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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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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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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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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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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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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Time to Battle the Bookshelf

I’ve decided to set myself a new challenge. A new reading challenge, to be precise.

I’m already doing the Goodreads Challenge, and doing it well, why am I throwing some more drama into the mix?! – is what I should be saying to myself. Instead, I’m clapping my hands with glee at the thought of a new trial of my dedication and reading abilities.

Those feelings will probably go away pretty swiftly once I realise what I’ve let myself in for.

So what is this new challenge?

I’m calling it – Battle the Bookshelf.

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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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