Books · Reading Plans

2021 Reading Goals

1. Prioritize my 2021 TBR

Like last year, I would like to always look at this pile first before choosing a different book to read. This year I will only have books from actual shelves on my TBR.

2. Use a ‘Balancing Books’ system for keeping track/adding to my owned physical/digital TBRs

I am currently writing up a list of all my unread books, so I will have a good overview what books I actually have on my shelves and my Kindle. I am looking to reduce the amount of unread books on my shelves, so I think I definitely should not buy more books than I read. In fact, I will aim to have to read at least two physical books before I am ‘allowed’ to put a new book on my shelves. This should be quite achievable! I will use the same principle for my Kindle. I have too many books on there! I have already noticed that I am buying far fewer Kindle books than I used to (and when I do, I only do so when they are on the 99p offer!).

I got myself a cute little notebook to make a good list and to make up a ‘balance’ every month. It should be a motivator!

I have already purchased some Kindle books that were on sale and a couple of physical books for a book club, but I am confident I will be able to read double the amount this month. I may even have read these by the end of the month!

3. Read new books sooner

Simple. When I do buy a new book I want to aim to read it as soon as I can.

4. Reduce amount of (lingering) books on my shelves

Everytime I feel like I am unlikely to re-read a book or I don’t think there is a point to holding on to a book I will be getting rid of said book. I am planning to rearrange my shelves a bit soon and I have already clocked some read books that can go.

There are also a ton of books that I am simply not excited to read. I do not just want to get rid of them unread (that idea makes me very unhappy!), and I do aim to pick up more of those particular books with the aim to DNF and get rid of them if they do not grab within the first couple of chapters. Too many lingering books!

5. Read more fantasy books/series

Fantasy is definitely a genre that I used to enjoy a lot, but I haven’t been reading as much of it in the last year. I would like to get back to reading fantasy a bit more, as I find that when I do I actually really enjoy it! I have lots on my shelves, especially series, that is about time I read. I also want to get through series quicker, ie by reading them in consecutive months. That way I am likely to stay more motivated.

6. Read more poetry

I have been really enjoying poetry lately and it is a genre I would like to explore a bit more.

***

That’s it – I am keeping it simple. Do you have anything you want to achieve in your reading life this year?

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Charlotte (Helen Moffett)

A classic re-telling that did not quite hit the right spot for me.

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Charlotte
Author: Helen Moffett
Genre: Historical Fiction / Retelling
First published: 2020
Edition: Kindle e-book

Everybody thinks that Charlotte Lucas has no prospects. She is twenty-seven years old, unmarried, plain, and seemingly without ambition. When she stuns the neighbourhood by accepting the proposal of buffoonish clergyman Mr Collins, her best friend Lizzy Bennet is angry at her for undervaluing herself. Yet the decision is the only way Charlotte knows to provide for her future, and marriage will propel her into a new world, of duty, marriage, children, grief and ultimately illicit love, and a kind of freedom.

💍📕🧾

This was my first read of 2021 and it was a little disappointing. When I heard there was a novel detailing the life of Charlotte Lucas from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I was intrigued. I always thought she would be an interesting character to explore a bit more.

This novel’s attempt to do just that falls short for me and it has nothing to do with whether or not it showed the life I envisioned for her. For a while I enjoyed it, but as it went on I simply enjoyed it less and less. I cannot really pinpoint what the problem was. Maybe it simply did not ring true. Maybe the characters’ actions just did not quite work for me. It simply did not do enough to keep me interested.

As far as books based on classic novels go this one really was not bad. I definitely think this one will work for many people, but it simply did not quite float my boat. I wish it had.

4 out of 7 stars

TBR

21 for 2021 TBR

I have not been setting myself TBRs lately, but 2020’s year-long TBR was a success, so I thought I might as well set one for 2021. 21 books is likely to be a fifth of the books I will read in the coming year, so these are important choices!

These are all books that are sitting on my shelf already. Fine physical specimens that are begging to read! I did not choose these books according to how popular they are, rather I have chosen them because I really feel I want to have read these by the end of the year because I think they will add something to my year.

It is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Last year I had a distinct separation of the two, but for 2021 I have not paid attention to how many fiction or non-fiction books they are. I simply went through all of the books on my shelf and chose these to prioritize.

1. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Hanif Abdurraqib)

2. Flames (Robbie Arnott)

3. Don Casmurro (Machado de Assis)

4. The Flowers of Evil (Charles Baudelaire)

5. A Small Town in Germany (John le Carre)

6. Chronicles (Bob Dylan)

7. The Border (Diarmaid Ferriter)

8. Moonwalking With Einstein (Joshua Foer)

9. The Midnight Library (Matt Haig)

10. The Stationery Shop (Marjan Kamali)

11. The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years (Bernard Lewis)

12. Quell (Clare Littlemore)

13. Palace Walk (Naguib Mahfouz)

14 . Johannesburg (Fiona Melrose)

15. The Sport of Kings ( C E Morgan)

16. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Haruki Murakami)

17. Hamnet (Maggie O’Farrell)

18. The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry)

19. A Sweet, Wild Note (Richard Smyth)

20. In The Days of Rain (Rebecca Stott)

21. The Secret History (Donna Tartt)

I read a few books set in the Middle East towards the end of 2020 and I thoroughly enjoyed them, so I put a few more on my 2021 TBR. Because of that I also decided to include Bernard Lewis’ book, so I will get a better grasp of the region’s background.

I have signed copies of Hamnet and The Midnight Library, so really, I ought to get to those sooner rather than later. I have been meaning to read those ever since I got them, but always put them off! I am sure I wil love both, so there is no reason to, really!

There are a few by well-known authors that I have never read from, such as Murakami and Le Carre.

It’s a rather mixed bunch, but I hope I will enjoy them all.

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: Black and British (David Olusoga)

★★★★★★☆

Title: Black and British: A Forgotten History
Author: David Olusoga Narrator: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Genre: Non-fiction / History / Cultural
First published: 2016
Edition: Audio book

In this vital re-examination of a shared history, historian and broadcaster David Olusoga tells the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean.

It took me a long time to listen to this audio book, mainly because I felt I wanted to take in every word of what was being said. I thought I had a decent knowledge of black history in Britain, but there were so many aspects that were either new to me or that I had simply never considered.

By far the largest part of this book is devoted to Britain’s relationship with the slave trade. It is a long and complicated history and the author has really taken the time to research the subject very thoroughly. He covers the span of the slave trade in great historical detail, but I never found it boring. Rather, I found it incredibly interesting.

A relative small part of the book is devoted to Britain’s relationship with race in the twentieth century. This put the spotlight on issues that I was aware of, but it broadened my knowledge and understanding of the past and how it relates to current race relations.

Although I found I needed to pay attention to take it all in, I did not find it heavy going. Maybe this was because I was truly interested in the subject. Books like these are important and they can open our eyes to parts of history that tend to get left out. After all, history taught in schools is largely the history of the white man.

If you have an interest in black history, I would highly recommend reading this book.

(This is a long audio book at 25+ hours, but the narrator did a great job and I found him very easy to listen to. )

6 out of 7 stars

Reading Diary

New Year’s Eve Reading Diary 2020

I had all sorts of grand plans for posts in this final week of 2020, but life got hectic (I DEFINITELY do not mean Animal Crossing!) and it simpy did not happen.

00.15 – Midnight has been and gone, which means it is now officially the last day of the year. I have two books I am trying to finish before the final seconds of 2020 tick away, so I can start 2021 with a clean slate. It is a goal at least!

I have an hour left on my audio book, which still is Black and British: A Forgotten History. I have two hours left to listen to, but I do listen on a speedier setting, so I may get this done if I listen to it whilst doing some much needed chores. It has been such an eye opening listen.

I have about 180 pages left in Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff, which is the last book in the Nevernight Chronicles. I am enjoying this one much more than the middle book, so I am hopeful!

I am about to go to bed now and will get a few more minutes of reading in once I am in bed, but otherwise I hope to get started on these books bright and early tomorrow morning.

Finishing both of these books is a challenge, but I believe it is doable if I don’t get distracted by other things.

Until tomorrow!

09.09 – I am up, I have taken the ponies to their soaking wet paddock – I think it’s time to start some reading. I got to page 374 of Darkdawn yesterday, so I have about 160 pages left, which I think is doable. I like this book, but there are some things about it that are a little irksome (I love that word). There are some plot devices that just too easy!

Since it is a very quiet New Year’s Eve for us (though we do have some champers for later), today will be a reading day.

14.26 – Today is more chore heavy than anticipated and not really chores I can do with my audio book on as they are chores I am doing together with my husband and I am not quite THAT antisocial. It is not a bad day outside. It’s cloudy, but there’s no wind. Hence we took the opportunity to rake the pony paddock a bit. It has been very wet lately and the paddock has turned into a quagmire. I have listened to half an hour of my audio book whilst mucking out the stables. Once back inside I read another 40 pages of Darkdawn. I have just over 100 pages to go in the latter, which is definitely doable, especially with staying up way after midnight tonight. Still hopeful!

18.26 – Ok, I did not manage to read that much mroe since my last update. I am on page 451, so still 80 pages to go. It’s going to be a tight one! I am more like to finish Darkdawn than my audio book, but I am still aiming for both. I have 45 minutes left on my audio book and I am doing a few chores after dinner, but they won’t take that long. I’ll figure it out!

I have just put dinner on. We’re having salmon and pesto pasta – yum! This year is the first year that my daughter (8) is allowed to try and stay up until midnight. This may result in a massive tiredness tantrum – we will have to see! I promised her she can play Animal Crossing for a while to catch the fish and critters that she normally does not have a chance to, because they only appear after her bedtime. That may keep her quiet. 🙂

20.21 – I have been quietly making progress in Darkdawn whilst my daughter and husband are watching the Paddington movie. I am on page 491, so only just over 30 pages to go. I should be able to manage that. I am still enoying the book, but I am not quite sure I am loving the turns the plot has taken. I just sort of feel it ran out of steam about two thirds in. Let’s see how it ends, shall we?

20.57 – Wow, those final pages went by quick. Now the the whole Nevernight Chronicle is done. I have thoughts. I think overall reading this series was worth my time, but I cannot help but feel that it did not quite live up to my expectations. I will go and write a quick summary of my thoughts on this one.

I still hope to have time to finish my audio book tonight, but we’ll see. 🙂

23.45 – Well, 2020 is almost over and I managed to finish my final two books today. I am very pleased with that. Starting a new year with a clean slate is always a good feeling. I hope 2021 will be less newsworthy than 2020! Fingers crossed COVID will decide to do a runner early on in 2021, so we can get back to some sort of normal life.

I will leave you with wishing you very happy and HEALTHY 2021. May it be filled with love and all the best books.

See you next year with my thoughts on Black and British: A Forgotten History.

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Darkdawn (Jay Kristoff)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Darkdawn (Nevernight Chronichles #3)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Harper Voyager in 2020

After winning the greatest games Godsgrave has ever seen and giving the gift of murder as her victor’s speech, Mia is being hunted by every Blade of the Red Church and every soldier of the Luminatii legion. Her mentor Mercurio has been captured and Consul Julius Scaeva stands on the edge of total dominance over the Republic. Truedark approaches and if Mia is to have any hope of defeating Scaeva and saving her family, she must make a perilous journey across the Republic seeking the final answers to the riddle of her life.

🌑🌘🌓

Let me start by saying I really loved the first book in the Nevernight series. It was brutal, it was very sarcastic and I loved it. The second book, Godsgrave, took me an age to read. It missed the humour that I loved so much in the first book and the plot did not manage to hold my interest. As a result I put off reading this final book for way too long. Luckily this one went a long way to redeeming the series for me, though not completely.

I felt the writing in this one had a bit more sass than the second book, even if the story was dark, dark, dark. See, I like a dark book when it can have a bit of fun with itself. This one did that, but only in places, and I wished it would have done that just a little bit more.

I felt really invested for two thirds of the book, but the final third felt a little too predictable for me. The plot pretty much went exactly where I expected it to go and held few surprises. I still enjoyed it, but I just wish it had had a few more twists and turns. Maybe I have read too many fantasy books in my time.

The characters were very hit or miss for me. Some characters I absolutely loved and others either just felt wrong or a bit flat. They just felt inconsistent. Also, I am not a fan of things happening and then finding out they did not actually happen, but that they were just a version of what COULD happen, a bit in the way a dream scene is often used. Not my thing.

However, I did find myself pondering several times that these books would probably make awfully good movies.

In the end, if you like a book with flawed, but sassy characters and an author that can occasionally take the you-know-what out of himself, you should read this series. If blood and gore and a lot of death and decay are not your thing, give it a miss.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · TBR Review

20 for 2020 TBR: Review

I am so glad I have managed to read al 20 books that were on my 2020 TBR. The list included fifteen works of fiction and five non-fiction books. I will likely have a similar ratio for my 2021 TBR. I do think that having this yearly TBR focused my reading and actually made me read the books I wanted to read. That may not make sense, but it really did help me. I will be setting my 2021 TBR shortly.

These were all books I really wanted to read, but there were quite a few I ended up not loving. Of the 20 books three were 7-star reads, ie new favourites, which were How To Stop Time by Matt Haig, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and Wilding by Isabella Tree. Both will appear in my ‘favourite books I read this year’-list, I am sure. To my surprise beside that I only had five 6-star reads. The rest of the books i rated 5 stars or lower (seven 5-star reads, four 4-star reads and one 3-star read). I had definitely expected to lover more of these books.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett was the first book I read off this TBR and the last one was The Book of Lost Things, which I finished last week. Both of these were disappointing reads at only 4 stars.

I will be taking nine of these books off my shelf to find new homes for.

2021

I have a feeling my 2021 TBR will be looking a bit different, I should be completing and posting that one before the end of the year. Again, all the books on this TBR will be books I actually already have on my shelves.

I am still deciding whether to set a 2021 series TBR or not. I really did not read that many series in 2020. I managed to complete a few, so I am not complaining, but I definitely did not read/complete as many as I had hoped. Still, I would love to get back into reading more fantasy. I may start with reading some standalone fantasy books and completing the ones I am already books into.

What books are likely to be on your 2021 TBR?

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Destiny’s Embrace (Beverly Jenkins)

★★★★★★☆

Title: Destiny’s Embrace
Author: Beverly Jenkins
Genre: Fiction/Historical Romance
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

 Logan Yates, a self-important ranch owner, must confront his feelings for his beautiful, free spirited housekeeper, Mariah Cooper. 

Well, this one was fun for sure. After a bad run with romance novels, I finally picked up this one as I had heard good things. I am glad I did, because it restored my faith that good romance novels do exist.

This story takes place on a ranch in 1880s California and I was surprised to find I really enjoyed the setting. Although the relationship moves forward VERY quickly, the characters were fun and feisty and the romance was actually kind of sexy and sweet at the same time. The sexy times scenes were not over the top or too graphic, which I really appreciated. I don’t need dot-to-dot descriptions, people!

Overall, this was one of the better romances I have read in a while. The tone was good, there was no unnecessary conflict (another pet peeve of mine) and the setting and side characters were nicely developed. There was a little more to it than just the romance, which I always appreciate.

If you fancy a bit of romance to take your mind off all the worrying stuff going on right now, this novel might just do the trick.

I definitely want to read more books by this author, because she can definitely pen a good story!

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Book of Lost Things (John Connolly)

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: The Book of Lost Things
Author: John Connolly
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Fairytale Retellings
First published: 2006
Edition: Paperback, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2007

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

⚔📕🏰

My thoughts and rating for this book are definitely a question of taste and do not necessarily reflect the quality of the writing. Fairytale retellings are not really my kind of thing. Fairytales ARE not my kind of thing and going into this book I did not know that was exactly what this book is.

It is by no means a bad book. In fact, it weaves a whole plethora of wellknown fairytales into a coherent interesting story. I just did not enjoy it very much. It simply was not my thing. It was not even that the fairytales were very dark and twisted into something else entirely. Many original fairytales were gruesome. I just did not care enough for the story itself and it was the fairytale elements I enjoyed the least.

David, the main character struggles with the death of his mother and fitting into a new family when his father marries another woman and has a child with her. He ends up in a strange dark world and while he is there David grows as a person. I did enjoy his character arc and the ending was satisfying as well, which does help.

The actual writing was fine. The story itself objectively was fine. It just was not for me. If dark fairytale retellings are your thing, you will probably enjoy this a whole lot more than I did.

4 out of 7 stars

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: 16 December 2020

A slower reading week than last week, but I am happy, even if I did not read any books I really loved this week. 🙂

***

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I am about to start The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. It the is the final book on my 20 for 2020 TBR. I hope it’s good!

I am also still listening to Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga. I am learning a lot from that one. So far it has mainly dealt with the history of the slave trade in Britain in a lot of detail. It’s very interesting for sure. So much I did not know. I am over halfway.

What did I recently finish reading?

I finished reading One New York Christmas by Mandy Baggot this morning. I am not too enamoured with that one. It was very cringey, even if I liked the plot. That was the final one of the three chicklit Christmas books I wanted to read. I only liked one out of the three, so I did not do so well with those. I am just so picky with romance stories. Maybe it is just me. It must me, because both the books I did not like that much had over 4 stars on Goodreads, I think!

I did also finish To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I am glad I finally read that one. It was a dense read and it took me a while, but I did like it! I found the way it was written very interesting in different. It’s a very introspective book and that is something I do like. I want to try more of Virginia Woolf’s books, so if anyone has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

What do I think I will read next?

I was supposed to have started They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib days ago for a book club, but the book did not arrive in time. It’s supposed to arrive today. It’s a collection of essays to do with music, and I am so excited to read it. I have until next Tuesday, so I will read a bit of it every day hopefully and get it finished before then.