JJ Reads

Memo Pad: January Wrap Up

One month down of the new year already!

I’ve been drafting my new book which means everything else has been pushed to the side for the last 3 weeks. And will be for the next few too! I’m half way through and I have a love hate relationship with this book. Okay, that’s not fair, I love the book, but I’m struggling in a comparison and future hazy where I’m worried it’s not going to be marketable or enticing to agents etc which is such a silly thing to be worried about a) because it’s a first draft b) because that is so far off and c) because it shouldn’t matter so long as I like it and am enjoying writing it. But these are the things my brain is trapped with at the moment. I’m not letting it get in the way of actual writing but in the breaks (of which there must be many thanks to my chronic illness) my brain spirals. Alas.

My obsession with drafting meant that other things have fallen to the side, like, for example, that 2019 book stats post I said I was going to do. So a REALLY quick rundown instead?

2019 BOOK STATS

  • I read 100 books last year, for the first and probably only time. It wasn’t fun towards the end there and reading is supposed to be fun!
  • My average rating was 4.2 stars. 42 of which were 5 stars!!! I only rated 2 novels as 1 or 2 stars both of which were down to harmful rep. A few years ago I was only rating a handful of books 5 stars a year. I’m definitely getting better at knowing which books I will love and being more picky about what I read.
  • I read 15 nonfiction books, all of which were either autism themed or about writing craft.
  • I read about 23 books of short fiction. I say about because sometimes it’s really hard to know if a book counts as a novel or a novella!
  • Over a third of the fiction I read was by POC, two thirds included queer rep, 25 books featured characters with disabilities, 11 of these were autism rep, the majority with physical disabilities were side characters,
  • 33 books of the 100 were eARCs (ebooks given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

Do you keep track of any reading stats? I would love to hear about them. How many books did you read, do you get arcs and how many of the books are arcs, do you keep track of rep? Let me know!

In current reading news, I didn’t read much in January because of the drafting and the brain, but I did read two brilliant literary fiction novels (amusingly, both also had dual timelines). I’m not sure why it’s been a literary fiction month. Not that I never read them, I do, and love them, but they don’t tend to make up the majority of my reading. I think maybe it has to do with the fact it is so different to anything I’m writing and working on right now that it is easier to escape into reading them. I also I DNFd one book.

Because there’s only two (and a half) reviews I’m doing them both in this post rather than having a separate mini reviews post like normal. As always, links go to goodreads.

Agency by William Gibson***** (Review Copy)

A brilliant fun and thrilling literary scifi set over two timelines where agents in a future London manipulate a past timeline to try help it avoid a nuclear war by contacting a woman working with a developing AI, via a lot of combat ready drones and VR interfaces.

I loved the main character, Verity, our guide into the story from the current timeline where Trump didn’t win the election and Brexit never happened (I wish!). Dubbed an app whisperer, for her work making success stories of start up apps, she gets a new job working with a developing smart system who turns out to be a lot more sentient and scheming than anyone expected. Verity gets caught up in a web of dangerous people, all out to regain control of the AI, and only has her tech famous ex boyfriend, his fiancee, the friend whose couch she’s sleeping on and the mysterious contacts from the future to rely on. I loved all the characters of the ragtag crew that formed around Verity, especially the ex with his curiosity about helping the AI, his girlfriend and their relationship with Verity. it’s so refreshing to see a healthy friendship form after a breakup in a book with no jealous angst from the two women.

The writing reminded me a lot of This is How You Lose the Time War which was one of my favourite books of 2019. It’s one of those books where you shouldn’t try to understand everything as it’s said, it’s the future and a super clever AI after all, but as long as you go with the flow you get a feel for the world created and it all builds up into a great story. I loved the tech, the combat ready humanoid drone, the VR feeds, the constant assistance the AI gives Verity while fiddling in way too many important pies and the almost magic feel to the tech in the future timeline. An exciting and beautifully written ride!

Dear Edward by Ann Nepolitano ***** (Review copy)

A literary fiction novel set over two timelines where twelve year old Edward, the only survivor of a plane crash that killed all 191 others on board, finds letters written to him from the families of the dead. One timeline focuses on Edward and the long road of recovery as he is adopted by his aunt and uncle, and the other is of the flight and flits between a dozen passengers as we learn about their last moments and what happened.

Edward was such a lost kid to follow through the couple of years after the tragedy, having had his whole family taken away, especially the loss of his brother who he did everything with. I loved the relationships he forms with his aunt and uncle and with his neighbours who he befriends. The book showed how much everybody around Edward was also affected by the event and how much they cared for him. I loved the way it didn’t gloss over how difficult he found it to settle into a completely new life, and how long that grieving process takes with the bumps and set backs that came with it. The scene where he struggles to eat and chooses to try one each of his family’s favourite things was very sad and you felt just how much he missed them and how impossible it felt for him to move on. But at the same time, because of the way it’s written, the emotions never felt overwhelming as a reader.

Back on the plane, we get a lot more people to follow, the head hoping was written so well. Each character was unique and had a whole life they were coming from and going to at the end of the flight, seeing them all through each others eyes was great and it gave insight when Edward discovers letters written to him from the family and friends of the dead asking things of him. The letters of the premise don’t show up until much later than I expected but having met so many of the characters mentioned by then, I think it worked perfectly. Overall, this is a moving story about people, grief and recovery in the wake of a massive tragedy and how difficult it is for so many people involved.


Termination Shock by Gillian Andrews – DNF @ 23% (Review Copy)

I think this could have been a solid 3 star read if I’d decided to keep going so not a bad book at all, but a few things in the opening parts felt a little too easy and constructed for me. Characters getting out of situations, things falling into place way too neatly just at the right time for the plot to move on etc that lost my interest. Although I do think it had great characters and a lot of potential.


So that was my month, first of the year already gone! What have you all been up to to start off the year? Any good books yet? Do you track reading stats at all?

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