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.

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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?

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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!

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…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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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