Friday, 23 March 2018

A Book Haul


I've accumulated a fair few books so far this year and I thought I'd share them with you guys in case you fancy getting the book shopping bug too! I'm trying to get my tbr down and buy a bit less but a book here and there can't hurt, can it? It's actually looking like I'm going to need another bookcase soon...



Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars and that she is about to encounter the strangest, craziest group of people in existence. 

My first book purchase of the year was inspired by Joce over at SquibblesReads, she has raved about this series and I really trust her judgement. Crazy Rich Asians sounds super fun and I'm excited to get into it. From a quick glance it looks like it's quite involved and has a lot of characters so I think it's going to be one that deserves quite a bit of my time so I'm going to take it with me next week when I go away with my parents for Easter. I always get a lot of reading done over the long bank holiday weekend so this is definitely coming with me!


The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden*
The sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale: in a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church. But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods... 

My Friend Fear by Meera Lee Patel*
A mix of personal reflections, inspirational quotes, questions for reflection, and breathtaking watercolour visuals, My Friend Fear asserts that having big fear is an opportunity to make big changes, to discover the remarkable potential inside ourselves.

These two were very kindly sent by publishers and I've actually already read and reviewed both of these books. You can see my thoughts on The Girl in the Tower here and My Friend Fear here.


I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan
Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem is used to being invisible. So no one is more surprised than her when Arif Malik, the hottest boy in school, takes a sudden interest. But Arif is hiding a terrible secret and, as they begin to follow a dark path, Muzna faces an impossible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak out and betray her heart.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
Eden McKinley knows she can't count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it's a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with a guy Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. And it's the last person she would have expected. Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie's location, and that's the way it has to stay. There's no way she's betraying her best friend. Not even when she's faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

I had a little splurge in Waterstones Piccadilly before the Costa Book Awards at the end of January and picked up these two recently released YAs. I'd heard a lot of buzz about I Am Thunder and was excited to read a book with a Muslim protagonist and I love Sara Barnard so Goodbye, Perfect was an automatic buy for me. I've also read and reviewed these two and you can find out what I thought here.


In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott
As Rebecca Stott's father lay dying he begged her to help him write the memoir he had been struggling with for years. He wanted to tell the story of their family, who, for generations had all been members of a fundamentalist Christian sect. Rebecca was born into the sect, yet, as an intelligent, inquiring child she was always asking dangerous questions. She would discover that her father, an influential preacher, had been asking them too, and that the fault-line between faith and doubt had almost engulfed him.

The minute I heard the buzzword 'cult' around In the Days of Rain when looking at the Costa Book Awards shortlist, I knew I wanted to read this book. It was the winner in the non-fiction category and I picked it up from Waterstones Piccadilly right before the awards. Hilariously I also happened to get it in my goody bag at the awards that night, so now I have two copies! I'll be doing a giveaway on Twitter for one of them so keep an eye out for that.

Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton*
Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead. But what is she supposed do now? Then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity - to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .

The lovely Hot Key Books offered to send me this for review and it was kind of giving me Vicky Angel vibes so of course I said yes! It's supposed to be funny and sad with relatable characters and some solid YA sounds right up my street at the minute. Hopefully I'll be getting to this one soon.


Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday*
In New York, Alice, a young editor, begins an affair with Ezra Blazer, a world-famous, much older writer. At Heathrow airport, Amar, an Iraqi-American economist en route to Kurdistan, finds himself detained for the weekend. What draws these characters together, and how do their lives connect, if at all?

When the wonderful folk at Granta contacted me about Asymmetry I just had to accept. It sounds like such a gorgeous literary fiction and I love stories where completely different characters have subtle crossovers. It's also not too long which I *love*, I'm all about concise tightly-written narratives. This is a debut and apparently is slightly autobiographical which is intriguing. It's out now!

White Houses by Amy Bloom*
In 1933, President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt took up residence in the White House. With them went the celebrated journalist Lorena Hickok - Hick to friends - a straight-talking reporter from South Dakota, whose passionate relationship with the idealistic, patrician First Lady would shape the rest of their lives. Told by the indomitable Hick, White Houses is the story of Eleanor and Hick's hidden love, and of Hick's unlikely journey from her dirt-poor childhood to the centre of privilege and power. 

Also from Granta, this historical fiction revolves around the relationship between two fascinating women. I love fictional retellings of historical events (e.g. The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham) so this sounds right up my street. I also want to read a lot more LGBT+ fiction this year as I just haven't read enough of it, so this fits in nicely. White Houses is out on the 5th of May.

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And that's it! I hope you're just as excited as I am for these books and hopefully you'll be seeing some reviews of them here soon. Let me know in the comments if you've read any of them or if there's a particular one you'd like to hear about first!

Books marked with a * were sent to me by the publisher for review consideration, I have not been paid by the publishers to feature any of these titles.

Friday, 9 March 2018

How I'm Getting My Blogging Mojo Back*

I can't be the only one whose start to 2018 has been less than stellar? What with illness abound, post-Christmas blues and bloody Snowmageddon, it's been hard to find the motivation to just sit with my blog and write. Over the last few weeks I've been trying to take steps to rectify this and fall back in love with blogging again. I've come to realise that there are a few essential components to getting back on track with anything, be it blogging, work or any other creative pursuits, so I thought I'd share those with you today, along with a few gadgets that have been helping me out.

This post is a paid collaboration with Venom Communications. All words, images and opinions are entirely my own



Get Into a Routine

This sounds super obvious, but I bet I'm not the only one who just wakes up sometimes feeling a bit lost and not knowing where to start. Balancing a job, freelance projects and blogging along with regular life stuff like cleaning the kitchen (thrilling) can be pretty tricky. So I find that having a routine makes finding those rare free hours just a little bit easier. No matter what day it is or what your plans (or lack of) are: get up, get fed, get dressed. At the weekends I sometimes have to force myself into this routine a bit but once I've done it I feel like anything is a possibility and it feels like there's so much more time in the day. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will come.



Get Organised

If you find that you have even an hour to work on your blog, make sure that you have everything you need for a productive session. I like to keep everything I could possibly need for blogging in one place, my desk holds all my essentials, so I'm ready to just sit down and get on with it if I have a little bit of spare time. I'm a bit old-fashioned and like to go to my notebook first to draft a post, create a schedule or just get some ideas on paper (I planned out this post in my go-to notebook, my bullet journal.)

Although I take pretty much all of my blog photos with my DSLR, I actually really like editing photos on my phone. I use Snapseed and A Color Story, they're super easy to use and I always love how my photos end up looking. Make sure you have plenty of spare cables (preferably with neat little cable tidies like these) nearby to transfer the photos easily back to your computer, there's nothing worse than scrambling around looking for a charging cable.

I make sure that everything I do for my blog (photos, drafts, pitches, invoices) is saved in more than one place. You can use the cloud, or hard drives, but my personal favourite is the good old USB. They're the easiest thing to store and I like knowing that my hard work is stored in a physical thing I can lay my hands on at a moment's notice. Have a stash of these bad boys and you'll never lose your work again. How cute and bright is this Happy Jackson one?



Get Inspired

Last year, I started a job with almost an hours commute each way. For me this means walking. At first, I was unsure what to do with this time - I was terrified of wasting two hours of my already limited blogging time. Then I discovered that these hours can be so useful in so many different ways. Occasionally I go techless and have a quiet commute, it can be great to just walk and let my thoughts wander - you never know when inspiration will hit! But I usually like to have my phone on me (if you're anywhere near as clumsy as me, keep it protected in a cute case), sometimes I use it to take note of any ideas that pop up, but mostly I listen to podcasts. I *always* carry earphones with me, I genuinely panic if I've forgotten them, but since having these ones that come with a carry case (and they're PINK), I've never misplaced them again. Some of my favourite podcasts for blogging inspiration are The Creative Leap, Crtl Alt Delete, Magic Lessons and At Home With.

To make sure I'm ready to make the most of that return commute, whether it's replying to tweets, preparing an instagram or listening to more podcasts I always keep a power bank on me to keep my phone charged. My phone battery is shocking so power banks are a total life saver, this 'girl power' one (which also doubles as a mirror, whaaat?!) holds three charges and I honestly love it so much. I've tried quite a few power banks and I can genuinely say that these are my favourite.

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Those are just some little ways I've been falling back in love with blogging again. The routine, organisation and inspiration all fall into place after a little while and have freed up my mind to start writing and creating again. I hope some of these ideas help you too.

If you fancy picking up some of the handy, and frankly gorgeous, little blogging essentials from Happy Jackson then I've got fantastic news. You can get 15% off any of these bad boys, plus the rest of the new 2018 line of goodies by entering code HAPPYSARAH at checkout. Yaaaassss.

Have you got any more tips for getting back into a blogging groove? I'd love to know, tweet me or leave a comment below!

INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Venom Communications. All words and images are 100% honest and entirely my own. 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Recent Reads #3: I Am Thunder, My Friend Fear, Goodbye Perfect


I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan | ☆☆☆
Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem is used to being invisible. So no one is more surprised than her when Arif Malik, the hottest boy in school, takes a sudden interest. But Arif is hiding a terrible secret and, as they begin to follow a dark path, Muzna faces an impossible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak out and betray her heart.

This recent release immediately grabbed my attention so I picked it up when I went to Waterstones Piccadilly before the Costa Book Awards and started reading it on the train home that night. I don't think I've ever read a book with a Muslim main character before, which is pretty strange and sad and because I want to read more diversely this year, I'm on the look out now more than ever for own voices novels. I so, so wanted to love this but I was initially pretty disappointed with the writing. The teenage slang in the dialogue and narrative voice felt a little forced and crowded and the narrative felt quite choppy. This did give it kind of an edge, as if it was a raw teenage voice but I think it could have benefited from some more editing. It just kept throwing me out of the story and made me very aware that this was a novel, about teenagers, written by an adult when I can usually forget that and just get lost in the writing.

However, the writing improved as it went on and the plot really started to gather speed, the last quarter was much better than the first three. I absolutely loved reading about a Muslim main character, especially in a YA novel, this kind of representation is so important. It is a little bit disappointing that a novel about Muslim teenagers has such a focus on extremism, (it's probably not a reality in the lives of a majority of these teenagers, can't we just have a friendship or romance plot like other YA where being Muslim is just part of their character) but I realise that it's topical and honestly I'm just glad for the representation. This is a solid YA about identity, faith and relationships and if you're starting it, don't be put off by the writing because it does get better.



My Friend Fear by Meera Lee Patel | ☆☆☆
A mix of personal reflections, inspirational quotes, questions for reflection, and breathtaking watercolour visuals, My Friend Fear asserts that having big fear is an opportunity to make big changes, to discover the remarkable potential inside ourselves.

A couple of weeks ago the lovely folks at Particular Books sent me a lovely little package that included this beautiful book - check out my instagram stories for more bookish unboxings if you missed this one! My Friend Fear is an exploration of fear and how we can harness it to become our best selves. Now at first I thought that sounded a little airy fairy for me, but here's the thing, it makes total sense. Meera Lee Patel's writing flows nicely but is also very clear.
She relates things to her own experience as well as the science of emotions. Not to mention that it's an absolutely STUNNING book, filled with gorgeous illustrations and watercolour pages, it would make an amazing gift. This book is perfect for creatives especially but also just for anyone who wants to overcome doubt, imposter syndrome or just those niggling fears that stop you from getting what you want.



Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard | ☆☆☆
Eden McKinley knows she can't count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it's a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with a guy Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. And it's the last person she would have expected. Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie's location, and that's the way it has to stay. There's no way she's betraying her best friend. Not even when she's faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

I absolutely adore Sara Barnard's books and I'd been dying to get my hands on this ever since it was announced so when I spotted it in Waterstones a few days before it's release (cheeky), I had to grab a copy. If you're already familiar with Sara Barnard then I suggest you just stop reading this review and go and buy Goodbye, Perfect now because you won't be disappointed. What? You need a little convincing? Oh, go on then.

Sara Barnard can write the hell out of a female friendship; she just *gets* teenage girls. When I read her books it's like travelling back in time to my teenage years, except that would be terrible, so it's much much better. Her protagonists are smart, awesome and incredibly real teenage girls and Eden Mckinley is no exception. Goodbye, Perfect is primarily about female friendship, it's loyalties and it's limits, but it also explores other kinds of relationships brilliantly. The romance is just enough and power dyanmics are explored excellently. I also love how parents are always very present in Sara Barnard's books. The relationships between parents and children aren't always perfect, they can be very strained in fact, but the parents are present and the relationships complex and deep. Goodbye, Perfect didn't completely blow me away like Sara Barnard's previous two books but I still thoroughly enjoyed it and I would definitely recommend it.

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What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Recent Reads #2: Warcross, The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower

I'm back again with the rest of my January reads! 

In my 2018 Reading Goals and Resolutions post I mentioned that I'm now using Sophie's wonderful spreadsheet to track all kinds of statistics about my reading this year. So I thought that at the end of each month I'd share a little breakdown of some of my reading statistics for that particular month so you can keep up with how I'm doing on some of my reading goals for 2018. So here we have the nationalities and race of authors I read, genres and number of books and pages:




















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Warcross by Marie Lu | ☆☆☆☆
Warcross isn't just a game, it's a way of life. When teenage hacker Emika Chen accidentally glitches herself into the international Warcross Championships, her life changes overnight. She is summoned to Tokyo not only to compete, but to act as spy for the game's secretive creator Hideo Tanaka. Emika is soon in over her head, not only with fame and fortune but a sinister plot that could threaten the entire Warcross empire.

Before I say anything else: if you're not into gaming, you should still read this book! Marie Lu has written an exciting story with incredible world-building and wonderful characters. The world-building in Warcross is what truly blew me away. Games in fiction are hard to do well, as it can be hard to get the reader to feel passionate about a game they've never played without over-describing everything. But Marie Lu does it so brilliantly, the technology of this world is so advanced and seamless yet so believable. It definitely feels more speculative than sci-fi, as I can see advances in technology getting close to this in the not-so-distant future.

Emika Chen is such a great protagonist, she's whip-smart and savvy and like many of us just-grown-ups she fights a constant battle between emotions and practicality. She's extremely analytical, always steps ahead of everyone else but over-analysing every single moment, possibility and interaction, something I can definitely relate to. I was seriously impressed by the diversity in Warcross' cast of characters, there are PoC main and side characters and queer and disabled side characters, all included so naturally, and I can't tell you how happy that made me.

The only reason why I gave Warcross four stars instead of five is because the last quarter of the book did feel a little rushed. I understand that Lu had to move the plot forward towards a sequel but the twists and cliffhangers felt slightly contrived. However I will definitely be picking up the next one when it's out as I'm now fully invested in this world and these characters.



The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden | 
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church. 


But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods... 

This book has been marketed for fans of The Night Circus and Uprooted so it immediately caught my attention when it was announced because I love those slow-moving, fairytale-inspired, magical historical fiction vibes. But for some reason or another I didn't end up finishing it when I first got hold of it, then the sequel was due to come out and I thought that it was about time I picked it up again. The Bear and the Nightingale definitely lived up to all it's hype for me. I absolutely loved this tale of bravery, family, magic and horror set in the medieval Russian wilderness. It's been described as a 'literary fairytale' and I don't think that could be more accurate. The setting was so atmospheric and beautifully described, it gave me real Burial Rites vibes (which is one of my all-time favourites). I loved the emphasis on folklore and how it was a very real part of everyday life in this isolated rural community. There is a subtle magic woven through the book and I loved reading about fairytales and folklore from a culture that I was previously unfamiliar with. Vasya is an excellent protagonist, she is full of heart and courage and I really rooted for her throughout. The plot moved a little slowly at first, but the excellent writing made up for it and I was soon invested in the story. This is the first in the Winternight trilogy and a new favourite for me.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden | 
This is the second book in the Winternight trilogy and the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale. Even before I'd finished The Bear and the Nightingale I had to request The Girl in the Tower from the lovely folks at Ebury as I couldn't wait to find out what happened next and I just wasn't ready to leave this setting and these characters. The Girl in the Tower follows immediately on from the events of the previous book and what The Bear and the Nightingale lacked slightly in consistent pacing, this second book made up for it in an exciting plot which moved along nicely. Katherine Arden has created complex and original characters and the plot kept me guessing throughout. I absolutely adore this series and can't believe I'm going to have to wait almost a year for the next one. If you like magical realism, historical fiction, fairytale and folklore and strong female characters - definitely pick up this series.

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What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Recent Reads #1: Batman: Nightwalker, short stories and The Land of Stories #6

It's been a while since I've done a monthly reading wrap up, since October to be precise (yikes!) so I thought it was about time to change things up a little. A lot of bloggers I love do this 'recent reads' malarkey so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. Every time I finish three books, I'm going to be sharing my thoughts with you here. I'm averaging around six books a month at the moment so you should be seeing these bite-sized reviews every couple of weeks, how does that sound?

I've got a bit of catching up to do so today I'm sharing with you the first three books I read in 2018.


Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu | ☆☆☆
Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

This is the second book in Penguin's DC icons series (the first being Wonder Woman: Warbringer), which follows our favourite DC heroes as teenagers. I love this idea of alternative origin stories as we never really think about the fact that most of these characters must have been teenagers at one point or another. I also don't think you have to necessarily be a fan of Marvel, or even superheroes, to read this series. There's something about each of them that can appeal to everyone.

Seventeen year old Bruce Wayne is already a bit of a badass, his wealth leaving him feeling like he has something to prove and a keen interest in solving crime. Unfortunately, he takes this interest a little too far and ends up in trouble with the law. This book follows him as he undertakes community service at an infamous asylum - I think you know which one! He soon gets involved in a plot that leaves him in over his head. I didn't love Batman as much as I loved Wonder Woman, I think mainly because the plot felt a little contrived at times and I just couldn't truly connect to Bruce's character. However it was still a fun and exciting read, Marie Lu definitely knows how to write a pacey, thrilling adventure.

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell | ☆☆☆☆
Ten short stories set in the ghostly and magical swamps of the Florida Everglades. Here, wolf-like girls are reformed by nuns; a family makes its living wrestling alligators in a theme park; and little girls sail away on crab shells.

I picked this as part of the TBR challenge I'm doing this year, this was the book with the longest title on my TBR and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. I don't often read short stories but it was lovely to just read one or two per night. This collection is weird and wonderful, and although I liked some more than others they still all worked really well together. The stories were linked to one another in subtle ways through setting and character. Karen Russell has created a strange but beautiful world full of quirky characters and a hint of magical realism. I definitely want to pick up more by her.


The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide by Chris Colfer | ☆☆☆☆☆

My first five star read of the year was the sixth and final book in The Land of Stories series. Focused around twins who accidentally fall into the fairytale world through a portal in the pages of a book, this series is an epic, sweeping adventure with so much heart. It's such a lovely and unique take on faiytales and Colfer has built an incredible world. I absolutely adore this series and I'm so sad that it's come to an end. I feel like it's hugely underrated and although it has been marketed towards children, it's probably best for older children (10+) and definitely has appeal for teenagers and adults.

The complete set looks so gorgeous on my shelves and I know it's going to be one I reread in the future. If you love fairytale retellings, adventure or the cosy feeling of the Harry Potter series - then this is for you. Definitely check these books out.

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What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

2018 Reading Goals and Resolutions

2018 Reading Goals and Resolutions

Read more books
Last year I read 36 books and that's absolutely fine. I've had a bit of a hard time trying to convince myself that reading *any* amount of books at all is brilliant, let alone 36, because my head sees all these booktubers and bloggers reading 100+ books and then I feel a bit sad about 36. But I just have to remind myself that some people would absolutely love to have read 36 books. How many times can I say the number 36?

ANYWAY, although 36 is a perfectly fine number, I'd like to read a few more books this year for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I want to get the number of unread books on my shelves down and I also just feel like there are so many books out there, so I want to read more of them! I'm aiming to read 50 books this year, so we'll see how that goes.

Read my own damn books
As I mentioned, I own way too many unread books. Some have been sitting on my shelves for as long as five years, which is just ridiculous. In 2018 I'll be tracking my reading using Sophie of Portal in the Pages' Reading Spreadsheet. This thing is incredible and not only keeps track of all kinds of amazing data about your reading but also has a section for your TBR. I spent a sick day last week filling it out and it turns out that even after unhauling a crap tonne of books over the past few months, at the start of 2018, I had 115 unread books on my shelves. That's just too many! So a big goal for me in 2018 is to read my own books, rather than buying or accepting too many new ones. I've created a little TBR jar for this that I'll be talking about in an upcoming post, so keep an eye out for that!

Read more diversely
Looking at last year's reading statistics, the majority of the authors I read were from the USA and UK, and not only that but the majority of them were white. My reading is really not very diverse and that's got to change. After recording my entire TBR I've also found out that 87% of the authors on my TBR shelf are white, with only 13% people of colour. That makes me feel a little bit sick. So I'm making reading books by people of colour a priority this year and I've also made a little TBR jar for this which I'll be sharing soon!

Read more classics
At the end of 2016 I said that in 2017 I wanted to read a classic every month. Guess how many classics I read in 2017? Zero. That's just really strange. So I'm going to try and remedy that at least a little by picking out one classic at least every other month to read. I only have 8 on my TBR shelf but I definitely want to get to them sooner rather than later.

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So those are some of the reading goals that I'm working towards in 2018. I think it'll be fun to look back next year and see how I did. I highly recommend you download Sophie's Reading Spreadsheet if you haven't already - I can already tell how much easier it's going to be to track my reading. If you have any suggestions for authors of colour that you really love, please leave them down below as that's my biggest priority in 2018!

What are some of your reading goals?

Monday, 8 January 2018

Setting up my bullet journal for 2018

Setting up bullet journal for 2018

I've been using the bullet journal system for two years now and can't imagine my life without it. I love its flexibility and the fact that it's basically just a notebook I can put everything in, but it's still really organised and super easy to find everything.

The 'bullet journal' category is the most popular category on my blog and my 'Starting a Bullet Journal' post is my most viewed post ever at a ridiculous 621,801 views. So I thought I'd share my current bullet journal set up as it has changed a lot over the two years that I've been doing this. 

I just want to point out that I use my bullet journal not only as an organisational tool but also a creative outlet. I love hand-lettering, doodling and making things look pretty but I appreciate that most people don't have the time for this. I personally spend some of my down-time, or relaxation time, setting up my bullet journal for the year and month ahead as I truly find it relaxing and satisfying. I like to think that I've got a nice balance between pretty and functional, but the beauty of bullet journalling is that you can make it as simple or as froofy as you want!

2018 bullet journal title pageWhen it got to the end of 2017 I hadn't quite finished up the notebook I was using (the Leuchtturm1917 anniversary edition mentioned in my bullet journal essentials post) I just decided to continue on in this notebook for the first few months of 2018. Some people like to start a brand new bullet journal at the beginning of the year but it's enough for me to just mark the new year with a new title page. My 'hello 2018' page was inspired by Kara of Boho Berry who did a similar thing in 2017, filling the page with potential 'words of the year' - single words that will represent your focus for that year.

On the next page I have my 2018 six-months-at-a-glance, which is something I'm constantly referring back to when I need to check what day a date falls on or get an idea of how the month looks.

Bullet journal goal tracker

I like to use my bullet journal to keep track of goals for the year. I started by using a double page spread for a mind map of areas I want to focus on and broke these down into what I want to achieve and then specific goals for each area. I listed these goals on another page and then created a goal tracker (see above photo). I've been doing this for the past two years and the idea is that each month I track how well I did with the goals in each focus area.

Bullet journal future log

For the past year I've been using the Alastair method instead of the traditional Future Log suggested by bullet journal creator Ryder Carroll. Named after it's creator, Alastair Johnson, the Alastair method is great for logging all kinds of future events in a simple way. You can read his explanation here, but basically you draw out a series of columns for each month on the left of the page, I've done 6 months at a time here. Then you log the event, along with it's date and time, on the right hand side and place a dot underneath the month it belongs to. This way, when setting up for the month ahead, you can just scan down the column for that month and find any events.

On the next page I just have a simple stats tracker for my blog and social media, I don't really pay too much attention to numbers but it is nice to see any growth throughout the year, and it's always handy when updating my media kit.

Bullet journal seasonal goals

I first saw this layout for seasonal goals and intentions on Kara of Boho Berry's channel and I just really like the idea of breaking down my yearly goals into tasks to focus on each season.

The next page is just a quick January title page - this is mainly a chance for me to doodle and get a bit creative.

Bullet journal monthly spread

Next up is a monthly layout, it's kind of like a regular calendar with squares for each day. I just use this for keeping track of events, birthdays and shifts at work. I used to make a list of tasks for the month down the right hand side but found I didn't refer to it very often. I don't actually use this spread too much and might try going without it next month.

Bullet journal weekly spread

This is what I'm currently using for a weekly spread. I put tasks for the week and a mini habit tracker on the left page and dailies on the right. I set this up on a Sunday night and then it's just really quick and easy to refer to during the week. I switched to a weekly habit tracker instead of a monthly because I found I wasn't really *doing* much with the monthly after I'd filled it in. With the weekly one I can just check I'm keeping up with a few key things each week.

So that's what my bullet journal looks like at the moment, I hope you found it at least a little bit useful!

Do you keep a bullet journal? What's your favourite spread?



Wednesday, 3 January 2018

My 2017 Reading Statistics

For the past two years, I've posted my yearly reading statistics along with my thoughts on that years reading. I'm probably the only person who enjoys and all these numbers most likely mean nothing to you, but I find it interesting nonetheless! It helps me to reflect on how much I'm reading, how diversely I'm reading and how much I'm enjoying it. So here we go...

2017 Reading Statistics

Number of books
The first thing you'll notice is that I read *a lot* less books last year. In 2016 I read 77 books, this year I read 36. I had to resist writing 'only' 36 then, it's hard not to judge myself harshly but I'm just reminding myself that some people could only dream of reading 36 books in a year, and 36 is better than none! Sometimes life gets in the way of reading, but luckily there were some awesome books sprinkled in there.

Gender of authors
Last year I read a staggering 80% female authors, compared to 2016's 68%, and this is something I'm thrilled about as I love supporting women writers. This year it might be interesting to read a few more male authors, but I'd still like to keep a majority female. This might be controversial but it's just the way I feel.

Age range
In 2016, my reading skewed more to YA so it's interesting to see that last year I read quite a lot more adult fiction. I don't know whether this is because I'm getting older or my tastes are changing, but I do still love YA and I'm looking forward to reading plenty of it in 2018, hopefully with a lot more children's fiction too.

Genres
I read a lot fewer genres in 2017 than any other year with contemporary/general fiction and non-fiction coming out on top. I read a lot less fantasy last year, around 11% of my total books read were fantasy, compared to around 20% in previous years. I guess my tastes are just changing! In last year's post I stated I was going to read one classic per month, this failed spectacularly as I didn't actually read *any* classics at all. That's got to change this year.

Star ratings
I rated a lot more books at three stars in 2017, which shows I'm becoming a harsher critic and the gap between a four and a five star is getting wider. I think I used to rate nearly all books four stars, but that's definitely changing. This one will be interesting to watch this year.

Author nationalities
Unfortunately the diversity in the nationalities of the authors I read is still very low, with most books being from US or UK authors. This really needs to change, and I'm going to be talking about this more in my 2018 reading resolutions post coming up soon.

Plans for 2018
This year instead of tracking my reading in my bullet journal, I'm going to be using Sophie's (of Portal in the Pages) wonderful 2018 Reading Statistics spreadsheet - so hopefully next year's round up will be much more in depth!

I'd love to know if and how you track your reading. Do you just use goodreads? Do you use a spreadsheet or your bullet journal? Let me know!

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