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!

Quarantine Life

Monday marked one month since I last went anywhere. I spent the week before I started isolating limiting my trips out, not avoiding it but for example I didn’t go to town one day but waited and went after CAB then next. Then I went to disability active at the gym on Friday 13th March and then I came home and I haven’t been anywhere since. It wasn’t exactly the plan but it’s how things turned out.

In the week that followed I went for two wanders around the area that I live in but I haven’t even done that since 20th March, I took the decision not to go for my state sanctioned one trip out for exercise a day because 1) it’s not really exercise in a powerchair, 2) I have a garden for fresh air and 3) I’ve been hearing reports about needing to suddenly cross roads etc to maintain social distancing and that’s not really doable in a wheelchair.

I’m actually coping a lot better than I expected to (based on how I’ve coped in the past when housebound due to either snow or a broken wheelchair). But I think the difference this time is that there is something of a timescale to this – I don’t know when I will be able to go places again but I do know it won’t be anytime soon so there’s no hope and expectation that maybe it will be today. Also, everyone else is in vaguely the same position so I’m not missing out on trips to the theatre or drinks with friends or whatever.

That’s not to say that I’ve not had teary or upset moments or that I’m not scared of the situation. And I think I’m probably getting frustrated with my carers more easily than before because they are the only people I’m seeing. At the moment I’m not having my evening care calls but I am having the morning ones (apart from one day this week when I did have an evening call because I forgot that I needed to contact the agency and cancel some more). That’s because I have to have a specially trained team to do the mornings which means I see 3 people one week and 4 people the next. But the evenings I can have anyone and I felt the agency were sending too many people.

It’s strange because I feel that my new (or as it’s been practically two months probably not new) care agency are probably managing to staff my calls and do things better than the old one would have done under the current circumstances due to the fact they cover a smaller area – and they’ve definitely been more responsive to what I need/would like, such as slightly later morning calls at the moment. But I miss some of my former carers in terms of chatting to them and having “company” for the 30 minutes they are here. Which in a big part is just because I’ve only known these ones since 20th Feb and I’d known some of those for over two years. That said none of the current ones dump all their problems all over me and my stress levels are much less.

After some trial and error we’ve found an appropriate aid and a way that I can safely remove all of my own compression. I do have to yank at the wraps and stockings rather and one of my pairs now has some minor damage but it’s working for now. Applying my moisturising cream is more tricky (it’s part of the protocol when you wear compression and/or have lymphoedema) and I’ve been getting it done but wasting a lot of cream in the process and not covering the whole area as well as I really need to. Luckily my skin is currently in good condition so my rubbish efforts combined with Mum coming down to do it thoroughly every few days has been enough so far. It’s all very temporary and the plan is I will have evening care calls back at some point.

I feel like I haven’t done anywhere near as much stuff as I expected during this time but I’m getting into a routine of sorts and I’m as happy as I can be. Which is all anyone can ask for right now.

What I’m Reading

I’m going to link this post up with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? over on The Book Date.

Since I posted my previous bookish update I’ve finished two books. I received ARCs of both of them in exchange for a review (although with the second I’m months past the publication date). It’s fair to say that I’ve not been reading as much as I anticipated or would like during this period of quarantine. But I am reading more regularly than I was and I’m enjoying that.

First I read The Liberation of Brigid Dunne by Patricia Scanlan which is being published on 30th April here in the UK (I believe it’s already out in some other parts of the world). Patricia Scanlan is someone I read a lot of books by when I was in my late teens and early twenties. She was one of my go to authors and I would often take one on holiday with me. My friend Sarah and I would also post books we finished to each other and several Patricia Scanlan’s found their way between us. So as soon as I started reading The Liberation of Brigid Dunne lots of old memories came flooding back which was nice.

I really liked this book and it made me want to revisit those old favourite books but sadly I no longer have the majority of them. Sometimes when you return to an author you love the books are no longer as good but The Liberation of Brigid Dunne wasn’t one of those, it exceeded my already high expectations in fact. It really drew me in and kept me guessing. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened but also didn’t want it to end.

Next up was The Rise and Fall of Sadie McQueen by Juliet Ashton which was a bit of a hit and a miss for me. It was what I call an easy read. Enjoyable and relaxing, perfect for sitting in the sun this Easter weekend, particularly when the world outside is a little scary right now. But partway through it had a bit of a plot twist that threw me out of Sadie’s world and I had to put it down because it really jarred with me. I thought I might have to abandon it but because I’d read so much I picked it back up to read a couple more chapters and I did manage to get back into the story,. Overall I did like the book and the way it came together but I think I would have liked it more without that twist so I’m not recommending it as highly as I might otherwise.

In terms of other reading, I’m slowly listening to The White Tiger by Avarind Adiga in audiobook which I find interesting but I can only listen to short bits at a time. And I read part of Love In The Blitz by Eileen Alexander (I have an ARC) but as that is a collection of letters I expect to dip in and out of it over a few weeks rather than read it over a few days like I would with a fiction books.

What I’m Reading

I feel like I’m suddenly reading with more regularity than I’ve been for a while. It might be the lockdown, it might just be the fact I’ve been getting the garden for at least a few minutes everyday and I usually take my book with me. Anyway I thought it would be nice to post an entry once a week or so with mini reviews of what I’ve been reading. There’s quite a lot here because it’s covering several weeks.

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins

This sat on my shelf for years waiting for the right time to read it. I got my carer to reach it down and she commented that she’d read it and loved it. Pretty much straight away I was hooked and wondering why I’d not read it sooner. I read it in two massive chunks over a few days and was really invested, thinking it was a brilliant book. And it is a brilliant book. But then I got to the end and I was left thinking “what the hell was that?” and it didn’t ruin the whole book but I was disappointed.

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

It’s only April (and it was probably still March when I read this) but Dear Mrs Bird is seriously in the running for my book of 2020.

This is another book that’s sat on my shelf for a while. I’d heard a lot of hype around Dear Mrs Bird and to be honest I tend to find hype a bit off putting as so often a perfectly good book is disappointing because it’s been overhyped. But this definitely lived up to it’s hype.

It’s an interesting book (set in the Second World War which is one of my favourite periods for historical fiction) and it has a premise I haven’t seen before and lovely feel to it. It’s just brilliant. I saw on the about the author bit that AJ Pearce is writing a sequel so I immediately looked on Amazon but sadly it’s not available yet.

The Telephone Box Library by Rachael Lucas

This was a fun read. I started it before having to isolate and picked it up and put it down a few times because I wasn’t reading much. But it was a fun, escapist read and I enjoyed it just like I’ve enjoyed the other books I’ve read from Rachael Lucas.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

One of my 40 before 40 goals is to read more of the books on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. So when I heard that David Copperfield was available to listen to for free on Alexa in March I dove right in. At 36 (and a half) hours long it was the longest audiobook I’ve ever listened to and rather a challenge both in terms of length and content. I’d probably have been better to read it but it was interesting and I’m glad I did it. It’s my second Dickens book in a relatively short period of time (I read Great Expectations in October last year) so I think I’ll be taking a break from his works for a while.

The Secret Seaside Escape by Heidi Swain

I received a free advance copy of this from NetGalley, it’s being published on 16th April 2020. This is another funny, summery triumph from Heidi Swain, possibly her best so far. She takes us to a new setting, the seaside at Wynmouth, this time and I’m really hoping it’s one she revisits. I loved the characters and the storyline and didn’t want it to end. There were several touching and/or funny moments and more than a few surprises. I was also really pleased to see the mix of characters in it, including one with a disability.

On Rereading

As a child and teen I read and reread books time and again. I would finish a book and then immediately go back and reread my favourite bits again. On one holiday to Norway when I was 16 one of the books I took was Junk by Melvin Burgess. I only actually read it cover to cover once. But I spent so long dipping in and out of it once I finished it that I probably read the whole thing three times in those two weeks. It was the same with the other books I took on that holiday (although Junk was the one I read most). And I was very similar with my books even when I was at home and could get at all of them.

I don’t do that now. I can’t remember when I stopped. I can remember doing that with one particular book when I was at uni (Palomino by Danielle Steel, it was one of the first mainstream books I read with a disabled character) and I know I did it a bit when the Harry Potter books came out. It’s not that I don’t love books as much it’s just I read them differently.

I do reread books occasionally but nothing like I used to and not regularly. It tends to be the same few that I revisit. Comforting, easy reads. Familiar stories and characters. Books where I might have forgotten something about it but there are no massive surprises and I know I’ll enjoy it. The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L Sayers I’ve read some of only once and others again (and again in a couple of cases) for one. And I’ve got a fair few children’s books I loved (a lot of which I first read as an adult) in both physical and audio form – the Harry Potter books, the Swallows and Amazons novels (not sure if I have all of those), His Dark Materials, Chronicles of Narnia. I listen to audiobooks a lot but tend to reach for something I know well when I really need to switch my mind off or if I need help to fall asleep.

It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought too but when I did I kinda assumed it was because new books are so much more available to me now. They are cheaper and I can get them from the supermarket. I have my powerchair and can get to a proper bookshop or the library independently and easily now. I can order them online. And sometimes I get them free for reviewing.

But then a couple of weeks ago I went for a wander in our local (newish) branch of Waterstones. They didn’t have what I was looking for but I picked up a couple of books I’d looked at every time I’d gone in for a few months and actually bought them. As I was trying to remember another author to see if they had that I was looking at the YA shelves.

And I realised that actually I do reread stuff a lot, just like I used to as a child. I read fanfiction everyday. I’ve changed fandoms a fair few times and dip in and out of old ones occasionally (and new ones even more occasionally) but I think I’ve read some form of fanwork practically every day if not since i discovered it in 1999, certainly since I got internet in my own room at uni about a year later.

So there are those familiar characters and settings that made me read and reread either entire books or parts of them when I was younger. And not only do I read fanfic, I regularly reread favourites from whatever my current fandom is. For the last several years my main fandom has been Criminal Minds and I regularly reread fanfics. I’ve been spending a lot of time since I’ve been self isolating rereading a 72 story series. I think it is the first time I’ve completely reread it from start to finish (actually come to think of it, I don’t think I reread the first one this time) but I’ve read each of the stories more than once.

It was an interesting realisation about something I do and why I do it. And about the role/power of fanfic which is something that all too often gets a bad rep for not being “proper writing”.