Tag: goodreads

Book Review: Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Since it has been about a month since I last shared a book review I’ve decided it’s time to get my thinking cap on and share my thoughts with you on a previous read. When perusing through the list of books I’ve read I discovered that I hadn’t yet reviewed Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I confess that my first thought was along the lines of ‘where do I even begin reviewing this?’. But, I’m going to do my best to do the book justice!

Since classic novels are typically taught in school I think a lot of people have the misconception that they’re going to be dry, dull or that no one in a million years would want to spend their free time reading them. After I left school I said the same thing. I have a whole host of opinions on how the education system doesn’t promote reading, but that’s for another day. However, they do need to be given their due. Classic novels can be great reads. I’ve even gone back to books that I read and hated at school and I enjoyed them. I wish they were given more of a chance, and if I were to suggest you pick up any, Brave New World is a great one to start with!

And, if you’re not sure, there is a TV series based on the book on Now TV. You could always give that a try first? Although it’s not 100% true to the book (but covers the main topics and concepts well), I still enjoyed it regardless!

 

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Goodreads – Brave New World

Brave New World is a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Largely set in a futuristic World State, inhabited by genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning that are combined to make a dystopian society that is challenged by only a single individual: the story’s protagonist.

 

My Thoughts…

Not only is the plot of Brave New World interesting, but it’s one of the shorter classic books I’ve read at just over 260 pages. This is why I think it’s a great place to start; it’s not intimidating and it has plenty to offer despite the reduced page count.

Some of the undoubtedly futuristic elements in Brave New World (considering it was published in 1932) are not so wild in the present day. One of the groundbreaking elements of the book is that humans are not born traditionally, but are genetically modified for desirable qualities, fertilised in vitro and are effectively incubated until birth. Whilst we don’t exactly have a designer baby thing going on, treatments such as IVF are now available and can involve an element of this.

Equally, the clinical aspect of birth control was in its infancy in the 1930s. Yes, for thousands of years there have been home remedies and techniques to prevent it. Even giving birth control advice was only allowed in Britain in 1930. It’s strange to consider because prescriptions for it now are so commonplace.

I find it fascinating to compare the ideas that authors had decades ago as to what was futuristic to them at the time and what similar theories we as a society have now about the next few decades. What I wonder the most about is whether the ideas written by these authors have given birth to the reality, or whether they did have an inkling of human capabilities and technological advancements that were within reach of mankind. Kind of like the chicken and egg argument.

There may be similarities between the societies of Brave New World and the modern-day, but there are also very distinct differences. For example, Brave New World has a completely different social class system, based on intelligence, to the one we used to. Citizens are effectively controlled by the use of ‘feel-good’ drugs and activities. There is no such thing as sadness or lack of purpose. Everybody has their role and they fulfil it to the best of their ability. They don’t have to think, they just have to do as they’re told. On the surface that might sound good, but I think it would be hell.

I’ve read plenty of other reviews that suggest this is a good read for anyone who has or has suffered from depression. It emphasises the point that feeling good all the time isn’t where it’s at. To appreciate the highs, sometimes you need to take the lows that go with it. And I can see that. It makes sense. If you always had the same thing you have nothing to compare it against.

Have you ever read Brave New World? Would you recommend it or would you be prepared to read it based on recommendation? As always, you can let me know in the comments or via social media.

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2022 – New Year Goals/Resolutions

2021 was a strange blogging year for me. I tipped everything on its head and tried a completely different approach. Part of this was because I burnt myself out in 2020 and I wanted a break. However, I also wanted to see how taking a less structured approach changed my reading habits. 

I read fewer books last year than ever before, but I knew that was going to happen. Ultimately, I got to read at a pace that suited me and also allowed me time to enjoy and take up new activities. If you follow me you’ll know that I’ve become a bit of a knitter and I’ve had the time to enjoy making so many projects. More recently I have also taken up doing Pilates as a way of getting fitter and a little bit stronger within myself.

Both of these hobbies are going to be carried forward into 2022, so I’ve been thinking about how I can maintain my efforts with all three and what changes I want to make to my reading/blogging in order to make that happen in a consistent way. I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed taking a step back this year, but I am going to be reverting back to some of the methods I used to keep myself on track… But with some modifications for balance!

If you want to find out how I did in 2021 before jumping into my goals for 2022, you can find a link to my year in review post here.

 

Goodreads Reading Challenge

Last year I didn’t take part in a Goodreads Reading Challenge because I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself as to how much I was going to read. It was strange because I’ve set one for several years now, and I’ve decided to bring this back. I’m doing so without setting myself a huge target though, because ultimately I want everything to be kept at a sustainable pace. So, I’m setting myself challenge to read 40 books in 2022! That works out at a few books a month so it’s perfectly achievable whilst still allowing myself time to do all the other fun things I enjoy!

 

Monthly Reading Lists

I took a break from setting a monthly reading list at the beginning of every month so I had to complete freedom in my choice of reading material. It was fun and I enjoyed it, however I also benefitted previously from the structure of setting myself a list and the expectation of what I was going to read in any given month.

Going forward, I’m going to be taking a hybrid approach in order to give myself the best of both worlds. I am going to be setting myself a reading list, but I’m only going to be fixing a couple of books on the list every month. That means I have at least some set reading material, but I also have the time and opportunity to pick up any other books I fancy on a whim. That way I have a degree of choice of what I’m reading or listening to over the course of the month and by reading the fixed books first, I have an incentive to get them read to see what mood reads I can fit in at the end of the month! I think that’s a win-win situation!

 

Blog Post Writing

One of the goals I’m setting myself this year is to get a little bit more organised in terms of creating my blog posts. This is mostly a behind-the-scenes change.

Throughout 2021 I’ve taken a very relaxed approach to blogging and there were numerous occasions when I didn’t get a blog post ready for the expected publication date I set myself. I didn’t beat myself up about it; life happens and the most important thing to remember is that I blog for a hobby. I don’t make any money out of it and I do it purely for fun and the love of sharing all the bookish content; and, hopefully, encouraging for the people to read books I really enjoy!

That said, I do want to try and get myself a little bit more organised. Some blog posts, like my Sunday Summary weekly updates, can’t be written ahead of time. I will however be making an effort to write most of my blog posts at least one week in advance. That way you guys are less likely to be subject to disruption and my posting schedule is more consistent.

 

Are you taking part in the good read reading challenge this year? Have you set yourself any other reading or blogging goals for 2022? I’d love to hear in the comments if you are!

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Reviewing My 2021 Resolutions/Goals

Compared to previous years, my reading and blogging journey has been completely different. In my 2021 Reading Resolutions/Goals post I outlined my intentions to take a very relaxed approach. And that I did. I’ve enjoyed taking the time to enjoy reading and get back into it as a hobby rather than a habit. I’ve also been taking the time to expand my skills in other hobbies, and even take up new ones. It has been time well spent, and upon reflection I’m happy that I made that choice. I needed the break.

If I’m entirely honest I burned myself out in 2019. I’m proud that I managed to read as many books as I did (72), but the timing of it wasn’t ideal. That same year I started studying for a professional qualification, and I was also dealing with some neighbour issues at home that ultimately resulted in me moving in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic. That’s was a whole new kettle of fish of stress, but again, it has been worth it in the long run.

Now you have the context you can probably understand why I needed to take a step back. But equally, I’m ready to start challenging myself again and get back into a routine of reading more regularly. If this year has proven anything to me is that I need a little bit of structure. I still did reasonably well and have probably read more than the vast majority of people despite this, but I’m ready to read more again. If you want to find out what my plans are in order to make this happen then you will find this outlined in my 2022 resolutions and goals post being published tomorrow.

But now, it’s time to recap the goals I set myself in 2021 and share with you how I got on!

 

Goodreads Challenge

In my 2021 reading resolutions/goals post I didn’t set myself a Goodreads Challenge for the first time in six years. It was strange and yet liberating at the same time. The point of this was to not feel like I was forced to read and it certainly worked! If anything I’d say it worked a little bit too well because my motivation to read did drop quite a lot. Whether that was because of the circumstances or because I didn’t have a regular reminder that I was on track or not, I couldn’t say.

That’s not to say I’ve done badly however. Having removed all the structure and pressures to read I have still managed to read 22 books this year. That’s still a decent number and that’s not even counting the 4 books that I started and decided to not finish as well. It’s reasonable and given that the point was to step back and take a break I think it’s fair to say I still managed that whilst still enjoying reading as a hobby.

Here is a list of the books I managed to read in 2021: –

  • A Remedy in Time
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • The Toll
  • The Book Thief
  • Fire and Blood
  • You Are Not So Smart
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Shadow and Bone
  • Clarissa
  • Ruabon
  • The Cockroach
  • A Clash of Kings
  • The Taking of Annie Thorne
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Consistent Creative Content
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
  • Red Rising
  • Million Eyes II: The Unraveller
  • The Warden
  • Traitor’s Blade

As well as the above I’m ending the year with partial progress on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. This was loaned to me by my sister’s boyfriend Chris, and I was hoping to have this read by Christmas. However, this hasn’t happened. Sorry Chris, I’ll have to get this back to you next time you visit!

 

TBR

One of the goals I set myself at the beginning of last year was to try and chip away at the old books on my TBR and to try and clear some of the backlog. Given that I haven’t read anywhere near as much as I usually do it’s obvious to say that I haven’t made as much of a dent in the list as in previous years. I did however make an effort and I did read some of the older items on my list. I’ve also been doing the shelf control series and whittling down that list in that way; as and when I have a come across a book that I no longer wish to read I have take it off the list.

Combining both of these efforts I’m happy that I made some progress towards this goal. Needless to say I still have a long way to go and the list is always growing (although this year I have managed to maintain it at around the same level).

 

Review Requests

At the beginning of the year I decided that I wasn’t really going to take on review requests in 2021. I knew that I was going to be reading a lot less than usual and along the lines of not signing up for the good rates challenge, I didn’t want to commit myself particularly. I have however read some amazing books as a result of requests and so I set myself the rule that I was only going to take them on if I really wanted to read them… say, if I had already worked with an author and started a series.

I ended up reading five books as part of blog tours over the course of the year. The first of those was A Remedy in Time and I had already committed to it prior to setting my goals for the year. I then took part in a couple of blog tours in July and another two in November. All the books were written by authors I had read previously; only one of the five didn’t follow on a series I had already started. I enjoyed taking part in the block doors however some of the timing wasn’t great as they were very close together. If I take anything forward into 2022 it’s to try and space out any commitments if I take them on.

 

Re-read Harry Potter

Whilst I didn’t manage to re-read the entire Harry Potter series this year, I have managed to read five out of the seven books. To my mind there has been a nice mix of picking these up but also reading others so that I benefitted from variety. The last two books are fairly substantial in size but as I found with reading the series to date, they are really easy to pick up. I may not have finished this in 2021 but I will be carrying these last two books forward and reading them in 2022. I’ve gotten this far, so I’m not giving up the re-read now!

 

All in all I’m happy with the progress I made this year. I’ve given myself the break I needed whilst taking part and reading things that I loved. My real emphasis for 2021 was to get back to the love of reading and back to my grassroots which I’m satisfied I’ve done. I’ve also given myself the energy to get back into reading and blogging more. The batteries have been recharged so to speak, and I’m ready for taking on a bit more in 2022. If you want to find out what my plans are then check out my blog tomorrow as I will be sharing my new year resolutions and goals for the year ahead.

How many books did you read in 2021? Have you read any of the books I picked up? Let me know in the comments! 

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Book review: The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell

In today’s book review I am sharing my thoughts on The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell. The Burning Land is the fifth book in the Saxon stories series and follows one of my favourite characters to date. Having not explored much in the way of history of the period prior to picking up these books, it has been an education to say the least! Bernard Cornwell has a fantastic way of blending characters and narrative and action in a way that draws the reader in and makes his books nearly impossible to put down!

In addition to the books I’ve also been enjoying the TV series, The Last Kingdom. I’m actually a little bit further ahead with the TV series as series 3 covers both this book and the next one. However, that didn’t hamper my enjoyment in the slightest. Shall we get on with today’s review?

 

The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell

Goodreads – The Burning Land

At the end of the ninth century, with King Alfred of Wessex in ill health and his heir still an untested youth, it falls to Alfred’s reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair. But the sweetness of Uhtred’s victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has very different plans.  

Bernard Cornwell’s The Burning Land is a new chapter in his story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.

 

My Thoughts…

All my expectations from the previous books were met in The Burning Land. What I really like about these books is that they’re very easy to pick up even if you haven’t read the previous one for a while. The narrative almost recaps itself in a way that refreshes your memory, but also doesn’t insult your intelligence by going over every single thing again. I personally find it to be really nice balance of bringing you up to speed again and then swiftly moving on to the action.

As I’ve said before in my reviews of the previous books, I really enjoy the conflict our main character trait has within himself. Born an Englishman but raised as a Dane, he is constantly warring within himself between these two sides and the loyalties each expect from him. Whilst at heart I feel Uhtred would love to retain his Danish side, apart of him always drag him back to the loyalties of the English and the King Alfred. I feel like this is a conflict we are going to see again and again throughout this series, which suits me just fine! I really enjoy now he is perfectly positioned to inform, educate and entertain us via his unique perspective in the midst of the real history of the Viking invasion of Britain.

This conflict plays an even more integral part in this narrative than the previous books. Pushed the furthest he has been yet, Uhtred defects to the Danes after killing a Christian priest. The people he had just saved turn on him within an instant and he is forced to flee. His resentment causes him to defect to the Danes and reunite himself with his childhood friend.

Bernard Cornwell is exceptionally good at creating and maintaining dynamics between characters. They are consistent between books and also reflective of the events that have happened so far. It’s very immersive to be able to read; it’s naturally free-flowing. Not only that, but the vastly different characters in the book test the ability to be able to juggle all these pieces at once, as well as incorporate new characters and conflicts alike. I have great admiration for authors who are able to do this, especially spanning distance and time – which is certainly done in this book.

As a huge fan of historical fiction I can testify that it is books like these that keep me coming back to the genre again and again. I really can’t wait to continue this series and find out where his loyalties find him next, and what turmoil results.

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Top Ten Tuesday – Online Resources for Book Lovers

I hope that today’s Top Ten Tuesday post is as informative for one of my readers as I know it would have been for me as a fledgling reader/book blogger. I like today’s subject matter, as not only is it a good way to highlight potentially useful resources to you that you don’t know about, but it is a good way to compare how other people manage their reading hobby!


Goodreads

Whilst I feel that this is an obvious place to start in today’s top ten Tuesday post, it is one of the main online resources I use.

If, on the off chance, you aren’t aware of what this site offers, it is essentially a huge database online in which you can not only discover new books, read (and leave) thousands of reviews, but you could also sort books into lists and record those you have read, want to read and are reading right now using some of their preset options. Your shelves are completely customisable however so you don’t just have to sort them by these criteria. I know people who have shelves set by genre or record it down as the year they read them… The options are endless!

Goodreads also hosts an annual reading challenge. So if you need some motivation, it can be a good way to push you to your next reading goal.

 

Audible

If you are the kind of person who doesn’t have time to sit down and commit to a book, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy one anyway. I subscribed to Audible a couple of years ago and I haven’t looked back! It’s not my main way of consuming books, however they are great for times when you can’t necessarily sit down and pick up a book in the conventional way.

I personally enjoy listening to audiobooks while knitting or crocheting, but they are also a great companion when doing household chores, decorating (I can attest from experience) or any physical activity. I have a friend who listens to audiobooks whilst she is out looking after horses. There really are no rules and I enjoy the change in medium from time to time.

 

Spreadsheet

The resources used don’t necessarily have to be anything fancy, and this is one of those. I use Goodreads to manage my reading list, however the CEO at my work uses a spreadsheet to mange his list!

I use them for more blog orientated things, such as recording the books I have yet to review and keeping a calendar of any blog tour dates. I appreciate these don’t apply to every reader, but as mentioned above they can be used by anyone. Ultimately, the most important thing is to use resources that work for you.

 

Notes app

It’s no secret that I enjoy sharing my thoughts on the books I read of love. You don’t have to be a blogger to do this as there are plenty of available places to share your thoughts on a book without hosting your own site. Be it Goodreads, Amazon, or any known bookstore, there are plenty of sites in which you can review or recommend a book to others.

I like to jot ideas down for a post before I write it. It helps give me a little bit of structure, and if you’re writing a review then you’ll probably want somewhere to write that down. Again, going back to the fact that it doesn’t have to be fancy, any note taking app on your phone will do. I say this because most people probably have a smart phone nowadays and it’s the kind of device you’ll have on you at all times. It’s accessible and easy to use and it’s what I use to plan and draft my book reviews (and blog posts in general).

 

Netgalley

Books cost money, and not everyone can afford to read as much as they physically want to. The good news is there are plenty of free books out there, but there are also sites that will provide you with a copy of the book in exchange for a review.

Netgalley is probably one of the biggest of these and most well-known to bloggers certainly. It’s great if you are of a mind to provide a review anyway. But if that’s not your bag then this isn’t for you. Whilst you can get away with not reviewing the odd book, the idea behind giving you one is that you do share your thoughts. Even then you can’t access anything and everything. Certain publishers will put books out there for review without any particular stipulation on who can get a copy. However, books by household authors or larger names in general do have criteria you’ll have to meet in order to stand a chance of getting a copy, so keeping that feedback ratio up is crucial.

 

Blogs

Obviously I’m a little biased when I say this, but blogs are a great resource. Not only can they provide you with book reviews and recommendations… but they can even provide useful resource posts like this one!

 

Social Media

Social media is a great resource. It is “THE” place to share your opinion on the internet and you won’t find many other sites that give you access to so many different opinions in one place.

The different platforms also allow you to do you bookish material in different ways. Let’s be honest, we do judge a book by its cover, so social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are great as they’re very photo-content orientated. Twitter on the other hand is traditionally more word-based so it’s a good place to get more in the way of opinions.

Don’t get me wrong, social media has its downsides too. Whether you choose to use it or not is entirely up to you. Generally if you want to avoid any potential drama that goes with sharing your opinion online, I suggest you stick to the likes of Goodreads.

 

Kindle app

I typically read either a physical book or on my kindle, however the kindle app has come in useful. Sometimes I end up reading somewhere unexpected, or on a tablet as my kindle has run out of battery. Whatever the reason, the accessibility of being able to have a book on your phone or tablet is great! Although, I have the habit of starting or sampling a book on it and never quite getting round to actually reading the whole thing…

But that’s just me! There are plenty of people out there who read exclusively using the kindle app and that’s fine too!

 

Libby/OneDrive

Both of these apps are great. A lot of libraries (and my local included) may use either of these sites, or equally an alternative, to host their e-book library. I’ve used these apps in order to access books I’m borrowing rather than buying for myself and they are very user-friendly. Using Libby as an example, I know they can host both audiobook and e-book, so if you like having both of those in one place then it may just be worth seeing what your library has to offer.

 

Local Library!

And of course, at last but not least, check out what your local library has online! Even if you like physical books rather than an e-book library (as above), your library may have a database online of what they have available and whether it’s on loan or not currently. I know mine certainly does, and if ours can do it then I’d be very surprised if yours doesn’t!

You may have a lot more services than I do so it’s hard to tell you to use something when I don’t know it’s available. The best thing you can do if you are unsure is to have a go and look for it. You’ll never discover anything new unless you try!

 

I hope today’s Top Ten Tuesday post has been useful for you and perhaps you’ve discovered a new resource that you’d like to try. Do use any of the resources I’ve mentioned today? Let me know in the comments, and if you have any alternative recommendations please share them here so we can all learn something new!

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2020 Wrap Up Post

2020 was a crazy year. I don’t think that’s a stretch of the imagination for absolutely anybody at this point. It also, strangely, ended up being one of my busiest years personally. Unfortunately, not as much in terms of blogging and reading as I had hoped, but that’s okay. I’ve come to the realisation that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.

Before I get into my blogging and reading progress of the year, I’d like to tell you a little bit about the other things I ended up doing in 2020 as well. Ultimately, this played a part in the amount of time I had to commit to blogging and reading.

 

Background

At the end of 2019, I decided that I wanted to move house. I’m not going to go into the ugly details, but let’s just say they were external forces that drove me to that decision. Moving house is a huge undertaking at the best of times, but I ended up moving in May 2020, during the middle of lockdown here on the island. We were delaying the move as per guidelines, but unfortunately again, other factors meant it had to go ahead. That meant my family couldn’t help me as they had planned to, and whilst I was able to use a removal firm on the day, the rest was up to me. There were many tears on the day and my parents had to watch me bawl my eyes from the doorstep (unable to come in but dropping off some food) once I got here, but with the help and advice of my mum and dad I got it together and within a couple of weeks of moving in I had everything straight.

But that’s where the rest of the work began. The house I ended up moving into had some very interesting decoration, to say the least! Pretty much none of it was to my taste, so within a couple of months of moving in I started redecorating. What can I say, I had holiday to take from work and nowhere to go with it!

Whilst I had anticipated moving, I hadn’t really considered that I’d end up spending so much free time working on the house after I moved in. It’s not a problem, and ultimately I’m happier because I’ve spent the time making this place mine. It does mean, however, that it ate into my free time for reading and played a part in my not reaching my goal of 80 books last year.

What I also didn’t expect was how lockdown would affect me. When it was first announced, I was obviously upset that I couldn’t see anyone. But, I stupidly thought to myself, right I’ve got all this time to kill – I’ll read more. How I can laugh at myself in hindsight. What I didn’t expect was how much of a distraction lockdown would be and actually… I couldn’t concentrate on reading all that much. At least, not to start with. Some days were better than others.

So you see, there were multiple factors that contributed to my not reaching my already very ambitious goal of 80 books last year. I thought I would be disappointed with myself if I didn’t, but strangely I’m not. I know I read at every opportunity I could and wanted to, and equally, I didn’t force myself to read things I didn’t want to either. When I wanted to do something different I enjoyed other hobbies… saw my friends and family (sorry, feel bad for saying it but it’s true) and did the things I wanted.

My other challenges also flopped a little. Whilst I started off well, reading less also took its toll on my attempt to read more of the older books on my TBR. I was still signing up for blog tours and such, and so these took priority and my challenge fell off the radar. My final challenge was to read more from my local library. Ha! With covid, that went down the pan too. I did check to see if I could borrow electronic editions, but most of the time they weren’t available at my library. Maybe I’ll be better at this throughout this year (once it re-opens again)? 

Anyway, there’s the background. And now, onto the books I read last year! My final end of year stats are:

I think I DNF’d the highest number of books I have ever recorded in a year in 2020. I think this is in part because I started to go through my TBR and my reading tastes have changed since I added the books several years ago. That’s not always the case… in fact, some of the best books I read last year were added to my TBR four or five years ago!

There were definitely more hits than misses. All in all, I think there was a pretty good proportion of books that I knew I was going to love and some more adventurous read that I want to try. Some of those worked, but those I put down definitely fall into that category.

To summarise this year wrap up post, here is a list of all the books I read last year and their star ratings: –

 

2020 Books

Have you read any of the books on this list? Or any of them on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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2021 Reading Resolutions / Goals

Hi guys! Happy New Year! I can’t believe I’m writing my first post of 2021 already. Last year seems like a bit of a blur. I’ve enjoyed a lovely break over Christmas and I’ve had plenty of time to think about my goals for 2021 and today’s post. 

Before I get into this year’s goals, I’d like to take a quick recap over 2020. I’ll probably be writing a more detailed post on this in the next few days, but I think it’s only appropriate that I briefly talk about last years goals. This is the first year that I’ve not met my reading goal, but to be perfectly honest, I’m still proud of the number of books I managed to read in the circumstances. I ended up taking on far more than I ever imagined when I set my goal in January. Yet despite this, I still managed to complete 55 books last year, as well as ending the year reading Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham. I also DNF’d a surprising number of books this year. It’s rare that I give up on a book, but this year I’ve DNF’d a total of 5 books.

Inevitably, I have been thinking about my goals for this year. It’s funny because as a person I’m not a huge celebrant of New Year. Call me miserable if you wish, but I’m just the kind of person who is all too aware that the 1st of January is just another day. And most likely, it’s just like the last. Obviously, things are a little bit different with my blog, as setting new goals is kind of ‘the done thing’. If I’m honest, I started thinking about the goals I’m setting back in November and over the last couple of months I’ve convinced myself that this is the right thing to do. So, here are the ‘reading goals’ I’m setting myself for 2021: –

 

Goodreads Challenge

I have taken part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for the last six years. Granted, 2014 and 2015 were distinct flops. This was before I started blogging and getting into reading full time, and so I only read 10 books out of the target 55 I set myself over the course of the two years.

Since getting back into reading and then beginning my blogging adventure, I’ve had a lot more success. I have met my reading goal every year until 2020. Admittedly, that goal of 80 books was very ambitious when I set it. I did that deliberately because I’ve always underestimated myself in the previous years. If I hadn’t taken on things that I ended up doing in 2020, I might just have reached it. I don’t beat myself up for not reaching it though. Towards the end of the year, I burned out. I am fully prepared to admit that to myself now. Between all the different things I ended up juggling, it all became a bit too much for me. Something had to give, and ultimately it was the reading aspect of my blog that ‘suffered’.

I worry that if I were to carry on in this manner, I’d end up not reading at all. Of course, I don’t want that to happen, so I’m doing something I never expected I’d do as a book blogger. I’m going against the grain and not setting myself a reading goal in 2021. That may sound a bit odd to you, but it’s the right thing for me. I’ve decided that I need to get back to my grassroots, and that’s reading what I want, at my own pace, and doing it for the enjoyment of it. It’s easy to forget that it’s supposed to be a hobby, as blogging ends up becoming like a job. It’s a full-time commitment, and when you’re trying to do other things like hold down actual paid employment, study and complete renovations on your home (to name just a few examples), it’s a lot of work. There are so only so many hours in a day.

The point of setting a Goodreads challenge is that it is supposed to be that – a challenge. This year, I don’t want to put that pressure on myself and risk a prolonged burnout. It’s as simple as that. I don’t see any point in setting myself a ‘challenge’ that isn’t going to be a challenge… hence why I’m not setting myself a goal at all.

 

TBR

Last year‘s goal of trying to chip away at the TBR ended up being a bit of a flop. I started off well, reading a couple of books a month. However, my problem is that I keep adding new ones as quickly as I read others. I was also taking on blog tours last year, which meant that I wasn’t reading enough of the TBR to counteract the books I was adding.

So, this year’s goal is to only read books on my TBR. I already know I’m not going to religiously stick to this one. I’m sure there will be new shiny books and catch my eye and I want to fast track them and read them there and then. The sentiment behind this goal is that I want to read exclusively off my TBR as much as possible and bring the number of books on that list down – significantly more than in previous years!

With this in mind, I’ll also be taking part in fewer blog tours – at least the number I provide reviews for. I will probably still take part, but I’ll be providing promotional posts or extracts as opposed to reviews. This means I can spend my time actually reading the books on my TBR without distraction or deadline. For the most part, I have deliberately not been signing up to them this year. There is one exception, and that is for a book by an author I have read a lot of historically. I have really loved her books to date and I didn’t want to miss out on providing a review for the second book of a series I’ve already started. I’ll be taking part in that tour this month, but aside from that, I have no obligations to review for a blog tour.

 

Review Requests

Technically, I haven’t really been taking many review requests over the last few months. Although, being the person I am, if someone approaches me with a really good book and say there is no time deadline, I can’t help myself to say yes. I love a good book – what can I say!

Well, now I’m saying this. I’m not taking any review requests in 2021, no matter how good the book sounds or whether there is a time deadline or not. I ended up taking on a couple of books towards the end of last year that were ‘non-time-sensitive’, and yet I still ended up getting chased on them. This is exactly what I was looking to avoid when I initially closed myself off to new review requests. My lesson has been learnt, so for this year, I won’t be taking any at all. I’ll honour the ones I have, and that is all l. At least, until next year.

 

Re-read: Harry Potter

My last goal of the year is to re-read the Harry Potter series. 

I had said to myself that I was going to do this sometime after I finished my re-read of A Game of Thrones. Now feels like the perfect time to do so. Harry Potter was one of my favourite book series’ growing up. I read Harry Potter throughout my teenage years, and they have a huge part to play in my developing a love of reading. As I am taking the opportunity to re-capture that essence and love of reading without the demands of competing against myself, or trying to reach that next target, it feels like the right time to re-visit one of the very series’ that kindled my love for reading in the first place. 

 

Have you set yourself any reading goals this year? What are your ambitions for 2021? Please let me know in the comments!

 

 

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2020 Resolutions – Mid Year Review

Although it’s a little past the midyear mark, I knew I wanted to have a look at my progress towards my reading goals halfway through the year. It’s a good opportunity to see how well I am doing and to see if I need to make any changes over the coming months to achieve my goals.

If you need a refresher of my 2020 Resolutions you can find that post here, however, I will touch on the key points in this post.

 

Reading Goal #1 – Goodreads Challenge

I have set myself a reading goal every year since 2017. I like having the challenge of a certain number of books to read before the end of the year. Most years have been started off quite conservatively and I have revised my goal later… I didn’t want to do that this year. I also wanted to attempt to set a new record, even if it is only by a few books from my previous one.

Admittedly, this year isn’t as much of a roaring success as previous years. In part, that’s because I set myself a target that was actually going to be a challenge from day 1. In addition, I’ve also made some pretty big undertakings outside of reading and blogging. The most significant of these has been moving house. It’s a big task anyway, but the way covid-19 panned out, I ended up packing up, moving out and unpacking again all by myself. My parents really wanted to help and didn’t want me to have to deal with it all alone, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

Although I have moved now, I am still doing a lot of stuff with the new house. I’ve just spent the last week redecorating three rooms and I still have halfway to go. That’s not the only thing, however. When I set my goals at the beginning of the year, I didn’t even know that I was going to get sponsorship to sit exams relevant to my job. I hadn’t even considered it. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity though.

Is my reading goal in light of the above ambitious? Yes. But is it unachievable? No. I think I can still do it. To date, I am 7 books behind schedule. It’s enough, but I could claw it back. Even if I don’t, I’m not going to kick myself over it. It’s still a lot of reading to do in an already busy period. Even if I manage to keep pace and still finish the year 7 books behind schedule, I’ll still complete the year having beaten last year’s record. It’s still something to be proud of!

 

Reading Goal #2 – Beat the Backlist

I feel this challenge has fallen off the wagon a little bit, but I have and will continue to try and read the earliest books on my TBR to beat the backlist. The full list of books I wanted to read by the end of the year is on my 2020 Resolutions post if you want to check out what they are.

To date, I have completed 5/25 books on the list. It doesn’t sound like much, but I think it’s fair to note that I have also started and DNF’d an additional 3 books on that list. At the beginning of the year, I was good to religiously ensure these were added to my TBR, but since moving house I’ve not been so good at it. I do have one of these books on July’s TBR, so it is still in mind to complete. I’m sure I could make more of an effort to step it up though. This might not be achievable by the end of the year, but so long as I am trying to read and take books off the TBR then it balances out the new ones I’m adding!

 

Reading Goal #3 – Borrow from my local library

Covid-19 firmly put a spanner in the works with this particular challenge as well. The library I have registered with and borrow books from is actually near to my work. I haven’t been going into work since mid/late March, so I’ve not had the ability to pop in even when they did re-open a few weeks ago! I did make an effort to use their digital library to see if they had copies of the books I was interested in, but unfortunately in every single case I looked, they didn’t have what I was after.

All being well, I should be going back into work soon and be able to make use of the library (and their physical collection) more. The lack of progress on this challenge to date is entirely circumstantial. Should we be in the unfortunate circumstance where covid-19 comes back, I will be back in the same boat and honestly, I won’t want to borrow during that time anyway. Sorry, hygiene comes first! I’m not stressing about this particular goal, I’ll be honest. My justification for this goal in the first place was to try to save some money for the house move, but I’ve managed just fine as it is.

 

So, that’s where I am up to with this year’s resolutions. What are your reading goals for the year, and how are you doing with them?

 

 

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My 2019 Year in Books

In today’s post, I want to take a look back at my progress and achievements against my goals in 2019. If you didn’t see my goal setting post last year, here’s a link to my … post so you can check out what goals I set for myself this time last year.

Of course, if you are also interested in checking out my goals for 2020, I’ve also shared those details and you can find that post here.

 

Goodreads Challenge

Initially, I set myself a goal of 50 books in 2019, but I managed to reach this reasonably early on and so upped it to 70. I’m pleased to say that I managed to beat this target and read 72 books, which is great in its own right. What makes it better, however, is that it’s a new personal best! I’ve beaten my record of 60 books set in 2017 and honestly, I am over the moon!

Across those 72 books, I managed to read a little over 26,000 pages, which is pretty mental when you think about it! Want to make things even crazier? If you work on the assumption that each page has an average of 375 words on it, then I’ve read approximately 9.8 million words… yikes!

Here’s a very quick glance at the 72 books read in the last year: –

 

Read more non-fiction

Last January I set myself a target to try and read a few non-fiction books. 5, in fact. Not many… should have been totally achievable, but no. I’m just not a big reader of non-fiction and so I totally failed this one.

 

Star Ratings

If you are also interested in my review breakdown, keep reading! I had a really good year for reading with no real major disappointment with books. During 2019, I rated my reads as follows: –

5 stars – 30
4 stars – 36
3 stars – 6
2 stars – 0
1 star – 0

To be honest, if I categorise a book as having a two-star rating or less, then I probably won’t even finish reading and reviewing it. Okay, so maybe I am a little biased on my ratings. Even so, there are only a few “it’s okay” 3-star ratings. I’ve had a look back though, and I can’t find any books I didn’t finish.

I plan on publishing a Top Ten Reads of 2019 post at a later date. I feel like that’s a topic that will need its own post entirely just for the amount of content it’ll have!

So, that’s my 2019 in books! I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

 

 

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My 2020 Resolutions

A new year and a new decade are upon us! 2020 is finally here, and with a new year comes new opportunities. I’ve been considering my New Year Resolutions for a few weeks now… it’s time to share my plans with you all!

I’ve decided I want to take part in a few challenges this year. I have taken part in one of these challenges since 2017, the year my blog began. That’s not the only challenge I am setting myself, however.

 

Goodreads Reading Challenge

As I mentioned above, this will be the fourth year I take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I will be going into the challenge with a larger goal than previous years though. Every year so far I have massively underestimated myself and set myself a goal that I achieve easily.

Year Original Goal Revised Goal Total Read in Year
2017 20 60 62
2018 40 50
2019 50 70 72

Fair enough, in 2017 I went from reading rarely to almost every day, without fail. Naturally, that goal ended up being really unrealistic and I revised it to 60 books at the end of April that year. That doesn’t really excuse the fact that I have underestimated myself in subsequent years though.

This year, I am going to be more ambitious and set myself a target that I have not reached yet. I came pretty close to it in 2019, but it means trying to set a new personal best.

In 2020, I want to try and read 80 books.

Up until the last couple of days of 2019, I’ve had 75 in my head. However, I think it’s too close to 2019’s final count to pose as a challenge. I don’t want to go too much higher than that; I don’t want to put myself in a position where I feel inclined to deliberately choose shorter books just to complete the challenge. That’s cheating a bit. This is where my second challenge will come into play and prevent that, to an extent…

 

Beat the Backlist

My TBR (To Be Read) list is seriously out of control. Often, I find myself swept up in new releases, blog tours and the like. Consequently, the older books on my TBR get neglected, and they really need some love right now. I’ve been hovering at around 200 books for a long time now and I need to work on that.

That’s why I am taking part in the Beat the Backlist challenge this year. As part of that challenge, I want to take on my TBR by reading, at the very least, the oldest 25 books on it. Sounds very abstract as it is, so to quantify it, here are the 25 books that I am challenging myself to read this year:-

  • Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
  • City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
  • Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Talisman by Stephen King
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett
  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
  • The Psychology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by Catherine Collin
  • Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
  • The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Women’s Room by Marilyn French
  • The Thief Taker by C. S. Quinn
  • The Feedback Loop by Harmon Cooper
  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
  • The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
  • Hild by Nicola Griffith
  • The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

If I can squeeze in some more recent TBR additions as well as the above list, then that’s great. I want to have a lot fewer than 200 books on the TBR this time next year!

 

Borrow From my Local Library

Despite having a library membership, I’m not that good when it comes to making the most of it. I’ve only borrowed three books/e-books from the library in 2019. Dreadful right?

I want to step up on this in 2020 for two reasons. Firstly, I’m conscious that I am going to have to be mindful of my finances this year. There are some pretty big (and expensive) changes planned for this year and I don’t really want to be careless with my money. I won’t begrudge myself the odd book, but don’t be expecting mass book haul posts because it’s not going to happen.

Secondly, the advantage of using the library is that you can branch out of your comfort zone. I’m only really happy to buy books that I really like the sound of, or those by authors I have read before. However, if you’re only borrowing books you can try something new. There’s no obligation to like it and if you really don’t, you can take it back!

Those are my resolutions for the new year! Have you set yourself any resolutions? I’d love to compare them with mine!

 

 

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