My First Reads of 2016

I received a fair few books for Christmas, and I want to make sure these are the first ones I read in the New Year – too often I get new books and they go on the TBR pile and get lost in there. So today I’m sharing the books I’ve received recently and promising to read them real soon!

Note: Since writing this I ended up with loads of review books too so been getting through those first. Then on to Christmas books!

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The first group came from my mom and were all ones I’d requested. Some I’ve actually been waiting to read since the beginning of last year, so I’m glad I’ve finally got my hands on them and can read them in 2016.

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This next one was from Nathan and is not one I’ll be aiming to read immediately like the others. As with my Grimm Tales book, I’d like to dip in and out of this and work my way through it slowly (as it’s not a quick read!) I’d also love to read some of these aloud to baby soon.

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These two beauties were from Nathan’s parents and are another couple I’ve wanted to read for ages – especially, Library of Souls, which has been out for a while and I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet.

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Another gift from Nathan – I’ve wanted to read this since reading Only Ever Yours  by Louise O’Neill earlier this year – I’ve heard there are some similarities with this book, and it’s a bit of a classic that I think really needs reading.

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Again, these four are from Nathan. He did some research into YA comics/graphic novels and bought the ones he thought I would enjoy/wanted me to read and review. I’d like to read more graphic novels in 2016 so this is a great way to start.

I hope you all got some exciting books in your Christmas stockings, and I can’t wait to see what everyone’s reading this year.

2016 Book Challenges

I was a bit undecided about trying any book challenges this year, until I saw the Horror Reading Challenge over at Cornerfolds and I knew that was one I had to try. I had great fun reading a lot of YA horror last year, so I’ve decided to give this a try, and am aiming to read at least one horror book per month (I may end up reading more knowing me, but I wanted to set a realistic goal).

I don’t have any specific books in mind, but I know my first one will be my current read, which is The Haunting by Alex Bell. I’m hoping there will be some new Red Eye releases this year too, and I’m going to be on the look out for any other creepy looking books, especially YA ones.

The second challenge I’m signing up for is the British Books Challenge (again) this time hosted over at The Overflowing Library. I did well on this for the beginning of last year, but slacked off towards the end – while I was still reading lots of books by British authors, I wasn’t managing to keep up with adding the links and such. So my aim for this year is to keep it up and remember to add in all my links.

Again, I’m not aiming for any authors in particular, and I don’t want to set too high a goal, but I’d like to support as many British authors as I can.

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My final challenge is the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Last year I settled on reading 100 books, which seemed quite high when I set it in January. However, I’m happy to say that as the year ended, I had read 118 books 🙂 Since I surpassed my goal last year, I decided to up it a little, to 120 books in 2016. I know I slacked off a bit with the reading towards the end of last year, so this should be achievable, but with the little one on the way soon I don’t know how my reading time will be affected, so we’ll have to see.

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Have you signed up to any reading challenges this year?

Book Review: The IT Girl – Team Awkward (Katy Birchall)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

Pages: 320

Release Date: January 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

The brilliant sequel to The It Girl. Hilariously funny and deliciously romantic – perfect for fans of Geek Girl and Louise Rennison. If everything Anna does is going to be seen by more than 10 million people, then she’s determined to find something that she’s really good at. Everyone else seems to have a ‘thing’ – especially the new girl at school, who’s been distracting Connor with their shared love of art. Luckily the school sports day is looming, and Anna is limbering up! What could go wrong?

Review:

I really enjoyed the first book in the It Girl series last year, so when I saw the sequel on NetGalley I knew I had to have it!

Team Awkward sees Anna up to her usual shenanigans – being awkward and clumsy and generally misinterpreting things to get herself into all kinds of mishaps. She really is Little Miss Adorkable and you can’t help but love her for it, even if she can be frustrating at times.

All you favourite characters are back – including Anna’s hilarious pet dog, Dog – and there’s a couple of new faces to get to know and enjoy too. The main focus this time is the impending school Sports Day and Anna’s determination to prove she can be a good role model, after ‘It girls’ are labelled as basically worthless by the press (the irony there being that it’s the press who make them famous for doing nothing anyway, for reporting on when they do…nothing).

I love the non-stereotypical family Anna has going on as well. As someone who has divorced parents, who then remarried other people (and then one of them broke up again) it’s good to see something other than your typical mum, dad, sibling thing going on. Plus Anna’s family is so ridiculous you can’t fail to smile at them.

I think this is a great read for young teens – again, it reminds me of the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson books that I loved so much as a teenager – some real laugh out loud moments with plenty of heart behind it too. Perfect for fans of the series or for those looking for something fun and easy to read.

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If you enjoyed this, you might like the first in The It Girl series

Book Review: Never Evers (Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Chicken House

Pages: 336

Release Date: January 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kicked out of ballet academy and straight into a school ski trip, Mouse knows certain classmates can’t wait to see her fall flat on her face. Meanwhile, Jack looks forward to danger and girls, but hasn’t a clue about either. That’s until French teen sensation Roland arrives in the resort – who Jack’s a dead ringer for. When Roland persuades Jack to be his stand-in for a day, Jack, in disguise, declares his feelings for Mouse. But what happens when he’s no longer a pop star – will it be music and magic on the slopes?

Review:

I have to confess – I still hadn’t read Lobsters when I read this book. Not for any particular reason: I’d heard great things about it, but it just wasn’t one I’d bought/been bought/got round to reading yet. I’m hoping by the time I publish this review on the blog I’ll have read Lobsters too!

The thing about this book was the characters – you just connected with them straight away. I really felt awful for Mouse and her situation: it must be so horrible to feel your dreams ripped away from you (though at least she went to ballet school for a bit, I didn’t even get that far!) I could really feel her dread at going back to her old school, and it’s easy to see how her little lie slipped out and evolved.

Having never been a teenage boy (or had much to do with them, going to a girl’s school) I probably connected less with Jack and his friends, but that’s predictable I guess. I still really enjoyed them as characters – they were likeable but also a bit irritating/gross/girl obsessed (as I imagine all teenage boys are!) The way they talk about women did kind of irritate me, but it did feel like accurate teenage boy talk: if they’d been super respectful and PC about everything then it would have felt forced.

You can see where the plot is going even from the blurb, but it’s a well written and enjoyable ride and I raced through it. There’s wonderful moments of silliness that made me laugh out loud, some classic high school bitchiness and a sweet little romance that blossoms throughout. I really enjoyed this book, and will now make sure I read Lobsters soon too!

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If you enjoyed this, you might like All of the Above by James Dawson

 

New Year, New Start and All That Jazz

One of my very first blog posts was on New Year’s Resolutions, and I thought I’d start this year’s ones by looking back on last year’s.

The first of 2015 was to start a blog, and keep it going throughout the year. I’m happy to say I mostly succeeded – there was just a slight break from blogging while I moved house and had no internet, so I’d say that’s not bad going.

My second 2015 resolution was to complete the British Books Challenge. I started off well on this, but I think I only kept it up for half a year or so. While I still read books by British authors, I didn’t update my reviews on the main page – I just found it too difficult to keep up with along with everything else. I haven’t decided on any challenges for this year. I’m not sure whether I’ll do any yet.

My third was to finish the second draft of my book. Unfortunately I didn’t quite manage this: after the move my new schedule became quite draining, and with all the pregnancy tiredness added in I’m afraid writing took a bit of a back seat – something I want to rectify this year.

And my final resolution was to get fit. Again, this one started off well: I completed the NHS Couch to 5K plan and carried on running after I finished. I didn’t always enjoy it (especially not getting up extra early to run) but I did like how it made me feel, and I enjoyed being fitter. Unfortunately this all ended when I found out I was pregnant. I’m blaming the tiredness again, and I was also worried about pushing myself too hard, especially in those summer months. And then came the house move and I had no spare time at all.

So last year’s resolutions weren’t a complete success, but they weren’t all failures either. I did enjoy having some targets to reach, which is why I’ve decided to create new (though similar) resolutions this year:

  1. Keep blogging – I really enjoyed keeping a blog this year, and I’d like to try and keep it up and post regularly this year. I’ve branched out a bit recently and have been doing more lifestyle/baby focussed posts as well as the book reviews. I’d like to keep this up, and also focus more on writing too. My aim is to post at least twice a week, preferably more if there’s time though!
  2. Finish my second and third drafts – I’m carrying over last year’s resolution a little here but it shouldn’t (hopefully) take me too long to finish the second draft. I really want to get this novel to a more polished state this year, and maybe even start querying agents too. I’m also aiming to write something every day, just to keep myself in practice. This is going to be a year of writing for me!
  3. Get fit – this classic is popping up again, but I know it’s going to be more relevant than ever after having the baby. I don’t want to obsess about losing baby weight (and this is definitely a topic you’ll be seeing more of in future) but I do want to exercise more and feel healthy.
  4. Manage my time  – I really want to spend less time doing nothing: watching crap on TV, browsing pointless stuff on social media/the internet, and spend more time being productive, whether that’s reading or writing or blogging. I dread to think of the hours I’ve wasted this year, especially when I always feel so strapped for time.

I know this is going to be an insanely busy year for me: we’re moving house this month, I’ll be starting maternity leave the month after, and then life will change in March when the baby comes along. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a scary and exciting year, and I want to make the most of everything.

What are you aiming to do in 2016? I wish you all the best, whatever you wish to achieve, and hope you all have a fantastic year.

30 Weeks and Counting

It’s weird: when I did my 25 Weeks and Counting post, it felt like we had plenty of time left. 5 weeks down the line, however, and I really feel like time is running out and going by so fast!

I am a little worried as I don’t think we’re really prepared yet. For a start, we’ll be moving house (again!) before the end of January, so that’s what’s taking up most of my focus right now. It’s probably not our brightest idea, doing it so close to the birth, but it’s the right move for us for now and I am excited to get settled in a new house. We’re moving for work reasons, again, and will be going back to the West Midlands. This will be cheaper for us, but also mean we’re closer to both our families, so I think it’s a good move all round.

I think another reason the pressure is on is because my sister kind of got caught short recently. Her baby was due in mid January, and they were expecting it then: before Christmas was about finishing the house, so they had a lot of decorating on the go and everything was a bit of a mess. Of course, babies and due dates are unpredictable, and her baby decided to come three weeks early and surprise everyone. While it’s not what they expected and they probably weren’t as prepared as they would have like to be, it’s good to see that they coped and just got on with it – I know we can do the same if that happens to us.

The new baby is a little boy called Leo and is a good size, despite being three weeks early. They had an extended stay in the hospital due to him being a little jaundiced, but mother and baby are both home now and doing great. It’s really exciting seeing their little family come together and I can’t wait for the same for us.

I’m sure the next few weeks are going to fly by, and baby could come at any time really, but I know whatever happens we’ll just tackle it head on and get by just fine.