Reading Challenge: Week 5

I really seem to hit a bit of a slump, here having only read one book for this week.  Usually I turn to books and reading more when I am stressed or tired – I suppose its escapism – but at the moment I’m struggling to focus for long enough to really get into a story.  I have re-read Virginia Woolf’s Orlando another gazillion times.  See a pattern here.  I’m due to study Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ after my deadline next week, so expect a slight shift.
Anyway, this weeks book was ‘Card School’ by Andrew Milner, which I loved.  It isn’t a book I would normally pick from the shelves, but many of the best books are discovered that way.  I will post a link to the full review very soon. I will say, that this book get bonus points for being set in a boarding school.  Ever since I first read Enid Blyton, I had a bit of an obsession with boarding school, which I suppose never left.

What have you been reading?


Reading Challenge Update: Week 4

Move along, please.  There’s nothing to see here.

snow1Yep. For the first time since I can remember, I have not read a single book this last week.  Combine assignment writing, a flurry of snow/sick days and the week from hell that just keeps on giving, and its no surprise that something had to give.  I’m just frustrated that it had to be reading that took a back seat and not cleaning the toilet or cooking.  Oh, well.

(I have re-read Orlando and read several gazillion academic journals about it/Virginia Woolf/modernist/sexism…but,  I won’t bore anyone with that.  Anyone who is genuinely interested, can happily proofread my assignment before I submit – I’m only half joking).

Anyway, on my bed side table ready for tonight, is ‘Card School’ by Andrew Milner. I’m quite excited about reading this as it is so different from anything I usually read.  It ticks quite a few boxes on my reading challenges, too!

I shall leave you with a cute picture of the kid playing in the snow.


You wouldn’t think this much snow could cause so much disruption, would you?




Reading Challenge Update: Week 3

After a great start, my reading challenge took a bit of a nose-dive in week 3.  I did read a book, but not from any of the mini CASE HSTORIESchallenges.

I opted for Kate Atkinson’s ‘Case Histories’.  I love Kate Atkinson and have had this book on my Kindle for a while, but never got around to reading it.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and while it is not my favourite of Atkinson’s books, I still recommend it.  I won’t say much more, as a full review is pending (along with reviews of week 1 and 2 books).  I will get there, honest.

VIRGINIAI’ve part read Virginia Woolf’s ‘Collected Essays’ for my assignment.  I’ve probably mentioned my love of Virginia Woolf, ad I’d possibly go as far as to say that I prefer her essays to her fiction. Possibly.  I’m finding them all fascinating and since I love that period in history, I can’t wait to get my assignment out of the way so I can read them all properly at leisure.

Talking about my assignment, I’ve also read Woolf’s ‘Orlando’ again.  Twice.  Some sections more.  Last night I quoted a line, verbatim, without looking it up.  I even got the page number pretty close.  I’m not complaining, though. I can think of much worse books to be stuck with.

HPIn non book challenge reading news, I have started reading ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ with the kid.  Yes, it is quite a momentous occasion and I’d like to think, my reward for reading every Thomas the Tank engine book on repeat for five years.  There are so many books we can read together, now that I’m getting quite giddy with excitement.  It is slow going, though.  In a week we’ve read two chapters, because the kid likes to talk about everything and stop to act bits out, but it’s so much fun!

I’m picking a banned book for my next read. I’ve already read quite a few of them, so I’m going for a re-read.  I have narrowed it down to Margaret Atwood’s ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’, Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, or, Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’.  What do you think?

Reading Challenge Update: Week 1 & 2

There’s two for the price of one with this week’s Reading Challenge updates.  So far, I’m on target for my 100 books, with four under my belt.  I’m going to summarise my reading here, and post links to the full reviews from Goodreads on the brand spanking new reading challenge page.

orlandoThe first book of the year was ‘Orlando’ by Virginia Woolf.  This feels a bit like cheating because I read it last Summer (it’s on my uni reading list), but I’m including it anyway.  I’ll be spending a lot of time with Orlando over the coming weeks as its forming the basis of a big assignment I’m working on.  My general thoughts:  I love it.  Virginia Woolf is one of my all-time favourite writers.  I recently read ‘Mrs Dalloway’ for my book club, so I have been in my element. While on the first read it is an intriguing story, I’m currently on my third read through and I have to say, it gets better each time.  As with all of my uni reading, I do a lot of background and contextual reading which adds a lot to understanding.  I’m having to reign myself in a little here, before I bore everyone.  ‘Orlando’ fits into Book Riot’s Read Harder LGBTQ category.

I’ve also completed the Read Harder’s short stories category with Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Nocturnes’.  ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Ishiguro is a noctuensefantastic novel, so when I spotted this collection in my local library, I snapped it up.  I love short stories, especially when I’m busy with other reading.  It’s good to have something you can dip in and out of; something which takes less commitment than a full novel.  That said  I couldn’t put this book down and read it in one sitting, staying up until 3am to finish the final story.  I’ll post more in my proper review, but if I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to read this collection.

Also read is Brecht’s ‘Life of Galileo’ for uni and another re-read galin Emile Zola’s ‘Germinal. ‘Life of Galileo’ is an absolutely brilliant play, but not something I would normally read.   This is
another option for my Uni assignment against ‘Orlando’ and the poems of Okigbo.  Despite my love for Woolf, it was a difficult decision to make because I loved ‘Galileo’ so much.

‘Germinal’ is my first banned book of the year, as it was banned by the Vatican.  I first read ‘Germinal’ in my very early twenties.
germinal(Scarily over a decade ago. How the heck did that happen?)  The thing I’ve noticed about re-reading books later in life, is how much perspective and opinions change.  It can be like reading a different book.  ‘Germinal’ really is a masterpiece and I don’t think I appreciated it enough first time around. I’ve made a note to try to read some more by Zola this year.

Also, I’ve added a new challenge to my list.  (Yes, I know). My lovely librarian talked me into joining in with the Derbyshire Libraries challenge.  There are only four books on it and I’ve got until the end of March, so it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.  The categories are:  a new author; a new genre; something to learn a new skill and a book to gain a new knowledge.  It should be fun!

One thing I have learned so far with the challenge is that generally I don’t think too much about what I am going to read.  My usual library style is a little bit like Supermarket Sweep – I grab as many books as I can carry (and that my card will allow) and run.  My last visit to the library was a lot more considered.  I spent time carefully making my choices and wondering which category each book would fit into.  While I think this will in the long-term widen my reading; I do tend to go for familiar authors or intriguing covers/blurb; I don’t want my personal reading to become too careful.  I’m going to have to try to keep a happy medium between fun and challenging.

What have you been reading?

Reading Challenges 2015

I love reading.  I also love a good challenge,so it stands to good reason that I love reading love bookchallenges.  For the past few years I’ve participated in the Goodreads Challenge. Set the number of books you aim to read and off you go.  It couldn’t be easier.  This year, I’ve decided I want something more.  I have set the goal of 100 books on Goodreads, but I am planning to incorporate other challenges.  Here’s my round-up of the best 2015 reading challenges.

The Banned Books Challenge:  This is probably my favourite of all of the challenges I found and I wasted no time in signing up.  Perhaps it appeals to my well-hidden rebellious streak or something.  There are different levels to choose from based on how many books you plan to read.  I’m going all out as ‘Leader of a Revolution’ with the goal of reading more than fifteen books.  You can read along for fun, but to participate officially, all you have to do is review the books you’ve read on Goodreads or similar.  Check out the Buckling Bookshelves website for more info.


Book Riot’s Read Harder: Another challenge that really appeals to me.  Rather than ticking off specific books, you tick off tasks.  Ranging from genre related tasks to subject or author tasks, this challenge will really broaden literary horizons, which is what all good book challenges should do.

The Diversity Challenge:  Another interesting challenge for reading more widely is My Little Pocketbook’s ‘Diversity of the Shelf’ reading challenge is another winner.  Again you can choose your own level, opting to read from one to more than twenty-five books.  The only specification is that every novel must be written by or have a main character who is of colour.  You can only sign up until 12.1.15, so if this one is for you, hurry!

Around the World Challenge: This challenge from All About Books got me really excited.  It worldinvolves two of my favourite things, books and MAPS.  Embed a map onto your blog and mark off the places in the books you have read.  There are also optional mini challenges you can complete to spice it up a little more.

The Emma Kerry Insanity Challenge:  As I was typing this up, I pondered how cool it would be to fins a book (or multiple books) that fit all of these challenges.  If I manage to find one, I’ll let you know!

I’ll be updating my blog every Wednesday with how my reading challenges are going.  Now though, I’m off to play with my maps.

You DO have time to NaNo.

Yes, you do!  No, really, you do.  *Gives self a stern stare*

1.  Make time.  My mum always used to nag tell me that you make time for whats important, and while her advice was at times dubious (eating apple pips result in apple trees growing out of my ears?) this time, I tend to agree.  Turn off Facebook/Twitter/step away from the videos of kittens/stop obsessing over castles and country manors on Rightmove (just me? Okay, then) and get on with what is really important – your novel.  Go on.

2. Every minute counts.  In an ideal world, I would get up and head straight to my desk (turret?) and write.  I wouldn’t have to worry about pesky day jobs or cooking or cleaning.  This is not an ideal world, though and finding a few consecutive hours to write is not going to happen every day – if at all.  A novel is made up of single sentences.  Snatched minutes and half hours here and there all add up.

3. Plan.  No matter how understanding your other half/kids/friend are, life is not going to stop for a month.  I have a birthday party and a big OU deadline on the same day, so I know that for a few days, my priorities are elsewhere. Hopefully, I will be able to work around this and get a few extra words in before and after, so I’m not left with a huge deficit to make up.  I say, hopefully.

4. Prioritise.  If you are really dedicated to NaNo and completing your novel, then make it a priority.  It goes without saying, that some things are going to have a higher priority – working, kids and whatnot, but NaNo needs to be up there with the best of ’em.

This post is as much a pep talk to myself, as it is to anyone else.  NaNo won’t be easy.  In fact, it will be damned hard, but another pearl of wisdom from my mum  – everything worth doing is!

Good luck to everyone else who is NaNoing! Not that you need luck, ’cause you can do this!

NaNo Time

downloadYes, its that time of year again – NaNoWriMo.  For any non-writers out there, it means that many writers you know, will spend November holed up, mainlining caffeine and sugar while they try to write 50k words in 30 days.  If it sounds like complete insanity, that’s because it is.

After taking a NaNo break last year, I am planning to attempt it again this year.  I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in 2011 and 2012.  This time around, I’m planning on a slightly different approach.

My first attempt,  I planned meticulously. Multi-coloured post-its adorned my walls and I had character sketches, mind maps and all manner of other plot aids to help me stay on track.  It didn’t work.  I wound up getting so caught up on the details that my creativity was stifled.  I ended up with major writer’s block by week 2, and I struggled to break free.  The end  result was a stilted mess filled with cardboard characters and dull plot-lines.

For my second attempt, I tried ‘pantsing’ (flying by the seat of your pants…no plan, no plot, make it up as you go along) which was an even bigger disaster.  The words flowed freely, but at the end of November I had an even bigger mess.  My main character changed profession seven times, murdered someone and then vanquished a demon…in chapter one.  Car-crash mess.

This year, I’m aiming for somewhere in the middle.  I’m drawing up detailed character bios and sketching brief chapter outlines.  I’m using the snowflake method I’ve read so much about, but never actually given much thought to and I’m hoping to know exactly where my story is going, without bogging myself down with too much detail.  Sounds easy, right?! Ha!

Have you/are you doing NaNoWriMo?  What is your strategy?  Do you have any tips?