I promised in my last post that I’d give a whole separate update about the utter mess that has been my status as a ‘creative’ person of late. Haha. Can’t help but laugh at that one, after 2021.

On paper, it was a decent year for my writing. But my actual creative headspace…

Yeah. Very different matter.

And I nearly packed the whole thing in.

How many incarnations of this exact same photo have I posted over the years? One or two, that’s for sure.
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Is this going to be a yearly thing…?

It seems like I have to reintroduce myself to blogging at least once a year. Sometimes twice. Is the whole concept of blogging dead? Should I be trying to set my writing endeavours to weird slowed-down breathy clips of popular music on TikTok instead?

Perish the thought.

Anyway. I had some success with this blog through 2020, didn’t I? I was doing my monthly reading round-ups, linked to my social media, and I was connecting with a lot of people. Beautiful stuff… until, as always seems to happen, I got bored in early 2021 and vanished off the face of the planet again. Hey ho.

At first, I think the structure of having such a regular structure of monthly book reviews was good for my brain, and kept me going. But then it started to become a chore, and I just wasn’t here for it any more. However, I miss blogging; I miss having a good old chat about everything and nothing. So I feel like it’s time to return – not to the fixed monthly reviews or anything like that, but definitely to the occasional ramble about my writing, my reading, my obsession with dresses that have pockets, and anything else that happens to cross my mind.

On which note – what’s been going on in the year since I last wrote?

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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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Reading Round-Up: October 2020

Coming in a day early with my round-up this month, to tie in with the photo challenge I’ve been doing on Instagram throughout October. I’ve been doing #RFABOct20 – a very bookish challenge that has been rather fun and has made me want to reread a fair chunk of my bookshelves. Of course, I took a ‘#TBR’ picture at the start of the month, with a lovely little selection of books to both read and reread, and… er, I have read two out of the five. One reread, and one new book. Oh well!

Quotation on the cheesy board is from one of my favourite Rainbow Rowell books, just FYI.

However, if we pretend that little reading wish-list didn’t happen, I’ve actually done reasonably well this month, reading-wise. I’ve had a fair chunk of time to myself – I went up to Edinburgh and locked myself in a hotel room to get some writing done (successfully), which entailed a total of just over six hours on trains over the course of a weekend. Plus, with the nights drawing in, curling up on the sofa at the end of the day with a good book has been particularly appealing. Of course, I’m not getting anything close to my lockdown numbers, but considering the UK could well be thrown into Lockdown: The Sequel any day now, things could be different in the next couple of months!

Anyway, let’s talk some stats.

I have read nine new books this month, and reread three. Like I said, I’ve had better months for reading, but I’ve also had worse! And, of course, this brings my total for the year so far up to 115 new books completed, which frankly amazes me every time I update it. I’m starting to wonder whether I should aim big in 2021 and set 100 books as my goal for the year, or whether that would be shooting for the moon in a year that may or may not be quite as locked down as this one. Something to ponder over the last couple of months of 2020.

So what have I actually been reading?

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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.


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 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.


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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