Saturday, 3 March 2018

What's your Favourite Book? Feat. Jenny in Neverland!

A question I get asked a lot when people find out I like to read is: 'oh! What's your favourite book?' and I never have a great answer. I can narrow it down to top ten, I can give you my favourites within genres, I can tell you my top-rated. But my favourite? Not a chance. So I'm starting a new series of blogger interviews with one question: What's your favourite book? In hopes of finding new favourite books, introducing my readers to my favourite bloggers, and seeing how other people answer this impossible question.

I'm starting the series by asking Jenny, from Jenny in Neverland. She was one of the first book bloggers I ever followed when I started and is one of the most hardworking women I know. I was super nervous when I first internet-spoke to her but you'll not find a bigger champion for small bloggers anywhere. So, Jenny, what's your favourite book?

Jenny: I have so many books that I would consider favourites. I have a shelf dedicated to my favourite books (which is slowly getting more and more full with the more books I read!) and when someone asks what my favourite book is, I usually find myself rolling off book after book after book. Some of them include; The Beach by Alex Garland, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson-Walker, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and basically everything that John Green has written.

But when I think about it, there’s only one book that I come back to time after time after time. I’m sure we all have them; that one book we slip into conversation at whatever chance we get. That one book we reference to all the time. That one book that holds the largest part of our bookish hearts. So that being said, although there are tons of books I would consider favourites and all of them are incredible and beautiful in their own way, there’s only one book which for me, is endless and timeless in my little world of “favourite books”. That’s The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. 

I think Markus Zusak is an incredible writer anyway as his other novel, I Am the Messenger is also up there amongst my favourites. They’re both very different books but The Book Thief holds a very special place in my heart. I may sound presumptuous here but I honestly don’t think another book will compare to that one for me for my entire life. It’s so beautifully written, such a unique way to read a book (if you’re not familiar with the book, it’s narrated by Death and Death is very much personified throughout the book so it’s really unusual but gives you a massively different insight and perspective) and the characters… My gosh. The characters. 

The Book Thief is my favourite book for so, so many reasons if I were to list and talk about them all I’d be here all day. I love the writing style, the unique approach, the setting, the storyline but most of all I think I love the characters, their relationship with each other and what that all means. I love Liesel, the main character. I love her passion for books and reason and her deep desire to know more, read more and learn. I know stealing isn’t condoned (she does literally steal books in the book) but I would confidently say that Liesel is quite a role-model, considering everything she goes through in the book. Everything she loses, everything she has to see and witness in a time where tragedy tore through the streets. Despite being so young, she’s definitely someone to look up to. 

I’m going to wrap it up here but above all else, I love The Book Thief because it shows and teaches you what the power of books and words can do. They’re magic. They can pick you up, lift your soul, even in times of absolute desperation. Books are there to save you and The Book Thief definitely portrays that perfectly.

Check out all the pages Jenny has turned over for quotes she loves!

Make sure to check out Jenny's wonderful blog here for book, lifestyle, travel and blogger tips posts! And follow her on Twitter. I'm off to find my copy of The Book Thief and add it to my immediate TBR. Thank you Jenny!

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think?

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Books I Read in January!

I read five books in January which is pretty good for a busy month! Four of the five were audiobooks which I think is going to be the trend for this year unless I find a treatment that works for my chronic migraines. But for now, audiobooks are amazing it's great to have an option to read that doesn't include me opening my eyes!

Pile of books: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard, Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I've had a long relationship with this book; I started reading it in January 2016, then again in May 2017, and now finished it in January 2018 via the wonderful Stephen Fry Audible audiobook! I read two Sherlock Holmes novels between starting these stories and ending them.
I find the Sherlock Holmes short stories a mixed bag in general. On individual ratings, they literally ranged from one to five stars. But I like the various television adaptations of the stories and it's always interesting to read the source material. Some of them really show how impressive the retellings are because while the story is familiar, the modernisation is masterful to keep the same 'vibe' in a current-day setting.
"Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than the crime that you should dwell."

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Another collection of short stories and the same experience. I liked some, I didn't like others.
I did find the death of Sherlock quite moving, especially when it sounded like Stephen Fry was getting a little teary at the end! Moriarty is one of the better villains I think, and I really can't wait to listen to the next book.
"I am afraid that I rather give myself away when I explain," said he. "Results without causes are much more impressive-"

Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
This is the second year that the first book I've read has been a Feminist non-fiction. Last year is was We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and this year the historian Mary Beards manifesto. She is a wonder. Again, I got this for Christmas and again I loved it! By looking at the classical world, which is her speciality, she brings something fresh to the movement. It was empowering, and the perfect way to start the year that is the anniversary of some women getting the vote for the first time. It was such a unique way of looking at the subject and I really recommend it as a short burst of energy if, like me, the world weighs on you at times.
I'll definitely be continuing this little fledgeling tradition of starting the year with a Feminist book. Now what to read next January...
When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice.

Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse
I originally bought a collection of P.G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle series back in March 2014. And I just read the first one, which is pretty ridiculous. But, I really enjoyed it so maybe the wait wasn't all bad!
It was completely charming, and I really loved all the characters introduced. I didn't immediately understand the way the cast all fit together but once it clicked, I was surprised at how brilliantly everything weaved together. It might've been easier if I have been reading the physical book, but the audiobook was narrated by Jonathan Cecil who has the most perfect posh British accent that made the characters really come to life and the sharp wit of Wodehouse really sparkle.
Plus, originally written in 1915, there is a wonderful commentary on the idea of women getting the vote that ends up being in favour. Even if the male character does struggle with it a little, the female character refuses his unwanted chivalry and is determined to be treated equally.
It was with the sullen repulsion of a vegetarian who finds a caterpillar in his salad that he now sat glaring at them.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
Continuing my journey through the Harry Potter books as an adult has been eye-opening. But I'm glad that book six brought me back to solid ground. After a terrible read of book five, I was actually dreading this book. But hey, that page count got lower and I got happier.
There's still ableism, the common-of-the-time use of mental illness as an insult but there's only one occurrence. And for the first time, I had no quotes to write out. Don't get me wrong, I love sassy Harry as much as the next person, but he has the only memorable lines in the whole book.
Although I initially gave it 4 stars, I've now knocked it down to three because writing is one of the main factors in a book for me, and if I haven't got any examples of thinking- wow, what a good sentence/ paragraph/ expression, then that lets down the whole book for me.

What did you read in January?

Monday, 26 February 2018

Book Unhaul #3

I'm back with another unhaul! Mainly because I've bought a book and to stick with my 2018 book goals I need to unhaul ten real fast. And I need to get back on the bandwagon of clearing off my shelves, I have so many books that I have no interest in anymore. Ideally, I'll be excited about everything I have on my TBR, and love everything on my read shelf.

Pile of Books: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Rober Louis Stevenson, Raven's Gate and Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness and The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes

Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenDracula by Bram StokerFrankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Rober Louis Stevenson
I actually read all of these last year! But one of the things I'm discovering as I go on this journey of unhauling is that I own a lot of multiple copies of classics where I have a fancy copy that I've bought as an adult but I still have the old copies from when I was a teen. I'm not into having multiples of the same book, so these are going.

Raven's Gate and Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz
I wasn't sure I was going to keep these when I originally organized my TBR books after the big redecorate but I did thinking that I might get around to them.  I didn't, but last summer I did read several other books by Anthony Horowitz and found them lacking. Maybe these would be better but I have no motivation to find out.

The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
I know a lot of people who love this trilogy so I picked it up and gave it a go in July of 2016. And I didn't get past 200 pages. It just wasn't for me! Maybe because it's middle grade, maybe it's just one of those things, but I'm okay with never reading these. The only thing that makes me sad is how gorgeous these copies are.

The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes*
I didn't write a Books I 'Paused' in 2016 post because I, luckily, didn't have that many. But if there was one, this would've been top of the list as probably the most hated book I've ever read. I don't like saying that, I think every book and writer has merits. But I feel that if someone is writing in 2016 and there's outright misogyny and one minor female character for the six or seven main male characters- something has gone terribly wrong.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Book Review: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller!

I've been wanting to read Catch-22 for years and years, long before I even started blogging, but I put it off. However, since one of my reading goals was to stop delaying, I figured Catch-22 was the place to start. It's been a year since I read it and I've finally collected my thoughts up into one handy blog post.

At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war.

His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he's committed to flying, he's trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he's sane and therefore, ineligible to be relieved.

It's been a long time since I've laughed out loud as I read. It so rarely happens that I found myself surprised! I listened to the audiobook read by Trevor White and he was a perfect narrator, but even after, when I wrote down all the quotes into my notebook- they all stood out without needing his fantastic narration. I ended up with five pages of quotes when the average book gets half a page!

The timeline does make it a little confusing, especially since I didn't know going in that it wasn't chronological. But it really is a very cleverly put together book. I always admire writers who try a non-linear timeline and it worked wonderfully with Catch-22. By the end, I just wanted to pick it right back up again and read knowing what I know now. I've managed to avoid this because I generally don't like re-reading, but the urge is so strong I'll be surprised if I don't within the next year.

For me, Catch-22 is a book of comparable situations. I see the current world reflected in Yossarian's', as terrifying a thought that may be. The contradictions, the absurdity and the lies. It's right there in our politics, on the news and on Twitter.

For example, the Illamasqua Anti-Fascism Pledge. That gives me an uncomfortable feeling, even though I'm obviously anti-fascist. And it stuck in my brain until I figured out what it reminded me of. In Catch-22, Captain Black has a Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade where he makes all his men sign loyalty oaths, many many loyalty oaths before they can get food or equipment. After all, people who are loyal "would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they have to." And really, Illamasqua wasn't asking you to do anything differently if you're not a fascist. So maybe that's the stickler, they weren't really doing anything. They told us what they believe, that we must agree with them or to not buy them. But that feels like a slippery slope...

"And this whole program is voluntary, Milo- don't forget that. The men don't need to sign Pitchard and Wren's loyalty oath if they don't want to. But we need them to starve to death if they don't. It's like Catch-22. Don't you get it? You're not against Catch-22, are you?"

Don't get me wrong though, this is not a perfect book. I struggle with the misogyny and recognising if the book is misogynistic or just the characters. This book hits a couple sore spots for me: female characters not given names, e.g. 'Nately's whore' and 'Nately's whore's sister', every female character being sexualised, and sexual assault is common. One story of rape is met with disgust, yet even the main character sexually assaults a woman.

Of course, it was written in the 1950's about the 1940's and we're not talking about hugely progressive times although there are books written at the same time that are. Plus, there were no female American pilots in WWII, although there was in other countries, so the main cast being men makes sense. Let's not forget Colonel Cathcart asking the Chaplain; "-you wouldn't want your sister to marry an enlisted man, would you?" And being told; "My sister is an enlisted man, sir... She's a master sergeant in the Marines."

And this rather interesting view, that I've pondered over: "It was a man's world, and she and everyone younger had every right to blame him and everyone older for every unnatural tragedy that befell them; just as she... was to blame for every man-made misery that landed on her kid sister and all other children behind her. Someone had to do something sometime. Every victim was a culprit, every culprit a victim, and somebody had to stand up sometime and break the lousy chain that was imperilling them all."

This review might've ended up being 99% quotes, but in the end, this book has changed the way I view the world. I finally understand Catch-22 for one thing! And any book that has a plan that looks like this and manages to stick with me for so long, is pretty dang good. I definitely need to re-read it. If you haven't already got a dusty copy waiting to be picked up like I did, you can pick one up here or I really recommend the audiobook.

"Catch-22 did not exist, he was positive of that, but it made no difference. What did matter was that everyone thought it existed-"

Have you read Catch-22? Are you planning to?

Friday, 9 February 2018

Books I Read in November & December!

Better late than never! I had a bit of a slow reading month in November as I had a tough essay due on The Duchess of Malfi (which I didn’t completely finish, don’t tell my tutor) and then with another essay planned for the beginning of December on Oronooko- I just didn’t get around to a lot of ‘fun’ reading, despite my Hallowreadathon, a holiday to Mexico and Christmas. So why not put the two together?

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Oh boy, I had both low expectations and high hopes for this one. Low expectations because every Gothic horror type novel I’ve been reading lately; Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, have all been disappointing me. High hopes because, well- I can be an optimist sometimes. Although I didn’t plan to read this during the Hallowreadathon, I started the audiobook on the day and it ended up being the only book I completed in November of the two!
But in reality? This was both great and not great. It started out wonderfully, I was spooked to my very core at Jonathan Harker's diary as he spent time in the Count Dracula’s Castle. Everything from then on just didn’t work for me though.
There was a lot of repetition with Lucy being sick then Mina being sick, and the methods of actually killing Dracula was a lot more organisation-based and a lot less stabbing through the heart than I hoped for. Plus, despite Mina clearly being the smartest of the bunch, there's a lot of talk about how this is because she has a "man's brain". I know, I know, it's the time but damn. It is possible to compliment a woman without comparing her to a man!
I have only the Count to speak with, and he! - I fear I am myself the only living soul within the place.

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris
One of my reading goals for 2017 was to only buy one book once I have unhauled ten, and the first ten I unhauled was because I wanted to buy this book and complete my copies of Charlaine Harris’s latest series before I started it! I took it to Corfu, where I read the first two books. I took it to Norway, where it sat unread. And finally in November, I took it to Mexico where this now quite beat-up, at least for me, and the well-travelled book was finally read! And then lost.
Anyway, it comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched me read my way through every series Charlaine Harris has written, that I liked it. But it wasn’t my favourite. It just didn’t hold the same vibe that the past book had. The sense of a community wasn’t there for me in the same way as the other books. I haven't watched the TV show yet but that's next on my list.

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
I don't know how much more I can talk about this book after an essay addressing what kinds of narrative techniques are used, what the distinctive features of the language are and how context helps to illuminate my understanding of this goshdarn story.
All I will say is that it's an interesting point of view but if I was going to read another book about slavery, it wouldn't be written by a white person.

Hello Again by Brenda Novak
I read the first book in this series in October of last year and really enjoyed it. In fact, my only issue with it was that the main character seemed to flip-flop around with her feelings, but that didn't happen in this book.
It was another dramatic plot-based story where a new serial killer is introduced and bad happenings abound. But I will say, I wasn't as hooked. And the writing wasn't great either. I normally have at least one line that I put a sticky-note on because I like how it was written, but nothing stood out in Hello Again.
I'll continue the series but- we'll see. Are there other series focusing on serial killers from a psychology point of view?

I had wanted to read Poison City for a while before I eventually did. I've been in a real mood for some urban fantasy and this; an occult investigator in South Africa fits the bill.
Straight away there's some casual ableism in the use of 'schizophrenic' to describe a mix of colours and impressions in the city he lives in. I'm getting really tired of finding this in books that are recently published and should know better.
I'm probably not going to pick up the next book. I loved the idea of this and I enjoyed it well enough when I read it, but I know there are other urban fantasy series out there that will blow me away.
-dawn eventually clambered into my room and told me to give up even trying to close my eyes.

It's official. This is my least favourite Harry Potter book.
I had a crisis when the Goblet of Fire wasn't as good as I remembered but oh boy- this one. The ableism continues; within one page Harry is called a 'crackpot', 'potty', 'barking', 'mad', and that was one instance of many. Not to mention the uncomfortable treatment of Lockheart at St. Mungos.
And as for length, I couldn't tell you what happened in the middle of this one. I remember quite vividly, sitting at my desk just after finishing it and feeling like I might have missed a huge chunk, despite listening to the full 30-hour long audiobook. I miss the tightly packed 300 pages of books 1-3. This didn't need 766 pages at all. Luckily, book 6 cut this down but this was a rough going.
"And from now on, I don't care if my tea-leaves spell die, Ron, die- I'm just chucking them in the bin where they belong."

Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenAnother Austen read! I liked this one only a little bit more than Emma, which I read back in July and found charming. I don't think either is my 'favourite Austen' though.
There's not much I can add to the many opinions of this book! I listened to this over Christmas and was surprised at how quickly I sped through. Jane Austen's wit and views had more opportunity to shine in Pride and Prejudice and I can see why it's Kathleen Kelly's favourite book (from my favourite movie: You've Got Mail).
My one issue was that while Mr Darcy seemed to learn his lesson about Pride, Elizabeth just seems to switch to being really judgemental of her family. I would've liked if that forgiveness could've stretched a little more.
"- You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity-"
What did you read at the end of last year?

Monday, 29 January 2018

2017 in Reading!

In 2017 I read 59 books, and according to Goodreads, that figured out at 17978 pages. Not half bad! I didn't manage my goal of 80 books but I read some really good books last year. The biggest change in my reading has actually been a format change! 2017 was the year of the audiobook with 22 of the books I read being listened to. In fact, my top three books this year were all read via audiobook! And all classics... Who am I?!

I rated 13 books as 
I rated 19 books as 
I rated 11 books as 
I rated 13 books as 
And 3 books as 

While I definitely had more one-star books than ever, I also had two reads that made it to my six-star shelf on Goodreads that I save for my absolute ultimate favourites and that's pretty neat. And my top three...

Third place goes to... Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
It's strange that this found its way onto my top three because when I first read it, I gave it four stars. But over the year I haven't been able to get this book out of my head. I've still not finished my review because my thoughts on it are so hard to pin down. All I know is that I loved it and I don't think I've ever wanted to re-read a book so much, despite having some problems with it.

Second place goes to... Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov
I've got many a strange look after telling people that one of my new favourite books is Lolita but it is. It's massively misunderstood and I think more people would really like it if they gave it a chance. But hey, all I know is that I really enjoyed it and I actually think I'll re-read this one too. Not something I do often!

My favourite book in 2017 was... The Tenant of Wildfell by Anne Brontë!
I read a book by each Brontë last year for the first time. I didn't like Jane Eyre, I liked Wuthering Heights, but The Tenant of Wildfell filled my lil' Feminist heart with joy. A woman taking her son out of an abusive situation at a time when everything she owned legally belonged to her husband? I love Anne, and I love this book. 

                                                        What was your favourite read from 2017?

Saturday, 20 January 2018

My Reading Goals for 2018!

I love setting reading goals for a new year. Even if we're twenty days in, but it's actually my birthday today so it's like a new year all over again for me! I start a new Goodreads shelf on this day anyway, to track what I'm reading at what age. The shelf of everything I read when I was 20 is vastly different to the shelf of what I read at 23!

1. Keep Replacing!
Last year I unhauled 20 books which, for me, is incredible. Part of the way my OCD manifests is in slight hoarding so getting rid of anything is hard. Getting rid of things that I have read in my childhood, or haven't read, really bothers me. But. I'm working on that and the motivation of only buying one book for ten I unhaul works. Plus, I want seven 2018 releases so...

2. Bigger and Better!
I want to read some chunky books. For me, big books are any over 400 pages but this year I'm looking at some 500+ page beauties. Maybe even 600+ pages. Who knows! I just feel like challenging myself to stick with a book for a good long time.

3. Read all of my 18 Books I want to Read in 2018 list!
My Goodreads goal is set to 18 this year after failing my first attempt at a challenging number last year, but in my mind, it's these 18. I really think I covered classics, non-fiction, new releases and starting and finishing series well.

4. Diversify!
I don't really read diversely. I do read mostly women but last year I only read two books written by a POC, and four that had LGBTQIA+ characters. That's pretty garbage! So in 2018, I want to diversify my reading more. I definitely want to read more books with characters that are LGBTQIA+. Hit me up if you have any recommendations!

5. Thread them all on Twitter!
I've seen a few of these threads over the last year and I was envious of those who had them for their 2017 reads. So I started my own. I'm hoping that I'll be able to see trends and patterns at the end of the year with it all written out linearly.

What are your reading goals for this year?

Monday, 15 January 2018

Under my Christmas Tree!

Another Christmas has been and gone! I really like seeing what people got for Christmas, mainly because I'm nosey, and I like writing this post every year. It's my way of looking at everything together and feeling ever so lucky. And I get to look back at what I got last year, the year before that, the year before that and the year before that. It's wild to see how tastes change and stay the same year after year.

Plus, I'll bet there are other people like me that just love reading these types of posts. Welcome!

Anyone who knows me, knows I do love a good mug. And this year I was treated to two; the My Favourite Murder podcast Toxic Masculinity Ruins the Party Again mug that I wished for. And one that my parents picked up on a trip to Copenhagen! It's a Royal Copenhagen design that has silicone to protect your hands from hot contents. Perfect for a chilly January cup of tea.

On the subject of podcasts; how brilliant is the Vermilion Minotaur pin from Hello from the Magic Tavern? I've really loved pins this year and I'm glad to represent the best tavern in Foon with this!

As I get older I find myself more and more excited about good skincare. So you can imagine my celebratory dance at finding the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate in my stocking. It's a thinner oil then I'm used to and I love how quickly my skin absorbs the goodness.

The Konjac Sponge is so weird but so cool. It's solid when it's dry but after a couple seconds under the tap, it starts to soften up until you have this handful of sponge that is ever so slightly gooey feeling without the goo. I'm into it, and I can't wait to see the effect on my skin.

Since I only bought a few books in 2017 because of my self-imposed book buying ban (mini-haul here), I was really excited to get some fresh new books in my stocking. Books like the first Miss Marple novel; The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha ChristieWomen & Power by Mary BeardI Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora EphronTravels with my Sketchbook by Chris RiddellThe Faber Book of ChristmasIt Devours! by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor and the gorgeous Folio Society edition of Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome! Gosh, there's nothing better than a beautiful pile of books.

The entertainment continues with my new box-set of Golden Girls (in German because there's no UK full box-set). I couldn't be more excited to get to know Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia. And hello future foster cat/ Sims names!

The first expansion to Exploding Kittens; Imploding Kittens is going to make the game all the more fun. If you're looking for a quick card game for a few people, you can't beat it. This expansion also comes with a human-sized cone of shame too which is just brilliant.

Santa definitely had a theme this year! The royal cat socks are just fantastic, I'm wearing them right now and they're keeping my feet cosy as well as making me smile every time I look down. The 'Cat Lady' and cat mug patches are going to be sewn onto a boring jacket I have to snazz it up.

And the big man also treated my foster cats too. The heated pet bed is currently under my desk with two very happy cats napping, and the Snuggle Kitty is going to come in handy next time I have orphan kittens!

And, of course, chocolate! The Lindt Santa had an unfortunate squash but tasted good anyway. Probably better because I didn't have to deal with the guilt of a chocolate-y beheading.

What did you get for Christmas? Link me if you wrote a post like this!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

18 Books I want to Read in 2018!

My Goodreads goal for this year is 18 books, but in my mind, it's not just any 18 books, it's these 18 books. I'll be doing a full post on my other reading goals soon but these are the top picks that will be set aside from my shelves and hopefully, over the year will find themselves on my 'read' bookshelf.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
I bought the audiobook of this last year and have started it at least 3 times since. I need that last push to get me over that hour mark so I can really immerse myself in this story. It sounds like something I'll like; a woman doing her best as men try and complicate everything.

Villette by Charlotte Brontë
I have the Penguin Clothbound Classics box-set of 4 of the Brontë's works and the only one I didn't read in 2017 was Villette. So, even though Charlotte is my least favourite Brontë, I do want to read this and see if I prefer her more autobiographical work.

Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen
Another box-set of Penguin Clothbound Classics I have (after it was put up for sale for £10!) is the Jane Austen complete works. I read Emma and Pride and Prejudice in 2017, and I'd quite like to finish her full novels this year. I really enjoy them, even though I'm still waiting for a favourite.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
Spoiler alert for my Christmas presents post, I was lucky enough to get the gorgeous Folio Society copy of my favourite book and it seems like a very good time for a re-read!

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I can't believe I haven't read this yet if I'm honest. I thought when I made my 'Stop Delaying' reading goal in 2017, that this would find it's way into my hands sooner or later. Seriously, these books have been to Norway, Milan, Germany... I even bought the audiobooks! I think it's book anxiety; when you really want a book to be good but you fear disappointment. Speaking of...

Empire and Dominion by Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly
Talk about book anxiety! I first read Empire almost exactly two years ago and loved it, and since then these two have been to Northumberland, CorfuNorway and Mexico all without a page being turned. But 2018 is the year I find out what happens to Syl and Paul.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
I've slowly been making my way through the Harry Potter books and since my library app has the audiobooks, I'm ready to finish my re-read with the two that I only read once on release days as a child. Of all the books on this list, these two are probably the ones I'm least looking forward to if I'm honest.

The Fear Within by J.S. Law
This is the much-awaited follow-up to Tenacity (now called The Dark Beneath) that blew my mind when I first read it. Released at the tail end of 2017, I didn't manage to pick it up but I am so ready to jump back into Leitenant Dani Lewis's world in these NCIS-type thrillers.

Coming Out Under Fire by Allan Bérubé
On the topic of the military, I want to read some more non-fiction this year and Coming Out Under Fire seems like the perfect blend of my interests in the military, the LGBTQIA+ community and WWII. I've only read the introduction so far but I can tell this is going to be fascinating.

Please Take Me Home: The Story of the Rescue Cat by Clare Campbell
As I've mentioned before, I started fostering cats and kittens back in 2017 and it's been wonderful. I just got an email today that a cat that needs a home will be joining me next week! So I'm taking an interest in the history. This covers how stray cats went from being pests to being what they are today: the best pet.

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements
This is being published on February the 8th and I am so excited. I've been a big fan of Katherine Clements in past years. Her debut; The Crimson Ribbon was beautiful and The Silvered Heart was a heartbreaker, but she hasn't published anything since 2015 so news of a 2018 release was music to my ears. This Yorkshire Moors ghost story is top of the list for the cold winter nights in the early year.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Being published March 8th we read the story of how, in 1969, four children go out to learn their fortune. This is the story of what they do with that knowledge and I love this premise. I think this sounds really imaginative and I haven't read a good one of these long-term type of tales in a good while.

Never Greener by Ruth Jones
I adore Gavin and Stacey and Ruth Jones is such a funny woman that when I found out she'd wrote a book, you can bet I was waiting by the letterbox for my proof copy. It's another long-term, where do these two people who had an affair end up, type story and I'm hoping for some uplifting wise words from Jones. It's being released on April 5th so look out for it!

What books do you want to read in 2018?

Monday, 8 January 2018

Books I Want to Buy and Why #14: 2018 Releases!

Last year, I wrote my 2017 list and wondered what would make it to this years list of releases that I'd want to buy. Well, past me, here you go! In order of publishing date and everything! This is actually the longest of these new release lists I've made; 7 books. And since I'm going to continue my 2017 goal of unhauling 10 books for every new book purchase... I better get unhauling!

Missing Person by Sarah Lotz
I'll always be interested in anything Sarah Lotz is writing ever since The Three was such a mindblowing book. Admittedly, I didn't like Day Four as much but her 2017 release; The White Road was a good'un so I can't wait for Missing Person. I also find the real website this is based on fascinating, where anybody can help link up missing persons with unknown deceased; Lost & Found (TW: pictures of dead people).
Release date: 21st March

Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir
I said when I reviewed the first book in this series that Alison Weir had got me hooked when it came to this series. Six books in six years about all six wives? Count me in! And I'm really looking forward to the Jane Seymour book because I don't really know as much about her as Katherine and Anne.
Release date: 3rd May

Today by Felicia Yap
Yesterday was the thriller of 2017 and I really liked it so I'm looking forward to diving back into the world where everyone either has 24 or 48-hour memories. This is the prequel so I'm hoping for a lot more detail about how it all started.
Release date: 23rd August

Magisterium: The Golden Tower/ The Enemy of Death by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Now, there's one name for this on Goodreads and another on Amazon so who knows. However, I do know one thing and it's that I am both not ready for this series to be over, and desperately wanting to know what happens to Call in the final book.
Release date: 6th September

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling, Illustrated by Chris Riddell
Now, I'm not the biggest JK Rowling fan after my on-going re-read of the Harry Potter series and I do think they're really just mining this series for every penny it'll put out... But I'll buy pretty much anything Chris Riddell illustrates so this is a tough one for me. I might re-read my old copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard and see how I feel then.
Release date: 2nd October

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris is an auto-buy author for me, but when I saw that this is about "the disintegration of America" and "a surefire hit for fans of The Walking Dead"... I'm wishing away months of my life so it's October already. I need more of her writing in my life since I've recently finished all her series.
Release date: 4th October

Face Off by Brenda Novak
I just finished the second book in this series, Hello Again, and I'm already needing to know what happens next. I find serial killers and psychopaths fascinating and ever since reading the first book I've known that this is a series I will follow through on.
Release date: 29th November

What 2018 releases are you most excited for?!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

My 5 Reading Goals for 2017: One Year On!

A year ago, I posted up the 5 Reading Goals I had for 2017 in all my fresh new year enthusiasm! And 6 months ago, I had a little review of them because I like to check in with myself with goals or I'll completely forget them until the end of the year. And now, my final review, with a little haul as I only bought 2 books this year as one of my goals! Well, 2 and a bit...

My 5 Reading Goals for 2017: One Year On!

1. Stop delaying.
2017 was the year I read what I want to read when I want to read it. And I think this one was a major success! I've read so many books that have been sat on my shelves for years, and I've really started to enjoy types of books that I've always thought I didn't! It's been really interesting.

2. Goodbye comfort zone.

Classics, non-fiction and longer books were on the list for 2017 and classics was a slam-dunk! I read 15 classics, mainly through audiobooks and I loved exploring these books. I didn't always like all of them, but I never finished a classic and felt like the time was wasted. I also read 5 non-fiction memoir type books, but longer books remain my nemesis for another year.

3. Read a book in German.

Afraid not! I finished my German module and I'm afraid that I still don't feel confident enough to try this. Language learning isn't my strength and I really struggle with it. 

4. Replace.

I wanted to curate my bookshelves to reflect myself more accurately in 2017. I wanted to take away the bad, the old, the unread, so that the books I love could shine clearer! I pushed myself to do this by making a numerical challenge, ten books out and one book in. I unhauled 20 books (here and here) and I only bought 2. I'm happier with the way my shelves are looking. And as for the books I bought...

Magisterium: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and Night Shift by Charlaine Harris. Anne Boleyn: A Kings Obsession by Alison Weir and Yesterday by Felicia Yap.

My mini-haul is Magisterium: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and Night Shift by Charlaine Harris (which has disappeared so Day Shift is filling in). Both of which I also read this year. And I also bought hardcover copies of two books that I had proofs of; Anne Boleyn: A Kings Obsession by Alison Weir and Yesterday by Felicia Yap.
Obviously, I don't count my required reading books but you can see those here!

5. Read 80 books.

Well, lesson learned! I don't do well with these kinds of challenges. I ended up reading 59 books in 2017, which is still more than I read in 2014 and only two less than 2016. But not the 80 I read in 2015 and while I didn't let it pressure me, it was a little disappointing when I realised I wasn't going to make it. Never again!

Did you make any reading goals last year? How did you do?

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Hello 2018!

A fresh new year, a fresh new diary and a fresh new blog post! 2018 has arrived and I just managed to slump over that finish line when it came to 2017. I didn't think it could get much worse than 2016 but boy, 2017 sure showed me. It was a year of personal loss, bad health and just trying to keep my head above water. But we got through it, eh?

Things I wanted to do in 2017
Find a balance.
I tried, my gosh, I tried. And you know what? I felt kind of good in January. But it all slid away as the months past by, migraines became a weekly thing and I started my second year of university. It meant that I actually had great difficulty keeping up. I even had my first month since I started this blog where I didn't read a single book. But balance is difficult and maybe trying to find it in a single year isn't the most obtainable goal.
I wanted to see out with the old and invest in the new when it came to 2017 and I think I did that! I paid up for a new mattress, unhauled a few books (you can see these here and here) and after many many years, replaced the carpet in my study with beautiful wooden flooring that's ready for some new kitten fosters!
Blog less.

Well, I did blog less. In fact, I wrote 42 blog posts in the whole of 2017 which is less than half what I've been writing in the past. It felt strange to do it deliberately, even though I needed to prioritise my university work, and it felt even stranger when I realised it wasn't deliberate anymore. I'm hoping in 2018, I'll find a happier middle ground. 
Tick off the practical.
I did some pretty practical things in 2017; I got a student loan, I updated my computer, I finished my first year of university. But I didn't do a lot of other things so I'll give this a B+.

Things I want to do in 2018:
Keep trying for balance.
I see a lot of people talking about their word that represents their aim for 2018, and mine is definitely Balance. I can't keep running myself into the ground and have to recover over and over again. The scale has to stop tipping at some point.
Foster more kittens.
In 2017, I fostered kittens for the first time and I'd like to do a lot more of it in 2018. I now volunteer for both Cats Protection and the animal sanctuary that I adopted my first cats from which is a nice full circle. Kitten season starts in Spring and I'm ready to do my part.
Go to Texas. 
I met one of my best friends online 7 years ago and still haven't met her! Admittedly, she lives in Texas and I live in England so it's not the easiest trip but I'd like to make it this year. 
Write more.
While I did write some pretty great essays in 2017, I felt my creative mojo take a backseat. I haven't written anything resembling fiction in a long time, and I feel like my blog posts suffered as well. So in 2018, I'd like to write more, about anything. Just write.

What are your goals for 2018?

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