Reading Round-Up: September 2020

Oh, how hopeful I was at the end of August! “Yeah, Ted’s going back to nursery so I’ll be able to read books upon books upon books! Oh, yippee!”

Er, well. About that. My tiny ratbag has indeed swanned back off to nursery for the first time in months, settling back in with his characteristic swagger. That’s three days a week – three! Plus an extra one if he spends Saturday at my mum’s! – where I can chill out, recline on my sofa like the queen of everything, and read to my heart’s content. But… has it gone like that?

No. No it has not.

BUT. (Big but.) (Bigger than my butt, unbelievably, considering the stone I’m unable to shift since lockdown).

I’ve been writing instead.

And caffeinating. Obviously.

This started last month, though I couldn’t get fully into my stride while we were moving house and I didn’t have a great deal of time to myself. I was writing in snatched moments during the day, when Ted was fully immersed in CBeebies (and I was probably supposed to be packing). I find it really difficult to write in the evening, when he’s in bed – I’m usually that befuddled and semi brain-dead, I tend to just slump in front of the TV with a cup of tea, and fall into bed by ten. Oh, who am I kidding? By nine.

Now, with the small boy at nursery and the big boy (husband) quietly working from home at the very top of the house, I have found myself with what feels like aeons of time, just stretching out beautifully in front of me. And the words have been pouring out of me in a veritable stream (that sounds dodgy, bad metaphor). I’ve written more in the last month than I have in at least the last two years combined – even if you include my epic self-imposed Edinburgh writing retreat last year (aka quite possibly the catalyst to my writerly burn-out).

This is my beautiful little workspace, sandwiched between two wardrobes in our new bedroom. I would sit and write at this desk all day long if I could, I love it.

It’s really taken away from my reading time and my totals are way down this month.

But, do you know what? I’m not beating myself up about it – especially as, even for me, writing does beat reading in the productivity stakes. Also, though, some of the books I did read this month were pretty epically long, and took some puzzling out. There were a fair few rereads, too – I feel that I deserve some old favourites, after reaching 100 new reads last month.

Oh, I mentioned last month too that I was going to do a full Twilight Saga reread, and blog my ‘grown-up’ impressions of it (under the influence of much alcohol, one would hope). Sadly, this is yet to materialise – I’ve started Twilight, but honestly, holy balls, is this book hard to get through. I started off making notes in it but I’ve given up, because if I carried on all the notes would just disintegrate into one big ‘AAAARGH’. So hopefully I’ll be able to push on with it in October, but we’ll have to see how that goes.

Anyway! Here are my monthly stats: only six new books this month, with four rereads. A dismal reading month, when it comes to numbers, but it does bring my total up to 106 new books read this year, which I still think is pretty impressive. And, to be honest, back in the day I would have considered six new books consumed in a single month as a massive achievement.

Content-wise, it certainly was not a dismal month. And once again, it’s bloody difficult to pick a favourite. But I have made my choice and I’m going to stick with it!

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Reading Round-Up: August 2020

Just a quick round-up, this month, I’m afraid! And yes, I’m a day late. I was at work until 10pm last night and although I planned to come home and do my usual monthly wittering, by the time I got back all I was capable of was sprawling on my sofa nodding off in front of Strike.

I knew this month was going to be busy and it lived up to expectations, that’s for sure. Oh, global pandemic aside, for once: we have not only moved house (and spent most of the month mired in packing, cleaning, and painting, as you do) but I have also, for the first time in forever, been properly inspired for my own writing.

It was also my birthday, and I got my beautiful birthday present – a fabulously bookish tattoo. It’s my biggest tattoo so far and I’m utterly in love. In case you don’t recognise it, it’s a moment from The Lord of the Rings, and a week on, I still can’t stop staring at it.

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Reading has taken a bit of a backseat – as has my newly bookish Instagram. I think I’ve only posted on there six times in the last month which, for me, is quite notable.

But I managed something… I finished reading my 100th book of the year!

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This month was fairly heavy on the non-fiction, for once, and for the most part the non-fiction was a lot more readable than the fiction. I very, very rarely write reviews on Goodreads (I like to save my opinions for on here) but I was moved to actually review a book on there this month. I’ll copy it in shortly but let’s just say it was, er, not favourable…

If we’re going to throw some stats in here, I read twelve new books this month and reread one, bringing my total up to a nice round 100. I’m rather proud of myself for that one – I set out to read 52 books this year and unless I accidentally lose function in most of my brain in the next four months, I’ll finish the year doubling that and then some. It’s by far the most I’ve ever read in a year without counting rereads; quite possibly even including rereads, seeing as I’m known to reread the same book repeatedly in the same year.

All but two of the books I’ve read this month have been digital – Kindle, BorrowBox or Audible. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had the time to sit down properly with a pretty hardback; it’s been a case of snatched moments staring at my phone. I took a ‘TBR’ picture on Instagram at the start of the month and I’ll probably take the exact same photo later today for my September TBR, minus two books.

Anyway, on with the reviews!

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Reading Round-Up: July 2020

The world continues to fall apart, piece by piece, and I think we’ve all given up being surprised by it now. I’m currently sitting in my living room listening to a storm and much as I’d love it to be this

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(still somewhat obsessed with the MCU)

…it being 2020, it’s a lot more likely to be this:

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What a delightful year, all round, and we’re only just over halfway through. Though I have a tropical daiquiri, so it can’t be all bad.

Anyway, anyway. I am supposed to be talking about books.

Remember last month I said my Instagram was going in a kind of Bookstagrammy direction? Well, it’s gone all the way and I am loving it. I started myself off with a little challenge, the #RFABJuly20 challenge by Reviews From A Bookworm, and it’s transformed my grid into something that’s at least vaguely cohesive. I’ve only been doing it properly for a month and I’ve already met some lovely new people and had a ton of book recommendations.

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It’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve read so much this month. I seem to remember some kind of sentiment last month along the lines of “hey, lockdown is relaxing a bit, I’m doing more days at work, this is probably the last month I’ll read so much”. Er, well…

I’ve read sixteen new books this month, and reread a further four. That brings my total so far this year to 88 new books read – I know, right? What in the name of all that is holy? When I look back to 2017 me, rereading the same books over and over again, counting it as a major win if I picked up something that was both new and not a sequel to an old favourite, I feel… well, I feel a bit sad. I was definitely missing out.

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It’s been another good mix this month – a bit of non-fiction, one via audiobook, probably a bit more literary fiction than I usually get through, and even a kids’ book (I had to finally give in to nostalgia and give some modern Jacqueline Wilson a try – not bad). Most of my reading once again came from BorrowBox, and a bit from my trusty Kindle App, though thanks again to the whole Bookstagram thing, I’m finding myself drooling over pretty hardbacks even more than usual. Though I have to have restraint at the moment… more on that later.

Anyway, let’s have a couple of mini reviews!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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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