DNF

I generally tend not to DNF books, I try to persevere through something once I’ve started it, but I’m about to DNF my second book of this year because I want to read more and part of that is deciding that life is too short to force myself through something I’m not loving.

It’s not that I never want to read the book I’m DNF-ing (Our Dark Duet – VE Schwab), it’s just that I really can’t be bothered to read it now. I only bought this duology (This Savage Song / Our Dark Duet) because they were both 99p on Kindle, and technically I got them free because of credit from taking slow shipping on Prime. I loved the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy so I’ve been surprised how dull I’ve found these two.

I finished This Savage Song, so I don’t feel that I’ve not tried even though I’m DNF-ing Our Dark Duet on pg130-ish. I’ve read some reviews of Our Dark Duet just in case it’s worth sticking with but my opinion hasn’t changed so bye-bye it is.

The first book I DNF-ed this year was The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett. Touted as a cross between Life After Life and One Day, I was interested in the concept. However the characters didn’t interest me, I didn’t particularly like them and I didn’t care enough to follow their stories. I loved Life After Life, but I remember feeling meh about One Day although I can’t remember much about it now.

The Versions of Us was a charity shop purchase so will be going back to one next time I unhaul. I persevered to pg220 on that one, so I definitely gave it a try, but again life is just too short and my TBR piles are just too high!

Despite planning to read physical books I already own in order to reduce the books in my house, my most recent reads have been new books (physical and Kindle) that I’ve just bought. This is typical of me – as soon as I write a list of what I want to read, I avoid it!

TBR

My TBR pile is slightly huge, and I’m still buying books. Oops.

I don’t normally have a list of books I plan to read at a particular time, because it depends on how I feel, but this year I thought I’d do a list of books I’d like to have read by the end of the year, and then see how well I did!

This year I’d like to read:
Gentlemen and Players – Joanne Harris
The Blue Lady – Eleanor Hawken
God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson
The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion (part read)
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Wizard & Glass – Stephen King (started)
Wind Thru’ The Keyhole – Stephen King
Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King
Song of Susannah – Stephen King
The Dark Tower – Stephen King
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage – Sydney Padua
Shogun – James Clavell
Seed – Lisa Heathfield
Muddle Earth – Chris Riddell & Paul Stewart
Muddle Earth Too – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
The Thirteen Treasures – Michelle Harrison
The Thirteen Curses – Michelle Harrison
The Thirteen Secrets – Michelle Harrison
The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness (reread)
The Ask and the Answer – Patrick Ness
Monsters of Men – Patrick Ness
The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander (reread)
The Black Cauldron – Lloyd Alexander (reread)
The Castle of Llyr – Lloyd Alexander (reread)
Taran Wanderer – Lloyd Alexander (reread)
The High King – Lloyd Alexander (reread)
Dragon’s Blood – Jane Yolen (reread)
Heart’s Blood – Jane Yolen (reread)
A Sending of Dragons – Jane Yolen (reread)
Dragon’s Heart – Jane Yolen (don’t own yet)

That’s more than enough pre-planned books, I’ll chose the rest as and when I feel like reading them! I’d also like to include at least six non-fiction titles in this year.

So far this year I’ve read:
The Girl Who Saved Christmas – Matt Haig (illus Chris Mould)
Mostly Mary – Gwynedd Rae (illus Clara Vulliamy)
Vampire Fire – J R Rain
Goodnight Mr Panda – Steve Antony
Swapsies – Fiona Roberton
Tamsin and the Deep – Neill Cameron & Kate Brown
Tamsin and the Dark – Neill Cameron & Kate Brown
The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf – Nick Bryan
Rush Jobs – Nick Bryan
The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell
The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets! – Marcia Williams
Nanette’s Baguette – Mo Willems
Different Class – Joanne Harris
Turtles All The Way Down – John Green
The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon – Richard Adams & Alex T Smith
The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett (DNF)
Here We Are – Oliver Jeffers
Midnight Moon – J R Rain
Make More Noise – Various
Thornhill – Pam Smy
Fantastically Great Women Who Made History – Kate Pankhurst

And by the end of today, I’ll have finished:
A Spoonful of Murder – Robin Stevens

 

Book Blogging

I’ve fallen out of the blogging habit (although the plan is to get back into it this year), but I’ve been keeping a track of my reading and achieving an average of reading at least one book a week for the last five years, because I *love* books and reading, and I just wasn’t making the time to read when I could have.

I’ve recently been wasting my reading time on watching book vloggers. I’m enjoying the videos, and they’re great for relaxing to, plus I can leave them on in the background while I do other things (like write this!) They’ve not been good for my TBR list though, because I’ve bought several of the books they’ve covered (the ones that are currently 99p or £1.99 on Kindle). I DO NOT NEED any more books to read!

One of the things I’ve realised from watching the few booktubers that have come up as recommendations, is that I actually do read a lot of books! Compared to bookish people, I thought I barely read, but I guess the people I saw reading 200+ books a year are actually more exceptional than I already thought!

Another thing with the booktubers (who mainly seem to be white female teens / early 20s) is that I read a lot quicker than I thought too. I’ve watched a couple of 24hr readathon blogs and surprised by how little was read! When I was a teen I’d read two books in a day (waking hours, not 24hrs) fairly regularly. I remember avoiding revising for university exams by reading three books in a day instead… Anyhow, what I mean by this is not “ugh, they call themselves bookish people and they barely read” but “oh, I’m actually not bad at reading after all”!

I don’t know how they get through all their book hauls though! But I guess that’s a bookish thing, buying too many books? Did I say too many? No such thing!

I’ve recently sorted through all my books (well, not *all*, just most of the ones not on bookcases…) and written a TBR list based on both physical and eBooks. It’s a bit long. Oops.

I have (roughly) 70 non-fiction and 350 fiction books to read. Not including the ones I want to re-read. That works out at about EIGHT years worth at my usual reading pace. But there are so many more that I want to read that I don’t have, or haven’t been published, and ones to re-read, and…

Bother.

So I need to up my reading again. Last year I read 76 books. Well, I read 76 books that I count as part of my total. I read 101 books including graphic novels and early readers. I don’t know how many books I’ve read including picture books. I don’t count books that take under an hour to read in my personal “book a week average” challenge, but I do record them as read in my Bullet Journal. This year I’m also writing down picture books read, because that has slipped to a handful as my girls are getting older, but I want to get back into reading and reviewing picture books because I love them.

So far this year I’ve read:
The Girl Who Saved Christmas – Matt Haig (illus Chris Mould)
Mostly Mary – Gwynedd Rae (illus Clara Vulliamy)
Vampire Fire – J R Rain
Goodnight Mr Panda – Steve Antony
Swapsies – Fiona Roberton
Tamsin and the Deep – Neill Cameron & Kate Brown
Tamsin and the Dark – Neill Cameron & Kate Brown
The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf – Nick Bryan
Rush Jobs – Nick Bryan
The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell
The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets! – Marcia Williams
Nanette’s Baguette – Mo Willems
Different Class – Joanne Harris

So far this year I’ve bought: Oh dear, oh dear… 42 books. And I have another 6 on order… Nine are eBooks so don’t take up space at least! Ten (and the six on order) are new books, and the remaining 23 are second hand, hence the total being so high. I need a book-buying ban. And a book cull.

I don’t want to cull my TBR list because I do want to read them all. I’m trying to get through the physical books first because there are several that I will return to charity shops after reading, and I do need to cull.

So…

Book collecting – I can do very well, but I’m going to slow down.

Book reading – I can do quite well, but I’m going to read more.

Book reviewing – I’ve really got to push myself to do this again!

Wednesday Waffle

It’s Thursday.

Which just about sums up how awesome I am at keeping new year’s resolutions.

Not that I make resolutions. I have goals. It’s slightly more do-able. Slightly. I haven’t made all my goals for the last two years of doing them, but I’ll try again this year.

One of this year’s goals is to blog again. I’m aiming for once a week. Once a day just doesn’t work for me. Even my instagram once a day challenges I end up doing in bursts of five or six.

I’ve just bought a new A5 Leuchtterm 1917 dotted notebook to be my fourth Bullet Journal. I wasn’t going to start the new year in a new journal but I’ve been watching lots of BuJo setup videos on YouTube so I want to redo mine and ignore the clutter of the current one. I’m now using that one as my daily journal, to get in the habit of writing every day for myself.

So. Here is a post. It’s a bit lame, but I expected that. I was hoping to do a waffle and a book review post every week but I’m only going to commit myself to one a week because I get too stressed with any sort of deadline at the moment.

New Year. New BuJo. Old TBR list, growing. Old me. New paints. Which I’m now going to play with!

Happy New Year.

How Did You Manage School?

Mr Chaos asked me this morning, as we yet again worry about choosing the right secondary school for our eldest daughter.

I honestly don’t know. I guess because I went to a small girls-only secondary, because my primary teacher recommended that my parents sent me private if they could afford it (thinking that I wouldn’t cope with a big secondary, quite accurately I suspect), it wasn’t the same as surviving a huge mixed state school.

There were 400 pupils at my school, aged 8-18, and about half were boarders. My mum drove me to school every single day from age 11 to age almost-18 (summer birthday) because we lived up to 25 miles away, although I expect a “normal” child would have worked out busses. But I was never “normal”.

I started self harming by the age of 17, but I was miserable for long before then. But also I was happy enough living in my own little world. I just read books constantly. I did school, then I forgot about it. I rarely did homework; I rarely studied (I was one of those annoying people who could pass exams with looking at the work ten minutes before going in to an exam); I didn’t see “friends” outside of school. I didn’t know that my experience was really quite different to most people.

Somehow I got through secondary. Somehow I went to university. I don’t really know how I did any of it, other than I just knew I had to and I was rubbish at breaking rules so I did what I thought I was supposed to. My school reports are full of comments like “we’re not sure if Anne-Marie is happy”, and “maybe she would benefit from outside help”, and “if only she would apply herself to all subjects, not just the ones she likes”, and “I was disappointed to hear her say that she finds most subjects irrelevant and uninteresting” (I learnt to not say what I really felt at that point!)

My daughters are not me. The small local primary school has been right for them. Not perfect, but better than our other options. Getting anyone to understand that your child is wearing a mask much of the time, and needs more support than they see, is difficult.

MG is in year six, in less than a year she will be in secondary education somewhere. Most of her classmates will travel to secondaries on their own from the start, age eleven. I can’t imagine my eldest daughter travelling to school alone. It takes five minutes to get her through the door to school most mornings, and those are the good days.

I don’t drive. I’ve failed ten practical driving tests. I don’t know whether that’s because of my autism (I know plenty of autistic people who drive, but we’re all different) but it limits our options. I want to send my daughters to a Montessori based school: no homework; no uniforms; 20% of all lessons taught outside; genuine individual support (25 pupils age 11-16). But it’s a drive to get there. There are busses, but the time to bus there and back would double the school day, which is not feasible.

We think we’ve chosen the most likely candidate for MG’s next school. £16K/year fees – we’ve been offered financial assistance, but I don’t want anyone to spend that kind of money if it’s not exactly the right place; and I really don’t think it is exactly the right place.

I know I’m accused of thinking of my children as “special snowflakes” and being an over-anxious mother. I am over-anxious. But in my parenting, my anxiety over my children has grown over time. I used to be utterly blase about sending my children to nursery and school, and completely trusting of the people looking after them.

After years of trusting everyone else, it’s not worked. Supporting my children with their unique needs does work. I’m only just starting to express my opinions more confidently; I’m only just telling school when I think things need to change; I’m only just starting to try to trust in my opinions.

But I don’t quite trust my opinions. I don’t believe in myself. I struggle through every day. I don’t know how to express myself in the right way. I do curl up under a duvet and cry most days.

I don’t know how I managed school. I don’t think I did. I don’t think I’m managing life much either. But I’ll keep plodding on, and trying, and hoping.

(Almost) Five Months Later

Apparently I didn’t manage to blog out May, or even post at all in the last (almost) five months. Oops. For the first week my head swam with posts that I didn’t quite get around to writing, and I replied to my lovely commenter (in my head) several times.

But here we are, in almost October, and nothing on this blog since. I miss blogging, but I don’t seem to be able to get in the right mindset.

Much has changed since May, and also nothing at all. We have a cat. A kitten really, he was born in May and we got him in August. I love having a cat in the house again.

DG got her official ASD diagnosis, no surprises there. Three ASD diagnoses in one household; Mr Chaos is outnumbered in so many ways.

I have a post in mind. I think I’ll go write it separately to this ramble. Maybe I will get back into blogging at last.

And picture books. I miss writing about that too.

Blog Out May

I’ve seen an advert which says “outrun May”, and I keep thinking it means the current UK prime minister. But actually it’s about running for charity. Or health. Or something. I’m not interested enough to remember. I’ve meant to do a blog every day month for years but instead I’ve barely blogged. But it’s the first of yet another month so I’m having another try.

I want to get back in the habit of blogging again because I enjoyed it. I need to get in a habit of journalling because my mental health isn’t doing too well and writing usually helps.

It seems that being diagnosed as autistic is the start of a long process and after over two years I still feel at the beginning of my understanding of myself. Over 40 years of not really being who you actually are isn’t easy to work out. I’m not sure who I am or how to parent the awesome beings that my body grew and expelled.

We’re on the cusp of puberty for my eldest daughter, and her diagnosis a year ago should help navigate that. Also being ridiculously open and honest for her whole life. Side affect of my autism, I’m rubbish at lying. We’ll have to apply for secondary school in a few months, and I am honestly scared of her going to a huge school, but an EHCP is unlikely unless she actually goes into crisis, which I’d prefer to avoid. Masking issues and appearing “normal” to get through the day equals “she’s fine” to the untrained eye.

Youngest daughter is still awaiting assessment, because two autism diagnoses in close family and a host of traits are still apparently not enough to avoid hoop jumping with CAMHS just to get on the year long waiting list. We don’t even have written confirmation she’s on a waiting list, and I don’t trust verbal notifications.

I won’t be writing specific details about my children because their lives are theirs and they don’t want it shared online. So if I seem self centered, it’s because I’m the only person I have permission to write about. My life is still child-led chaos of course.

My current special interests appear to be books (always, although picture books are fading, which I’m not happy about so will fight back); autism (especially female experiences and mental health); feminism (sort of, mainly for counteracting everyday sexism for my daughters); decluttering and organisation (because my house is too messy / stimulating for good mental health); and Lego (because.)

I have no plan for this daily blogging. I might hunt out some prompts, or diary stuff, or actually do some book reviews, or stream of consciousness. Or this might be or for another few months. Hopefully not. Please feel free to give me any ideas or questions and I’ll see how I do. Thank-you.

Scholastic Book Club for Christmas

Scholastic Book Clubs asked me to share some of my favourite choices from their Christmas selection, and in typical fashion I’m late (aarrgghh technical issues) and there’s only one day left to order for delivery on time for Christmas. However as a bonus, there an extra 20% off everything until 19th December too.

Even if you miss Christmas delivery, Scholastic Book Club books are at low prices all year round, with 20% of every order (over £10) going to a school of your choice. Win win.

Buy Illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets from Scholastic Book Clubs.

My number one choice of gift is one (or both) of the illustrated Harry Potter books. I think these are wonderful gifts for any age – heirloom for a baby up to any age. Even those who aren’t Harry Potter fans should appreciate the wonderful illustrations. At £16.99 each they’re a bargain from Scholastic Book Clubs, and with 20% off that’s £27.18 for both. Bargain.

Buy The Jolly Postman or The Jolly Christmas Postman from Scholastic Book Clubs.

However for that awkward child age when they’re aware of getting presents until they’re ready to listen to (or read) the Harry Potters (about age 1-7ish depending on child), you can’t go wrong with The Jolly Postman with all the letters and leaflets to pull out. It’s unlikely to survive being read to death, so spares always welcome!


Buy The Wild Wilder or The Lie Tree from Scholastic Book Clubs.

Finally, the other awkward teen age where the recipient may feel too old for Harry Potter but is still too young to like whatever they like, one (or both) of these historically based, gorgeously illustrated novels might suit.

These are just a few pics from a wide selection, have a bruise and order quickly for 20% of and Christmas delivery.

Disclosure: I received nothing for writing this post, I just love gorgeous books and special offers.

Technical Difficulties

My laptop is dead. My less than 18 month old, 40th birthday present laptop. Sniffles.

Mr Chaos has backed up the files despite Windows not opening but it looks like the hard drive has been knocked too many times so needs to be replaced. It’s not happening at this time of year, even with the offer of a free old drive to check whether it will work again.

Sniffles sniffles grumble.

My children are banned from ever using my laptop again. Not that the ban has any meaning, with the laptop being out of action.

I bought a basic Kindle Fire in the black cyber sales, and have installed Google framework etc on it so I can do more stuff. Now I need to get the hang of image editing (I think I’ve found an app that will do layers) and putting pictures into blog posts.

I have a huge pile of Christmassy book posts I wanted to do, but it’s all taking longer working it out on a very basic tablet. Ah well. I used to be techy, I’m sure I can work it out again 🙂

Homework Rant

I generally love our little school, but this morning I am frustrated that they really don’t get my daughter’s autism. Yes, she appears “fine” at school, but this is at a huge cost to her coping levels, her “spoons”.

If you had a child who hit herself on the head with the first thing within reach when she was stressed, you wouldn’t make her do homework either. Other children may also “be busy” but extra busy in this household means extra down time, and there *isn’t* time for homework – unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys watching a child suffer, which I’m not.

No, we can’t do homework after school – she is so worn out by then it’s too stressful. Friday evenings? Don’t be ridiculous – the *only* thing possible on a Friday after school is as much calm time as possible. Weekends are the only time possible, but if we do something else (you know, like be a family and go out occasionally), then more recovery time is needed so again approaching homework isn’t possible without screaming, hyperventilating, self-harm.

Would you put your child through that? For homework that is pointless for her as she’s so academically bright she doesn’t need the extra practice anyway? I wouldn’t. I don’t.

But the pressure to hand in homework also makes her so stressed. All she needs is to know it doesn’t matter, that it’s not important that she didn’t do this work that she could breeze through this week. Not to be told that “of course she should be worried” that she didn’t do homework; not for me to be told that maybe we should do it on Fridays after school so it’s done.

I’m not putting my child through that stress for a meaningless exercise in nothingness, but even our lovely laid back school is happy to put her through more stress because they “see” that she’s “fine”.

She’s not “fine”.

She’s awesome. She’s wonderful. She’s clever. She’s imaginative. She’s kind. She’s caring. She’s thoughtful. She’s amazing.

But, actually, she’s also disabled. And that matters too.