May’s State of the Union

The Story So Farbookshelf

Well it’s not quite the half way mark for 2015 and perhaps this is a good as time as any to do a checkpoint.

After nearly a year of loading previously written book reviews, you might be glad/interested to know that I have now run out of “stuff I have written before”. I have no more in the buffer in terms of book reviews.

At the beginning of the year I also made the concious decision to not give myself a reading target, and read when I felt like it. This means I’ve read about 30 books this year so far and reviewed virtually all of them.

Whilst my traffic started out quite high it’s slipped a little. Still not back to where it was last year, but it’s still on shaky ground and perhaps it’s time I stepped up my game here a little if I’m to come close to my 2015 resolutions (note to self, go read them again and perhaps pin them on wall somewhere!). I’ve recently checked my Google stats and it seems i’ve been dropped off the indexing so I’ve gone from having 800+ pages being indexed to 44 which is a little worrying and I’m trying to work out why

So what’s the outlook for the rest of the year?

I still have other posts scheduled into next year – primarily Sunday Salon and stitch related posts moved over from a previous blog. Book reviews though? The drop in my reading rate means that reviews will be coming as and when I finish a book, not 6 months down the line, as was the case at the back end of last year. There are some Christmas related ones that I read late last year that are scheduled this December so those will come up sooner than you think

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes
Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

I’m going to aim to take part in more community sessions too – the upcoming ArmchairBEA sessions (posts already prepared!) as an example. I might do more sewing posts to show you a Work In Progress.

For every ebook I read, I am also trying to read a paper book, which means I am reading back list as well as front list. You may have possibly seen the shift in focus in my reviews (I hope you have!) and perhaps find the additional information useful.   The paperbooks are often longer than the ebooks however, so that is one of the reasons my reading rate has slowed (yeah yeah, excuses!).

On Writing.

I don’t know if this is the universe ganging up on me or whether I’m just seeing things that aren’t there but there have been a few collisions around writing (hearing about new-to-me writers groups, feeling a little more voluble whilst writing, wondering if I should attempt Nanowrimo this year – if only I can come up with an idea in time!).  So I don’t know if you’ll see more posts out of me that are not necessarily book related, just word related.

So: at the end of May how you doing? How’s the blog coming along? you still excited?



Sunday Salon: Size Does Matter…?


Size Does Matter … or does it? Do you only buy paperbacks or hardcover? Consider the number of pages before reading a book? Have the same size grouped together in your bookshelf?

I have a mix of hardbacks and paperbacks on my bookshelf: the hardbacks are my “permanent collection” and are there for keeps. I rarely, if ever, lend these out. Paperbacks are there to be read once and most are passed on when I’m done. There are a few paperbacks that are kept in the permanent collection; these are books such as the Persephone Greys, which are of such delicious presentation (down to having their own individual bookmarks) that they dont get leant out once you get your hands on one!

I buy hardbacks if I know I’ll be wanting to keep it. There are only a small number of authors that I will still fork out the money to get a hardback, and have them taking up the space. Otherwise I will wait for the paperback to come out and get that. It actually helps me save money in the long run, because by the time it comes out in paperback, I’ve forgotten the initial urge to buy it, and know that if I was meant to read it, it would come across my path some other way (usually through Bookcrossing).

I don’t generally worry about the size when buying a book, but can be when I am reading it – sometimes I need or want to read a short book because I’m not in the mood for a longer, more challenging book. Sometimes I need one that will fit the handbag when commuting.

The larger books (e.g. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and the larger Ken Follett books) are becoming more prevalent now as I’m rotating the smaller books off. I will read them when I have time to concentrate on them, and when I don’t have to keep them in my handbag in order to get a few minutes on the train.

As for shelf stacking – the books have previously been  ordered in size of height rather than colour, alphabetically or in thickness etc. This is because I find it more visually appealing to have it tidy. It also allows me to stack more books into what is, essentially, a smallish shelf space. Currently they are grouped in themes (author etc) regardless of height, but I dont know how long that will last!

So what about you – how are you with book size?

Sunday Salon: To DNF or not to DNF?



DNF – that dreaded point that you decide that it’s best that you and a book are best parted before you go any further, and you declare the whole escapade as a Did Not Finish

Some people stick with a book to the dreaded end, even if they are hating the book, often simply because they dont like to admit they didnt get on with a book. I can remember only taking one book to the bitter end, and that was Papillion, only because it was the Book of the Month at my local book group. Still haunts me that I didnt have the nerve to stop when I should have.

I now do DNF with an almost wild abandon. Too many books, too little time for me to be bogged down in books I’d never enjoy. Life is hard enough as it is without adding to the malaise.

I’ve ditched books less than a chapter in because of the stream-of-conciousness writing style (and I’ve flicked later into the book to find that style hasn’t changed). I’ve ditched pre-release review books half way through because I simply don’t have the energy to wade through the three page long paragraphs. I’ve ditched award winning books part way through after putting them down in favour of those 7 books I’ve read subsequently, and that on reflection, I really dont care to go back to it so it’s been sidelined. I’ve just finished a book set in Tudor times, where the Queen referred to “mum” and “dad” (a modern slang term to refer to her parents) and swore in very modern English where ever possible. I know it was supposed to be a “reimagining” and I know she was supposed to have been a “commoner”, but really!

There’s nothing specific that will make me DNF. The writing style of course, the multiple page paragraphs…..I think it’s ultimately those books when I am having to constantly work at trying to enjoy a book. Reading shouldn’t be work, it should be enjoyable, relaxing, maybe uplifting, but never work…..

So do you have a DNF policy? How far into a book do you call it quits? Have you thought you might quit on a book, but be grateful that you didnt?


Sunday Salon: Thoughts on Hyped up Books

The Sunday Salon


I don’t think I’ve ever read a modern book purely because of the hype. I’ve avoided some almost exclusively because of the hype (Twilight, 50 shades etc) only to hear people talking about it in hindsight and saying that once they’ve got passed the hype and hysteria, the writing is average at best – let’s face it, we’re a bit snobby about out books!

However, I have brought books like Wolf Hall, which has had a certain level of hype after winning so many awards. However, I have yet to read any book in the series – I’ not in a rush to read it, but  I brought it because I have read quite a few books in the same vein and would like to see if it stands up to the awards.

I know people who rave about the classic Wuthering Heights. Me? I dont see what all the fuss is about. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have read it – even more times starting and failing to complete – and still think it is a much overrated book, and certainly doesn’t stand up to all the hype (or is it reverence?) that the book still garners today.

What are your thoughts/reactions to a hyped-up book?

Sunday Salon: Posting Frequency – Quality over Quantity?


What do you think of posting frequency? Is it a Question of Quality over Quantity

After a year or so of blogging about books, I realised that I had to decide on how frequently I would publish posts and I decided that a post should go out every other day.  It allows me to ensure that the blog is regularly updated, but reducing the chance of me (and my readers) getting bored.

With a reasonable number of reviews in my back pocket that I could schedule, it allowed me to look at my reviews critically, and ditch those that – looking back – were seriously lacking.  Some still needed work and I had the chance to schedule those posts that were “good enough” whilst working on the others. Some still are not the best reviews I’ve ever written but that’s fine.

I also concentrated on looking for other source material than book reviews. Blog Prompts, author spotlights and interviews.  They are still scheduled to be published every two days like all the other posts, but it allows for a variety of posts to be published, and I hope my blog is more interesting for it. Come 2015 however, I’ll review how the performance of this frequency has beenm, and decide what to do in the new year.

I currently have posts scheduled for another few months, but it’s now becoming a little inflexible and hard to know what is where – god forbid that I want to schedule a new post somewhere in the next two weeks – I need to work out which date(s) I can use, then make sure that any posts scheduled for then are moved around accordingly. Therefore I think I will still have a number of posts written and held in the back pocket, reread and reviewed accordingly, and then keep a rolling forward schedule of posts.  Writing when i’m in the mood for posts to be scheduled later also means that I can concentrate on the raison d’etre of this blog – reading books – not having to worry about needing to write a review immediately afterwards because I have set some arbitrary date. Which hopefully allows me to finish the book with no pressure, write the review, read it one or more times and do it all again! Sometimes a review can take several attempts, and in some cases, can only be started the first time several days after finishing the book itself.

So, dear reader, how about you? Quality or Quantity in post frequency?


Back to School book blogger challenge – inspiring children


Parajunkee is having a “Back to School Book Blogger Challenge“, and has some prompts between now and August 28th for people to join in!

Challenge #4:

If you are a parent, or have advice for parents….What would you do (or think would work) to foster a love of reading in your kids?

I dont have children of my own, but understand that children copy from those around them so I suggest the following:

  • read age appropriate stories to children from an early age
  • buy books for each child and keep the books within easy access
  • let children see adults reading (it doesnt matter what) – if they see it’s something the big people do too
  • listen to a child read back to you, be it from one of their own books, or something they’ve written themselves
  • let them read books in different formats – picture books, plain narratives, comics (whatever works best for them)

Anything else I’ve missed off?

The Sunday Salon: Reading Places



I’ve been following The Sunday Salon (and several blogs who take part) for several months and finally decided to take part and start contributing.   I am a fairly voracious reader and can read in most places but….

Reading whilst Travelling

I travel by public transport (trains, planes and buses) and cars fairly regularly and of various different travelling times. When I was a child I was able to read in a car – and was forever being told I’d make myself sick as a result! In the last few years, I have realised that I am unable to read text whilst even making short journeys.

I initially thought it was just the reading of text so I used the travelling down to an airport on the coach to try out listening to an audiobook. Unfortunately the motion of the coach and the general lack of moment means that I am lulled into a light sleep. I therefore wake up 30 minutes later having missed a whole chunk of the story and unaware of where I got to previously.

I am currently doing a daily commute of about 90 minutes, but only read on occasion. On the morning route, I’m often reading the newspaper, or simply catching up on sleeping ahead of a long day. On the way home, I tend to listen to the radio – BBC Radio 4 have several news programs followed by a comedy program, which can be less demanding than trying to concentrate on a book.

So what’s my favourite place to read?

As you can probably tell from the above, I am no longer able or really willing to read whilst travelling. Therefore I generally read whilst static  – mainly at home, etc  I usually lie on or in my bed, but sometimes also read in my sitting room – though that is the room where the TV is! I also listen to audiobooks, mainly when I want to do something with my hands, such as cook or clean

So, What about you – can you read whilst travelling?  Where do you prefer to read?


Do returns diminish on rereading and re-rereading?

Stuart Kelly posts in The Guardian newspaper an article on the re-reading of books, especially those that are not classed as “classics” Do returns diminish on rereading and re-rereading?.

I had an awkward moment during this year’s deliberations over the Man Booker prize. We had just trudged through 151 novels (I actually read a few more than that – 183 in all to be precise – but that’s a tale for a different time) and we began the process of re-reading the longlist. As I re-cracked a spine, like some kind of literary Bane, it struck me that I don’t re-read that often. I re-read classics most: Scott and Dickens, Eliot and Woolf, Melville and Zola most often. I’ve read Ulysses more times than I can remember (but sometimes just sections), and Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual certainly more than thrice. But contemporary novels? It was an embarrassing blank. I’ve certainly read Midnight’s Children more than once, and I’ve read Golding’s Rites Of Passage and Byatt’s Possession twice. Occasionally, with a cold, I’ve re-read The Mouse And His Child by Russell Hoban. I’ve dipped back into many books, from Finnegans Wake to The Recognitions by William Gaddis to Christine Brooke-Rose’s Textermination. But actually re-reading? Less than a handful of modern novels.

There are some books I do go back to time and again, but thinking about it, they do seem to be those classed as “classics”. Jane Eyre; Pride and Prejudice; Wuthering Heights (to see if it’s any better on the nth reading). Middlemarch is still on the shelf, hidden at the back, just in case I run out of any other reading material.

For modern books (lets say sub 100 years old), there are very few that I’d read more than once. Some Agatha Christie books perhaps, but not many, and when I do it’s for the brevity of the story telling – many of her stories are under 300 fairly short pages.

I am a sucker for failing to remember “whodunnit”. That’s why reading mysteries can be great, as I can read the same book several times and still be surprised at the end. Despite this trait of mine, if the book itself doesnt stand up (in terms of writing style etc), then there’s few reasons for me to read it more than a few times. I have plenty of modern crime novels on my shelves, which I havent got rid of, not because they’re great to dip in and out of, but mostly because I’m loathe to get rid of all those lovely hardbacks…..

I read a decent amount of books a year (and have about 3 years worth of reading on the shelves without having to return to a book even once), but I cant think of one that I have the urge to put on the special shelf to be read again.

Are there any books you read over and over again (especially modern ones)? Do you get something new each time you read it, or is it the familiarity and comfort of the prose that makes you come back each time?

Lost in Books: Sunday Salon: Reading as a Solitary AND a Social Activity

Becca, Over at Lost in Books recently posted in her : Sunday Salon about Reading as a Solitary AND a Social Activity.

In her post she explains:

For me, the joy and pleasure I derive from reading comes not from just the solitary experience, but also the shared experience.  I love curling up by myself in my big semi-comfy armchair with a blanket and one of the cats and just falling into the pages of Whitman or Austen or Rowling, but I also love that when I want to, I can come and bug all of you with how much I loved (or sometimes didn’t love) the story.
I can dissect with you the major plot points, the character’s positives and negatives, and whether the author uses metaphors brilliantly or has an urgent need for a thesaurus in his life.

And then follows with the following questions

What about you?  
Do you find that sharing your love of books makes you happier?  
Are you naturally introverted and this is a way to socialize for you while sharing an interest?  
Are you naturally extroverted and this is a way to make reading feel less lonely?  

How has the world of blogging and social media affected your reading habits?

I am a natural introvert but reading has lead me to meet some wonderful people over the years, many of whom I would now call friends.

Blogging has meant that I pay more attention to the books I reaf and the posts I write, even if it means I read more slowly. Reviews written previous to blogging have been frequently poor, so that I – never mind anyone who reads my posts – have a clue what the book is about or what I thought about it.

Social Media has changed my reading habits, in that I now interact with publishers and writers more frequently than I ever thought possible before, and occasionally get books to read ahead of publication. I in turn try to provide an appropriate review for the book, and hope these are of some use to the author.  I also interact with my local bookstores more often, resulting in me supporting them more (either by actually buying a book from their store or simply interacting with them on twitter/facebook)