JILL FOULSTON (ed.) – The Virago Book of the Joy of Shopping

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Bought 11 June 2011 – Cumbria Bookshop, Bowness

Bought on our Lake District holiday in a lovely independent bookshop in the local town. A lovely compendium to dip into over Christmas time. Quotations, paragraphs and excerpts from fiction, non-fiction and letters from the 14th century to contemporary writers, grouped into themes that show that there's nothing new about most shopping experiences. Like those books of diary entries for each day, the juxtaposition of voices from different eras really threw up the similarities in the pieces. Excellent.

ANNE WILKINSON – The Victorian Gardener

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1 June 2011 – from the author

I edited this author's book on the Victorian gardener and garden writer, Shirley Hibberd, and she kindly sent me this prevous book of hers.

Excellent, well-written and highly recommended – a fascinatingly detailed book, full of information about how the "normal" Victorian gardener did things and how they learned how to do things. Lots of great quotations and illustrations and an in-depth knowledge of the gardening magazines and newspapers of the period which really added an extra dimension to the depth and breadth of information. The lengths these people went to were pretty amazing, as were the ranges of varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers they cultivated.

STEPHEN CHBOSKY – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Acquired via BookCrossing 23 Jul 2011 – picked up from Ali at a meetup

Charlie writes a series of letters to an unknown recipient as he negotiates the first year of High School, first love, and the deaths of his friend Michael and aunt Helen. I like a coming of age / small town novel and this was pretty good, especially the music references, however it was a bit clumsily didactic in places ("you probably know this, being older, but I'll tell you anyway", followed by an explanation of something a teenager might have difficulty with, a few times) and bits of the story were a little too obvious. Having said that, I'm not really the target audience, and I'm sure these parts would be useful for the shy, bookish teen, looking for info on how to get through these years.

Goodbye to the work-work balance: hello to the work-life balance

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Today is officially my last day as an employed person: the last day of my contract with the University of Birmingham Library. My email account will disappear today (I have kept a quick eye on it now and then in case anyone missed that I’d gone) and I have been paid up to today. Of course, I managed to leave on 12 December, because of University General Holidays, leave and flexi owing to me, but this is it now.

I am still glad that I soft-launched Libro in this way, first working at the Library full-time (August 2009 – December 2010), then part-time (January – April 2011), then even more part-time (May – December 2011).

  • I managed to save up enough money to support myself for a year while I was full-time, then lived on my reduced wages, more or less, for the last year. This has meant I only need to make a year’s living money out of  Libro’s earnings for 2011-12 and 2012-13 in order to survive the year after that, reducing the stress and expectations.
  • The slow build-up means I know I can do it – much less risk for me, again (I wrote about this on the Libro blog back in May).
  • Being already experienced running Libro while having that safety net means I am already aware of the ups and downs. If an invoice goes unpaid for a little longer than I’d like, I don’t have to be all OMG: penury!! about it – I can just draw on past experience to wait for (or push for) the money.
  • If things appear tedious, tiring or stressful, that’s nothing to working 8 hours in one job, coming home and getting my head down to another 4 at the other one. Or working late for Libro and having to get up early to finish something before going in to the University.
  • I’ve built up a support network and cheerleaders amongst ex-colleagues and other people I’ve met along the way – so I have a peer group for editing or small business matters, and a group of local friends who I can go to for non-work related gossip and chat or support.
  • I’ve been able to identify the networking groups that are truly valuable: if they were worth taking time off a paid job for, they are worth continuing to attend now (and I know which ones I was upset not to be able to attend, so I can throw something new into the mix now)

So, a funny time, at the end of the year, anyway (not that I can ever stay up late enough to see the New Year in). I’m excited about what 2012 will bring for me and Libro, but quietly excited, not nervy or particularly scared or all keyed-up about it.

There’s just the small matter of a couple of weeks’ Jury Service to get through, and then off I sail in the good ship Libro! I look forward to continuing to share my “journey” with you …

Lost property found

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**** UPDATE: I am taking the item to Kings Heath Police Station this morning (Tue 27 December 2011) so it will be there for you to find then. Thanks to everyone from Twitter and Metafilter who have come and had a look – much appreciated! ****

Do you recognise these people, photographed on what looks like a log flume? We found it attached to an item on Addison Road, Kings Heath. We have it at our house, and if this is you or you know the people, please get in touch using my contact form here.  It would help if you could let me know what it is you have lost, so we can make sure it goes to the right person, and we’ll also need to hand it over to one of the people in the picture, or someone who can prove their identity and connection to the people in the photo.

Local to SE Birmingham? Please email, facebook and tweet this link so we can return this important item to its rightful owner. Thank you!

VIOLET TREFUSIS – Pirates At Play (Virago)

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Acquired via BookCrossing 20 Aug 2011 – BookCrossing meetup

I spotted this Virago at a meetup and snaffled it!  A very amusing and clever novel, it has its imperfections but is a sizzling and vivacious read, moving between Florence and country house England as we follow the fortunes of two sets of siblings and their love lives. Obviously a roman a clef in parts, and the Introduction pulls out of it the threads of Violet's own conflicting feelings about class and fitting in, which is fascinating.

Will pass to Ali next, if she'd like it.


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LibraryThing Early Reviewers, Oct 2011

Oops – an overdue review! This is about the student village at Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona workshop and architecture teaching institute. A quick read, mainly consisting of pictures, it's very interesting, with plans and information on the use and development of the shelters that students were asked to plan and build for themselves as part of their architectural education.

CHAIM POTOK – My Name Is Asher Lev

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Acquired via BookCrossing 03 Jun 2011 – passed to me by Bridget

Amazing book following the development of a fictional artist's talent and confidence in 1950s New York. But Asher is also a Hasidic Jew, and his community ranges from not being accepting of his needs and lifestyle, to being openly hostile. A beautiful portrayal of the artistic and religious sensibility, and a truly affecting and engaging work of literature.

I will pass this to Gill and then would like it back for Matthew, please: there is a sequel, which I will also look out for.

CLARE CHAMBERS – The Editor’s Wife

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Acquired via BookCrossing 28 May 2011 – meetup at the Hare and Hounds

A really well done novel about a man who writes a book then gets involved with his editor's wife. WHen he's found out, he flees and builds a comfortable, if spartan, life, until his past starts to catch up with him. Some rather Iris Murdochian relationships and coincidences and a good portrayal of London and sibling relationships make this a book that's both clever and heart-warming, with some genuine surprises.

My first week of full-time self-employment

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Liz in the office

Well, it’s late on Sunday of my first week of self-employment: I had my leaving do on Monday and it’s been go, go, go ever since!  Before last weekend, I just had one transcription booked in for this week, coming in on Thursday. “Fine,” I thought, “I can get my Christmas cards and the cleaning done, and have a bit of a rest”. Well, it wasn’t quite to be like that.

I had an enquiry about a job while I was actually at my leaving do. Thank goodness for the BlackBerry and the fact that I’m almost teetotal these days! I sent a holding message with details of my availability and pricing, and negotiated that job, copy-editing/proof-reading part of a professional rulebook (I was both checking the spelling, etc., and comparing it to last year’s book to make sure no differences had crept in), the next morning: I got it in right away with a deadline of Thursday morning (which moved forward eventually).

I had an edition of the club magazine I’ve been editing for nearly 2 years in on the Monday night, too, plus some pieces from a student proof-reading company I work with and a feature to write from a regular. So that all got done on Tuesday. On Wednesday I finished the big project and did a little bit for a new client. I managed a trip to the gym and I had a Christmas meal with my friends from BookCrossing. I don’t know if I’ll be doing much more BookCrossing this year, but I do want (badly) to spend more time with my friends. On Thursday, having still not written my Christmas cards or done the cleaning, I did more student work, polished a translation from the Polish, did an hour or so of copy-editing for another regular, and popped into town to have a meeting with a potential new client about writing a set of blog posts for them. When I got home, I wrote out my Christmas cards and went for a chilly run.

On Friday, I emailed confirmation of our meeting to the potential new client, looked at a chapter of a PhD for a client whose other chapters I worked on last week, did some more student work, and posted my Christmas cards, AND did the cleaning! Hooray! On Saturday we had a family lunch and then a party at M’s bosses’ house to go to: I transcribed for one of my regular transcription clients and did some student work in the morning before I went out. I got home to a message from the new client that they would like to accept my price and service offer and asking for my invoice for their deposit. And today I finished that transcription and did a bit more copy-editing, around going to the gym and watching the Strictly Come Dancing final on catch-up this morning and visiting a friend in the evening, with a crisp and icy walk home.  I also emailed my regulars to tell them about a commitment I have early next year which may affect response times for a little while.

I have two transcriptions to do for my journalist client and a web page to copy-edit for next week, plus doing final edits and some reference checking on a non-fiction book I’ve been working on for a while. I have a novel and a PhD due in, too.  I have promised to have Christmas Day off!

I wrote out a list of New Job Resolutions, mainly around going outside in the daylight and having proper lunches, and I can report that I have achieved both those things all week. I’ve kept warm, chilly looking picture above notwithstanding!

I’ve done 29 hours 15 mins of billable work this week, beating my targets, and I’ve brought in almost my target for the month in incoming payments, so I’m really pleased about that. I know every week won’t be this good, but it’s been a good one to have to help with the transition into full-time Libro.

However, although in my head I understand I am now with Libro, I have to support myself, etc., etc., I’ve realised that I haven’t really come to terms with it yet. It sort of feels like I’m on annual leave from the library job and will be going back there afterwards, and I suspect it might only hit me after the New Year. Hm; we’ll see how that goes!

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