Why Am I Always So Behind on Goodreads?

My Goodreads profile is always a long way behind my actual reading. I like my short Goodreads reviews to compliment my more in depth reviews here on my blog, which means I tend to write them at the same time. But…I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty useless at keeping up. I even have a column on my reading spreadsheet reminding me to write reviews, but I still manage to fall behind. It’s just not that easy to write a long, detailed review when life gets in the way, and that means I don’t update my Goodreads either. I’ve been having some struggles recently (and not so recently) that have thrown me way off base, and I’m struggling to know what to do next. I still read but my reading is marred by reality’s ugly head, and having the time and mental energy to review has seemed impossible. While I can think all to well about what I want to say, when it comes down to actually getting it done and dusted I seem stuck. And that blows. A lot.

Just today I moved 6 books from my current list to my read list. I still haven’t reviewed them, but my head seems clearer today than it has in a long time so maybe I can blast some out and get back on track. Just putting a rating and “review to follow” on my books has allowed me to shift them off the current list, and it means I’m catching up to my Goodreads target again. Now I just need to start writing before I actually forget what I thought of the books. For this very reason, I keep rough notes on my phone as I read, so that I can build on them more, but still, it can be hard to remember weeks later what you planned on saying.

We all have our ups and downs, and for the most part reading helps me through mine. I like to review my books so that, later on, I can look back and remember why I enjoyed it (or didn’t), so that I can see whether it’s worth it to reread. It would be nice if my reviews introduced people to books they’d never read too, though reading is so subjective and I always think that it’s better to read and form your own opinion on a book instead of avoiding it because others didn’t like it (or worse, feeling as though you have to enjoy it just because everyone else thinks it’s the best book in the world). Most of the time, writing a review is just part of the reading process to me. It helps me slow down and consider what I’ve just read, rather than running from one book to the next without breath, without remembering what I’ve read or how it made me feel. In these times though, when life itself seems such a chore, reviewing can seem almost impossible. I’m trying though. I hope it picks up. I hope I can get some done before the next wave hits. And maybe this time I won’t fall so far behind.

Book Review: Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly

This review may contain mild spoilers but will not talk in detail about any important plot points. I bought this book second hand from a used book sale sometime last year and just got around to reading it. The book is about a girl called Emma, who is the last person to see her childhood best friend, Abby, before Abby goes missing. The book is centred around Emma trying to find out what happened to Abby while also trying not to let the unsavoury circumstances in her past (that led to her “abandoning” Abby and moving to a different school) bleed through into her present. Check out the Goodreads page here.

missing-abby

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Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I went to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (known forevermore as MP because who has time to write out huge titles?) on Friday but only just got around to doing a review – hopefully my memory has survived! Anyway, this review has a bit of a disclaimer at the start. I have read the book, although admittedly only the first in the series. Yes, the film is a bit different to the book. HOWEVER, this review isn’t about the book, and it isn’t a list of similarities and differences (I can do both of those things in separate posts if people are interested). When I go to see a film, I watch it FOR THE FILM. Not so I can sit there with a checklist noting down every tiny deviation from the book it was based on. Books and films are different mediums, and they require different things. In my opinion anyway, there are very, very, VERY few books that can be turned into successful, ENJOYABLE films simply by getting actors to recite all the words in the book. They are different art forms and I like to treat them as such. Obviously everyone has their own opinions on the topic and no one opinion is the “right one”, we’re all just different and have different views on the subject. Yay diverse thinking! But when I went to see this film, I put my liking of the book to one side and just concentrated on the film as a film. The people who work on films work just as hard as writers to create their chosen piece of art, and I think they deserve from me, an avid consumer, at least the courtesy to watch their film for what it is and not just write it off because it isn’t a carbon copy of the book.

So, the TL;DR for this disclaimer is this: Yay books! Yay films! However, there will be no books in this review. ONLY FILM. And with that, on with the show!

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First Impressions: Choices Dairy Free white chocolate

        

As most of you probably know, I’m a pescetarian so I do eat normal chocolate (the only dairy product I don’t consume is milk – I drink soya milk or coconut milk) but I saw these vegan dairy free chocolate bars on offer and thought I’d try them out. I say “on offer” because each bar is usually £1.10 which is CRAZY! No way would I pay that! However, the ones I got (4 of them) are broken and so they were on sale for 30p each. I’ve never tried any sort of dairy free chocolate before so I’m pretty excited!

  
The chocolate has quite an odd flavour – not unpleasant, just different to anything I’ve eaten before. The texture is very smooth but not as creamy as regular chocolate. I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, it doesn’t taste bad and I’m sure if I were vegan and this was the only chocolate I ate I’d soon get used to it. On the other hand, I don’t find it as nice as regular chocolate – not even close, really. I’ll eat them because I’ve bought them, and yes I will enjoy them, but would I buy them again? Maybe not. Would I buy them at full price? Definitely not!

In short, I much prefer regular chocolate. However this isn’t bad, and if I found another brand of vegan chocolate somewhere I’d definitely be convinced to try that too. And maybe it’s just the white chocolate, which sometimes isn’t as good as milk chocolate anyway? There was milk chocolate in the shop, maybe I’ll try a bar of that next time and see if I like it better. 

Have any of you guys tried vegan chocolate? Is it just this brand that isn’t as good? Am I missing a gem of vegan chocolate somewhere? If you have any recommendations for me then please leave me a comment!

*Disclaimer: I bought the chocolate with my own money, from the “Free From…” section of Sainsburys. These opinions are purely my own, and I mean no disrespect or offence to anyone. 

Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Okay, I finished the book MONTHS ago but just haven’t gotten around to writing and posting my review until now. It’s a good job I made notes straight after I’d finished! The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is about a woman, Mme Ramotswe, who opens a detective agency in Botswana, and follows both her interactions with other characters and the cases brought to her and how she solves them. This book was part of my Continent Book challenge (the Africa months). This review is spoiler free (I think, there might be a couple tiny ones but nothing that will spoil anything about the book for you in any way).

The book is structured so that in every chapter (near enough) there is another case for Mme Ramotswe to solve. There is also one overarching case that runs throughout the book (revolving around a missing child and a witch doctor – I didn’t find any of it too grim or overly descriptive though). Alongside Mme Ramotswe is a pretty large cast of supporting characters, from the people she is helping to friends who help her. The characters seemed well rounded and interesting – they all seemed 3d to me, with well-thought out reasons behind every decision. I don’t know much about African culture, but I imagine the way these characters talk and interact with each other would be pretty realistic.

The main chapters, as I’ve said before, are about Mme Ramotswe and the cases she is hired to solve. However, interwoven into the main story is chapters about Mme Ramotswe’s background, her disastrous marriage, and her now deceased father who’s money she used to set up her detective agency. Although these chapters do slow the story itself down slightly, they make Mme Ramotswe more solid and I don’t think I would have understood and rooted for her quite so much had those insights into her past not been there.

In all, the book was well written and entertaining. I liked the characters and was satisfied with the ending (although it didn’t leave me with any lasting feelings either way). Maybe I just went into it with my expectations set too high but it just wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I can’t put my finger on anything WRONG with it, it just didn’t touch me, strike me, make me want to run back to the library and find all the sequels NOW. I mean, maybe if I saw the sequels in the library one day and was in a bit of a reading slump then I’d pick it up, but I wouldn’t go actively looking for it, nor am I particularly desperate to read it again.

I’m giving The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency 3 out of 5 – it was a pretty fun, pretty light read that was well written, but I’m not chomping at the bit to read more.

Book Review – My Dad’s A Policeman by Cathy Glass

This review will contain SPOILERS (for the SPOILER FREE review, check out my Goodreads review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9000173-my-dad-s-a-policeman ).

I love Cathy Glass and her books – while they are completely heart wrenching and often leave me on the verge of tears, they are also a reminder of how selfless and good some people can be, and how even the smallest, most damaged children can thrive when they find someone willing to stand with them instead of against them.

Ryan’s mother is an alcoholic. She spends large portions of each day either drinking or passed out from drinking, thus leaving it up to Ryan to look after his young brother Tommy, the house, and his mother. Because he’s been doing this for as long as he can remember, Ryan simply can’t understand why they must go into care – a running theme through the book is him trying desperately to prove that he can look after the family. He also thinks it’s his fault that the family was split up, because he got picked up by the police numerous times for fighting (he has problems managing his anger, but does get considerably better once in the stability of his foster home).

Ryan runs away from his foster home, and then again from the police officers who come to retrieve him. It’s the start of a lonely time for Ryan, made worse when he tries to persuade Tommy to run away with him, only to be met by refusal from the younger boy because Tommy likes his foster home – he has a playmate and enough to eat. I think it’s glaringly obvious how bad their home life was, that this little boy wants to stay with strangers over his family because at least with the strangers he knows he’ll get fed enough.

After some gentle encouragement from his mother, Ryan returns to his foster home but is still desperately unhappy without his brother. The one perk in this time for him was discovering that his foster dad is a policeman – having never known his father, Ryan used to insist to the other kids on his estate that his dad was a policeman (something that was believed by no one but Ryan).

The book ends on a happy note. Ryan’s mother is given a year by the courts to straighten herself out (although Cathy’s website states that it actually took 3 years for the boys to be returned to her), and a judge rules that Tommy should also move in with Ryan’s foster family so that the boys will be together. That’s about as upbeat as these kinds of stories get, and I’m glad that the boys were given a stable home, and that their mother was given the help she so badly needed.

This is the first of Cathy’s books I’ve read that doesn’t actually feature Cathy (Ryan’s foster mother is called Libby). It’s also the first I’ve read that’s in first person perspective of the person in care (Ryan) rather than the carer. I loved Ryan’s voice in this, the strength and maturity, as well as vulnerability and childish understanding of how the world works (Ryan was under the impression that he and Tommy could get a ferry to France on £3 and that he could work to support them, despite only being, I think, 12), all really shine through.

Ryan made me want to sob, while at the same time find him and hug him tightly. They say children in neglectful or abusive homes learn to be so much more resourceful than other children, and Ryan certainly proves that – while his mother did love him and his brother, for a good part of his life she loved the drink more and so Ryan had to take on the responsibility of caring for them all without letting anyone know just how bad the situation had become.

Another thing I loved was that Ryan’s best friend Wayne also got a happy ending (taken from his abusive father a couple of days after Ryan was taken)! Wayne had a habit of staying at Ryan’s when things got too much at home, but now it was Ryan’s turn go to Wayne for help. The friendship between the boys is lovely – they don’t need to ask what’s happened, only what they can do to help each other.

Overall, I’d give My Dad’s A Policeman 3.8 out of 5 – it was heart wrenching while still being heartwarming, and to hear the story through the eyes of such a young child (instead of their carer) made it all the more poignant. To anyone who likes Cathy’s books (or similar ones) I’d recommend you pick this up. At 100 pages it’s lovely and quick to read, and the change of perspective is a good change of pace.

(Note: on Cathy’s website it states that this book is a “novel based on a true story” as opposed to a “true fostering story”, which would explain why it is not from Cathy’s perspective/have Cathy in it.)