Wednesday 8 February 2017

Read More Books: January

My New Year's Resolution this year was to read more books... and part of the challenge I set myself was to blog about my progress, so here we are!

January turned out to be one of those super-busy months where I was juggling so many things that it would have been incredibly easy to not make time for reading. I still would have wasted time on social media of course (falling down a rabbit hole of interesting links and seemingly endless news) and crashed out in front of a DVD in the evenings, but I'd have said "Oh, I've been too busy to read!" and let the book on my bedside sit neglected.

But first month into my new challenge I was determined to make time for books, even if it felt at times as though I had none to spare.

So far, I have been completely failing to read first thing in the morning. I confess: the call of the internet (and so! many! bits! of! news!) has just been too strong. I must try harder to resist this in the coming months.

I've been reading occasionally at lunch but I've mostly been reading in the evenings, either in bed or just curled up with a blanket. This is where having just moved house has helped me out: my television is still in a box, under lots of other boxes and likely to stay there for a while.

OK so I still have a few DVDs I can watch (the rest are, again, in boxes under boxes) and I can stream catch-up TV on my laptop now my broadband is working... but it's not the same as just being able to sit down in front of the telly and find endless things to watch to while away the evening. Similarly, most of my personal craft projects are packed up in boxes too. So instead of spending my evenings knitting or sewing while watching TV, I've been writing letters to friends (another old and neglected habit) and reading books (though, of course, not at the same time!).

Basically, I'm pleased to have found time to read this month but very aware how easy it would be to slip back into my old habits.

So, what did I actually read in January?

At the turn of the year I was part way through Making Money by Terry Pratchett. I've been slowly re-reading the whole Discworld series over the past couple of years, mostly on trains and in cafes while on Nice Days Out. This is a series I've been reading since I was about 11 (over 20 years ago) and not yet had enough of. It's been a joy revisiting both well-worn old favourites and the titles I've only read once or twice. It's also interesting actually reading all the books in order as for many years I only bought the ones I found second hand, filling in the gaps in my collection when the opportunites presented themselves.

Now I'm getting to the later books in the series I find myself wanting to ration them, to make the process last as long as possible before I get to the end (I am saving the Tiffany Aching books until last but have no intention of ever reading the final one as I think it would just make me too sad). This is impossible to do while actually reading the books, of course, they're such a delight to read.

This was only my second read of Making Money. I'd forgotten most of the plot (always a bonus when it comes to re-reading a book) and really enjoyed rediscovering all the twists and turns of Moist von Lipwig's second adventure in the world of business. It can't touch Going Postal (one of my all time faves) but more time spent with one of your favourite fictional characters is always a good thing. All in all, a perfect start to the year - though sadly I shall have to be honest and count it as just half a book in my tally of books read in 2017!

Next up: The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay.

I bought myself a whole stack of British Library Crime Classics last year, after falling in love with the beautiful illustrations on the covers. I read a few but they were a real mixed bag: one quite fun, one a bit weird and one a total snooze. It's possible I may end up liking the covers of these books more than the books themselves, but I'm determined to work my way through the rest of the ones on my bookshelf to find out for sure.

I'm very glad I started with The Santa Klaus Murder as I really enjoyed it! It's exactly what you want from a vintage murder mystery: a whole bunch of posh people in a house, a baffling murder, a likeable detective on the case, and lots of amusingly dated dialogue. Hurrah!

Full of renewed enthusiasm for the series, I picked up another one from the pile: The Z Murders by J. Jefferson Farjeon.

This was a very different kettle of fish: a particularly florid thriller in the style of the (excellent) Thirty-Nine Steps. There was not a single believable character, incident or piece of dialogue in the whole of this book and the entire plot was utterly ridiculous... but it was kinda fun? I think if you read this slowly it might drive you bananas but I zipped through it in a couple of sittings and rather enjoyed it (regular eye-rolls included).

In the comments to my New Years Resolution blog post someone mentioned Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache novels. I've been meaning to try these for ages, so when I joined the local library the first thing I did was check their catalogue for Louise Penny's books. Happily, they had the first two titles in the series: Still Life and Dead Cold.

I love a nice cosy mystery novel, and these definitely fall into that category: a charming detective, a small village in Quebec populated by quirky characters, and lots of loving attention to the details of village life.

I enjoyed Still Life but having seen the made-for-TV movie adaptation a while back I remembered the main threads of the plot and whodunnit, which was a little annoying. Reading the book was a far richer experience though, especially as the author often switches points of view mid-scene so you get internal monologues and feelings and reactions from multiple characters not just a plain narrative with one point of view. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that dips in and out of the different characters brains quite like this, it's interesting but sometimes makes it a little tricky to follow exactly which voice you're reading.

My mum ended up borrowing Still Life after I'd read it. She came to visit and finished her own book, so we had a Louise Penny reading session - her reading Still Life and me making a start on Dead Cold. The murder in Still Life is committed with a bow and arrow, and as my mother is an archer she had opinions about the archery in the book and the correctness (or otherwise) of various details!

As I'm still midway through Dead Cold I'll chat about it in next month's post. That's another half a book to add to January's tally though, hurrah.

Books read in January: 4 (3 books, plus half a book finished and half a book started!). Not bad.

What did you read in January? Have you read any of the books I've been reading - what did you think of them?

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, so if you click through and end up buying something (anything!) on Amazon during that session I get a very small payment for the referral.


Pat said...

Granny Weatherwax is my idol :-). I have started the Susan Hill "Serrailler" series. A bit grim in places I can't leave them now.

Ariadne said...

Well done! See? If you start reading then it becomes a habit! I never managed to get this through to my son!LOL! In January I read Emma Cox's Malkin Moonlight, a cat adventure, so sweet!Anthony Quinn's Half of the human race, a romance in between wars and cricket world!,and Kathryn Stockett's The Help which has also become a movie. I loved both the movie and the book, the book has many more characters and details than the movie. Good luck for February!AriadnefromGreece!

Rebekah of The Little Red Thread said...

You go! Reading 4 books is huge! Unfortunately I only read through 3 books so far, 2 of those being Diary of a Wimpy Kid which I read aloud and were horrible. They're super popular over here in the States but even as works of fiction I found them to be bad examples of how kids treat other kids, how there are rarely consequences for bad behavior and so on. The little one enjoyed them for the most part, but us adults found them painful and won't be reading any more.
I also read through Shrill which was "ok" but ended up being more of a autobiography than social commentary though there was that too. I'm not super found of non-fiction so I didn't even finish it. It was for a book club read.

My favorite so far as been Scythe which is sort of a dystopian, futuristic YA book about how humans have conquered death and because of that there now needs to be a select group of people called Scythes to act as Death and control the population. Go check out the synopsis on Goodreads. It's very interesting and a bit morbid in a fascinating way. Hoping the next few books in the series will be more grey on the moral side (which would be far more realistic) than black and white.

Post up you reads on you IG account too ;)

Katrin said...

Wow! Looks like your challenge works...
I read "The year after" by Martin Davies, "The Shadow Siater" by Lucinda Riley (very good, it's a pity that I have to wait another year for the next book in this serie) and I have read one of the Agatha Raisin novels by M.C. Beaton. I forgot the title but it was really entertaining.

Amara said...

Just realized this was a new post! Sorry. Glad you liked the Gamache book a little :) . After having read four or five I think I am in love with him haha. I have a hard time keeping track of the books I read, so I put them all on goodreads with a brief review. Let me know if you get on there. Oh! The person who read the Agatha Raisin book - I love that series too. She is a pot of fun.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Pat - Granny Weatherwax is the best! :)

Ariadne - yup, and the more I read the more I want to read (so the more I try and find time for it). Hurrah!

Rebekah - Ooh, Scythe sounds interesting! I'm definitely going to try and post the books I'm reading over on Insta... gotta take half-decent photos of them for that though! ;) Actually, working out how to take interesting photos of the books I'm reading is going to be a fun challenge in itself.

Katrin - have you seen the TV adaptations of the Agatha Raisin books? So fun!

Amara - I'm really glad I tried the Gamache books! I'll be keeping an eye out for more in the library for sure :)