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Serial Killers, Aliens, & Very Angry Zombies

A book chat containing surprisingly few books, but some thoughts about changing reading patterns and book love.

I have just been reading an article titled How to Get Back Into Reading, which should give you some insight into how my reading’s going at the moment.

Attention is hard right now. Distraction is high (see my last blog post for what I mean), and I’m expending most of attention-coralling energy on writing, if I’m being perfectly honest. By the time I’ve managed to keep my mind on work for the day, there’s just not a lot of focus left. And while I know that reading will recharge me much better than a horror-filled scroll of the news, or taking a quiz to tell me what dessert I am (I have no idea why I do these, and I can’t even remember what the answer was. Blancmange, perhaps? That seems fitting), I seem to really struggle to put the phone down.

And for now, do you know what? That’s okay.

I’ve resolved that in a year (yet another year) of upheaval and change, both personal and global, that if I lose a couple of hours watching videos of a photo-bombing ostrich (those vids are completely worth losing reading time over) rather than reading, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. Reading is the place I always come home to, no matter where I am in the world or in my head. I will never lose my love for it, even if I stumble on the actual doing of it from time to time. And while I still feel a certain niggling guilt that I should be reading – well, why should I? There’s no exam at the end of life to check how many books I read, no club I have to justify my entry to.

And, lovely people, that goes for you as well. Sometimes books are our perfect escape. Sometimes they are our shields against the world. And sometimes they’re just too much. Sometimes watching characters struggle through chaos, or loss, or exhaustion, is just too close to how we’re already feeling. Sometimes the thought of having to keep track of plots and characters and subplots and subtext is exhausting. Sometimes simply trying to choose a story that we want to read is the problem, because nothing seems to speak to us and everything feels complicated and stressful and weird (me, now).

Sometimes we just need to hang up our brains and watch ostrich videos.

And that is completely okay.

And now I have made such an eloquent argument for why I have only two finished books and one DNF to talk about (and a couple of DNFs that I won’t), it’s on to the video!

How to Kill Your Family, Bella Mackie. Honestly, I bought this for the title alone, more than anything. But I’m so glad I did. We meet Grace in prison, where she’s been incarcerated for a murder she didn’t commit – not the six she did. And through her journal entries we learn why she’s been systematically killing off her father’s family, and why she’s ended up where she is now. It’s an easy read, very funny, and Grace is completely unsympathetic but also so readable. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend a large cup of tea and a generous slice of cake, both taken while keeping a close eye out to make sure Grace gets nowhere near either.

“Men often laugh with surprise when they find women funny, as though it’s a skill we’re not expected to possess.”

― Bella Mackie, How to Kill Your Family

Flesh and Blood, Andrew Shanahan. The sequel to Before and After, which I talked about in a previous vid. This continues the story of Ben and his wee dog Brown, after they’ve managed to get out of his apartment building. We meet them on a ship that’s been their home for a while, moored up in Manchester. Ben is dying of cancer, and wants to create a safe space for Brown before he dies. Things do not go according to plan, obviously, but to everyone who shares the same concerns as me any time there’s an animal in a book – Brown is fine! This was just as good as the first book, and they’re definitely up there with my favourite apocalyptic tales. A large pack of custard creams (without the added pot) and a giant pot of tea.

“What I didn’t know is that nothing can protect you from pain in life, not even bourbons. Avoiding pain isn’t the point of life, it’s finding a way to deal with it.”

Andrew Shanahan, Flesh and Blood

Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir. Uggghhh. I was so disappointed in this book. I loved The Martian and Artemis, but this … It was a DNF at about halfway through, but I’m including it anyway to prove I have read more than two books this month. And also in the hope that someone will tell me it’s not as bad as I thought and I need to try it again when I have a better head. Basically, little space organisms are stealing the heat from our sun and Our Hero is part of a team sent to a distant galaxy to try and find a solution. So far I love the idea, but Our Hero is so annoying that I wanted to throw things regularly, and I gave up at the point when he came across as so superior to an alien race because their technology is different. Some recycled water to wash the taste away, please.

“But I have to save humanity first. Stupid humanity. Getting in the way of my hobbies.”

 Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary

And that, lovely people, is my lot for the month. I’ve also been dipping in and out of Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, which I’m finding excellent, but I shall leave my rating for that until I eventually finish it. Probably around March of next year, at this rate …

Now, over to you. How’s your reading going at the moment? Do you find yourself reading more, or less, or differently? And what’s your favourite read of the last month been? Let me know below!

andrew shanahan, andy weir, bella mackie, flesh and blood, how to kill your family, project hail mary, reading, self care

  1. Mike says:

    Emmanuel Todd Lopez is well worth binge watching.

    1. Kim says:

      Thank you for the recommendation! I’ll check it out 😁

  2. “How to Kill Your Family”–what a DELIGHTFUL title! Kind of reminds me of “If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him”, which was, coincidentally, the book I’d bought years ago on the very afternoon preceding the evening when my husband walked out. (Yeah, kinda felt like that.) Distraction is a VERY good thing, my dear. When one’s enduring grief and loss (my Dad, my best boy cat), when the doctor has said, “Look, the eating for comfort thing has GOT to end, and the only cake you should be eating is rice cakes”–when life is just too, too hard, hiding in books and mindless cute cat videos is a blessing bequeathed by a kind Goddess.

    1. Carolyn says:

      Rice cakes! These should only be consumed if savoury and slathered in butter and Marmite.

      1. I don’t think rice cakes are fit for human consumption no matter what toppings one slathers on them!

        1. Carolyn says:

          True but it is an excuse to lick off the Marmite

    2. Kim says:

      There definitely is a time when distraction is exactly what we need, and exactly what recharges us. I’ve resolved to stop feeling bad about it, and to just read when it feels right!

      As for appropriate book titles – that one is fantastic. Certain things do definitely just talk to us …

  3. Carolyn says:

    When I need help I find kindly dragons, trolls and baked goods seem to be the answer plus reading daft comments in FB from all my like-minded friends and acquaintances

    1. Kim says:

      Daft FB comments can often be an amazing escape! And baked goods make everything better ❤️


    I’m alternating between several books right now, but I just finished “The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow” by Rachel Aaron. Interesting kind of alternate old west with magic crystals. I’m also plowing (lots of unpronounceable names) my way through “Zafill”by M.C.A. Hogarth. Loved her Peltedverse characters and books. Kind of sci fi fantasy. Otherwise I’m just going for really light, fluffy reading right now.

    1. Kim says:

      Light, fluffy reading is often just what’s called for. Weirdly, I seem to be tempted by a lot of horror at the moment (possibly that old thing about being able to slay the monsters), then get irritated with it because it’s hard to find one that’s story and suspense over gore. So I’m bouncing around a bit with my reading!

  5. Joanne Altman says:

    Honestly, I’ve been reading less as I’ve been swimming or exercising for hours everyday. I still have my Yorkshire tea daily, take care of my eleven inside cats and six outside ferals, but there’s no baked goodies until I work off these last ten pounds 😁

    1. Kim says:

      You sound so busy that I’m surprised you have time for reading at all! Seventeen cats is basically a full-time job … Awesome on the swimming and exercising – I hope you’re enjoying it and getting recovery time in too, though. That matters as well!

  6. Glen says:

    Some….well, at least one…question first. DNF ….did not finish? do not (bother) finishing? I’ve read read a few of those. Maybe they were too depressing for the mood I was been in since I found myself a widow! (I really did not expect this, even tho I knew it was a possibility!) And a suggestion…The Traveling CatChronicles by Hiroshi Arikawa, which was surprisingly better than expected ( I read it as a library book, then spent months trying to find it in book stores, finally ordering it. If I was as generous as I would like to be, I would have ordered copies for all my cat loving friends!!’) You have ostriches? How cool.Of course they may be emus. I’m not all that conversant with either, so I can’t tell. (Do you find that spell check needs to be corrected often? I have to keep a close eye on it, since it quite often says things that were not ever intended!) And I now have two more books to order from the library….oh, the agony! I got the first books in the two series….the dragon being my favorite, but I am going to hit the bookstore pretty soon here, and order more books, and of course, since I’m there and all, I’m pretty certain I’ll walk out with more new books, ….or why go there at all? Besides, the cat needs a new batch of cat grass, sometimes known as wheat grass!

    1. Kim says:

      I’m so sorry to hear of your loss – that must’ve been so incredibly tough. I hope you’re doing everything you need to do to look after you.

      And yes, DNF stands for Did Not Finish – for whatever reason it might be. I’m quite a mood reader, so at times I’m not quite sure if it’s just that the book didn’t speak to me at that point or if I really didn’t like it … I have a feeling I have The Travelling Cat Chronicles tucked away on my kindle somewhere, so I’ll have to move it up the list!

      The ostrich video is from Florida, I think? Australia has emus, while NZ has all sorts of odd birds, but none so big – or not since the moa were hunted out, anyway …

  7. Linda says:

    Omg, you nailed it. Reading and baking have always been constants for me. They both serve to relax, energize, escape, and fill whatever various needs of the moment. But there have been times, recently I came back to baking the way you’ll come back to reading, when for whatever reason I just couldn’t get into either one. But that’s okay, they are like best friends. And best friends don’t need to talk everyday -it’s the type of friendship where you can talk to each other after ages apart and fall right back into step like no time has passed. Besides, emus need love too!

    1. Kim says:

      Emus do need love too! I’m so glad this connected with you – it can be really frustrating when something that’s always been a safe place to regather ourselves just stops working. Frustrating and unsettling. I’m glad you’re back to baking – that’s always calming for me too!

  8. becky43 says:

    Emus may need love, but they are terrifying. They want you to know they used to be dinosaurs…

    1. Kim says:

      And they look the part, too …

      1. LOL. Read this comment thread today after having spent yesterday at the zoo, following an evening of having watched the latest Jurassic Park offering, and so realizing that there are a LOT of animals that look the part of dinosaurs…and sort of act it, as well! (No wonder we are fascinated with dragons!)

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