Our Week in Books #16, #17, #18, #19 & #20

I should probably just call this Our Month in Books really… Probably missed things somewhere along the way.

Our Week in Books in Numbers
Year progress: 139/365 = 38.1%
Read 52: 22/52 = 42.3%
Picture books: ??/52 = ??%
Short reads: 24/52 = 46.2%

Books reviewed: 3
Please Mr Panda
A Tale of Two Beasts
The First Slodge
Cumulative: 3

Books read (excl picture books):
The Jolley Rogers and the Cave of Doom
Reaper Man
Soul Music
The Imaginary
Death Bringer
Kingdom of the Wicked
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

Books added to shelves:
Knight in Training: Dragons Can’t Swim – Vivian French & David Melling (bought from The Book People)
How Are You Feeling Today? – Mollly Potter & Sarah Jennings (bought from The Book People)
The Science Book – DK (bought from The Book People)
The Shakespeare Book – DK (bought from The Book People)
TinTin 3 in 1 – Herge (second hand from charity shop)
You Have Been Warned! – Roger McGough & Chris Mould (second hand from charity shop)
The Jolley Rogers and The Cave of Doom – Jonny Duddle (bought from Mostly Books)
Where Oh Where Is Rosie’s Chick? – Pat Hutchins (review book from Hachette)
Wild – Emily Hughes (bought from Mostly Books)
Mermaid – Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson (bought from Mostly Books)
Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf – Lorraine Carey & Blanco Migy (bought from Mostly Books)
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig – Eugene Trivizas & Helen Oxenbury (bought from Mostly Books)
Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion – Alex T Smith (bought from Mostly Books)
The Fairytale Hairdresser and the Little Mermaid – Abie Longstaff & Lauren Beard (bought from Mostly Books)
Dinosaur Police – Sarah McIntyre (bought from Mostly Books)
The Father Who Had Ten Children – Benedicte Guittier (review book from Salariya)
The Chicken Who Had Toothache – Benedicte Guittier (review book from Salariya)
A Step in the Wrong Direction – Colin West (second hand from charity shop)
The Granny Project – Anne Fine (second hand from charity shop)
The Finger Eater – Dick King Smith & Arthur Robins (second hand from charity shop)
Midnight Over Sanctaphrax – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
Sugarlump and the Unicorn – Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks (bought from Book Depository)
Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill (£1 Kindle)
Cumulative: 127

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 16

Books removed from shelves: none (I think)
Cumulative: 102

A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

I Should Be Doing Something Else

No matter what I’m actually doing, I always feel I should be doing something else. If I’m decluttering, I should be cleaning. If I’m reading, I should be reviewing. If I’m walking, I should be doing the laundry. If I’m putting the clothes away, I should be tidying the lounge floor. If I’m sweeping the kitchen, I should be cooking dinner…

The problem with all these conflicting thoughts is that my brain just freezes and can’t decide what to do. I can’t do everything, so which things should I prioritise? I want it all done already, and if I schedule I get stressed by the length of the list.

I spend far too many hours starting at walls, or playing inane games on my phone. If I’d walked in all that wasted time, the house would still be a mess but I’d be fitter.

And I’d still feel guilty about the mess.

I’m still processing my autism diagnosis (autism spectrum condition, not Aspergers, although I assume I’m Aspergers) and trying to work out methods that will work for me. I have spoon limitations (look up spoon theory if that makes no sense) and now I know I also have executive function limitations, I can’t follow a scheme that might work for thousands of other people. I need a way of decluttering and organising that actually works for me. I need to get rid of the backlog of mess and have time to have a life again.

And I really need to write all those book reviews I have in my head. Sigh.

Unveiling Chaos Castle

Chaos Castle

I’ve wanted to start a book-only book for a while. I had an idea, that grew into a concept, that I searched for an illustrator for… And all that was in place with a theory of opening by Christmas 2014. Hahaha.

I have a problem with getting stuck in details (it’s an autistic thing) and so spent too much time on working out a perfect format, and the categories, and all the technical things that don’t matter anywhere near as much as the content.

Having spent several months avoiding writing anything at all, in case I get it wrong, I’m forcing myself into the open with the first two reviews on Chaos Castle. It’s a bit empty there at the moment, but I don’t think I’d ever write a word if it isn’t ‘live’, so please be patient while I kick my butt into gear and I hope you enjoy.

Please Mr Panda - Steve Antony: Link to Chaos Castle review

TaleOfTwoBeastsTNIllustrations by Duncan Wilson

 

Music With Rocks In #TerryPratchettBlogTour

Soul Music is the 16th Discworld novel, and was first published in May 1994. It was two years since I read my first Terry Pratchett novel and at that point I’d read everything published and Soul Music became my first hardback novel purchase (to be followed by almost all Terry Pratchett novels since…) I was nearing the end of my first year at university: a plump, weird, and mostly friendless eighteen year old whose only wall decoration in a drab room on the third floor of the smallest halls of residence was a copy of The Streets of Ankh-Morpork…

TPSM1

Perhaps knowing I was on the autistic spectrum might have helped me through the teenage years, but instead I had books. Reading (the town) in the mid 1990s was a great place for a fantasy fan, with a host of book signings. But the first signing I remember going to was for Soul Music. I was lucky enough to meet Sir Terry a few times at book signings (too many years ago) and although it was for mere minutes and I was too shy to say much, he was the sort of person who actually remembered people at later signings.

The list of books I submit to review for the Farewell Terry Pratchett Blog Tour (organised by Viv from Serendipity Reviews) was Wyrd Sisters, Mort, Reaper Man, or Soul Music. In retrospect, given its importance in my life, I should have put Soul Music first but fortunately all the others were taken. Wyrd Sisters was the book that started my love of Discworld, from reading the first page in the library, and the Death books were always my favourite.

I didn’t feel I could write about Soul Music without reading Mort and Reaper Man first, so I’ve just re-read all three in preparation, reminding myself of Terry Pratchett’s genius with words and humour. Over the years, the Discworld developed and grew, and even in reading books four, eleven, and sixteen, I could notice the books maturing. Although I can see that Soul Music could be described as lacking compared to later Discworld novels but whether for nostalgia or the huge number of pop culture and rock’n’roll references (or DEATH) this is still one of my favourites.

Soul Music follows the story of Imp Y Celyn (“Buddy”) from Llamedos (read it backwards) as he leaves his rural life and seeks his fortune in Ankh-Morpork. It includes familiar characters like Death and Albert, the Wizards, the Watch, CMOT Dibbler, the Patrician, and introduces Susan Death, the Canting Crew, and an embryonic Hex.

Soul Music is the story of rock’n’roll seeping where it doesn’t quite belong, while Death takes a short holiday to try to forget everything (including joining the Klatchian Foreign Legion and drinking the contents of The Mended Drum.) Susan Sto Helit, technically Death’s granddaughter (see Mort), gets roped into the family business by the Death of Rats (interpreted by a raven named Quoth, who doesn’t do “the N word”) and Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler gets rich, very briefly.

It’s funny. It has an animated series with a soundtrack that gives a potted history of rock’n’roll in eight songs. The signing tour included t-shirts with the dates on the back. If you’ve not read any Discworld, it might not be the best place to start (I recommend Mort or Wyrd Sisters), but can still be enjoyed without any prior knowledge of recurring characters or Discworld politics.

As this post is ridiculously late, I will stop rambling for now. Luckily for us all, his written legacy will ensure Terry Pratchett will never fade away…

TPSM2

The Farewell Terry Pratchett Blog Tour 2015
9th April – Introduction at Serendipity Reviews
10th April – How Thief Of Time Changed My Life at Hapfairy
11th April – I Shall Wear Midnight at Serendipity Reviews
12th April – Guards! Guards! at Dark Readers
13th April – Reaper Man at Pewter Wolf
14th April – The Colour of Magic at So Many Books, So Little Time
15th April – Top Ten Discworld Characters at YA Yeah Yeah
16th April – The Wee Free Men at Della Says
17th April – Good Omens at Sister Spooky
18th April – Pyramids at Empire of Books
19th April – Cover Love (vlog) at Dark Readers
20th April – Equal Rites at Readaraptor
21st April –  Nation at Tales of Yesterday
22nd April – Raising Steam at Thoughts from the Hearthfire
23rd April – Pratchett Adaptations at An Armchair by the Sea
24th April – Music With Rocks In at Child-Led Chaos (You Are Here)
25th April – Going Postal at Kirstyes
26th April – Truckers at Fluttering Butterflies
27th April – The Late Great Terry Pratchett (vlog) at Sable Caught
28th April – Memories of Mort at Making It Up
29th April – Wyrd Sisters at Tamsyn Murray
30th April – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents at Green Mum
1st May – Terry Pratchett Farewell Tour at Teen Librarian
2nd May – Hogfather at Bookish Treasures
3rd May – Pratchett Inspired Pictures at Making It Up
4th May – Wintersmith at The Fleeting Dream
5th May – Truckers at Feeling Fictional

Remembering Terry Pratchett

I was 16 when I read my first Discworld novel. It was such a notable experience that I wrote it in my diary at the time, and have kept that diary for 23 years…

On March 12th this year, when I heard that he had died, I cried. I sobbed big gulping tears for someone who I’d met for mere minutes, causing my children to worry about me. It’s okay, I said, someone has died but it’s okay to be sad.

I suppose I shouldn’t say Terry Pratchett had a huge impact on my life, I should say that his novels (especially Discworld) have. But his genius shines through the words in novel after novel and it’s a huge loss to the world that he died far too soon. Sixty six years wasn’t long enough.

When Viv from Serendipity Reviews asked for contributions for a blog tour in his memory, I jumped at the chance. I’ll be reviewing Soul Music on Thursday. The tour started on 9th April and because I’ve been a bit lax with blogging I’m behind on reading all the posts but I look forward to catching up.

TPblogtour

 

Adult Autism Assessment (UK)

I had a plan. I was going to write the process of going for autism assessment as an adult as it happened. This fell apart within the first month, when I received an extremely vague referral acceptance letter from the local service, which started a long process of anxiety and uncertainty.

From initial referral to diagnosis, my process took 14 months. This varies from county to county depending on waiting lists and local services. It will take at least three months, with an unknown upper limit. This is not particularly helpful.

Wherever you are in England (and possibly the UK, but the services vary and my experience is in England), the first step to getting an adult autism assessment from the NHS is to get a GP referral. Alternately, you can try a private route.

Book an appointment specifically for the purpose of talking about a referral, and prepare a statement in advance. If you have come to the point of looking to go through assessment, you have probably read a lot about the subject to suspect that you are on the autistic spectrum. The most useful thing to take to your GP is an example of how you think you fit the three areas of the ‘triad of impairments’. To be honest, I just waffled and didn’t prepare at all, but it would have been helpful.

The next step is to wait, and wait, and wait… Actually it was only two weeks since seeing my GP that I got a letter from the local autism service accepting the referral. If you have heard nothing with a month, you do need to chase.

The rest of the steps vary from county to county, and are very personal. It’s not possible for me to write about the process in detail because I am still processing much of it, and also I don’t actually want to share most of it because it it so personal.

However, here is a summary (with timescales) of the stages I went through:

Jan 2014 – GP referral

Feb 2014 – Referral acceptance letter

Aug 2014 – Pre-assessment letter, and form to complete

Sept 2014 – Pre-assessment interview in person (1 hour)

Oct 2014 – Pre-assessment questionnaires to complete (200+ questions)

Jan 2015 – Assessment day in person: 6.5 hours including  interview, lunch, tests, interviewing informant (in my case, husband)

Mar 2015 – Assessment feedback in person incl diagnosis if any (1 hour)

In between those dates were many, many e-mails chasing up what was happening, asking for clarifications, sending further information (including from a parent) etc.

In some guides I’ve read, it states that diagnosis will be given at the end of an assessment. With the service I was assessed with (ADRC Southampton), they have a meeting once all evidence is collected for a wider team to confirm whether the correct diagnosis has been made. They do not give any hints of any diagnosis until the assessment feedback session.

I won’t lie, it was a stressful process. The full-day assessment was especially draining, but the uncertainty and waiting caused me huge anxiety. It affected my entire household. There were  times I wished I’d never started but I’m glad I went through the process and have the diagnosis.

Our Week in Books #11, #12, #13, #14 & #15

It’s been a while…

I have lost track a little of where I am with books, and I have this nagging feeling that I got another review book that I haven’t written down (Instagram is saving my memory at the moment, but if I don’t Instagram something it gets lost in my head…) I have no idea where we are with picture books, and need to spend a little while adding the piles next to the bed onto Goodreads.

I also so need to get reviews written. I had a breakthrough in the middle of the night this week and can change my self-imposed review structure to something that is easier to keep up-to-date so I just need to get the initial books finished and launch Chaos Castle and continue to populate it. I’ve been struggling over getting the format and layout right, and that stops me writing actual reviews. Yes, I know it shouldn’t. My brain works like that. Did I mention I’m autistic?

At the moment I’m not entirely sure what day of the week it is, or what I should be doing. I have lots of half-formed ideas in my head that I need to put into a proper structure. Plus I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing with my diagnosis. I did it for me, but I’m getting advice that I can apply for support for things that I didn’t even notice I had problems with (Normalisation apparently.)

I need to get back into regular blogging. I enjoy it. I have blogs floating through my head all the time. If I could publish from my brain, there would be so much content here.

Our Week in Books in Numbers
Year progress: 104/365 = 28.5%
Read 52: 16/52 = 30.8%
Picture books: ??/52 = ??%
Short reads: 23/52 = 44.2%

Books reviewed: none (half-written five…)

Books read (excl picture books):
The Pirates of Pangaea: Book 1
Mia The Bridesmaid Fairy (read aloud)
The Sin Eater’s Daughter
The Spy Who Loved School Dinners (read aloud)
Station Eleven
Mort

Books added to shelves:
Otto the Book Bear – Katie Cleminson (bought from The Works)
Eleanor Won’t Share – Julie Gassman & Jessica Mikhail (bought from The Works)
How Pirates Really Work – Alan Snow (bought from The Works)
Catch That Rat! – Caryl Hart & Tom McLaughlin (bought from The Works)
I Am Henry Finch – Alexis Deacon & Viviane Schwarz (bought from Mostly Books)
The Amazing Broccoli Boy – Frank Cottrell Boyce & Steven Lenton (bought from school book club)
Nuts in Space – Elys Dolan (bought from school book club)
The Twits – Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake (colour) (bought from school book club)
George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake (colour) (bought from school book club)
Fantastic Mr Fox – Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake (colour) (bought from school book club)
The Giraffe, The Pelly, and Me – Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake (colour) (bought from school book club)
The King and The Sea – Heinz Janish & Wolf Erlbruch (review book from Gecko Press)
When Dad Showed Me The Universe – Ulf Stark & Eva Eriksson (review book from Gecko Press)
The Rising – Tom Moorhouse (charity shop, new & signed)
Usborne What’s Happening to Me? (second hand from charity shop)
Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren & Lauren Child (second hand from charity shop)
Here Be Monsters – Alan Snow (second hand from charity shop)
Dixie O’Day: Up, Up and Away – Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy (gift from Clara Vulliamy)
Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light (bought from Amazon)
The Sin Eater’s Daughter – Melinda Salisbury (bought from Amazon)
Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook – Terry Pratchett (bought from Amazon)
Asperger’s Syndrome in 13-16 Year Olds – Alis Rowe (Free Kindle)
The Book of Magic Numbers – Sarah Sophia Boros (free Kindle)
Ten Little Dinosaurs – Mike Brownlow & Simon Rickerty (review book from Hachette)
Cumulative: 104

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 16

Books removed from shelves: none
Cumulative: 102

A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

Blades of Grass

On one of the brief sunny days last week, I was walking to pick up my children from school and (as usual) looking down. As I look at the grass verges, I see the blades of grass nestle together. I see each individual blade: thinner blades, thicker blades; taller blades, shorter blades; patches of mud, a daisy here and there. It’s still a grass verge, and my brain certainly isn’t quick enough to count each blade of grass, but it’s also lots of individual parts making up a whole.

And I have no idea if I see what other people see. I don’t know whether someone else just sees a swathe of green with texture, or sees each blade, or sees the people walking towards them because they’re not looking down at grass verges as they walk.

I’ve not been blogging much for quite a while. I’ve been thinking too much. And being anxious. Being a lot of anxious. It makes concentration hard.

And now I’m trying to re-frame my life as being disabled. I’ve seen myself as useless, and needy, and pathetic, and incapable; but never disabled. It feels strange.

I am autistic.

I can’t quite get the words to come out without having to qualify it somehow.

Of course I’m not very autistic.

Of course it’s Asperger’s really, if that still existed as a diagnosis, not real autism…

15 months. One hour pre-assessment. 400+ questionnaire questions. Six hours observation, interviews and tests with clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist. Two hours interviewing my husband. 2500+ words of supporting information. Seven years of secondary school reports. 60+ questionnaire questions to my mother. 35 pages of feedback report.

“… would confirm a primary diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder…”

I am autistic.

Our Week in Books #9 & #10

Terry Pratchett died.

Nothing else really matters this week. Posting just because I started over a week ago.

Our Week in Books in Numbers
Year progress: 74/365 = 20.3%
Read 52: 12/52 = 23.1%
Picture books: ??/52 = ??%
Short reads: 21/52 = 40.4%

Books reviewed: none

Books read (excl picture books):
Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days
Silverlake Fairy School: Dancing Magic (read aloud)
Wigglesbottom Primary: The Toilet Ghost (read aloud)
Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil
Goth Girl and the Pirate Queen
Reasons to Stay Alive
Isla the Ice Star Fairy (read aloud)

Books added to shelves:
Very Little Cinderella – Teresa Heapy & Sue Heap (bought from The Story Museum)
Famous Five: Five Run Away Together – Enid Blyton (birthday present for MG)
Famous Five: Five Go Off in a Caravan – Enid Blyton (birthday present for MG)
Goth Girl and the Pirate Queen – Chris Riddell (£1 WBD book from Mostly Books)
A Pirate’s Guide to Landlubbing – Jonny Duddle (£1 WBD book from Mostly Books)
Killing the Dead – Marcus Sedgewick (£1 WBD book from Mostly Books)
Geek Girl: Geek Drama – Holly Smale (£1 WBD book from Mostly Books)
The Shark-Headed Bear Thing – Barry Hutchison & Chris Mould (bought from Mostly Books)
Wigglesbottom Primary: The Toilet Ghost – Pamela Butchart & Becka Moor (bought from Mostly Books)
Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig (bought from Amazon)
Elmer’s Parade – David McKee (£1 WBD book from Mostly Books)
Pirates of Pangaea – Dan Hartwell & Neill Cameron (bought from Mostly Books)
Ice in the Jungle – Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar (review book from Child’s Play)
The KnowHow Book of Spycraft (birthday present for MG)
Cumulative: 80

Library books borrowed: none
Cumulative: 16

Books removed from shelves: none
Cumulative: 102

A reading challenge from http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup

Sneak Peek at New Book Blog

It’s World Book Day (UK)! I love WBD, especially the £1 books. As a parent, WBD dressing up can be a stress, but so far I’ve not been asked for any exotic outfits. This morning my daughters have gone in as Ottoline (home clothes, odd shoes) and Cinderella’s fairy godmother (fairy dress over home clothes)!

As it is world book day, and I’m bursting to share this anyhow, I thought I’d give you a geeky sneaky peeky at Chaos Castle…

ChaosCastle

Chaos Castle is home to lots of lovely books, predominately illustrated books (but I’ll stretch that definition to ‘just’ an illustrated cover if I feel like it!) It will only showcase our favourite books (that still means a lot of books!) and aims to cover all age ranges.

I’m starting from scratch, so all reviews will be new, so it won’t be huge at first but I’m planning to add our old favourites alongside new ones. The reason I’m not ready to launch is because there is virtually no content up yet, and I haven’t given myself a deadline…

This is a geeky sneaky peeky because I want to talk about what I’ve been doing behind the scenes. Firstly, there is my amazing illustrator, Wellington Drawe (Duncan Wilson), who is creating a world for me to populate. Without him, Chaos Castle would not exist.

Secondly, there are my theme alterations. I’m on WordPress, and I chose the Mantra free theme because it gave me the look I wanted plus is so easy to customise without going anywhere near the code.

There are a few customisations that weren’t offered in the (extensive) options so I created a child theme to play with the CSS and PHP. I know very little about CSS and PHP. PHP has been the easiest part for me to alter, because there are plenty of online references and I come from a programming background. CSS has been a nightmare, and I still haven’t managed to get it to do what I want yet!

Some of the customisations I’ve added are:

  • Different headings for category archives, depending on parent category. e.g. if the parent category is ‘ages’, the header will be “Books suitable for AgeRange”
  • Different headings for tag archives, depending on tag slug. e.g. if a tag is defined as a publisher (which I set in the tag slug), the header will be “Books Published by PublisherName”
  • Added curved boxes for tags, with different colours depending on tag type (e.g. Publisher, Creator, Theme)
  • Format of review page (which I’m currently tearing my hair out over getting the CSS to do what I want!)

SneakPeek

The image above is a sneak-peek of how part of the front page and archive pages might look. Chaos Castle is home to various book-loving characters :-)

Technically Chaos Castle is live, but I’m making constant changes and using temporary images in many places so I’m not linking to it yet. I’m very excited about my project, and I hope you will enjoy it too. It is a vanity project I guess, but also a thank-you to the wonderful people who create the books we enjoy.

Thank-you for letting me gush, and Happy World Book Day (UK)! :-)