Author: fantasyst95

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J. K. Rowling

Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s book review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling.

I re-read the Harry Potter series in 2021/2022. It had been a long time since I read the series – in the case of the earlier books, I started those as a young teenager and read the series over the course of around six years. I wanted to revisit the books to see if my experience and perception of them changed by reading them as an adult.

If you have not read any of my previous reviews of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you can find links to those reviews here.

Now, let’s jump into today’s review of the next book in the series!

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J. K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 636

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 08 Jul 2000

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

 

Goodreads – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can’t wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry can’t know that the atmosphere is darkening around him, and his worst enemy is preparing a fate that it seems will be inescapable …With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master story-teller.

 

My Thoughts

Plot

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has an interesting plot line. That’s not to say I don’t think it has its flaws, however. Installing a magical cup in the school and inviting those who think they are adept enough to take part in a dangerous tournament is one thing. Doing so around a community full of minors, well, can only go wrong somewhere. Especially when entering your name is a legally binding contract. It’s all a bit too convenient that Harry finds his name put forward.  

Despite this, it still makes for an interesting read. In particular, the tournament itself adds a lot of drama and action to the narrative. Its dramatic conclusion also adds to the book and the series as a whole. I’m not going to spoil it for you-you’ll have to read it yourself.

What I like about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is that we, break away from a narrative almost purely set in the usual school year cycle. We see wider plot development. We still have that familiarity of the school year, which comes to a conclusion with the Triwizard tournament. However, there is a lot more to this book, and plenty of it is quite sinister.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we are introduced to characters that come into this world and plot line later on. I would argue that in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we start to see this take shape.

 

Narrative Style

Despite being significantly larger than its predecessors, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire still retains the easy narrative style readers can come to expect.

You know me, I’m not one to shy away from a chunky book. I really hope that the length of this book doesn’t put potential readers off. It is not complicated. Even if you are less enthused by big narratives with wider story arcs, and lots of elements that will inevitably come together at the end, there isn’t so much going on that it will confuse you. Equally, there are little bits and pieces you can pick up in hindsight that hint to what happens later on.

Personally, I think the latter part of the series is quite well balanced in that it offers a little bit more than the first few books in the series (which are for the most part, comparatively superficial). This works perfectly well for people like me who grew up reading these books. At age 11, I wouldn’t have the reading capability to be able to take on these later tomes. Even so, going back and reading these later on has made me appreciate the later books in the series even more. They are more similar to my reading taste a an adult.

 

Characters

As with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we see a full new complement of characters introduced in this fourth book of the series. Some of these have a direct impact on the story, whereas others set the scene (for later books) and help develop the wizarding world in which these books are set.

I am a huge fan of world-building and the depth of detail that can be explored in these kind of books that fill out the whole story. Knowing everything from relatives of the main characters, down to the sports personalities, all comes together to make an immersive reading experience.

There are also a few introductions which will help us later in the series (particularly for the next book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). I think this is pulled off very well so as to not overwhelm, but it does make a difference when you read the next book. Understanding who everybody is and what their role is ahead of time is a big help! Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix is the chunkiest book in the series by far. If we’d had to go through all those introductions in that book as well, then it would be significantly larger!

 

Summary

Despite the slightly convenient plot line, I rated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire five stars. If you enjoy fantasy series with darker elements to the story, or broad, overarching story lines that run throughout a series, stick with this one until you’ve read this fourth book. It’s at this point we really start to see this woven into the storyline.

Have you read any books from the Harry Potter series? Have you re-read it? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Sunday Summary – 15th January 2023

Hello my lovelies, and welcome to another Sunday Summary update to round off this week. As always, I hope you’ve had a fabulous week whatever you have been doing! I have been spending my free time reading, knitting, and blogging.

The first blog post I shared this week featured my favourite reads of 2022. When I planned that post, three books stood out immediately as favourites. I also added an honorary mention to this post, as another book was very high on my list. But, there was just one small factor that detracted from my experience – and it was no fault of the book. If you are looking for some reading inspiration and want to check out that post, I’ve provided a link above as usual.

My next post of the week went live on Wednesday. I’ve decided to start a new series on my blog called Well, I Didn’t Know That. I have two aims with this series – to encourage myself to read more non-fiction and to encourage reading of any kind. By this, I mean I will shine the spotlight on reading from other mediums, such as magazines, news articles, online blogs… anything! It doesn’t matter how much you read – it’s all reading! This week, I shared the introduction post and what I want to achieve with this series. I will regularly update this page with an index of the posts shared as the series develops.

My next post of the week was a Shelf Control feature. I added this week’s featured book on a whim after discovering it. The main character is one that I am familiar with through a TV series I used to watch. Admittedly, I have very little knowledge about the plotline of the book. But, I want to see how it compares with the actor’s portrayal of this character in the popular TV series from a good few years ago. If you’re curious as to what, and who, that is, take a look at the post I shared on Friday.

 

Books Read

The Secret History

As of my last Sunday Summary update, I was 130 pages into my current read of The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This book had already made a good impression on me by this time last week. I’ve only read a little of the genre so far (The Secret History is the second book), but I’m really enjoying it.

This week, I have made progress to the tune of a few hundred pages, so I am now 425 pages in. In my opinion, the story slowed down a little bit in the middle, but it has just started to pick up again and gain momentum. Knowing what I know about the story so far, I’m eager to see what happens next.

Despite being a book about very intelligent students with an emphasis on their classical learning, The Secret History is an easy book to pick up. It may be academic in its setting, but it is by no means a challenge for a reader. You don’t have to know too much to enjoy the story as it is. I am not knowledgeable on classics, and there may some clever references in here I’m not getting or appreciating. But, that doesn’t matter! I am really enjoying this book at face value, and I can’t wait to finish it and see what happens.

 

Books Discovered

Once again, I have no new additions or book purchases to report in this week’s update!

 

Coming Up…

Over the course of the coming week, I plan to share a total of four blog posts with you.

The first blog post of the week is a book review. It’s been a few weeks since I shared my last review, so it’s time to feature another book I have read and share what I thought of it. This week, I am going to be sharing my review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling. I re-read this series in 2021/2022, having not read these books for a long time. I wanted to see how these books compared when reading them from a more mature perspective. From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we start to see the wider storyline open up and these are the books I enjoyed the most. Check out my review this week for all the details.

The next blog post I will share will be going live on Wednesday. That post will be the first of my series, Well, I Didn’t Know That. In this post, I am featuring an article I read in Writing Magazine’s October 2022 edition. That article is all about how recently developed finance technology may be implemented in the publishing industry.

On Friday, I will share a First Lines Friday feature. I am going to choose the book I feature in a new way – I’ll pull a book out of my TBR Jar to read next month, (and that will also be the feature for this post). I hope you can stay tuned for that.

As always, I will be back at the same time next week to share my reading updates and for us to have a general catch-up in my Sunday Summary post. I hope you can join me for that!

For now, that’s all from me today. Tonight’s plan is to continue weaving in a multitude of yarn ends on pair of socks I just made, and then take The Secret History and a cuppa to bed with me.

What are you reading?

 

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Shelf Control #59 – 13/01/2023

Happy Friday and welcome to today’s Shelf Control post! This week, I’m excited to share my featured book. I have absolutely no idea what this book is like, and I have never tried this author before. However, I have added this book to my list as the main character of this book is one I’ve loved from a TV series I used to watch. If you want a sneaky hint before we jump into the book, the character was a detective, played by Idris Elba.

Do you know which character I’m talking about?

Before we get into it, I’ll quickly go through the usual recap of what Shelf Control is all about for any new readers.

Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog. It’s a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies… a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

Now, let’s dive into today’s featured book!

 

The Calling – Neil Cross

Genre: Thriller/Crime

Pages: 362

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: 04 Aug 2011

 

 

Goodreads – The Calling

Meet DCI John Luther.

He’s brilliant. He’s intense. He’s obsessional. He’s dangerous.

DCI John Luther has an extraordinary clearance rate. He commands outstanding loyalty from friends and colleagues. Nobody who ever stood at his side has a bad word to say about him. But Luther seethes with a hidden fury that at times he can barely control. Sometimes it sends him to the brink of madness, making him do things he shouldn’t; things way beyond the limits of the law.

The Calling, the first in a new series of novels featuring DCI John Luther, takes us into Luther’s past and into his mind. It is the story of the case that tore his personal and professional relationships apart and propelled him over the precipice. Beyond fury, beyond vengeance. All the way to murder…

 

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed the TV series, Luther. I’m not convinced I started watching it from the very beginning, but what I did watch was great!

I had no idea there was a book about his character, never mind a potential series (there is a record on Goodreads for at least a second book). Idris Elba was a fantastic portrayal of Luther; he encapsulated the description of the character in the synopsis above perfectly. Of course, I want to read the book that inspired the character! I have added this to my reading list based on my enjoyment of the TV series alone. And why not?

I have no idea if the storyline in the TV series is related to the book, but I don’t think it would matter if it was. For one thing, it might fill in the gap in my mind of what happened in the first series. I’m pretty sure I missed that one. Even if it’s not, I am here for the character more than the plot line seen in the TV series. I’m going into this with a reasonably open mind.

If the execution of the character doesn’t meet my expectation, then that may colour my interpretation of the book. It’s rare that a TV series has made an impression on me before a book. That can be a make-or-break experience sometimes, but I’m willing to give it a go!

 

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Well, I Didn’t Know That!

I have wanted to create a series on my blog for some time that encouraged me to read more non-fiction. The other defining feature I wanted for this post is to emphasise that all reading is reading.

Yes, I read a lot of books. But, that’s not an exclusive requirement. There is far more reading material out there – magazines, online articles and reference sites, periodicals etc. They are a great starting point for touching upon or discovering a new topic of interest. Most importantly, they are more accessible to read.

I’m all about encouraging reading – any kind of reading! Whilst I feature books heavily on my blog already, Well, I Didn’t Know That is a series that makes dedicated space for other mediums.

Of course, if you like the idea of this post and want to post your own spin on it, please do! The aim is to encourage reading in all ways – I’d only ask you link back to this introductory post so anybody else interested can take a look at how it works!

I’ll be starting the series in earnest on 18th January 2023. Today’s post is merely the introduction! If you want to look back at previous features, I’ll keep an index below as a reference. If you have read something interesting and you’d like me to feature it in a future post – get in touch with me and let me know!

 

Well, I Didn’t Know That!

 

Upcoming Posts

08/02/2023 –  Business book tops the bestsellers charts

 

Previous Posts

  1. How FinTech could give publishers more control over their digital assets than ever before
  2. Could AI replace lawyers in the courtroom?
  3. A unique book featured in The Guardian’s top five of 2022 

 

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Top Reads of 2022!

Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s post, which is all about my top reads of 2022! I read a total of 47 books throughout the year, and my average rating was actually quite high. It’s fair to say I had a great reading year!

Today’s post is all about the best of the best.

When going through the books I read in 2022, there were three very distinct books that jumped out at me as my favourites. There is also one honourable mention, and I’ll explain why this didn’t quite make the list.

If you enjoy fantasy or dark academia, then there is at least one book on my top reads list for you! I’m listing the books in chronological order, as there is very little between these books for me to rank them. They are a bit different, and I enjoyed them for these differences!

 

Top Reads

 

Empire of the Vampire

Empire of the Vampire is what I would describe as an epic Gothic fantasy, written by Jay Kristoff. If you are a fan of his other books (such as the Nevernight series), you enjoy stories that heavily feature vampires, and/or epic fantasy novels with elements of coming of age, detailed world-building, and character development, then Empire of the Vampire has something for you.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. I wanted to give it a try because I have really come to enjoy Jay Kristoff’s writing style. Having listened to the audiobooks for the Nevernight series, I knew I like the way he dealt with darker topics. Personally, I’m not really one for vampire stories. There are some exceptions, this book and future series now being one of them. However, the narrative style (likened to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind) and setting of the world appealed to me.

This appealed to me for all the right reasons! I love the way in which this story is told. As in the aforementioned book, the story is told almost in the style of a confessional, through the eyes of the main character as a mature adult. Throughout this narrative, not only do we experience the development of the main character, but we also come to learn a lot about the world in which the story is set, the lore behind the vampire families, and how they grew large.

This book has everything you would expect from an epic fantasy – complex and detailed world-building, a vast array of characters with detailed backstories and relationships, and a storyline that will inevitably span a large number of chunky books!

The cherry on top of this very large cake was how well the book managed to create and retain atmosphere. It definitely maintained Gothic vibes throughout. I really enjoyed this. You may not expect this to be the kind of book to would take on holiday to read in 20+ degrees sunshine, but that is exactly what I did. Even despite the vast contrast in the fictional and actual setting, my mind lived in this book whilst reading it… and for a long time afterwards!

I can’t wait for the sequel!

 

Assassin’s Apprentice

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb is another fantasy series I started in 2022. I can only ask myself why I didn’t start it sooner! This series has been recommended to me before, especially by a close friend of mine. She knew what this was all about, and I should have listened to her and picked it up before now.

Before picking up this book in earnest, I had trialled the first chapter or two previously. However, I had done so from the e-book on my phone. I just don’t read this way at all. I don’t quite remember the circumstances in which I picked this up on my phone, but the intention wasn’t just to sample it. Why I didn’t pick it up properly thereafter is beyond me.

Anyway, I finally got there in the end. I decided to pick up a physical copy of the book, trusting Rachael’s recommendation, and knowing that I really enjoyed the sample I had tried previously. I have since gone on to purchase seven books out of sixteen, and I read four of them in 2022. I’m sure that in itself will speak volumes, but I’ll go into some more detail about the book, and why I specifically enjoyed this one, below.

Assassin’s Apprentice is also an epic fantasy. Whilst the first book isn’t too chunky in itself, it is the opening book of the first trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings universe. In my opinion, it is the perfect introduction to such a world – there is plenty of page count to set the scene, explore the characters, and establish the wider story arc, without intimidating the prospective reader either.

If you enjoy your fantasy with detailed plotlines and character relationships, then Assassin’s Apprentice will scratch that itch for you. There is already a lot going on in this first book. Royalty, political subterfuge and magic intertwine to set the scene in this first book. These are all elements I have enjoyed in other fantasy series and did not disappoint in this one either!

 

Babel

The last book in my top reads of 2022 list is Babel by R.F. Kuang.

Babel was my first real foray into the dark academia genre. If you are unfamiliar with the premise of this book, we follow a character called Robin Swift. He is taken from China as a young boy after losing his family. He is taken in by a professor at Oxford University, where he later studies translation in the titular building.

There is a lot going on in Babel, and a lot of it I didn’t expect in the extent that the book went to. Whilst part of the dark academia genre, there are elements of fantasy in this book. It is a nod to a genre I really enjoy, but in execution and tone, it doesn’t read like a fantasy. On the contrary, it reads quite academically. It is evident that the author knows her stuff when it comes to translation. Through the narrative, we explore ideas around translation, such as maintaining fidelity, and how that is best achieved.

But more surprisingly, it is the more difficult topics for which I really enjoyed this book. Babel in particular explores colonialism, racism and classism. It is a book that makes example of how the British empire has invaded, taken, and manipulated its way into other countries resources in order to selfishly better itself. There’s a lot of debate about this in the book, but also in the wider community at the moment.

Some people find this uncomfortable to read. Personally, I don’t think you should shy away from a book/topic that makes you uncomfortable. More often than not, it should make you uncomfortable – it’s intended. If you think that any person, country, or idea is perfect and shouldn’t be challenged, then you are wearing rose-tinted spectacles. Babel is very much an example of this kind of book, and I really enjoyed taking on these ideas in a loose fantasy setting.

It was everything I expected it to be, and a bit more besides. It has made an R.F. Kuang reader out of me!

 

Honourable mention

The First Binding

My honourable mention for this list is The First Binding by R.R. Virdi. I had the pleasure of reading this debut novel to review it in the blog tour organised by the publisher in August 2022.

There is definitely a theme to my reading and this post. Epic fantasy is a very significant genre that I read but also have high expectations for. Even so, this one has made it very close to the top of the list. Did I mention it was a debut?

Similarly to Empire of the Vampire, The First Binding is narrated by the main character after events have taken place. In this particular example, the character ends up taking on the role of a storyteller in the early days of the novel. Naturally, setting up a character in such a way raises expectations exponentially. Most authors would be setting the bar so high that they’d be setting themselves up to fail. However, R.R. Virdi does not disappoint in pulling off a flawless narrative with theatrics and compelling language to complement this already interesting narrative.

The only reason The First Binding is an honourable mention, rather than a top read, is because of the circumstances in which I read this book. I only had around two weeks to read and then review this book for the blog tour. At over 800 pages, this is quite the undertaking. As a result, I had to effectively set myself daily reading targets to get through this in time to review it. If I’d had the luxury of reading this book at my own pace, it probably would have been a top read. I almost had to force myself to read it, and that detracted ever so slightly from the experience. But I will stress, it is slight!

 

What was your favourite read of 2022? Have you read any books that made it onto my top reads list?

 

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Sunday Summary – 8th January 2023

I have a lot to catch you up with in today’s Sunday Summary post! I hope you are sitting comfortably with a cup of tea for this one.

Having just crossed the line of a brand-new year, I have been publishing a flurry of posts this week. On Monday, I shared my monthly wrap-up post for December 2022. In that post, I took a look at the books I read throughout December and catch you up with my thoughts on those. This post was the first of many this week!

Next, I shared my 2023 Resolutions with you on Tuesday. As you have probably gathered by the title, I share what my reading resolutions are for the upcoming year. Some of them are similar to those set in previous years, but I also have some new ones. If you haven’t checked out that post already, there’s a link for you to do so.

I was back on Thursday with my January 2023 TBR. Similarly to last year, I have set myself both fixed and mood reads so I have flexibility with my TBR. This month’s list has worked out approximately half and half. Normally I have fewer fixed reads on my list. But, since I’d already started a book on my December TBR, I wanted to carry forward another, and I wanted to take part in a book club read, it’s just the way it’s panned out this month. I’m excited to pick up everything on my list. Again, if you haven’t checked that post out yet, there is a link provided above.

My last post of the working week was shared on Friday and was my review of my 2022 resolutions. Overall, success with these resolutions was mixed. I can safely say that I had a good go at absolutely all of them. One was a resounding success, and two others were achieved differently from how I envisaged it at the beginning of the year. There is one last goal that I have carried forward into 2023 because it is one that I didn’t quite achieve in 2022. If you want to find out what worked and what didn’t, you can find out by following the link.

 

Books Read

As of my last Sunday Summary post, I was 11% through my read of The Secret Library by Oliver Tearle. I had just started this book at the end of 2022, knowing I wasn’t going to finish it to count towards those stats. I picked it up because I was in the mood to read non-fiction. If you like books about books, especially about lesser-known ones, then The Secret Library is definitely one I would recommend to you. 

I really enjoyed the structure of the book and how each chapter tackles a different setting or time period. Literature goes right back to ancient times. It may have only experienced a boom since the invention of the printing press and books becoming more widely available, but that’s not to say that literature hasn’t always been a big part of history – from ancient times to modern. The book covers its full history. 

Each section is also broken down nicely into a certain topic or featuring a certain author. This makes it really easy to pick up and put down as it’s cleverly organised and each section is relatively concise. We cover 99 topics across these 250-odd pages – if that gives you any idea as to how short each section is. Naturally, I made my way through this book quite quickly, finishing it on Friday.

Next, I moved on to my current read, The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I appreciate the titles are incredibly similar, but they are very different books. I picked up and loved a book in a similar genre to The Secret History last year – Babel by R.F. Kuang. Given that I enjoyed that book so much, I am optimistic that The Secret History will be just as much of a hit.

One of the elements I really enjoyed about Babel is the focus of language. In that way, The Secret History is working for me because classics and in particular, learning Greek, is prevalent throughout the narrative. We also have the same kind of setting – a very small but incredibly talented group of students. Whilst I can’t really comment on the events the narrative focus on at the moment and how it compares, it is promising. As of this Sunday Summary update, I am 130 pages into my 628-page edition. Given that I have read this much already and just a couple of days is good, and I will be further along by the time I go to bed tonight.

The Secret History is a book that I look forward to picking up and reading. I can only hope that it makes up to the expectations I have!

 

Books Discovered

This section is going to be short and sweet because I haven’t added anything to my reading list. Given that I added three books the week before, I certainly don’t need any more!

 

Coming Up…

I’m looking forward to a slightly more relaxing week next week; the blogging schedule is going to be more manageable than this week has been! I’m still going to be posting one more blog post but I would typically share in an average week, but I’m looking forward to drafting every single one of my features!

I am beginning the week with a post sharing my favourite reads of 2022. I’m all about encouraging reading, so I’m looking forward to talking about the best books I picked up in the year.

On Wednesday, I am introducing a new series on my blog. The crux of this series is to help with my goal of reading more non-fiction this year. Also, I’ll pass on tidbits of knowledge I pick up along the way that I find interesting. However, the point of this feature is to address that all reading is reading. For a number of the features I’ll share in future, I will be including reading material other than books, such as magazines etc. I will of course also be sharing books from time to time too, but I won’t be restricting myself to them either!

On Friday, I will be sharing my next Shelf Control regular Friday feature. If you are unfamiliar with this feature, I share a book on my reading list and go into some details as to why I’m interested to read it!

Lastly, I’ll be back with my typical Sunday Summary post to round up the week!

That was a bit of an epic Sunday Summary post, so if you’re still with me, thanks for reading!

What is your current read?

 

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Reviewing my 2022 Resolutions!

Hello everybody and welcome to my review of my 2022 resolutions. This week I have shared my monthly wrap for December, my 2023 resolutions, and my January TBR. We are ending the working week with a review of my resolutions set for 2022, whether I succeeded with those goals and if I can do anything better.

At the beginning of last year, I set myself three goals – to take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, to take a more flexible approach with the reading lists I was setting myself every month in 2022, and lastly, to work on the admin side of managing my blog, and being more effective at doing so.

Let’s take a look at how I did over the course of 2022!

 

Goodreads Challenge – Read 40 books

In 2021, I deliberately didn’t set myself a reading goal as I was burned out. I didn’t want to compound that by constraining myself with a target. I had every intention of reading just as much as I would in any other year. Somehow, I was surprised when that didn’t happen. I read approximately 25 books in 2021. Don’t get me wrong, that’s more than a lot of people. But, if I’m completely honest with myself, I knew I could have done more.

With that in mind, I decided to resume taking part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2022. So as not to overwhelm myself, I set myself a modest target of 40 books. I wanted to give myself a number that I could work towards, but not set so lofty a goal that I set myself up to fail. Ultimately, my aim for this year was to read more whilst maintaining a healthy balance of doing other things I love as well.

As of the end of the year, I had read a total of 47 books. Not only did I meet my target, but I did surpass it slightly. For a brief while, I entertained the notion of pushing it to 50 books, but I’m glad I didn’t. In December, I read some very chunky fantasy that meant that I didn’t get around to the volume of books, even if I was reading a significant volume of pages!

All in all, I got my reading motivation back in 2022, which is what I wanted. However, I didn’t do it at the expense of anything else.  I’ve given myself the time and flexibility for other hobbies and activities. This is exactly what I wanted from this resolution. So, in my opinion, it was a resounding success!

 

Reading Lists

In my 2022 resolutions post, I set myself a goal of being more flexible with my reading list. Historically, I set myself an entirely fixed list for the whole month. At the beginning of 2022, I changed this stance slightly. Instead, I set a mostly fixed reading list, with the option of one or two mood reads at the end of the month. This was a good idea in theory, but more often than not, I was only just getting to the end of the fixed list by the end of the month, if at all, so I never actually got the benefit of allowing myself mood reads. I decided to stick with this approach though to give it a fair chance.

It wasn’t until June that I changed my stance again. When setting my June reading list, I couldn’t decide what to read. I kept changing my mind. In the end, I decided to accept the mood I was in and set just one fixed read on my TBR, keeping the rest as mood reads. Finally, I got to see the benefit of the flexibility I was trying to allow myself. June, in theory, should have been one of my worst reading months, as I sat an exam at the end of that month. However, it was one of my best reading months of the year. Naturally, it was at this point of the year that I took the decision to allow myself more flexibility again, changing my reading lists to just a handful of fixed reads, and the majority being mood reads.

Having looked back at my reading progress throughout the year, I read 23 books prior to the end of June, and 24 more by the end of December. In terms of book count, that’s a fairly even split. However, I read slightly chunkier books in the second half of the year. Whilst the end result may be very similar, I was definitely happier with my reading in the second half of the year. There is no tangible evidence that reading was better in the second half of the year other than my subjective opinion that I enjoyed it more. That’s enough for me!

I’m really happy with the approach I’ve taken throughout the year and the changes I’ve made. What I have learned since starting my blog is that I work differently at different times. In the past, having a totally fixed list has worked for me. There are times when it hasn’t. There are times when I’ve allowed myself complete flexibility, and that has worked. Again, there are times when it hasn’t. More recently, I’ve taken this hybrid approach and that is currently working for me. I need to be flexible with myself and understand what mindset I’m in as to which approach is best at any given time. None of them are wrong. If I need to change the way I’m doing things in the moment, I need to just do it.

 

Blog Post Writing

In my 2022 resolutions post, I set myself a goal to be more organised with writing my blog posts. The aim was to draft blog posts approximately one week ahead of schedule. This would give me leeway to get post out to you on time. In my midyear review, this was the goal I hadn’t made much progress towards, but I was determined to turn this around.

I did get myself to a point where I was drafting blog posts ahead of schedule. It was really handy if something came up, or I just wasn’t in the mood to blog on a particular evening. My blogging schedule wasn’t compromised by this. What I didn’t foresee, however, is that logistically, some posts can’t be drafted ahead of time. For example, my month-end wrapups have some degree of last-minuteness to them. Even if I was drafting the majority of these posts ahead of time, I was having to finish them off last minute anyway.

Another thing I didn’t consider was that drafting things ahead of time was going to be confusing. Particularly when I was drafting my Sunday Summary posts, I would get confused with what was coming up in the following week compared to what I’d just drafted, as that was for the week ahead of that.

Ultimately, it has its benefits and its drawbacks. I have now reverted back to drafting blog posts in the week they are due to go live. Personally, I find this easier to manage. However, I have started being more forward-thinking to make sure my posts go out with fewer unforeseen changes to the schedule. Rather than drafting blog posts on the night they’re going live, I’m more likely to draft them a day or two ahead of time. It is a compromise, but equally not a perfect approach either. I have had a blog post delayed slightly since going back this way. But, for the most part, things go out as expected.

Overall, I would say that I have made progress towards this goal somewhat, even if it is not in the way I envisioned at the beginning of the year. And, it’s one of those things that will be constantly evolving. Sometimes, it will be a benefit to draft the week ahead of time, and I will do so. Likewise, sometimes it’s not possible and I will just have to manage my time and roll with it.

 

Read more Non-fiction

An additional goal I added to my resolutions in July 2022 was to read more non-fiction. You know me, I am very heavy in the fantasy and science-fiction genres. I really enjoy reading these, as well as other fiction novels. However, I like to learn new things. I’m always looking for ways to improve myself. Naturally, these are the kind of itches I can scratch with a non-fiction novel. When I drafted my midyear review in July, I set up my intention to add at least one non-fiction novel to each month for TBR, which I did.

However, I didn’t always read a non-fiction book in each month up until the end of the year. In a lot of cases, my chosen non-fiction read was downloaded in audiobook format, which is my slowest way of reading. As a result, it often took me longer to finish my non-fiction reads than I anticipated. At the end of the year, I succeeded in reading three non-fiction novels. An additional novel I had started by the end of the year, but not finished, was Queen of Our Times by Robert Jordan.

Admittedly, in the second half of the year, I read as many non-fiction books after setting the goal as I did before I set it. However, I did have more non-fiction books on my TBR; picking them up was a more conscious decision. It was something I was deliberately making time for rather than just allowing to happen naturally.

I wasn’t so successful in completing this goal. If you have read my 2023 resolutions post, you will know I have set myself a similar, but slightly different goal towards this end. This is something I can definitely work on more, and that is my intention in 2023.

 

So, those are my thoughts on how well I did (or didn’t) do in completing my 2022 resolutions! Did you set yourself any resolutions last year? How did you do? Have you set any goals for this year?

 

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Monthly TBR – January 2023

I’m very excited to be sharing my very first TBR with you of 2023! January is always a good month for reading as I’m excited by the clean slate.

This year, I’m starting my January TBR with a book I’ve carried over from December last year. It’s quite a short read and one that I’m making good progress with already despite the number of blogging hours I’ve put in this week! And, there are plenty more to come.

As I started doing last year, I’m going to set myself a few fixed reads that I would like to get through in the month. I’m also going to set some mood reads that will be a reflection of what I want to pick up when I draft my TBR, but I can change in the month if I wish. I’ve found this approach really works for me, as it focuses me on the things I need to read, but also allows that bit of flexibility if and when things change.

Enough preamble – let’s get into the books I plan to pick up in January!

 

Fixed Reading List

 

The Secret Library

The Secret Library was on my December 2022 TBR, but I only got around to it right at the end of the month. As I have done in previous months, I underestimated the amount of time it takes to make progress with books in the Realm of the Elderlings series by Robin Hobb. As a result, I didn’t get anywhere near finished with my December TBR.

I started January having read the first of nine chapters in The Secret Library, and this is my current read as of drafting this post. I am already just over halfway through the book and it is a compelling read. If you like books about books (especially little-known books), then the tidbits of knowledge in this book will appeal to you as they do to me.

 

The Secret History

The Secret History

The Secret History was also on my December TBR, as a TBR Jar pick. I decided to set this jar up as a means of randomising my reading list a little bit and to encourage me to pick up books at times when I wouldn’t necessarily do so by choice. It’s a means of broadening my horizons.

So, I didn’t get around to it in December for the same reasons above. That is why The Secret History is on the fixed side of my January TBR. I have been looking forward to reading this book for some time, as I have heard great things from multiple sources about it. Having read other books within the same genre last year and really enjoyed them, I’m excited to see what this book holds.

 

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a fixed read on my reading list as it is the featured book in Ezeekat’s online book club this month.

I joined this club in time for last month’s read of Daughter of the Moon Goddess, and that proved to be a fantastic read. Whilst it wasn’t on my reading list as yet, it was on my radar and I probably would have read it at some point anyway. I really enjoyed this book, so naturally, I’m excited to see what this next read brings.

Having read the synopsis of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, I really like the sound of it. As someone who enjoys gaming as well as reading and crafting and everything else I do, I have something in common with the main characters. I’m hoping that relatability will add to my enjoyment of the overall book.

I have seen this book around on social media, but I wouldn’t have picked it up unless it was part of the club. It will be interesting to see what my perception of the book is after I’ve read it, as this is a true test of using online book clubs to push my reading boundaries… because this is exactly the scenario I’ve been looking for.

 

Mood Reads

 

After You

It was a conversation with my friends before Christmas that inspired me to read this book in January. I threw myself a curveball a few years ago and picked up Me before you by Jojo Moyes. It is not the kind of book I would normally read, however, it was great. It made me cry bucketloads, but it was a really, really good book.

I didn’t know much about this second book of the series, After You. It was the discussion amongst my friends that enlightened me as to what this book is about. It’s a difficult one to talk about without letting on the events of the first book, but to explain as briefly as I can, this book deals with the aftermath and the conclusion of the first book. Given the way that it ended, and how this second book has been explained to me, I feel like reading this as a follow-up will be a good way of resolving my feelings about the first book. It also ties in nicely with my goal this year of finishing series!

 

The House of Fortune

Speaking of that goal, here is another book towards that end! One of the open series I have at the moment is The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I read the first book a good few years ago now (and if I recall correctly, it was around Christmas/New Year as well). I have been aware that there has been a follow-up book to pick up, but I just haven’t gotten around to it since its publication last year.

This month, I am making that effort. Once I’ve read this book, I can happily tick a series off my list!

 

The Chimp Paradox

I’m also working towards another reading goal in this last pick for my January TBR. The Chimp Paradox will be my second non-fiction read of the month, making for a very good start towards my goal of reading more than 15 non-fiction books throughout the year.

I have seen this out and about quite a few times of late. I even considered picking up a copy of this book during my recent trip to Waterstones. However, as it is a new book by a new author, I ultimately decided to either borrow the book or get a copy on my kindle instead.

Based on the synopsis and flip through in the bookstore, I’m interested to see what angle this book takes and whether I find anything in it useful in terms of personal development. I’ve seen recommendations for it, so I am optimistic that it will be an insightful read!

 

So, those are the six books on my January TBR! A few of the books I picked for this list are on the shorter side, so I’m optimistic to make good progress in this TBR.

Have you read any of the books on this list, and would you recommend? What are you reading right now? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

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2023 Reading Resolutions!

With the beginning of a brand-new year, it is prime time to talk about my reading resolutions for 2023!

With the exception of my blog, I’m not one for setting New Year’s resolutions. Frankly, I don’t stick to them. However, since reading is a big part of my life, setting myself targets within this is a lot easier for me to do rather than begin a new habit from scratch.

I’m going to be talking about my reading resolutions from last year in a post later this week – today’s post is all about what I’m looking to do in the next 12 months!

Let’s dive in!

 

Goodreads Challenge – Read 50 Books

Last year I succeeded in reading 47 books over the course of the year. It’s not the most I’ve read in any one year, but it is significantly more than I read in 2021 (approx. 25 books).

In 2021, I suffered from burnout. When I set myself my reading goal of 40 books for 2022, it was to get myself back into the habit of reading, but at a pace I could sustain. My burnout was in part caused by the pandemic, moving house, changes at work and being overzealous with prior reading goals.

Over the course of 2022, I found that I was more than able to reach that goal whilst not compromising on other things I want to do. I’ve had plenty of time to study and extend my qualification for work. I have enjoyed a number of creative projects, such as knitting and cross-stitching. Most importantly though, I’ve spent time with friends and family. Overall, it has been a very good, healthy balance.

Do I think I could have read a little bit more? Well, obviously. I have done in the past without causing harm or burnout. This year, my reading resolution is to stretch myself a little, but maintain the exact same balance that I am enjoying right now. If I can read anywhere near this amount then I’m happy… whether that’s over or under. Obviously, I prefer it to be a little over – I’m trying to stretch myself just that little bit. But, not so much that I burn out again. It’s not worth it.

 

Read >15 non-fiction books

This resolution is probably the greatest stretch of this year. In the second half of 2022, I set out to start reading more non-fiction. I was aiming for one book a month, but I didn’t quite achieve that.

This year, rather than committing myself to one a month, I am being a little bit more flexible in when I can read the books. But, I still want to make a commitment to read them. So, I’ve set myself a challenge of reading a minimum of 15 non-fiction throughout the year. I have a number on my TBR that I really need to get around to and read. It is the genre (that I consider myself to read) that gets the least attention from me. I want to change that.

The non-fiction books I have read so far are useful and insightful. In 2022 I enjoyed the change from reading the same or similar genres all the time. I’m hoping by committing myself to read non-fiction more that I can learn a lot of new things that I don’t know already. You never know, these facts might come in handy for future pub quizzes I end up in. Probably not knowing my luck…

 

Read 30 Minutes Daily

This is a goal I am setting, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t do it every single day. The purpose of setting this goal is to help build up and maintain a regular reading habit once again.

I used to read pretty much every day without fail. More recently, I am more likely to read for slightly longer sittings, but only 3/4 days a week. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that’s a lot more than most people do. However, I want to try and get myself back in the habit of reading on a daily basis – even if I can only commit to 30 minutes. This is what I used to do back in the days when I was just getting back into reading. I was taking a book with me before bed.

It all adds up!

 

Finish Book Series

Another of the larger commitments I am making to myself about my reading is that this year, when I’m not reading non-fiction, I’m going to chip away at book series I have already started but I’m yet to finish.

Previously, I have read what I liked, when I liked. This has meant that to date, I have approximately 30 book series which I’ve started but not finished. For a handful of these 30, I am up-to-date. However, I know there is going to be a future book or books and so the series is staying on the list, even though I can’t make progress right now. That’s more because I don’t want them to get forgotten about. And if I’m painfully honest, it’s not that many (4?).

So, you will find that this year, I am going to be spending more time reading sequels than I am ‘new’ books. That’s not to say I’m not going to let myself start anything new at all this year. However, before I allow myself to start a new series, I have to take at least one series off the list (be that by completing a series in full, or by reading all the books published to date). Maybe even at this starting point, I’m going to say that I have to take two off for every new one I start to make sure it starts going down!

I can work out the logistics of how I manage this as I go. However, for the purposes of this reading resolution post, my resolution for the end of this year is to have fewer than 30 ongoing series as I have right now. No pressure Rebecca!

 

So, as of the 3rd of January 2023, those are my reading resolutions for the upcoming year. As in previous years, I will review these goals on a regular basis to measure my progress against them, and also decide if any of them are no longer relevant, or if I want to add anything!

No matter how big or small, setting yourself a goal can be all the motivation you need to try something different.

Have you set yourself any reading resolutions or goals for 2023?

 

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Monthly Wrap-Up – December 2022

Today begins the start of a very busy week, catching up with my month and year-end reviews for 2022, as well as introducing my 2023 goals and reading list! Today’s post is my monthly wrap-up for December 2022. As usual, I’ll be recapping the books I read throughout the month.

Whilst I was hoping to have read around five books in December, it didn’t pan out that way. I should’ve known when I put a Robin Hobb on my TBR that it was not going to be a quick read. I always underestimate how long these are going to take!

Let’s dive into my monthly wrap-up in earnest and check out which books I read in December.

 

Books Read

Daughter of the Moon Goddess – Sue Lynn Tan

The first book I read in December was Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan. I read this as part of Ezeekat’s online book club hosted via Fable. I had been considering joining one for some time as I want to stretch my reading and start picking up books I wouldn’t necessarily choose myself. Having followed his Instagram for a while, there are plenty of overlaps with the books I read, but also enough variety that I get the stretch I’m looking for.

As it happens, this month’s pick – Daughter of the Moon Goddess – was already on my radar. It wasn’t on my TBR as yet, but I think it would’ve ended up being on it.

I’m glad I picked this up! I read a lot of fantasy, however, it tends to be very westernised fantasy. Daughter of the Moon Goddess is entirely different in that the fantastical world behind the events are based around Chinese mythology. It was a completely different setting that I was used to, and a lot of the characters and their development was very different. It was a refreshing change to read a book from a completely different setting and it’s something that I am going to try and do again!

 

Ship of Magic – Robin Hobb

The next and last book I completed in full in December was Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. I really enjoyed this first instalment of The Liveship Traders trilogy. Having read and enjoyed the Farseer trilogy earlier this year, I knew I wanted to keep up the pace with reading the Realm of the Elderlings series.

But, as with all Hobb books I have read to date, they are quite the marathon. They are not small books in any case, but they are also very dense. There is a lot going on, and you cannot race through them. With every single book so far, I have underestimated the amount of time it was going to take me to read. Ship of Magic is 880 pages long, and in the average week I was reading somewhere between 200 and 300 pages. I think the only reason I succeeded in completing this book before the end of the year is because I had the week off work prior to Christmas. In that week, I read the last 360 odd pages – quite substantial! In context, I could be reading that number of pages as a whole book in itself!

 

The Secret Library – Oliver Tearle

The last book I started in December was very late to the party. I started this on the evening of the 31st of December, more because I was in the mood to pick it up more than anything. I knew I wasn’t going to be finishing the book for my December wrap-up or have it count towards my end-of-year reading total. But, that doesn’t matter. I only read a small amount of this book as a means of introduction to it – the first chapter, or approximately 10%.

So far, it’s an interesting little book. If you, like me, or a fan of books and are interested to learn a little bit about literature itself, then I’d recommend this book to you already. It’s one of those books that will be a very quick read, but there’s still plenty to learn from it!

 

So, that’s the end of my monthly wrap-up post – you’re up to date with my December reading! Have you read any of the books on this list? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be back again tomorrow with another blog post all about my 2023 resolutions – I hope you can join me for that!

Until then, happy reading!

 

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