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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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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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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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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