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…on the bookshelf – Jan/Feb…

With a messed-up, crazy December, January was a weird mix of recouping and recovery in the sense of relaxing and self-care, but also recovery in the sense of a whoooooole lotta work. As much as I would normally churn through the books over summer holidays, 2020 was off to a very slow start. Now, though, we are two months into the month, and life has settled back into it’s regular rhythm, and I am back up to pace and making good headway on my reading goals for this year.

In previous years, I’ve chosen a nice clean goal of 52 books – one per week, that shouldn’t be too hard? One wouldn’t have thought so, but I would hit halfway by around March, and then drop off. Last year, I decided to let go of any expectation, or fear of Goodreads judgement, and set it lower, at 20, as part of the 202020 challenge. It ended up being one of my most productive years, with a total of 45 books under my belt.

Lesson learned, I kept my 2020 goal similarly modest, chosing a number that was higher than last years goal, but under last year’s total read. I settled on 30 books. As of this morning, I am sitting pretty at 14 completed, so close to half way. Not bad for 2 months! That also doesn’t count the books I read aloud for homeschool, or the fanfics I read which would be equivalent to another three novels.

The Woolgrower’s Companion, Joy Rhoades // Loaned to me by AJ, this is the prequel to The Burnt Country that I read last year. It is an enjoyable rural drama, with modern ideas and era-authentic attitudes seamlessly woven together to create a sense of realism with just enough discomfort to make you appreciate that times have indeed moved on. With assumptions galore piling on top of language barriers, it makes for an interesting look at how we perceive & react to those we consider “outsiders”.

The Bodysurfers, Robert Drewe // One of my NovelTea books, it is a collection of short stories loosely centres around the one family. I’m not a huge short story fan, but didn’t mind this as a semi-easy poolside read over the holidays.

The Crown: The Inside History // My mum had loaned me this forever ago, when I first got addicted to the Netflix series. I loved to get the historical perspective behind the each episode of season one, and basically confirmed my thoughts that it is a fictional drama with characters that have familiar names, rather than a semi-accurate historical recount. A great read for royal watchers, history buffs, and fans of the series.

How To Catch A Wild Viscount, Tessa Dare // because what is summer without a romance read? Tessa Dare is one of my fave historical romance authors, and this novella, free on Kindle, was a quick and fun read with a dash of pining and slow burn, rekindled romance.

A Right Honorable Gentleman, Courtney Milan // My other favourite historical romance author, Courtney Milan, also had a short novella out that I hadn’t read yet, so grabbed it for some upstairs/downstairs, society be damned romance.

The Creative Family, Amanda Blake Soule // A re-read, but also inspiring, The Creative Family is a waldorf inspired book on how to encourage, support and promote creativity in young children. I find something new to take away every time I read it.

In An Instant, Suzanne Redfearn // A Kindle First read, told from the perspective of a dead teenager. Love, grief, memory, connection, self-preservation all twist together to keep her bound earth-side long after her mortal self is dead. It was intriguing to look at the motivation of the various still-living characters through the objective perspective of the one who can see their actions apart from everyone else.

Saving Missy, Beth Morrey // I found this one on BorrowBox, and to be honest, didn’t love it, but it also wasn’t terrible. A story of grief in it’s many forms, and finding a future in the connection of community.

The Other Bennet Sister, Janice Hadlow // A pride & prejudice variation, centred on Mary Bennet. The first section was almost as dull as Mary herself, and it was a bit slow going, but once I was about a third in, I was hooked and wanted to see how Mary ended up. A satisfying read in the end.

The Upstairs Room, Kate Murray-Brown // I picked this up at the library last week, and made the epic mistake of starting to read over morning tea. Yah, turns out school was cancelled that day as mummy had a case of new-book-itis. I probably would have liked to see a slightly more detailed resolution at the end, some of the characters were annoying as heck, but the writing was absolutely stunning and the story was rather compelling. I’m not normally one for ghost stories, but loved this one, probably because it wasn’t solely focussed around the supernatural aspect, but also wove through a fair dose of domestic and inter-personal drama to keep the non-creepy story going as well.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope, Claire North // oh. man. What a RIDE! Fascinating, compelling, creepy as heck, Hope is a girl who exists only in the present. The moment she is out of sight, she is forgotten, as if she never existed. Woven amongst her various ways of surviving, is the tale of an app, that, in the way of deliciously horrifying dystopia, isn’t that far from reality. If you’ve ever side-eyed the creep factor of Facebook serving you ads for things you only mentioned verbally and never searched for, or wondered why everyone’s photos on Insta look so very similar, meet Perfection. Perfection will take that creepiness to the next level, and encourage you towards, well, Perfection, with game-like points and rewards, tie-ins and sponsorship. The ultimate prize? Access to mind-altering treatments. That goes about as well as you would expect an app messing with brains to go.

Such A Fun Age, Kiley Reid // I listened to this as part of the February #kniterarysociety on instagram, and loved it. It reminded me that I need to get much better seeking out and reading diverse authors. Emira is the black babysitter of a white toddler, who gets pulled up at the store late one night with accusations of kidnapping. From there, the story snowballs. The toddler’s mother tries to over-compensate in friendliness. The main witness to the event “coincidentally” bumps into Emira down the track. Manipulations pile on top of assumptions and stirred around with a fair whack of the expectations stick, and it all becomes very messy very quickly. I loved Emira, adored the heck out of Briar, who was the best character of the book to be honest, and cackled my head off at how perfectly the author & narrator captured the tone and content of conversation of (white?) mum-friends. It was scarily familiar!! After a discussion at the end, I would definitely recommend the audio over the hard copy – I think the audio really adds to the weight of the characters voices and their differences. I’d highly recommend this book

Handle With Care, Lore Ferguson Wilbert // gifted by a friend, I read this in a couple of days, and it was super helpful. Physical Touch is my primary love language, and this book was a really interesting look at how the purity movement, and the current events within the church around child protection, affect how we view touch within our relationships and congregations. Lots of great insights in what touch looked like for Jesus, and how we can apply that to the way we use touch to honour others.

Atomic Habits, James Clear // Another audiobook that I picked up when I had an excess of audible credits, I’ve enjoyed this listen. Lots of common sense, practical tips, on making smalls changes to help shape the bigger picture of how you want your life to be. I’ll be giving it another listen to really dig into a couple of habits I want to break, and a few I want to replace them with.

And phew. What a marathon post! If I keep up my current reading post I may even have to go back to posting monthly like the good old days! Currently in the to-read pile I have last month’s NovelTea classics, and a couple of audiobooks waiting to be downloaded for my morning walk and evening crafting. I’m sure the small folk also have big plans for another trip or three to the library this week, and I’m off to the big smoke tomorrow with a cute little indie bookshop, so I may even fall in there and pick up something to take to the coast with me next week on our homeschool group excursion…one book per day should be adequate rations, don’t we think?

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