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: 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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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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