Christmas at Hogwarts | Sign Up & TBR

Hi witches and wizards, welcome to my sign-up and TBR post for yet another iteration of the Magical Readathon! The Magical Readathon is hosted by Gi of the Book Roast and she has been delighting us all with fun readathons since the first OWLs Readathon back in early 2018. This round we’re getting in the seasonal spirit because this one is all about Christmas at Hogwarts! I’m so happy to see another round of the readathon and take part in this one which is happening from 17th until 26th December – I’m sure it will really get me in the wintry spirit!

Gi has come up with a fantastic ‘choose your own adventure’ sort of set of challenges as you’ll see from the image below and the whole aim is to follow along the path, making your choice of festive activity as suits you (and your TBR), before everyone joins in for the Christmas Feast in the Great Hall. Super fun, right? If you want more info on what each of the challenge prompts mean, check out Gi’s readathon announcement and/or TBR video.

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Readathon Challenges & My TBR

Finish your coursework – finish your current read
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig / If We’re Not Married by Thirty by Anna Bell / Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (audiobook) by J.K. Rowling / whatever I’m reading come next Monday when the readathon starts!

Have a snowball fight with the Weasley twins – a book you think will be humorous
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Visit 3 Broomsticks for mulled pixie wine – a read that should only take you a day/evening
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Attend a Yule Ball – book you’ve been preparing yourself for
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Bring a festive treat to Hedwig at the Owlery – animal on the cover/title/series name
Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (dragon on cover!)

Attend the Christmas Feast – watch a Harry Potter movie
Well, that’s pretty much a given over the festive period. If ITV aren’t showing them like they ordinarily do, I can easily bust the ol’ DVD collection out and enjoy one (or seven).

So there we have it magical beings, there’s my TBR for the upcoming Magical Readathon round Christmas at Hogwarts. As always, I’ll likely be updating my progress throughout the readathon with a good old fashioned Twitter thread which I will link here once it’s up and running. Are you participating in this readathon or have you participated in the previous rounds? Or maybe you’re taking part in a different festive-themed readathon? Let me know in the comments and we can cheer each other on!


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Down the TBR Hole #26

Welcome folks to the twenty-sixth round of Down the TBR Hole! For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, check out the previous posts via the tag or check out Lia at Lost in a Story who is the creator of this wonderful meme/project.

I’m trying to make this a regular feature of my blogging schedule because it’s good to regularly reevaluate if/why you want to read a book – that way you don’t come back to your TBR years later and have no clue why a title piqued your interest in the first place. I’ve also added a summary of results bit at the bottom of each round so I can track how many books I’ve kept and ditched from my TBR shelf in each round and overall.

Just a reminder of how this works:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Outside of doing these posts semi-regularly I have also been culling my TBR list at random points when I’m bored – all of this is good in terms of getting my TBR to a reasonable amount of books but it also means that these posts are getting harder for me to do as I’m beginning to really agonise over whether to ditch or keep books on there. Not that any of this is a bad thing! Let’s get going on the 10 books under scrutiny today…

1. Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee

Why is it there? I have literally no idea why this is still on my TBR. I likely added it at the same time as I bought/added Disgrace to my TBR but I’m still yet to read a single word of J.M. Coetzee’s writing. I don’t think I’ll be getting to this one anytime soon because even the synopsis hasn’t really piqued my interest.
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Ditch

2. The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations & Books by Eviatar Zerubavel

Why is it there? I’m really not very sure how this book came onto my radar or my TBR, but it actually sounds like a very useful thing – it seems to be about the creative process (whether that’s writing an essay or a novel) and how to carve out the best time in your daily routine for writing. Considering I forced myself to do so last month during NaNoWriMo and it was relatively successful in terms of getting words down, maybe I should read this and see if I can continue that spirit? I’m not sure if it will be completely helpful to the novel writing side of things since all the reviews on Goodreads say it’s good advice for tackling long-form academic writing, but it’s worth a go.
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Keep

3. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Why is it there? This sounds like a really intriguing fantasy concept where, according to the synopsis, “When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air”. I mean, that just sounds straight up intriguing, doesn’t it? A few of my Goodreads friends have read this and given it reasonably high ratings so I think that’s enough reason for it to survive this cull.
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Keep Continue reading

Review | Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

wivesanddaughtersTitle: Wives and Daughters (1866)
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
Publisher/Edition: Penguin English Library
Read: 1st – 17th October 2018
Genre: classics
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Seventeen-year-old Molly Gibson worships her widowed father. But when he decides to remarry, Molly’s life is thrown off course by the arrival of her vain, shallow and selfish stepmother. There is some solace in the shape of her new stepsister Cynthia, who is beautiful, sophisticated and irresistible to every man she meets. Soon the girls become close, and Molly finds herself cajoled into becoming a go-between in Cynthia’s love affairs. But in doing so, Molly risks ruining her reputation in the gossiping village of Hollingford – and jeopardizing everything with the man she is secretly in love with.”
(Synopsis from the publisher)

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Travel | Epcot at Walt Disney World

Welcome one, welcome all, to the second of my travel posts from my recent trip to Orlando, Florida! In my previous post I did a guide (of sorts) to Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and now we move onto the first of my Disney World guides/recaps. Whilst planning out my recaps of the four parks, I decided I should do a sort of reverse/ascending order, starting with the park which I liked least or, rather, my fourth favourite because, let’s face it, Disney World is amazing so I didn’t actually dislike any of the parks! But today I’m here to bring you my thoughts on Epcot!

The second oldest of the Disney World Florida parks, Epcot stands as a celebration of human achievement and technology and feels like a sort of homage to the idea of a World Fair. In fact, it was originally a concept that Walt Disney had for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (aka EPCOT) that could be the ideal blueprint for urban living for the next generations. When he died, the project was reimagined into what became Epcot.

Nowadays, Epcot is split into two distinct areas: Future World and the World Showcase.

Future World is exactly what it sounds like – if you imagine what people would think the future was full of when conceiving the park. Ever seen the iconic golf ball-esque structure that dominates Epcot’s entrance? Yeah, that’s Spaceship Earth, a dark ride which features the voiceover of the glorious Dame Judi Dench who narrates the story of, well, the Earth and how advances in human communication helped to take us from prehistoric man to the modern and mass communications we’re used to nowadays. I’m not sure if you could call it a ride in the traditional sense – it’s more of your Haunted Mansion speed of “ride”, which meant I actually enjoyed it! (However, I did feel strangely motion sick in the final bit where it tips your ride car slightly back to see an infinite star field and to give you the angle to descend from the top of the ride back to the loading area so word of warning to those susceptible to sickness!) Also I now have officially heard the infamous “Remember how easy it was to learn your ABC’s? Thank the Phoenicians—they invented them” line.

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Tag | Bookish Naughty or Nice

Welcome one, welcome all, to another Tag Thursday! Since we are deep in the midst of Blogmas, I thought I would bring you a festive themed tag this week. This week’s tag comes courtesy of Jenn who created the tag and Jenna and Luna who were kind enough to tag me and it’s called the Bookish Naughty of Nice tag. Let’s make that list and check it twice…

Rules

  • Tag & link the person who tagged you
  • Tag and link me/this post (if you would be so kind, I love reading your answers!)
  • Tick/cross off the ones you’ve done
  • Tag another 10 people!

If you’ve not been tagged, go ahead and do it anyway!

Received an ARC and not reviewed it ✓

An eARC, yes – I’m bad. A physical ARC, no, by virtue of the fact that the only physical ARC I’ve ever received has been a freebie in a Fairyloot box!

Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley ✓

Yeah, uh, it me. I got really bad about this in the middle of the year and I still haven’t managed to claw my ratio back up to an acceptable number. Something to work on for 2019!

Rated a book on goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)

No? I don’t tend to pre-review books much on Goodreads, nowadays I only use it to track the date I read a book, quick status updates, and give them a star rating. I nearly always forget to put full reviews on Goodreads and then go back and do them in batches when I do remember!

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Travel | Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Orlando

I visited Universal Studios during a trip to Orlando at the end of October/beginning of November. As I was visiting Walt Disney World in said trip, it seemed rude not to pop by Universal and check out what they had on offer too.

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Now, I have to start this post by admitting that I am not the biggest ride fan… which may seem a weird thing to say given that this is the holiday I chose to go on but bear with me a minute whilst I explain. I don’t really get the thrill of rides that are designed simply to have the most inversions or the quickest acceleration or the longest free-fall drop or whatever. That doesn’t really “thrill” me like it clearly does other people. I’m more so in it for the theming, which is why the likes of Disney do appeal to me even though I was the girl who stood and watched the bags and coats when the rest of my classmates tore through Alton Towers theme park. Universal is somewhere between the two, it seems: it has big rides for the thrill seekers and it feels a lot more of an “adult” park than Disney does (the fact it hosts Halloween Horror Nights probably has a lot to do with that) but it still goes all out on its theme. There was only one area of Universal I was actually interested in: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 | Reflections

If you are a frequent reader of my blog or you glanced at my Twitter in the past month or so you may have seen that I was participating in NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is… firstly, where have you been? And secondly, I’ll explain in brief: National Novel Writing Month takes place in November every single year and is a challenge in which participants try to write 50,000 words over the span of 30 days. The idea is to set up consistent writing habits over the month. Always said you wanted to write a book? November is the time. But you haven’t planned it out to within an inch of its life? Whoops, sorry, no time to delay, the focus is just on getting the daily 1667 words down and you can worry about the finer details later.

In many ways, NaNo helps me to circumvent my natural indecisiveness. I don’t have time to ponder over decisions and faff about considering the implications because otherwise I wouldn’t meet my daily word count. The mistake I made in previous NaNoWriMo attempts was that I got stuck at this, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to let go and go with the flow, even if that flow was ultimately wrong for the story I was trying to get down on paper/screen. This year I decided to write a story that was less demanding and/or high concept – rather than my ordinary attempt to write a quite complicated fantastical system (at which point I’d realise I hadn’t done enough preparation pre-November), I plumped for a simplistic, trope-filled contemporary story on the spur of the moment. Although I had a Pinterest board with a grand total of 5 things pinned, I had little to no plot points decided and I didn’t even have names for the characters; instead, I had to name characters on the fly and, as I sat down every day to write, I mostly had no idea what scene was going to come out of the writing session.

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December TBR

If you read my post yesterday, you’ve probably gathered that December tends to be a stressful reading month if I let it be because I try so desperately to finish up the remaining challenges in my yearly reading goals. Since I passed my 52 books Goodreads goal some weeks ago, that one’s not an issue, but I’m still yet to finish all the prompts for Around the Year in 52 Books challenge. Though I know I probably won’t finish everything for that challenge, I still would quite like to knock off a few of the remaining prompts if it won’t be too much hassle for me in the remaining days of 2018.

With all that in mind, I’ve put together a rather ambitious December TBR, featuring many books I probably should have read already by now, so let’s no waste no more time and see what they are…

December TBR

1. Temeraire by Naomi Novik (rollover from November) ✓
I tried and failed to read this one a while back. It should be right up my street – dragons, Regency setting, fantasy… everything fits. I think I was just too distracted when I read it so I found the pacing seemed really slow. Hopefully I’ll get along with it better this time around, especially since there are many other books in the series so they could keep me going for quite a while.

2. If We’re Not Married by Thirty by Anna Bell
If I’m honest, this entire book just seems fluffy and tropey but I think it would be nice to occasionally read a few books of that sort, especially as it comes to the end of the year and I just want some entertaining reads mixed in with the slightly heavier stuff. Plus, I got this as an eARC on NetGalley and my review ratio is becoming terrible so I really should try to sort it out – this would be a start.

3. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
I LOVED the first book in this series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and I have no doubt that this sequel, focusing on Monty’s sister Felicity, is going to be AMAZING too. Although I bought the hardcover of this, I’ve heard fantastic things about the audiobook so I’ll likely read this one on audio, as I did with the first book. I can’t wait to get reading about Felicity’s own adventures.

4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (AtY 2)
This book has been on my TBR list for YEARS at this point and I still don’t know anymore about it than when I first added it to that list. It’s one of those books that people tell me “you have to read” and Liz has read it and said it was ok and a pretty good audiobook so that’s likely the format in which I will give this a go. It also helps that it fits for the reading challenge prompt “book from the first 10 books added to your To Be Read list”.

5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (AtY 5)
This is yet another of those “must read” books that is being praised the world over. You’d have to be blind not to have noticed this book – it’s been EVERYWHERE and the topic is so relevant and what with the film being released (although clearly not to as wide a release as it should have been), it’s been difficult to avoid reading this one. Yet, somehow, I have. Is it time to correct that? Given it also fits for the prompt “read a book about/inspired by real events”, it seems like now could be a good time.

6. Melmoth by Sarah Perry (AtY 7)
I adored Sarah Perry’s previous book The Essex Serpent and I’m really hoping this one will be in a similar vein. The cover is equally gorgeous and that shouldn’t stand in its favour but it really does. This one seems a lot creepier and more Gothic but I kind of love that so I’m purposely trying not to read any reviews of this book so I can go into it relatively uninformed. Plus it fits for the prompt to “read a Gothic novel” so happy days.

7. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (AtY 9)
Again, you’d have to be blind not to have noticed this one doing the rounds in the book community (can you sense a theme here on this TBR?), but somehow I’ve still not managed to get around to this one myself. Considering how short it is – it’s more of a novella really – and that it’s available on audiobook, I really should get to this one this month, I don’t have any excuses left. Handily, it also fulfils the “book with a body part in the title” reading prompt.

8. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (AtY 12)
You’d have to be blind not to… you know where this one is going, don’t you? Seriously though: as a YA fantasy reader, I’m not sure how I haven’t got to this one yet. There has been massive hype surrounding it and I’ve pretty much heard amazing things about the book from most people who have read it. I’ll be surprised if I manage to get to the end of 2018 having not picked this one up, but I still haven’t read the likes of The Raven King despite saying similar things about that one for months so… who knows. I’m told that this novel is also heavily based on West African mythology so it can fit for the reading prompt to read “a book set in Africa or South America”, right?

9. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig (AtY 27) ✓
I adored Matt Haig’s other non-fiction work, Reasons to Stay Alive, so I was thrilled when this one was released. Apparently not thrilled enough to get right to it though. I did read the first few pages of this some months back but I was in a weirdly emotional place and it hit me a little bit too much so I had to set it aside for then. I think I’m ready to properly pick it back up though, and it helps that it kind of fulfils the prompt to read something “about surviving a hardship (war, famine, major disasters, serious illness, etc)”. I’d say struggling with anxiety and panic attacks is pretty damn hard.

10. The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig (AtY 28)
I read the first book in this duology The Girl From Everywhere and really loved it so I’ve been meaning to pick up this sequel ever since then. Heidi Heilig has become someone I really enjoy following on Twitter so every time I see her name pop up there I get a reminder that I want to get to this book sooner rather than later. Assuming it follows much of the pattern of the first book, this sequel will also work perfectly for the “4 books linked by the 4 elements: Book #3 Water” prompt.

11. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (AtY 32)
I started this book whilst I was waiting in a very long queue for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Disney World last world. It was one of the few books I had downloaded in the Kindle app on my phone and I thought ‘why not?’. As you can imagine, once I got closer to the front of the queue I was distracted by other things (namely shooting bad aliens with a blaster gun to help Buzz defeat Zorg) so this book fell to the wayside… which is a shame because the concept of an AU steampunk World War I is really intriguing and promised to be one hell of a fun ride. Hopefully I’ll get back to it this month, especially since it can count for the “alternate history book” reading challenge.

12. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (AtY 44)
I’m trying to make it a ritual that I read this every Christmas, so I need to actually put it on my monthly TBR so I don’t forget and end up having to speed read it in its entirety at 10pm on Christmas Eve. Whilst that would be perfect timing for the narrative of the story itself, I’d like to start it a little earlier this year and enjoy reliving the story again. It also definitely counts as reading a “ghost story” so that’s yet another potential crossing-off of a reading challenge prompt.

What books are you hoping to read in December? Let me know what you’re reading at the moment in the comments below and let’s chat books!


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Discussion | The Pressure of Reading Challenges

It’s that time of year, folks, when we look back at our very optimistic reading goals for the year and cry a bit about how little of the year is left and how many reading challenges we still have yet to complete.

This year, I decided to ditch the overly ambitious goals and just participate in one big yearly reading challenge – Around the Year in 52 Books. Set up as it is, participants need to have a reading pace of roughly a book a week and since I tend to average higher than that, I always think Around the Year is a pretty manageable reading project that still has some challenging prompts. However, I also always find myself in this same position every year I take part: it gets to the final month and the year and my monthly TBR just becomes a set of “required reading” simply in order to finish a reading project. That makes December’s reading often a very odd set of books and doesn’t leave much room for deviation or mood reading or even taking part in a lot of the fun readathons that are going on. That’s no way to see out the end of a year, is it?

Reading shouldn’t be about pressure. Regardless of our own personal reasons for reading – whether it’s purely entertainment or an exercise in empathy or educational as we learn about subjects or viewpoints that aren’t our own – reading ought to be a hobby that is an escape from any other pressures in life. It shouldn’t dominate your free time if you don’t want it to and, for my money at least, it shouldn’t make you feel like you’ve been transported back to school and you’ve just been handed a list of set texts for that term. But that’s what December always feels like for me because of the pressure of finishing reading challenges.

At heart, I’m a completionist, and I can’t deny that part of this is related to anxiety. I like having things finished and completed; the prospect of having almost completed something actually makes me feel worse about myself. In what might be quite a twisted logic, I’d actually prefer to have definitely failed spectacularly to complete something rather than almost got there. So I’d rather have only completed half the challenges of a reading project than be two off having done so. Like I said, the logic is flawed, but it’s kind of how my brain operates.

(This is also why NaNoWriMo this year kind of gutted me… but I’m sure there will be more on that in a later post.)

So reading challenges, even when they’re meant to be fun and when I pick a relatively low-key one, cause a strange sense of pressure for me around this time of year. As the dark nights have well and truly settled in and there’s a mad scramble to buy gifts for one’s nearest and dearest, December is definitely the last time of year when you need added pressure in your life. And yet, with a culture of goal setting and reflection, it comes as little surprise that December actually ends up being pretty pressured and stressful for some people, even if “all” they’re focusing on is finishing up their reading goals for the year.

This year, I’m trying not to be quite so put out when I don’t reach my reading challenge goals. It’s pretty unlikely I will complete Around the Year in 52 Books because of the number of slightly tricky challenges I have left and the fact I’m not really feeling like reading every book I’d need to read in order to finish the project. But do you know what? I’m trying to work on that being ok, I really am. Because the world’s not going to stop spinning just because I missed a couple of reading challenges from my yearly goals and I’m still pretty damn pleased with the amazing books I did read this year.

Have you taken part in any reading challenges this year? How are you doing? Like me, do you feel the pressure (self-inflicted though it might be) to complete something once you’ve pledged to do it and then find yourself deflated when you don’t? Chat to me in the comments!


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Wrap Up | November 2018

Welcome one, welcome all, to my November Wrap Up. As mentioned in my previous wrap up, I was writing the post from Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort, and the holiday did affect my reading pace quite dramatically. Then, November rolled around, and I was trying to focus all my efforts on NaNoWriMo. It turns out working full time, trying to write 50,000 words in a month, blog at least sometimes, and also read is a bit of a difficulty to juggle. I’ve never felt that more so than during NaNo this month. Even so, I still think I didn’t do too bad of a job in maintaining a steady reading pace (although said pace was quite slow) throughout the month and I’m glad I managed to read a few things- all of which I really enjoyed! Let’s have a look…


In November, I read a total of 4 books 4 fiction and non-fiction – and were re-reads (go me!). This amounted to 1544 pages in total.

In terms of format: 4 were paperback.

As for genre, 2 were contemporary, 1 was a historical fantasy, and 1 was a classic.

Onto the books themselves…

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