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

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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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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Happy Holidays

As I sit here, having watched the traditional Christmas film with my mum (the 1994 Miracle on 34th Street obviously), my mind wandered to what topic I should choose for today’s blog post, the post that I’ve decided will be my final Blogmas post of this year.

There’s considerable pressure to make such posts perfect and reflective, wrapping the project up with some kind of retrospective of how the experience has changed your blogging and also provide a nice sense of closure to the affair.

Right now, I’m saving those thoughts for New Years, for 2018. Because the year isn’t quite over yet, and Christmas isn’t the end of anything. For me, it’s a time for friends and for family, a time to appreciate what you do have, and to remember those you no longer have in your life. It’s a time to just take a much-needed moment to just… be.

Obviously, my Christmas and family aren’t a perfect holiday card image of the day, and what I prioritise in the festive season might not be what you prioritise. But I’m grateful for what, and who, I do have in my life and Christmas provides a stark yearly reminder of just how lucky I am to feel safe and loved every single year. To have somewhere to call home and, soppiness be damned, to have somewhere to return to where I know I’ll always be welcomed back for Christmas.

For those of you who celebrate something during this holiday season, I sincerely wish health and happiness to you and your loved ones. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. And thus “ends” my Blogmas…


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Friday Reads | 22nd December 2017

Welcome one, welcome all, to quite a late and impromptu Friday Reads. I’ve just got home from a meal with some of my school friends from back home so it’s safe to say that this is going to be brief.

It’s getting to be crunch time with my reading goals for 2017 – there’s not much of this year left and I’m so determined to finish at least one reading challenge, namely the Around the year in 52 Books challenge. So my reading right now is completely dominated by the remaining challenges I need to complete for that, and I’m doing reasonably well in ticking them off. Since posting my December TBR, I’ve made sure to prioritise reading things that will fulfil the challenges, specifically Jo Nesbo’s The Bat and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the latter of which pleasantly surprised me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the very reason that I like doing reading challenges that persuade me to read outside of my normal genre which, let’s face it, is either fantasy or historical fiction. Speaking of…

At the moment I’m reading (well rereading) Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss, the first book in the Winner’s Trilogy of which I hope to finally get to Books 2 and 3 in 2018. It also handily fulfils the challenge of reading a book recommended by a favourite author because VE Schwab has rated the trilogy highly on Goodreads. I’m currently also reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Again, this is a reread as I’ve studied this before at University, but it’s nice to read it again just for pleasure. Plus it’s definitely the right time of year for it. It’s not very long at all and I’m reading it here and there on my phone so I expect to finish it soon enough. I’m also planning to read Jane Austen’s Lady Susan as this will fit with the epistolary novel prompt and Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns which will fulfil the ‘Read a book from What Should I Read Next’ since it was recommended for lovers of Six of Crows.

All in all, I’d like to think I can still complete this challenges but I have noticed a massive drop in my reading pace since coming home for Christmas. As I’m not travelling into/home from work every day, I don’t have that guaranteed minimum of 30 minutes of reading daily, so I have to sit down and actively plan to read instead. I’m not brilliant at doing this when there’s the distraction of family and Christmas things but hopefully I can pull my socks up this weekend before Christmas and get some good reading done. Everyone loves a trier, right?

What are you reading this Friday and into this weekend? Do you have any festive themed reading plans? Have you completed any yearly reading challenges? Let me know what you’re reading at the moment in the comments below because I’d love to hear it!


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Tag | The Joy of Christmas Book Tag

Welcome to another Thursday and another Tag Thursday! As we’re in the middle of Blogmas I thought I’d bring you another festive-themed book tag to stay in the Christmassy mood. I can’t believe we’re a mere four sleeps away from Christmas Day, that seems so crazy to me since I feel like December only just stared but, alas, here we are. Before I need to go away and have a semi-panic about the presents I still need to get, let’s get to the business of the day, the tag.

I found this via (and considered myself tagged by) the girls over at Thrice Read so let’s just dive on into the tag which is called The Joy of Christmas Book Tag!

1) Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

I really should look at new book releases because I honestly have no idea what’s coming out soon, I’m so out of the loop. But how far in the future are we talking? Because I am highly anticipating Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars though I’m not sure when it’s released. Likewise anything and everything V.E. Schwab and Samantha Shannon are scheduled to release, as per usual.

2) Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author can you not help but sing it’s praises?

Well I think if you look at the answer above you will see some authors whose praises I cannot sing enough, in fact I’m rarely able to get through a book tag without alluding to a book written by one of them! Also this year I’ve been singing the praises of more non-fiction than I expected, specifically Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking and Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt.

3) Gingerbread Houses: What book or series has wonderful world building?

I’m always spoilt for choice with these kinds of questions because so much of what I read is fantasy-based but I’m going to have to say George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. He does an amazing job of juggling so many characters and settings and every single one is unique and distinct so you can immediately picture what the landscape is like of, say, Winterfell or Highgarden.

But you know who builds a great setting not necessarily in terms of physical place but in terms of tone? Maggie Stiefvater in her The Raven Boy’s quartet. I can vividly “feel” her books which is quite unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

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T5W | Top 5 Books of 2017

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 gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is December 20th: Top 5 Books of 2017 and, as Sam says, “I know most people have a longer list than this, or post theirs at different times (like I’ll be waiting until January for example) but if you want to make a list of your absolute faves of the year, now is the time!”

I generally do a post at the beginning of January to wrap up all my reading from the year with some statistics and accompanying graphics and also a definitive list of my favourite books of that year. This year I’ve really been thinking about how I choose my ‘top books’ (I even did a discussion about that here)so it’s safe to say I’m trying to be more discerning about how I pick my top books. This Top 5 Wednesday topic comes at a great time because it gives me the opportunity to ‘test run’ my new thoughts on picking the best books I read in the past year before that final post in January!

As I re-read a lot of favourites (looking at you Leigh Bardugo, Samantha Shannon, V.E. Schwab, Maggie Stiefvater), I’ve made sure to restrict my list to just those books that I read and loved in 2017 for the first time.

5. Wishing for Birds by Elizabeth Hewer

I’ve said many times before (including in my gushing review) that this collection was, simply put, absolutely stunning. I’ve known of Elizabeth’s writing for some time due to following her on Tumblr but this debut poetry collection was just incredibly written and there are a lot of turns of phrase which will stay with me for many months to come. I mean, put it this way, I read it in January and I still remember it.

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