June Reading

I didn’t realise how much reading I’d done this month until I looked at Goodreads to write this entry.

My favourite book this month was probably The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I read The Woman in White, also by Collins, a few months ago and liked that more but I still really liked The Moonstone.

My least favourite was The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. It had sat, abandoned part read, on my shelf for years. It was weird and a bit of a slog. I basically only finished it because it’s so short. I’ve been sorting out some books to go to the charity shop and this is definitely going straight in the bag to go rather than back on the shelf.

I’ve been trying to focus a bit more on reading books from Boxall’s 1001 books you must read before you die lists to meet my goal of 40 from the combined list (all of the books which have ever been on any edition of the list, think that’s 1315 books or thereabouts). Those books are marked with a *

  1. The Human Division by John Scalzi
  2. The End of All Things by John Scalzi
  3. The Chalet School and Barbara by Elinor M. Brent Dyer
  4. Tom Tackles The Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent Dyer
  5. A Taste of Home by Heidi Swain
  6. A Ration Book Daughter by Jean Fullerton
  7. The Highland Twins At The Chalet School by Elinor M Brent Dyer
  8. Howards End by E.M. Forster*
  9. Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald*
  10. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins*
  11. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks*

So far in 2021 I have read 44 books or 15,086 pages.

What I read in May

In May I was mainly reading The Old Man’s War series. Which are sci-fi, more than they are war books, but not straight sci-fi. I read the first one in April and then picked up books 2 and 3 on a trip to Reading I took to May. I later ordered 4, 5 and 6 from Amazon and will probably have finished the series by the end of this week.

  1. Many Different Kinds of Love by Michael Rosen
  2. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  3. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
  4. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
  5. A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

So far this year I have read 32 books or 11,059 pages

What I Read In April

I read quite a lot in April compared to previous months. There was a period of over a week where I read an entire book, cover to cover, each day. That was after hearing some news that made me think and feel that I need to be doing more with my time than just sit messing around on my ipad. I’m not sure reading so much is the right response but it started accidentally and then I wanted to keep it up until I’d done a week.

Two or three of the books I read this month were re-reads (I’m not sure about one of them). Three of them had been sat on my self unread for several years, the rest for months.

One book (The Midnight Library by Matt Haig) was a good read that I enjoyed but I felt it really didn’t live up to the level of hype I’d heard about it. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Attwood was another book that I liked (and my mum is reading it now and also liking it) but having read several of her other books, I definitely came away feeling like I’d enjoyed of the others more).

I loved Old Man’s War by John Scalzi more than I was expecting and having discovered there are sequels, am very keen to read them.

In April I read:

  1. Home Fires and Spitfires by Daisy Styles
  2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  3. The Chalet School in Guernsey by Katherine Bruce
  4. The Doctor Will See You Know by Dr Amir Khan
  5. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Attwood
  6. Five Years From Now by Paige Toon
  7. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  8. Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls
  9. The Chalet School and The Lintons by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
  10. Gillian of the Chalet School by Carol Allan
  11. The Chalet School in Exile by Elinor M. Brent-Dyet
  12. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

So far in 2021 I have read 27 books or 9353 pages

March Reads

I still feel like I’m not reading as much as I’d like. Although it’s also true that I abandoned one book and have two paperbacks and an audiobook that I started but have yet to finish. But here’s what I did finish in March. I have made plans to cut down my internet time this month (specifically by not reading fanfiction) so I anticipate reading more in April.

I’m not sure that I have a favourite and a least favourite book this month, I liked everything that I finished but nothing really stood out. I was pleased to read two books that have sat unread on my selves/kindle for well over 5 years, very possibly closer to nine or ten years.

Books marked 1001 count towards my goal of reading 40 more books from Boxall’s 1001 books you must read before you die before my 40th birthday in December.

  1. The Courage To Care by Christie Watson (audiobook)
  2. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing (1001)
  3. Coming Home to Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn
  4. My Kind of Happy by Cathy Bramley
  5. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

So far in 2021 I have read 15 books or 6096 pages.

February Reading

I spent a fairy big chunk of February not reading and then the last few days of the month reading a lot. In addition to the books listed here I listened to several hours of another audiobook but got bored of it. As before, books marked with a * are from Boxall’s 1001 books you must read before you die lists so count towards my goal of reading 40 more of them before my 40th birthday.

  1. Fighting for your life: A paramedic’s story by Lysa Walder
  2. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
  3. The Switch by Beth O’Leary (audiobook)
  4. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins*

The Switch was probably my favourite this month although I think I preferred O’Leary’s first book, The Flatshare, more. Fighting for your life was my least favourite, I liked it but I prefer memoirs where you learn a bit more about the person writing it and felt like I wanted longer stories.

So far this year (according to Goodreads) I have read 10 books or 4194 pages.

January Reading

In previous years I’ve occasionally tried to post here about what I’ve read. But it’s something I’ve struggled to keep up regularly despite wanting to. I thought this year I would post a list on the 1st of each month of everything I read in the previous month.

Books marked with 1001 are from Boxall’s 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list and so count towards my goal of reading 40 more books from that before my 40th birthday.

  1. Serpentine by Philip Pullman
  2. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  3. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (audiobook)
  4. Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  5. The Circle by Dave Eggers (audiobook, 1001)
  6. The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon

One of my vague reading goals for this year is to read longer books. I’ve read some very long ones this month – the Obama book is 750 pages, three of the others are 500 pages or more. I’ve also read what will almost definitely be the shortest book I read this year (Serpentine, which is very small in size and has only 80 pages).

The Circle and The Minute I Saw You both have disabled characters. Although I did wonder if many readers will have associated the word disabled with Hannah, the main character in The Minute I Saw You (she has a permanent limp which is mentioned several times).

A Promised Land was my favourite this month, it was so interesting. President Obama reads the audiobook himself which added to my enjoyment. Serpentine was probably my least favourite. As much as I’ve previously enjoyed the His Dark Materials world, this did leave me not sure what the point of it was…

In 2021 to date I have read 6 books or 2893 pages.

40 Before 40: Pandemic Edition

My 40th birthday is at the end of this year. At the end of 2019 I wrote a “40 before 40” list of goals to achieve before I reached that milestone. I blogged about that a little bit but never shared the list online

I did achieve three of the goals last year – I went to see Book of Mormon and did a photography course before the pandemic hit. I also manged to use my manual chair every day for over 40 days later in the year. Looking at the list as I write this, I could also be said to have done two more – I attempted to make button art at Christmas but it didn’t work out (I have plans for a different button art project) and whilst I didn’t make it to a writers retreat, I have done a couple of online retreats.

But there were several overnight trips in that 40, and even more one day trips. Most of those are currently out of reach. And to be completely honest I’m struggling with motivation to get things done at home at the moment. So a lot of the habit forming ones such as “write everyday for 40 days” feel unachieveable.

That said I didn’t want to give up on the idea of 40 before 40 entirely. So at the end of last year, I came up with two slightly simpler versions of the 40 before 40 goals.

I occasionally crochet squares for Woolly Hugs. This year I am aiming to crochet and send 40 of the 12 inch ones. I’ve already done two which will be in the post next week.

Also, for years I’ve been occasionally reading books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die book (I have a list of all the books that have been in each edition and read from that – it’s about 1300 when you count removed books). This year I want to get back into it and read 40 books from the list. I’m in the middle of listening to the audiobook of The Circle by Dave Eggers from the list now.

If I could manage to do more of the “at home” or low key goals from my original list that would be good, but the crochet and the books are what I’m actively planning to do write now.

And perhaps at some point when life looks something a bit more like normal I might start a 101 in 1001 list with the tattered remains of my original 40 before 40 list. It’s quite a long time since I’ve done one of those…

A Month of Reading

It’s nearly a month since I last updated on here about what I’ve been reading. And there’s a fair amount of books to share about. There’s also quite a few I have read part of but not finished which I won’t list.

On VE Day I started reading a series of books set in the Second World War. Those were Quarantine Reads 12 – 15. I read the first one cover to cover in one day and finished book 4 in the series a week later. I enjoy books set in that period as it’s one that interests me and the books tend to be quite character driven rather than gritty. So reading them felt like a good way to have a relaxing bank holiday but also mark the occasion. This time it was the Rationbook series by Jean Fullerton. The books are A Rationbook Dream, A Rationbook Christmas, A Rationbook Childhood and A Rationbook Wedding. I found the first one took my a while to get into and I had to persevere almost but I was glad I did. Once I got into it I liked it and I enjoyed the later books in the series more. I hope there will be a book 5.

Book 16 was Spitfire Girls Fly For Victory by Jenny Holmes. Not the best book I’ve read mostly because the first one in the series was better (although now I write this I wonder if the problem was that with almost a year since I read that I didn’t remember the characters that well). But I did enjoy it and I’ll definitely read book three when it comes out later in the year.

Interestingly I read the first book last August when I was housebound due to my powerchair being broken. And I read this one before I started going out for little bits (I’ve since been to the post box, the park and my parent’s garden) so I was housebound then too. I hope not to be housebound when book three comes out!

Next I read The English Agent by Claire Harvey which has been sat on my shelf for an embarrassingly long period of time since a friend passed it on to me (it was a stupid long time before lockdown but luckily she understands). I discovered part way through that this is actually book 2 featuring the main character. I don’t think not having read book 1 made any difference to my enjoyment or understanding. I wont read book 1 any time soon because there were enough snippets to have a good overview of the plot and so it would be spoiled. Which is a shame because I might have enjoyed that more.

Going back to The English Agent itself, I would say it was OK. Part of the problem with my enjoyment was probably my mood in that it was getting a little flat at that point (looking at the date of my Facebook post about the book). But the other side was definitely that it just suffered from my having read so many war books in such quick succession.

Last week I read two books, each of which I read cover to cover in one day. And in the days in between I tried to read another book which has a premise I love but I just couldn’t get into it because I had a book hangover from the first one.

That was To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers. Back in summer 2018 I was in a huge reading slump and her (then) three books were the ones that broke it – I read them all in 9 days, making two special trips to book shops for books 2 and 3.

So I was so excited one evening last September when I spotted To Be Taught If Fortunate in Foyles on a night away. And then immediately disappointed and put it back on the shelf. when I read the back and discovered it wasn’t part of the Wayfarers Series. I would still love another Wayfarers book (and a friend tells me one is being written) but after getting it for my birthday and few months later, then leaving it on my shelf for a few months after that I picked it up and read it.

I was wrong to be disappointed by that and also by how short it is. Because when you read the book, it’s just brilliant. Really well crafted and a powerful read. It is really short, and I definitely wanted more. But that said it’s pretty much the perfect length. I think to find out what happens next would probably have ruined it, despite my curiosity.

Next I read So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter. I read another book of hers, The Cows, last year. I’d read the back and liked the idea of The Cows but been put off by her fame (I’ve read other books by famous authors that weren’t good, just clearly published because of who they were) but when it came up as 99p on Kindle gave it a shot. And loved it, read it cover to cover in one day.

So when I heard about So Lucky I was really keen to read it. And I also really wanted to read it in one day like I had The Cows (some authors are “book in a day” authors for me) so it had to wait for the right time.

So Lucky is a story female friendship and the lies we tell ourselves (and others). It was well written, really honest, punchy and slightly gritty. Not your standard chicklit as it was slightly more in depth and unpredictable. And definitely not a case of a famous person having a mediocre book published.

Finally (for now) I read The House at Silvermoor by Tracy Rees. My Mum had asked me to get her a book for her birthday back in May and I added this and one other for me to the Waterstones order. I’ve had a lot of new kindle books (either bought or via NetGalley) since lockdown but it was really nice to have a new physical book. There’s just something about the feel and the smell of a brand new book that I really love.

This was another historical fiction book set in a time and area (1899, early 1900s, Yorkshire mines) that I know little about. So I enjoyed the chance to read about that and also the dual narrative of the story. It kept me guessing throughout (I was sure I knew what was happening but didn’t) and was just another stunning read from Tracy Rees.

What I’m Reading

I feel like it’s been a bit of a slow lethargic week or two – I wasn’t well for a few days last week with an ear infection – but looking at my list of what I’ve been reading since I last updated (and adding in that I’ve written a bit and almost made an entire hat) I think that might just be me being a bit hard on myself.

So what have I been reading in the last two or so weeks since I updated? A fair amount. I’ve started and not progressed with a few books but here’s what I have finished.

First up was The Spanish Promise by Karen Swan. That’s the second book of hers I’ve read and I will read more but probably not immediately. It was fab. I must say it was a much twistier book than I expected, so much so that I almost felt like I needed to read the end a second time to appreciate it properly.

Then I read A Postcard from Italy by Alexandra Brown. It combined a touch of historical fiction with travel and chicklit and I thought it well done. There was one disability related trope in the book which I thought unnecessary, poorly done and disappointing so as much as I liked it until that point I struggle to recommend it. And years later, I am still disappointed that Alexandra Brown has never revisited the characters from The Great Christmas Knit Off.

This was the point in my reading that I began to feel really rather fed up of chicklit. Although looking at what I read next I don’t seem to have done a brilliant job at escaping from it immediately (the two books I’m reading now are anything but chicklit but I’ve not finished them so they will be listed next time).

Darling Blue by Tracy Rees was a definite winner for me. It’s a longer read (and it was really nice to get my teeth into a longer book), historical and almost a saga. I had been expecting it to be more of a historical read based on having read two of her other books (and having a third on my shelf) but it was actually the exact amount of historical for the story Tracy Rees was telling.

I was really excited when I went to list this as read on goodreads to see two Tracy Rees books I didn’t know about. It actually turns out one of them was Darling Blue republished under a different title (The Love Note). But the other book is a new one and it feel into my basket when I ordered my mum’s birthday present. I’m looking forward to reading more of Tracy Rees writing soon ish.

Although the title suggests this is a book set in Venice, the last book I have to write about today, From Venice with Love by Rosanna Ley takes place in several settings. It’s a good read and we do visit Venice but this is not the book for you if you want one set solely in Venice (Or even Italy). I found it to be a good book and it kept me guessing (although I did figure one thing out). But having read the majority of Rosanna Ley’s previous books, I definitely enjoyed earlier ones more.

What I’m Reading

It’s been slightly more than a week this time (my intention is to post these every Monday but I’m not always good at following through on what I intend to do) because I wasn’t doing a lot of reading so on Monday I didn’t have a lot to write. I had a week’s free trial of Disney Plus so that filled a lot of my time last week. I haven’t kept the trial but will probably get it again for a month or two at some point as well I think there’s not a lot I’d watch regularly there are a fair few more films I’d like to see (I had originally signed up for the year and the trial wouldn’t let me change it to monthly).

I read two books in the last ten days or so and I’ve listened to a bit more of The White Tiger audiobook. I’m not sure if I’m going to finish that audiobook or not. I might put it aside for a while and listen to something else.

Both of the books I read I have ARCs of in exchange for a review.

Escape to the French Farmhohuse by Jo Thomas was first up. This is being published in paperback on 7th May and in paperback in August according to Amazon. I was late to a zoom drinks thing because I was two chapters from finishing it and couldn’t put it down! It’s the second or third book by Jo Thomas I’ve read and she is fast becoming one of my go to authors for relaxing escapism. I definitely need to explore her backlist books and see what I’ve missed!

Escape to the French Farmhouse is set on a lavender farm and I could really picture it from the descriptions. I had a squirt of lavender spray while I was reading it to help with the mood. Such a great setting. I really enjoyed it but with all the current social distancing we have at the moment all the French characters double kissing when they met felt uncomfortable (but to be fair I’ve never been a huge fan of hugging and kissing someone every time you meet anyway).

Second up was A Wedding at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry. I was so happy not to have to wait until this is published at the end of May to read it. I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve read by Veronica Henry but I really love her Beach Hut books and this didn’t disappoint. In fact I think it might be my favourite of hers.

This was the perfect mix of substance, a few surprises, and a chance to forget about the outside world. Something that’s really needed at the moment! I particularly liked the fact that sometimes what I thought would happen didn’t. It made me dream of the seaside and hope I can get to the coast one day this summer.

One day I hope Veronica Henry writes another Beach Hut book revisiting all the various characters from the different books (they are same setting, different characters books) because I’ve loved them all. And Robyn and Jake from A Wedding at the Beach Hut would be my number one for a revisit!