Reading Round-Up: December 2020

Just a brief note – I’m planning to follow this up with my review of 2020 in general, so this reading round-up might be a little shorter than usual. Rest assured, there’s going to be plenty of rambling from me in the next few days to keep you going!

It’s my last monthly round-up of the year! I’m quite proud to have stuck these out – the last time I tried doing something similar was early in 2016, and I had to stop pretty quickly because I got pregnant, and it would have let the proverbial cat somewhat out of the proverbial bag if my blog had suddenly been full of pregnancy books and stories about baby groups. I’ve been doing them now since we went into the first lockdown, back in March, and let’s face it, there’ll probably be one or two more of those before this whole pandemic delight is over.

I wasn’t expecting to read much this month – I’m working full-time now, plus of course it was Christmas. But I got in a thoroughly respectable number anyway. Disclaimer: I’m including one book in my total that I haven’t quite finished yet, because I know I’ll definitely be done with it before the month is out (if not before the day is out, the speed I’m getting through it). I’m a couple of days early with this post this month after all, so I can fit in my round-up of the year before it ends.

I think I’ve only read one actual physical book this month – I’ve been running around far too much to be hefting hardbacks around. But I’ve been using my new, beautiful iPad to great effect. My poor old Kindle Paperwhite has been on its last legs for a while now (when you’re really into a story, you don’t want to be waiting three seconds for each page to load) so I decided to treat myself last month, justifying it as a NaNoWriMo tool as well as a reading one. It’s certainly been worth its weight in gold already.

Couple of sneak peeks here as to what I’ll probably be reading in the new year.

I’m not going to reveal my final total for 2020 here, I’ll save that for my full year-in-review (ooh, the suspense). But I’ve read ten new books this month, and reread two. I genuinely meant to reread more, in preparation for deciding on my ultimate favourite reads of 2020, but I realised I wanted to get some new, cosy festive books in before the season ended. So I’ve been kind of skim-rereading instead, for the most part.

So, what have I been reading?

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Reading Round-Up: November 2020

Another month, another round-up! Apologies if this comes out a bit garbled, a bit disjointed, or just straight-up mental this month. I’m exhausted. You will see why shortly. It’s been a weird month here in the UK, with Lockdown 2.0 going on. There’s been more open and fewer restrictions than during Lockdown 1.0, so you’d think November would have gone by far faster than March or April, aka the longest months ever in human existence. But looking back at my calendar and seeing everything that’s happened in November… it feels like it’s lasted about twelve years.

And I think I’ve quite excelled myself this month.

It’s not been my best month for reading, but nor has it been my worst. It’s been thoroughly respectable, actually.

I’m just rather proud of myself because of the other things I’ve achieved as well as doing a sizeable chunk of reading.

Firstly, and most importantly, I’ve been kind of temporarily promoted at work! I’m still doing the same job (violently blowing a whistle and waving at trains) but I’m doing it full-time now, until at least the end of July. This is the first time I’ve worked full-time since I went on maternity leave over four years ago, so it’s a bit of a shock to the system to say the least. I’ve just started my first run of early shifts in a long time (my normal roster only involves lates) and let’s just say, I’d forgotten there was a six o’clock in the morning.

I’m knackered, but I’m loving it. I love my job, it’s a genuine pleasure to go in every day. And now that my small boy is getting less small by the day, I’ve got a lot more time to actually progress in my career. Career. Christ on a bicycle, when did I go and get myself one of those?!

In a similar vein, I also passed my Rules again this month – that being the railway refresher to make sure I can still do my safety-critical job. Being a massive nerd, I properly revised for it complete with colour-coded notes (rest assured I have already been thoroughly mocked for this). So that ate up a bit of time too.

Aaaaaand I did NaNoWriMo. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, where you set yourself a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in thirty days. I started doing it in 2008 and I used to smash that total every year without fail – The Bean Jar is actually a NaNoWriMo novel, at least it started out as one (several incarnations later, it’s on Amazon). But then my son was born on November 1st 2016, which put pay to my winning that year (aah, I fondly recall past me optimistically packing a notebook and pen into my hospital bag, thinking I’d snatch some writing time), and every year since.

But apparently despite all the collective hell 2020 has thrown at us, it’s been marvellous for my productivity, because I actually finished a challenge this year!

I’m really proud of myself for this one and I got a bit emotional when I finished, a couple of days early. I made a vow at the start of this year that 2020 was going to be the year I started to claw a bit of myself back, rather than falling into a void of just being ‘Teddy’s mum’. This has been a massive leap towards that; the Jess of years ago would never have let a NaNoWriMo beat her.

I could ramble on about this all day, but this isn’t a writing post, this is a reading post.

So those are the things that were standing in my way this month (along with a certain small boy’s fourth birthday and, you know, a national lockdown), let’s see what I managed to get read in spite of that!

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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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A Sit Down and a Cuppa, Part 4

I’ve been on annual leave for the last three weeks – working only twenty hours a week, I didn’t realise quite how much I had to use up before the end of the financial year. I thought I was back in today, so Ted was summarily dispatched to nursery… only for me to find out that I’m not actually back in until Monday. So it’s time for a writerly ramble instead!

Welcome back to my charmingly random rattling on about nothing in particular. At least, I hope it’s charming. If not, well, I’m not forcing anyone to read it! My cuppa of choice today is a latte with extra espresso, vanilla syrup, and anything else I could think of to get them to put in it, seeing as I was using up the free one on my loyalty card. I’m nothing if not resourceful. Well, all right, stingy. Who knows if this post will ever get finished, because the internet in this particular Caffe Nero keeps cutting out, but hey, I’m doing my best.

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I’m supposed to be working on the Secret Project today. Seeing as I’m unexpectedly child-free, I figured it would be the perfect time; especially as a Facebook memory popped up this morning that made me smile.

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A Sit Down and a Cuppa, Part 3

I’m back again for some good old-fashioned rambling!

It must shamelessly be said; I am using this as a warm-up for some writing work today. After drifting somewhat pointlessly for a couple of weeks after The Bean Jar came out (Amazon link here, blah blah blah) with little to no idea of what to do next, writing-wise, I’ve got a good old plan in my head.

Um, I’m not actually going to say what it is.

I’m just referring to it as The Secret Project for now, just in case I lose my nerve and give up before I’ve really started (a very real possibility, come on, this is me we’re talking about). More information will come soon, considering I’m hoping said Secret Project will be released in July, but for now… *air of mystery*

Yeah, I’m not a very mysterious person, but that will have to do.

Today, I am sitting in my usual Caffe Nero, with my not-usual cuppa: a chai latte. See, I had three wisdom teeth out this week and I feel I should play it safe with the hot drinks. I feel a nice chai latte will be soothing and pleasant on the gaping holes in my mouth where teeth used to be. Not that I’d know, yet; I’m leaving it to get very very cool before I even attempt to put it in my mouth.

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And yes, I do indeed have cake. So far the cake has proven a lovely soft success on my poor mouth, and the hope that at least this tooth extraction might lead to a bit of weight loss is drifting merrily out of the window.

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Goodreads Challenge 2019: February

Eep. February was… not the best month for the old reading challenge.

Oh, I’m still bang on track, thankfully. But halfway through February I decided to start my ‘Battle the Bookshelf‘ challenge, which means NO NEW BOOKS. I challenged myself to go completely Waterstones cold turkey until I’ve got through the thirty-odd books that have been gathering dust in my spare room for the past year.

Yes, I know. Terrible excuse for a voracious reader.

And although I started well, powering through my first neglected book in a matter of hours (ish), since then I’ve kind of… slowed down. It didn’t help that there was a whole glut of news about the new His Dark Materials series on the BBC (it’s going to be SO MUCH BETTER than that terrible Golden Compass film and I can’t wait) and the new Philip Pullman book coming out this year (I can’t wait even more) (oh heck, I’d better be off my book ban by then). So instead of ploughing on with my TBR list, I’ve been rereading Northern Lights. I couldn’t help myself; I needed to get back into Lyra’s world. Daemons and Dust and bears, oh my.

FYI, my daemon would be a small black and white kitten called Balénessa who sits on my shoulder and chews my ear.

Right, there’s not much to add to the list from last month, but let’s have a cheesy breakdown anyway!

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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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Happy 2019!

Big things are coming.

Oh, look, I’ve been neglecting my website again. For a good half of 2018, in fact. That happy little post I did a few months back about getting all disillusioned with blogging? Yeah, turns out that stuck. And for all my good intentions of going back to basics, having a good little ramble from time to time… that went out the window.

I suppose I didn’t think I had anything useful to say. I was just getting on with life, revving up for some big big things coming my way.

And now it’s time for those big things to get underway.

Firstly, you might have noticed that this website has had a bit of a revamp – my own domain name is back, for a start! And, er, my name has changed back. Don’t worry, I’m still happily married. But I’ve always said that I want my pen-name to be my maiden name. It’s far more memorable than my married one, for a start, and my feminist side has always stridently proclaimed that any big achievements I, er, achieve, should be done in my own original name.

And the achievements are coming.

Finally, finally, finally…

Meet the cover for The Bean Jar.

The Bean Jar by Jessica Leather
Oh yes. Oh yes oh yes oh yes.
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