Saturday, 25 January 2020

Bookish Gift Haul | Christmas 2019

Why are you making a post about Christmas gifts weeks after the big day, you ask? Why must you remind us of Christmas when it's January and everything's miserable again, you cry in despair! I can only say Oops for my level of procrastination. 

When it comes to gifts, I'm a super easy person to please. Just shove anything even slightly book related under my nose and I'm thrilled. My family and friends constantly ask me BUT ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE NOT BORED OF BOOK GIFTS? And I always remind them that I COULD NEVER GET BORED OF ANYTHING BOOK RELATED. So, on Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive some wonderful bookish gifts that I'm excited about. 

Let's start with the actual books I received and will most definitely be talking about on my blog in the not-so-distant future. First up is one of my most anticipated reads, Red, White and Royal Blue! My lovely friend Jasmine got me this because it was one of her favourite reads from 2019. Since I trust her bookish opinion very much (I don't think we've ever disagreed on a book), I'm excited and ready to utterly fall in love with this book! 

Next up is another book from Jasmine because she's the absolute Queen of book recommendations, and it is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I've been interested in reading this one for a while so I'm looking forward to diving in.

The third bookish gift is from my best friend and fellow blogger, Rachel, from Rachel's Really Random Reviews. She got me the beautiful art book for Spirited Away that I've been lusting over for a long time! Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore Studio Ghibli. Hayao Miyazaki is my favourite director of all time and his movies will always hold a special place in my heart.

Spirited Away was one my very first Ghibli movies, and I'm looking forward to reading all about it and crying over how gorgeous the art is. The pages above are some of my favourite animated scenery shots!

Let's move on to the section that absolutely no one is surprised to see. It wouldn't be a bookish gift haul without some Harry Potter presents! When my parents are stuck for ideas, they always revert to Harry Potter, and that's more than fine with me. And what's better than mugs and stationary?

They also got me some Hufflepuff PJs that came in this box, which I've now repurposed into a storage box because I try not to let things go to waste if I can help it! It's an excellent place to temporarily hide books I have no shelf space for.

Helping to continue my theme of showing my Hufflepuff pride, Rachel gave me this cap so I can represent my house whilst I'm out and about.

I can't not mention the gorgeous little Hogwarts statue that my parents got me from good old Waterstones. It looks so pretty on my shelf!

Next, we're moving on to the manga section! If you happened to read my wrap-up of 2019, you'll know that reading manga was a huge part of my year, and it's something I'm continuing in 2020. I was given issues 3 & 4 in my current favourite series, Bungo Stray Dogs. I cannot recommend this series enough. I also got lil figure of my fave character.

One of my most loved manga is Seraph of the End and I'm currently trying to collect the physical copies. For Christmas I was lucky enough to get the second issue in the series and a light novel.

my seraph funkos are my pride and joy
This last one is a little present I got for myself. I found this in the Oxfam store I volunteer at and immediately bought it. Howl's Moving Castle is one of my favourite stories, both the book and the Ghibli adaptation, so this one absolutely had to come home with me.

howl is the ultimate fictional boyfriend
Finally, here's a present that really isn't a book but is equally as important and is designed to look like a book so it still counts. A TEA BOOK. Two of my favourite things. I've been indulging in these glorious flavours since Christmas.

There they are, the wonderful bookish gifts I was lucky enough to receive this Christmas. I'm so excited to delve into the stories. Keep an eye out on my blog for my upcoming thoughts on them!

Did you get any bookish gifts this Christmas?

BONUS: I wasn't going to make it through this post without mentioning KPOP, so here we are. Shoutout to my parents and sister for supplying my with these glorious albums from some of my fave artists.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Looking Back on 2019

It’s that time again! My one blog post in which I pour out my heart and soul, sharing my woes and wonders of the past year. I think we can all agree that 2019 was…a lot. So let’s take a look back at what it did (or didn’t do, mostly) for me.

Last year kicked my ass in many ways (more on that later), which meant that once again, I didn’t have the level of motivation I wanted when it came to books. But considering I had a feeling at the start of 2019 that it was going to be a difficult year, I set myself achievable goals rather than trying to reach the level of reading I had a few years ago. I stopped pressuring myself to read The Newest Books Everyone’s Talking About, and decided to simply focus on what I wanted to pick up. Which meant that my year had quite a few rereads!

In terms of the goals I set for myself in last years post, I did quite well. I wanted to write more content that wasn’t just review after review after…you get the picture. Despite not being able to post much this year, a good portion of what I did post was original content. Though I still reviewed books I was passionate about sharing my opinion on, I let myself write the content I enjoyed. One of my favourite projects from last year was my Bookish Looks series, in which I attempted to recreate book character fashion using thrifted items. I had so much fun getting to mix two of my favourite hobbies. Though my stats were exceptionally low for my original posts compared to my reviews, they’re something I’m proud of because I was able to get creative and work on my own thing.

I also wanted to search for more blogs to love, which I did. I’ve been on top of my game when it comes to reading and commenting on blogs this year. I’m always looking for more content, so feel free to leave links to your favourite posts in the comments!

The biggest thing that made reading easier for me in 2019 was stepping away from my Norm. I discovered a couple of manga stores in my area this year that sell secondhand manga for low prices, so I was finally able to get my hands on some that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I took a step back from YA and allowed myself time to read those instead, and it was one of the best decisions I made this year. After having that little break, I've become motivated to read YA again.

hello to two of my fave manga boys
That’s mostly it for books this year. I did my own thing and even though I still didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to (yay to terrible mental health sucking away every ounce of motivation!), I’m still proud that I stuck to my goals. The only thing I’m really disappointed in is that I didn’t get to go to any book events this year.

  • Redesign this goddamn blog. The past year has been my absolute worst in terms of stats. It’s not entirely down to my design, but I’m willing to bet it plays a little part. My design is not mobile functional. Most people read blogs from their mobiles. You’re probably reading this on your phone right now and having to zoom in to actually see the text. The problem is that I’ve always designed my blog myself because I can’t afford to actually buy a nice, functioning one. I also can’t afford to switch my blog to Wordpress. I can’t design myself something that works for me whilst having a working mobile site on Blogger. My two options are to pay for one that suits me or learn more about coding and fix it myself. I’m completely broke, so guess which one I’m going with. Get ready for months of me crying in utter despair whilst I figure this one out.
  • Find friendly bloggers to chat to??? I’ve tried my best every year to try and get more into the blogging the community, but it never works out for me. It might be down to my crushingly awkward personality and my love for tweeting excitedly in all-caps (someone genuinely thought I was fighting with my best friend once when really we just communicate in Shout), but I never seem to find people I clique with. BLOGGERS, PLEASE BE MY FRIEND.  
  • Get back to BookTube. I’ve let my channel die a horrible, painful death over the past two years. My anxiety and complete lack of self-confidence have taken advantage of the crappy things that have happened in my personal life, and made it near impossible for me to get through filming a video.
  • Reread books I love. Yes, I’m making this an actual goal. Discovering new books is a beautiful experience, but there are so many books I’ve found myself wanting to dive back into over the past year rather than picking up a fresh one. When it comes to series, I have a habit of never reading them again once they’re finished, no matter how much I love them, so for 2020 I have a list of series I want to relive. 
  • Continue writing the blog posts I want to. Creating original content, mixing books with my other hobbies, WRITING LISTS – I want to do more of it in 2020, even if no one is reading it. This blog is for me before anyone else, and I really need to remember that fact over the coming year.
If you’re only interested in reading about my Bookish Breakdown of 2019, then you can probably leave this post here because I'm going to waffle on about everything else!

2019. Oh boy. If you read my post from last year, or you follow me on twitter where I tweet about my constant struggle with this beast, then you might know that I started suffering with major sleep problems towards the end of 2018. At the very start of 2019, I was officially diagnosed with good old Insomnia. YAY. To recap: I’m a 27-year-old who can’t spend the night away from home without it kickstarting a horribly vicious cycle of ABSOLUTELY NO SLEEP. It’s as delightful as it sounds. Basically, it started after an extremely anxious trip to London for a concert, and it all went downhill from there. This year, I thought that maybe tackling it head-on was the way to go. I booked another one-night trip away, thinking I could simply train my brain to get used to it again. I was so wrong. In January, I went to see one of my favourite bands. I was traveling to the location on the day of the concert, so I literally only had to be in a hotel for ONE NIGHT. Did that make things easier on my Anxiety Brain? Absolutely not. I didn’t sleep a wink the night before traveling, I somehow managed to sleep for two hours in the hotel with the use of a sleep aid, but then I got home. AND COULDN’T FALL ASLEEP FOR TWO DAYS. I was awake for about 60 hours and ended up in an emergency doctors appointment, crying my eyes out.

despite running on no sleep, my friend Jasmine was an absolute gem at keeping me from having a complete breakdown and taking me to some indie London bookshops
I’ve been working with my doctor on the issue ever since, and I’ve started the lengthy process towards getting therapy for both my sleep issues and my worsening anxiety in general. Throwing myself head-first into tackling things wasn’t a good idea. My doctor is helping me with Baby Steps to take instead, such as making sure I can travel home after A Thing, even if it means all night on a coach, just so my brain doesn’t get overwhelmed by the pressure I put on myself to be a Functioning Adult. Right now, I still panic the night before things to the point that I can’t sleep. It’s ruined days out and plans with friends. My brain wants me to be at home by certain times, otherwise it’ll throw my whole night off. It’s a mess. But I’m working towards fighting it.

Outside of my anxiety/insomnia cocktail, there have been things in my personal life over the year that have kept me away from my blog and the book community in general. This has been my quietest year on Book Twitter to date. My sister went through a really hard time in the summer that I won’t go into detail about, but it was a very difficult few months for my family. My dad also had some health problems that left us all super worried towards the end of the year, hence the complete disappearance of posts. Things aren't better, but they’re being worked on, so fingers crossed we have a better time of it in 2020!

The year wasn’t a total wipe out – incredible! I worked towards some of my own personal goals. For the past five or so years, I’ve made a resolution to start learning a language. I always fail after about two weeks. But in 2019, I actually stuck with it. Thanks to the slightly terrifying Duolingo owl, I’ve been learning something new every day. I’m determined to keep hold of my streak throughout 2020.

Another thing I wanted to do was get back to drawing, a hobby I’ve jumped in and out of since high school. This year, I took part in Inktober and it changed everything. I’ve been following YouTube tutorials ever since and I’m hoping I’ll actually learn something this time!

i spent the majority of october drawing my fave characters
I donated my hair again! After last years failed charity campaign, where I fell painfully short of my goal, I decided not to try and raise money this time around. But I donated another 12 inches of hair to the Little Princess Trust, and I couldn't be happier. 

So, that was my year in a 1500 word nutshell. Nothing too exciting, filled with problems, but I got through it, and that alone is something to be proud of.

What has 2019 brought for you? Please let me know!

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

BLOG TOUR: Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson

Today I’m excited to be taking part in the blog tour for Paper Avalanche, the latest novel by one of my favourite UKYA authors, Lisa Williamson! For my stop on the tour, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on all three of these wonderful stories. Let’s jump right in with the newest.

Paper Avalanche

Pages: 384 | Publisher: David Fickling Books | Buy The Book: Waterstones

I’m always looking for YA that tackles topics I don’t often see in fiction, so Paper Avalanche immediately called out to me. Ro Snow wants to be invisible to the world, resigning herself to the fact that she can’t have a normal life. She won’t allow anyone to get close to her for fear they’ll discover the truth about her mum and the home they live in. Bonnie is a compulsive hoarder, and Ro does everything she can to keep social services off their back. But then she meets Tanvi, and her whole world changes. 

There’s nothing I love more than a story that focuses on the importance of friendship. The friends we make throughout our lives and the experiences we share with them all play a part in shaping who we are. Tanvi doesn’t force Ro to change anything about her life. She simply helps her to see what she should be doing, as a teenager making her way through high school. She’s been caring for her mum for so long that she’s become more like the parent than the child. 

  • Tanvi. Ro’s growing friendship with Tanvi is the most heart-warming part of this story. They’ve led completely different lives and have such contrasting personalities, yet they still manage to share a bond. 
  • Eye-opening. Hoarding is a word that people throw around without understanding what it’s truly like to experience. What I loved about this story is that instead of focusing on the person who hoards, it shows us what it’s like to be a person who needs to live alongside it. Ro doesn’t have anywhere else she can call home, and she feels responsible for looking after her mum. There are so many young people who might not have the same home environment as Ro, but are in a situation where they feel trapped by their own home life. This story gives us a glimpse into that world. 
  • Ro Snow. Everything about her growth throughout the book is inspiring to read. 
  • Fast paced. Paper Avalanche manages to cover so much without feeling rushed. We get a good feel for what Ro’s life is like day-to-day whilst seeing how she deals with things long-term. 

Stories like this are an important tool for shedding light on things we don’t often understand. Ro might be fictional, but young people like her deserve to know that there are people to support them and that their voices should always be heard.  

The Art of Being Normal

This book was love at first blurb for me. From the moment I heard about it, I was desperate to get my hands on it. It follows David Piper, a character who was born a boy, but wants to be a girl, and Leo Denton, a new boy at school who’d rather blend into the background. Filled with lively and witty characters, and packed full of raw emotion, it’s a story that made me both laugh and cry. It became an instant favourite. 

  • This book taught me so much. It’s a perfect example of why we need diverse stories in YA to openly discuss important topics. 
  • Reminds people that they are not alone. Whilst every person has their own induvial experiences, there will be people out there who connect with the emotions of the characters in this story. 
  • It’s honest. School can already be difficult for so many young people, let alone someone who is going through something as personal as David’s journey. This book doesn’t shy away from showing the harm bullies and ignorance can do. 
  • Friendships and family. The very heart of this story. We’re shown how important it is to have people there for us, and to allow people to support us when we need it.

My full review for this story was posted back in 2015, if you’d like to read more!

All About Mia

Mia is the middle child. Her older sister, Grace, is as clever as they come and everyone adores her. Her younger sister, Audrey, is destined for Olympic success. Mia feels like an afterthought. With no idea what her ‘thing’ is in life, she struggles to find her place after Grace returns home from her gap year. 

Mia is the exact type of character I love. She’s someone who has a true learning curve throughout the story, making plenty of mistakes and hurting people along the way, but learning in the process. Characters like Mia always feel authentic and true to reality. There are so many students of her age who have no idea what their next step is in life, and everyone copes with it differently. But we can find our place in the end, no matter how pointless it can seem. 

  • The characters. Whilst Mia herself is a wonderful main character, her family and friends are just as interesting. Seeing their relationships shift over the course of the story had me hooked. 
  • Relatable. Though my life is very different from the one Mia leads, her feelings towards her future are ones that myself and so many others are familiar with. 
  • It’s all about the journey. Mia isn’t always a likeable character. She makes bad choices, she can be selfish, and she doesn’t seem to care. But the further we delve into her story, the more we understand why she acts the way she does. Learning slowly along the way makes for a better pay off at the end.

I’m so grateful I’ve been able to read these three stories. Lisa’s characters always stay with me long after I’ve closed the books. I look forward to her future projects! 

Be sure to check out the fantastic blogs taking part in the rest of the tour:

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