Category Archives: Reducing my TBR Challenge

My 2018 Reading Year – the statistics #Brainfluffbookblog #BrainfluffReadingYear2018

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It’s been a really great reading year with loads of choice within my favourite genres. Although I kept my reading challenge to read and review at least 100 books, I ended up reading 162 books with 125 reviews published and another 23 in hand.

 

I have read 104 books written by female authors and 60 by men – the sharp-eyed among you will have notice that adds up to 164, but there were two books in this year’s list with joint authorship – Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle and Athena’s Champion by David Hair and Cath Mayo.

 

In a related challenge I set myself the task of reading at least two books by female authors previously unknown to me in the Discovery Challenge, as set out by Jo Hall. I managed to read 43 books in this category, which is 27% of my 2018 reading list, while 32 books were by male authors I hadn’t previously read, which means that 47% of the book I read last year were by authors new to me. I’m really happy with that – it means I am continuing to expand my reading experience, rather than only sticking with authors I know and like, which was the case before I started this challenge.

 

I have continued requesting review copies from Netgalley and have also occasionally taken review copies from writing colleagues, so that during 2018 I read and reviewed 64 new releases. I also was determined to read more books on my ever-teetering TBR pile – in the event I managed 55 books, which I’m really pleased about. The huge shock is that this year we only read 6 library books – this simply won’t do. I am a real fan of our local library and I am determined that during the coming year, we will be using the library a whole lot more, otherwise we risk losing it.

 

In 2018 I read 72 science fiction books, 57 fantasy books, 19 crime adventures, 6 contemporary fiction, 4 historical books, 4 non-fiction books. Science fiction includes sub-genres such as space opera, colony adventures, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic, time travel, alternate history, military, futuristic crime, literary and steampunk. Fantasy includes sub-genres such as epic, urban, swords and sorcery, musket and magic, sand and sorcery, underworld, historical, grimdark and coming of age. While I’m aware I probably should widen my reading, I’m not going to. I read for pleasure and escape, these days. I reckon I’ve earnt the right.

 

So much for my determination to read more children’s books… I’m going to give up on this one. It clearly isn’t going to happen, given this has been an ongoing target ever since I started monitoring my reading statistics and each year it’s been a failure. But this year that failure has reached a new low – last year I read 19 children’s books in comparison to the measly 6 of this year. Whereas YA is holding fairly constant at 34 this year, compared with 30 last year.

 

This is a new category I have added. I have read 52 books by small presses and self-published authors, which is 32% of my 2018 reading list. This is an outcome I would like to improve on next year.

How did you get on this year with your reading targets and challenges?

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Review of KINDLE Ebook A Trail Through Time – Book 4 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor #Brainfluffbookrevew #ATrailThroughTimebookreview

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I’ve read and enjoyed some of the books in this rollicking time travelling adventure tale and wanted more of Max’s escapades after reading a particularly intense YA dystopian tale.

Max and Leon are re-united and looking forward to a peaceful lifetime together. But, sadly, they don’t even make it to lunchtime. The action races from 17th century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to 14th century Southwark as they’re pursued up and down the timeline, playing a perilous game of hide and seek until they’re finally forced to take refuge at St Mary’s – where new dangers await them. As usual, there are plenty of moments of humour, but the final, desperate, Battle of St Mary’s is in grim earnest. Overwhelmed and outnumbered and with the building crashing down around them, how can St Mary’s possibly survive? So, make sure the tea’s good and strong…

Once again Taylor weaves her magic with this entertaining and uniquely Brit take on time travelling adventure. Very loosely inspired by Bletchley, the institution of St Mary’s investigates specific times in history for a shadowy organisation that we feel are a covert part of the government. Consequently, there is a lot of make do and mend as there is not much money in the kitty. This time around, Max discovers a new threat which not only endangers her and Leon, but also threatens the very existence of St Mary’s itself.

As ever, threading through the overarching threat posed, are a number of entertaining episodes set at intriguing times in history, as Max and Leon desperately try to evade their pursuers. These include struggling to evade Nile crocodiles in ancient Egypt, and dodging burning projectiles and smothering ash during the eruption that wipes out Pompeii. All this is told through the viewpoint of Max. She is an adrenaline-junkie with a troubled past and the desert-dry sense of humour that pervades the stories she tells. I love her character, the magnificent understatements regarding some of the madcap adventures she is describing, which makes the tragedy that inevitably accompanies some of the more dangerous exploits, even more poignant. This is indeed a book where I laughed out loud and a few pages later had a lump in my throat – Taylor is an author always manages to produce that reaction in me when I’m reading her books. The battle is a magnificent climax and, as ever, the book ends just in the right place. Thank goodness I have the next one on my Kindle, ready for me to tuck into…

Recommended for fans of time travelling adventure. Though whatever you do, start with the first book in the series, Just One Damned Thing After Another – see my review here – as otherwise, you simply won’t appreciate all the goodness that is layered within The Chronicles of St Mary’s series.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of the Derivatives of Displacement by Jennifer Ellis

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I’ll be honest – I’m not quite sure how this book ended up on my Kindle. I have a hunch Himself bought it, but however it got there, I’m really pleased it did.

Fourteen-year-old Abbey Sinclair likes to spend her afternoons in the physics lab learning about momentum and gravitational pull. But her practical scientific mind is put to the test when her older brother, Simon, discovers a mysterious path of stones that allows them, along with Abbey’s twin, Caleb, to travel back and forth between their world and what appears to be…the future. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who know about the stones, and they soon realize their lives are in danger from a man known only as Mantis. Abbey, Caleb, and Simon must follow a twisting trail of clues that will lead them from their autistic neighbor, Mark, to a strange professor who claims to know the rules of the stones, and to multiple futures—some of whose inhabitants don’t want to stay put.

This book is categorised as a Children’s book, but please don’t let that put you off. Given the complexity of the story, the layering of the characters and the pacing, it feels far more like a YA offering to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The time travel element has been done very well, with the initial hook pulling the reader into the story and then learning the very rich backstory as the adventure continues. The story progression and overall pacing are deftly handled.

Abbey is one of twins, and I enjoyed the fact that the siblings – along with their older brother – get together to try and sort out what is happening. Given they have very busy parents, they are quite a tight-knit unit, although that doesn’t prevent there being strains in their relationship. Ellis has provided a strong protagonist. Nerdy and very clever, Abbey is also observant and people-smart. I did enjoy her awareness, as I have become just a little tired of young protagonists who seem to do nothing but lurch from one major mistake to another.

There is an atmosphere of quiet menace pervading this book, which works very well and had me turning the pages long after I should have put the light out and gone to sleep. As for the antagonists, it was also refreshing to have nuanced, clever villains who are convinced they are doing nothing terribly wrong. In fact, it seemed to me that this book could quite as easily have been written from the viewpoint of at least one of them, desperately trying to search for a lost relative, and have us all terribly sympathetic with him.

The ending was suitably climactic, but left some important questions unanswered, and I am delighted that I have the sequel also on my Kindle as this is a world that won’t leave me alone. Highly recommended for fans of time travel adventures.
9/10

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – February Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, sat down to write a series of very ambitious targets for 2018 when the year was only a few days old. After the success of the last few years, I have become a real fan of this process as it has given me clear targets to work towards throughout the year and then at the end of every month, hold myself to account in fulfilling these goals. So how did I do in February?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After completing Miranda’s Tempest and sending it out last year, I am hoping to have my rewrite completed by the end of March, using the feedback from an agent who has shown interest in the manuscript. She further suggested that I send it to a professional editor before resubmitting it to her, which I intend to do.
 As is often the case, now that I have the completed manuscript, I can see how to improve it further. Though I shall be glad to finish this one – it rides on my shoulders like a demon… I have contacted an editor who is willing to plough through the manuscript in June – so I now have a hard deadline to work to, which is always a help.

• Learn to market my books
I conducted my first giveaway for Running Out of Space along with an Amazon ad and given it was only for 24 hours, I was pleased with the result. I have some extra keywords to add and I’m going to be tweaking my description on Amazon. I have also added the covers for my two self-published novels to my blog site.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I read 13 books in February – and the standout ones for me were the space opera adventures – Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon; The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher Nuttall and Queen of Chaos by Sabrina Chase.
I have undertaken to read at least 24 books this year written by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. In February, the 4 books I’ve read towards my Discovery Challenge 2018 are:-

Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson
Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch… The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch.
An entertaining parallel dimension adventure that really got going after an unexpected twist halfway through which I found original and engrossing.

Going Grey – Book 1 of The Ringer series by Karen Traviss
Who do you think you are? Ian Dunlap doesn’t know. When he looks in the mirror, he’s never sure if he’ll see a stranger. After years of isolation, thinking he’s crazy, he discovers he’s the product of an illegal fringe experiment in biotechnology that enables him to alter his appearance at will…
Tense contemporary sci fi thriller tale with plenty of action and adventure. While the writing is good, there were aspects regarding this book that I didn’t like, so I decided not to review it.

Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks
Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party — one that turns out to be a trap.
Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted — especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.
I really liked how this story draws on the myths of the Celtic gods and goddesses and look forward to reading more about this world.

The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods series by Diane Janes
The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death. Could Linda have discovered something about Robert Barnaby that got her killed? Or does the answer lie in the dead woman’s past? As they pursue their investigations, Fran and Tom find the Barnaby Society to be a hotbed of clashing egos, seething resentments and ill-advised love affairs – but does a killer lurk among them?
I loved this one, which firmly follows in the footsteps of Agatha Christie’s whodunits in realising the time and the intricate plotting. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries.

• Continue teaching TW
We are now working on the final elements of this two-year syllabus for Tim’s COPE project, which needs to be handed in by Easter, so it’s a rather stressful time. Tim is also in the throes of editing the film that was shot last autumn and making very good progress with that. When I see what he now achieves on a daily basis and measure that against what he could manage only a couple of years ago, I cannot get over just how much he has progressed and continues to do so.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I have now resumed my Pilates and Fitstep classes – I wish they weren’t on the same day, but at least I get to jig around once week. With the continuing cold weather, I have gained more weight than I wanted, though I’m hoping to lose most of it for the summer. My hip has been a bit grumbly during the cold, but it is easily sorted out, these days.

I have read a total of 24 books this year, including 7 towards my 2018 Discovery Challenge and 5 towards my Reduce the TBR Pile Challenge. My wordcount for the month, including blog articles and teaching admin as well as work on my novel, was just under 43,000, bringing my yearly total to the end of February to just over 86,000 words.