This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
I did wonder if I was tempting Fate by writing about my experiences with Long Covid, given the up and down nature of the illness. But though I’d been feeling rather tired recently, I hadn’t had a proper relapse since August. Until this week, when I went to get out of bed on Thursday morning and the minute I put my foot to the floor, the world spun, my stomach roiled and I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the rest of the day except back to bed. And so it proved. I felt too ill to shower or change my clothes, though I did manage to stagger downstairs and have tea with the family. Meanwhile Himself was having to look after me, on top of doing the school run. Fortunately, it was his day off – but it wasn’t remotely restful. In the meantime, I dosed and slept. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was reading or listening to books, feeling too tired to watch TV. I woke up on Friday, feeling much the same – though as the day wore on, I did feel well enough to have a shower.
Then suddenly, at about 10.30 pm, I felt better. As if a huge muffling blanket had been lifted away from me. I’m writing this on Saturday, having got up, showered and dressed. I still feel a little groggy and I don’t have all that much stamina, but the nausea has gone. I think I need to face the fact that I will have to keep managing my energy for the foreseeable future. One of the issues is that I haven’t been getting enough sleep, as years of being an insomniac makes it difficult to wind down and go to bed at a reasonable time. And while I’m doing better than I used to – it’s still not good enough for my body’s needs. I average between five and six hours of sleep a night and I reckon that these days, I need more than that.
The boys have stepped up and helped out, as they always do when I’m ill. Both have had a busy week and today Ethan is out meeting up with friends, while Oscar is recovering from a very hectic football practice. Tomorrow (Sunday) we are meeting up with my parents, who are taking us out for a meal to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. It’s actually a little early – their anniversary is near the end of next month, but Dad isn’t all that keen on doing the drive home in the dark, which it will be by then as the day length continues to shorten. I am so very excited – I haven’t seen Mum since September 2020 and I cannot recall when the boys last saw her. So it will be a very special reunion for us and my sister, who is joining us.
Last week I read:-
The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.
I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster. My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil. And if this blurb makes you think of The Name of the Wind, then you’re absolutely right – it definitely has a feel of that fantasy classic. It’s also a hefty size, being 800+ pages. That said, while it took me a while to get through it, at no time was I tempted to break off and read something else instead. Review to follow.
Unraveller by Frances Hardinge Kellen and Nettle live in a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, but only one person has the power to unravel them. But not everyone is happy he can do so and, suddenly, he’s in a race to save both himself and all those who have been touched by magic…
I love Hardinge’s writing – see my review of Deeplight. So I immediately requested this arc and was thrilled to receive a copy. And my instincts were spot on – it’s a cracking read. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK – The Elf Tangent by Lindsay Buroker As a princess in the impoverished kingdom of Delantria, it’s Aldari’s job to look pretty, speak little, and marry a prince. Studying mathematics and writing papers on economic theory in an effort to fix her people’s financial woes? Her father has forbidden it. With war on the horizon, they must focus on the immediate threat.
Reluctantly, Aldari agrees to marry a prince in a neighboring kingdom to secure an alliance her people desperately need. All is going to plan until the handsome elven mercenary captain hired to guard her marriage caravan turns into her kidnapper. His people are in trouble, and he believes she has the knowledge to help.
But with an invasion force approaching Delantria, Aldari’s own people need her. She must do everything in her power to escape the elves and make it to her wedding in time. Never mind that her kidnapper is witty, clever, and offers her a challenge that intrigues her mind even as his easy smile intrigues her heart… Aldari can’t let herself develop feelings for him. To fall in love and walk away from her wedding would mean the end of her kingdom and everyone she cares about. I’ve read the ebook, but when I had the opportunity to get hold of an audiobook of this engaging fantasy adventure with a splash of romance, I couldn’t resist it. I really enjoy Buroker’s characters and this particular story was lovely to listen to at a time when I needed an escapist read. 9/10
What Song the Sirens Sang – Book 3 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green You can find everything you’ve ever dreamed of in the strange, old magical shop known as Old Harry’s Place. The problem is, not all dreams are kind.
Gideon Sable – legendary master thief, conman and well-dressed rogue – and his partner in crime Annie Anybody don’t want to be shopkeepers, but when the enigmatic Harry decides to retire, he blackmails the pair into taking the store on.
Before the grand reopening can happen, however, a menacing stranger arrives – with a rare and deadly item for them to appraise. A small piece of rock, with an unnerving aura, which ‘Smith’ claims contains the last echoes of the legendary sirens’ song. Before they can find out more, however, Smith vanishes . . . leaving only the stone. Some valuables are more trouble than they’re worth. But before Gideon and Annie can work out if they’ve been set up, the stone is stolen from its impregnable hiding place. How? And why? Gideon only knows one thing for certain: no one steals from him and gets away with it . . . I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this entertaining fantasy heist series – and this next slice of the adventure manages to give yet another twist, without getting steadily darker, as so often happens in ongoing series. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK – Murder by Other Means – Book 2 of The Dispatcher series by John Scalzi In the world of the Dispatchers, a natural or accidental death is an endpoint; a murder pushes the do-over button and 99.99% of the time the victim comes back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher who’s been taking shadier and shadier gigs in financial tough times, and after witnessing a crime gone wrong, he finds people around him permanently dying in a way that implicates him. He has to solve the mystery of these deaths to save the lives of others–and keep himself out of trouble with the law.
I loved Scalzi’s Lock In series – it’s one of the best sci fi murder mystery series I’ve read. So when I saw this Audible exclusive, I scooped up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn’t all that long, but the pacing and voice are perfect and there are twists and action throughout. I will be looking out for more in The Dispatcher series for sure. 9/10
Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.
But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?
Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them. This is an intriguing retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a tougher heroine than poor Beauty. Bryony is a gardener, who has already had a far too interesting life to date, which has made her resilient and resourceful. Which is just as well, because she’s up against a terrifying magical opponent. This is a cracking read that had me turning the pages until I came to the end. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Persuasion by Jane Austen At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.
This is one of my favourite Austen novels – and listening to the version produced by the partly dramatised Jane Austen Collection was a real treat. I love Austen’s take on Bath society and her depiction of Lyme Regis, somewhere I used to know very well. The second-chance romance is beautifully done and while Anne is clearly beset by an uncaring family, she manages not to be too victimised. 9/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
It’s been another busy week. Poor Ethan lost his wallet on his train journey into college – but fortunately, one of his friends lent him the money for a ticket home. We told him it was a rite of passage – we all lose purses/wallets/keys and now he’s coped with it, doing all the right things, including promptly phoning the bank to cancel his card, he has one more adult experience in his arsenal to help his resilience.
Oscar has recently become interested in football (soccer) again, so yesterday Himself took him for a training session with one of the local youth teams – and ended up retrieving balls and helping to put up a temporary goal. He came home very tired and with wet feet, having been up since 2 am due to an early shift. He really is a keeper… We also got Oscar’s bike properly serviced, having the brake and gear cables replaced, the chain tightened and fully oiled so that on the days that he rides to and from school, we know he’s as safe as possible. He isn’t quite big enough for an adult bike, though it won’t be long at the rate he’s now growing – so it doesn’t make sense to buy him something new and shiny right now, when I think he’ll need something bigger in less than a year.
We finally got some new blinds for the kitchen – yay!! The house has been disgracefully neglected, what with one thing and another, over the last couple of years and our previous blinds were long past their sell-by date. So we finally got some new ones. I’m very pleased at how well they go with our colour scheme😊.
As for me, I’ve been struggling somewhat this week. Typical, having written that I’m largely over the Long Covid that has blighted my life for the past eighteen months, that halfway around Tesco last week on the weekly supermarket shop, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the all-too-familiar wave of nausea and tiredness. But the big plus is that it didn’t result in my legs giving way in the middle of the aisle, or having to stagger to the nearest chair. Instead, I was able to continue the task with the help of the boys, though I felt very wiped out afterwards and throughout the week, I’ve been nursing my energy levels as I’ve been really tired. Knowing how this goes, so long as I look after myself, this dragging feeling should ease up in the next day or so. But so far, I haven’t needed to take to my bed for the duration – and that’s a massive win. However, that’s also been reflected in my reading this week as whenever I pick up my Kindle, I end up dozing off.
Last week I read:-
AUDIOBOOK – Ithaca – Book 1 of the Penelope series by Claire North Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom.
Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door.
No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne—not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning, wit, and her trusted circle of maids, can she maintain the tenuous peace needed for the kingdom to survive.
This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, famed wife of Odysseus, as it has never been told before. Beyond Ithaca’s shores, the whims of gods dictate the wars of men. But on the isle, it is the choices of the abandoned women—and their goddesses— that will change the course of the world. Oh my goodness! What an amazing listen… For those of you suffering withdrawal symptoms after Madeline Miller’s wonderful Circe and Songs of Achilles and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls – here is another powerful, moving depiction of the Greek myths from the feminine viewpoint. I absolutely loved it. Review to follow.
Quarterly Challenge Update: September 2022 – Carla’s reading stats frankly awed me. I haven’t generally joined in any of the regular book blogging challenges, although they always look like great fun. Do you – and do they inspire you to stretch your reading?
Gloria! – I love reading Jennie’s regular updates on what happens in her classroom – and this is just one example of her inspired teaching…
What’s On My Plate: 15 SFF Books to Read in October 2022 – Tammy always has some of the coolest new releases around, so I always enjoy visiting her site. Though I’m now tussling with the impulse to get hold of the audiobook of Station Eternity, despite being stacked out with books I still haven’t yet listened to!
Like millions of people around the world, I contracted Covid-19 before the vaccine programme had time to be rolled out – indeed, I caught it two days after having my first jab, which meant it wasn’t remotely helpful. And like a distressingly large percentage of those millions – I suddenly found my life sliding to a stop in the aftermath of the disease as I was besieged by a succession of symptoms, one in particular being life-altering.
Each person’s experience with the disease has varied widely – there are over 200 symptoms caused by Long Covid. And particularly when I first became ill, finding reliable advice on how to best cope with the illness was difficult. While my doctor’s surgery has been as helpful as they can – and I’ve never encountered anything but kindness and complete acceptance of my version of events from everyone there – they often weren’t able to help. I still remain on the waiting list for the local Long Covid clinic.
So whenever I was sufficiently fit, I logged my ongoing progress on my blog to give folks an inkling as to why I’d gone silent. And now that I think I have mostly recovered from all the major symptoms, I want to sum up my experience and explain what happened and what helped in the hope that another desperate soul trawling the internet, looking for something – anything – that could offer answers for what has befallen them might find some of it useful. So I will be offering up details about myself that I wouldn’t usually reveal. Please treat the information with respect in any comments.
Firstly, I’m a British, white, middle-class woman in my mid-sixties, who is reasonably active and before March 2021, I led a busy, happy life as a writer and Creative Writing tutor. I’ve no underlying health issues, other than mild hypertension which is controlled by a low dose of prescription medication. I caught the Kent strain of Covid from my husband, a train driver, who went down with it when it swept through the train crew at his depot, leaving four people hospitalised and one of them dead. We both went down with the illness hard, though in completely different ways. Himself had a hacking cough and struggled to breathe, and given that he has severe sleep apnea and needs a mask, he found the only way to get any relief was to remain upright. So he camped in the lounge swathed in blankets with the fire full on for four days. Whereas I was running a temperature and couldn’t bear to be anywhere so hot and although I had aching limbs and a sore head, I was overwhelmingly exhausted and just wanted to sleep – often for over ten hours and once for eighteen hours straight. On several occasions I staggered downstairs to make sure he was still alive – and I know that he also checked on me. His blood oxygen levels dropped worryingly low and so he had phone consultations with the local surgery for several days.
However, we both recovered. Indeed, Himself made it back to work impressively quickly despite my concerns that he was pushing himself too hard. Whereas I remained feeling very washed out. On one sunny day, I decided to wash the curtains – and ended up back in bed. In fact, it seemed if ever I tried to do something more than the bare minimum – I’d end up once more engulfed in a terrible tiredness that left me shaking and retching, unable to stand, unable to even think. And increasingly I was confined to bed. By the middle of April I had to face the fact that I wasn’t making a clean recovery and had been stuck with Long Covid. I’ll list the symptoms I encountered below, what I did to try and deal with them and whether it worked. Over the last 18 months, I’ve had:-
• Bladder problems. This surfaced during the initial illness, but continued recurring during my relapses, resulting in occasional accidents. Not only was this distressing, but always occurred when I wasn’t very well, anyway which just made me feel even worse. My solution: Once I realised that this was an issue, I resorted to the advice given me by my lovely Health Visitor half a lifetime ago, after having had a breech birth. Every time I turned a tap on, I contracted my bladder for a slow count of 5. And every time I went to the toilet, I’d attempt to stop my urine flow. Gradually, my control increased until it was no longer a problem – although I was interested to note that whenever I was in the grip of a relapse, I couldn’t stop my urine flow. So the two were definitely connected.
• Digestive problems. I lost my appetite during Covid-19 and only ate when my stomach starting hurting through hunger. For a long time afterwards, my appetite was depressed. I’m sure that this was also because I wasn’t doing very much. But I did discover that certain foods caused bloating, wind and tummy upsets. Over time most of the discomfort and upsets have eased, except when I try eating onions. My solution: Taking digestive medication did ease the symptoms, but I also avoided eating foods that caused problems for a while, until I felt better. Though I’ll leave it a bit longer before trying with onions again, as the resultant pain and stomach upset frankly isn’t worth it.
• Loss of smell. Like many sufferers, I lost my sense of smell. Though as I’ve the nose of a bloodhound and during the worst of my relapses I was unable to shower or wash for days at a time – it’s one symptom that I recall feeling quite grateful about. It came back slowly over several months, until one day in June 2021 I suddenly realised I could smell the Marmite on my toast. It’s the only symptom that didn’t bother me overmuch at the time and when I reached the stage when I’d have started to mind about it – it was already returning.
• Hair Loss. I began to notice my hair coming out in handfuls sometime in June 2021, especially when brushing or washing it. I’ve always had a good head of hair and I found this symptom particularly devastating. While I was lucky not to have any bald patches, it was noticeably thinner. It had stopped falling out by October 2021, by which time I’d lost between a quarter and half my hair. When it grew back, the new hair was curly, whereas my original hair was straight, which meant that any style quickly became a tousled mess.
My solution: I recently went to the hairdresser and asked her to cut it as short as she could in a style that suits me. Which she did – and I’m a great deal happier. I just could not get used to looking in the mirror after a lifetime of seeing straight hair – and being confronted by those stray curls sticking out in all directions. While my hair was falling out, I was careful when washing it and didn’t towel-dry it or roughly handle it, but other than that – I didn’t find anything that could prevent it. However, everyone told me that it would stop falling out and eventually grow back and they were proved correct.
• Difficulty walking and loss of balance. My mobility was badly compromised right from the start in that I simply didn’t have the energy to move quickly. I’ve always been the sort of person who strides around the place and runs up and down the stairs, so this took some getting used to. However, after a relapse in April I found that I began to struggle with balance problems, too. My solution: I bought a folding walking stick that I kept in my handbag, despite hating the dratted thing. I had friends who complained of suddenly being invisible once they reached a certain age, something I hadn’t been aware of. But once I was walking slowly and using a stick – I simply became an obstacle that people swished past. Fortunately, we live in a crescent, so I was able to walk around it using the stick whenever I felt well enough. I didn’t need the stick inside the house – but that’s because it’s a small house and I automatically moved from handhold to handhold. In October 2021, I started seeing a reflexologist as my progress seemed stuck. And within three weeks of seeing her, I was able to walk again without the stick. I didn’t regain my former walking speed to enable me to keep up with the family until the beginning of September 2022. Up to that point, everyone had to slow down for me.
• Depression and anxiety. This was a terrible time. We’d both been very ill and I was massively incapacitated, to the extent that Himself became my carer. I could – on good days – shower and dress myself, but that was it. And thank goodness I never reached the stage when I needed help feeding myself or using the toilet, but it was a close-run thing on occasions. Going out or travelling was a non-starter – I could scarcely make it to the car at times when I needed to attend a doctor’s appointment. Worse, no one could tell me when, or if, this would end. I come from a long-lived family – the thought of living like a frail ninety-something for the rest of my years was a terrible prospect. We also lost my lovely father-in-law in the middle of all this and my mother-in-law, suffering from dementia, had to go into a home. You won’t be surprised that I struggled with my mental health. My solution: The NHS Time-to-Talk scheme was an enormous help. I had ten sessions with a kind person on the end of the phone, on whom I poured out my fears and anxieties. She suggested I try meditation and my son told me about an app called Headspace, which was excellent at teaching me the basic techniques for focusing on my breath. I have since also found other free meditation apps. It helped me to keep in the moment and stop thinking too much about the future – I just had to get through each day at a time, the best way I could. I think it also massively helped that I have a faith and prayed for strength to deal with what was happening. And the fact that I’m a certain age was also a positive factor, as by now I know my own strengths and weaknesses, both physically and emotionally. I also took strength from my family – my sisters were both tremendously helpful. My middle sister ensured I had any medications that I needed, while I was able to talk through much of my feelings with my younger sister, who is a wellness coach, which was another huge help. Taking as much control as I could in dealing with my symptoms was helpful in empowering me to feel less like a victim, as I learnt to cope with the up and down nature of the illness and better understand what was happening to me. I am an avid reader, and that was also a great lifeline. There were times when I was too tired to watch TV, but I could listen to an audiobook and, when I felt better, read a lovely escapist tale on my trusty Kindle. It also helped that Himself was marvellous – endlessly patient and kind, while he was also dealing with his own heartbreak at what was happening to us.
• Brain Fog. And yes… I’m here to tell you it’s a real thing. I was left with my mental faculties badly impaired. I write novels and soon after the initial illness, I sat down at the computer and tried to resume my current book – and just… couldn’t. It was impossible. I couldn’t even think of the right words to use. And in groping for the words, I lost track of what the character was actually trying to say, or even who was saying it. For the first time in my life, I was staring at the computer screen and completely stuck. I tried not to panic about losing my ability to write – and I’m not talking about book reviews, as I can pretty much produce one of those in my sleep. I’m talking about my creative writing.
My mental confusion wasn’t confined to my writing – I’d break off halfway through a conversation, because I lost the thread of what I was trying to say. I’ve always been a chatty person, full of opinions on everything. But partly due to the chronic exhaustion that robbed me of my mental energy, and partly because I was unable to focus, anyway, I became a lot quieter. Indeed, once I began recovering, Himself initially found it quite difficult to get used to the louder, more opinionated version, as he’d had over a year with the quieter model. My solution: Whenever I felt well enough, I would do wordsearches, sudoku puzzles, TV quizzes, computer brainteasers, word games with the family… anything to stretch my brain. It got worse before it got better, but I am now sufficiently recovered that I don’t immediately notice any lack, except that I don’t possess the mental stamina I used to have. I cannot write for longer than three hours before feeling really tired, though I’m hoping that on regaining my fitness, it will improve, too.
Once I started recovering my mental stamina, soon after I started my reflexology treatment in October 2021, I began editing two other books in the same series as my work-in-progress. It took a while, as there were long periods when I wasn’t well enough to even open up the computer. But eventually, I worked my way through them and finally, in June this year, I managed to complete the chapter that I’d started back in March last year, before I went down with Covid-19. That felt like a very big win.
• Eczema. I have had occasional problems with this itchy skin disorder when particularly stressed. But it started up in the middle of the initial illness and from then on, every single time I had a relapse – back it would come. Right between my shoulder blades. My solution: A variety of skin creams. I’d find that one would keep the itching down until it didn’t and we’d switch to another one. I went on a completely sugar-free diet in an attempt to alleviate the spells of exhaustion and accidentally discovered that once I stopped eating any processed sugar, the eczema dramatically improved.
• Swollen thyroid and lymph glands. I’d been aware of pressure on my throat soon after the initial illness – and when I’d start to get exhausted, it would get worse often making me feel nauseous. My lymph glands were also swollen, particularly on the right side to the extent that if I stretched my neck, the lump was visible. They were also very tender and downright painful if touched. When I reported this to the doctor, I was sent for scans, which revealed that I’d got nodules on my thyroid and that my lymph glands were badly deformed. I’ve read that Covid-19 seems to attack specific areas of the body – and I think it was my endocrine system that got hammered. My solution: For a very long time, there wasn’t anything I seemed to be able to do regarding these symptoms. Although I learnt to pay attention to the throbbing discomfort in my neck – it was a useful indicator that I was doing too much and needed to rest. The lymph glands finally shrank back to normal in September this year, after a course of antibiotics for another symptom.
• Persistent chest and upper arm pain. While I didn’t have any breathing problems, during the initial illness, my ribcage was extremely sore with sharp, stabbing pains, especially on the right side. And while the pain cleared up on the left, it continued on the right to the extent that it was months before I was able to wear a bra and I couldn’t lie on my right side in bed as the pain would wake me up. My solution: I did find that ibuprofen would relieve it when it got painful enough to restrict my movement as I became more active, but as my active periods were interspersed by long periods lying in bed, it wasn’t too much of an issue until I began to fully recover. At that stage, I was referred to the Breast Clinic to ensure the pain wasn’t an indicator of something more nasty. Fortunately, all the scans came back clear, although I found the examinations extremely painful. And I continued to take painkillers when necessary for the pain until it finally eased away in August of this year, which has been a huge relief.
• Night sweats. During the initial illness, I’d been sweating heavily with my high temperature, but the night sweats continued afterwards. I’d put up with this particular misery during the menopause, so wasn’t best pleased when it returned. My solution: Before I contracted Covid-19, I was someone who very much felt the cold, so I had an electric blanket and thermal nightwear. I gradually realised, while struggling with overheating, that my whole metabolism had altered – I now no longer get so cold. So I got rid of all the extra blankets, bought pure cotton nightshirts to wear and while the sweats continued, particularly during a relapse, at least I was a tad more comfortable.
• Insomnia. This was grim. I’ve struggled to go to bed at a reasonable time for years – but was also aware that trying to regain my energy levels wouldn’t work if I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. And while I’m sure the lack of activity was an issue, there was no doubt that when I was unwell, getting to sleep was a nightmare. And if I didn’t, then I could very easily find myself still wide awake at 6 am, and dropping off to sleep just as Himself was surfacing and then sleeping the day away. This clearly wasn’t ideal on any level, so I tried to address the situation. This was one of the biggest ongoing struggles throughout my illness and while it’s improved, I still need to work more on it. These days, I average between five and six hours a night, which isn’t anything like good enough. But at least I don’t battle to fall asleep in the way that I used to. My solution: To try and help address my sleep issues, my lovely son bought me an oura ring, which is specifically designed to give data on sleep and provide feedback to help change behaviours. It’s been a boon, as I can monitor the quality of my sleep and immediately see whether various strategies are working. I also began switching off screens half an hour before going to bed and reading or listening to a story in low light levels to help wind down, along with a night-time meditation. I did try using Sleepcasts, which my son swears by, and are featured on Headspace. These are descriptions of a particular place, ranging from rain forests to libraries, narrated in a soothing voice. They didn’t work for me, but I mention them because Robbie is a huge fan. What did work is listening to an audiobook on my phone, tucked under the pillow so it doesn’t disturb Himself. I put it on a sleep timer and these days, I’m usually asleep before the half an hour is up.
• Tinnitus. I’ve suffered with some tinnitus ever since I burst my eardrum in my 30s. But after going down with Covid-19, this was on a completely different scale. The right ear was far worse than the left and it manifests in a high-pitched squeal. During the day, I was largely able to block it out, except when lying flat in bed, too tired to do anything except stare at the ceiling. That wasn’t fun on any level. And it certainly made getting to sleep more of a challenge. This is the one symptom that hasn’t eased up much, despite my recovery. Fortunately, I’m now well enough to write and frankly – the building could fall down around me and I probably wouldn’t notice. For which I’m very grateful, as it allows me to blank out the ringing in my ears. My solution: The meditation helps. I have also discovered that drinking too much caffeine aggravates it, so I restrict my intake to 3 small cups a day and all before lunchtime, so I don’t compromise getting to sleep. But listening to a gripping story on an audiobook allows me to zone it out the noise at night so I can sleep.
• Post-Viral Fatigue. This is the single symptom that absolutely felled me. Fatigue… exhaustion… tiredness… there needs to be another word to describe it, because it’s unlike any other type of tiredness I’ve ever experienced. It’s a malaise that left me shaking, unable to stand, feeling sick and giddy with such tiredness that even my bones ached. It wasn’t just physical. It also left me too tired to think, or even care at all much. I’d be alright for a few days, or as much as a week, sometimes. Then I’d wake up, put my foot to the floor – and it would hit me with a sickening wave and I knew that I’d be spending the rest of the day in bed, too tired to do much of anything. The worst relapse was in August 2021 when I was bedridden for fourteen days in a row. And afterwards, I found I’d lost much of the progress I’d already made, so I was left far more compromised. In fact, I still haven’t managed to drive to Chichester and back since then, which I’d done in June to take Himself to his first covid vaccination. This single symptom laid waste to my life – I was unable to cook, or clean and going shopping was a distant dream for months and months. I’ve already mentioned that I lost the ability to write for a very long time. The hardest part was not knowing if I’d ever get better.
But I had a couple of huge advantages – while I was dealing with a range of unpleasant symptoms, most of the time I wasn’t in pain. I don’t underestimate what a lucky break that was. And Himself was a superstar, ever-thoughtful, kind and tireless in keeping everything going. So that gave me the space and determination to try to take control of what was happening to me. My solution: I got hold of a book – Classic Pacing: For a Better Life with ME by Ingebjørg Midsem Dahl, which gave me a range of coping strategies in order to deal with my new life. The first was to accurately gauge how much energy I had and then draw up a timetable so that I ensured my daily activities didn’t outstrip my available energy. When I started, I was shocked to see that my available energy was only running at 20% of what it should be. It took a while to get the balance right, but I believe the days, weeks and months that I put in trying to keep within my energy envelope allowed me to heal.
I also started taking a number of supplements – an iron tonic, vitamin D, vitamin C, B12, and a liquid calcium drink. I hasten to add that I didn’t take all these together, but spaced them out appropriately throughout the day. I also tried probiotics, but they simply don’t agree with me so I discontinued with them, though I’m aware that they have helped quite a lot of Long Covid sufferers. I also paid attention to what I ate. My appetite wasn’t large, but I wanted to ensure that everything I consumed would be helping to build me up – so the first thing I did was to eliminate all processed sugar from my diet. I added turmeric tea, which I now love – and I have tahini on toast in the mornings. I’ve been surprised at some of the side effects from not eating sugar. My lower back pain, which should have been giving me constant grief given how long I’ve spent in bed, has hardly grumbled at all. And the pain I was having in my finger joints and wrists has disappeared. I’ve noticed that I’ve less wrinkles around my mouth and eyes, too. While obviously I’ll have the occasional treat for birthdays and Christmas – there’s no way I’m going back to having my twice-weekly sticky bun. I’m eating a lot of salads and as we’re vegetarians, we eat a lot of veg anyway.
Another recommendation was to make life as easy as possible – so we ordered a bath stool so I was sitting down in the shower, which I still use as it makes the whole process far less tiring. And there are still days when staggering to the bathroom to have a shower is a big deal.
This wasn’t the only useful book I got hold of – the other one was The Long Covid Self Help Guide published by the specialists at the Oxford Long Covid clinic, which I found really helpful in rebalancing my energy versus activity output. I strongly recommend this book for anyone battling with Long Covid and the book on pacing for others dealing with Post-Viral Fatigue. Other than that, it was a question of taking each day at a time and trying to stay as calm and positive as possible – I was shocked at just how much energy negative emotions take once I became well enough for my fury and sadness to surface at having lost such a chunk of my life. If I am getting tired, a fifteen-minute meditation is a brilliant way of resting as it’s a super recharge, helping both mind and body. Others have also found yoga to be similarly helpful.
I am also very lucky to have found an excellent reflexologist, who has certainly helped. My progress stalled last September/October and within a couple of weeks of seeing Laura, a holistic healer who runs Sole to Soul, several major symptoms shifted and improved. I don’t think I’d be where I am now without her intervention.
I am now on the road to recovery, though I still have a way to go. Overall, I put on a stone in weight and given just how inactive I’ve been and my age, it could have been a lot worse. However, I’m keen to lose it. Partly because there is a huge chunk of my wardrobe that I cannot wear and partly because at a time when all my energy is precious – I’m lugging around too many unwanted pounds. I’m now exploring attending a course at the local Leisure Centre specifically for people who wish to recondition their bodies after a significant illness and in the near future, I’ll see if I can get a doctor’s referral. I’m hoping to regain my former fitness so I can reclaim my life. And it’s the least I can do for my wonderful husband and helpmate, who looked after me throughout this terrible time with so much love and tenderness.
• Nasal drip and sore sinuses. I’d never heard of nasal drip before I got covid. But this is where instead of mucus running from your nose, it trickles down the back of your throat. This results in a certain amount of discomfort, a horrid taste in the mouth and bad breath. This symptom surfaced sometime during November 2021, after a minor cold. At first I was pleased, as I thought it would drain my poor sore lymph glands. However, it didn’t. It was only my right nostril that was affected, but as time wore on, the sinuses in the right side of my face became swollen and tender and finally even the top of my head grew sore where the sinus cavities on the top of my head were becoming inflamed. It was dreary – and dragged on from November, throughout the winter and finally events came to a head during this summer. My solution: I had candling and sinus massages at regular intervals, which kept the symptoms manageable. In between my treatments, I was able to prevent my ear from becoming infected by relieving the pressure using a little battery-operated scalp massager which proved to be a lifesaver. I found it very handy for massaging the drainage points for my sinuses once the tenderness spiked into something sharper.
Finally, in June 2022 after dealing with this for seven months, I woke up to a streaming nose. At first I thought I’d gone down with a cold, but it was just the right nostril that was congested – the left one was completely clear. I coped with it for nearly two months, but there was no sign of it easing. By now my nose was sore and my face felt it was about to fall off every time I bent over – a sure sign that my sinuses were infected. I phoned up the surgery and got an emergency appointment and was immediately put on a course of antibiotics. And within three days of starting the course, it had completely dried up. It took another week or so for my sinuses to calm right down and best of all – my lymph glands also returned to their normal shape. And to all intents and purposes, as I haven’t suffered any form of relapse sending me back to bed since the middle of August – I think I can now say at the beginning of October 2021, my Long Covid is now over.
And I cannot begin to sum up just what a relief it is to be able to type those words. While this was always the outcome I was aiming for – there was a long time when it seemed a distant dream. For those of you struggling in the middle of this slow-motion nightmare, let me offer you light at the end of the tunnel. It is possible to recover from the endless cycle of improvement followed by relapse and there can be a time when the never-ending stream of one grotty symptom after another will ease up. Just don’t give up hope.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
A great deal seems to have happened since I last took part in the Sunday Post. The boys have both started back at school and college respectively. And both have gone down with a nasty viral illness, which saw Oscar unable to resume school last week after the late Queen’s funeral. It definitely wasn’t covid, but was nevertheless very unpleasant. My sister, who works in a pharmacy, says it’s one of the latest infections zapping our rather flappy immune systems. In addition, Ethan needed a course of antibiotics for a nasty cough which he picked up during the summer and hadn’t managed to shift. I hate it when the children aren’t well, so I also found it quite stressful. Thankfully both are recovering – though Ethan still hasn’t shifted the cough as much as I would like.
And of course we had the death of Queen Elizabeth II, which was a terrible shock. If I had been physically stronger, I’d have travelled to London and joined the queues to attend the lying-in state, as Himself and I had attended the Queen Mother’s and it was a wonderful, uplifting experience. My sister joined me on Monday and we watched the funeral together, both weeping at times for the end of an era and the loss of a wonderful leader full of goodness and integrity, who had prevented me from getting too jaded and cynical about those In Charge. It will seem very strange when new stamps, coins and currency start to appear without Queen Elizabeth’s head on them.
Other than that, I keep taking each day as it comes and while I’m often very tired by the end of the day as I’m still horribly unfit – it isn’t the bone-aching, mind-sapping exhaustion that was a feature of the Long Covid I’d endured. If I get to the end of the month without suffering any kind of relapse, I will be applying to our local leisure centre for the offered 12 free sessions for those who have suffered from Long Covid. So fingers crossed!
Last week I read:-
Sol 2781 – Book 4 of the Drago Tell Dramis series by Janet Edwards Major Drago Tell Dramis is celebrating the fact that the saboteur has been caught, and the Earth solar arrays will be safe now. The arrest of a member of the main board of Hospital Earth has consequences though. As Drago hits orbital levels of fury, and declares his own personal war against Hospital Earth, he’s hit by even more unexpected problems.
There’s a joke that says one birth member of the Tell clan attracts trouble, two birth members of the Tell clan invite minor disasters, while three is the critical mass that triggers cataclysmic events. As the danger mounts, the question is whether Drago and his two cousins, Jaxon and Gemelle, can prove an alternative theory. Are three members of the Tell clan really the critical mass that resolves cataclysmic events? I always enjoy Janet Edwards writing – and this one is no exception. She has the knack of writing eventful, vivid and well-depicted space opera adventures with an upbeat vibe, even when her protagonists are going through a really tough time. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK – False Value – Book 8 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with émigré Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s brand new London start up – the Serious Cybernetics Company. Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous ‘silicon roundabout’, Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant’s favourite son.
Because Terrence Skinner has a secret hidden in the bowels of the SCC. A technology that stretches back to Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and forward to the future of artificial intelligence. A secret that is just as magical as it technological – and just as dangerous. This book takes us into different territory, as Peter has struck out into pastures new and is now working as Security in a high-profile tech firm. I loved his wry depiction of modern working practices, along with yet another well-plotted adventure mystery. I also enjoyed the tenderness portrayed in the relationship between heavily pregnant Beverley and Peter. 9/10
Making It Write – Book 3 of A Writer For Hire Mystery Series by Betty Hechtman As a writer for hire, Veronica Blackstone puts her keyboard to use to help others. That includes writing advertising copy for local businesses or love letters for those with romantic troubles, or helping people publish their memoirs. Maeve Winslow needs the latter.
Maeve is the wife of a famous artist nominated for a prestigious award, and the memoir is to be released ahead of the ceremony. All of Maeve’s notes are given to Veronica but for the final few pages. There’s a huge surprise within those last pages, but Maeve won’t reveal it yet.
When Maeve is found dead at the foot of her stairs it looks like an accident, but Veronica isn’t convinced. Was the scene staged? Was Maeve murdered to keep her silent? Could clues to the surprise, and the identity of the murderer, be hidden within the notes? It’s up to Veronica to figure it out and write the real story. This was the first time I’d had the pleasure of reading a book in this cosy murder mystery series – but I certainly hope it won’t be the last. I grew to really like Veronica and enjoyed the growing sense of wrongness about Maeve’s death. 8/10
AUDIOBOOK – Deceiver – Book 11 (Sequence 4, Book 2) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh The civil war among the alien Atevi has ended. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with Cajeiri, his son and heir, has returned to the Bujavid, his seat of power. But factions that remain loyal to the opposition are still present, and the danger these rebels pose is far from over.
I am loving listening to this highly detailed and tension-filled adventure set on an alien planet, where humanity is in the minority and Bren Cameron, as the sole human representative living among the Atevi, gets sucked into their turbulent politics. 9/10
The Firstborn by Quenby Olson Sophia has sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy. She has removed them from the only home they ever knew, taken on the care of Lucy’s illegitimate son, George, and even assumed the role of a widow and mother in order to erase all hint of scandal from the boy’s birth. But rumor continues to follow them like the darkest of clouds, and Sophia must adapt to her new existence as a false widow with no prospects beyond the doors of her small cottage.
Lord Finnian Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest hint of scandal from tainting his family’s name. When he learns of his younger brother’s latest indiscretion-one that leaves a bastard child in his wake-Haughton rushes across the country to offer the boy’s mother a comfortable living in exchange for her silence about the child’s true parentage. But he arrives only to have his generous offer thrown back in his face by Sophia Brixton, a sharp-tongued and sharper-witted woman who proceeds to toss him out of her house. But just because he is banished from her home does not mean he is so easily banished from her life. I have thoroughly enjoyed Olson’s historical fantasy stories. Indeed, her gripping book about a woman with a talent she’d rather not have, The Half Killed, is one of my standout of reads of the year so far. This enjoyable Regency romance may not have the heft and physicality of that offering, but nevertheless is highly enjoyable. 8/10
AUDIOBOOK – Death Among the Diamonds – Book 1 of the Cressida Fawcett Mystery series by Fliss Chester Everyone in 1920s London knows the Honourable Cressida Fawcett: fiercely independent (though never apart from her little pug Ruby), lover of martinis and interior designer extraordinaire. She’s solved many crimes of fashion… so how about murder?
Cressida Fawcett is heading to the English countryside for a weekend of cocktails and partying at her friend’s glamorous mansion, the location of a recent diamond heist. But just hours after her arrival, Cressida is woken by an almighty scream. Rushing to the landing, she looks down into the great hall to find a trembling maid standing next to the body of Harry, the friendly young chandelier cleaner.
Everyone believes Harry’s death was an accident. But as Cressida examines the opulent hall and the beautiful grounds, she thinks something darker is afoot. Why clean a chandelier in the early hours of the morning? And who overheard Harry boasting about coming into unexpected wealth? A small piece of torn silk found near the body has Cressida looking at the guests’ elegant clothes with fresh eyes… I was delighted to get hold of a Netgalley audiobook arc for this entertaining whodunit and was thoroughly looking forward to tucking into this offering. Initially I was a tad disappointed, as I had realised exactly where the diamonds had been hidden – until it turned out they hadn’t… Cressida is suitably headstrong and plucky, while ably assisted by her endearing little dog, Ruby. A thoroughly enjoyable listen! Review to follow.
I have been tucking into a variety of cosy whodunits recently. So when this one caught my eye, I was delighted to be able to get hold of the arc – especially as the author is unknown to me.
BLURB: As a writer for hire, Veronica Blackstone puts her keyboard to use to help others. That includes writing advertising copy for local businesses or love letters for those with romantic troubles, or helping people publish their memoirs. Maeve Winslow needs the latter.
Maeve is the wife of a famous artist nominated for a prestigious award, and the memoir is to be released ahead of the ceremony. All of Maeve’s notes are given to Veronica but for the final few pages. There’s a huge surprise within those last pages, but Maeve won’t reveal it yet. When Maeve is found dead at the foot of her stairs it looks like an accident, but Veronica isn’t convinced. Was the scene staged? Was Maeve murdered to keep her silent? Could clues to the surprise, and the identity of the murderer, be hidden within the notes? It’s up to Veronica to figure it out and write the real story.
REVIEW: I was interested to learn that this was the third book in the series – a fact I only discovered when searching for a copy of the cover after I’d finished the book. So if you are hesitating about plunging into the middle of a series, then don’t be. At no point did I feel I was missing vital information – in fact all the way through this one, I was under the impression that it was the first book in the series.
Part of the reason why I felt I was reading the first book is the pacing. It’s very leisurely – to the point that I’d begun to wonder if there was going to be a murder at all. That said, I enjoyed Hechtman’s smooth, accomplished writing and quickly bonded with the main protagonist, who narrates the story in first-person viewpoint, which meant that I wasn’t too worried. But I will say that if you prefer your murder mysteries to move along at a fair clip with regular dollops of action along the way, then this one might not tick the boxes for you.
Veronica doesn’t have a front row seat as to what is happening – and I did enjoy the fact that the police were in no mood to pour out all the details to her just because she has published a fictional detective story. So her initial sense of wrongness about Maeve’s death is gradually strengthened by the accretion of minor details. I really liked the premise – and the fact that Maeve hasn’t conveniently written down all the major issues surrounding her wish to write a memoir. In the circumstances, that wouldn’t have made sense, given that she knew the huge secret surrounding her husband’s sudden fame and had no reason to think she wouldn’t be in the middle of the project. And the final twist is a doozy – I had considered it fleetingly right at the beginning of the story, but Hechtman nicely redirects us with a strong line-up of plausible suspects. Overall, this is an enjoyable, well-plotted murder mystery featuring a sympathetic heroine. Recommended for fans of murder mysteries that concentrate more on characters and motivations and less on the gore and action. While I obtained an arc of Making It Write from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over seventeen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
As we now have our grandsons staying with us, it’s been another full-on week. Ethan’s summer job has become a lot busier as the back-to-school rush for uniforms hits its peak. He is coping really well with long days serving fraught parents and their miserable children. I can’t quite believe that the summer holidays have slipped by so fast and he is about to begin his final week before he starts back at college for the second year of his animation course. We took Oscar to the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust last Tuesday on a rainy day. Another year and I would be moaning about the weather – but after weeks of blistering heat, it was delightful to wander around in the misty drizzle and watch the birds enjoying themselves – as you can see from the pics.
Other than that, I’ve been up in the mornings to ensure Ethan has a good breakfast and give him a lift to work. Initially we’d thought he could walk it – but given the brutal heat, we took the decision to drive him to work. And although it’s now cooler, I am reluctant to make him walk over a mile there and back on top of working full shifts when he hasn’t had a chance to be acclimatised to it.
I am feeling more energetic than I did last week, although there are still good and bad days. I’m pleased to see I’ve started losing some of the weight I put on while spending so much time bedridden and exhausted and I can now wear some of my jeans. I’ve still got quite a way to go before I can get into most of my clothes, but right now that isn’t a priority as I’m still not sufficiently recovered to consider a full reconditioning and fitness programme. I am looking forward to the time when I can go swimming at the local leisure centre while Boomerang Boy is hitting the gym, instead of spending my time sitting in their very uncomfortable chairs reading a book. He’s very pleased to see some muscle development since he started attending at the start of the summer holidays and we’re hoping to continue attending once he returns to school. He has also grown more than an inch since we measured him in the second week of August.
While my writing progress has been hit and miss throughout the summer, I have made some progress on the third book of Castellan’s adventures, Problems With Power. I thought I’d discovered a plot hole near the end of the previous book, Trouble With Dwarves, but Himself pointed out that I was overthinking the issue and suggested that I sort it out with a suitable conversation, instead of several major scene changes and a whole new sub-plot. I’ll be taking his advice and adding said conversation in the coming week – full of relief that I won’t have to administer major surgery to the ongoing narrative!
I’ve recently read:-
Her Majesty’s Warlord – Book 2 of the Stuck in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall After being trapped in a very strange world, Elliot Richardson found his footing and led the forces of Damansara to victory, only to find himself under threat from jealous and resentful city fathers who thought he was on the verge of overthrowing their rule and taking their power for himself.
Isolated and alone, Elliot accepted an offer of employment from Princess Helen of Johor and finds himself travelling to the heart of her kingdom, to a city caught between the stagnant past, the hope of a better future and factions threatening to burn the world down rather than risk letting it be saved. And, as Elliot goes to work, he finds himself threatened by powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to see him brought down… This is a spin-off from the gripping Schooled in Magic series that I’ve been working through during the last year – and I’m now following Elliot’s progress as he struggles to cope in a world where magic is the ultimate power, rather than technology. However, it’s also a world riven by social discontent as the agrarian culture, relying on peasants and downtrodden serfs to produce the food, is beset by sudden change. Once again, Nuttall has produced an action-packed read, full of plot twists and action that I thoroughly enjoyed. And being an indie book, it is also excellent value for money😊. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Emma Thompson Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.
I’m working my way through the collected novels of Jane Austen and I hadn’t particularly been looking forward to reaching Emma, as the last time I read the book I decided that Mr Knightly was a priggish misery. This time around, listening to the fabulous Emma Thompson, I didn’t find him such a pain. The humour of listening to both Emma and Mr K. being eaten up with jealousy without necessarily realising their feelings for each other was also more apparent. All in all, this was far more fun than I was expecting and turned out to be really enjoyable. However, I could do without all the music in this production. 8/10
The Half Killed – Book 1 of The Sundered Veil series by Quenby Olson Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.
She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.
And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control. I had read Olson’s entertaining romp about a dragon’s egg surfacing in a small village and it in no way prepared me for the intensity of this fantasy thriller. The writing is rich and layered, giving a vivid evocation of London during a savage heatwave in a time when people’s clothing was all about keeping them sufficiently warm. I loved the world and the steadily escalating tension in this classy read, rooting for Dorothea all the way. 10/10
AUDIOBOOK – Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany Babel-17 is all about the power of language. Humanity, which has spread throughout the universe, is involved in a war with the Invaders, who have been covertly assassinating officials and sabotaging spaceships. The only clues humanity has to go on are strange alien messages that have been intercepted in space. Poet and linguist Rydra Wong is determined to understand the language and stop the alien threat.
I’m generally not all that impressed with the classic sci fi reads from this era – far too often it’s all about the lantern-jawed hero with female characters providing bed partners and/or requiring to be rescued just to show the protagonist off as courageous and tough. Not so this one – the protag is a well-written, nuanced heroine, who engaged me throughout with her intelligence and resilience. I also enjoyed the diverse ethnic range of characters throughout, showing that Delany was well ahead of his time. The ideas raised regarding language aren’t new – not when considering books such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Embassytown – but I enjoyed the way Delany explores the subject. The only reason this one didn’t get a 10 was that the end felt a bit rushed and was weak and ordinary when compared with the quality of the rest of the book. 9/10
The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope Washington D. C., 1925
Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.
Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents. This one is a gripping read. Clara is a sympathetic heroine, full of anger at how her life has been twisted by the gift bestowed upon her. The story also throws into relief the extra hardship being black is in Washington in the 1920s in a very matter-of-fact way, which gave me – a white middle-class Brit woman – a better appreciation of the unremitting harshness of being instantly judged by the colour of your skin. Review to follow.
A Date With Death – #0.5 of the Conjuring a Coroner series by S.C. Stokes Whoever said blood is thicker than water hasn’t met the Harrington family. New York royalty, the Harrington family are old money with magic coursing through their entitled veins, and the only thing the Harringtons care less about than each other…is the law.
When Lester dies unexpectedly, his considerable estate is set to pass to his surviving heirs. But the coroner, Kasey Chase, has ruled Lester’s death a homicide, sparking a family feud that sees the Harrington heirs turn on each other in a lethal struggle where the only prize for second place is death.
With unlimited resources and a callous disregard for human life, the Harrington’s have to be stopped before the city pays the price for their petty war. Caught in the middle, Kasey is left fighting for her life. Fortunately, she’s been hiding a secret of her own. Kasey is a witch. Kasey is an appealing heroine – and I liked how reluctant she is initially to get sucked into such a potentially tricky situation. I get a tad tired of protagonists who happily run towards danger the rest of us would instinctively back away from. And when this one finally kicked off – the action rolled forward and didn’t let up until the end. I’ll definitely be reading more Kasey goodness as this urban fantasy adventure is a page-turning read. 8/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over fifteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
My grandmother had a saying, “What goes up must come down.” And yes… it absolutely applies to my current situation. After celebrating my triumphant return to something approaching my life before I got sick with Covid – I then had another relapse that lasted nearly a fortnight, where I spent most of the day in bed again, feeling utterly exhausted. And this time around it was a lot harder to endure after having once more felt like the person I used to be.
The good news is that I know exactly what triggered this setback – my hospital appointment at the Breast Care Clinic, where I had a thorough exam by a consultant, a mammogram and ultrasound scan – just to ensure that some of my Long Covid symptoms weren’t masking something far more sinister and life-shortening. I was so impressed at the efficient and kindly staff and I’m delighted to be able to report that all is well. But the appointment was over three hours long and entailed having to get dressed and undressed a number of times and was also rather emotionally gruelling, as well as extremely painful at times. Small wonder that I was knocked back afterwards.
The huge light at the end of this tunnel is that I am now able to write, once my energy levels improved again. I’ve been editing for a while – but not said too much about it, as initially every time I mentioned I was able to work on my manuscripts, I then promptly found I couldn’t. And it massively mattered to me that I’d lost my ability to write – to be honest, it’s been one of hardest things I’ve had to cope with. And – yes – I know I’ve been regularly knocking out a steady stream of reviews. But while I enjoy recording my responses to the books I’ve read, I don’t define myself creatively by my non-fiction output. For me, it’s always been about the stories I tell. I’ve been writing science fiction and fantasy for longer than I care to think and to quote the late great Terry Pratchett, ‘Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.’ I’ll fully endorse that! And when I simply didn’t have the mental energy to hold a character and his story in my head long enough to get it down onto the page, I was devastated. Though the big silver lining was said lack of energy meant that devastation was overlaid by a Zenlike calm caused by my inability to feel very much about anything. So when this week, I finally completed the chapter I’d started before I went down with Covid, I wept with relief that my secret dread – that I’d never regain my ability to write – hasn’t come to pass. I’m thrilled that dear old Castellan is back in my life in all his grumpy glory😊.
Our Boomerang Boy is back with us this weekend, which is another joy. He cycled over on Friday night and will be going home again later today. We went shopping together in Rustington yesterday – he is such good company. And today, my sister is coming over to see us, which is also such a treat. Himself is, as ever, my rock and my saviour – even though my relapse coincided with his annual leave so that we ended up doing very little and going nowhere together, despite optimistic plans for day trips to places we’ve missed seeing for the past year and bit. I’m so blessed that his love, constancy and care has never faltered.
This week I’ve read:-
Veiled Threat – Book 3 of the Highland Magic series by Helen Harper Integrity Taylor has regained possession of her ancestral lands – and inherited a whole host of new problems. The spectre of what really happened to her parents is casting a shadow over everything while Fomori demons are being sighted up and down the Highlands. It doesn’t help that Aifric Moncrieffe still seems determined to see her dead and emerald-eyed Byron remains stubbornly blind to his father’s true nature.
Integrity is determined to stay in control of her own destiny, however, even if it means confronting the darkness across the Veil yet again. And at least she’s still got a sense of humour… Harper has nailed writing feisty heroines facing huge odds, who cope with dollops of often inappropriate humour – which I thoroughly enjoy. This latest adventure also has brought some intriguing twists to the ongoing narrative arc, which means it won’t be long before I tuck into the next book, which I think is the final one in this entertaining series. Which, I’m dreading – as I’ve grown very fond of Integrity. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip Brenden Vetch has a gift. With an innate sense he cannot explain to himself or describe to others, he connects to the agricultural world, nurturing gardens to flourish and instinctively knowing the healing properties each plant and herb has to offer. But Brenden’s gift isolates him from people–and from becoming part of a community.
Until the day he receives a personal invitation from the wizard Od. She needs a gardener for her school in the great city of Kelior, where every potential wizard must be trained to serve the Kingdom of Numis. For decades the rulers of Numis have controlled the school, believing they can contain the power within it–and punish any wizard who dares defy the law.But unknown to the reigning monarchy is the power possessed by the school’s new gardener–a power that even Brenden isn’t fully aware of, and which is the true reason Od recruited him… This standalone fantasy adventure is a joy. I was hugely impressed by McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld – see my review. So jumped at the chance to tuck into this one when it came up as a freebie with my Audible membership. And I wasn’t disappointed – it’s stood the test of time very well. I particularly enjoyed the shafts of dry humour throughout and loved dear Brendon. Though it’s a pity that the cover decided to depict Od as some glamorous maiden, when McKillip is at such pains to describe her so very differently. 9/10
Death and Hard Cider – Book 19 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly September, 1840. A giant rally is being planned in New Orleans to stir up support for presidential candidate William Henry Harrison: the Indian-killing, hard-cider-drinking, wannabe “people’s president”. Trained surgeon turned piano-player Benjamin January has little use for politicians. But the run-up to the rally is packed with balls and dinner parties, and the meagre pay is sorely needed.
Soon, however, January has more to worry about than keeping his beloved family fed and safe. During an elegant reception thrown by New Orleans’ local Whig notables, the son of a prominent politician gets into a fist-fight with a rival over beautiful young flirt Marie-Joyeuse Maginot – and, the day after the rally is over, Marie-Joyeuse turns up dead. The only black person amongst the initial suspects is arrested immediately: January’s dear friend, Catherine Clisson. With Catherine’s life on the line, January is determined to uncover the truth and prove her innocence. But his adversaries are powerful politicians, and the clock is ticking . . . What a treat. Hambly’s vivid evocation of the time and place had me dreaming of it – and I am just a bit in love with Benjamin January. It’s the first time I’ve read this series, but it certainly won’t be the last. 10/10
AUDIOBOOK – Destroyer – Book 7 (Sequence 3, Book 1) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh It has been two years since the starship Phoenix left Alpha Station on a rescue mission where over four thousand human spacers were under attack by a hostile alien race. Now, exhausted from their journey, the crew of the Phoenix yearns for home. But when the ship makes the jump into atevi space, they learn the worst: that supplies to the station have been cut off; that civil war has broken out on the atevi mainland; that the powerful Western Association has been overthrown; and that Tabini-aiji, Bren Cameron’s primary supporter and Ilisidi’s grandson and ally, is missing and may be dead.
With no one left to lead the Western Association, Ilisidi and Bren know that the survival of their allies lies in their hands. And with the atevi world at war, the only safe landing strip lies on the human colony at Mospheira. Although there are many dangers inherent in bringing a powerful atevi leader such as Ilisidi onto human lands, Bren realizes they have no other choice. But even if they safely survive their landing, will Bren and Ilisidi together prove strong enough to muster the remaining shards of the Western Association and regain control of their planet?
The long-running Foreigner series can also be enjoyed by more casual genre readers in sub-trilogy installments. Destroyer is the 7th Foreigner novel. It is also the 1st book in the third subtrilogy. This audiobook was a lifesaver during a couple of particularly wretched nights when I simply couldn’t sleep, despite feeling utterly exhausted – not a combination I recommend. Daniel May’s brilliant narration brought poor old Bren’s current woes to life and had me crouching in the pouring rain alongside him, hoping that all his associates would survive the desperate battle raging around him. This series really comes into its own when listening to it and I’m delighted there are plenty more Foreigner adventures to enjoy. 9/10
Delusions of the Past – Reg Rawlins #6 – Books 4-6 of the Reg Rawlins, Psychic Investigator series by P.D. Workman What kind of a monster poisons a psychic’s cat? When Starlight first fell ill, Reg thought that she was the cause of it. She should have been watching him more carefully. She should have found out about household plants and chemicals that could hurt her familiar. She was clearly a negligent owner.
But it soon becomes clear that there is some darker force at work, and Reg is going to need all of her resources to find the culprit before it is too late if she is to have any chance of saving her furry companion’s life. I really enjoy this series. Some cosy mystery series are so slathered in treacle they become frankly sickly – this one isn’t. In amongst the cute pets and intriguing fantasy creatures is a hard edge that means the story can often take an unexpected turn to a place just dark enough to keep me turning the pages, desperate to discover what happens next. And with Workman, you can’t ever really predict what that will be… I’ve just spent money we don’t really have to buy the next bundle, because I want more Reg Rawlins in my life. 8/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over fourteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
Thank goodness little Eliza and my daughter have now recovered from their initial medical emergencies. Eliza is back at nursery school and I was able to spend some time with her to see she is back to her normal, bouncy self – more of that later! However my daughter has had to return work while also juggling the needs of three children all at very different stages, so she is at full stretch. To the extent that we’ve had our Boomerang Boy staying with us again.
After his first full week at his new school didn’t go very well, we offered to have our younger grandson to stay over for this last week. Himself is on annual leave and we have the time to give Oscar the support he needs to cope with such a major change, mostly by simply being there. It worked out really well and by Friday he was much happier and more settled, having made a friend and feeling less overwhelmed. He helped make tea, played Wordle with me and contributed to discussions around the table during the evening meal. He is such a star and we love his company – as you can see by the nonsense going on between Himself and Oscar when I was trying to take a photo!
Under normal circumstances, that would be my major news for this post – but this time around I’ve other tidings to share. I am definitely on the road to recovery! My energy levels have suddenly jumped up, so I don’t get exhausted so easily. Last Saturday Oscar and I (he came to stay last Friday evening) had a sleepover at my sister’s to listen to a nightingale singing in a nearby wood. She made us a lovely roast dinner and then we played cards – we taught Oscar to play knock-out whist and then he beat us both at Dobble. That level and length of interaction would have been unthinkable only a few weeks ago – but I not only coped, I was thoroughly enjoying it.
I am not yet fully recovered, as I’m still dealing with nasal drip, tinnitus, persistent pain in my upper right arm and chest that wakes me up at night. In addition I still have a swollen thyroid and lymph glands in my neck. And I am horribly unfit – unsurprising as I have spent a large part of the last fourteen months too tired to get out of bed. But I am so thrilled and massively relieved! I’d begun to fear that the almost constant tiredness constantly dogging me was going to be with me for the rest of my life. On Wednesday evening, I was able to join a Zoom meeting with my Writing group and got such a welcome… It was lovely to see everyone again, as the last time I’d been part of the group was 3rd March, 2021.
So on Thursday evening, Oscar’s last night with us, we asked if we could also borrow the other two children and celebrated my improvement by taking the grandchildren to The Dragon, their favourite Chinese restaurant. Even little Eliza came along – and without her mother, who couldn’t make it as she was busy with an online meeting. It was one of the best nights of my life. We got a lovely greeting from the staff, who remembered us even though we hadn’t been there since 2019 – and the children were wonderful. Eliza was as good as gold and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The food was fabulous and the service was brilliant. When our waiter spotted that Eliza was determinedly spooning up the plum sauce she was supposed to be sharing with her older brother, he brought two sachets of tomato ketchup just for her, tore them open and squeezed them onto her plate and invited her to dip her cucumber slices in that instead. The older children were chatty and easy-going, clearly enjoying the food and always polite – I’m so proud of them!
The highlight for me is that even a fortnight earlier – I simply couldn’t have envisaged feeling well enough to have taken part in such an outing. So it was a huge deal for me to be there. I hadn’t been anywhere for a meal since we went away for our wedding anniversary in September 2020. I’m very aware that I still have a long way to go – and I’m not going to rush ahead with a Graduated Exercise Programme, for example. That would probably tip me back into a relapse – after all, it has taken over a year to get here. So if it takes that length of time to regain my fitness, without running the risk of becoming bedridden again – that’s fine by me😊. I have a hospital appointment on Monday – fingers crossed it won’t find anything sinister!
This week I’ve read:-
Hummingbird – Book 1 of A Charade of Magic by Helen Harper The best way to live in the Mage ruled city of Glasgow is to keep your head down and your mouth closed. That’s not usually a problem for Mairi Wallace. By day she works at a small shop selling tartan and by night she studies to become an apothecary. She knows her place and her limitations. All that changes, however, when her old childhood friend sends her a desperate message seeking her help – and the Mages themselves cross Mairi’s path. Suddenly, remaining unnoticed is no longer an option.
There’s more to Mairi than she realises but, if she wants to fulfil her full potential, she’s going to have to fight to stay alive – and only time will tell if she can beat the Mages at their own game. From twisted wynds and tartan shops to a dangerous daemon and the magic infused City Chambers, the future of a nation might lie with one solitary woman. I’m a Helen Harper fan – and this one didn’t disappoint. It was a real page-turner and I’m now looking forward to reading the next one in the series, as I’m desperate to discover what happens next.
Murder in the Manor – Book 1 of A Lacey Doyle Cosy Mystery series by Fiona Grace Lacey Doyle, 39 years old and freshly divorced, needs a drastic change. She needs to quit herjob, leave her horrendous boss and New York City, and walk away from the fast life. Making good on her childhood promise to herself, she decides to walk away from it all, and to relive a beloved childhood vacation in the quaint English seaside town of Wilfordshire.
Wilfordshire is exactly as Lacey remembers it, with its ageless architecture, cobblestone streets, and with nature at its doorstep. Lacey doesn’t want to go back home—and spontaneously, she decides to stay, and to give her childhood dream a try: she will open her own antique shop.
Lacey finally feels that her life is taking a step in the right direction—until her new star customer turns up dead. As the newcomer in town, all eyes are on Lacey, and it’s up to her to clear her own name. With a business to run, a next-door neighbor turned nemesis, a flirty baker across the street, and a crime to solve – is this new life all that Lacey thought it would be? This is one of the books that Himself acquired – I was intrigued by the blurb and was in the mood for something a bit different from my usual fare. There is much to commend it – I liked the gutsy can-do attitude of the heroine. But timescales were ridiculously compressed (a week to get a temporary Visa to live in the UK????) and this offering couldn’t make up its mind if it was a cosy mystery or a cosy second-chance romance. 7/10
Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space, with little chance of rescue—until they encounter the research vessel Gallion, which claims to be from 152 years in the future.
The Gallion’s chief engineer Uma Ozakka has always been fascinated with the past, especially the tale of the Fortunate Five, who ended the war with the Felen. When the Gallion rescues a run-down junk freighter, Ozakka is shocked to recognize the Five’s legendary ship—and the Five’s famed leader, Eldric Leesongronski, among the crew. But nothing else about Leesongronski and his crewmates seems to match up with the historical record. With their ships running out of power in the rift, more than the lives of both crews may be at stake. This enjoyable timeslip space opera adventure has some interesting things to say about how History slants events to suit those writing said History. I grew very fond of the Fortunate Five and found myself rooting for them. 8/10
Herrick’s End – Book 1 of The Neath by T.M. Blanchet Ollie’s only friend disappeared a few days ago, and now, he’s frantic to find her. But he doesn’t have much to go on until a mysterious note arrives which reads: “Still looking for your friend? I know where she is.” Unfortunately for Ollie, the trail leads to the last place he’d ever expect.
Somewhere dark. Somewhere deep. The kind of place where magic spills like blood, vengeance is merciless, and escape seems all but impossible.
Worse still, it soon becomes clear that someone-or something-was expecting him. Now, time is running out. If Ollie has any hope of ever seeing home again, he’s going to have to summon every last scrap of courage, smarts, and tenacity he can find. And none of it will matter if he can’t get some help. Fast. This intriguing offering has been labelled YA, but it certainly didn’t come across as a YA read to me. I thought the story was going in a certain direction – when it suddenly turned into something completely different. And I was hooked. I was also intrigued by the strong morality story that underpins it, putting me in mind of Pilgrim’s Progress – although there isn’t any religion in this offering. Review to follow.
The Lending Library by Aliza Fogelson When the Chatsworth library closes indefinitely, Dodie Fairisle loses her sanctuary. How is a small-town art teacher supposed to cope without the never-ending life advice and enjoyment that books give her? Well, when she’s as resourceful and generous as Dodie, she turns her sunroom into her very own little lending library.
At first just a hobby, this lit lovers’ haven opens up her world in incredible ways. She knows books are powerful, and soon enough they help her forge friendships between her zany neighbors—and attract an exciting new romance. But when the chance to adopt an orphaned child brings Dodie’s secret dream of motherhood within reach, everything else suddenly seems less important. Finding herself at a crossroads, Dodie must figure out what it means to live a full, happy life. If only there were a book that could tell her what to do… I wanted to like Dodie – but she’s the type of heroine that frankly gives millennials a bad name. She giggles and pouts over men as if she’s a mid-teen, turns her back on a friend looking for support and suddenly decides to adopt a baby without having any of the resources to do the job properly. Thank goodness the baby’s grandparents saw through her charm and realised just how flighty she is. I read on in fascinated horror to see how else she was going to mess up her life. Though given her addiction to every kind of sweet food on the planet, it might just be she’s making decisions in the throes of a sugar-blitzed brainstorm. 6/10
AUDIOBOOK Wolfbane – Book 9 of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver, narrated by Sir Ian McKellan It is early spring, a turbulent, perilous time of sudden storms, frozen river fractures and drifting ice. Fleeing from a demon intent on devouring his souls, Wolf is swept out to Sea far from the Forest and his pack.
The ocean too teems with danger: sea wolves, sharks and hunters of the deep, and the demon is gaining ground. Torak and Renn must race to save their pack-brother, battling the harsh, icy waves and merciless torrents. If they can’t find Wolf in time, the bond between them will be severed for ever… What a treat… In this prehistoric world, our ancestors have formed a deep spiritual bond with the creatures around them. Paver depicts their hunter-gatherer lives with realism and respect – and I recommend you also listen to the Afterword, where she describes the research she has done to back up aspects covered in this gripping adventure. But then, you’ll probably want to listen on, anyway. With McKellan’s masterful narration, I’d listen to him reading aloud the soccer results. Review to follow.
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
BLURB:The first practical, accessible self-help guide to managing symptoms of Long Covid
More than 1 million people suffer from Long Covid in the UK (with 400,000 people suffering symptoms for over a year), and many more globally. Yet there is no clear guidance available to the general public, and lots of misinformation out there. This handbook cuts through the confusing advice. Written by the medical experts working with Long Covid patients at one of the first specialist clinics set up, it is filled with helpful case studies and was written with the involvement of real Long Covid sufferers. The focus is on self-management with a simple, consistent message about improving symptoms.
Each chapter takes a different issue in turn and offers clear, friendly guidance on key areas such as breathlessness, psychological aspects, brain fog, fatigue, returning to exercise and returning to work.
REVIEW: I’m one of those 400,000 Brits who have now been battling with Long Covid since I got sick in March 2021. Before I went down with Covid, I enjoyed good health for my age (I’m in my mid-60s) and was active, enjoying two fitness classes a week, and loving my work as a writer and part-time Creative Writing tutor at the local college. My chief current symptoms are tinnitus, nasal drip, difficulty in sleeping, brain fog – though that is improving, swollen thyroid and lymph glands. And the one that concerns me most… fatigue – I had a terrifying relapse back in August that had me bedridden for a fortnight, where I could barely stagger to the toilet and back. And was too mentally exhausted to even care that I was so diminished. It’s taken months to get to a stage where I now feel confident enough to try to move on from spending hours a day either in bed or on the settee, because even now, I haven’t yet made up the ground I’d lost. So when I saw this book, I immediately ordered it.
It does exactly what it says on the tin. It takes us through each of the major symptoms – I feel blessed that I could completely skip the chapter on breathlessness – explaining what is going on and providing a range of tips and exercises on how to overcome, or live more easily with the symptoms described. I found the chapter on fatigue really helpful, as it confirmed my hunch that I’d become under-active and needed to – very gently – step up my daily activity. I am also finding the chapter on Up-pacing invaluable. It’s the first time I’ve encountered this term and provides me with a way to structure an exercise programme to recondition my unfit, bed-softened body while minimising the risk of another major relapse where I’m too shattered to get out of bed.
Overall, I’ve found the book massively helpful. And in amongst the good advice is the constant reminder that every patient is different, with varied experiences and health conditions, so will need to consider their own issues when working through their problems. It’s important and valuable advice to remember.
However, after reading through the book the first time around – I also had a bit of a meltdown when I read of patients leading busy lives who were trying to cope with the daily demands of work, housework and shopping. My initial reaction was one of fury – I bloody well wish! My life, which had been busy and full of going out with friends, is now confined to home. I find visitors exhausting and holding long conversations draining. And I haven’t been able to write creatively – other than book reviews which don’t really count, as far as I’m concerned – since I became bedridden in August. In short – I’ve lost my former life and now lead an existence more fitting for a frail ninety-year-old. And other than having my thyroid scanned regularly to monitor ongoing changes – for which I’m very grateful – I have no other help. I’m on the waiting list for the local Long Covid Clinic, but in the meantime, the days, weeks and months slide by and I have to keep going on my own. So I felt very angry to think that people far less compromised were able to get such help. That said, I’ve calmed down since then and remembered that each of us have our own difficulties. At least I’m not in chronic pain, or battling with breathlessness as so many Long Covid sufferers are.
Highly recommended for those suffering with Long Covid, or know someone close who is coping with this difficult chronic condition. 10/10
A book by Adam Roberts is always worth reading – see my reviews of The Real-Town Murders and Yellow Blue Tibia. Being the shallow sort, first the cover snagged my attention, then when I saw the author I immediately requested it.
TRUNCATED BLURB: The This is the new social media platform everyone is talking about. Allow it to be injected into the roof of your mouth and it will grow into your brain, allow you to connect with others without even picking up your phone. Its followers are growing. Its detractors say it is a cult. But for one journalist, hired to do a puff-piece interview with their CEO, it will change the world forever.
Adan just wants to stay at home with his smart-companion Elegy – phone, friend, confidante, sex toy. But when his mother flees to Europe and joins a cult, leaving him penniless, he has to enlist in the army – move that changes his life forever…
REVIEW: This is another offering with a rather chatty blurb that you’d do well to avoid as it gives away far too much of the story. Although it also manages to be very misleading, because it concentrates on the plot, rather than the narrative engine of the book which isn’t the storyline.
Most novels provide stories that take their readers away to other places, peopled by sympathetic characters with whom we can identify. Sometimes it provides pure escape and entertainment, other times the story provides a warning message, or commentary on current inequalities – such as George Orwell’s 1984. However, there are novels who are powered by an idea, or theory and the story is tailored to support that notion – the other example that immediately springs to my mind is Jo Walton’s masterly and very enjoyable Thessaly trilogy, which explores Plato’s theory of an ideal society as proposed in his book, Republic – see my review of The Just City. And this book is another one that falls into that category – this time looking at Hegel’s philosophy in amongst other ideas.
That might sound dry and unappealing – and in less able hands that might be the case. But Roberts is a remarkable writer who deserves to be far better known for his talent and versatility. Few others could get away with flourishes like the opening passage at the start of the book, which charts the various incarnations of a single person, circling around the phrase, In the Bardo subject and object are the same thing… While the characters and the storylines matter and certainly had me turning the pages to see what would happen next, they also support or challenge the ideas that Roberts wants to explore. And my mention of 1984 wasn’t merely incidental – there is also a homage to the book in amongst the closing chapters that is both entertaining and slightly horrifying.
The notion of social media is thoroughly examined – what does it mean to be part of world-wide group such as Twitter. And what would happen if those who spend their time locked onto their phones tweeting were offered the opportunity to become part of a new cult craze called The This. Better still, to belong you don’t even need a phone – a small implant is inserted in the roof of your mouth and you’re good to go. You can be part of the hive mind of The This 24/7 – and never alone, again. Roberts explores the idea of loneliness and isolation versus the lure of belonging – although I don’t wholly agree with his premise or his conclusions, given he clearly has very fixed ideas about the impact of social media. But that doesn’t stop this book being a fascinating read that still has me mulling over the ideas it tosses out as the story rackets along at a gripping pace. Very highly recommended for those who enjoy their science fiction laced with philosophical ideas along with a very readable story. While I obtained an arc of The This from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10