2016 Reading Roundup

I know, I know…it’s March.  I’m very late with this post.  In my defence…well, nothing really.  I was in a bit of a blogging funk at the start of the year, so never got round to sharing the books I read last year.  But here they all are:

 

  1. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
  2. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
  3. Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh
  4. Heft by Liz Moore
  5. How Eskimos keep their babies warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood
  6. The Crimson petal and the white by Michel Faber
  7. Complete Write a Novel Course by Will Buckingham
  8. Public Library by Ali Smith
  9. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
  11. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  12. The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse
  13. The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman
  14. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  15. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
  16. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
  17. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater
  18. Every Day by David Levithan
  19. Ash by Malinda Lo
  20. The Good Children by Roopa Farooki
  21. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
  22. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
  23. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
  24. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
  25. The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
  26. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater
  27. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Steifvater
  28. The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater
  29. Hood by Stephen R Lawhead
  30. Cunning Folk- Popular Magic in English History by Owen Davies
  31. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  32. Half Bad by Sally Green
  33. Half Wild by Sally Green
  34. Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas
  35. Hemingway in Love by A.E. Hotchner
  36. Now is the time by Melvyn Bragg
  37. Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown
  38. Half Lost by Sally Green
  39. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

 

That’s actually considerably less than the 47 books I read in 2015, but this year I read a lot more *new* books, that I hadn’t previously read- only two of those listed above were re-reads.  For those who like their stats, out of the 39-

4 I didn’t actually finish (but a couple of those I will likely get back to at some point)

7 were non-fiction (that’s a lot more non-fic than I normally read, the sudden increase was thanks to NOVEL RESEARCH)

25 were library books (working in libraries has some major perks 😉 )

1 I read on Kindle (a massive decrease from 2015, but then again, I did start working in a library in 2016, so I guess that was to be expected?)

Some new favourites include Frenchman’s Creek- oh my god, I still cannot believe I hadn’t read this one of Daphne Du Maurier’s books before now.  Rebecca has (obviously) long since been a favourite of mine, but wow, Frenchman’s Creek has very nearly, almost- possibly overtaken it.  I literally swooned, and then once revived proceeded to fill my ‘bookish quotes’ notebook with basically every single passage.  I LOVED it.  In fact, just thinking about it now is making me want to read it again.

frenchmanscreek

I also fell in love with Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater.  In terms of non-fiction, both Gypsy Boy (a fantastic, unflinching memoir by Mikey Walsh) and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty were incredible.

Honestly, out of the 39 books there really weren’t many (aside from the ones I didn’t manage to finish), that I *didn’t* enjoy this year.  For me, The Half Bad trilogy fell short of my expectations, but only because the ending was SO CRUEL, and I was pissed off about it for days, literally.  The Paying Guests was a bit depressing, but generally everything else I read I liked, and there are quite a few that I’m tempted to revisit again this year.

At the end of 2015, after completing my ‘great re-read of 2015‘ I hinted at a new challenge for 2016, but then that never actually got off the ground.  The challenge was going to be classics.  There are so many books that would be considered classics that I haven’t read, so I was planning to ask people I know IRL, and of course, you lovely lot- if you had any suggestions on where I should start.  But then life happened, and I never got round to it.

I honestly feel like it’s a bit late to be setting myself a reading challenge for 2017, given as we’re almost a quarter of the way through it already, but if there is a classic book that you think I should add to my list then please do leave a comment and I’ll let you know if I’ve already read it or not (chances are higher that I won’t have, I may be a prolific reader, but I lost a lot of years to Point Horror and Sweet Valley High, and honestly I have no regrets about that.)

As for 2017- well so far I’ve read eleven brilliant books, and I have a massive stack of unread books on my shelves to work through, not to mention about twenty unread books downloaded to my kindle, and of course all the books I have access to across the library service…so yeah, I have a feeling it’s going to be a good reading year!

Déjà Vu

That’s the title of the story I’ll be releasing on Wattpad, starting this Friday (24th February)!

I promised last night that I would a. actually follow through and DO THIS and b. tell you, my tiny but loyal readership, a little more about the story itself in case any of you want to read it.  So, here I am.

Déjà Vu is a young adult contemporary novel, set entirely in North Wales, and dealing with- well, basically a lot of the stuff I dealt with as a teen, so- friendship, identity, trying to overcome past trauma, underage drinking, crushes, self-harm and a generous helping of snark.

It is not, however, in any way shape or form autobiographical.  Yes there are little snippets of my experiences parcelled up in my characters, but no more so than in any other character/story I’ve written.  I think all writers put something of themselves in what they write, like little two dimensional horcruxes, but that doesn’t mean that any of the main characters are actually me.  Likewise, although setting the story where my boyfriend grew up, and enlisting the help of our family (thanks guys) to translate some of the Welsh for me- it isn’t in any way based on him or his experiences either.  It’s fiction.  Just to be super clear about that:  I made it up.

It currently stands at 76k words, across 46 (quite short) chapters, although I can’t swear I won’t start tweaking and editing along the way- so the exact figures may vary.  I’m planning to upload new chapters every Monday and Friday.

 

Here is the cover:

dejavucover

(Ta daaaaaa!)

And here is the blurb:

“Ryan Lovell detests the sleepy Welsh village he has lived in his whole life- along with most of the people in it, and in some cases the feeling is mutual. All he wants is to get out the place, but to do that he needs a university place- and to get that he needs a-levels, and money. Neither of which is easy to come by when you have an alcoholic Dad, and are living in the shadow of your own reputation.

Ryan’s best friend Hester is living in foster care and battling her own demons, and his only other friend Dewi has grown distant since they left school. When a new family moves into the village, Ryan gets both a way to make money- in the form of a part-time job as their gardener, and a distraction from his worries- in the form of the new girl Pippa, who joins him and Hester at the local college. For once, Ryan thinks things may finally be looking up- but when he starts blacking out and waking with no memory of what’s happened, he realises that his university plans- and hope of a relationship with Pippa, may be sliding out of his reach.”

 

So, if you like a bit of angst in your literature, enjoy un-pronounceable place names, and are down for strong romantic subplots, then Déjà Vu may be just your thing.  Or alternatively, if you’d just like to offer some support/critique my debut then that’s all good too 😉

This is my profile on Wattpad, where the story will be appearing, so…maybe see some of you over there?  And of course I’ll try to update here too, to let you all know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

N.B. (And I’ll be putting this disclaimer on Wattpad too).  This story does contain reference to (but not descriptions of) self-harm, previous SA, and suicide.  As a survivor of all three, I would hate for anyone to be triggered by that.  I like to think I’ve dealt with the issues sensitively and not used them for shock value- but really, who am I to say what might be triggering to anyone else? So if you think this might apply to you, then it might be best not to read Déjà Vu. I’ll be putting helpline links in the relevant chapters in case anyone is affected.)

Love Mug

I know what you’re thinking: She’s going to tell us she loves coffee.  Well, don’t we all.  After all, coffee is one of the ultimate parenting tools.  Oh no wait, she’s British, so she’s probably going to tell us she loves tea.  I do indeed love tea. And coffee for that matter, as much as that makes me a traitor of sorts (“Off with her head!”)

But that’s not what I want to talk about.  This post is about the actual hot drinks receptacle itself, that is to say, my love mug.

To explain, I have to take you back to Valentines Day 2009. On that day, I woke up to discover, with absolute certainty, that I was miscarrying my first pregnancy. A lot has happened in the four years since, but if I close my eyes I can remember with un-nerving clarity how I felt that day. It was an early miscarriage, we’d only known I was pregnant at all for a matter of days so primarily I was in shock.  I’d barely begun to get my head around the fact I was pregnant, and then I wasn’t anymore.

That possibly should have made it easier and of course physically it was a million times easier than what some mamas must endure when their pregnancy progresses further before coming to a tragic end. But psychologically I was a wreck.  Emotionally I was devastated. No stranger to being let down by others, I am well versed in dealing with disappointment, but to be let down by my own body? It was the ultimate betrayal.

There was very little Chris could say or do to make me feel better.  There was very little anyone could say or do to make me feel better.  Their platitudes “It obviously wasn’t meant to be”, “There was probably something wrong with the baby”, “There’ll be a next time” were like the cold-water I kept splashing on my face in between crying fits, trying to orient me to logic, to statistics, to bring me back to reality, but like the water, they failed miserably.

We had never made a big deal of Valentines Day.  We celebrated our own anniversary, a date that was special to us and only us (and, alright, the probably millions of other couples who got together that day) but Valentines Day seemed like someone else’s celebration.  A fortunate happenstance given the timing of the miscarriage, although despite our lukewarm feelings on the occasion, it did feel somewhat poignant to be spending the day in bed crying and bleeding.

But when Chris went to our local shop to pick up supplies (chocolate, paracetamol, more chocolate) he brought me back this mug.  It has “Valentines Day” written all over it.  Well, actually they’re little pink and red hearts, but I’m sure you see what I’m saying.  I began using it immediately.  We have a bit of a problem with mugs.  Like so many addicts before us, we can always find some way to justify “Just one more” and consequently have not one, but two cupboards full of them.  I have nicer mugs than this one, bigger mugs, posher and pricier mugs.  But this is the single most beautiful and special mug I own.

The hardest thing about days like my 14th February 2009 is that awful, terrifying, hollowing feeling that nothing will ever be okay again.  Well I’m here to tell you that it will.  I’m not saying it’s alright.  No matter what comes next, you will always have that experience, those memories.  That terrible thing, whatever it was, will always have really happened, and happened to you. But there are very few instances in life when things are unsalvageable, where a situation, or a person, is broken beyond repair.

So when other people see me drinking from this mug, they might think “She loves coffee” or “She loves tea” or “That is one tacky Valentines mug” but when I see this mug I see Love. When I drink from it I know that with love, anything is possible.

I wrote this post for Theme Thursday.  Feeling the love? Click the squiggly button above to read other bloggers entries 🙂

Happy Un-Valentines

Romance is tricky when you become a parent. I think people assume the word romance is synonymous with sex, but i’d like to be clear that i’m not talking about sex, i’m talking about romance.
Not so much with the flowers, as i’m a hayfever sufferer but romance in the form of dinner, and wine and talking, maybe watching a movie together, cuddling, holding hands…all stuff that makes single people want to vomit all over themselves basically.
When you’re a parent you already have vomit all over yourself (probably) but it’s unlikely to be your own (unless you caught your child’s pre-school tummy bug that is) and dinner can be a fraught and hurried affair, one of the day’s final hurdles in the race towards bedtime.  Wine is encouraged, but best saved until the children are actually in bed for maximum enjoyment and minimum social services involvement.  You can talk all day but no one is actually listening and there’s constant interruption and questioning and likewise, movies are totally permitted but only U/PG rated, maybe a 12 at tops if you’re a liberal family (as we are).  So, you see, romance has to be orchestrated.
We’ve never really celebrated Valentines Day if i’m honest.  I think the first couple of years we were together we may have exchanged cards/token gifts in a nod to the occasion but it was never really our ‘thing’.  Then in 2009 i woke up on Valentines Day covered in blood and discovered i was miscarrying our first pregnancy.  And let’s be honest, that kind of thing inevitably puts a dampener on anybody’s mood.
I’m pretty philosophical about my miscarriages these days, i feel i have to be as if they hadn’t happened then we wouldn’t have our two beautiful sons.  Their existence would be impossible had i not miscarried just before getting pregnant with each of them.  So it’s virtually impossible to mourn something that lead to, well, this:
But if Valentines Day wasn’t our ‘thing’ before that year, then it DEFINITELY wasn’t from then on.  So it usually goes un-celebrated, un-observed, un-noticed.
This year i saw it coming on the calendar and thought…”why not?”
Only this year i’m working. Ah. So we re-scheduled and had our very own fakeplastic Valentines Day last night instead!
We usually eat as a family at around 5pm ish, sometimes a little later but rarely after 6, but yesterday the boys ate at the usual time but we didn’t.  They had fish pie and vegetables, well they were served fish pie and vegetables anyway, what happens after that i can’t be held accountable for, apparently neither boy can see the appeal of broccoli or cauliflower, even after being given the news that “they’re good for you”.  I also dislike cauliflower so really, who am i to judge?! They had some carrots, so i don’t have too much guilt.
Anyway, i digress, they had their dinner, and later, once they were fast asleep in their beds we changed out of our snot-stained, chocolate-smeared, dog-hair-covered joggers and into something a little smarter, and sat and had dinner all by ourselves, on our own.  Fancy pants Tesco finest meal deal dinner.  We went with salmon en croute as a main, and it both looked and tasted like salmon so i’m almost 100% certain it didn’t contain horse 😉 We also had these cute little chocolate cheesecakes in the shape of hearts (i can hear the single people retching already) and washed it down with some of this:
Yes those are (gasp) presents in the background too! I totally cheated and bought us both mugs from the Disney store when they were on an offer a while back, so all i had to do was dig them out of their (very good) hiding place last night and pop them in matching gift bags, knowing full well that Chris wouldn’t have bought me anything (That isn’t a dig at him by the way, like i say, we don’t usually bother, so really, why would he?!)
We even watched a romantic comedy, all snuggled up on the sofa.  Take that romance!
So being in danger of totally grossing even ourselves out, tonight we’re having the antidote to our fakeplastic Valentines Day- an Un-Valentines night with beer, nachos and playing House of the Dead on the Wii, because romance is all well and good, but there’s nothing like shooting zombies and downing beers together to bring a couple closer 😉
Who says Romance is (un) dead?!