Reading Round-Up: June 2020

As this global pandemic continues, so does the somewhat epic readathon I’ve apparently embarked on.

I didn’t read quite as much this month as I did in May, but then, that would be difficult. I don’t think I’ll have a month like that again, honestly, now that things are starting to get vaguely on the path towards normal (just a barely-cut dirt path, really, nowhere near to being an actual road to normal). I’m going to have more hours at work next month, with things picking up enough that I’ll actually have to interact with people instead of hiding in the back with a book. Plus, we’re looking at trying to move house in the next couple of months – which would mean having to actually clean the one I’m living in, for a start.

This month, mostly by accident, my Instagram has turned into a bit of a Bookstagram – there’s more posts about books on there than about anything else, which is unusual for me. Usually I’m an utter floozie for social media, posting anything and everything that comes to mind. I quite like this new Bookstagrammy direction, though, and I think I might continue.

IMG_3180

Books, selfies and Popsy dresses. Yeah, sums up my Instagram.

And so for some numbers: I have read twelve new books this month, and reread three. That makes 72 new books read in total so far this year. The rereads were all my slightly grim, forensic-y, death-y books from last year – I saw one of my colleagues pull one out (Working Stiff) and the resulting discussion led to me rereading my three favourites from last year and ordering two more. You can see the two new ones on the Instagram collage above – the Val McDermid and Forty Years of Murder – but I haven’t started on them yet. I was a bit death-ed out after the rereads and a couple of others that I’ll discuss in a minute.

IMG_3179

Scrolling down my list of books from this month, there is – for once – not a lot I can really complain about. It’s been a fairly good month for reading; I think there’s only three on there that I gave less than four stars on Goodreads. Even though there’s fewer books on the list this week, I’m going to stick to my plan from last month and only do my potted reviews on a few of them – more might start to appear on my Instagram as time goes on, but we’ll see how that goes. We all know how good I am at making a plan and sticking to it!

So let’s start, as always, with the best of the month – and just like last month, I can’t make a choice between two…

Continue reading

Reading Round-Up: May 2020

Is it still only May? Seriously? It’s been going on for so long I’ve aged about twelve years, put on about a stone, and lost about a fifth of my brainpower.

IMG_2566 But anyway. The advantage of this being the longest month since time began is that I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I know the world is absolutely falling apart right now and I could wax lyrical about it for the best part of another month if left to it, but I don’t want this to become a political blog. And I don’t think I have the eloquence to sufficiently express my feelings anyway: rambling about the books I’ve been reading is pretty much the extent of my brain at the moment (even though I have been writing too, but that’s another story for another time). I’ve mostly been expressing myself through the very refined manner of, er, Twitter retweets and favourites. I’ve abused the hell out of the ‘like’ button this month, but, surprisingly, it’s been the best place for balanced, educated takes on this dumpster fire we live in right now.

Anyway. Books.

As predicted, I finished my Goodreads Challenge this month! Yay! I officially completed it on May 8th, a new record for me. Considering I’d challenged myself to read 52 books this year, and I’ve already reached 60 before the year is even halfway through… I’m hopeful to get a stunning total for the full year. Once again, thank you to the BorrowBox and Kindle apps on my phone for giving me a quick escape route into literature whenever my Duracell bunny of a three-year-old was driving me a bit too mad during this month of lockdown.

IMG_2565

And so for the monthly total: I have read sixteen new books this month, and a further three rereads. I don’t count rereads in my Goodreads total, but they do bring my full total up to nineteen books this month. Considering for the most part they’re a decent length (there is one novella in this month’s total, but I’m still counting it as it was still over 200 pages long) I’m rather proud of myself.

However, I’ve been reading so much, I’ve been putting off starting this blog post for days because it’s been such a daunting prospect to review every single one. So I’ve decided to keep it to just my stand-outs from the month for the actual reviews – good and bad. Basically, if I find myself furiously typing in my Notes app at some point in the month, it’ll get a review on here.

Even choosing a favourite book this month is hard. Really hard. Sixteen new books, and a fair few of them earned five star Goodreads reviews from me. In fact, I’m going to have to have joint winners this month because I’ve sat here for fifteen minutes now with a book in each hand, staring at them as if they’re going to fight it out between them.

Continue reading

Reading Round-Up: April 2020

It’s another lockdown month of reading!

I honestly didn’t think I’d been reading so much this month. I got a new laptop, one where I don’t have to do a disc clean-up and pray every time I turn it on, so I’ve been able to start properly writing again. I know, I know, I’ve said that before, but weirdly… it’s going well. I’m not writing anything new, I’m editing. Changing over Bisous, Tilly for approximately the nineteenth time, but hey, I have a good feeling about this one!

Anyway, the Covid-19 lockdown has continued through April here in the UK, and we’re all kind of settling into this new normal. I’m still being driven mad by a teeny tiny tornado, aka three-year-old Teddy. It’s quite hard to fit in reading around his busy schedule of running round and round the garden, building epic wooden train layouts, and demanding a never-ending supply of snacks. Putting in a bit of time for editing, as well as, you know, the occasional cooking and cleaning, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for books.

Plus, I’ve let my geekery reach a whole new level in the last few weeks. I’ve always been a nerd; usually of a Tolkien-esque, Star-Wars-y kind of variety but always open to new things. Yet somehow, superheroes have never really caught my attention… until now, with the advent of Disney+ and a fair bit of extra free time. So I’ve finally started to get into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just the films, so far, in the chronological order of the events in the movies, not their release. I’m literally writing this while watching Thor: Ragnarok and cackling like a maniac, and if any of you give me any spoilers, I’ll be raging. My point being, it’s another thing that’s kept me from powering through as many books as I’d expect to be getting on with during this lockdown.

Yet somehow I’ve managed to fit in more than I thought, because I’ve read twelve books this month. That’s 44 so far this year, and I’m not counting rereads (even though apparently, I can). I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to finish my Goodreads Challenge next month, bang on halfway through the year. Not bad, considering it took me all the way to November last year, just to get to 52.

IMG_1552

Anyway! What have I been reading in this month’s snatched moments? I’ll start, as always, with my favourite book of the month – though this month, it’s been a close call…

Continue reading

Reading Round-Up: March 2020

I know it’s not just me: March 2020 has gone on for approximately 19 years. With the whole world in a state of uncertainty as the Covid-19 pandemic takes hold and more and more of us are thrown into lockdown, it’s not surprise it’s felt like the longest month since time began.

I talked enough in my last post about how fried my brain is at the moment, how hard it is to concentrate. So I was pleasantly surprised when it came to totting up the total number of books I read this month, and how well my Goodreads challenge is coming along. I’m up to 32 books finished this year, now, 14 of which were in March.

IMG_0821

I’m honestly not sure how I managed it. Scrolling back through the list, it seems to be that I didn’t read many physical books this month; most of them were electronic copies. That goes a long way to explaining it, to be honest – I’ve been picking up my phone while Ted plays or watches mindless kids’ film after mindless kids’ film, and it seems like those snatched moments have added up and added up. Even if Ted’s distracted, I can’t sit down with an actual book-with-pages; he happily ignores me looking at my phone, but try to hide behind a book and he pops up like a jack-in-the-box, demanding attention.

I haven’t been rereading as much as I thought I would, either. Last month, I finally got myself into gear and sorted out my lost library card, and fixed the problem with my online library account (they’d managed to spell my email address wrong while signing me up). Me and Ted were greatly enjoying our trips to the library… and then our local council was one of the first services to go into lockdown in our area, including the library. However, thanks to our marvellous library being registered with BorrowBox, and apparently not many people realising this, I suddenly had a whole library’s worth of eBooks and audiobooks at my fingertips, with hardly anything on loan to other people. Bliss! So when it got to the end of the pay month and I was a bit short on cash to buy more books, instead of going back to my old favourites yet again, I could launch myself into my reading list with gusto.

So, without further ado… what have I been reading this long, long month?

Continue reading

Books in the Time of Coronavirus

So. Lockdown.

Here in the UK we’ve only been in lockdown for less than a week – though, as a socially awkward introvert, as soon as everything started to close, I went into defacto isolation anyway. Although I’m technically a keyworker (railway), my beautiful part-time contract plus a block of annual leave booked months ago means I’ve not been at work since last Tuesday, and I’m not due back in until at least a week tomorrow.

You’d think, as someone with a Goodreads challenge powering along faster than the trains I dispatch, I’d be On It during this lockdown. Nearly three weeks off work, stuck in the house? Pass me a cup of coffee and a blanket and let’s get reading!

IMG_0737

…or so you might think.

Yeah, I missed out one slight inconvenience to the whole ‘read all day, read all night’ lockdown plan. Namely, Ted. One small, marauding three-year-old can provide a surprising amount of chaos when locked in the house for days on end. Yesterday alone he broke the washing machine door, weed all over his own pants and trousers, and got 50p wedged into a toy toaster. You’d think by the age of three a child might be able to spend some time happily playing alone… not this one. Not unless I want to find the living room slowly smouldering while Ted dances half naked on top of the dresser, singing ‘You’re Welcome’.

Not exactly the most conducive environment for reading.

I know a lot of you are in the same boat, if not worse. I mean, at least Ted’s only three. And there’s only one of him. I don’t have to worry about home-schooling him, trying to teach fronted adverbials (whatever those are) while wearing a screaming newborn in a sling and yelling at a teenager to get off the Playstation and do some physics homework. Those of you in that situation – I applaud you.

Plus, as well as the whole issue of time and space, there’s a mental block, too. These are scary times. If you’re anything like me, no matter how chilled out you appear to be, or are trying to be, there’s a bit of your brain that just won’t shut up. I’m pretty good at keeping it quiet (until my usual 3am insomnia o’clock, at least, when terrifying virus-based scenarios decide to run through my head; delightful) but it still means I can hardly concentrate on anything for more than a couple of minutes. Especially new things – information just isn’t sticking.

Everyone needs an escape, though. And no matter what noise the tiny terror is making, I’ve had the Kindle app on my phone, all ready for those snatched moments when I can read a few chapters and, however briefly, slip into another world.

I’ll be doing a proper March reading round-up soon, so I’m not going into too much detail on the new books I’m reading (well, attempting to read). But here are my Top Tips for Lockdown Books!

Continue reading

2019: Reading Review

All right, I get that this is very late, considering it’s mid-March, and with all the drama going on in the world at the moment 2019 seems like a long-gone twinkle in the far distance. But I don’t feel like I can start properly rambling on about what I’m reading this year without having a little retrospective of how last year went.

IMG_0197

I may have mentioned that I ‘smashed’ my 2019 Goodreads challenge: my goal being to read 52 new books, and ending up with a grand total of 64. I say ‘smashed’ with a dramatic little inverted comma finger-gesture because I’m learning that 2020 is probably going to be far more worthy of that title, seeing as it’s March and I’m already 24 books in. However: 2019 was still a triumph and I’m pretty proud of myself.

By the way, I’ve not counted rereads in my actual challenge – even though I’ve just discovered that technically, you can – and to be honest, it would feel a bit cheaty if I did, seeing as even if I’ve got three new books on the go, I’m always rereading something too. But I feel it is worth mentioning that in 2019, a fair few books came out that were either finishing or continuing a series, and in those cases I always reread the preceding stories first.

Let’s have some stats! I like stats.

IMG_0200

Not a bad year for reading, really! Now for what those 22,631 pages actually consisted of…

Continue reading

I Am A Bad Blogger

Funny, isn’t it? The last post I wrote on this blog was yet another relaunch. In August.

In fact, the post before that might have been another one, several months previously.

We’ll just have to hope for better things from this one, then, won’t we?

Hi. I’m back again. I haven’t changed.

87302278_10162937156535585_4540360974011465728_o

See? Well, I suppose I’ve re-purpled my hair. But that’s about it.

Welcome to 2020! Only three months in, pah, that’s nothing. At least this year you were spared a navel-gazing retrospective of 2019 and a pious pledge to do better in 2020. Oh, I made them, don’t worry; I just kept them to Instagram instead.

I was kind of hoping to just let this blog quietly die. But recently, the yearly fee for my domain name quietly left my bank account, and I thought I’d tootle on over here and see if the blog was worth saving.

And I noticed something strange.

Continue reading

The Berk Is Back

How many relaunches has this blog had now? Three? Four? What if we count all the blogs that came before this one? Heck, that probably brings it up into the dozens.

But here’s another one!

Yes, after yet another hiatus, I am back. It’s been a couple of months. Since the start of May. OK, that’s more than a couple, seeing as it’s now mid-August. Sheesh.

We had a whole summer in those ‘couple’ of months. It was a lovely week. I even wore sunglasses for, like, five minutes.

Continue reading

General Writerly Aargh

Before I start this somewhat grim ramble, I’d just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has bought The Bean Jar recently, especially those who have left reviews. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!

Succinct. Erudite. Eloquent.

That’s my writing style down in three simple words.

Yeah, right.

Right now my writing style looks more like this: “AAAAARGH.”

Well, I suppose that’s being a bit unfair. When I do actually get words to paper (/screen) they’re coming out pretty well. Only yesterday I rejigged a few paragraphs of Karin Cluster to a standard that made me nod my head in a particularly satisfied manner. Though ‘erudite’ they weren’t. Practically pornographic, yes. But considering that covers about half the book, it’s not much of a surprise.

The problem is getting those words to the page, and which bloody page it is I’m putting them on.

Continue reading

Goodreads Challenge 2019: March

Bit late again with this one, but I’ve been all over the place with gigs, courses, zooming around the country on a train. You know, standard. Anyway, better late than never!

Thank goodness, March was a little better than February for my two reading challenges. Well, when you look at it on Goodreads it is, at any rate.

Battle the Bookshelf is driving me mad. I’m starting to see why a lot of these books were left to die in a dusty corner; there’s a fair few I keep picking up, reading three pages, growling, and putting them back again. I can see that before too long, my Goodreads challenge is going to end up suffering while I put things off for longer and longer. I know I originally pledged that I wouldn’t buy anything else while I was doing the challenge, bar absolute favourite authors releasing new books, but I might have to be a bit more lenient with myself. Just for the sake of my brain.

Saying that, this month not everything I read came from the Battle the Bookshelf list, though I didn’t technically break any of my rules. I have a few unread books on my Kindle that have been picked up on random deals and free days and the like, that I’m not including in the list because some of them, particularly the free ones, are downright awful. I’m allowed to read those, but I’m not counting them in the list.

Hey, let’s get into what I actually read last month…

Continue reading