Phone-friendly website

I noticed a few weeks ago that my website was doing weird things on my mobile phone, with text and graphics re-sizing seemingly at random, which made it quite hard to read.

After a crash course (self taught) in HTML5 and CSS, I’m proud to say that I’ve coded a new version of my site from scratch.  And although it isn’t yet perfect, at least the text is all the same size now, which is a good start!

At the same time I’ve gone through and fixed a few broken links, checked which stories/books are still available, added some more information to my biography, and included a new short story, Footprints, in the ‘Tasters’ section, which is available to read free on the site.  Oh – and I’ve chucked in some pretty new graphics and a general new look into the bargain.

The new improved (I hope!) version is here and I hope you like it.  In the meantime, I’m off to lie down in a darkened room before all that coding kills me…


Shadow of the Wind

1232I realised earlier today that I’d never got round to putting a review of this wonderful book on Goodreads.  So, to put the damage right I’ve now added a review and given it five very well-deserved stars.

As I mention in the review, it did take me a while to ‘get into’ the book and I had a couple of false starts where something jarred and I got stuck.  However, the third time the author’s style or voice spoke to me; I got over the sticking point, kept going, and never looked back.

The book is quite simply stunning.  I love the whole idea of a library for forgotten books so much I think I’d want to spend all my time in there!  And the mystery of the book that’s selected, and the danger it brings for the young hero, is really compelling.

As with many of the best reads, this one is by no means quick or easy.  The whole thing clocks in at a whopping 500+ pages and the narrative style is quite slow, even ponderous.  But that and the beauty of the prose just add to the overall atmosphere.  I ended up loving it, and want to doff my virtual hat to both the author and the translator who seems to have done an excellent job transferring ‘Shadow’ to English idiom while keeping the lyricism of the original Spanish.

Oh – and if you want to read my rather more concise review on Goodreads, it’s here!

Heritage open days #2

The Heritage open days scheme is a neat little idea where interesting properties that wouldn’t normally be accessible open to the public for one weekend a year.  Last year we took advantage of it to visit an old chapel in Kendal, a rather strange Youth Hostel near Grasmere, and the fascinating “Merzbarn” project developed by wartime artist Kurt Schwitters.

On Sunday we headed for the area around Ulverston and tracked down two more properties: Swarthmoor Hall, and the old iron blast furnace at the tiny hamlet of Newland.  Swarthmoor Hall is a small sixteenth century manor house hidden away at the back of a housing estate on the northern fringes of Ulverston.  The access lane is narrow enough to be alarming and it didn’t help that it was also hosting a women’s cycling event so the area was buzzing with bicycles, but we got parked without killing anyone and set off to explore.  Not only is the house old and full of character (with hardly a straight line or a right angle to be seen) but it was also the home of the founder of the Quaker movement, George Fox, in the seventeenth century, when he married the widow of the then owner Thomas Fell.  Although much of the original fabric of the house from that time has been lost there are still rooms that Fox may well have used to worship, study, and sleep, so Swarthmoor has become something of a pilgrimage site for anyone interested in the Quakers.  Sadly, some of the information boards were on the propagandist side, and the staff were also a little hostile, but it was still interesting to have a poke around.

The Newland blast furnace was even harder to find, in spite of sat nav, maps, and directions downloaded from the Heritage open days web site.  After driving round in ever decreasing circles (and ever increasing frustration!) for a while, we eventually tracked it down somewhere between a coal merchant, a corn mill and a working farm – but it was more than worth the effort.  The staff – all volunteers and part of the trust fund that has conserved the site – were warmly welcoming, knowledgeable and great fun to listen to; let us wander all over the main ‘charging house’ and exhibition to our hearts’ content; and then led groups of visitors around the site pointing out various interesting bits and pieces.  These included the old water wheel pit, still only partly dug out even at more than six feet deep, the system of leats and channels bringing water from the nearby Newland Beck, the furnace itself (once we’d donned hard hats to duck under the very low access arches), and finally led the way up the valley to show us the site of further mills and the former dam.  All in all a friendly, informal and fascinating tour led by blokes who clearly know their stuff and love every last brick, stone and bit of wood on site.  It was a pleasure to listen to them, and we can’t wait to find more weird and wonderful places and properties to visit the same time next year.

Necessity’s Door review

Speaking of Necessity’s Door, with remarkable timing editor and writer Morgen Bailey has reviewed the book over at her blog.  She says some very nice things about the book in general and rates it 4 out of 5, so I’m absolutely delighted.

A couple of points of interest – one, I hold my head in shame over the naming of Frank Warren.  This was pointed out by a couple of people but the book had already gone to press so I wasn’t able to change it in time.  Mea culpa.  And two, the title is part of a quotation by Daniel Defoe: “Vice came in always at the door of necessity, not at the door of inclination” which I thought was so appropriate for this story that I just had to use it.  There is a reference to the quote in the print book, but it may not have reached the digital version!

Many thanks to Morgen for reading something which sounds a little outside her comfort zone, and for providing such a thoughtful and balanced review.

Hello… again

Hi and welcome to my latest nook on the net.  Thanks to Blogger getting increasingly weird and apparently not supporting IE 11, I’ve decided to move lock stock and barrel to this new, old, site and start again.  Many moons ago I used to post book reviews here (and you can still read them below if you’re interested, as I’m too lazy to delete them all!)

Of course, one added bonus is that I can now follow people whose blogs I want to keep in touch with, so stand by for something of an onslaught over the next few days.  There’s still time (just) to run!

A boxfull of book reviews

Hi and welcome to The Sharpened Quill, where over the next few weeks I’ll be transferring some of my vast and growing collection of book reviews.  I rarely have my nose far from a book and often jot a few thoughts as to why I did or didn’t like it, and unless you pack and emigrate now, I’ll be sharing those thoughts with you.  *g*

I read all sorts of fiction – some contemporary, some historical; some gay, some straight; some literary, some decidedly not – so this is going to be a bit of a rag-bag.  But hopefully you’ll enjoy my comments, feel free to add your own, and perhaps even rush out to buy a book or two!