Managing the TBR pile

A few bloggers were posting last year about their efforts to manage their To Be Read (TBR) piles. I considered a post then but ti seemed a better use of my time to actually write some reviews! As well as a TBR ‘pile’ I have a second type of TBR which is my ‘read but yet to be reviewed’ pile which is equally frightening!

I wrote a roundup post at the end of 2016 which reviewed where I was with my outstanding reading. I have to confess that I’m not necessarily showing much progress! On a sort of positive side the number of books arriving from publishers has dropped off dramatically. Moving house hasn’t helped and the occupiers of our old house may be getting into crime fiction books, I was really busy with work in the first half of 2017 so I neglected my blog and the contacts at publishers change so it’s easy to drop off a specific list.

To be honest it’s not really an issue, it isn’t as if I will run out of books to read. The only problem I really see is that if, as a blogger, you’re not reading the ‘next big thing’ you can lose a new term of reference that becomes commonplace  (like comparing a book to Gone Girl, which is still unread on my Kindle).

So my plan to keep up in 2018 is this:

At the end of the year I cleared into a box enough physical books from my ‘to read bookcase’ so that there was no longer a stack of books beside it, everything is now on the bookcase, including the books I was given for Christmas. I will read books in the order in which they arrive and if there are any gaps when there are no new books I’ll pick one up from the bookcase. I’m averaging a bit over a book a week which means one book on my commute and part of another book in the evenings or weekends, and it’s better if that book is a hardback as I don’t like to shove them in my work bag.

As far as reviewing goes I’m aiming to keep to reviewing a book as soon as I’ve read it. If I can do that and occasionally write a review for a book from the read but yet to be reviewed pile I should feel under less pressure. Which is all well and good but I couldn’t manage last year!

So how am I doing (I realise we’re not a full month in to 2018 yet)?

I have read:

The Fear Within which arrived on 30th December and reviewed it here
The Ice which was a birthday gift from July and as a signed hardback I wouldn’t take out of the house – still needs reviewing
A Song From Dead Lips which I treated myself to just before Christmas I reviewed here
Turn a Blind Eye – 2018’s first #bookpost I read and reviewed here

Currently reading:

The Photographer, which I got as a NetGalley is my current read.
At the same time I’ve also started reading The Silent Companions which was a Christmas present.

Next to read will be:

A Darker State which is the third in the Karin Müller series and arrived earlier this month.

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright which I received as a NetGalley

Deep Blue Trouble by Steph Broadribb which I received as a free download when I signed up to Lounge Books.

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields which I bought on a Kindle offer.

The Hangman by Daniel Cole which I received from Netgalley.

I went to the Headline “New Voices 2018′ event in Bristol during the week and came home with two books, The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke and The Wolf by Leo Carew.

So this should take me through to the end of Feb and let’s ignore the fact I might have asked for one or two books that haven’t yet arrived.

Let’s see how I manage sticking to this!

So how do you manage your arrivals and keeping on top of your ‘to read’ books?


What makes a ‘good’ book review?

My blog started out as a series of posts of my book reviews and despite dabbling in one or two other types of content it remains primarily a review site. English (especially literature) wasn’t something I chose to pursue as a subject at school or later so beyond the odd exercise to write about a book in my teens I’ve never been taught how this should be done. When it comes to writing a review I know that I don’t necessarily have the right terms of reference or terminology to summarise some of the aspects of what I’ve read or perhaps even the knowledge to identify specific features. You can probably tell this from my earliest posts, I’d like to think that over time I’ve got better, or at least have more of a clue about what I’m doing. But I’m not sure that I’ve grasped it completely yet. Does it matter as long as I’m posting about the books?

A review in The London Review of Books could be 2,500 words long and in a newspaper or magazine it might be 500 or even down to just a series of short quotes. Until I ended up particularly behind with my reviews this year I’ve tended to find 500 words is about right but have been trying to write shorter reviews in order to catch up (and perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing) but obviously length isn’t necessarily a sign that a review is better or more comprehensive just because it’s longer.

I often see people sharing reviews on twitter or facebook as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ but, in general, these seem to be ‘positive’ rather than incisive reviews. So what does a good review mean to you? Whose reviews do you admire and why? I’d really like to know other blogger’s/reviewer’s thoughts.



Here’s to 2017

stockvault-large-colorful-fireworks114130Well whatever your thoughts about 2016 it has, inevitably, passed and here we are looking forward to 2017 and what that might bring.

I thought this might be a good opportunity, even if it’s just for my own benefit, to take stock of what I read / blogged in 2016 so this time next year I have a comparison. According to Goodreads I have read 51 books – which is what I would expect – I know I usually read about one a week and with the house move I’ve had a couple of weeks where I’ve hardly read a page.

As well as completing 51 books I consigned one to the ‘abandoned’ shelf, have carried over 6 that I had already started and still haven’t finished and started a further three – so I’m technically currently reading 9.



My ‘to read’ numbers are a little frightening. According to Goodreads, which is how I try to keep track, I have a total of 288:

  • 146 on my bookcase (although this is theoretical as a lot have yet to be unpacked)
  • 41 on my kindle
  • 101 (intentionally) in boxes although I hope to get to them eventually.

This compares with a total of 250 in March when I commented following a post of Cleo’s.

I don’t commit to a reading challenge each year, blogging can feel like enough of a chore sometimes without making the reading feel challenging too!

As far as my blog is concerned I posted reviews of 39 books – confirming my suspicion that I am permanently behind and never manage to write / post the reviews at the same speed at which I read.

As well as the book reviews I tried two new things on the blog this year. The first was a series of features on those people who are behind the scenes but are all involved in getting great crime fiction to our shelves / e-readers. This was a popular feature which I will be pressing on with – I have some more interviewees lined up I just need to write the questions for them to answer.

I also built on my ‘Debuts to look out for in 2015‘ with a monthly post featuring forthcoming crime fiction / thriller debuts. Although this was a great way of focussing attention on these new releases it became far too difficult to maintain in the latter part of the year. Perhaps I’ll just do a single ‘2017’ post.

Overall the traffic to my blog has increased, which is great and thank you to all the people who have read, liked and commented. Here’s to more of the same in 2017!

So do you have plans, challenges or goals for your reading and / or blogging in the next year?

Well here we are!

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-20-53-29It wasn’t the smoothest move in the history of the world but I’m now living in my fourth ever county. While it’s not all gone to plan it’s a relief to have got the move done and have the chance to think about what’s next – THE MOVE has been such a big, looming event that it’s been impossible to see past it. Apparently it’s Christmas soon…

I was a reader before I was a blogger and have always had a lot of books; we’ve not unpacked any yet and there are close to 100 boxes still to go (hopefully not all books – there is an elusive cushion I’m still looking for). First we need to buy more shelves so a trip to Ikea is in order, but of course the days before Christmas aren’t the best time to pick. We’ve been here just a week and have managed to get a couple of rooms organised so we can escape from the heaps of boxes filling the other rooms. Small steps…

But at least we’ll have some time off in the next few weeks so we should have the opportunity to get more rooms sorted. And once there are some books unpacked then it’s back to the blog!







Keeping up

Moving house by Derek Mayes

Moving house by Derek Mayes

I’ve not been the most regular or reliable of bloggers. I always have a book on the go and if you check my Goodreads you’ll see that there often a few that I’m part way through but my reviewing can never keep up with the speed at which I read – even though I’m not a particularly prolific reader. There are currently around a dozen books that I’ve read but have yet to review – a situation that makes me feel perpetually guilty! So this post is to serve as a warning that if things go to plan this is a situation that is likely to get worse before it gets better.

With a bit of luck this won’t jinx things but we anticipate that before Christmas everything we own will be packed into a lorry and shipped to a whole new county (county not country – I’m not that brave!). It will be an exciting time and a big change for us but the list of things we need to do to make it happen seems never-ending and getting 12 book reviews posted to my blog is getting further and further down the list.

I’m currently trying to clear the backlog but while I will carry on reading and do intend to review the books I read it’s hard to say when a more ‘normal’ service might be resumed. Watch this space!

Not quite a top 10 …

It hasn’t escaped my notice that many people are writing posts reviewing their year’s reading and compiling a list of their top ten (or so) books. I can’t complain at the books I’ve read in the last year (according to Goodreads there were 42) but there were just two that really stood out for me.

The first was a mix of crime fiction and psychological thriller set on the Falkland Islands in 1994 – Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton. This was a skilfully woven story told very cleverly from multiple points of view and with a set of characters that I found engaging (bucking the trend for characters we love to hate – or just hate).

The second was Life and Death by Michael Robotham. A thriller set in America this went on to win the 2015 Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award in September. With a visual quality to the writing and great attention to detail this was a compelling read with an unusual premise.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive lists of crime fiction suggestions then you can’t do better than check out Ayo’s list on Shots (shotsmagcouk.blogspot.co.uk). There are definitely a few there that I will try to fit in during 2016.

Coincidence …?

I’m in the midst of writing a review for a book in which I’ve said ‘the premise is an unusual one’ and when I started the review this was true, however it shares a lot in common with my current read. The books were published within weeks of each other and I’m in no way suggesting that there is any connection, copying, collusion or anything in any way underhand – it’s just pure coincidence. And I’ve noticed how frequently this seems to happen. Through a purely random choice of what to read next I’ve often spotted surprising coincidences from the small, such as two books using the same unremarkable US location, to a more fundamental plot device.

Synchronicity, coincidence? Has this happened in your reading? And can you figure out the two books I’m referring to at the beginning of my post (if it helps they were both published in 2013).