Reflections and Resolutions…

Well this is embarrassing isn’t it? Usually at this time of year bloggers are busy writing our annual wrap-ups on our favourite books and other fun lists.

Well, I’m afraid 2018 has been a little *tumbleweed* on Bookish At Heart and I don’t really have anything to “wrap up”… My current job has taken up quite a big chunk of my life whilst other things like language learning has taken up what spare moments I did have.

No regrets though. I always promised myself when I started this blog that I would not let it become a burden to the point where I’m not enjoying what should be a passion I do on the side. Earlier this year, just contemplating reading and then writing a post made my head hurt and I would immediately push it to the back of my mind.

I found all I wanted to do at the end of my workday was to totally switch off, for example by watching a K-drama on Netflix or doing some mindless online window shopping. Besides the sheer lethargy, my focus was also elsewhere. This year I took the plunge and decided to try out freelance writing. The trial process was hard but honestly seeing my pieces online is so unbelievably rewarding and I’m glad I gave myself the space to explore that! So I cut myself some slack and put Bookish At Heart on hold.

And frankly if there’s anything I learned from it, taking the time out is something we all should do. Mindfulness is very 2018 (and hopefully not a fad) and for me that meant allowing myself to deprioritise things without the accompanying self-inflicted guilt trip.

So I’ve had a fulfilling year but I’m itching to get back to writing for myself (now that I actually write for an audience which has its own share of pitfalls 🙈). I’ve decided to take some baby steps towards coaxing myself back into things. Read on to find out my book-slump busting methods!

  • BLOGGER JOURNAL – this wasn’t something I actually found nor bought myself. My family is super supportive of my blog and love for writing. So it was my sister who spied the journal in Paperchase and decided to buy it for me, as a way to rekindle my love for blogging. It’s a neat way to get inspiration, record ideas, and then transform them into actual posts; I think a bit of structure is exactly what I need at this point. I’ll do a full review of the journal when I’m properly using it but for now suffice to say it made my stationery-lover heart happy.

    

  • BOOKLY APP –  I stumbled across Bookly when browsing through the recommendations on the App Store over Christmas. The app definitely piqued my interest because I am such a nerd for recording things (see entry 1. above) as well as reviewing performance stats, all of which Bookly prepares you to do but for reading! I’m hoping it will help me to understand my reading patters and motivate me a bit more actively than my Goodreads challenge. Again I’ll do a full review when I’ve used it properly but for now it seems like just the thing to help me out of my slump.

  

  • READ WHAT YOU WANT – I went to Foyles today and browsed with no intention of buying… but ended up walking out with three books (yay the book blogger in me lives!) Two of the books were written by PoC and the other was a mystery – all genres I adore, along with fantasy and sci-fi. I know there’s a tendency to feel like you have to read the popular new releases that everyone is raving about but this is where the fun of blogging disappears for me. So my aim is to branch out into PoC readers this year (blog post coming soon!) and get back to reading for the sake of reading!

I’m hoping these small, baby steps will reignite my love for reading (which is still there, believe me) but in a stress-free, no-pressure way. And once again, I’ll keep in mind that my posts are not supposed to Pulitzer Prize nominees nor my Goodreads challenge a crazy double-digit figure. And I hope if you’re in the same position, you cut yourself some slack too – you deserve it!

P.S. Happy 2019!! Here’s to a year of more bookish goodness!

Have you ever felt like abandoning your blog because the pressure felt like too much? What methods have you used to get out of your book slump? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Bookish Discussion: Cult YA Fantasy Series I’ve Yet to Read…

One of my top reading goals for 2017 is to focus on the YA fantasy genre (i.e. play catch up on the cult classics that I’ve totally bypassed…) The topic of this post will probably make you question my credibility as a YA blogger (*gulp* why did this seem like a good idea again?!) but I’m hoping the public humiliation will spur me on to actually reading these awesome series that I’ve been criminally neglecting. 🙂

This post actually came about after a delightful chat with a Waterstones bookseller (thanks Valentine!) I had gone to pick up the Fantastic Beasts Case but found myself accidentally-on-purpose skulking around the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section looking for the new Tearling book. Valentine and I got talking and we realised we had similar taste when it came to this genre and we fangirled about A Court of Mist and Fury, Ember in the Ashes and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. And then I realised how much I was missing when I noticed how many “cult classics” I’d not read… voila this post!

Reading for fun was put on hold during university (cruel reality unfortunately!) and clearly I was on hiatus during the most inopportune time – most of the series in this list, or at least the first book, were all published 2014 or earlier and all have now wrapped up. It’s interesting that I’ve not read lots of them already because YA fantasy is easily my favourite genre but I’ve found myself getting seduced by newer releases getting tonnes of hype that I’ve not been able to play catch up.

SO I’ve made it my mission to read (/make a start on…) these gems in 2017. I know I’m seriously missing out and my blogger rep might as well be in the gutter! Without further ado, in no particular order, my top ten cult YA fantasy series that I’ve not read (yet!)

  1. Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore (2009-2012) – a read of this series is so overdue. It’s got a badass protagonist Graced with the skill to kill – what more could I ask for?!
  2. Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee (2013-2015) – angels?? Sign me up. This will fill the Daughter of Smoke and Bone shaped hole in my life.
  3. Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch (2014-2016) – a refugee training to be a warrior, unrequited love, magic and politics. Err yes please!
  4. Study by Maria V. Snyder (2006-2008) – I’ve no idea how this one slipped through the cracks – I’M SORRY! *repentant face* 
  5. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare (2010-2013) – I’m currently reading Lady Midnight so I’m really keen to go back and brush up on the Shadowhunter ‘verse with this series.
  6. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater (2012-2016) – this fully deserves to be in a list with “cult” and “YA” in the title. I’ve heard so much about this series and am familiar with the awesome fan art…
  7. Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima (2009-2012) – this was a recommendation from Valentine at Waterstones and once I’d read the blurb I was totally sold.
  8. Legend by Marie Lu (2011-2013) – the blurb of this one sounds amaaaazing! It’s one of the highest rated YA fantasies on Goodreads to boot.
  9. The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson (2014-2016) – the first book in this series is a book club read this year so I will absolutely be getting round to it. Yay!
  10. Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta (2010-2013) – this is one of those high fantasy classics so I’m really looking forward to ticking this one off my TBR list!

So a good mix of fantasy, paranormal/ supernatural and dystopia to keep things interesting. I figure I can make a dent in at least a few of these series this year!  

Do you also have a similar TBR guilty secret? Any on here that you also haven’t read? Or if you have, recs for which I should absolutely start with first?! Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

Bookish Discussion: 2017 Book & Blog Resolutions!

So… it’s 2017! We made it somehow (and without losing David Attenborough thank goodness!) I have high hopes for 2017, in terms of reading, blogging and generally it just not being the shit show that was “the year that must not be spoken of”. As tradition dictates, I’ve put together ten goals that I would love to achieve this year…

1. First things first, the all important reading challenge! I’ve kept it pretty low again this year (aiming to read 30 books minimum) as I’ve found it helps any challenge-related anxiety. Plus there’s nothing stopping you from increasing the challenge as you go along – in fact it’s really satisfying to keep surpassing your goal compared to the mad reading spree in December… you all know what I’m talking about. 😉

2. Related to the reading challenge, I’ve decided to incentivise my reading – not that I need it but for a good cause! I’ve pledged to put £1 in a jar for every book I finish with the idea being that I donate it to a reading-related charity at the end of the year. Reading is already such a pleasure for me that I’d love to be able to share my love of books with those less fortunate and this seems a perfect way to go about it.

TBR Jar

My Reading Jar – this year will be holding £££s!

3. This blog is a labour of love but I’m the first to admit that sometimes I can’t give it the attention it deserves. This year I want to become a better blogger by making sure I carry on posting regularly but also more specifically, diversify the number of memes I take part in and blog hop more so I can find more bloggers to fangirl about YA lit with – after all, bookish conversations are the best conversations.

4. I’ve met this loveliest people this year through a variety of mediums – my blog, on Twitter and Instagram, and finally bookish events! I’ve had amazing conversations from standing in book signing queues and over social media and every single one has put a huge smile on my face. I want to make sure I keep connecting with people over a shared love of books be they old or new friends. 🙂

5. One of my biggest book-related aims this year is to finally make it to YALC! For the last two years running I’ve been abroad that pesky last week of July but no more (at least not this year!) I’ve heard so many positive things about it that I feel like I’m sorely missing out. I’m actually considering going all three days as it’s my first YALC – any tips though, send them my way! 

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Hoping YALC will help me add to my collection of signed books!

6. #6 is one of those things I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never seem to get around to doing – a giveaway! I’ve seen some brilliant giveaways hosted by other bloggers and Instagrammers and would like to do multiple giveaways this year so I can share books that I love, recommend or am looking forward to.

7. I’m pledging to be more active on social media this year especially Instagram because seriously bookstagram is my happy place! I only joined recently but everyone is so lovely and welcoming. I’m not creative in the slightest but I really love how imaginative you can be with bookish photos and I’m addicted to scrolling through my feed! 

8. I’m part of a YA book club already but my job has me travelling quite a bit and my attendance can be sketchy at the best of times. I’ve joined another one recently, so this year one of my goals is to be a better book club member. I’ve met some wonderful people already, read books that I wouldn’t normally have picked up and had brilliant, in-depth discussions about YA lit and I want to put more effort towards it this year

Goodies from my YA book club xmas books swap!

Goodies from my YA book club annual xmas book swap!

9. In terms of tackling my TBR, this year I’m going to focus on the fantasy genre – from reading the cult classics of Graceling Realm and The Lumatere Chronicles series to the newer Shades of Magic and Queen of the Tearling series. There’ll be a blog post about these soon where my shameful neglect of this genre will be laid bare… I’m also keen to explore more diverse fiction – 2017 is looking to be the best year yet for this genre!

10. Finally, in December I received my first YA subscription box and was totally blown away by the quality! After much deliberation (I actually created a spreadsheet comparing prices, product etc. to compare!) I settled on Fairy Loot because the fantasy themed box meant it couldn’t possibly disappoint. Suffice to say it didn’t and I now want to try out some of the other sub boxes available. 

So that’s all of my 2017 bookish and blogging resolutions – here’s to achieving at least a few of them!

Do you have any bookish/blogging resolutions? How’s your Goodreads Challenge looking? Any resolutions from last year that you’re giving another go? Let me know in the comments below!