag magazine (I used to read it – she used to write for it), which shows neither of us is as square as our map/trees/birds chat might suggest!

Anyway, none of that explains where I’ve been for four weeks.  I haven’t been anywhere – just here.  I’ve had a lot on my mind – not necessarily a lot on my plate, but certainly lots to think about and take up my head-space and it’s distracted me from writing.  One thing distracting me at the moment is applying for jobs.  I haven’t applied for a lot, but those I have been interested in, I’ve spent a long time thinking about and preparing my application.  My time out of the job market has helped me forget how time consuming it can be.

Although I’ve not been updating the blog, I have been reading.  I’ve read a couple of interesting books over the last month, but I haven’t read anything that’s really got my heart racing and kept me up late at night wanting to find out what happens, which may also be why I haven’t written much.

I feel like I’m back on track now and want to get some reviews up on the blog over the coming weeks, so watch this space and thanks for being patient!

and the winner is…

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my blog birthday giveaway.  I would love to send you all a book because you all chose such great titles.  But there is only one winner!

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Janet D chose Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick.  So Janet, please get in touch via the contact form here and I’ll pop the book in the post.  I hope you enjoy it and thanks again to everyone for taking part!

Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

This post is sticky until Sunday 17th February – scroll down for new posts.

This time last year Mr FH was away with work and I never sleep well when he’s gone, so I took the opportunity to bring to life this blog which I’d been thinking about and slowly tinkering with for some time.  I just had one of those moments when I said to myself  “ok, it really is now or never” and then pressed the publish button.  That was a year ago today, when I shared what was on my bedside table.

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Over the past 12 months I’ve learnt a lot about blogging and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, but I still have a long way to go.  The main thing I’ve really enjoyed has been meeting, albeit mostly virtually, lots of lovely readers and other bloggers who are really supportive and positive, but also willing to share tips and offer advice.  I’ve come across some amazingly generous writers who are more than happy to chat about their books and answer my questions, despite having probably answered the same ones a million times.  Before I started this blog I would never have dared or presumed to approach an author directly, but, who knew? They are humans just like me and you and willing to gush about their work as much as I can about my children!

A Fiction Habit has changed and developed over the year and I’m sure there will be further changes to come.  In the last couple of months I’ve felt more comfortable with my writing tone and have enjoyed putting a bit more of me into the posts – might be a bit more boring for you though, sorry about that!

So, this is a lovely milestone to reach and I want to share and spread the love a little bit to say a big THANKS to all my lovely followers who have been a great support during this first year.  I know there are lots of you who regularly read the posts, but don’t comment.  I hope you might feel induced to do so today because I feel like giving some stuff away!

To celebrate my birthday I want to give away a copy of one of the books I’ve reviewed over the year.  Let me know in the comments section below which of the books you are interested in and why.  This time next week I will choose a winner at random.  If the winner is in the UK, I will buy the book from my local shop and send it in the post.  If you are overseas I will use The Book Depository (as long as they deliver to your area).  I might have a couple of other books knocking around at home, all second hand but in good condition, which I might be persuaded to give away too if I think any of the non-winning comments deserve a prize!!!

So, if you’ve read one of my reviews and fancy giving the book a go, here’s your chance.  If you’ve never commented before, I understand you might be shy, but I’d love to get to know you better, so give it a go!

You’ve got until Sunday 17th Feb.  GO, GO, GO!!!

National Libraries Day

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Today is National Libraries Day.  If you pop by here regularly you will know how I feel about my local library and the role of libraries generally.  I wrote about it here not long ago.  We haven’t got time today to pop down there and support the events going on, but I was there yesterday, so feel like I’ve had my weekly fix.  Plus, very luckily as the littlest fictionhabit and I were walking down the high street this morning we bumped into one of the librarians drumming up interest in story time.  We were greeted with smiles and free bookmarks and even a hug for me!  Now, you might not get that every day when you visit the library, but what you will get is friendly, knowledgable staff, willing to help, advise and recommend.

If you are a member of your library, then please pop down to support them.  If you are not a member, it’s very easy to join.  So why not see what your library has to offer.

 

On My Local Library

I can’t really put my finger on the exact time, but at some point a few years ago I fell out of love with my local library.  It wasn’t an instant loss of affection, it was definitely a more gradual realisation of our differences.  It wasn’t completely the library’s fault, it was mostly me.

When my children were really little we used to spend hours at the library.  We would read our way through the bins of picture books, then walk along the river that runs behind the library to feed the ducks and end up at the playground.  The children always borrowed their maximum entitlement every time we went, sometimes they would borrow a dvd and I would often pick up a few things for myself too.

Then as the children got older, they were happy reading the books we owned, over and over again (you know – like when you read Room on a Broom twice a night for 3 weeks) and they built up their own collections.  Books are frequent presents for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions, actually often we just buy them because we feel like it.  The other day I popped into Waterstones to check out a few things, with no intention of spending any money, but the children mugged me for a book each, the cheeky blighters. Let’s face it though, books are not expensive.  I can buy a brand new book for slightly more than a crap magazine and a bar of chocolate, and quite honestly, a book is a lot more satisfying.  That says nothing for all the second-hand books we’ve accumulated for pennies (I’ve talked about this before, so won’t go on about my used book fetish).  So, all said, we visited the library less.  When I did go there for something, it felt a bit dowdy, untidy, it didn’t seem to have much stock, in short, I felt it had nothing to offer me.

Then this year, two things happened.

First, I became aware via local media that my county council was planning to force 10 libraries in the county to become Community Partnered Libraries (i.e. volunteer run).  My local library isn’t one of the 10, but I followed the action group working to reverse this plan.  SLAM (Surrey Libraries Action Movement) has done its best to question Surrey’s plans for the 10 libraries and has tried to prevent the plan from being rolled out to other libraries.  Their commitment to the cause made me think about how important libraries are as a public provision.  For my family the library has been about borrowing books and dvds.  There are plenty of people, (yes, even in Surrey), who can’t afford to buy books and their best option is the library.  But it also provides essential services such as internet access, newspapers, journals, local research facilities (came in very handy when I was writing Reading Around My Area), a vast audiobook choice, author events and more.  I remembered back to my childhood, when it felt like we spent every Saturday morning at the library with my Dad while my Mum was doing the grocery shop.  I loved it down there, browsing and agonising over what to borrow.  My children are now at a similar age to the age I must have been at the beginning of my affections for libraries.  I realised that to save these services, people like me need to use them.

So, then the second thing happened, or more accurately, a realisation set in.  Our house is overflowing with books, both adult and children’s.  We have simply run out of room to store our beloved reading material.  I can be ruthless to an extent and cull our collection, but there comes a point where I just can’t do it, I can’t part with them, even though I know I might not read them again – I think it’s an illness.

Anyway, all this waffle leads me to the purpose of the post.  To reduce the number of books we own in the house and to support an essential public service, we have started to use the library again.

This summer the children took part in Story Lab, the national summer reading scheme.  Both read the allotted 6 books and today the local librarians visited the older one’s school and awarded his medal during assembly.  The younger one is hoping for hers later this week.  It was really lovely to see them engaged in the books they were reading and excited to tell the librarians about them.

I have been using the library from home.  I check the catalogue online for books I want to borrow, reserve them and then collect them once I’ve had the email to tell me they are there.  I think that’s quite cool.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is plenty the library service could do better.  For example, they never take advantage of events such as prize shortlists or special anniversaries to push certain books and create inviting displays.  Their catalogue doesn’t include newer books or books from smaller presses (I wanted to borrow Rook by Jane Rusbridge, but they don’t have it) Also, although Surrey have several author events, very few come to my local library, which is a shame.

Just because I am in the first throes of crushing on my library again doesn’t mean I will stop buying books, but I will try to borrow more so my purse and shelves don’t suffer. Here’s a little plea then; please support your local library.  If you don’t have a library card, get yourself down there and sort it out.  Big up local libraries!

A postcard from Camilla’s Bookshop

Yesterday I received a surprise postcard from the seaside.  Eastbourne, to be more precise and Camilla’s Bookshop was where it was bought.  I knew my mother-in-law needed to buy some books, but she hadn’t mentioned she would be popping into Camilla’s to pick them up.   She was definitely a satisfied customer and came away with what she wanted especially after being let loose on a secret stash of more books hidden behind a closed door (I was told that ladders were involved in retrieving the title in question)!

If you haven’t already read my original post about Camilla’s and seen the mini documentary about the shop, called Half a Million Books, you can see both here.

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I’ve not disappeared…

You might be forgiven for thinking I’ve fallen into some sort of blogging black hole, after all, I’ve posted nothing for a month.  It’s not a black hole, more of a summer induced Twilight Zone incorporating a camping holiday to France and then total immersion in the festival of sport that has been our amazing Olympic games.  It really has been the most pleasurable time waster – there have been days when I’ve got very little done as I flick between events (big thumbs up to BBC coverage).  Reading hasn’t taken a back seat, but writing about reading most definitely has.

I’m not even going to attempt to describe the emotions I’ve experienced during these Olympics, I’m not sure my writing abilities can cope.  Suffice it to say I have been, among other things,  proud, exhilarated, excited, tearful, gutted, frightened (mainly while watching diving), inspired and wishing I was younger.  The Games come to an end this evening and normal service at Fiction Habit towers will then resume.

Thank you for your patience!

How proud?!

Look what my 9 year old came home with from cubs last night…

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This is his book-reader badge.  He decided to work towards this himself, not at the instigation of his pack leaders.  He had to describe in detail 7 books he has read recently, including knowing the author names.  3 of the books had to be non-fiction.  He also had to know how to care for books, know how a library works and was then tested on using a dictionary, atlas and encyclopedia.  Of course I’ve helped him a bit – especially with the extra information you find in an atlas.  But he took himself off to the school library to speak to the librarian and research this element.  I am very proud of him and adore the fact we have young bookworms in our family.  He has even inspired a few of his cub mates and there was talk of starting a young book group (they are all reading the Young Samurai books by Chris Bradford or the David Walliams laugh-alongs).

I better get out my needle and thread…!

Charity shop haul

My local town is well served with charity shops.  Moving up the high street in order we have, Bernardos, Oxfam, Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation, Age UK and finally Phyllis Tuckwell (a local cancer respite charity).  There is also a charity bookshop run by Rethink, a mental health charity.  All told, it is a town well provided when it comes to used goods.  Every now and again I enjoy a browse around their book shelves to see what I can find.  I could have come away with a lot more today, but have to limit myself, otherwise my TBR pile will get out of control.  The picture shows my small haul from today.  I swear that none of them look like they’ve been opened so I could have bought them brand new at Waterstones.  The various shops have differing views on pricing.  Phyllis Tuckwell is by far the cheapest at a blanket £1.20 per paperback and Oxfam is the most expensive at £1.99.  The British Heart Foundation has the most stock and best range of the classic charity outlets.  But by far the nicest place to browse for 2nd hand books is the Rethink shop.  The volunteers are friendly and chatty, the books are clearly priced, but if you go to the counter with an armful, they often take a look at what you’ve got and say something like “oh just give us £5 for the lot.”  Of course, I always overpay on occasions like that.  The only problem with Rethink is that it has notoriously unreliable opening hours.  So when I wandered up there today, I wasn’t surprised to find it closed.

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I am struggling to write my follow-up post for “Reading Around my Area”.  I hoped to get it out this week, but am catching up on the reading I need to do for it.  I will get it out next week, promise!  This weekend I am walking in the South Downs with my bookclub girlfriends – I have a feeling we may get rained on.