Sunday, 18 March 2018

How to Declutter your Books (without getting the urge to run for the hills...)

It started when I spotted Mary Stewart's classic romantic suspense novels had been reduced to 99p in the Kindle Daily Deal. I promptly downloaded them all. Then it was Elly Griffiths's murder mysteries, then Georgette Heyer's historical romances. All my favourite authors, all books I already owned but was too lazy to unearth them from whatever crate in the garage I'd stored them in. It took a while but I eventually realised that if I kept doing this it was going to get really expensive. Had I finally reached the point where I would have to choose between ebooks and 'real' books?

Too many books?
No, no, no, no, no; that would be far too drastic! Throw away my favourite books, my vintage collections, and all those books I'd bought and not yet read? I just couldn't do it.

Perhaps instead of shoving books into crates, I could reduce their number and bring my favourites back into the house and onto my bookshelves?

Here's how I decided which ones to keep and which ones to donate to my local charity shop.

1. I kept all my favourites, obviously - mostly romance and crime, including my Agatha Christies with their amazing vintage covers. Some look even scarier than the stories.

My favourite crime novels!
2. Anything falling to bits went into the recycling bin. It was a wrench - but also a good excuse to buy again on Kindle! Although I'm already on my second copy of several Jilly Cooper books; they have literally been read to death, poor things.

3. I weeded out duplicates. I have a bad habit of accidentally purchasing books I already own but I do like to buy favourites again when they're on offer. Amazon will tell me if I've already bought a book from them but not if I've bought it from Waterstones. I can't think why.

4. I took out anything I was never likely to read, or read again because I hadn't enjoyed it or my tastes had changed. Goodbye contemporary romance and 80s bonkbusters. I also had a collection of vintage Mills and Boon (even older than me!), with some very dubious consent scenes between hero and heroine. I'm afraid they had to go, along with the erotica I bought after the success of Fifty Shades and thought 'Hey, that looks easy to write. Maybe I'll have a go?' (Note to self: Don't ever chase a trend that is so far out of your comfort zone!)

My 80s bonkbuster collection is now halved!
5. The books I had left (not quite half, more like two thirds) I sorted into genres and stacked them back into the crates, now labelled with the authors' names so I can find them again.

6. Everything I hadn't read but still wanted to read I sorted into smaller crates, creating possibly the biggest to-be-read pile ever. Or, as my daughter said, 'That's not a to-be-read pile, that's a small library!' I'm keeping them in my study, to shame me into reading them! I did toy with the idea of adding them all to my 'want to read' list on Goodreads - but I think it would be quicker to get on and read them!

So that's my book collection streamlined and waiting for me to buy another bookcase. Now all I have to do is start reading! 

And in the meantime, make sure I stay out of the bookshop, the library, Netgalley ...

Now THIS is a
to-be-read pile!

Related posts:

And if you want to know more about the books I love reading,
 visit my book blog!

Once More Unto The Bookstore

Image Copyright: Mine, except top and bottom: Shutterstock

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

A Very Marley Christmas...

Christmas for the Marley family starts the night before, when we choose a favourite Christmas movie to watch, usually Elf. When the children were younger, I would read them ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and then we’d look out the window to try and see the lights on Father Christmas’s sleigh. We would leave a mince pie out for Father Christmas, and a carrot for his reindeer, and have no trouble persuading the children to go to bed early. Unfortunately they would wake up early too, eager to see what Father Christmas had brought, but now they’re teenagers we get to wake them. I think this is known as ‘payback’.

It snows a lot in Wales...
Because my husband is convinced we’ll be burgled if we leave the presents beneath the tree, he doesn’t put them out until everyone has gone to bed the night before. This means when we come downstairs on Christmas morning, the tree lights are on and it all looks very magical. This is a minor Christmas miracle in itself as fairy lights hate me and I have to buy new ones every year. As we all believe in Father Christmas, including the teenagers (they’re not daft!), we all have Christmas stockings, but we open our main presents after breakfast. While everyone plays with their new ‘toys’, I cook Christmas dinner – accompanied by loud, cheesy Christmas music and a glass of champagne.

Each decoration tells a story...
We have a traditional Christmas dinner, which we always eat at lunchtime – I have no idea why! Afterwards, we force the teenagers to play an old-fashioned board game, usually The Simpson’s version of Cluedo or Scrabble, and then, if they’ve been really good, we allow them to beat us on their new video games.

Four Marleys with three degrees between us, plus one writer -
this is the best we could come up with...
Of course, Christmas doesn’t always go according to plan. Actually, it hardly ever goes according to plan, but the most disastrous one was when we were snowed in. I’d ordered all the presents online as well as the Christmas groceries to be delivered – and nothing arrived! It was Christmas Eve before the roads had cleared enough for us to inch our way to the nearest supermarket, fill a trolley and skid back home.

Yes, that's me. On a sledge.
 Strangely enough, that Christmas turned out to be our best one ever. Instead of a ‘traditional’ Christmas, we built snowmen and went sledging – and I made a start on writing a snow-themed story that turned into Something Wicked...

This post previously appeared on Becca's Books

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Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Newstead Abbey: Lords Behaving Badly

Confession: I've never read anything by Lord Byron - but (in the immortal words of Captain Jack Sparrow) I have heard of him. As I read an awful lot of historical romances, it's actually hard to avoid hearing about him. And after visiting his ancestral home, and reading about his life, I'm starting to see how his exploits (and those of his ancestors) have probably inspired generations of romance writers - and those exploits certainly sound very entertaining! Unfortunately the guidebook was a bit sketchy on the juiciest stories...

Bryon was the first modern celebrity. Or, as he supposedly said himself, 'I woke up one morning and found myself famous'. One of his exes, Caroline Lamb, thought he was 'Mad, bad, and dangerous to know', but from my 21st century viewpoint he did seem a little too 'try hard'. Skull drinking goblets? Really? But I did love his house!

Lord Byron spent very little time here at Newstead Abbey. He inherited both the estate and his title from his great-uncle, the fifth Lord Byron - who was nicknamed 'The Wicked Lord' and sounds perfectly horrible. The Wicked Lord spent both his own inheritance and that of his wife, and then let the house fall into ruin just to spite his son, who had married against his wishes. It was a waste of time, because he ended up outliving both his son and grandson, and the estate passed to his great-nephew instead. 

Newstead Abbey

The house was originally an Augustinian priory, founded in the late 12th century by Henry II. In 1540 the estate was bought by Lord Byron's ancestor, Sir John Byron of Colwick, following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Sir John dismantled much of the church and re-used the stone, but left the very dramatic-looking 13th century west front.

Newstead Abbey - the ruined church.

George Gordon, the sixth Lord Byron (1788-1824), inherited the title and estate at the age of ten but did not move in until shortly before his twenty-first birthday. His great-uncle, 'The Wicked Lord' (I do love writing that), had long since sold off the contents - furniture, silver and a famous collection of paintings - and the house was virtually a ruin.

Newstead Abbey, the East side

Byron didn't have the money to renovate the whole building, so he only redecorated a few rooms, such as his bedroom and study, and left the others empty. He used the Great Hall (below) for pistol practise and the Salon for boxing and fencing. (The hunting trophies are from a later date - see below.)

The Great Hall

This bed (below) actually did belong to Byron. He brought it with him from his student rooms at Cambridge. 

Byron's Bed!

Like his great-uncle before him, Bryon excavated the grounds of the Abbey hoping to find the rumoured buried gold belonging to the monks who'd lived here before him. Unfortunately (also like his great-uncle) he only found bones. He decorated his rooms with some of the skulls (the ones on show now are replicas) and sent one off to a Nottingham jeweller to be turned into a silver goblet. This goblet held an entire bottle of claret and was very popular with his guests! (The one shown on the table below is a replica.) The original goblet was laid to rest at a secret location a century later. The screen in his study (below) also belonged to Byron, and shows boxing scenes on one side and theatrical scenes on the other.

Byron's Study

As well as his dogs (there is a monument in the garden to his favourite, Boatswain), Byron kept a tame bear and a wolf. When his friends arrived for parties, he'd get them to wear monks' cowls. They'd all get drunk, release the bear into the garden - and then have a great time trying to find it in the dark!

In the cabinets are copies of his books and many of his original belongings, including his boxing gloves, a silver toothpick in the shape of a sword and scabbard, and the sabretache (cavalry officer's satchel) he used while in Greece. I liked this inkstand, made of brass, with amethyst glass bottles.

Byron's Inkstand

Byron only lived at Newstead Abbey until 1814, before selling it to his old schoolfriend, Colonel Thomas Wildman for £94,000.

Colonel Wildman (1787-1859) spent over £100,00 renovating the abbey, and much of what can be seen now is due to him. He took the medieval theme and ran with it, decorating the rooms with stained glass and ancient armour, and buying tapestries and furniture.

The Salon

Because so much money had been spent in renovations, after Wildman died his widow was forced to sell the Abbey. The new owner was William Frederick Webb (1829-1899), a wealthy landowner. He installed gas lighting and central heating, and was responsible for the redecoration of the chapel. His many African hunting expeditions provided the 'trophies' on display in the Great Hall. There were once animal skins too, and a enormous rhinoceros head over the fireplace that would be decorated with a wreath of holly at Christmas.

It is believed the walled gardens at Newstead Abbey were originally created by the fourth Lord Byron. Like the rest of the Abbey, they were renovated by Colonel Wilding.

Small Walled Garden

After William Frederick Webb's death, the estate passed onto his children. The Japanese Garden was laid out for Ethel Webb in 1907 by a Japanese landscape architect. Many of the stone ornaments and plants were brought from Japan.

The Japanese Garden

The estate was finally inherited by Webb's grandson, Charles Ian Fraser, who put it up for sale. The Abbey was bought by a local philanthropist, Sir Julien Cahn, who presented it to Nottingham Corporation in 1931.

Detail from the Small Walled Garden

Newstead Abbey is open to the public and houses a collection of Byron memorabilia. There's even a gift shop, where you can buy any amount of merchandise illustrated with Byron's likeness.

What would he have thought about it, I wonder? To know he was still famous, after all these years...


Newstead Abbey Guidebook (Nottingham City Council)


Newstead Abbey