All posts by Bianca

Getting back in the groove?

It’s been just over a week since I’ve last posted, and then I felt like I was stuck in a reading rut. What a different a week and half can make! For over a week now I’ve been reading every day. Sometimes it’s just a couple of pages, but I find I’m reading more often and more pages.

Last week I hit a bit of a snag. My Kobo Clara HD kept losing it’s charge suddenly. I thought it was because of the cold. My bedroom doesn’t have central heating and when temperatures drop to -16C at night it can get cold. My iPad also lost it’s charge quicker in the cold, but recovered when temperatures rose. My Kobo has been doing okay this week, but while it had a charge of over 90% last night it had lost it’s charge mid-morning today. I charged it for a couple of hours to around 75% and started reading again. With an hour and half to two hours I got a battery empty warning again.

I’ve now loaded the books I had on my Kobo onto my old Kindle Paperwhite, which I charged last week, just in case. It might be an update or bad book that borked my Kobo, but I couldn’t find the energy to figure it out right now. I’ll take a look at it next week. Maybe.

All differences and preferences set aside; changing devices makes it feel like I have a new toy to play with. Even if I’ve had my Kindle Paperwhite for years. It’s the first version that was waterproof. Which is why I’m not sure when I can get myself to see if the Kobo’s battery is really bad or not.

I’m glad I seem to be getting back into reading. I think it’s partially due to the fact that the store’s is open again, kind of. We are now allowed to have customers pick up orders they placed at least 4 hours before they pick it up. But it does mean we’re open regular hours again. We’ve got 10 to 15 customers a day, and make about a tenth of what we normal make. But at least we feel like you’re doing semi useful things again and you have contact with your customers. The last couple of weeks of the forced lockdown closure were hard. Each day it was harder to motivate yourself to go downstairs for a couple of hours to do things. But now we have somewhat of a normal schedule again. And it’s easier to find time to read, even when I have less free time now.

Earlier this week I read the fourth book in the Hillary Greene series, but Faith Martin. I really enjoyed it. It’s a British procedural, set in the villages of Oxfordshire. It’s not a cozy, but it isn’t a thriller either. It falls somewhere between Midsommer Murders and Inspector Morse, IMHO. They are easy to read and I like the flawed main character.

Right now I’m reading the second book in Douglas Preston’s Wyman Ford series. I’m about 30% in and I am enjoying it. Another adventure thriller that reads easy and quick.

I’m not sure what to read next. At the moment I’m still choosing books that catch my fancy by reading the synopsis or because I’m in the mood for a certain genre. I still seem to be avoiding long books. I think I might read a horror story next. I try to mix up genres at the moment, as not to burn out on reading books in the same genre over and over again. That seems to be working for me at the moment.

Stuck in a rut

It’s almost mid February already. As many has remarked on, it seems that during this pandemic time goes by both very quick and very slow at the same time.

Reading wise I’m doing okay, I’ve finished eight books so far, though two of them were short stories. So far I’ve finished two books this month, and for the number of pages that is slow. Not compared to the past months (then I’m on track) or before my reading slump (then I’m slow), but compared to my enthusiasm in reading. I’m really enjoying reading again, I really liked all the books I’ve read so far this year. Yet, it’s slow going. I seem to have become stuck in a pattern of binge reading for a couple of days, usually the weekend. Then, when I’ve almost finished the book usually, I stop reading for several days, until I make myself finish the book. The I delay starting a new book for a couple of days.

I’m really annoyed by this. And my intention of reading 15 to 30 minutes each night before I go to sleep only happened twice. I need to put more of an effort into this.

I’m still reading books and genres that catch my fancy. I feel that planning my reading will just put me off. So for over a year now I haven’t gotten on much with my active series lists. And really, I don’t care. I do find it a shame that at the moment I feel I don’t have the focus to read long (500+ pages) books at the moment. Which means that I have several semi-recently released Stephen King novels on my TBR pile and although I really want to start the next series set in the Commonwealth universe, by Peter F. Hamilton, I’ve been putting it off.

In better news we are allowed to open our store again yesterday. Not fully open it, but via “click & collect”, or in our case “call & collect”, since we don’t have a website. Customers can call in an order, we pick it while they’re on the phone and then arrange a time for them to pick it up. There has to be at least four hours between putting in a order and the customer being able to pick it up. This is to prevent fun shopping. We offered customers the option to phone in their orders starting on Tuesday.

We decided to start with time slots of 15 minutes, mainly because that’s the minimum automatic time slot on Google Calendar. We tell the customers they have a 10 minute time slot, so there’s a bit of time between customers and it will prevent a line from forming. It hasn’t worked out that way, some customers show up fifteen minutes early, whilst others arrive later in their time slot.

We’ve set up a table, with a doorbell button inside our entryway between the outside door (which is open) and the shop door. We have a table behind the shop window, next to the door, where we have the cash register and the bags containing the orders. Yesterday we had an okay amount of customers, today was a lot quieter and tomorrow we also haven’t gotten a lot of orders. The weather isn’t helping, it’s been really cold. On the other hand, that isn’t too bad, we have time to adjust to the new situation and work out any kinks that arise.

Hopefully next week, when the weather is warmer, and everyone has some time to get their heads around the new situation, will be busier. It does mean that I haven’t got the Saturday off anymore, and my only real day off is Sunday, since I do most of the household chores on Monday. I’m going to miss that, but I’d rather be working that hanging around. Both my father and I found it harder and harder to motivate ourselves to go downstairs four mornings a week to tidy up and do various chores we never had time for. I do need to get used to going downstairs before the store opens at 10am now. But it’s really nice to see our customers again and have short chats with them.

A good month

Well, a relatively good month. Compared to previous years it isn’t good, but compared to the past months it’s good. So far I’ve finished four books, and over 1600 pages. I’m about to start with Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone Trilogy, which starts with two short stories. Which I should be able to finish before midnight on Sunday. It will bring down my average pages per book, but it’ll be nice to add two more book to this month.

I’ve enjoyed all the book I’ve read so far, especially Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s second book in the Nora Kelly series, The Scorpion’s Tail. I feel that their Agent Pendergast series is burned out at the moment, the stories are merely okay and they don’t add anything to the overall story. The Nora Kelly series is a nice spin-off.

I’m still struggling somewhat with getting into a rhythm with reading. Often reading little during the week and reading a lot during weekends. My plan to read for 15 to 30 minutes before bed hasn’t worked out so far. But the last couple of days I’ve been good with reading every day, which might be because I’ve enjoyed the book so much, but I”m hoping to keep it up.

I’m curious for the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. I saw some stills of the Netflix series based on the book yesterday, which reminded me I was interested in the series. It has three main books and four short stories, starting with two of those short stories. I’m usually not into short stories in series, but I’ll read them and won’t judge the story based on those. But I feel I have to read them to get the full story.

So far I’m continuing with reading books that catch my interest/mood. I feel that planning ahead which books to read won’t work for me at the moment and will put me off reading again.

I do still have enough time to read, the store is still closed due to the lockdown. Initially it was set to last until the 19th, but it was extended with another two weeks. And I expect that after that it’ll be extended again. Next week is another press conference. But the government announced last night the “route out of the lockdown”, which is that primary schools will open first, then the secondary schools, then retail businesses, followed by contact businesses (like hairdressers and nail salons). Last week it was already hinted that retail shouldn’t count on reopening before the end of February or even early March. We still go downstairs several mornings a week to tidy up and do things we have planned on doing but never had time enough to do. For now we still have enough to do. And it gives me more time to do things I want to do. Since I couldn’t go on my annual Reading Retreat this month, that isn’t too bad.

A new year, a new start

Let’s just say the last three months have been chaotic. Life happened and I didn’t have much time or energy to read. Only in the last couple of weeks I’ve had more time. This was mainly due to the fact that the government required all non-essential shops to close on the 15th of December. They announced this the day before. Our store isn’t essential. I had seen it coming and in my opinion it should have happened earlier. My father and I planned to go downstairs to the store four mornings a week and tidy up. These past two holiday weeks that didn’t happen, but I expect from next week we going back to that schedule. On January 12 there will be a new press conference and the prime minister will announce whether stores will be allowed to reopen. I expect not. The number of Covid cases, hospital and ICU admittances are too high for that.

The forced closure did reduce my stress levels. Yes, December is the busiest time of the year, so that sucks. But no more worry about getting infected by customers, no more discussions about face masks, number of people we allow in the store and customers not parking their bicycle in front of the store window (because of the waiting line).

Normally in December I have less time to read, since I work more. But this year I had more time to myself. We recently got a home trainer. Instead of four times a week I now cycle on it (almost) every day. These past two weeks were busy with the preparation of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. I had to do most preparations this year. But I did find some time to start reading again, and hopefully now those days are over I have even more time. I’m also finding time to diamond paint again, I haven’t done that for months.

The first book I finished this year was The Good House by Tananarive Due. A good book, though in the first half I did get annoyed by the foreboding. Regularly a chapter ended with words similar to “little did she know that …”. I hate it when authors do that, when the story is good enough you don’t need that to keep reading. I shouldn’t have picked such a long book (almost 600 pages). I’m not ready for that year, but I did finish it in just under two weeks. Although I’m itching to read the two new Dresden Files books and start a new Peter F. Hamilton series, I think it’s better to stick to shorter reads for now. Otherwise I might get discouraged again.

My goals for this year is to read 24 book, keep my reading lists up to date and have fun again. Hopefully I can adjust goal of how many books I want to read. But I thought it better to start easy and not pressure myself too much.

So much for…

…life quieting down. I haven’t posted in almost a month. I haven’t read much during that time, although I did finish an audio book. Part of the reason I haven’t read much is because of life happening. These past couple of weeks I have been dealing with what turned out to be an infected tooth, which needed root canal treatment. That was finished a week ago, since then the area has been a bit sensitive, especially at night, but it’s now returning to normal. But part of my reading a lot less is because I get too easily distracted. One ping from my tablet and I end up checking my email, which then leads to another session of doom scrolling.

At the moment I’m playing a lot of Animal Crossing during the day. A couple of times a week I diamond paint for a couple of hours, mostly during my days off. And at night I like to cross stitch. I found that I can do that whilst watching TV. I’ve almost finished my fourth project, so I hope the order I put in last week for supplies for me next couple of projects will be shipped soon.

What I did read I liked, so at least there’s that. I especially enjoyed the second book in David Hewson’s Pieter Vos series, The Wrong Girl. I’m now reading T. Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones, a horror book, which seemed appropriate for the time of year. I’m enjoying it and I did read over 70 pages yesterday, which is a lot for me at the moment.

I don’t think I’ll start reading more any time soon. There are more and more Covid19 cases each day in the Netherlands, which worries me and leads to stressful sessions of doom scrolling. It’s interesting, actually. Seven years ago, after the fire next door (and a lot of damage to our place) and when things kicked off with the Family Thing I found that reading was my escape. Not in this situation. Probably because I discovered more hobbies since, or because I have simply changed.

Messing About

I’ve been planning on posting for about a week now. But I first wanted to update my reading list. When I did that I found that in the editor a numbered list was indented more than a bullet list or regular text. I struggled with rectifying that, because it looks silly. This morning I spend some time on it, again, and eventually gave up. Added the latest books to the reading list and checked out how it looked on the actual blog. And there it looks fine. Why it’s got the extra indent in the editor is a mystery to me, what would the function of that be?

September reading is okay-ish. I did, finally, finish listening to the audio book of Stephen King’s It. So that’s over 1100 pages added to the total, which is nice. I started listening to book in J.M. Dalgliesh’s Dark Yorkshire series. Although it’s about the standard police-detective-with-a-problem (going through a divorce, borderline alcoholic, casual drug user) it’s a good story.

Me not reading a lot isn’t fully because I’m not in the mood to read, life was happening and it were a couple of busy weeks. Things are starting to quiet down, so I get more time to read and do other hobbies. I also need to remember that listening to a book is also reading, so I’ve read more than I actually think I’ve read.

Then there is the whole J.K. Rowling transgender upset. I definitely don’t agree with her. I still needed to read the two latest in her Cormoran Strike books. The fourth book I’ve got almost two year ago and the fifth one was recently released. But for now I’ve decided to shelve those. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by the actions of the author, but I always found that difficult. Also, I was delaying reading the Strike book long before the whole upset, this just adds to it. And there are many other good books to read. Maybe if I’m in the mood some day I might pick up the series again. For now I just let it rest.

August reading

We’re already almost a week into September, but how did my reading in August go? I did okay, not good, not bad. Compared to the last year. Seven books, totaling just over 2500 pages. I had hoped to finish Grisham’s Camino Winds before the end of the month, but I didn’t make it. There was only one book that I wasn’t too wild about, it wasn’t bad, but I’m indifferent about it. The other six books I chose to read we’re all good to really good.

For September I have not much reading plans; I have planned to deep clean my rooms, so that will take up some reading time each day (I’m planning on tackling one section each day, that way I can keep motivated). I do have only three hours left on my audio book of Stephen King’s It, I count the pages (of the paperback I have) towards my reading goal. That’s over 1100 pages, which is almost half of what I’ve been reading in a month this past year. I can also listen to it when cleaning, diamond painting or cross stitching.

I’m currently reading No One’s Home by D.M Pulley, it reminds me a lot (really a lot) of the House on Cold Hill series by Peter James. It a good enough story, I enjoy it a bit more than Peter James’ books, but not enough to read fast. I’m not quite sure what to read next. I want to pick something from a series I’m working on, but I also want to read a book I’m sure I’ll like. So that’s either the second book in Pieter Vos series or the next book in the Lady series. On the other hand, I really would like to make those series last, try to not read them too fast. So I might just choose a stand alone book from my to-be-read-soon list.

Home Again

I’ve been home from house sitting for a week and a half, though I did stay at my sister’s place during the weekend. In that time I finished three books; Darcy Coates’ Voices in the Snow (first in the Dark Winter series), Murder of the Bride by Faith Martin (#3 in the Hilary Greene series) and The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell, a new to me author. I’ve enjoyed all of those books and added Eliza Maxwell to my list on Fantastic Fiction, so I get updates about any new releases.

I’m about to start the second and latest book in John Grisham’s Camino Island series, Camino Winds. Later in the year the third book in his Jake Brigance series, A Time for Mercy, is going to be released. I’m really looking forward to that book, the first two in the series I loved. I’m going to have to rewatch the film of A Time to Kill soon. Hopefully I can finish it before or by Monday to add it to this month’s book list.

I’m not sure what to read after the Grisham book. I’ve got a whole bunch of scary books, which aren’t necessarily horror books, I recently got. I’ve also got a bunch of (not so) recently released books and, of course, the books in my current series. But I’m just not sure what I’m in the mood for. I might just read the next book in The Cat Who… series, those are always relaxing reads, I’ve only got seven books left to read to finish the series. I’ll be sad when I do finish it, though I could always go back to the first book. Though I think it’ll be a while before I do that.

I’m still listening to Stephen King’s It, ten hours left to go. But I’ve been getting into diamond painting again, so hopefully I’ll finish it in the coming weeks. It’ll be a nice addition to my page count at over 1100 pages. I’m not sure what to listen to after that. I’ve got The Stand, which I’ve been postponing because with the current pandemic I hadn’t been in the mood for a fiction one. Also, The Stand is really long, after It I think I need to listen to something shorter. I’ve also got a set of three audio books in one. A detective series I don’t know, so I’ll probably try that.

Final days of house sitting

In two days, on Monday night, my friends will return from their vacation. Which means tomorrow is cleaning day. It’s going to be a warm day, again. So I’ll start early, that way I also get it over and done with as early as possible and I can relax the rest of the day. On Monday morning I pack my stuff, my father will pick it up that morning. I’ve decided that after my father picks up my things I’ll also head home. That way I can unpack and do laundry. In the late afternoon I’ll cycle back to walk the dog one more time. I usually wait until I’ve walked the dog the last time before heading home. But if I would do that it would mean I get home around dinner time, and I can’t unpack until after that. I’d rather spend my evening after dinner relaxing. To be honest, I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again and sleeping in on Tuesday (I don’t have to work that day, I’m so glad about that).

Earlier this week I finished the first Pieter Vos book, The House of Dolls, by David Hewson. I was afraid of the stereotyping of the Dutch. He did address the stereotyping, but to show that those stereotypes aren’t right. I really enjoyed the book, it did give a good sense of Amsterdam. I can’t say if the criminal underworld was realistically portrayed or not, but it did feel realistic.

I’ve now started the Black Winter series by Darcy Coates, the first book is Voices in the Snow. I didn’t get very far yet, but what I’ve read is promising.

I didn’t do as much reading as I hoped. But I did like the books I’ve read, and that’s really what counts. It’s been a hot week and very hard to concentrate because of that. Yesterday it was finally a little bit cooler, below 30C degrees, as well as today. Tomorrow it’s going to be a little bit warmer but from Monday the temperatures will start to drop. Earlier this week they predicted that temperatures would start to drop today, I was hoping my bedroom at home would get a chance to cool down before I got home. It’s an old house, with thick walls, on my floor the lay-out is such that if I open the windows it won’t cool down quicker. So it looks like it’ll be a couple of muggy days and nights when I get home. But at least I’m sleeping in my own bed again.

Half way through

I’m halfway through my two weeks of house sitting today. During that first week I read one book, Violet by Scott Thomas. I wasn’t able to read more because I was on a course of medicine which side effect was that I wasn’t able to concentrate on anything for very long. I took the last tablet on Thursday and since then my mind has quieted down again.

I really enjoyed Violet, last year I read Thomas’ debut novel Kill Creek and really enjoyed that. In Violet a mother and daughter go to the mother’s vacation home after the husband/father has died. The mother hasn’t been to the vacation home since her mother died thirty years ago. Things start happening, but the question is whether they are paranormal or mental health related. It isn’t a quick paced, bloody horror story. It’s a slow burner, where from the start you sense things aren’t right. Normal I don’t like bereavement horror stories, these last couple of years they’ve been done to death IMHO. But since I really enjoyed Kill Creek I thought I would give it a try and I wasn’t sorry.

After finishing Violet I started The House of Dolls, by David Hewson. It’s the first book in the Pieter Vos series. It’s set in Amsterdam and the main character is Pieter Vos, a former police detective who retired early after his daughter’s disappearance. When another girl disappears, Vos is called back to assist. I was a bit apprehensive to start this series. I really enjoyed the Nic Costa series by Hewson, but then I don’t know Rome. I do know Amsterdam. It’s only a 20 minute train ride from my city, I studied there and still go there a couple of times a year for show, shopping or a day at the museum.

I recently watched a tv series set in Amsterdam, Baptiste, and while I enjoyed it the portrayal of Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general was very stereotypical. Anything outside of Amsterdam is the backwards countryside with simple people. Amsterdam itself if criminal and there’s not much more than the red light district and the coffeeshops. I understand that a crime series focuses on the criminal aspect of Amsterdam, but a more balanced view would be nice.

Hewson does touch on these preconceptions and without being explicit he makes clear that there’s more to Amsterdam than weed, sex workers and criminals. One of the characters is a probationary officer from the rural province Friesland. Everyone thinks she’s a backwards bumpkin, but Vos sees her potential and takes her under his wing.

I’m just over a quarter into the story, but I’m really enjoying it. We’re in the middle of a heatwave, which will last until at least Thursday, other three days, so I can’t sketch or cross stitch (I might get sweaty hands and stain my project). So there’s not much more to do than read and watch tv. I also won’t have to work today and tomorrow, and since I’m getting up at 6 am to walk the dog (it’s still cool and quiet, so I can take her on a longer walk) I have enough time to read.