Bookish Would You Rather

For a while I’ve had it in my mind to do a bookish ‘would you rather’ post – something fun and care-free. The only thing holding me back was that it was something which I felt did not quite fit with the tone of my blog. I like my posts to mean something, even if they just mean something to me, and for a long time I was struggling to find a connection to the concept despite really wanted to do it. So, after much thought, I’ve tried to make the questions relevant to my bookish thoughts and reading habits, and here we are. Enjoy!

Would you rather:

 Read a kindle or read a print book

This question is difficult in that both are very different – each has their pros and their cons. I have brilliant books sitting on my kindle and not so brilliant ones on my bookcase, and vice versa. Ultimately though, I would have to say a print book. The feel of a print book adds to the enjoyment of reading and kindles are just lacking in that extra bit of personality for me, despite it always being in my bag, ready for travel.

Own a signed book or a first edition

This is tough but, on the whole, I think I would go for a first edition. As much as I love signed books and that, generally, if you have it signed you’ve probably met the author, there is nothing quite like having a pristine, first edition of a book, especially if no-one has read it. As well as being beautiful, it’s also an investment and a treasure. A signed paperback doesn’t quite mean the same thing to me. Although, if I did have it my way, a signed first edition would be glorious.

Professionally review books or write them

If I could afford to, I would write books, no question. As much as I love reviewing books, and I do, there is nothing quite like putting pen to paper and letting a story emerge. That being said, given I’ve had a few manuscripts rolling around in the attic-space for a while, it may be that I’ll be on just the reviewing side of things a little while longer. Again though, the dream would be to do both – review and write.

Lose your Goodreads account or your book database

This is a difficult one. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ve had my Goodreads account the longest, and it includes a lot more of the books I’ve read. Yet, I’ve spent more time building my book database and, as well as including books I’ve read and own, it also includes the books I have to read, the books I’ve lent to other people and those I’ve borrowed. I think, having already lost my books database once and rebuilding it afterwards, I would probably say to lose that again. I have much more of a history with my Goodreads account and, to be perfectly honest, I actually really enjoyed putting together my book database for a second time. I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy a third as well.

Would you rather read a book adaption of your favourite TV show or watch a TV adaption of your favourite book?

I really enjoy watching adaptions of books (after I’ve read the book, of course) but then there is always the danger that it would be done wrong. I think, all in all, I would rather read a book adaption of my favourite TV show. It would be a different way of watching the show (and probably a quicker way to) and, if there’s a power cut or the apocalypse comes, I would be able to continue enjoying that show despite not being able to watch it.

Those are my five bookish would you rather questions and answers. I hope you enjoyed that, and feel free to let me know what your answers would be in the comments.

 

 

 

Q2 2017 Goals

Q1 of 2017 has come and gone, and, with it, the resolutions I made for that time period. I decided at the start of this year that, due the inflexibility of having year-long goals, I decided to create my resolutions on a quarterly basis, giving me a chance to reflect and set new resolutions accordingly. The reason this one is slightly later is because I decided part way through Q1 to shift each quarter by a month; this was to avoid the burst of energy which comes with new resolutions from clashing with the energy needed for all the quarterly reports and tasks at work.

These have been divided into three categories:

Creative Pursuits

  • My first resolution was to send off my manuscript to at least one agent.
    • This did not happen. I found that, in trying to achieve this, I was rushing what I was doing and not giving myself the time or space to get it right. This quarter, I am aiming to completed the final checks of the manuscript and complete the needed research before starting querying in the summer.
  • The next was develop my social media presence.
    • I have started picking up my social media a little bit – I try to tweet on a regular basis, although I am yet to reach at least once a day. I have also started picking up my YouTube channel again and building on my video editing knowledge. I will be continuing this at a similar pace this quarter, with the goal of bringing my twitter, YouTube and blog together into one central brand to work from.
  • The third was to get back into art.
    • My art did suffer a little this quarter. I encountered the problem where I would pick up one project, receive a burst of inspiration for another and so on and so forth. This has resulted in a lot of half formed ideas and projects. This quarter, I will take that list, determine which to focus my efforts onto and develop a plan for delving into them so that, by the end of July, I will have a number of projects completed; be it sewing, painting or general crafts.

Reading

  • Reading gets its own section because it’s a big part of my life, not least because of the sheer amount of books I own. The first resolution with this was to have read at least one shelf’s worth of books on my to-read bookcase.
    • This is quite hard to judge. While I am fairly sure I have read a shelf’s worth of books, very few were actual physical books I own and I am nowhere near clearing a space. Most of my reading the last few months have been kindle-reads, audiobooks and borrowed books. This quarter I am going to continue the resolution but with the goal of actually clearing a shelf of to-read books.
  • The second resolution under reading was to read more variety in genres and diversity, reading at least three different genres a month.
    • With regards to genres, this was a success. I have read and am still reading a wide range of genres each month and am really enjoying it. I’ve felt like my resolution to read more diversity has not been quite so successful, and this will be my goal for Q2 2017.
  • Finally, my resolution was to restrict my book-buying to only buying one or two books a month maximum.
    • I have achieved this, simply put. The only times where I have bought more than two books a month were when the extra books were gifts, and I don’t think that counts. Despite achieving this goal, however, I am going to continue with it in Q2 as it’s quite an easy way to save money and I want to prove to myself that I can continue the buying-restriction.

 Personal Development

  • Improving health, both by eating healthier and doing more regular exercise, was the first resolution at this point. This was also the one goal I thought would be the hardest to fulfil, and I was right.
    • The first few months were, admittedly, a struggle. It didn’t help that it was dark outside. However, last month, I successfully completed 30 days of yoga and that has given me the motivation to continue; that, and the decision that I will go and trek up to Machu Picchu in the next two years. I have started Couch to 5K, am continuing yoga and have also continued my walking although on a more regular basis.
  • My second goal was about learning code. I hadn’t decided on which code to start learning at the start of the year, but I knew I wanted to go about learning one.
    • This particular resolution has been partially fulfilled in that I have decided which code I want to learn and have started it. As well as continuing to learn Excel VBA, I am also starting to learn Python. These will both be continued this quarter, with the goal of applying it either at work or at home, depending on where it would be most useful.
  • Finally, my last goal was, simply, get out the house more. I do enjoy ‘me-time’, where I’m curled up with a book or in front of a movie; but I do know that getting out and about, meeting friends and experiencing culture are all really important for a fulfilled existence.
    • I will admit, when the winter months were still upon us, I did not do this as much as I would have liked. That being said, now that the weather is much nicer, I have started doing a lot of these things, with the goal of doing one social activity and one film a week (I’ve got a Cineworld Unlimited card so I don’t have to worry too much about the cost of film)

Those are where I am with my resolutions from Q1. As you’ve probably noticed, I decided to continue them into this quarter as I did not get off to quite the head-start as I would have liked. That being said, I am hoping to have a achieved a lot of these by the end of this quarter which would allow me to change them up a little in the second half of the year. I have found that this way of doing things has given me a touch more flexibility in my approach which I am enjoying, although I’m not quite full-agile yet.

Here’s to the next few months!

 

Tome Topple April 2017 – Wrap Up

The last two weeks have played host to the Tome Topple Readathon. This is a readathon in which readers take on the big books, the long books and the all-round daunting books on their book cases. Any book goes, so long as it’s over 500 page and isn’t a bind-up.

As someone with over 150 books on my to-read list, 106 of which are physical copies, this was a chance for me to actually clear some space on my to-read bookcase, and take on the books that do take longer to read.

I posted my TBR for the readathon back when it first started, so now I’m going to talk about the books I managed to read in my two weeks of dedicated big-book reading, and a bit about the experience of it.

So, to start off with, the two weeks turned out to not be as dedicated to big books as I would have liked. I started and completed only one book which was over 500 pages in the course of those two weeks, completed two other previously-started books (only one of which was 500+ pages), started and finished a 200-odd page book, while also starting and getting most of the way through a 700-page book.

In clearer form, the two weeks started off with a bang. I decided to start with Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor as it was top of my list with regards to anticipated books of 2017, and just sounded amazing. It did not disappoint. From the beginning I was captivated, the words flowed and the pages seemed to turn themselves. I read most of this book in the first few days then, unfortunately, work and Easter happened, and I only managed to finish it at the beginning of the second week. Still, slipping back into the story was incredibly easy and I finished the book in one sitting. It received a resounding 5/5 stars from me.

As Strange the Dreamer was not only a tome, but a hard-back as well, I ended up reading two other books while travelling on both the work commute and also on the train home for Easter. The first of these was The Forever Court by Dave Rudden, which I had started reading before the readathon began and is the sequel the Knights of the Borrowed Dark. I did not have much of the book left to read (much to my disappointment) and finished it in the first few days of the readathon, giving it 4.5/5 stars.

After finishing The Forever Court, I moved onto New Boy by Tracy Chevalier (the review for which you can find here). New Boy provided a nice break for the fantasy theme of the week and was a very enjoyable read, even if it was retelling of a Shakespearean tragedy – 4/5.  Both of these were read on my kindle and neither of which met the criteria for the readathon as they were both under 500 pages long.

The next book I finished, however, did meet the criteria and so became my second tome to topple. This was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Admittedly, I did start this book before the readathon began and I was listening to it as an audiobook, but I’m going to say it counts. I was determined to finish this book before the television adaption was released and finish it I did. As with New Boy, this received 4/5 stars.

The majority of the books mentioned above were completed in the first week of the readathon and, for those that weren’t, most of the reading was still done in that first week. After Easter weekend, I found myself in a bit of a reading slump with little energy to read. It was in this period that I read my final book of the readathon The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. I did start it at the beginning of Easter weekend and tore through the pages. On returning to my house, however, with 200 pages to go until the end, I found I was just too tired or not in the mood to read it. And so, in the final week of Tome Topple, I only read 100 of those pages, and I’m still working through the rest today. This was particularly disappointing, not just because I didn’t complete Tome Topple on a high, but also because I really enjoy the Scott Lynch’s books and have adored the previous two in this particular series. Unfortunately, I just ended up reading this book at the wrong time which has hampered my enjoyment a little.

So, that’s it for my Tome Topple wrap up. It started strongly, but I couldn’t keep the pace throughout the whole two weeks, not even with a bank holiday to read through. I did enjoy it for the most part, particularly having that little bit of extra incentive to read some of my larger books, especially as I have a few.  Hopefully, next time I will have a little more success!

Tome Topple April 2017 – TBR

At midnight on 7th April, the Tome Topple readathon begins, continuing on until midnight on 20th April, two weeks later. Unlike other readathons, Tome Topple isn’t about reading as many books as possible. Instead it’s for tackling those large, daunting books on your bookcase, just waiting to be read.

Tome Topple was created by Thoughts on Tomes on YouTube and the main goal is to read books that are over 500 pages long (not including bindups, although graphic novel bindups do count). It’s a fairly relaxed readathon where there is no pressure to finish a book; if you just make a head start on that 800 page novel you’ve been putting off for a year, that’s fine.

However, there are a few reading challenges for those who are interested in a bit more of a challenge:

  • Read more than 1 tome
  • Read a graphic novel (graphic novel bindups count)
  • Read a tome that is part of a series
  • Buddy read a tome
  • Read an adult novel

I’m only going to try and attempt three of those challenges: Read more than 1 tome, read a tome that is part of a series and read an adult novel. This is mostly because I’m focusing books that I already own, none of which are long graphic novels. I’m also not doing any buddy-reading with anyone because, while I will have a TBR list, I’m going into this with an open mind and, if I’m not feeling in the mood for a book during the readathon, I’m not going to read it as I won’t enjoy it as much.

So, now we’ve got the background covered, here are the books I’m planning on reading:

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – 532 pages

This book was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year, as I loved Laini Taylor’s previous series Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It follows a daydreamer, Lazlo Strange, who longs to discover what happened to the lost city of Weep. A hero called the Godslayer appears and Strange realises it’s his chance to fulfil that dream, or lose it forever. At least, I think that what’s the book’s about based on the summary. It sounds really intriguing and is the first book in a new duology so fulfils the challenge to read a tome that is part of a series.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch – 722 pages

This is a long one, but also one I’ve been desperate to read for a while. It’s the third book in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Sequence and, with the fourth book coming out later this year, it’s about time I get caught up. I won’t give away any plot-points, but this series follows Locke Lamora, a highly skilled con-man, who ends up getting on the wrong side of the Bondsmagi of Karthain. I love this series, however have only listened to it as an audiobook. I have this book in both paperback and audiobook format, so I do have options on how I will read it during the readathon. I would, however, like to see how I enjoy the printed version of this series in comparison to the audiobooks. This book will, hopefully, fulfil the read more than one tome challenge. It will also fulfil the two other challenges I’m doing – read a tome that is part of a series and read an adult tome (this is an adult fantasy novel).

As well as the two books above, I have the following back-up books. These are there for if I find I’m not in the mood for fantasy or if, by some miracle, I finish the two books above and have time to spare.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman – 635 pages (although I only have it on audiobook). I’ve already started this book and will be listening to it in the background throughout the two weeks as I want to be ready for the tv show at the end of this month.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – 554 pages. I’m surprised by how long it is taking me to get started on reading this book, and I would like to read it soon, although I know it’s probably going to be quite intense.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – 534 pages. Of all the books listed, this is the one I know the least about but is also one of the most intriguing. I’ve enjoyed the Margaret Atwood books I’ve already read and am looking forward to reading more.

I could go on – I have a lot of books that are over 500 pages long that I would like to read, but I think by including them all, my choice on what to read might be too impossible to make. That being said, I did find it difficult to initially start deciding what books I wanted to read for this readathon. As, while I do have a lot of books over 500 pages long, I also have a lot of books which are just under 500 pages and nearly impossible to tell them apart just by looking at the book on the bookcase.

Let me know if you’re going to be taking part in this readathon (or if you’re going to be taking part in any others) and what you’re planning on reading. I know I’m looking forward to having an excuse to do nothing but sit and read long books for two week (when I’m not working of course).

A Year of Unfortunate Events: The Penultimate Post

At around this time last year, I began what I termed the ‘Year of Unfortunate Events’ (unaware of how fitting a name that would be for 2016 in general) where I would re-read A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, one book a month and then two in December. As there are two extra books this month (as I also read the supplement The Beatrice Letters), it’s going to be a fairly long post, so I’m just going to get straight into it.

 

The Slippery Slope – 3.5/5

Sadly, the first book in this quarter did not impress me as much as I hoped it would. While there were some really good parts, such as the character of Quigley and his relationship with Violent, which I thought was unbelievably sweet, it just did not work for me. I enjoyed the mystery aspect, as the story was picked up and there was a lot of progression in what the children uncovered, but Olaf’s appearance felt very forced and there only to introduce other characters. The additions of Lemony Snicket in this book, while usually quite entertaining, actually let the book down a bit, especially with the addition of a rather peculiar letter in the middle. So, while there were good bits, it was just not as good as it could have been.

 

The Grim Grotto – 4/5

I found The Grim Grotto started to take the series in a new direction, it was very different to previous books, more so because things were starting to build towards the series coming to an end. It was darker, with a threat that sounded utterly terrifying, with further hints as to the mystery that surrounds the children. A few ‘grey’ characters were also introduced, ones which were neither solidly on the good or bad side, which I found to be quite interesting. I really enjoyed this book and on finishing, it was quite hard to believe there were only two actual books left in the series – there is so much to explore and uncover in this series, two books didn’t seem like enough.

 

The Penultimate Peril – 4.5/5

Of all the books this month, The Penultimate Peril probably surprised me the most. As the build up to the final outing, I was not expecting much, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying this book. This books sees the orphans arrive at the last Safe Place, where many figures of their past come together – some good, some evil and no-one really knowing who is who. I really enjoyed how morality took a centre stage in this book as the children struggled to determine who was one which side while also questioning whether they could still be considered ‘good’ themselves. A number of questions were answered, but in places it felt like more were asked in their place. I did enjoy seeing hints of the other characters’ perspectives, although would have enjoyed seeing more of them. This was my favourite of the five unfortunate books I read this month.

 

The Beatrice Letters (Supplement) – 2/5

This supplement was released between the 12th and 13th book, supposedly with clues as to what would happen within the final story, and so I decided to read it between those two books and see if I could find some clues. I did, although for the most part I did not know what they meant until reading The End. However, I did not enjoy this book. While it may have been because I was tired reading it, I found it a bit confusing and all over the place. It contains a series of letters between the author’s character (Lemony Snicket) and Beatrice Baudelaire, but despite the potential that premise has, it just did not work for me.

 

The End – 3.5/5

In all honesty, I found the final instalment of the Baudelaire’s story to be a bit of a mix. I got the sense that Snicket struggled to tie the ends up of all the various plot points in a neat bow and there were a lot of questions which went answered. While this may have been what he was going for – in real life you never get all the answers you want, it did leave me a bit deflated. After following the children for 13 books, for a year, I wanted some satisfying resolution, especially after all they have been through. The being said, I loved that the theme of morality was continued right until the end of the book, and he managed to, somehow, make Count Olaf a bit more human in this instalment as well. I also thought that the Baudelaire’s ended the book in a way that was fitting given all they went through (even if there was one bizarre addition). So, while I do think it could have been better in rounding off the various threads, it was still an enjoyable conclusion to the 13-book strong series.

 

And that brings a conclusion to the series re-read. It certainly had its ups and downs, with some books I flew through and some which did not quite do the trick for me, but given it is a 13-book series, I suppose it can be forgiven for not being perfect throughout. The Baudelaire’s story is still one that I do keep coming back to from time to time (I forget how many times I have read the first three books) and re-reading it again was a brilliant experience, particularly seeing it again through slightly more grown-up eyes.

You may be wondering why this is the penultimate post, as I have completed the re-read. Well, as luck would have it, I timed the event perfectly. Netflix will be releasing their T.V. adaption of the books on January 13th and to bring the Year of Unfortunate Events (give or take a few months) to its conclusion, I will be watching and reviewing the show. Stay tuned folks!

My 2017 Goals

It’s that time of year again, the time for resolutions to be made. Normally, at this time of year, I would set aside grand goals for me to fulfil before the year is out; however, this time I’m going to do something a little different. I have often found that it is quite difficult to keep to those grand, year-long goals, especially if they involve large life-style changes. A year is a long time for things to happen in, and plans can be derailed and surprises can happen so sticking resolutely to those first goals can be quite difficult.

I’ve decided to do something a little different this time around. I’m going to split the year into four and set myself four sets of resolutions at the beginning of each quarter. This will give me a chance to reflect on the last three months and set my new resolutions accordingly. My first set of resolutions have been divided into three categories of three.

Creative Pursuits

  • My first resolution is to send off the manuscript to my novel to at least one agent. I am nearly finished with the editing process, and still need to work on a query letter, but even though it is quite a large task, it should be achievable.
  • Next up is to develop my social media presence. This will include both my blog and my YouTube account. For the first few months, my plan is to post more frequently and try a few new things with them.
  • While the first two goals are more focused on specific areas, this final one is simply to get back into art. I did not do as much art as I wanted to last year and I have a number of projects I would like to try this year from sewing to painting to crafts.

Reading

  • I have a lot of books which I own but have not yet read. So many that I have an entire bookcase dedicated to them. I would like to start using the bookcase for other things, such as having specific shelves for classics and writing books, but at the moment there are just a lot of unread books. By April, I would like to have read at least one shelf’s worth of books, if not two.
  • I would like to read more variety in books in genres and diversity. Fortunately, I have quite a variety of genres on my to-read pile which is what I will be reading in the first three months, with at least three different genres a month. As I don’t really know much about the books on my that list, it’s hard to tell if they will help fulfil the diversity goal, but this is definitely something I will be looking at in later months.
  • I am going to severely restrict my book-buying for the first three months. I do tend to buy books a lot so my plan is to put a stop to the compulsive book-buying that I do. While I’ve found complete bans difficult to uphold, I will restrict my buying to one or two books a month maximum.

Personal Development

  • A bit of two in one here but: improve general health by eating healthier and doing more regular exercise. I’ll admit, I let myself slip a bit in 2016. But in 2017 I am going to try to make a difference. This will probably be the hardest goal to fulfil as it will involve the largest lifestyle change, but I will do my best. The exercise for the first three months will be gentle, mainly walking, yoga and tai chi to build myself up for later months. Eating healthier will mostly mean less snacking and more cooking.
  • I’d like to start learning code. I haven’t decided which code yet, but SQL, R and Python are all contenders, as well as improving the HTML and VBA that I already know. Not only would these help with my job but they just seem really interesting and would be quite fun to be able to do.
  • Get out the house more. While this seems to be quite an easy one, I do find myself spending a lot of time curled up in front of a movie or with a good book in the evenings. So, this month I’m going to try and get out a bit more, be it seeing friends, seeing shows/films or exploring the local culture (and the not-so-local ones as well) a bit more regularly.

Those are my resolutions for the first three months of 2017. While they may not seem that specific, I do have a vague plan on how to achieve them but want to be a bit more flexible in my approach. Here’s to achieving them this year and not continuing the bad habits of previous years!

 

My Dream Book Conferences

Author events are something that most, if not all, readers get excited about. Be it a signing, a talk or a panel, it is an opportunity to see the authors you love and hear their thoughts on a variety of topics. Eventbrite reached out to me and I thought this sounded like a lot of fun so here are a few of my ideas of panels I would love to see, and some I know could never be.

In Conversation

One of my favourite type of author panels are those where one author is in conversation with another, or maybe two or three. I find that these allow you to see a bit more of the authors as people and also tend to be both more humorous and more interesting as authors bounce off of each other. Some ideas I have for these are:

–          Genres that rarely meet. It would be really interesting to see authors from different genres get together to discuss writing and the differences, if there are any, between them. For example, if historical fiction writer was in conversation with a science fiction writer.

–          New vs. Experienced. There are a massive number of aspiring writers in the world and I think a panel with a mix of both debut authors and heavily experienced ones could potentially be quite inspirational for those aspiring writers.

–          Authors meet their characters. This is a panel which is more based in a dream than reality. Authors know the worlds and characters they create intimately, but it’s often said that characters have minds of their own and can drive the story themselves. To see the two in conversation, the person who created the world and the one who lived in it, would be fascinating.

Panels

Deciding on specific authors I would love to see on a panel together was difficult – I have too many I would love to see and then deciding which would work well together was difficult. I think I would prefer smaller groups of authors to a long panel. You get to hear more from each author that way and it feels a bit more informal than just going down the line. So, in this case, I’ve decided to go with groups of three.

–          Heroines and Romance. There is a call nowadays, quite rightly so, for more female leads and more feminist novels. Unfortunately, strong heroines are often let down by the inclusion of romance where that romance takes centre-stage at the cost of both the story and the female’s character. Three writers who I felt managed to incorporate romance in to their novels while maintaining an intriguing story and great female leads are Jacqueline Garlick, Jamie Mclachlan and Christine Norris and I think it would be interesting to hear their thoughts on the matter.

–          Building Series. I love series. I love the idea of finishing a book and knowing there is more of that story still to read (which is why I am very good at starting series but not so good at finishing them). However, writing a series can be quite tough in getting the balance right with what to reveal and when, as well as making sure that the story and development is brilliant throughout. So for this panel, I will include three writers whose series I have thoroughly enjoyed for them to discuss the ins and outs of series-building: Trudi Canavan, Laini Taylor and Robin Hobb.

–          The Pressures of Fame. The world of today is heavily based in the concept of celebrity and there are a number of authors who have been shot into the limelight, helped by the role of social media promoting their works and adaptions of their work alike. This celebrity does come with a certain amount of pressure, however, as fans turn to their favourite authors for answers and apply a certain expectation about what the next book should be and when they want to see it. I would be really interested to hear authors in these situations discuss how they deal with the pressure of this celebrity and fans influence their work. For this, unsurprisingly, I would include J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin and, for a complete mix up of the genres, John Green.

So, as you can see, I don’t have one dream author panel, more a mix of themes and groupings that I would find really interesting to see.

If you are interested in finding or planning conferences, maybe even some similar to those suggested above, Eventbrite have a conference management page would could be a very useful tool in doing so.

Let me know if you would enjoy any panels I’ve mentioned, or share any ideas you have in the comments below. I’d love to see them!