Reading Journal for 2019

Last year, rather than track my reading on Goodreads like I’ve done the years before, I decided to start a reading journal. It worked pretty well, only the one I chose was already set out and I ran out of room to write down books much faster than I thought I would! With that in mind I decided to try my hand at bullet journaling and set up my own journal. I thought I’d post a few photos of my set up here and perhaps do another update at the end of the year with how my finished spreads look.

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These are some of my favourites pages so far, especially the genre tracker above as I just love those colours together. I like to keep track of all the details like age bracket and how I read the book so I can see the changes in my reading year to year. The shelf of books is ones I’m most excited to read, I even left a little room to add more books as I imagine I will come across exciting new releases as the year goes on. Nem helped me by drawing the library cards below and we printed them out on card so they would look like real ones. I’m really happy with how these all turned out.

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Despite making a few mistakes and having a sharp learning curve I really enjoyed the process of setting everything up. Just last weekend I set up my calender and pages read for February and it was so relaxing to sit and draw while watching a documentary.

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Do any of you keep a reading journal, however fancy or simple? I have a feeling that I’ll be doing this again next year already as I’ve found it so relaxing.

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Favourite books of the year part 02

Here are my favourite books of the second half of the year. I fell into a reading slump the end of the year which was frustrating but life was very busy so it cant be helped. That probably explains why this list is shorter than the first!

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Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Chambers’ is the only sci-fi author that makes me want to live in space and this book is no exception. Not because her galaxy is a utopia but because it’s realistic, as if it could really be a possible future. Like the two previous books in this series, the plot moves at a slow pace, taking time to show the intricacies of the fleet, introducing a cast of characters that aren’t tied together until the very end. I adored the glimpse into their lives, especially Tessa’s as her interactions with her children were so amusing and sweet! Chambers’ books are always so thoughtful and at times bittersweet and this one was no different, each character struggling with questions that are so common, the location of space making no difference. It’s a comforting thought to know that even people in space struggle with the same day to day problems.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I’ve heard a lot of praise for Shirley Jackson’s work but it was this year that I finally read three of her books, including this one and I adored it so much that I read it twice! She’s quickly becoming a favourite author of mine. Haunting of Hill House is often toted as one of the defining haunted house stories of its genre but it is so much more than just a ghost story. It’s a glimpse into a spiralling mind due to a repressed life and wasted years. Eleanor’s daydreams of escaping and her slow loss of her grip of reality was heartbreaking, Jackson perfectly capturing what it feels like to long for something more. Despite being a short book, the tension builds wonderfully as the plot twists the paranormal and reality until its hard to untangle what is a true haunting and a fabrication. Much like My Cousin Rachel which I read earlier in the year, the ending was amazing, completely shifting my perception of the whole story.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

This was such a wonderful finish to the duology, full of twists and revelations not only for Lazlo’s journey but also for her other series Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The theme of trauma follows on from Strange The Dreamer, becoming even darker then its predecessor before rising into hope. The line between good and bad is blurred ever further also and Taylor brilliantly shows how there are often no sides, just broken people. I imagine that some people might dislike the happy ending of this book but I found for a series founded in so much pain, the message of healing and moving froward was needed and uplifting. I’m really excited to see what she writes next as I have no doubt it will be wonderful.

Anticipated reads for next year

Here’s are some of the books I’m excited to read next year. Some of them have already come out but I haven’t managed to get to them yet and some are upcoming releases.

Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly

This is the last in a series and I adored the previous two. It features compelling flawed characters fighting against a corrupt political system while drinking too much and making a mess of their private lives. The first book in particular ripped my heart out with it’s ending and I’m desperately hoping for a happy ending in this book even if it has to be somewhat bittersweet.

In an absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

I imagine everyone has heard of this series by now and I’m not different to all the others raving about it. McGuire has created such an interesting world with so many possibilities and I cant wait to see where she takes it in this instalment!

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

A Gothic thriller only set just before the 70’s! At a dilapidated English country mansion a woman watches a couple through the hole in her floorboards. It sounds so tense and I cant wait to discover the twists as their lives unfold before her.

Five Days of Fog by Anne Freeman

This is set in 1952 at the beginning of the Great Smog of London and concerns a tough female gang, one of whom wishes to escapes their criminal life style. I’ve been dying to read this since I heard about it, It just sounds so compelling and different from anything else on my TBR!

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Speaking of very different, this book is a mystery with a former slave and servant at its heart. Something that although a large and important part of history you don’t often see in these types of books. Accused of murdering her mistress, it unravels what is the truth behind the claims.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

The start to a new fantasy trilogy heavily inspired by the authors Malaysian upbringing. It features a lesbian romance, a royal brothel and a demon king which just ticks all the boxes for me! It’s also been compared to Laini Taylor’s books and though normally I don’t pay attention to comparisons I have to admit this one has got me very excited.

House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

Another Gothic mystery about a mansion, what can I say? I like what I like. A young lady is taxed with filling the green houses with planets but something about the house isn’t as it seems, something in lurking within. Doesn’t that just sound delicious.

The Binding  by Bridget Collins

A story about a young man that becomes a book binder against his will in a world where books hold more than words, they hold people’s unwanted memories! When I first heard of this upcoming release I thought it sounded like one of the most ‘me’ books I’ve ever stumbled upon and I cant wait to read it!

The True Queen by Zen Cho

I adored Sorcerer to the Crown and have been waiting for this companion novel for a long time. For what I gather it follows a completely different set of characters, exploring a new part of her regency inspired fantasy world which just sounds brilliant.

When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll

Probably the book I am most excited for on this list! I fell in love with Carroll’s art when I read her graphic novel Through the Woods a couple of years ago and I’ve been longing for her to release more horror stories since. Finally next year my dreams will be answered! This sounds like it will be a sexually charge Gothic tale which just sounds like heaven.

What books are you looking forward to reading next year?

Finished first draft and goals

I finished the first draft of Cake Brothel!!! I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it before the new year due to life being so stressful and hectic but I did, with two weeks to spare. Of course it is far from being done and I’ve already started looking through my editing notes and making changes but the hardest part is done. From past experience with Lovelorn I know that each draft after this will only add to the story, making it richer each time. Of course I’m also aware that it will mean much more work for me, many stressful edits and more than a few books needing to be read for research on top of it all.

With that in mind I’ve decided not to set goals for this year or to do a recap as though I’m hoping 2019 wont be full of the heartache I’ve battled through this year it will be very busy! My calender is already filling up!

My only goal is to get Cake Brothel ready to be submitted to agents by the end of next year. That and to slow down between the impending busy periods and drafts. Log off more often, focus on reading books I’m excited for and try to teach myself how to de-stress. I have a feeling those moments are going to be very much needed as next year gets in full swing so I better start managing my time better now.

Maybe this time I wont need to have ten drafts like with Lovelorn? Fingers crossed!

Becky Chambers book signing

While in Edinburgh we took a train to Glasgow so I could attend a talk and book signing by Becky Chambers. Getting there was a bit more stress than we first though, firstly with the trains confusing us and then by getting lost once there. I had intended to do a little book shopping, for us to find a park to sit in and eat our dinner but as it turned out we arrived with barely ten minutes to spare before it started! We ended up wandering around the town for at least an hour and a half and Nem resorted to eating his dinner while we walked. We were both very tired by this point but it soon got better once we had a drink and were seated waiting for the event to start.

As we were seeing her on the actual release day of Record of a Spaceborn Few I sent my pre-ordered copy to the shop so I wouldn’t miss out on getting it signed. I also brought A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and the ARC of Spaceborn Few that I won a month or so ago. I’m so glad I brought the ARC as when packing I was debating between that or Closed and Common Orbit. I couldn’t fit both in my hand luggage and have space to bring back my pre-order! In the end I made the right choice as the ARC is the first I’ve ever had and now it’s even more special because its dedicated and signed.

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Before the signing there was a talk which was really interesting, especially hearing about her love of science and how she tries to stick to reality concerning it as much as possible. She also explained how many of the alien species began by her picking traits she loves in nature and building a social structure around them. Nem was impressed by how much non-fiction she reads as he also tends to gravitate to that genre as opposed to fiction. Space is not something I know very much about so I really enjoyed listening to her talk about it, her love of all things to do with it really shone through. Many of the best questions came from the crowd though I was too shy to ask her about her newly announced Tor novellas.

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As there were so many of us, they staggered the signing but it didn’t take long until it was our turn. by that point I had found my voice and I prattled on about how soothing and comforting I find her books. I likened them to literary blankets which she really loved. As with most signings it was over quickly but still amazing. She was so sweet and pardon the pun, down to earth.

Afterwards Nem found a quicker route to the train station and luckily one was heading back to Edinburgh not long after we arrived. Once on it I could finally eat my dinner! Pasta is not great to be consumed while walking so it had been in my bag the whole event! Needless to say I was starving by this point but it was a nice end to the day at least, munching and staring out the train window.

The Wild: Edinburgh writing holiday

Me and Nem are recently back from our first writing holiday! It was a great success as we wrote 20,393 words of our story The Wild and explored nine cemeteries and graveyards combined for inspiration along with much of the city. Although The Wild isn’t set in Edinburgh it is heavily inspired by the city and it was wonderful to be able to add in elements of it’s history and streets while being there. I’ll write more about The Wild once the first draft is finished but for now have some photos from our trip.

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Favourite books of the year part 01

So, unsurprisingly, I’m a little late with this as it’s just past the middle of the year BUT I thought I would try splitting my favourite books of the year into two halves for a change.  At first I thought it would make it easier for me as I’m always rushing to write reviews over Yule, but as I’ll be writing perhaps double the amount of reviews its unlikely to work out that way. Never mind though, I’m committed to trialling it! At least it’ll mean I can talk about more books instead of having to narrow it down so much like last year.

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The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anne-Marie Crowhurst

This book follows the first 19 years of Ursula Flight’s life as she struggles to correlate her intelligent and feisty personality with what society expects of her. Despite the slow pace, I was pulled into the era by the use of language and writing style, along with the clever use of letters, lists and scripts throughout. I really enjoyed that aspect as I had not been expecting it and haven’t read anything with that sort of format before. Ursula’s humour and wit shone through! Even when faced with tragedy, she managed to find some aspect to look upon with mirth. She was so likeable and sweet too that by the end of the book I was incredibly fond of her. My only complaint is that certain sections seemed too long and others too rushed but overall I adored it.

Her Body And Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

This short story collection took me by surprise, thrilling me with the dark tales that were still in my thoughts long after I finished the book. While not every story was perfect, as a whole they were modern faerie tales, thoughtful and cautionary. Each one focused on women, their sexualities, their trials in society and the expectations placed upon them. The writing was wonderful, so many sentences struck a chord with me and much like Angela Carter’s work, I feel Machado’s will be talked about for years to come.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

After reading Rebecca last year and adoring it, I’ve been on a bit of a Du Maurier binge this year! While loving all of the ones I’ve read so far, this one is the only that compares to Rebecca in sheer brilliance in terms of tension and writing. The first chapter alone was absolutely stunning for its metaphors and foreshadowing. Du Maurier was the master of slow building tension, the uncomfortable feeling growing almost without me noticing until I was as tangled between the half truths and lies as much as Philip as he tries to uncover Rachel’s true intentions. The last couple of sentences left me stunned, mumbling ‘fuck’ to myself as they were so full of meaning and I immediately went and read that first chapter again! That rarely happens! I will say this for Du Maurier too, she knew how to write an ending!

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

I’ve been waiting so long for this book and it did not disappoint! Uprooted is one of my favourite books and this sister book stands beside it perfectly, combining everything I love, folk lore, history and faerie tales. If I could read books like this all year long I would be a very happy lady! I’d previously read the short story that spawned this novel in the anthology The Starlit Wood and perhaps due to this, and the preconceived perception of where the story would go, I was so pleasantly delighted by the twists the plot took. I was never quite able to guess what was going to happen next. I adored the theme of winter that ran through, from the Staryks ice realm to the heavy sense of loss and hardship that was part of each storyline. It was incredibly vivid, weaving the setting with Polish and Jewish traditions and folklore. Instead of one lady to love like in Uprooted, in this Novik has created three, all incredibly strong ladies at that. Miryem and Irina are the focus of the plot but Wanda still shines despite this. I find it hard to pick a favourite as they are all determined and wonderful in there own right. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes that Novik writes another faerie tale retelling at some point because I need more!

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower

This one is very similar to Ursula Flight in regards to the immersive tone though this doesn’t have as much humour. In it’s place is the hint of the fantastical, always teasingly just out of reach as it weaves a tale of two people, Mr Hancock and Angelica Neal, that are brought together by a mermaid. Whether mermaids truly exist or if it’s all false isn’t explored until the end so don’t be mistaken and expect them to be the main focus in that regard. At its heart it’s about unlikely characters learning to bear with each other as they struggle with the paths set before them and ultimately realising that it might not be too late to change. Despite its length I was pulled into Georgian London, adoring the slow pace and all the glittering details, especially the scenes within the brothels!

So there you have it, five books that delighted me and have stayed in my mind this first half of the year. I’ll be posting Part 02 at the usual time over Yule!