Sunday, 19 June 2016

INDEPENDENT BOOKSHOP WEEK 2016 TAG



It's the tenth anniversary of Independent Bookshop Week!

This week (Saturday 18th - Saturday 25th June) is Independent Bookshop Week which was created to celebrate independent bookshops across the UK and Ireland. There are tons of events happening in independent bookshops everywhere and I highly suggest you check out your local bookshop to join in.

The lovely people over at the booksellers association contacted me and invited me to join in with their Independent Bookshop Week tag with ten questions to celebrate ten years of Independent Bookshop Week! So without further ado let's get into the tag:

1. What book(s) are currently in your bag? 
Well I'm actually scheduling this post in advance because when you're reading this I'll be on holiday (woohoo!) so I'll most likely be toting my e-reader around in my beach bag. But at the time of writing the book that's in my bag is The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre, which is a much hyped mystery-thriller that I haven't figured out my thoughts on yet!

2. What’s the last great book you read?
I read quite a lot of great books so this is a difficult one! But it probably has to go to The Girls by Emma Cline which is a recently released debut novel published by Vintage. I did a full review of this book which you can read here.

3. What book have you gifted the most?
I don't often gift the same book to different people because if I'm giving someone a book I want it to be the perfect book for them and something that they'll really enjoy. However last Christmas I gave Ready Player One by Ernest Cline to both my boyfriend and my brother because although I haven't actually read it myself, I've seen that many rave reviews that I knew they'd both love it - and they did!

4. What’s your favourite independent bookshop?
Gosh this is a hard one, I've visited so many wonderful bookshops that it's hard to pick just one! I visit North Norfolk with my family at least once a year and whilst there we always visit as many bookshops as possible, but my favourite is probably the Old Station bookshop in Wells-Next-The-Sea. As you can tell by the name it used to be a railway station that was built in 1857, it's a really beautiful building and the twisty-turning rooms are piled high with books, including antiquarian books and rare first editions. No matter how busy it gets, it's always almost silent and the dusty air is filled with that special anticipatory atmosphere only found in the best bookshops. The couple who own and run the shop are so lovely and I rarely walk away from there without a tote bag full of books. I highly recommend a visit if you're ever in Wells.

5. What’s been your favourite book recommended by a bookseller (or fellow booktuber)?
I feel like most of the books I read these days have been recommended to me by booktubers or other bloggers! I probably wouldn't have discovered the Saga series of graphic novels (or graphic novels in general) without booktube and I absolutely adore that series. As for my favourite book recommended by a bookseller I think that would have to be Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel which I was pondering buying in a bookshop when a bookseller jumped in and told me it was their favourite read of the year, which just sealed the deal for me, and it then became one of my favourite reads of 2015!

6. What’s your favourite bookshop memory?
I don't have any specific favourite bookshop memories but living in quite a remote area and dealing with chronic illness means that I don't get a chance to visit bookshops very often so each time I get to do that is special to me.

7. What do bookshops mean to you? What do you love about them?
Ever since I was little bookshops have been the most magical places for me. There's just this feeling of excitement, joy and intense satisfaction that I get from being in a bookshop, surrounded by stories I love and so many potential stories. Bookshops are one of the places I feel happiest, most comfortable and just like I'm where I belong. I think it has something to do with my various anxiety disorders and how out of place I often feel in public spaces but in bookshops I know I'm around 'my people', people who love the same thing that I do, and it just makes me feel so much more comfortable. It's always been a dream of mine to be a bookseller and I'm definitely going to make it happen one day, no matter what.

8. What are the books that made you? Which books have most affected or influenced you?
This is possibly the most difficult question ever, I've read so many books it's hard to narrow down the ones that have influenced me most! I'm going to the get the obvious out of the way first and say the Harry Potter series because the books were released when I was growing up and I felt like I was growing alongside the characters, and I think those books got me through my difficult teenage years and kept me reading when I might've stopped.
I'm also going to say The Colour Purple by Alice Walker as it was one of the first books that I studied at school that I really loved and was passionate enough about to write an essay that I was really proud of and that ultimately convinced me to study English Literature at university, without which I might not be where I am today.
But I would say that every single book I've read has affected me, influenced me and enabled me to become a more thoughtful reader.

9. What book do you recommend readers gift for Father’s Day?
Well, obviously all fathers and father figures are different and I'd definitely say a thoughtful and personal book would be best (my dad would love nothing more than a book on fly-fishing that he hasn't read yet!). But if we're talking generally I think The Martian by Andy Weir is a great gift for Father's Day, although I haven't actually read it myself yet, I haven't heard one negative review and it's a book my dad and brother both really enjoyed.

10. What book is currently at the top of your TBR pile?
This might seem like a rather strange one but I read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton last year and I unexpectedly really enjoyed it and I've been really wanting to get to the sequel The Lost World, which I'm hopefully going to read on holiday! They're not the most well written books and the science is fairly questionable but they're such gripping page-turners and I mean, come on, dinosaurs.

So those are all the questions! I hope you find a way to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week and if you're reading this and you want to do this tag then consider yourself tagged!

I'm also going to tag some of my favourite bookish bloggers and friends: Emma of The Eggplant Emoji, Grace of Almost Amazing Grace, Emma of Emma's Bookery, Ali of Ali Caitrin and Aisling of Aisling's Beauty Bites!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

MINI BOOK REVIEWS | MAY


Total number of books read: 8
Total number of pages read: 1595
Genres: 1 adult non-fiction, 5 graphic novels, 1 adult thriller, 1 adult fantasy.
Nationality of author: 5 USA, 1 UK, 1 French.

We're about half way through June so why not take a look back at May? May was a bit of a funny reading month for me, although I read eight things, five of them were graphic novels, which didn't take me very long to read, so the rest of the month was spent plodding slowly through just three books. I think I was just exhausted after reading an incredible twelve books in April, and that exhuastion has crept into June somewhat. Oh well, swings and roundabouts. Let's get into the reviews!

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling | ☆☆☆☆
Why Not Me? is Mindy Kaling's second collection of memoir-essays and unlike Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? which was a collection of funny musings and anecdotes on Kaling's childhood, Why Not Me? is a more focused memoir of her career and her journey to success. I found it a little difficult to get into at first because jumping from the fiction I'd been reading, to Kaling's very distinct voice was a little jarring but once I got into it I couldn't get enough. Mindy Kaling is exactly the kind of person everyone can imagine being best friends with; she's hilarious, confident and self-aware and she has some really interesting, honest and inspiring things to say in Why Not Me? This book reminded me how much I love her and inspired me to rewatch the show she created, wrote and stars in, The Mindy Project, and I'm loving every second.

The Invisible Kingdom by Rob Ryan | ☆☆.75
I've categorised this as a graphic novel in my reading statistics to simply things but it's really more of a picture story book, aimed at 'anyone aged 8-80', according to Goodreads. Rob Ryan is an amazing artist who specialises in papercutting and this book is a story about a lonely young prince that is accompanied by Ryan's papercut illustrations. The images in this book, as always with Rob Ryan's work, are absolutely stunning, but the story just lacked something for me. It was quite sweet but there wasn't a lot of plot and part of me thinks that the images could tell the story better by themselves. I think this might be part of a series but I'm not sure I'll be picking up the others.

Saga Volumes 2, 3, 4 and 5 by Brain K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples | ☆☆☆☆☆
After reading Saga volume one all the way back in January, I finally got around to borrowing the next four volumes from my local library and devoured them in just a few days. I absolutely love this graphic novel series, it's definitely my favourite by far. Saga is a sweeping space opera with a young family at it's center who are fighting to stay alive in an intergalactic war. It's difficult to describe the plot other than that but it's one you should just dive right into. The art is just incredible and the writing is sharp, compelling and hilarious. Read it now.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh | ☆.25
After being thoroughly disappointed by Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Cuckoo's Calling, I'd figured that mystery-thrillers just weren't for me. But my lovely friend Emma wanted me to read this book so much that she very kindly bought me a copy and after my other friend Emma gave it a rave review, I thought I'd better give it a chance, and I kind of loved it. I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a remote Welsh village after a tragic accident, but she finds that no matter how hard she tries, she can't escape her past. Sounds kind of like every mystery-thriller ever right? Wrong.
My issue with mystery-thrillers is that after a lifetime of watching pretty much every episode of CSI and Dexter, I tend to figure out the mystery pretty quickly and I don't usually find them very thrilling, but I Let You Go just threw out all of my preconceptions about this genre. I can't put my finger on what it was, maybe it was the writing, or the pretty unpredictable plot, but this book had me totally gripped from the first page and I just couldn't put it down. It was heart-wrenching, terrifying and at one point so shocking that I actually audibly gasped so many times on the train that the woman near me may have been concerned for my sanity. If you love this genre, or think you hate it, I urge you to pick up I Let You Go. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery | 
This book was kindly sent to me for review by ED public relations on behalf of Gallic Books, who publish books that have been translated from their original French, into English. It is about two young foundlings who, although living thousands of miles apart, are connected by something mysterious, and whose presence blurs the lines between our world and another. Those who loved Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog will find The Life of Elves to be quite a departure both in genre and somewhat in style. The Life of Elves is magical realism bordering on fantasy and is written in a very lyrical style, which might not be to everyone's taste. I personally enjoyed losing myself in Barbery's writing which had an almost ethereal quality to it and conjured up vivid images of nature, innocence and magic. The Life of Elves is definitely more character driven than plot-driven and every character was described so richly that they felt almost real. However the plot did move very slowly and could have done with a little more structure; there seemed to be a lot of descriptive narrative which suddenly culminated in a slightly confusing climax which felt a little unfinished (it might be part of a series, but I'm unsure). Overall, I really enjoyed Barbery's writing and would recommend it to fans of lyrical style and a more relaxed pace.

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

Sunday, 12 June 2016

STARTING A NEW BULLET JOURNAL WITH BUREAU DIRECT*

Starting a new bullet journal Sarah's Chapter

You might remember that back in February I posted about starting a bullet journal. At the time I had only been bullet journalling for a few weeks and thought that it might be helpful to share my experience with others, I had no idea that it was going to be so well-received. My 'Starting a Bullet Journal' post has been my most popular post of all time; it's had over 20,000 unique pageviews and has been pinned over 67,000 times on Pinterest. For a small/medium sized blog like mine, those are crazy huge numbers!


Well, four months later and that first bullet journal has been completely filled, it's totally changed how I organise my time and has made me infinitely more productive. The bullet journal is the most helpful and innovative organisational tool I've ever come across and I'm now definitely a committed bullet journaller. With that in mind it was time to start a new one and the lovely Isaac over at independent stationery company Bureau Direct offered to send me a bundle of bullet journal essentials so I could up my bujo game and share them with you guys. In this post, I'll be reviewing the items in the bundle and showing you how I've been using my new bullet journal.


Ever since starting my first bullet journal I'd been dying to try out the Leuchtturm 1917 which is the notebook of preference for so many bullet journallers, so I was delighted that this was included in the bundle that I received. The Leuchtturm 1917 comes in so many gorgeous colours but I went for the lime green as I wanted something bright and cheerful. This is the A5 dotted version* of the notebook which I find to be the best for everyday bullet journalling, as it fits perfectly in your bag and the dotted pages are perfect for both writing and drawing. I've found that since switching from lined to dotted pages I've been much more creative with my journalling as it makes drawing neat boxes, banners and grids really simple.


In my first journal I'd pretty much just used ballpoint and gel rollerball pens and after watching Boho Berry's videos I was eager to expand my pen collection so the Kaweco fountain pen and Mark's HiBi ballpoint that were included in the bundle were perfect. The Kaweco Classic Sport fountain pen* is a pocket-sized pen with a really unusual design, mine is in a forest green with gold detailing and it really is beautiful. I went for black ink cartridges as I mostly write and draw in black because it's practical and I find that way the pages don't look too busy or messy. This fountain pen writes so smoothly, the line is the perfect thickness and I find that it doesn't bleed through the Leuchtturm's pages. The Mark's HiBi ballpoint* is very slim, making it so light and easy to hold and it writes with a very fine line that is perfect for taking quick notes and drawing grids. Bureau Direct also included a Papelote notebook strap* which is perfect for carrying the notebook and multiple pens round on the go, I love this little extra and use it constantly.

I've been using this new bullet journal and all the little essentials for a few weeks now so I thought I'd dive right in and show you how I've been filling it out so far and the spreads that I decided to migrate from my old bullet journal.


The Leuchtturm 1917 is perfect for bullet journalling as it already has a built-in Index and numbered pages, making it so much easier to keep track of collections. I find this really helpful but the small section for page numbers in the Index does mean that if a collection (such as June dailies) is dotted over different pages you might need to make several entries for that collection.


This '2016 goals' spread is one that I migrated over from my first bullet journal as I want to continue to track these goals throughout the year. I'm hoping that by the end of the year I'll be able to see some progress on each of these goals and it'll give me an idea of how to move forward with them next year. I also had a play around with the MT pastel washi tapes*; I love using them for headers, dividers and borders, they brighten up the page whilst keeping it fairly minimal.


This spread shows two collections that I migrated over from my previous bullet journal: my blog statistics tracker and my TBR page. The idea of the TBR (to be read) page is that I write down unread books that I want to get to then colour them in once I've finished. It's a nice way of having a visual representation of what I'm reading and how well I'm doing at tackling my TBR. I used the Mark's HiBi ballpoint to draw both the stats grid and the bookcase as it's ultra-fine line is great for precision.


Again, I've carried over this 2016 reading statistics spread from my previous bullet journal as I want to continue to track these throughout the year. I want to do a post about my reading statistics at the end of the year, like I did for 2015, and tracking everything each time I finish a book will save me so much time overall, it's also super motivating. I used the Mark's HiBi ballpoint to draw the grid lines and the Kaweco fountain pen for all the writing. I absolutely love writing with this pen, it's just so smooth and is great for drawing titles and doing any calligraphy.

Future Log Sarah's Chapter

The future log is one of the key sections of the original bullet journal set up that was created by Ryder Carroll (watch this video for a great explanation of how the bullet journal system works). I use it to store events and tasks that are scheduled months in advance and I refer back to it when creating my monthly spreads.


This is my monthly spread for June. Over the last few months I've played around with different monthly spreads as some months I found I wasn't really using it, but then other formats didn't quite work for me. For now I've settled on the original monthly spread suggested by Ryder Carroll. Although it looks empty in this photograph (I'd only just set it up) I actually use the monthly task list quite a lot to note down things I need to get done in the near future. This spread is helpful when creating my weekly and daily logs.

Starting a new bullet journal Sarah's Chapter

This spread contains my monthly 'things I'm into' and my June habit tracker. The 'things I'm into' collection is kind of a mix of a gratitude log and a 'monthly memories' and it's basically where, throughout the month, I doodle the things that I've been enjoying that particular month, whether it's an item, a memory or something random. It helps me when putting together my monthly favourites posts and it's also just nice to look back on and see what I was enjoying in any particular month.

The habit tracker is something many people use in their bullet journals and basically works as a motivational tool to improve daily habits such as keeping up with skincare, blogging and getting an early night. This particular habit tracker layout is inspired by Boho Berry who actually has a habit tracker printable that is very similar. I use Papermate InkJoy pens that I picked up at The Range to fill in the tracker and it's one of the only colourful pages in my bullet journal.

Another great thing about the Leuchtturm 1917 is that it contains two built-in ribbons which means you can mark two important pages in your bullet journal. I keep one ribbon on the above spread, as I refer to it every day, and one on my current page. It's little details like that that make the Leuchtturm stand out from other notebooks.


These spreads are some examples of weekly and daily logs. The weekly log is not included in Ryder Carroll's original system but I think I got the idea from Tiny Ray of Sunshine. I use the weekly log mostly as a task list of things that need to get done that week but not necessarily on any specific day, I will then refer to this when creating my daily logs. The daily logs are standard bullet journal fare and at the moment I mainly use them as a task list.

I like to be creative with my bullet journal and I really enjoy experimenting with banners and practicing doodles (I often use Pinterest as an inspiration for these) but that doesn't mean that you have to. The best thing about the bullet journal is that it can be whatever you want it to be, it doesn't have to be 'Pinterest-y' or pretty or embellished. The most important thing is that it functions for you as an organisational system. If you want to also use it as a creative outlet, that's fine, but you certainly don't have to. Boho Berry has made an excellent video on this topic if you want to check it out.

I hope you've found this little update on my bullet journal helpful and hopefully it's given you some ideas and recommendations for new bullet journal essential items. I just want to say thank you so much to Bureau Direct for sending me this little bundle and I'm genuinely loving every single item. If you're looking for a new notebook or just want to drool over some beautiful stationery, head over to their website.

Do you keep a bullet journal? Let me know!

* Disclaimer: the products marked with an asterix were sent to me for free by Bureau Direct in exchange for an honest review. However all opinions are entirely my own and I would never review something that I didn't honestly love!

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