The best-laid plans

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Each year recently I’ve resolved to either eschew reading challenges altogether or make them manageable by calling them goals or wishes. And each year I find myself sorely tempted by shiny new-to-me memes.

It will surprise none of you that 2021 seems to be the same old same old. In 2016 I succeeded in completing the quantity of books I’d aimed (in the Goodreads Reading Challenge) for by year’s end simply by underestimating the number I was certain to finish, and that’s continued to be the case for five years. But other goals have been more elusive: the fifty titles I listed to be ticked off for the Classics Club challenge ending 2020 remained unachieved, even though I changed some of my choices.

So, Twenty-Twenty-one, how goes it?

Continue reading “The best-laid plans”

Further reading

Artwork by Tithi Luadthong from

Approaching the last two months of this extraordinary year — one which I’m sure is seared into our collective consciousness — I thought I’d briefly, with your gracious acquiescence, take stock.

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 70 titles so far in 2020, surpassing my modest target of 60 for the whole year. Bar one or two I’ve reviewed them all too, on Goodreads as well as here. As the year progressed (even as conditions globally regressed) I determined to be less constrained by goals and targets and challenges and go mainly for comfort reading, even if some titles weren’t necessarily comfortable reading.

So, as November and December beckon, what am I likely to have piled up by my elbow?

Continue reading “Further reading”

New Year wishes


It’s at the tail end of the year that I look forward to what literary delights the coming year has in store for me, what my wishes are concerning books to be read and discussed.

I’ve already put up a retrospective post here detailing how I got on with the challenges and goals I’d set myself for 2019; now it’s time to see if, knowing what I’ve actually achieved this year, I intend to be as ambitious for 2020.

The answer turns out to be both “yes” and “no”.

Continue reading “New Year wishes”

The story so far

Library, Tyntesfield House, Wraxall near Bristol

Tomorrow sees the official start of 20 Books of Summer (as announced by the redoubtable Cathy of and though I’ve rather jumped the gun by already finishing my first book (1) I intend to post the requisite number of book reviews before the event ends on September 3rd. If I somehow don’t get through twenty titles it’ll be 15 Books or even 10 Books of Summer that I’ll be observing.

However, as — too soon — we’ll be at the halfway point of the year in four weeks, this seems as good a time as any for a retrospective. Am I pleased with my progress? Will the quality of what I’ve completed matter more than the quantity? And, more to the point, can I make it all sound entertaining enough to keep your interest?


Continue reading “The story so far”

Close encounters

We’ve not long passed May Day, the waymarker for the second third of the year. I thought I’d just do a little crystal-gazing and a quick retrospective in the lull between reviewing one book and the next.

First, the scrying. May being Wyrd & Wonder month, with a focus on fantasy, I’m firming up what I’d like to read over the thirty days. In the photo above, going left to right, you can see my final (?!) choices for High Fantasy, Low Fantasy and Grimdark, and below these, Urban Fantasy, Portal Fantasy and my take on Fairytale.

Still to be decided are Magic Realism and Myth, but I have a shortlist for both; and which titles will emerge will be as much a surprise for me as it will be for you. Will they be as mainstream as the others or rather more obscure?

Continue reading “Close encounters”

An end in sight

As we start to pass through the portals of the New Year you may have noticed I still haven’t fully reviewed 2018. But how can one truly review something that isn’t yet complete? Let one meal be finished before we can start digesting, I say, and then we can contemplate the next smorgasbord!

Here then — on the last day of the year — is my look back at the last year’s achievements, presented with a clean conscience that 2018 is indeed done and dusted, or will be by the time many of you read this …

Now, statistics can be boring unless one draws conclusions from them, so I’ll accentuate the conclusions but row back on the number crunching!

Continue reading “An end in sight”

The story so far

Books read and reviewed in Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge, as of December 15th:

A little over halfway through the last month of the year, and it’s time to see how my bookish year has gone so far. I set myself an easy Goodreads challenge to read forty books in 2018 but soon upped it to fifty-two as I passed the first benchmark well within forty weeks. I’ve reviewed 53 books for the Goodreads challenge, but I’ve actually read two more, with two reviews in preparation (titles by Kate Atkinson and Natalie Babbitt). I may well hit fifty-six or more by year’s end as I’m reading two more at the moment.

Of course, I know I’m a lightweight compared to many of you so these are just observations (obvs!) and not a boast.

Another goal I’d set myself for this year was to even up the gender balance in terms of authors read. How did I do?

Continue reading “The story so far”

The Quest for Books


I was interested in the results of a Goodreads online poll listing responses to the question “Where do you usually buy books?” — interested for two main reasons. First, for the fact that physical books were clearly still very much popular; and secondly because a good third still rely on their local bookshop for their purchases.

True, internet giant Amazon accounts for a hefty quarter of the total, though since many other online booksellers do some business through Amazon that seeming exclusivity may be mitigated to some extent. The category “online, elsewhere” is clearly a catch-all though: does ‘elsewhere’ include charity shops, shoplifting, housebreaking, book piracy, secret presses and so on?

Local bookstore 31,674 (32.3%)
Amazon 26,230 (26.7%)
Online, elsewhere 21,583 (22.0%)
I don’t. I have a library card and friends who like to share 17,903 (18.2%)
Direct from the publisher 732 (0.7%)
As of 3rd January 2016 98,122 total votes


A total of nearly a hundred thousand responses is not to be sneezed at, and I’m guessing fairly representative of English-speaking book buyers. I’m also heartened by the numbers of those who borrow or share books, especially where public libraries are concerned. As I’ve recently noted, over the last year a quarter of books I’ve read have come from the library. Over the same period I’ve only acquired four books online, not tackled yet because only purchased just before Christmas with Amazon gift vouchers; it’s actually exceedingly rare for me to order anything over the internet.

The rest of 2015’s reading comes from a total mix of sources — borrowed from friends or family, bought from charity shops or genuine book outlets, and rereads from my own bookshelves. Years ago I used to get review copies direct from a British publisher of scholarly Arthurian titles, but that fount has long since run dry; this year I’m aiming to include a handful of independent titles sent to me for review.

Every reader is different, of course we are. But though I’d like to think that many, perhaps most, of the followers of this blog would plump for buying their books at their local bookshop (if such a one indeed exists for them) I suspect the results may yet surprise me. Feel free to input your response here — but don’t delay, the poll closes in a week!

Virtual bookshelves

card index

How much the world changes in a lifetime! Hands up if you can remember having to physically find a public telephone box to call from (when it worked) if you needed to tell someone you were running late? Or having to wait a few days for your film to be developed and printed by a specialist shop to see if those snaps you took were works of art or a waste of time? Or going into a library and searching through yellowing index cards in catalogue cabinets to see if they housed the book you were looking for?

Sometime in the last century I morphed from a bona fide student to a branch library assistant and I retain deeply imprinted memories of Continue reading “Virtual bookshelves”