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Happy New Year

I just wanted to extended a BIG thank you to everyone I’ve met since I started blogging again, earlier this year. The time you take to come and stop by to say hello, read a review or post, and leave a comment or three are very much appreciated. To Vera, Norrie, Inge, and yes, you too Sophie.

It means a great deal to me that I have found such a dedicated group of book bloggers—readers with such a wide variety of likes and dislikes. You’ve opened new doors to me, and stretched my reading beyond where I might have comfortably stayed. And for that, I thank each and every one of you.

You enrich my world with your snark, wit, candour, humour, honesty, and in sharing a part of yourselves, even if it’s only through discussing our favourite topic: books. I am honoured and look forward to sharing so many more reviews through out 2019.

Here’s wishing you all health and happiness for the coming New Year.

Santé et Bonne Année!

WordPress 5 and Gutenberg

They make it sounds astounding, a new fangled invention that will revolutionize our blogging experience, like, wow, they just re-invented the wheel and made it SQUARE!

So that now, no one can use—let alone WANTS to use—Gutenberg.

It’s chunky, clunky, clumsy and unintuitive. And after years of everyone using what is now laughingly referred to as the Classic Editor, we’re expected to switch from an editor that works perfectly, to something that leaves everyone sobbing with frustration. The only people who think Gutenberg a good idea are those venerable closeted folk at WordPress, with (apparently) nothing better to do than constantly tweak, change, and frustrate the rest of us because they can. Like the idiots who go clime Mount Everest because because it’s there.

So why am I mumbling on about WordPress and Gutenberg? Because I’ve read so many posts this December of horror stories from unprepared bloggers whose websites upgraded automatically to Gutenberg, and found themselves floundering in a vortex of doom. No one in their right mind wants to spend hours learning a new tool when the old tool worked perfectly well.

I for one, have not upgraded. I disabled the auto upgrade on all my websites in preparation when I first started reading news that WordPress was trying something new. New? New doesn’t mean better. New doesn’t mean easier or convenient.

All that said, however, I know (in part) why, I think, they’re going this direction. The cost of themes. Anyone tech savvy enough will, we are told, be able to create a website to suit their own needs and style individual posts, with distinctive layouts, using Gutenberg. And without the need to buy and use an expensive theme, which still might need tweaking. It’s all about offering that ability (supposedly) to create which is all well and good. But I don’t need a stylized post to blog about my latest book review. Do you? No!

And so, I wait. I don’t want to upgrade and regret later. I don’t want to have to download and use the Classic Editor, I have that already. And now, worry that Gutenberg is going to be forced on us with subsequent upgrades. Meaning, so many of us will be running sites using older versions for many years to come. And, in the end, is that a good thing? Will we miss out on necessary security upgrades because we’re still running a pre-WP5 version?

I guess, like many, I will just have to wait and see how this all pans out in the coming months, and hope this isn’t going to end up being one nasty debacle in 2019.

And you, dear reader, have you upgraded, and what was your experience?

Top 10 Books of 2018

Oh dear, given the small number of books I read AND finished this year. I have a very small selection of novels to choose my Top 10 from, especially given half of the books I started to read ended up as DNF. This list could have easily ended up as My Top 5 Books of 2018. But I digress.

Looking at the score I gave all the books I did finish and, in reverse order—10 through to 1—with 1 being my favourite book of 2018, here’s what I came up with:

#10 A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman (8)

#9 THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE by Alan Bradley (8.5)

#8 A GREAT RECKONING by Louise Penny (8.5)

#7 THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh (8.5)

#6 DEEP BLUE TROUBLE by Steph Broadribb (8.5)

#5 THE BLOODPRINT by Ausma Zehanat Khan (9)

#4 THE MISSING INFORMANT by Anders de la Motte (9)

#3 FORCE OF NATURE & THE DRY by Jane Hunter (9.5)

#2 THE LOCKSMITH’S DAUGHTER by Karen Brooks (9.5)

#1 THE CITY OF BRASS by S. A. Chakraborty (9.5)

Yes, a fantasy novel and not a thriller or crime fiction, has made my number 1 slot on the list. I did go back and forth between all four titles I’d marked at 9.5 and deliberated on each of their merits, but finally settled on THE CITY OF BRASS because it was just so different to everything else I had read all year. With the LOCKSMITH’S DAUGHTER coming in a very close second, and a tight finished with Jane Hunter’s pair of novels.

I have to say this is quite the eclectic mix of genre here. One historical, two fantasies that are also YA, one literary, a couple contemporary novels, and plenty of crime—which is my go-to read these days. Though, I might start looking at some more fantasy for 2019, as I already have three fantasy novels on pre-order!

And you, what made your Top 10 for 2018?

Hiding Under The Table — Alex Is Out Of Her Comfort Zone

That Trickster Loki, Norrie, has done it again, while squirming under her blankie she’s nominated me to step outside my bookish comfort zone, and reveal another side of me. Another side of my reading rabbits habits.

So, how does this work?

You have to pick one genre that you frequently read and then, you can’t use any books from that genre while answering the questions.

Which, as Norrie pointed out, is just plain mean but, the whole point of the exercise is finding out more about genres we don’t like and or elements that make us squirm.

#1 A book that is an exception when it comes to genres or elements you don’t typically like.

I really don’t like to read contemporary or literary-style fiction. But, because people were reading and raving over A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman, I read it. I read it in a couple of days and, do you know what? I loved it. It made me stop and rethink my aversion to reading these genre.

#2 A book you enjoyed from a genre you previously held some stigma against.

Back in 2017 I picked up THE THICKET by Joe R. Lansdale based on another online friend’s recommendation. Basically, this is a turn of the century western. I would never have thought to read a western in a million years. Though, when younger, I loved to watch western TV shows and movies. Go figure. It’s another book I read in a couple of sittings and thoroughly enjoyed. This one was so unexpected and yet, great fun.

#3 A book you didn’t know was out of your comfort zone until you started reading it.

I guess this would have to be DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD by Rebecca Wells, which I picked up to read because of enjoying the movies so much. So yeah, I read a contemporary novel without stopping to think about or care what genre it was. And again, thoroughly enjoyed the read.

#4 Pick a friend who motivates you to pick up books you might not normally be interested in—is there a book they convinced you to give a try?

Wow, that’s just about everyone I follow at the moment. Of course there is Norrie, but also Vera, Inge and Sophie. All of who have read, reviewed and recommended any number of books to me, like A MAN CALLED OVE. And, again, because of their insistence, I read THE CITY OF BRASS though I don’t normally read fantasy.

#5 A book that is out of your comfort zone, but you would like to read.

Again, because of Norrie, I have BEAR TOWN by Fredrik Backman on my wish list. So I guess I’ll be straying down the contemporary novel route again, next year!

#6 A book or genre so outside of your comfort zone that you’ll probably never give a chance.

Anything from the horror, paranormal, or supernatural genres. Never. Gonna. Happen!

Okay, I’m going to nominate Vera, Christina and Sophie to see what genres they don’t often read

My Christmas Book Haul

And why I still enjoy one aspect of Christmas, the giving and receiving of presents. Which for me, is usually books. This year is no exception, family and friends went all out and I have, amongst the presents I was gifted, six [6] new books!

I am one very happy recipient. What, oh, the books, yes, okay, I was getting to that. So what did I get? Some that I desperately wanted, and a couple of delightful surprises.

  • THE RECKONING by James McGee — this is a historical murder-mystery set in London of 1813, about the a hunt for a serial killer murdering women. A Jack-the-Ripper of the day so to speak.
  • THE MOSCOW DECEPTION by Karen Robards —  a good old fashioned political (hopefully, fast paced) thriller that I have high hopes for.
  • THE CALCULATING STARS by Mary Robinette Kowal — this is science fiction at what I hope is it’s best. As a group of female scientists and would-be astronauts look toward not just the moon, but beyond, to Mars. I am so looking forward to reading this one.
  • THIRTEEN by Steve Cavanagh — having thoroughly enjoyed The Defence by Cavanagh, I immediately put Thirteen on my ‘Please Buy This For Me For Christmas List’. And someone did! I really like Eddie Flynn, my new fav anti-hero.
  • THE BLACK KHAN by Ausma Zehanat Khan — this is the second in an Arabian Nights-style fantasy quartet. I’ve almost finished book one, having raced through it at breakneck speed. So of course I’m happy I received book two to carry straight on with the story!
  • NOVEMBER ROAD by Lou Berney — a crime thriller set against the backdrop of JFK’s assassination, as an eye-witness to the assassination is on the run for his life.

And you, dear reader, did Santa bring you a haul of books?