Goodreads Challenge 2019: January

Well, I suppose I can say the year has started well…

I made the resolution to read 52 books this year, one for each week. And I’m very pleased to say I’m already ahead of schedule! Yes, somehow despite getting The Bean Jar published on Amazon (why yes, you should indeed go and check it out) and tying myself into absolute knots over it, I’ve managed to get a decent chunk of reading in, too.

I’ve so far read seven books this year, and reread two. Let’s have a cheesy breakdown…

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The Bean Jar: eBook AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

Here it is here it is here it is!

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(click on that big old book cover there to be taken to the pre-order page)

Yes, that’s my eBook there all ready to be pre-ordered: buy it now and it’ll arrive on your devices bang on midnight, February 1st. That’s this Friday!

Do I sound hyper? I think I’m about to bounce right through the ceiling. That, or fall through the floor with utter anxiety at the fact that real, actual, human people will be able to read all the words I’ve written. And there are quite a lot of them.

Oh, I’m losing my mind over here. Losing. My. Mind.

Publishing a book has been my dream as long as I can remember: it’s the only vaguely career-related thing I’ve ever been bang-on certain about. And now it’s coming true.

It’s actually happening… SO GO FORTH AND BUY IT!

Goodreads Challenge: 2018’s Best And Worse

Last year, I declared myself done with new year’s resolutions. I’m not the kind of person who vows to exercise more, or eat better, or go on any kind of spiritual journey.

Just like life, all I want to do is read.

So I set myself up with a Goodreads challenge, with a modest goal of reading fifty new books in 2018. I knew full well I read far more than that in a year… but the problem was, I’m a chronic rereader. Case in point: I can probably do a one-woman performance of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, at least the first half of it. I find something that I love and I read it over and over and over again. I also wanted to read a bit more non-fiction; it felt a bit like my brain was being neglected and was slowly but surely turning into a puddle of mush sloshing around inside my skull.

A puddle of mush that could recite the opening paragraphs of I Capture the Castle, at any rate.

I’m pleased to announce that I did complete my challenge; in fact, I surpassed it, with 54 new books read in total. Oh, there was a lot of rereading too, something I might actually try and track this year. The vow to read a bit more non-fiction fell a bit by the wayside: out of 54 books, only 8 were non-fiction. Though, I suppose, that’s probably a step up from the year before.

Let’s have some numbers, while I’m at it. In those 54 books, there were 19.542 pages; the shortest was only 84 pages long (probably a bit of a cheat, that one) and the longest clocked in at 850 pages. I gave an average rating of 4.1 stars, but that doesn’t mean a great deal – even books I didn’t really like, I still ended up giving three stars (I’m a sucker for finding at least SOME good points). Only 8 books came from the library, 24 were on Kindle, and 24 were my own physical books (some I bought myself, some were gifts, and some had been languishing on my shelves for months). Ooh, I do enjoy a good stat. I could go on – if I’d done this at the end of the year, like proper bloggers do, I could have done a full statistical analysis…

Anyway.

Let’s have a look at my highs and lows of 2018!

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June Favourites 2018

How is it July already? It seems like fifteen minutes ago we were wading through snow during the Beast From The East, now I’m somehow managing to get a tan. In the North East. Miracle of biblical proportions, truly.

Apologies for the late arrival of my favourites post. As I said in my last one, it seems like any blogger worth the keyboard they type on is doing favourites posts at the moment, and I feel like it would be fun to join in. It would, however, be a bit better if I could get them done on time…

I’ve not been blogging much over the last month, or even doing my customary over-sharing on Instagram – I’ve been a bit busy, and, um, getting far too into PC gaming again. Blogging has definitely taken a back seat… I’ll explain in a bit.

Anyway here are some of my favourite things from last month!

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Happy World Book Day!

Today is World Book Day – time to celebrate books and reading and the joy they bring.

I’m sure to many parents this is just another groan in the school calendar – another costume to create, or dig out an old one and tenuously link it to a book. I’m not there yet – Ted’s not even at nursery yet, so no costume needed (though you just know I’d turn him into a teeny tiny Teddy Lupin, multicoloured hair and all). But if it ever stops snowing, I’m taking him to World Book Day events at our local library and bookshop anyway.

That’s a point: there’s bound to be plenty of parents out there who have constructed painstakingly detailed costumes only to be faced with a snow day. Does this mean we can have another World Book Day to celebrate their efforts? I’m up for it.

It’s so important to instill a love of reading. So, so important. To just hit the tip of the iceberg of benefits, it makes you live longer.

(graphic from the National Literacy Trust)

If there’s one thing I hate to hear, it’s “books are boring”. See also: “I’d rather watch the film”. Ugh. It makes me cringe and rage in equal measure.

Simply put, books have shaped my life, and have played a huge part in defining who I am today.

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Goodreads Challenge 2018

Oh, I know I’m terrible for this. Every year I talk about blasted new year’s resolutions, and every year I ignore them until approximately November, shrug, and mark up another year of failure.

But here I go again!

This time, I’m not doing traditional new year’s resolutions. Instead, I’m finally going to put my Goodreads account to use and I’m doing a reading challenge!

Fifty new books in a year is achievable, right?

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52 Books: Weeks 3 and 4

Fine, fine, this whole ‘blog at least once a week’ malarkey has somewhat passed me by, and January’s only just sodded off. I have good reason for my absence, though: I’ve been writing way more than I’ve been reading for the past two weeks. Two brand new book ideas have leapt into fruition and I’ve been struggling to plan them and make a start on the actual writing part before the inspiration buggers off and leaves me for another several months. Usually I read while on my breaks at work because I can never get a plug socket for my laptop to do any writing, but the purchase of some very beautiful exercise books put pay to that. And on the bus I’ve been listening to podcasts (is anyone else really into podcasts all of a sudden?). I still managed to squeeze a few things in though, and the one I’m going to discuss is somewhat topical seeing as the film version just came out last week.

Room – Emma Donoghue

Start date: Thursday 28th January

End date: Saturday 30th January

Reread/New: Reread

Anyone who hasn’t read this book: please, please, go and read it immediately. I read it a few years ago, having seen a good review, and I’ve returned to it many times since then. It’s powerful, moving, and beautiful. And because of the film coming out, it’s all over bookshops right now. You have no bloody excuse.

This is the story of a five year old boy called Jack. He lives in one room, with one skylight, muffled with cork tiles and hidden behind a sinisterly beeping metal door – but he believes it’s the whole world. The pictures he sees on the TV? His mother, locked in the room with him, has told him all his life that that’s just fantasy.

Jack’s mother, known only as ‘Ma’, was kidnapped years before the story begins, and Jack himself is the product of her near-nightly rapes by her captor. It’s very obviously based on cases like Jaycee Dugard, and the three women kept prisoner by Ariel Castro.

The book is narrated by Jack himself, and although his distinctive style of childish grammar can be jarring for the first few pages, it doesn’t take long before you’re utterly immersed. Believe it or not, the story of life within the same four walls doesn’t get boring (and, spoiler alert, it doesn’t stay that way for the entire book). Jack’s innocent depiction of his daily routine is captivating and beautifully written – only on reading this for the second (or third or fourth) time could I really pick out some of the deeper nuances of Jack’s thoughts.

Even though Jack is undeniably the main character, with everything being seen through his eyes and his childlike perception, I was fascinated most by Ma. Here is this woman, captured when she was still a teenager, raising her son in a locked shed. I remember the person I was at nineteen years old: barely recognisable from the woman I am today, and not just physically. This book makes me really consider how I would have coped in that situation, and how I would have matured differently. By not giving Ma a name, the author is not only pointing out how her captor has stolen her former identity, but also seems to keep her at the point where she really could be anyone. Me, you, anyone.

That’s how I see it anyway. And I love the way Jack has to slowly come to terms with the fact that his mother, who has only ever existed to be his Ma, actually has a whole other personality beneath the surface that has been locked away for years.

I don’t want to spoil the book too much, because some sections had me turning the pages at top speed, devouring the words in an absolute state to see how things would turn out – and that was a few days ago, when I was rereading. The first time, if I remember rightly, I was a bit of a howling mess. But although there are a lot of bittersweet moments, this is a book that I will always go back to when I need inspiration, when I want to be truly uplifted.

This is the trailer for the film starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay – it came out here in the UK a couple of weeks ago and I was right there at one of the first showings in Manchester. As soon as I saw it had been made into a film I knew I had to see it as soon as possible, I’ve loved the book for so long after all. I didn’t believe the film could be as good as the book, and it isn’t, but it comes pretty damn close. Somehow managing to evoke Room’s claustrophobia through Ma’s eyes, and the sense of haven it gives Jack, it’s a pretty magnificent piece of cinema. Brie Larson’s Oscar nomination is well-deserved, though I do think Jacob Tremblay should have been nominated too. Screw DiCaprio for best actor – he should have been gracefully losing to a nine year old this year.

Why are you still reading this? Go out and buy Room.

Other Books From Weeks 3 and 4

Bossypants – Tina Fey (new read)

Fabulous, fabulous biography/life manual. I didn’t want to do a full review as I did a similar thing for Caitlin Moran a couple of weeks back, but suffice to say – I love this woman. And her book. I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed not to read it until now.

The Adrian Mole Collection – Sue Townsend

Technically not one but three books; when I’m too tired to concentrate on anything new, the Adrian Mole series is one of my go-to reads. Having started at the beginning a couple of weeks back, I’m steadily working my way through the series.

Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years – Sue Townsend

See above. Actually, when I’ve finished my slow reread of this lot in between all the other things I’ve got going at the moment, I might do a full-series retrospective. I just can’t get enough of that anal pedant from Leicester.