New Year’s Resolution Book Tag

Happy 2023 one and all! 🎆

It’s 18 days into the new year now, so it’s not quite so new now but better late than never 😂 It seemed only fitting that the first post for 2023 should be the New Year’s Resolution book tag.

This tag was originally developed by Brown Eyed Musings and Embuleeliest.

Get in shape: A book that doesn’t fit on your shelf correctly

Complete Works – William Shakespeare

It’s by far the largest book I own and fitting it on my shelf is an ongoing challenge, especially considering how small my bookshelf is. But it’s worth it for this book, because it’s a great edition from the RSC with wonderful introductions and notes.

Eat healthy: A book you feel was good for you to read

Beauty Sick – Renee Engeln

This book discusses the impact of the Western beauty standard on girls and women. I had a lot of gripes with the very white Western (specifically American) lens that it was written from, but it was an eye opening read and is one of the few books I’ve read that led to me making changes in my life that are still present today.

Since reading this book, my relationship with my self image and my perception of beauty has completely changed. The time I’ve got back in my life and the money I have saved related to these changes is unbelievable. I’m thankful to this book for coming into my life at the right time and kick-starting my reflection on how I perceive myself and my relationship with beauty.

Read more: A book you keep telling yourself to read but haven’t yet

The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

For 2 years I’ve been saying I want to read this book. Admittedly, a lot of my motivation to read this is coming from pressure from a friend who loves the Stormlight Archives and Sanderson. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the best experience with the other books I’ve read from Sanderson and so I keep procrastinating reading it. The size of the book doesn’t help matters either 🙈

Quit smoking: A book you kept going back to even though you had finished it

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

I was so captivated by this book the first time I read it, it became really all consuming for me. Because of that I kept returning to it. I’ve read it three times and have gone back to specific sections and quotes multiple times.

Save more money: A book you got for a really good price

A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin

This isn’t one book I got for a good price but seven! I recently bagged an absolute BARGAIN and got the entire ASOIAF series (the exact edition in the picture above) for £5. I was astounded that the entire series was there on the shelf in the charity shop and that they were all in new condition. I couldn’t resist getting them all and when I got them to the counter and was told they were £5 I was not just astounded but flabbergasted 😱 the greatest book bargain I will probably ever have.

Be more organised: How do you organise your bookshelf?

My very tiny bookshelf

My bookshelf is tiny since I have limited space, so it’s a square one with four sections. Each section is dedicated to a specific genre – 1. fantasy, 2. classics, 3. historical fiction/general fiction 4. non-fiction/plays/misc and they are organised purely based on size or height order with my favourites at the front. That’s all there really is to it. I’m not really into highly organised and complex systems, as long as I can find everything that’s all that matters.

Be punctual: Shortest time and longest time it took you to read a book

The shortest time it’s taken me to read a book is under an hour for some of the short stories I’ve read. If we’re talking a full sized novel, the fastest is probably one day. The longest is a few of months. I read everyday so if a book is taking me any longer than a few months the chances are I’m not enjoying it, so it’s time to DNF.

Go out more: What book made you isolate yourself from the outside world?

The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

I was swept away by the world and story of The Hobbit as soon as I began reading it. I fell in love with Bilbo and the episodic format kept me wanting to read the next chapter to see what adventures Bilbo and the dwarves would have next. I absolutely flew through it and had the help of an incredibly immersive audiobook which I read alongside the physical book which quite literally transported me out of the real world and into Middle Earth.

Be unique: What was your favourite book of 2022?

The Monk – Matthew Gregory Lewis

The Monk is my kind of book. You know those books that are so niche and feel like they are made for you? Well this book was that for me. It made it onto my Best Reads of 2022 post, so check out that post if you want more of my thoughts on this book.

Be more personal: What book are you waiting for most this year?

Fools Errand – Robin Hobb

I just finished the third book in the Liveship Traders trilogy and loved it. I can’t wait to continue with Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series, I’ve loved both trilogies so far and I’m particularly excited for Fools Errand because I get to return to Fitz and the Fool 😄

Really, resolutions?: What book do you promise to read this year?

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

I started reading it a couple of years back as a buddy read with friends, but they all bowed out due to the length of the book. I also temporarily DNFd shortly afterwards. I’ve always intended to return to it because I enjoyed what I read and think I will love the book, it just wasn’t the right time for me to read it. But I’ve been getting more and more into classics recently, so feel this year will be the year I finally finish.

Happy New Year, I hope this year brings more joy, laughter and love for you all ☺️🙌🏻

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Advertisement

Reviewing my 2022 Reading Goals

In December last year I set myself some reading goals for 2022 (read the original post here.) It was the first time I’d set specific goals for my reading beyond my generic Goodreads goal to read 50 books and I was intrigued to see how it would work for me 👀

It was a mixed result in terms of how well goal setting worked for me. Sometimes it helped to focus my reading but other times it was restrictive.

In this post I’ll be looking at whether I achieved my goals, my reflections on how well reading goals work for me and if I’ll be setting any goals for 2023.

#1 Read more on Kindle ❌

Goal: In 2022, I want at least 35% of my reading to be done on Kindle.

11% of my reading was done on Kindle this year. This is because a lot of my reading was done via the Libby app which I can’t access on my Kindle or because I was reading books I physically owned. I’m not too disappointed that I didn’t meet this goal because I chose to prioritise other goals (e.g. reading my owned TBR).

#2 – Read more literary fiction ❌

Goal: In 2022, I want to read a minimum of 15 literary fiction books.

I read a total of 7 literary fiction books this year which accounted for roughly 11% of my reading. On reflection, 15 books was very ambitious since I was working full-time and studying part-time for the majority of this year. I wasn’t able to fit in this amount of reading.

Part way through the year, I also wasn’t feeling the literary fiction stuff I was reading and decided to focus on other types of books that I was more interested in. Ultimately, after reading more literary fiction, I’ve realised it’s not a genre I want to prioritise more in my reading although I do enjoy reading it.

#3 – Read longer books (400+ pages) ✅

Goal: To stop shying away from longer books and to especially not be deterred from reading a book I’m interested in simply because I’m intimidated by the hefty page count.

I read a total of 7 books that were 400+ pages which is down from 13 the year before. However, I’ve read less in general this year than I did in 2021 so this makes sense. Despite physically reading less long books, this goal has been achieved because I’ve stopped avoiding books based on their length and have changed my attitude towards long books in a positive way.

I’ve read a book that was 1000 pages long and took on the hefty Livership Trader series 🙌🏻 I’ve purposefully slowed down my reading at points to focus on one long book for an entire month or more which is something I’d never done before, and it’s been really nice.

#4 – Start reading new series ✅

Goal: In 2022 I want to dive straight into those book series that I’ve had my eye on regardless of how many books are in the series or how long I have to wait in between releases!

Generally, I haven’t read that many series this year but I finished the Farseer Trilogy, started the Liveship Traders trilogy, read the next in the Nevermoor series and read the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Considering how little time I had to read this year, I’m happy with what I’ve achieved with the series I’ve read this year.

#5 – Read more translated/non-Western fiction ❌

Goal: In 2022, I want to read a minimum of 15 books that are translated fiction and/or that are set in a non-Western setting.

I read 7 books that were translated fiction and/or in a non-Western setting. Again, this goal that was very ambitious on reflection and definitely didn’t account for the limited time I would have to read this year (this is going to be a recurring pattern with these goals 😂).

Despite not technically reaching my goal of reading 15 translated/non-Western books, I’m pleased with the amount I was able to read considering other factors.

#6 – Read 5 books from my owned TBR ✅

Goal: In 2022, I want to read a minimum of 5 books from my owned TBR

I superseded this goal and read 13 books from my owned TBR 🥳 This was the goal that I prioritised throughout the year consistently and ironically is the reason why I struggled to meet some of my other goals (e.g. read more on Kindle, read more translated and non-Western fiction), because I was restricted by the pool of books I already owned most of which were physical copies of Western classics.

#7 – Continue reading LGBTQ+ books ❌

Goal: In 2022 I would like to read 20 LGBTQ+ books and to specifically read more own voices books featuring trans, ace and aro stories and experiences.

I read a total of 15 LGBTQ+ books, 9 of which were trans and asexual own voices. Whilst I technically didn’t reach this goal (because AGAIN it was too ambitious 🤦🏻‍♀️😂), I feel like I did incredibly well. LGBTQ+ books are incredibly important to me and the 15 books I read this year were incredibly valuable and special to me.

#8 – Better prioritise what I read ❌

Goal: To invest my time wisely into books I’m genuinely excited about and that I have high hopes for.

This goal was probably the only one that wasn’t measurable, but I’m concluding that I didn’t achieve this because I was so conflicted throughout the year about how to navigate my reading.

I’m in a weird place of figuring out my reading tastes at the moment because they’ve evolved so much within the last couple of years so I’m still in an experimental phase and tend to get swept away by books randomly, instead of taking a more strategical approach. It’s a work in progress 🤪

#9 – Create a 2022 TBR list ✅

Goal: Create and follow a general yearly TBR which is designed to help me meet the other 8 goals I have set myself for the year.

This year was the first time I’ve set an annual TBR and it worked quite well for me. Most of the reading I did this year was based on the TBR I set at the end of 2021 and having a general list to refer to when I was picking out my next read did help give me guidance instead of picking something completely at random.

I think having the TBR definitely helped me to meet some of the other goals I had on this list and that if I’d had time to read more, I would’ve likely achieved all of my 2022 goals.

Reflections on my 2022 Goals

I achieved 4 out of 9 of my goals which on the surface isn’t great 🤣 but honestly, I’m happy with what I was able to achieve with my reading this year, especially considering how much of a bumpy reading year I’ve had and how little time I’ve had to read alongside other things.

A big reason why I didn’t achieve most of my goals is because when I set them I had different reading priorities to what I do now. My perspective on my reading shifted part way through the year and my priorities have completely changed.

Now I’m trying to focus less on numbers and quantifying my reading and more on slowing down to enjoy the reading experience in its entirety. I’m also focusing on finding the types of books I love and letting that lead me forward 🥰

I’ve decided not to set any goals for 2023; not even the number of books that I want to read. I found aspects of goal setting helpful and I’m glad I tried it, but it’s not for me.

Quantifying my reading shifts my focus to all of the wrong things and stops me from enjoying reading for what it is. Setting goals also feels too restrictive and doesn’t account for how my reading moods and tastes are still changing.

How do you feel about reading goals? Do you set yourself reading goals? How do they help or hinder your reading? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Happy New Year, my lovelies and keep reading.

Related Posts

Best Reads of 2022

This is the partner of my recent post Worst Reads of 2022 where I’ll be sharing my 5 best reads of the year. I’m a day later than planned posting because I had an impromptu visit to see my best friend last night and we had a wonderful evening catching up over a Baileys coffee and chocolate biscuits 🥰

As some of you may know if you have read any of my recent posts, I finished my masters in October and found out last week I’ll be graduating with a distinction 🎉

Finishing my course has given me much more balance back in my life and I’ve been reading more. My new approach to reading (read my recent post Rethinking My Approach to Reading here) has also really helped me to reconnect to reading and I’ve been finding that spark of love for books again 💖✨

Here are my 5 Best reads of 2022 in no particular order.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

This stunning historical fiction novel sweeps continents and generations and is a breathtaking tale of black history. Each chapter is from the perspective of a descendant of half-sisters Effia and Esi that open the story. It’s a complex tale of generational trauma, family, racism, systemic oppression and so much more.

There is truly so much packed into these 300(ish) pages and it blew me away. At first, it was difficult to adjust to each chapter being from a new character’s perspective because it felt like I had to leave behind characters that I was invested in. It was also sometimes challenging to keep track of who everybody was. But these minor issues aside, I admired what the author achieved here and was immersed in the story.

The choice to craft this as a multi-generational story was genius because it captured the complexity of generational trauma that is rooted in black communities and families in such a profound way. It delved into what it meant to be black or mixed race across time and space for multiple characters and created such a detailed portrait of the families histories and their interconnectedness. I will definitely be re-reading this book in the future because there’s so much here and I feel like I’ll appreciate it even more upon re-read.

The Mad ShipRobin Hobb

This is the second book of the Liveship Traders trilogy and the fifth book overall in the Realm of the Elderlings series. It’s a multi-perspective story primarily centred on the Vestrits, a trader family from Bingtown, as they navigate the turmoil of their patriarch dying and political and economic upheaval in their hometown. This really only scratches the surface of what this book is about because it’s a chunk. There are also dragons, magical ships and pirates 🐉🚢🏴‍☠️

I enjoyed the first book in the trilogy but wasn’t completely sold on it, but the sequel elevated the story to entirely new levels and I was 100% sold. The character development, plot reveals and world building were phenomenal. Despite being 900+ pages I didn’t feel the length of it. Hobb’s ability to write complex characters is unparalleled and it ended so strongly that I started the final book in the trilogy immediately because I couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. A full trilogy review for the Liveship Traders will be coming in the new year 👀

Read my review for the first trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings series here.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë

Read full review here.

This classic novel follows the story of Helen Graham, a single mother that arrives at Wildfell Hall, and causes a stir in the small local community. Slowly, Helen’s past unravels and her secrets are revealed.

It’s a stunning novel that is beautifully written and thematically powerful. Exploring feminist themes surrounding womanhood, marriage, domesticity and gender expectations, there’s so much substance to be found within these pages. Despite being an unlikeable protagonist in many ways, Helen’s character was so well developed and felt so real that I couldn’t help but feel invested in her story. This is definitely my favourite Brontë novel that I’ve read after Wuthering Heights.

My Cousin RachelDaphne du Maurier

I read this near the beginning of 2022 and it’s the first book I read this year that I fell in love with. It tells the story of Philip, a young man in his 20s, who was raised by his cousin Ambrose. When Ambrose passes away under suspicious circumstances, Philip suspects Ambrose’s late wife and his cousin Rachel of having ulterior motives.

I loved everything about this book; the tone, atmosphere, plot, writing style, character dynamics. I was completely engrossed. Rachel was a fascinating character and du Maurier did an incredible job of making her feel like somebody I knew and trusted one minute and a complete stranger that I was skeptical of the next. The mystery continued until the end and whilst the ambiguous ending might be a problem for some, it made me love it all the more.

du Maurier gives you everything you need and leaves you to draw your own conclusions. There are so many nuggets of information and clues scattered throughout the text and it’s the type of book I would gladly read again and again and get more out of it each time I read it.

The MonkMatthew Gregory Lewis

An 18th century gothic classic about a rogue monk that commits heinous crimes and a disgraced nun who has a scandalous love affair. Reading really doesn’t get much better than this for me 🥲

I was absolutely gripped by this book from the very beginning. Gothic novels are my niche, they are the books I love most and this reminds me why. It’s one of the definitive gothic novels of all time with its scandalous and dramatic plot and commentary on corruption in the context of Catholicism. Whilst the wild plot hooked me, the deeper themes within the book are what truly made me fall in love with this book.

That concludes my best reads of 2022 😄

I’ve read some great books this year, some that have been very impactful and that I’ll definitely return to in the future. What were your best reads this year?

Happy holidays, my lovelies and keep reading 🎄🎉📚

Related Posts

Worst Reads of 2022

Where has this year gone? It’s absolutely flown by 💨 the New Year is almost upon us and of course that means that it’s time for me to share my best and worst reads of the year, starting with the worst 📚

My worst and best reads of the year are my favourite posts to write because it’s fun to take the time to reflect back over the books I’ve read. It can be so easy to read a book and then immediately put it down and forget about it, but writing these types of posts gives me an opportunity to revisit books and remember why I liked or disliked them.

I’ve read a total 42 books and I’d describe my reading year as okay overall. I definitely don’t feel like I have had as good a reading year as I did last year and have read quite a few stinkers that ultimately weren’t for me. As always, I will preface this by saying that these books are not bad books, they simply didn’t work for me on a personal level.

Here are my 5 worst reads of the year in no particular order.

Birthday Meredith Russo

This is a YA coming-of-age tale is dual perspective following best friends Morgan and Eric who share the same birthday and have been raised together since they were babies. It follows them for 5 years on their birthday as Morgan grapples with her gender identity and relationship with Eric.

I picked this up because it was a trans own voices story and I wanted to read more LGBTQ own voices books as part of my reading goals. The trans representation was by far the strongest aspect of this book for me. Russo’s personal experience as a trans woman enables her to write about the experience in such a tangible and emotive way enabling me to empathise with the trans experience in a way I never have before as someone that’s cisgender.

Unfortunately, everything else about this book didn’t work for me. One half of the book reads like a morose and serious literary fiction tale examining the complexities of growing up as a trans person and the toll that takes on mental and physical health; the other half reads like a fluffy teenage romance.

Tonally it gave me whiplash and I really disliked the way that it switched gears so abruptly towards the end. I also found the ending forced and a little too good to be true. It felt like Russo was torn between wanting to tell a serious story about the reality of the trans experience and an affirming story of trans joy, and these two things collided in a way that just didn’t mesh together quite right.

Annie on my MindNancy Garden

This lesbian classic follows teenagers Liza and Annie as their relationship blossoms. That description is about all I can say about the book because that’s all it is. Nothing else happens.

Liza and Annie are undeveloped and dull characters. Their relationship is endearing and I appreciated seeing their struggle in understanding their identities and what it meant for them to be gay in a heteronormative, patriarchal world, but those were really the only redeeming aspects of the book. Liza’s narration was so passive and there was some sub-plot at her school with the council which was so dull, like watching paint dry 😴

It wasn’t a bad book just incredibly boring. I think that my dislike for this book is part of a wider pattern that I’ve noticed: I don’t enjoy YA or coming-of-age stories anymore. I’ve reached an age where I can’t quite relate to that experience and I’m tired of reading about them. If I’d read this book when I was 16, I think it would’ve resonated with me a lot more.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Does anyone really need a summary of what this book is about? 😂 It’s a sci-fi comedy classic that has been adapted too many times to count. It was by far the biggest disappointment of the year for me because I expected this to be a new favourite. My issue with this book is that I JUST DON’T GET IT??????? I really don’t know what it was trying to do. It’s supposed to be funny… I guess?

I thought it was a bunch of over the top, ridiculous nonsense. I was lost the entire way through and there was nothing for me to attach myself to. I didn’t get any of the characters, I didn’t follow the story and the humour wasn’t my kind of humour.

So essentially, this book didn’t work for me on any level and I came away from it very confused by how it’s so well-loved. When I feel this way about very popular and loved books it sometimes makes me wonder if I’m just missing something? Regardless, this gets a big thumbs down from me 👎🏻

The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells

Another sci-fi classic that requires no summary. I’ll admit I didn’t have many expectations with this one, I didn’t plan to read it and just picked it out from my online library catalogue because I wanted a short audiobook to listen to whilst I cleaned. And let me tell you, this is the perfect example of why I shouldn’t read a book solely because it’s conveniently short and I can listen to it in an afternoon 😆

Good God, this book was so frustrating to read. All of the characters acted illogically and were laughable. I couldn’t even take the threat of the Invisible Man seriously because it’s simply not the superpower that this book tries to portray it as being.

I’m sure when the book was first published it was probably groundbreaking in the sci-fi literary world, but it doesn’t hold up for me. It was an entertaining read and it had potential to be really great but it was lacking in substance and I was so distracted by how stupid the characters were that I couldn’t take anything seriously 😂

Paul Takes the Form of an Immortal Girl – Andrea Lawlor

This gender-bending book is a trans own voices story which follows the title character Paul who has the ability to change gender and alternates between living as a man and a woman. I really wanted to like this book because the concept was so intriguing but it didn’t work for me on any level.

It’s so unique and usually I love that in books, but its uniqueness alienated me from the story completely. I didn’t like the magical realism, I found the characters detestable and there were too many sexually explicit sections of the book which felt gratuitous and vulgar. I really didn’t understand what the author was trying to achieve with the book. The plot was meandering, the characters were underdeveloped and unlikeable and despite the thematic focus on gender, nothing meaningful was done with it.

I finished the book because I’d bought it so felt obligated to but if it wasn’t for that I would’ve put it down within the first 50 pages. It really wasn’t the book for me.

There we have it – my worst reads of 2022.

Unfortunately, I did read quite a few books I disliked this year. I largely put this down to the fact that I’m still trying to work out a method of choosing the right books for me. The broadness of my reading tastes can sometimes make it hard to predict whether I will enjoy a book or not. If you have a strategy for picking your next read, I’d love to hear it 💬

Look out for my Best Reads of 2022 which will be posted tomorrow 👀

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Related Posts

Winter is Coming Book Tag

Over the last week it’s dropped bitterly cold in the UK and snow is forecasted for the upcoming week which means lots of layers; I have my gloves, scarves, hats and thick socks at the ready 🧤🧣🧦

So of course, today I’m doing the Winter is Coming Book Tag ❄️ ☃️🧣🧤(admit it, you read that in Sean Bean’s voice 😝).

Expect a lot of winter/Christmas themed tags in the lead up to Christmas ☺️🎄

This tag was originally developed by Katherine Barka on YouTube.

Snow: it is beautiful when it first falls, but then it starts to melt.

A book/book series that you loved at the beginning, but then realised you didn’t like it anymore.

Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

I owe a lot to the Throne of Glass series. I read the first book in the series in 2019 as a buddy read when I was at the beginning of my journey of rediscovering reading. I was immediately pulled into the series and devoured all seven books within one year. It was one of the earlier reading experiences I had that reminded me just how fun reading could.

However, the more that time has passed and the more books I’ve read, the more I’ve realised that overall I dislike the series. Even at the time that I was reading the series I had a lot of issues with it to the point that I almost DNFd the series on multiple occasions. The YA tone doesn’t appeal to me personally as someone in their mid 20s, the fantasy elements are weak in comparison to other high fantasy books I’ve read, there are a lot of plot holes and there’s way too much romance for my tastes.

I still have fond memories of the series and I’m really thankful to it for helping to get me back into reading and reconnecting with my love for fantasy, but it’s just not the series for me.

Snowflake: something beautiful and always different.

Choose a book that stands out, that is different from all the other books you’ve read.

This is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Read my full review here.

I’ve spoken about this book too many times on this blog but there’s no other book I could’ve chosen for this. It’s the most bizarrely unique book that I’ve ever read. I mean, it’s a sci-fi, sapphic, enemies-to-lovers romance about time travelling soldiers written in epistolatory format with ridiculously over-the-top purple prose. It shouldn’t work but it does with stunning results.

Snowman: it is always fun to make one with your family.

Choose a book that a whole family could read.

The Little Prince РAntoine de Saint-Exup̩ry

This was a recent read for me and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. This children’s classic follows a prince who travels throughout the universe and meets different people along the way all of whom have a valuable life lesson to teach him.

It’s the type of book that’s timeless and a brilliant read for all ages. It’s accessible for children with cute illustrations but the philosophical themes and humour will connect with adults.

Christmas

Choose a book that is full of happiness, that made you warm inside after reading it.

The House on Pooh Corner – A. A. Milne

Those that follow my blog will know that happy books aren’t my thing. I almost exclusively read serious books that feature hard-hitting topics and themes, so whenever I’m asked to choose a book that makes me happy Winnie-the-Pooh is always my response.

The House at Pooh Corner is the sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh and is the book that introduces Tigger. The short tales of the group always cheer me up and it’s my go-to comfort read. I’ve fallen asleep listening to the audiobook more nights than I can count because it never fails to give me that warm feeling inside 🥰

Santa Clause: he brings wonderful presents.

Choose a book that you’d like to get for Christmas.

At the moment, I’m not buying or asking for books to be bought for me. This is due to my physical TBR growing to an uncontrollable size, a lack of space and my aim to use my local library more. So there’s no book that I want for Christmas this year.

Snowball fights: it can be painful to be hit by a snowball.

Choose a book that hurt, that made you feel some strong emotion like sadness or anger.

This historical fiction tells the story of a family fleeing Syria for asylum in the UK following the outbreak of civil war. I really connected to the characters and their perilous and horrific journey. There were a lot of painful moments and I cried more than once reading this book. It’s definitely a memorable read in terms of the emotional impact it had on me.

Sledging: we all loved it when we were younger.

Choose a book that you loved when you were a child.

A Treasury of Stories & Rhymes

This is a very niche one because technically it’s not a book, it’s a collection of short stories and rhymes including Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Tom Thumb and so many more. I read this book cover to cover everyday as a child loving the combination of stories and rhymes. I also loved the illustrations too. I still have my copy that has my name on it written in pink scented gel pen (I’m the ultimate millennial child 😂).

Frostbite: you don’t want to get it

Choose a book that you were really disappointed in.

Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery

On paper, this book should’ve been an all time favourite because it has so many of the things I love – countryside setting, found family, friendship, a loveable female protagonist – but it fell completely flat for me. I didn’t connect to the characters or the story and was bored reading it.

It felt like such a drab and repetitive book that lacked heart. I’m not sure if it was just that it was the right book but the wrong time, but I definitely wasn’t compelled to read the next book in the series.

Reindeer: something that is dear to you.

Choose a book that is of great sentimental value to you.

What Are Friends For? – Sally Grindley and Penny Dann

Another book from my childhood that I’m sure has featured in another post. This is the book I always asked my mom to read me before bed and one that I read over and over. Friendship was so important to me from a young age and I think that I connected to the message of friendship between Jefferson Bear and Twiggy Twosocks. I also loved the illustrations, the characters are so cute.

That concludes the Winter is Coming Book Tag. Happy Winter one and all ❄️

I hope you all have safe, warm homes to keep you sheltered this winter. I know it’s a particularly tough one for so many of us with increased costs of living and various crises across the globe 🤍

Stay warm, my lovelies and keep reading.

Where the Crawdads Sing – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Delia Owens
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 2018
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Child neglect, child abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism, racism, attempted rape, animal death and murder.

Synopsis

Referred to as “Marsh Girl”, Kya is known in her small community for being wild, weird and mysterious. The suspicion surrounding her grows when she becomes the main suspect in a grisly murder of a local resident.

What I liked

  • Environmental setting
  • Writing style
  • The focus on nature

What I disliked

  • Rushed and underwhelming ending
  • Plot conveniences
  • Lack of character development
  • The main character being a Mary Sue
  • The lack of critical engagement with some of the heavier themes of the book (e.g. child abuse and neglect)

Plot and Structure

The story follows the main character Kya from childhood into adulthood, peeling back the layers of her complicated family history and way of life as an adult. Whilst the plot is a murder mystery, the book is a unique and odd mish-mash of genres and themes. It explores difficult themes such as child abuse and neglect, social isolation and prejudice but also heavily features nature/the biological sciences and romance. First and foremost, this book is about Kya’s experience in the world as an outsider and how her early life experiences shape who she becomes as an adult.

Structurally, it is split into two main timelines; one following Kya’s childhood and upbringing and the second the murder case in the present. However, it does jump across the timeline of Kya’s life throughout. The first half is more focused on Kya’s childhood and upbringing whilst the second half switches its focus to the murder case. Sometimes, it felt like the story didn’t quite flow in parts because of this choppiness. One moment it was following police officers involved in the case and the next it was back to Kya as a girl in the cabin in the marsh.

The plot was fairly predictable and the murder mystery wasn’t much of a mystery. Anybody that has read books with a similar structure will know how the story will end. Unfortunately, the ending did feel rushed and the conclusion to the murder mystery was underwhelming. In fact, I think that this entire plot could’ve been removed and the book would’ve been better for it. The murder sub-plot felt like an unnecessary addition to the story and there wasn’t enough time to really dig into the significance of that for the characters.

I was captured by the setting and tone of the book and it was exactly what I needed at the time I read it. I found it easy to sink into Kya’s odd world but couldn’t ignore its flaws, particularly around certain elements of the plot development that were far-fetched. Despite being set in our world, the story didn’t feel plausible or grounded in reality. However, it had certain things that I personally vibe with in books, so the lack of plausibility with the plot didn’t hinder my enjoyment of reading it too much.

Writing Style

Although the writing style wasn’t amazing, it was immersive. I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on setting and imagery. I’m a huge nature lover so the descriptions of the marsh, ocean, beach and surrounding settings were captivating and made me feel very grounded in the setting. The focus on setting also made it very atmospheric and created a gothic undertone to the story which I enjoyed.

However, I did find some of the use of metaphor to be poor. I also disliked the way that a regional Southern dialect was used inconsistently and promoted racism and classism. Racism and classism had a place in the story with it being set in the Deep South in the 1960s, but the author didn’t critically engage with this within the text and it felt very lazy to me.

Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.

Characters and Relationships

Kya is a complicated character to analyse. I think many readers would describe her as a complex character, but she felt like a Mary Sue to me. She suffered immensely and endured awful abuse and neglect, yet turned out to be a very talented, intelligent, self-sufficient and compassionate adult. She had issues that plagued her as a result of what she endured but they were glossed over for the most part. As a character, Kya was defined by her trauma and passion for nature. Overall for such a character driven story, there wasn’t much character there to drive anything.

There were two main romantic relationships in the book. Both had some likeable aspects to them but one relationship stood out to me. Kya’s relationship with one of her partner’s was well developed and probably one of the highlights of the book for me. Their genuine connection, his acceptance for Kya and the way he embraced her world whilst also trying to ground her in the real world was nice to read. The romance definitely took up a significant portion of the book, more than I expected, and at times it overshadowed other aspects of the story. One of the relationships, in particular, felt forced and like a plot convenience more so than anything else.

Concluding thoughts

Where the Crawdads Sing is a captivating read due to the atmospheric, environmental setting and isolated nature of the main character Kya and the marsh setting. The writing style is immersive and touches on complex themes around trauma, neglect and abuse. However, the book is let-down by a lack of depth or critical engagement with these themes. They’re dangled to shock readers but nothing meaningful is done with them and the character development suffers as a consequence. Whilst the simple structure and plot allows for an enjoyable and easy reading experience, the plot is predictable and the ending rushed, leaving some significant aspects of the plot and character development unfinished. Despite this, the book succeeds in providing a digestible and entertaining story that takes familiar structure, plot and characters from multiple genres and executes them well.

I’d recommend Where the Crawdads Sing if:

You’re looking for an entertaining character focused story that features heavy descriptions of nature and incorporates elements from multiple genres including historical fiction, romance, murder mystery, family drama, literary fiction and more…

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Rethinking my approach to reading

Today’s post is a discussion one where I’ll be talking about my recent reflections on changing the way I approach reading 📖

You can read my previous discussion post How Subjective is the Reading Experience? here and links to previous discussion posts are at the end of this post.

2022 hasn’t been the best reading year for me, I’ve spent most of it forcing myself to read instead of reading for pleasure 😩 But now that I’ve officially finished my masters degree 🎓, I’ve been able to dedicate some time to reflecting on why I’ve been so deflated with reading recently.

I started to seriously read in 2020, and during that time book content creators were a huge inspiration that helped me get back into reading and shaped how I approached reading. But now I’ve realised that the initial model I developed for reading simply doesn’t work for me anymore 🤯

In principle, I’ve always believed that reading should be first and foremost about enjoyment and enrichment, but I’ve been prioritising metrics and quantifying every aspect of my reading experience to the detriment of everything else.

I have a spreadsheet that’s full of graphs 📊 that track how many books I’ve read each month, how many pages I’ve read, what genres I’ve been reading, publication date, the book format (paperback, hardback, ebook etc.), star ratings, the authors gender and the list continues. In some ways, having these insights helps me to manage my reading, to track trends and formulate methods for choosing the next book I should read, but it also hinders my enjoyment of reading.

As much as I get gratification from my reading spreadsheet, quantifying my reading in this way has detracted from my ability to critically engage with and enjoy books in the way I want to.

When I read a book, instead of focusing on reading and enjoying a book in the present, I’m hung up on the fact that I’m 5 books behind my yearly reading goal or that the book is 800 pages and is going to take me longer to read which will impact my numbers

This obsession with metrics has led me to shirk books I really want to read in favour of shorter books, to blast through books quicker than my natural reading pace to tick them off the list, to listen to audiobooks on x2 speed when I’m busy or distracted and unable to actually take in what I’m reading.

I know that I’m not the only reader that suffers from this. In a community where we’re bombarded with monthly wrap ups consisting of 10 books or more, it’s easy to feel inadequate. As creators, there’s also pressure to read as many books as possible to have more material to make new and interesting content. With all of this in mind, it’s not surprising that reading becomes so focused on metrics.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to take a step back from metrics to focus on reconnecting to my authentic love for books 📚

This means being more mindful about the books I choose to read and how I read them. I’m going to prioritise the books I want to read and read them at my natural pace no matter how slow or fast that may be.

My main reading goal from now on will be to find enjoyment, enrichment and contentment in the books I’m reading ☺️

Have you fallen into the same trap of prioritising metrics with reading? Have you felt the pressure of reading more to the detriment of your enjoyment of reading? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear from you on whether you have similar experiences.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Previous discussion posts

Autumn Reading Book Tag

It feels like autumn has arrived quickly in the UK, going from humid summer days to crisp dark autumn evenings in the blink of an eye 🍁

September was the deadline for my dissertation and marked the end of my Masters studies, so I’m excited to enjoy the autumn with some much deserved rest and relaxation. It also means that I have more time to invest into the things that bring my joy like this blog and reading. Autumn has always been a great time for reading. The dark and rainy nights make curling up with a book and hot chocolate almost compulsory 📖☕️

With the personal update over, let’s dive into the Autumn Reading Book Tag 🍂📚

This tag was originally developed by Amy Jane Smith on YouTube.

Are there any books you plan to read over the autumn season?

Gosh, there are so many! Some that have been on my TBR for a while and others that I’ve recently seen recommended. I don’t follow a monthly TBR because I generally pick up books based on what I’m in the mood for but I do plan to re-read Wuthering Heights. I also have my eye on Sleepy Hollow, Phantom of the Opera and Battle Royale.

September brings back school memories: what books did you most enjoy studying? And what were your most and least favourite subjects?

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

I read Frankenstein at college not school but have chose it as my favourite because I disliked all of the books I studied at school. Studying Frankenstein was the first time in my life I genuinely enjoyed studying literature and it incited my love for gothic fiction, a love which has only grown stronger with time.

The first time I read it it affected me so deeply because of Shelley’s incredible ability to play with mood and also the horrifying nature of the story itself. Even centuries later the themes of the book – the potential dangers of advancement, alienation, finding our place in the world, belonging – are relevant and hard-hitting.

My favourite school subjects were history and English Literature (which is the most basic and obvious response a reader could give to this question 😂). Least favourites were maths and science. I’ve always been more drawn to the humanities because I find more meaning in the abstract.

October means Halloween: Do you enjoy scary books and films? If so, what are some of your favourites?

Films: As Above, So Below and Crimson Peak
Books: The Woman in Black (Susan Hill) and I Am Legend (Richard Matheson)

Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I love horror, it’s one of my favourite genres of media. I tend to watch more scary films than I do read scary books but I restricted myself to two films and two books. I shared a post last year recommending spooky films and books that you can check out here to see some of my other favourites.

Found footage is one of my favourite sub-genres of horror and As Above, So Below highlights what really works about found-footage when it’s done well. The first time I saw this film it got under my skin and I’ve watched it twice more since and each time it still affects me. There’s something about this film that plays on themes that play with my emotions and I love it for that because it’s what horror is all about.

Crimson Peak is a film from another of my favourite genres – gothic horror. This is the film version of everything I love in gothic horror, the first time I watched it I actually thought it was based on a book because it has that vibe. The horror in this one is more subtle but it’s still chilling. It has a stunning setting, costuming, mood and a top notch cast. Whilst the plot itself is fairly predictable the journey is worth it.

I’ve already spoken about The Woman in Black (read the review here) and I Am Legend (see the Spooky Book and Films Recommendations post here) on the blog before so won’t go too in-depth. Suffice to say these two books are fairly short in length but very effective horror. I haven’t read too many horror books but of the ones I have read these two definitely stand out in my mind. I experienced genuine discomfort whilst reading them.

With November it’s time for bonfire night & firework displays. What’s the most exciting book you’ve read that kept you gripped?

Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson

It’s not a spooky book but Warbreaker gripped me from the first chapter and didn’t let go. I was invested in the characters and plot almost immediately and the fast-paced action and mysteries surrounding certain characters kept me wanting to read more. I really flew through this book as a result and was as hooked by the end as I was by the beginning.

What book is your favourite cosy comfort read?

Wuthering HeightsEmily Brontë

It’s an odd choice, I know, but you all know by now the burning passion I have for this book. Most people choose fluffy feel-good books as their comfort reads, but clearly not me 😂 The familiarity I feel reading this book and the connection I have to it makes it a comfort read despite its depressing tone and story. I know I’m always guaranteed to be sucked completely into the story and to discover new details that I’ve missed before that elevates my understanding of and connection to the story and characters. It’s also the perfect autumnal read because of its tone.

Curled up with a good book, what is your hot drink of choice?

It all depends on the time of day and my mood. If it’s morning/early afternoon, it’s coffee but if it’s evening it’s a hot chocolate or herbal tea. My current favourite herbal tea is Twining’s spearmint, apple and rooibos with baobab ☕️

Any plans you’re looking forward to over the next few months?

No specific plans, I’m just going to enjoy spending time doing the things I love like reading, writing, going for walks, spending quality time with loved ones and generally investing the time back into what’s important to me now that I have finished studying.

Happy Autumn 🍁🍂

I’m not tagging anyone specific but feel welcome to do it if you haven’t already, I’d love to see people’s responses 😊

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall & Agnes Grey – Snapshot Book Reviews

Snapshot reviews are short book reviews of around 200-250 words.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Anne Brontë
Genre: Classic/Romance/Gothic
Publication year: 1848
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Infidelity, alcoholism and domestic abuse.

Review

Heralded as one of the first feminist novels, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall follows the tale of single mother Helen Graham, the newest tenant at Wildfell Hall. Upon her arrival in at Wildfell Hall, local resident Graham Markham observes the stir that Helen’s presence has caused in the community and is determined to defend her from vicious rumours and uncover her truth. 

It’s written in an epistolary format with a combination of letters from Graham to a friend and Helen’s diary. The story is long, slow-paced and heavily thematic, exploring themes such as marriage, domestic abuse, female oppression, alcoholism, religion and motherhood. 

Anne Brontë’s writing style is beautiful and honest. She provides a raw examination of what it was to be a woman in 19th century England trapped in a toxic and abusive marriage with limited autonomy or resources. All of this is set against the backdrop of an immersive gothic setting and mood that permeates the story and fantastic characterisation. 

Helen is a complex female character that is equal parts likeable and unlikeable, deeply relatable and undeniably the strongest Brontë heroine I’ve read so far. 

Overall, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is more than deserving of its acclaim. Thematically, it explores things that are as relevant today as they were two centuries ago. Whilst the pacing is slow, the story told is worth it and for the time in which it was written the power of this book cannot be understated.

I’d recommend The Tenant of Wildfell if:

You’re a fan of the Brontë sisters’ work and are looking for a slow-paced, thematic feminist story with a complex female character.

Agnes Grey

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Author: Anne Brontë
Genre: Classic/Romance
Publication year: 1847
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Animal abuse/cruelty, death of a parent and abuse.

Review

Agnes Grey follows Lucy, a young woman who seeks employment as a governess to financially support her family. It’s Anne’s first novel and an autobiographical story based on her personal experiences as a governess. 

It’s a short, predictable story with a clean and simple writing style. Plot-wise there’s not much going on; it’s mainly focused on the challenges Lucy faces as a governess with the children she cares for and their families. It explores the poor treatment of governesses and issues such as classism and poverty. 

One of the issues I had with this book is how moralising it is. Although TTOWH also did this in parts, it was so transparent here because there was little else going on. Lucy spends most of the story passing judgement on others and placing herself on a moral high-ground, preaching to others what they should be and how they should behave. 

Unlike Helen who is a flawed and complex heroine, Lucy is a trademark “good girl” with little substance or depth. She’s pure and good of heart and there is no character development for her throughout the book. She can probably be best described as tepid.

Despite these criticisms, it’s a worthwhile read, particularly for Brontë fans. The promise of Anne’s writing can be seen here and the building blocks for what would become The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are apparent. However, Agnes Grey has the unfortunate fate of living in the shadow of the masterpiece that is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

I’d recommend Agnes Grey if:

You’re a devout fan of the Brontë’s and are curious to see the early days of Anne’s development as a writer and gain a glimpse into her personal struggles.

Have you read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall or Agnes Grey? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Books I’ve DNF’d so far in 2022

I’m a huge advocate for DNF’ing books. As a mood reader and someone that’s fairly new to reading and still figuring out my tastes, DNF’ing is essential for me to keep my love of reading alive and avoid slumps.

I DNF books regularly without shame or reservation for so many reasons. One pattern I’ve noticed that leads to a lot of DNF’s is that I fall into the trap of picking up popular books based on the hype surrounding them rather than the fact that it seems like a book I’m going to personally enjoy. You can read my post ”Book Hype: is it ever worth it” here for more of my thoughts on this topic.

There are plenty of other reasons I DNF: sometimes it’s because the book isn’t what I hoped for or because I don’t like the writing style or I’m not connecting to the characters or I’m not in the right headspace or I’d rather put it aside to read other books I’m more excited about.

Whatever the reason for a DNF, I’m of the belief that reading is about enjoyment and life is too short to waste our time on books we’re not feeling when there are so many books in the world just waiting to be read.

In this post I’ll be sharing all of the books I’ve DNF’d so far this year and my reasons for DNF’ing them.

Note: I’ve only included books in this list where I’ve read 30% or more of the book. There are lots of books I’ve DNF’d within the first couple of chapters but it wouldn’t be fair to include them on this list since I didn’t read enough to form an opinion of those books.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

DNF’d at 37%

I’ve only heard positive things about Neil Gaiman and a close friend of mine even told me that she thinks he’s an author I’ll love, but of the two books I’ve read of his so far (the other being Coraline), I’ve disliked them. There’s something about the mood and tone of this book that I didn’t vibe with. It felt very similar to Coraline with the child narrator and the bizarre nature of the plot.

I couldn’t connect to the characters or the theme and the writing style didn’t capture me. However, I do think this is a symptom of a wider issue that I have with magical realism as a genre. I’d be willing to read more from Gaiman but I think next time I pick up one of his books I need to properly research to see if it’s more aligned to my tastes.

Tigana

DNF’d at 50%

This fantasy standalone was a buddy read with a friend so I was determined to finish it but by the time I’d pushed through the first half I finally gave in. I just couldn’t suffer it anymore. Objectively I can see why people might like this book but I was so disconnected from every aspect of it.

It was so bad that whenever I attempted to read it I couldn’t retain anything. I couldn’t follow the plot, I was constantly confused about who the characters were and basic details about the world and history went over my head. Whilst I can see its potential, this book wasn’t for me and I’d be reluctant to read Guy Gavriel Kay again in the future because of how disconnected I felt from his writing.

Orlando

DNF’d at 31%

This DNF is probably the only one on this list that was mostly down to mood. I think I could return to this book in the future and really enjoy it, but at the time I picked it up I wasn’t vibing with it. However, I love Virginia Woolf’s writing style and of what I read so far Orlando seems like it’d be a very entertaining read.

Maurice

DNF’d at 32%

If you’ve read any of my other posts this year, you’ll know that Maurice was one of my most anticipated reads for this year, but it turned out to be a disappointment. I found Forster’s writing style difficult to follow and was disconnected from the characters.

I also felt generally disconnected from the characters. It’s from the perspective of a privileged, wealthy white man attending Oxford who is surrounded by other privileged, wealthy white men. On a personal level, I couldn’t relate to any of the characters experiences or perspectives and consequently felt alienated from everything that was going on.

I Capture the Castle

DNF’d at 58%

I expected to love this book – a family story set in a castle in the English countryside – it’s right up my street. But my god, this book was boring as hell. I enjoyed the writing style so kept reading in the hopes something would happen but decided after I’d passed the halfway mark that it was time to give up.

The focus on the minute details of the protagonists daily life was excruciating to read. It quickly became repetitive and as the story progressed, the romance began to take up too much focus within the story which was a huge issue for me because I disliked all of the romances.

And that’s a wrap on all of the books I’ve DNF’d this year. Have you DNF’d any books this year? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear about the books you’ve DNF’d and your reasons why.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.