It’s been a while, again

It’s been over a month since I last posted. To be honest, not much has changed. I’m plodding on with my books. Books I really like I read quickly, other books go a lot slower. Which is okay, I’ve decided just to go with the flow for now, I expect at least until the worse of the pandemic is over, possibly longer.

Today I started house sitting for friends. I do this every summer, they usually go to Spain. But with everything going on they moved their booking to next year. For this year they chose to go to Belgium for two weeks. They can more easily and quickly get home when needed. This year I”m not only looking after dog Keira, but also one year old cat Pien. Pien is even less of a lap cat than my own Luna and Maru. But she seems to be okay with me so far. I’m secretly hoping to get more reading done than normal.

Later this week we’re in for some hot weather, a couple of days it will be over 30C, so much more than sit as still as possible and read I will have a hard time dealing with. I did bring a sketchbook and some sketching supplies. I didn’t bring my cross stitching work in progress, though if I want to I can bring it with, I’ll be going home four days a week for work. But I like the idea of a bit of a break.

Currently, I’m reading the latest book by Jeremy Bates, The Man from Taured, third book of the World’s Scariest Legends series. It’s okay so far. I started this morning and I’m almost halfway already. So I hope to finish it tomorrow, since I have the day off work I’ll have time enough to read. I’m not sure what I want to read next, possibly a stand alone book. I am doing well with reading (not so) recent releases from series I like.

I still need to find a synopsis of The Dresden series so far. It’s been so long since I’ve read that series that I only have a vague idea. Last month the latest book was released and later this year the next one will be available. I want to read the latest release soon, I don’t want to fall behind too much.

The book that stands out for me in July is Karin Slaughter’s latest book in the Will Trent series, The Silent Wife. I love how the characters keep evolving and how realistic their relationships and behaviour is. I’m sad I now have to wait for the next book in the series. But I saw that there a several stand alone books by Slaughter I haven’t read yet, hopefully they will fill the gap a bit.

I hope to get back into writing more regularly again. I didn’t because I’ve been a bit down with the worsening pandemic. It’s slowly getting worse again in the Netherlands. During the last couple of weeks cases are on the rise and now it seems hospital and ICU cases are also starting to rise. I’ve been doom scrolling way too much and now that I’m on my own and my friends’ place I need to keep an eye on that I don’t get down too much.

New hobbies

It’s been a hot week. Three days of temperatures around 30C and another couple of days of around 25C. I didn’t have the energy to do much on the hot days, except reading and playing Animal Crossing. I also ordered my first cross stitch kit.

This week I finished the latest Sebastian St. Cyr book, Who Speaks for the Damned, by C.S. Harris. Which was very good. Most series tend to go downhill after a while, but this is the 15th book in the series and it’s still going strong.

I also went on a bit of horror spree. I bought a whole bunch of books, most of which by authors I haven’t read before. The first book of this batch I read was The Anomaly by Michael Rutger, the first book in The Anomaly Files series (two books so far). It reminded me a lot of stand alone books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It was an adventure thriller with a some creatures thrown in. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rutger was also inspires by Josh Gates’ tv series Destination Unknown. I’ll get the second book soon, I’m already looking forward to it.

So, another hobby, possibly. Cross stitching. A lot of diamond painters start out with cross stitching, with me it might be the other way around. I got a kit with everything I need in it, except for the ring (though you can do the project without one). It of a stylized succulent plant. Lots of colour blocking, so fairly easy. The only problem was the needle was missing. So I got a packet yesterday and last night started. I’m liking it so far, it’s very much like diamond painting, though on a smaller scale. Which means I can do it more easily in bed when watching TV at night. I watched two horror films last night and I was able to follow them whilst cross stitching. In the same style they also sell two other succulent designs and three flower designs. If I like cross stitching I might order two or three other kits, so I can put them up together.

On Etsy I already saw lots of fun kits and downloadable patterns. I’m not interested in the traditional designs, they are too old fashioned for me. But there are lots of fun kits and patterns available that are to my taste. But I’ll start simple to get the hang of it.

I still need to fit it in with all my other hobbies and try not to neglect my reading. I’m about to start the latest in the Guido Brunetti series and I’m really looking forward to visiting Venice again.

In the past week I finished two book. First the latest Sigma Force book, The Last Odyssey, by James Rollins. I loved it, like most of the books in the series. I enjoy the adventure thriller genre. I used to read the Cotton Malone series, but after a half a dozen or so I realized that each book followed the same format and it got kinda boring for me. Sigma Force stays fresh. Probably because it’s about a group of people and each book focuses on a different person or people. Also the characters evolve in a natural way.

I also read the latest in The Bayou Hauntings series, Die Again, by Bill Thompson. A series I discovered last year and I’m really enjoying it. Most of the books are set in a moral rural area. This one is set slap bang in the middle of New Orleans, and starts during the Mardi Gras festival. Another good story.

I’ve now started my second non fiction book of the year, Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen. I’ve been listening to his and Paul Holes’ podcast Murder Squad since the beginning and got the book as soon as it was available. But I know from experience that I need to be in the mood for a non-fiction book. It’s also usually slow reading for me, which doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it.

Up next will probably be the latest in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. At the moment I’m trying to mix up the types and genres of books that I read. Not only will it, hopefully, prevent it from burning out on a genre, but it will also help in picking books I’ve had on my to be read list for a long while.

It’s also time to start trying out some new series. I have five on my current series list. One of those has only one book left in the series and another only two books. The others are all mystery or crime books (two are historical mysteries and one is a contemporary crime series). I want to try to keep it mixed. I’m thinking of starting the Chronicles of the Fallers duology by Peter F. Hamilton, a sci-fi series set in the same universe as two series I read previously. His books are usually long, over 1000 pages long. I also have to see which fantasy series I have on my list to try out.

Saving Space

My current reading project has nothing to do with actual reading. But with my ebook management. I keep all my ebook sorted in Calibre, and have saved it on my Dropbox. So that if I want to I can access my ebooks from other devices. Which was especially handy when I had both a laptop and a desktop computer.

I’ve had several ereaders. Mostly Kindles, but also a Sony and two Kobos. Currently I’m using a Kobo, which works best with the Kepub format, whilst Kindle work best with AZW3 format. This means that most ebooks had multiple file formats.

Earlier this week I got a notification of Dropbox, that I’m nearing my limit. And of course offering an upgrade. I’m currently using the free version of Dropbox, and before I got the paid version, with more space I’m trying to reduce my ebook library size.

Epub seems to be the most universal format for ebooks at the moment. Most ereaders can read those and if not you can easily use Calibre to convert. I’m now (re)converting all my ebooks to Epub and deleting the other file formats. Some ebooks had three or four formats. From now I will also try to remember to delete other format when I convert an ebook for whatever reason.

I’ve done the converting in the past. I think to AZW3, convinced I wouldn’t get an ereader that wasn’t a Kindle. Hopefully I can reduce the size of my library significantly, otherwise I’ll have to go for a paid version of Dropbox, because I do like the convenience of having access to my library easily. Another bonus would be that I would be able to connect from more devices. If I recall correctly Dropbox limited the number of devices that can access a free account.

Since I have a lot of ebooks and I’m comfortable in converting ebooks in batches of only ten books, this project might take a little to complete.

When Life Interferes

I was having a really good reading week, reading about 100 pages a day, until about last Sunday. Then life happens and this week turned out to be a bust.

For almost seven years a Family Thing was going on. We knew we were nearing the end, but up until Tuesday mid-afternoon we were gearing up for one more battle in court. But then the other party signed the agreement and by Thursday noon everything was arranged and contracts were signed and it was over.

Next Saturday is the seven year anniversary of the fire next door to us, which is when this all started. At the start of the week I didn’t read much because I was mentally preparing for, yet other, delay. After Tuesday I was just processing the fact that it was all over.

So I set myself down yesterday to finish the latest/last book in Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police series. Which was my least favourite of the three released so far.

Today I started Tamara Thorne’s The Forgotten but didn’t get much further than a page and a half, since it was busy in the store today. But the start surely made an impression! I don’t think I’ll read tonight; I’m tired. Not just because it was nice and busy, but with the Corona measures you need four pairs of eyes it seems to see if there aren’t too many customers in the store, that they keep enough distance between each other, they don’t park their bikes in front of the window, if they’re waiting outside that they keep 5 foot from the door, etc.

To be honest I don’t think I’ll get much reading done until Tuesday. Tomorrow I want to get creative. Tomorrow night I’m going to stay the night at my sister’s place and we’ve planned a nice long session of playing Animal Crossing that day. I might get some reading done when our Switch’s are charging. I won’t be back until after dinner on Monday. But I’m probably free on Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s going to be warm so I have planned to divide my afternoons between reading and creative things.

Finishing the last book in the Shadow Police series means that I’ve finished my mini goal of finishing four series on my active list. I’ve only got five series on it, which is low for me. My next aim is to get up to date with newish releases, at least those that are parts of series. It’ll take a while, but it’s a nice mixture of genres and setting so I should be able to get it done without burning out. Especially if I mix in some other reads.

For the first time in months I’m looking forward to reading new books. It’s just difficult to choose which one to pick next.

Reading Slump Gone?

So far this month I have been reading about 100 pages a day (some days less, other days more). Does this mean my reading slump is going? During an average May I read almost 4000 pages and I know I’m not going to make that, but I’ll be really happy if I manage to read about 3000 pages this month. Since August last year I only read more than 3000 pages in one month once, in September, when I went on a reading retreat.

I don’t think I’m going to go on a reading retreat for a while with Covid-19. I also think that it’s unlikely I’ll be house sitting for friends this summer, which is always a time I read more than normal. But I do work less hours at the moment and I go to my sister for the weekend every two or three weeks, both offer me more reading time than normal.

Today I’m starting the latest or maybe last book in the Shadow Police series by Paul Cornell. That’s the last book of my mini challenge of finishing four series. After that I’m going to focus on catching up on some older series. Quite a few books have been released in my favourite series lately. And I still need to read the latest Cormoran Strike book that was released over a year and a half ago. The list is about eight or nine books long, I think that should keep me busy for about three months. Until September at least three more book for that list are going to be released, so it might take me longer. My main aim is to finish the Cormoran Strike book before the next one is released mid September.

I’m not going to exclusively read those catch up books. Chances are I would burn out on them, since many of them are crime or mystery books. I’m going to keep reading books I’m in the mood for. Luckily I’m hardly ever in the mood for a specific series, usually I’m in the mood for a genre. And, at least at the moment, I’m enjoying crime and mystery. I just need to mix them up well so I won’t pick books of a specific combination of genres right after one another (like historic mystery, crime fantasy, crime thriller, etc). I’ll mix other books in to keep me going.

While my reading is going well, my watching isn’t. I find it hard to pick something that’ll interest me. It doesn’t help that I’m playing Animal Crossing when watching TV at night, so anything that isn’t English or Dutch (but I don’t watch Dutch series) is out. My other hobbies, besides reading and Animal Crossing also have been neglected. Oh well, as long as I’m having fun.

Mid-May Evaluation

While I’m not keeping up with my blog as much as I like and planned to, my reading is going well. So far, this month, there was only one day I didn’t read for at least 30 minutes. It was Saturday the 2nd and on Saturday I usually read less than on other days for some reason. Most days I’ve been reading a lot more than 30 minutes. This also means that I spend less time diamond painting or being otherwise creative and thus listening less to audio books. So far I’ve listened to audio books only three day this month. Tomorrow I got the day off so I’ve planned to do some sketching and listen to It some more.

I’ve only finished two books so far in May. V.E. Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light, which I really enjoy. I wanted to finish four series I had only one book left to read of. This is the third series I finished. Only the last/latest book in the Shadow Police series left.

I also read The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths, the latest book in the Ruth Galloway series. Which I really liked, even though the team has dispersed since the last book.

Currently I’m reading Ghostland by Duncan Ralston. I’m about 40% in and I’m really enjoying it. During my reading session yesterday afternoon I forgot to keep an eye on the time, something that hasn’t happened in quite a while. Hopefully I can finish it tomorrow.

The books I’ve read so far in May aren’t shorter books. A Conjuring of Light was well over 600 pages long, The Lantern Men was just under 400 pages and Ghostland is just over 400 pages. All well over this year’s average of 340 pages. I’m not wanting to commit to any longer reads too often just yet, but it’s nice to see I’m getting into regular length books, for me, again.

I’m not sure what I’m going to read next yet. I’m not yet in the mood for the Shadow Police. I was either going to read the next book in the Lady Darby series or John Grisham’s Camino Island. I want to be able to finish the book before next Wednesday; I’m going to stay with my sister for a couple of days and I like to have a new book to read then. Neither book is particularly long, so I might go either way. It depends what I’m in the mood for when I want to start a new book.

I’ve got a big pile of books waiting for me, all of which I would like to read soon. It’s hard to decide what to read next at the moment. But I’m letting my mood guide me. I am going to try and give the recently released books precedence. A lot of books were recently released by my favourite authors or were part of series I like and I like to get up to date again with the new releases. Until September only a couple of books are released by authors I like or part of series I’m now up to date with. So I have a bit of time to get that organized.

I’m so happy that I’m getting back into reading. Although after reading over a 100 books a year since 2011 it isn’t strange to have a reading slump it did annoy me. I’m still struggling to find a good balance between all my hobbies, though. I might give timed activities a try.

Sudden Reading Urges

Everybody has a sudden urge in something every once in a while. Mostly it’s food, but this time I have the munchies for reading Nancy Drew. It’s probably because of the TV series and watching the film on Prime last weekend. I’ve got the first in the series, written in 1930, which I read several years ago.

Yesterday I looked into the Nancy Drew book series and it turns out there are multiple series. The original one has well over 100 books, but the total of Nancy Drew books is over 400. So that’ll keep me occupied for a while.

I went through a Nancy Drew phase in my early teens. I can remember the paperback books had orange spines. It’s probably why I became a Murderino.

It’s been a while since I got the reading munchies. I take it as a sign my reading slump is slowly passing. It also helps that I’ve thrown out all my reading goals and I’m just reading what I feel like. Also, during the last two months new books in some of my favourite series were released. Which is great, but it now makes choosing what I want to read harder.

April was a good reading month, comparing it to the last nine months or so. I’m not reading as much as before that, but I’m not avoiding reading anymore. During the last couple of weeks I’ve been diamond painting less and reading more. I just need to find a good balance between all my hobbies, and that is proving a bit hard.

It looks like we’re going to have to deal with social distancing and going outside as little as possible for a good while yet. Which means more time to do what I like. Whether that’s reading, something creative or watching TV I don’t care. Like with my reading I now just do what I feel like doing.

On Note Taking

Last summer I started taking notes on the books I was reading. I kept this up for almost half a year, the longest I ever managed to keep note taking. Coincidentally, or not, at the same time I started note taking I started reading less. It might be a coincidence or not.

I had developed a good system, so that I didn’t have to take notes, and carry my notebook, constantly. My Kobo has the option to highlight text and even to add your own notes to it. I would highlight passages and once or twice a day, depending on how much I read. I would use those highlights to write down my notes. But even this did not keep it from starting to feel like a chore.

I stopped taking notes on all the books I read, planning to only do it for selected books. But I never did. I want to start again, but with a few additional changes. Instead of continuing with the notebook I used I got a new one. Instead of a thicker book I got a 96 page one. A bit easier to carry around. I also want to take notes on some books, not all I read. I noticed that during the half year I took notes that I found it hard to take lots of notes about books that are part of a series, except maybe the first in a series, when all the information you get is new.

I also want to add more of my own thoughts about the books in the notes. I mostly wrote down what happened, about the characters, but not really about what I thought about it, except when I felt really strongly about something.

At the start of the year I decided to start writing reviews again. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. I have yet to write a proper review, besides what I write in these rambling posts. Which is a couple of sentences at most. So after taking notes on the story, and my own opinions I want to try and sketch out an outline for the review. I hope/plan to write a review about each book I take notes on. I just hope this doesn’t deter me from taking notes.

The first book I’m going to take notes on and review, I hope, is Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. Several years ago I read Hendrix’s Horrorstor. Having worked at an Ikea for two summer it was very recognisable, though I’ve never encountered a haunting at my Ikea. It was also a fun read. I read it as an ebook, but I ended up getting the paperback. Because it came with a map of the store and was designed to look like the Ikea catalogue. I thought I read more books by Hendrix, but after checking I found out I haven’t read any of his other books. Something that I will need to rectify soon, and something I’m looking forward to!

I’ll start the book tomorrow, and plan to highlight whilst reading and taking notes after a reading session or at the end of the day. Doing it that way seemed to work best for me. Hopefully this way I can keep up making notes (which I, in general, enjoy doing and I think it helps me think about the book more) and start writing reviews.

The Voice Makes The Book

I’m nearing the end of my first finished audio book. Usher’s Passing written by Robert R. McCammon, read by Scott Aiello. There’s just under three hours to listen to, so I’ll probably finish it on Sunday, whilst washing and drying my laundry.

I’m enjoying the book so far. It does show it’s age a bit, it was written in the 1980s, but not annoyingly so. I did learn that the voice makes or breaks the story. In general I do like Scott Aiello’s reading. But his whining voice is annoying me. Many of the characters have been given a whining voice to one extend or another. And although mostly appropriate, in my opinion, it can get on my nerves a bit. At least each character has a fairly distinct “voice”.

It’ll be interesting to see how other voice actors handle this. For my next big book I’ve decided on Stephen King’s It. I did reread it for the I don’t know how manieth time last summer, but I’m in the mood for a comfort read (yes, It is a comfort read for me). It’s also over 40 hours long, so it should last me nearly if not a full month. It’s read by actor Stephen Weber, who, if I recall correctly, playet Jack Torrence in the TV adaptation of The Shining in the 1990. I did like this mini series, it follows the book better than Kubrick’s film.

After that I want to get the Sherlock Holmes stories of over 70 hours. That one’s read by Stephen Fry, I did start the first Harry Potter book several years ago, also read by Fry and I did enjoy his reading.

In about half a year I should have a good idea about what I like in a voice actor. I thought it would be very similar to listen to a fictional, serialized podcast. Like The Black Tapes, Tanis or BBC’s The Whisperer in Darkness. All of which I really enjoyed. But with those there is a cast of voice actors, whilst most audio books just have the one who reads the story and does voices. Also, with audio books there are no sound effects. With the fictional podcast series there are. Very much like the dramas on the radio. Some are more like the ones on the radio, where the sound effects are very obvious. Other podcasts, like the ones mentioned above are a bit more subtle. I like the latter, to may sound effects are distracting to me I have found.

Since I’m going to finish the audiobook on Sunday, most likely, I have to decide what to listen to until the 29th, when I get new credits at Audible. I still have several shorter Audible Exclusives, but those aren’t long enough to fill a week and a half of listening with.

I guess it will give me a chance to catch up on some of the podcasts I’ve been neglecting the last couple of weeks. I usually listen to podcasts in the morning, before work. But I’m working less, so there’s less time for me to listen to them. Also, I’m not really in the mood for true crime. I enjoy it once I start listening, but getting started is the problem. I don’t want to fall too far behind. I know there’s a chance of burning out on a podcast whilst trying to catch up. The you stop listening for a while and have to catch up again, repeating the cycle.

I’m also figuring out what I can do whilst listening to an audiobook or podcast. I find I can diamond paint, make jewelry or watercolour without missing things. I’ll try sketching next week. That might be more of a problem, since I’ll also need to concetrate on the tutorial or reference I’m using. I’ve discovered I’m not able to concentrate on the audio enough when I’m playing a game. Even if it’s something as easy as Animal Crossing. The exception being games as Mahjong, solitair, rumicub or scrabble.

What I do like about audiobook is that, like with a good podcast, it distracts me from real life. Which at this time is worth a lot to me, since it isn’t a good time to have an anxious personallity.