My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #4

As you may have seen if you’re been around the blog for a while, throughout 2018 I have been doing check-ins for my yearly resolutions as a way of keeping me accountable to more people than just myself. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, I posted my first check-in, at the end of June I posted my second check-in, and my third check-in came at the beginning of October. Today’s post is my fourth and final quarterly check-in and will, ultimately, also deliberate on whether I completed my goals and aims for 2018 or not.

(If you need/want an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here before diving in to see how I did below.)

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: Completed
At my last check-in I’d read 63 books and I mentioned that I was hoping to get to 75 by the end of 2018. well, I surpassed that. I’m quite proud of myself for that. Presuming I finish off the book I’m currently reading tonight before that arbitrary ticking over of the clock from 11.59pm on 31st December 2018 to 12.00am on 1st January 2019 then I will have read 83 books in 2018 and will be rather pleased with myself for that.

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: Completed
Progress on this slowed considerably in the third quarter of 2018, and I had many challenges left. December dawning weirdly motivated me to keep going because I was behind but not insurmountably so, if I just sat down and worked out what I needed to read to complete the challenge. As I sit and type this post up, it’s New Year’s Eve and I have one book left to finish the challenge of “a gothic novel”. About 120 pages stand between me and saying I completed Around the Year in 52 Books so I’m going to optimistically say I’ve completed this resolution and hope that, by doing so, I haven’t damned myself.

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: Failed
As mentioned at my last check-in, I didn’t even think about finishing any series and that tradition carried on into the rest of 2018 too. It just wasn’t a priority for me anymore and, do you know what? I think I’m ok with that.

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failed
It’s becoming a joke right now but, nope, I still haven’t finished War and Peace. It’s getting faintly a little ridiculous now. I just can’t decide if I’m going to need to start afresh or at least read a length summary of the first five volumes before I can finally read the sixth part of the book – not wanting to face up to this possibility is what has definitely put me off picking up Tolstoy’s brick again. I also didn’t read another Russian classic but, hey, I read a huge French classic in the form of The Count of Monte Cristo so does that count?

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T5W | Books You Didn’t Get to in 2018

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Books You Didn’t Get to in 2018: discuss the books you didn’t quite get around to this year but are at the top of your list for 2019! I think this is pretty self-explanatory so let’s waste no time and get straight down to the books, shall we?

5. A Dance with Dragons, Vol. 2 by George R.R. Martin

There was a readalong many moons ago for the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series and I managed somehow to make it as far as this book before I properly faltered. At this stage, I’ve got book and TV show mixed up, and I’m not sure where either of them are up to for each of the characters, which makes the idea of picking this book up less and less appealing as time passes and I forget even more.

 4. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

Often compared to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, this is precisely why I’ve successively put off reading this book from M.L. Rio. The Secret History remains one of my favourite books of all-time so anything that’s compared to it has rather large shoes to fill. However, this has its own merits because it is heavily focused on Shakespeare – rather than students of classics, as they are in Tartt’s novel, the students in If We Were Villains are at an elite conservatory for drama. I’m sure that it’ll be a case of life imitating art imitating life with its Shakespearean themes but I’m just nervous to try it out in case it proves to be disappointing – I have such high hopes.

3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Can you believe I still haven’t finished the sixth and final section of War and Peace? No? Well neither can I. I did so (/reasonably) well back during the War and Peace Readalong but many months have passed and I still haven’t managed to finish that final elusive section. It’s starting to get to the point where it’s been so long I barely remember anything that happened in the first 800 or so pages and that’s a dangerous place to be if you hope to pick it back up to finish soon. Maybe 2019 will finally be the year?

2. City of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab

Basically, it’s surprising that there’s a V.E. Schwab book that was released this year that I haven’t immediately read upon its publication. This and The Dark Vault (which was a bind-up/re-issue of The Archived and The Unbound) were both released in 2019 and yet I haven’t finished either of them. At least I’ve picked this one up, via the audiobook that I was surprised to find on Scribd straight after it was released, but I haven’t yet finished listening to it. I really need to fix that.

1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

I think this is going to be on every single one of these lists until the end of time. I love this series, I don’t want it to end, therefore I constantly put off reading the fourth and final book, so it never has to be over. To this day I am astounded I’ve not been spoiled for its ending (or, in fact, anything at all that happens in it) but it feels like, as more time goes by, the more likely it is that I will be by a random blog post. So I should probably read The Raven King at some point, to avoid that happening by mistake but I do wonder if this will be a running joke of a book I just can’t (or won’t) read.

 

What books did you want to read but not get to in 2018? Do you have a Top 5 Wednesday post for this week? Be sure to link me below if you do!


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Blogmas Reflection & Happy Holidays

I could make this a long post, or I could keep it simple. I’ll try for brevity, for once.

If you haven’t gathered, I’ve been trying to bring a little Blogmas spirit to the blog since the start of the month and I’m slightly surprised I managed to keep it going until today, Christmas Eve.

Blogging everyday has helped me to better schedule, understand my own limitations and motivations, and to force myself to write every day, something which NaNoWriMo in November helped me to do too with the more fictional words. It has also helped me to reevaluate why I blog and focus more keenly on what kind of content I want to most write for this blog. All of those things are valuable, regardless of the topics that are the focus of those posts. Thank you for this excuse, Blogmas.

Since no one could provide a definitive answer as to when Blogmas’ start/end date was I’ve decided to call it today. All that remains is for me to thank every single one of you reading this for sticking around this little book blog. Thank you for all your views, your likes, your comments, but mostly your friendship, encouragement and support- this is the reason I stick around the blogosphere. Christmas is a time when I think we could all do with pausing to take stock and think about all the things we’re grateful and thankful for, so this is my moment.

However you celebrate it (or if this is simply another day to you), I wish you a very merry 24th December and I hope you are happy and healthy.

Feature | Weekend Watching #7

Welcome one, welcome all, to a new feature to this blog which I have decided to call: Weekend Watching. This will be a hopefully regular post uploaded on Saturdays or Sundays (hence the “weekend watching”) where I talk about a film, TV show, or maybe even YouTube channel/video that I’ve particularly enjoyed recently. I’m hoping to spotlight at least one thing to watch each week and hopefully someone at least will get a kick out of these posts – I will, if no one else does!


This time, since I’m bringing you this post during Blogmas, I thought I would make things suitably festive and showcase a few of my favourite holiday films. These may not all necessarily be about Christmas, or even set during it, but they’re all films that I inevitably reach for around the holiday season. (Warning: I’m extremely basic, you probably won’t find anything too left field here.)

Family friendly films

Miracle on 34th Street
Growing up, I was a huuuuge fan of the film adaptation of Matilda (and, to be fair, I still am) so it’s no surprise that I also love this Christmas film starring Mara Wilson. I adore this film, it has my entire heart, and I still grin like an absolute idiot when the people secretly wear the “I Believe” badges. I’m not hugely into the earlier film but this one is on regular, heavy rotation during the festive period for sure.

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Mary Poppins
Another of my favourite films of all-time, Mary Poppins was a childhood favourite that stayed. I’ve seen it countless times, could quote every single word, and I’m incredibly excited for the new Mary Poppins Returns film (even if just a little bit worried in case they ruin it!). As a child I aspired to be Mary Poppins and Bert had my heart – and both of those things are probably still a little bit true. This always gets watched by me and my mum during the festive period, whether it’s on TV or not.

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Harry Potter
I debated whether this really belonged in this category but here we are anyway. The Harry Potter film series will always hold a certain amount nostalgic for me – going to see the first couple of films was one of the ‘end of term before Christmas’ treats that they organised when I was at primary school – and the fact that ITV seem to insist on replaying the entire series over the festive season definitely helps keep that nostalgia alive. I love the books, I love the films, I won’t really consider it truly Christmas until I’ve seen Harry excitedly run down the stairs into the Gryffindor Common Room when he realises he’s actually been given some Christmas presents. My heart!

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Down the TBR Hole #27

Welcome folks to the twenty-seventh 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. Shakespeare And The Loss Of Eden: The Construction Of Family Values In Early Modern Culture by Catherine Belsey

Why is it there? As you might have gathered from previous Down the TBR Hole posts, sometimes in the past I have gone through weird phases of suddenly adding more academic books to my TBR – this is one of those. That’s not to say that I’m not not interested in the book nowadays, it’s just that now I’m out of education, it’s harder to both get hold of the book (no more university inter-library loans) and to find the motivation to actually read it.
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Ditch

2. Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic by Elisabeth Bronfen

Why is it there? Much like the previous title, this is an academic title that I added whilst on a roll at university. I’m still interested in the concepts this book undoubtedly addresses but it’s not something that I can foresee casually picking up of an afternoon, you know?
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Ditch

3. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster

Why is it there? Last year I read A Room with A View and Howards End and was really very pleasantly surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed both of them. I didn’t know anything about E.M. Forster or his writing before I’d picked them up – and I think that was probably why I ended up being so positively surprised by what I found. I’m hoping that will continue to be the case sometime in the future when I get round to this one…
Do I own it? Yes
Verdict? Keep Continue reading

Review | The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

darkdayspactTitleThe Dark Days Pact (2017)
Author: Alison Goodman
Publisher/Edition: Walker Books
Read: 18th – 26th November 2018
Genre: fantasy; historical fiction; young-adult
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Brighton, July 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is spending the summer season in Brighton, where she will continue her Reclaimer training and prepare for her duties as a fully fledged member of the Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, believes that a Grand Deceiver has arrived in England, and there is no time to lose in preparing Helen to fight it. As she rushes to complete her training, Helen finds herself torn between her loyalty to Carlston and the orders of the Home Office, who wish to use her to further their own agenda. Meanwhile, the Duke of Selburn seems determined to try and protect her, irrespective of the risk to himself. With so much at stake, Helen must make an agonizing choice between duty and devotion.” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Tag | Bookish Book Lover Tag

Welcome one, welcome all! Today, I’m here with the Bookish Book Lover Tag, which was created by Shantelle @Shantellemaryh Although it seems her blog doesn’t exist anymore, oh no! I saw this tag recently thanks to Stephanie from Adventures of a Bibliophile. Let’s not waste any more time, let’s jump straight into the questions…

What books are you currently reading?

At the time of writing this post (though hopefully not at the time of publishing this post), I’m currently reading a few things: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, and If We’re Not Married By Thirty by Lucy Bell. The first three of those are audiobooks and the first two are for the sake of completing a couple more Around the Year challenges. The latter two are just for fun!

What’s the last book you finished?

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell – I didn’t really know what to expect at all because I’ve never read anything from this author before but it came highly recommended from someone at work. It turned out to be awful and shocking and kind of morbid but also weirdly uplifting too and I really enjoyed the writing style (even though it’s non-fiction, so can you really tell what someone’s fiction will be like from that?) so I’ll be checking out some more Maggie O’Farrell in the future for sure.

Favorite book read this year?

I have to choose just one?! I’ve had a pretty damn good reading year, all in all, and there have been a lot of 4+ star reads, but off the top of my head some major contenders are: Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.

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T5W | Most Anticipated 2019 Releases

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Most Anticipated 2019 Releases: Pretty explanatory. If you can’t narrow it down, give your selections for only the first half of the year or even just for winter 2019. 

When I first saw this topic on the Goodreads group, I thought I would struggle to come up with 5 books for my list, as I’ve been feeling a little out of the loop when it comes to new releases. I had thought that I was pretty content with the set of books I had on my physical TBR and that there weren’t too many books I was waiting for that hadn’t yet been published. Turns out I was wrong and there are indeed a few releases that are making me wish away the rest of 2018 so that 2019 is closer.

starlessseaHonourable Mention: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I really don’t know what to expect from this as it’ll be the second book from Erin Morgenstern, author of the phenomenally enchanting The Night Circus. The synopsis promises a masquerade party in New York, a subterranean library, twisting tunnels and lots of magic. That sounds plenty good enough for me.

 

royals25. Her Royal Highness (aka Royals 2) by Rachel Hawkins

I read the first book, Royals, this year and it was a lot of fun, once you ignore the entire idea of a Scottish royal family. But, hey, if you’re already suspending the disbelief anyway, what’s a little bit more? Since it took place largely in Edinburgh, I really enjoyed the first book. I’m not sure what this second book will bring but since it’s about the Princess Flora at boarding school I’m sure it will be a hell of a lot of fun.

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Travel | Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Welcome one, welcome all, to the third of my travel posts from my recent trip to Orlando, Florida! In my previous posts I did a guide (of sorts) to Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and to Epcot at Walt Disney World and now we move onto the second 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 my third favourite park, Animal Kingdom!

“Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.”

We were lucky enough to happen to be in Animal Kingdom in its 20th year – that’s right, it’s only 20 years old, having been opened on Earth Day in 1998. It’s the youngest but also the largest theme park and, as you can tell from its name, it is themed entirely around the natural world and animal conservation. The park is split into seven sections: Oasis, Discovery Island, Pandora, Asia, Africa, Dinoland USA, and Rafiki’s Planet Watch (although the last was closed when we were there).

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Review | I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

iamiamiamTitleI Am, I Am, I Am: A Memoir (2017)
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Publisher/Edition: Tinder Press
Read: 11th – 15th December 2018
Genre: non-fiction; memoir
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“When Maggie O’Farrell’s daughter was diagnosed with a severe immunology disorder, she found herself writing stories to make sense of how closely with live alongside the possibility of death and the reality of pain. She began to look back at her own life, her own near-fatal illness as a child and the moments through her life where she was forced to look her own mortality in the face. A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. This is a memoir with a difference: seventeen encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal to us a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots.” (Synopsis from Waterstones)

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