My Dream Reading Space

As an avid reader, I read anywhere and everywhere I can – curled up on the sofa, on my lunch break at work, while cleaning my teeth – anywhere I can squeeze some reading time in! It’s not always ideal, but when you gotta read, you gotta read…

I can’t pretend I don’t wish I had my own special space, just for reading. It’s something I daydream about, and when someone from Arhaus got in touch about a post inspired by their website the cogs started whirring in my mind immediately! I had great fun browsing their site for the perfect pieces for my dream reading space (if only I had somewhere to put it all!)

Continue reading “My Dream Reading Space”

Things I Didn’t Do Before I Was a Book Blogger

The other day I was sent a book that was the third in the series, and while I haven’t read the other two, I thought I’d read it straight away anyway. I’d never have done that before I was a book blogger, and it got me thinking about things I do since blogging that I wouldn’t have before.

  • Reading a book without reading the ones before it – past me wouldn’t have even considered doing that, but now if I have a limited time I’m happy to dive right in.
  • Similarly, if a new book in a series comes out, I used to have to read all the previous ones first to get myself back into it. These days there’s so many books and so little time, I just have to trust my memories!
  • I didn’t read this much until I started blogging. Well, maybe when I was a teen and younger, but during uni I didn’t find the time or the will really. I’m so glad blogging has made me fall back in love with reading.
  • I also didn’t give up on books until recently. I also struggled through a book I wasn’t enjoying, mostly because I didn’t even think about not finishing them. I hate not knowing what happens! But these days I figure I have too many books and too little time to read to bother trying to enjoy something I’m not.
  • Even when I was reading lots, I was never this up to date with new releases, new authors and general bookish news. I love that blogging has got me discovering new books and not rereading the same old favourites like I used to!
  • I’ve always been a bit of a book hoarder, and it’s only the last few months that I’ve decided to get more ruthless with what I keep. The tottering piles of books were starting to get dangerous now Little Moore is crawling!
  • I didn’t use Twitter before I blogging, and I’m so glad I started. It’s opened up this whole new world of people to talk to, the UKYA community and fellow book lovers and book bloggers.

Have you noticed any new bookish habits since you started blogging?

Another Attempt at New Year’s Resolutions

Since I’ve been blogging I’ve been doing New Year’s Resolutions posts, and I have to admit, I’ve not been great at sticking to them. This doesn’t stop me wanting to do another one though. I always feel so positive and hopeful at the start of the year and I want to make the most of those feelings while they last! Even if (again) I don’t stick to my resolutions, I’d like to have a go at them.

From last years ones, I’d say I kept to two – to keep blogging (clearly I’m still here) and to manage my time better. I wouldn’t say I’ve consistently done that one but I’ve had a good stab at it. I’ve spent a lot less time mindlessly scrolling through Twitter/general internet pages. I feel like the lack of Twitter interaction isn’t always great for my blog as I miss out connecting with people and getting involved, but I want to spend more time in the real world, with my family and with my work, so that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

As for the other two – get fit (ha!) and finish my 2nd/3rd drafts – they have just not happened. Although I bought a jogging pushchair with the intent of running with Little Moore, he’s been too small for it so far, and with all the sleep deprivation I’ve not been able to drag myself up early to go running on my own. While it’s still something I’d like to get into this year, as I do enjoy running, I’m not going to pressure myself and just see how it goes.

With the writing – I did do a lot of editing on my first draft of my first completed novel, but not as much as I wanted to. Part of that was lack of time – like most new mums, I thought I’d have more time on maternity to write while my baby slept peacefully in his cot (HA!) But also I really struggled with editing and decided in the end to put this one aside for now. It needs a lot of work – maybe starting from scratch or maybe coming back to it when I’ve got more experience. I’m not giving up on it, just putting it aside to work on something else for now.

But enough of the past. Onto this year’s resolutions:

  1. Write Everyday – I did this towards the end of the year, just a page in a notebook so that I had something done each day. That’s my small writing aim for this year. Ideally Id like to spend at least half an hour in my study each day, writing/editing, planning or something creative. And on the large scale, I’d like to finish my first draft of the project I started for NaNoWriMo and enter some writing competitions.
  2. Keep Reading and Blogging – I think these are both good for my writing ambitions, and they’re something I enjoy doing. I’m trying to set up a bit of a blog schedule so I might post less frequently but with better content. Fingers crossed, anyway!
  3. Save Money – Like a lot of mid-twenty-somethings, I’m currently renting a house and saving for a deposit to buy one. I couldn’t save much last year while being on maternity leave so I’d like to try and squirrel some bits away now I’m working again.
  4. Do Nice Family Things – This is a bit generic but I want to spend quality time with Nathan and Little Moore, as well as our extended family. Day trips together, going for walks and playing games, and also visiting his family more (as they live further away) and spending more time with my sisters. One of the younger ones will be off to uni next year so I need to squeeze in as much quality time as I can before she goes!
  5. Eat Nice Food – Instead of a generic get fit or eat healthy resolution, I want to eat well this year. I want to spend less money in crappy chain restaurants. If we’re eating out, it should be a treat and it should be somewhere nice. I want to try find places to buy better quality food at home, and try new dishes. We’ve been eating less meat recently so I want to experiment with more creative vegetarian cusine.

Like I said, I’m not holding myself religiously to any of these. I just like having some general aims to start the year with. They may or may not hold up but at least for now, they’re making me feel positive and spurring me into action!

Whatever you’re aiming to do with yourself this year, I hope you have a wonderful one.

University: Was It Worth It?

I recently read a post by Katie over on Life of Kitty on whether university was worth it. I really enjoyed reading it as it got me thinking a lot and after commenting I said I’d do something similar myself.

I went to a smallish university in North Wales. I picked it when I was 17, pretty much at random and decided that was the only one I was going to apply for (pretty reckless looking back on it but it worked!). I didn’t do a visit or talk to anyone who was there, I just applied and the first time I saw the town and the uni was in September 2009 when I started.

I wouldn’t recommend that method for everyone, but it did work out for me. I loved it there: I loved the small town, living by the sea, the campus itself, the societies I joined and all the people I met. Oh, and the course itself. As I went before the fees were changed I only (only!) paid about £3000 a year in tuition. I also got maximum amount of bursaries and loans. This isn’t the point of this post but I did struggle to live on that, so I don’t know how people who were given less money did. I also did have several part time jobs throughout my time there so I was trying to support myself too.

But was it worth the £21,000 debt I am in now, plus the overdraft I struggled to get out of for over a year? Well…

We’ll start with the obvious one – I got a degree out of it. Actually I got two, as I did a Masters straight after I finished my undergrad, but I paid for that all myself. Most people would probably say that’s the main reason for going to university, although I’m of the opinion that it’s the experience that counts just as much. I got a 1st class degree in Creative Studies and a Master of Research in Creative Practice, and I’m really proud of that as I worked very hard.

Fast forward through four years of university and I was working full time at a supermarket cafe for little above minimum wage. Having a degree doesn’t guarantee you a good job. Though I was well educated, all my friends who didn’t go to uni had four years worth of work experience, while I’d only had several part time jobs. Work experience is a real key thing when you’re looking for a job and I think a lot of university students don’t have it, and that’s where they fall down.

I eventually managed to get a temp job in an office. In the phone interview for it I was asked about my extra curricular activities rather than my degrees: I had experience as secretary for a drama society and coordinated a performance for the local council as voluntary work. And that’s what got me the job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the degrees helped, but that was what my soon-to-be boss was interested in, as it was real world experience I could pull on. I think when you’re at uni you don’t always realise what a bubble you live in.

That six month temp job turned into a year and a half until a different department offered me a full time position with the company, which I’ll return to after maternity leave. I work in IT and do absolutely nothing creative in my job. But I am happy there and that matters to me, having been utterly miserable in jobs in the past.

The experience of university was what really made it worth it for me. I did so many things there which I might not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. So I’ve done a little list of some of the things I’m proud of:

  • The above mentioned voluntary performance, which I scripted, cast, led rehearsals for and basically did everything for myself and was a great success
  • Performed in several plays in Wales which were all unforgettable experiences: favourites include Ariel in The Tempest, Hermia in A Midsummer Nights Dream and Jack in Lord of the Flies
  • Performed in a dance competition in Edinburgh
  • Did lights for a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a month
  • Performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for two weeks
  • Had a short story published in an anthology
  • Acted in several short films which have been shown across the UK, America and South Korea

And then we get on to the more sentimental stuff. I didn’t really make friends for life at school, bar one person, but I made excellent friends at university and still speak to a lot of them. There’s a few who also came from the West Midlands and we all came back here and still meet up, which is awesome. I wouldn’t have those people if I hadn’t gone to uni.

And now the really mushy stuff. I also met Nathan at university. He was one of the first people I spoke to there and we were friends for a couple of years before getting together in our third year. And now we have a son together. Again, I wouldn’t have these two if I hadn’t gone to university. I know if I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t know what I was missing and yada yada but I love them both and wouldn’t change a thing.

So while university may not have worked out as I might have once planned – I haven’t (yet!) got a job in creative industries – it worked out well for me in so many other ways that I know I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned a lot there I’ll always treasure the memories I made.

If you’re not sure whether to go to university then I’d say go with you gut – it’s not for everyone, but it definitely was for me. It’s definitely a life changing experience and one that I would go back and do all over exactly the same if I could.

Why I Read YA

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on this for a while, as it is something I think about a lot. In terms of traditional target audience, I’m not really what YA is typically aiming at: I’m 24 years old for a start, which is a little more adult than young adult now I think!

Still, YA is the majority of what I read – as in it’s almost everything, with the occasional MG or adult book thrown in. I don’t really get hung up on reading it any more, like I might have in the past. I know who I am and what I enjoy, and I’m not going to let anyone tell me I’m too old to read what I’m reading, or that I should read ‘adult’ or ‘proper’ books (their words, not mine!)

When I was still a teenager (though admittedly late teens) I had people asking when I’d grow out of reading teenage fiction (I didn’t really have the YA phrase when I was a teen) and when I’d start reading adult books. I didn’t really understand why they’d ask that – I was a teenager, it made sense to me that I’d be reading teenage books. And adult fiction just didn’t really appeal to me. I read a couple here and there, but they were few and far between and had to be something really special to grab my attention.

When I finally stopped being a teen, I didn’t stop reading YA. I did still get asked if I had grown out of it, but I knew the answer now: I wasn’t going to grow out of it. These were the books I enjoyed and wanted to read, so that’s what I was going to stick to. YA books have incredible themes that aren’t just relevant to teenagers, they have characters that I still feel I really connect to, even if they’re not really my age any more, and they just seem to have a creative freedom and ‘anything goes’ feel that I don’t get (personally) from adult fiction.

I find it odd that sometimes YA books have ‘adult’ covers brought out, as I have no problem being seen reading YA books in public, but I can’t really complain about them if it gets more people reading YA.

I’d love to know what you love about reading YA, whether you’re a teenager or more on the adult side like me 😉

Finding the Time to Read

I’m currently getting ready to move to a new house (tres exciting!) which is a lot closer to where I work – a little late now I’m about to start maternity leave but hey! For the last six months I’ve been doing The Commute of Hell: train from Wolverton to Coventry, then bus to the other side of Coventry to my place of work, then repeat on the way home, often with a lot of waiting around time involved. On a good day my travelling time is about 3.5 hours, on a bad day it’s pushing 5.

The point of this isn’t how lame it is to travel so much every day – though it’s crazy lame, trust me. I haven’t liked the travelling and with pregnancy it’s been super hard, but there’s been one positive: I’ve had so much time to read! I haven’t always used it wisely. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay awake on the train, but I’ve been making a real effort this year to use it as reading time.

Now that’s coming to an end, I have mixed feelings. It’ll be so nice to have my evenings back again, and to spend less time on horrible public transport, but I’m worried about finding time to read. I know I don’t do it at home as much as I used to – there’s always something else that needs doing.

I also realise that with the little Moore on the way, there’s going to be a lot less me time and a lot more baby time, which will probably equal a lot less reading time.

So my overall point is: how do you find time to read? I realise reading several books a week may no longer be possible, but I’d still like to squeeze one or two in there. So how do you all find time to read??

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?

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.

IT’S CHRISTMAASSS!!

Well, nearly anyway 😉

I’m writing this early on Christmas eve. I’ve finished work for the year (which is a massive relief, having not had a real holiday since last December) and am excited to go spend some time with my family. I thought I’d share a few of my favourite Christmas traditions/what makes Christmas so special for me.

  • Christmas has pretty much stayed the same for me since I was a kid. I’ve spent the majority of them with my mom and step-dad and sisters, with the exception of a few years when I was younger and we alternated Christmas with my dad (best thing about divorced parents = 2 Christmases!)

  • We don’t go anywhere or do anything or see anyone on Christmas – it’s just us ‘immediate family’ – basically those who live in the house/me and my sister now we’ve moved out. I know for some people Christmas means big family gatherings but that’s never how we’ve done it. Boxing Day is for seeing people, Christmas is just for us.

  • Right from the first Christmas I can remember we’ve had ‘bed presents’. They were exciting as kids but now I see how smart my mom was being too. When my older sister and I were young, we’d wake up Christmas morning with a video on our beds – it was the only present we were allowed to open without our parents there. The bed presents kept us quiet as we could go downstairs and watch a film until it was a reasonable time to wake our parents up. And this still happens every year – only with DVDs now, obviously!

  • Me and my three sisters all have beautiful stockings that our auntie made us and I love seeing them all laid out. They’re all very different, but very special as Auntie Astrid sewed them herself and cross stitched our names on them – I’m hoping she’ll make one for baby when it’s born next year too.

  • My favourite thing about Christmas is hard to pick out. I love the atmosphere, I love the food, and I love having some time to just relax and be with family.

I promised my little sisters that I’d come home for Christmas until I had a child of my own, so that means this is my last Christmas with them. I’m going to enjoy every second of it as my last ‘childish’ Christmas, and I’m really looking forward to celebrating next year with just me, Nathan and our baby 🙂