31 January 2017

Silver Linings - January


I was a little reluctant to write this post. It's something I've been planning on doing all through January and I've saved up little moments to include for the whole month, but it seems so trivial compared to the quite frankly horrifying things happening on the other side of the Atlantic, and of course around the world. But, maybe it's more important than ever now to hold on to the good things in life. Here are my January silver linings.

A beautiful sunrise. As you can see from the photo, the first day back at work after Christmas wasn't all bad. At least there was a pretty sky!

Dinner at Buca di Pizza. Paul's dad's birthday is in early January and we all got together for a birthday meal. The food here is so good, we were all spoilt for choice, and I definitely want to go back to try one of the other pizzas. In the end I went for the Hickory Pig - bbq pulled pork. Yum.

Taking on more responsibility at work. We've recently had a bit of a shuffle around at work as one of the girls is going on maternity leave soon, and I'm now responsible for a lot more of the recruitment. It's quite a lot more work but I like to be kept busy, and it's nice to know they thought I could handle it after only being there for 3 months.

First gym class of the year. I got right back into the swings of things at the gym... in the second week of January. The classes were all full in the first week, and I'm not just saying that, I swear. It felt good to get that first class of the year all done and dusted, even if my thighs were practically screaming the next day.

Seeing my best friend in her wedding dress. My oldest friend is getting married in a couple of months, and she invited me along to her dress fitting one Saturday this month, followed by tea and cake in a little cafe in Otley. I could so easily have cried when I saw the dress, but I held it together. Safe to say she is going to look like a princess and I can't wait for the big day. I don't think it will be so easy to hold back the tears then though!

Chatting with Dad. After the dress fitting I went to see my dad; he was moving house and I offered to help carry some things but we ended up just chatting all afternoon and it was the best. We need to do that more often, especially if there are more hot cross buns.

Fish and chips at the end of the runway on Grandma's birthday. We lost our lovely Grandma just before Christmas. We used to visit her every Sunday and we have done for years, and one of her favourite things to do was drive up to the runway lookout at the airport to watch the planes. So that's what we did on her birthday, January 15th. It was bittersweet, not to have her with us, but it was nice for us to be there on her birthday talking about our memories. I hope I will always remember the last time we took her, in summer when it was warm enough to get out of the car - she applauded every time one took off, making everyone around us smile. <3

An unexpected trip to London. My dad had some tickets to London that he couldn't use, so a couple of weekends ago me and Paul jumped on the train for a day trip. It was so nice to spend time together, and of course get our Shake Shack fix... We also stopped by the Platform 93/4 shop in King's Cross and I came home with baby Hedwig.

 



Speaking of Harry Potter... I have started my re-read for the 20th anniversary and it was long overdue. I'm so happy to be back at Hogwarts!

Tea at Wildwood in Ilkley. Good food and great company. I haven't been over to Ilkley in forever and it was nice to go somewhere different, and also to feel happy enough with my face/hair/everything to take my first selfie in months, if not years. A nice little confidence boost - although thank heavens for Instagram filters!


My favourite things this month:
The Moana and La La Land soundtracks
Lush Rose Jam shower gel
Lush Sleepy body lotion
Soap and Glory Hand Food handcream
M&S leggings

See you next month for more silver linings!
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27 January 2017

Books I really want to get to in 2017

According to Goodreads I currently have 35 unread books sitting on my shelf at home. Out of the 35 there are some that I'm more excited to read than others, including a few that I have been meaning to get to for years. Today I thought I'd make a list of the books I absolutely, definitely, 100% will read in 2017.


The Handmaid's Tale 

The Handmaid's Tale. A cautionary tale set in a dystopian society in the not so distant future, where women have been stripped of all their rights and the most fertile are forced to reproduce for wealthy families. This has been on my radar for the longest time, but given recent events across the pond it feels even more important to read it as soon as possible. Oxford Student says this should have been my first read of 2017 - I opted for something a little brighter, but I will definitely be reading this very soon.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell 

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. If you've been following the blog for a while you will have seen me mention this book before. It was recently adapted for a BBC television series - I didn't watch but it definitely brought the novel to my attention. It's a chunky book at over 1000 pages but I have been wanting to challenge myself to finish a really long book for a while - since this one involves magicians and history, I thought that I couldn't go too wrong!

 
The Many Selves of Katherine North
The Many Selves of Katherine North. This was only released last year but I was intrigued when I read the synopsis, and I'm hoping to get to it soon just for that reason. The main character Kit is a phenomenaut, which means that she has the ability to project her consciousness into the bodies of animals. Some books you see across nearly every book blog but I haven't seen that much about this one so far, though it has a 3.75 star rating on Goodreads and some good reviews. I'll report back!



Memoirs of a Geisha 


Memoirs of a Geisha. Now this has been on my list for yonks - back when I started using Goodreads in about 2011/2012 it was one of the first books I added to my TBR list and shamefully I have only just picked up a copy in January, using some of my Christmas book money. I'm so excited to read this! I love getting lost in a good historical fiction and as this is a time period and culture that I don't know much about I think it will be really interesting too.

The Comet Seekers 
 The Comet Seekers. Another one that was only released last year! The Comet Seekers has been described as One Day meets The Time Traveler's Wife - I think that would have convinced me enough on its own but the story sounds so lovely too. Like One Day we meet the two main characters only on one day of the year, when a comet crosses their skies. I'll definitely be reading this one soon.

Bonus book...

 
All Quiet on the Western Front


All Quiet on the Western Front. Unlike the books above, I don't yet own a copy of All Quiet on the Western Front, but it has been on my list for ages. I feel like I should read it in November when it will be particularly poignant, but so far November has passed by without me picking up a copy. 2017 will be the year!
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15 January 2017

Quiet #NonFictionNovember2016

We're just about halfway through January so obviously, I thought now would be a good time to sit down and write my review for Non-Fiction November, 2016.

This was the first time I have taken part in this reading challenge which is hosted by Olive and Gemma on Booktube to encourage people to read more nonfiction than they normally would - if you don't normally read nonfiction, try to pick up one book; if you normally read two, try to get to three, and so on.  I can't remember the last time I read any non-fiction before this so my aim was just to finish one title, and the book I chose was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

I am definitely an introvert so this book was such an interesting read for me. It talks about what is known as the Extrovert Ideal meaning that extroversion and the traits that come with it are often seen as more socially desirable than introversion and this affects the way many things are set up - most workplaces now are open plan to encourage collaboration for example, with few people having their own offices and cubicles. In classrooms too, children now often sit in school in groups rather than individually.  This isn't a bad thing but not necessarily the types of environments best suited to everyone.  The book goes into much more detail about this and the other ways that the Extrovert Ideal plays out in society but basically so much of it had me nodding along in agreement. Unfortunately I'm an introvert so I'm not very likely to start suggesting new office layouts to my manager!

I learned a lot through reading Quiet that was directly relevant to me. Probably the most interesting was learning about the different levels of stimulation that introverts and extroverts need and the importance of 'restorative niches' to introverts - that is, the time you take to yourself to recover after doing something such as going to a big party. The book talks about how this is actually a form of recovery, as for introverts continuous overstimulation can be very stressful and actually harmful to health and that's why we often plan more time in between social engagements. There were other parts too, but in general I felt like I finished with a lot of helpful insight.

There was a chapter I think everyone would find interesting - the author covers the history of scientific research into introversion, neurology as well as sociological and social psychological influences. There was even a chapter for parents of introverted children to help them understand how to bring out the best in them and I think the whole book would be really valuable reading for teachers, parents, people managers, and even friends of introverts.
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7 January 2017

Thoughts for 2017





If I had to pick a word to describe 2016, it would be progress.

I think progress can be hard to measure when you're living through it. There were times last year when I didn't think I was making any progress at all - moments of rock bottom confidence which caused me to spend lunchtimes in hiding and shed many, many tears. But as I've spent time reflecting, I've realised that many of the low points were confined to the early months and as the year went on, things got better. I still have some way to go before I feel 100%, but I'm feeling much more positive going into 2017 than I was this time last year.

2016 was the year that I finally found and settled into a permanent job. When I left university I was still in my part time job at the cinema and then I had two temporary jobs after deciding it was time to leave. Whilst I wasn't unhappy in my last job, there are obvious security issues that come with a temporary role and I'm so happy that I've found something permanent. There's something about it that feels much more grown up and stable. It's only been a couple of months, but I'm enjoying it so far!

Last year also saw me push myself out of my comfort zone and take some action towards feeling better about myself. I was offered a place on a 30 day exercise programme at my local gym, and although I was cautious at first, it was probably one of the best things I did in 2016. Going to classes meant I was held more accountable and probably did more exercise since September than I have done in whole years previously. Group exercise was scary at first and I still sometimes have to push past that to turn up to class, but I feel proud of myself for taking those steps towards my goals. More generally, I learned a lot this year about putting myself first and not worrying so much about what people think - being honest about how I'm feeling did cause a rift in one particular friendship, but the majority of people that I have been open with have been so supportive, and I'm going forward into 2017 with the knowledge that those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

I'm calling 2017 my investment year. I'm going to carry on investing my time at the gym towards a healthier and happier me - I've got a 12 month membership already paid for through employee benefits at work so there is no excuse, and I want my money's worth! I'm going to try and make it to at least three classes a week, and I'm hoping that this time next year I can write a post telling you that I feel the best I've ever felt.

My hope is that this will also mean I'm ready to get married. My self esteem issues have stood in the way, but I hope by investing time in exercising and looking after myself I will be able to kick this into touch. Paul and I will also be investing financially, with a set plan in place for how much we would like to set aside each month. Even if we don't get married for another couple of years, it will put my mind at ease knowing we are making preparations.

I'll also be investing more time and thought into self-care. Stress is never good but it has taken its toll on me in some dramatic ways over the past couple of years, and I've learned the importance of looking after yourself. Even just simple things like remembering to take my make up off after work, and take time to really do it slowly instead of scrubbing my face to death - I'll be trying to be as kind to myself, my mind and my body as I can be.



I hope anybody reading this will be safe, happy and healthy in 2017! x

Images from here and here.
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31 December 2016

2016 Reading Challenge and 2017 Reading Goals

For my Goodreads reading challenge this year I set myself a target of 30 books. Last year I had the same target but only just managed to scrape it, so I'm pleasantly surprised that this year I've been able to read 42 books! Here's everything I read this year in date order, with my star rating.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman - ★★★★★
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman - ★★★★
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman - ★★★★
The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith - ★★★★
Peter Pan by JM Barrie - ★★
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson - ★★★
The Ballroom by Anna Hope - ★★★★★

The BallroomThe Ballroom by Anna Hope
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful love story set against a fascinating historical backdrop, with a very vivid and atmospheric setting. Completely absorbing.


The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin - ★★★★
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit - ★★★★
The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen - ★★★
The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan - ★★★★★

The Last Days of SummerThe Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ticks all the boxes for a perfect thriller. Complex characters, atmospheric setting and a smart, tense narrative. I couldn't tear myself away from it especially towards the end.


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark - ★★
Little Tales of Misogyny by Patricia Highsmith - ★★★
Dreaming The Bear by Mimi Thebo - ★★★★
St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell - ★★★★
Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery - ★★★★
The Second Love of My Life by Victoria Walters - ★★★★
LaRose by Louise Erdrich - ★★★★★

LaRoseLaRose by Louise Erdrich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book so much. It was a really absorbing but delicate human story and I kind of feel like it sneaked up on me in the way that even though it was a simple plot, it develops into a deeply affecting story. I got so involved in the lives of the characters and really cared about what would happen to them. The story flows really nicely between past and present, offering an insight into the family histories and personal connections of the characters, which are interesting as well as moving. I appreciated the insight into Ojibwe traditions and history and I thought the concept was fascinating.

The main thing that struck me about this book was the writing. There are some beautiful descriptions, and I thought Louise Erdrich captured the humanity and experiences of her characters perfectly. I would go as far as to say her characters are some of the most authentically human I've ever read. LaRose is a powerful book, one to read slowly and savour, and its well worth the time.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh - ★★★★★
The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave - ★★★★
Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman - ★★★
The Midnight Watch by David Dyer - ★★
The Trap by Melanie Raabe - ★★★
The Ornatrix by Kate Howard - ★★
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - ★★★★★

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book in so many different ways - it feels like a long time since I have been so transported by a novel or become so involved with the characters and their lives but I have been so absorbed! A really wonderful book.


Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse - ★★★★
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents #1) by J.K. Rowling - ★★★★
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (Pottermore Presents #2) by J.K. Rowling - ★★★★
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Pottermore Presents #3) by J.K Rowling - ★★★★
Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter - ★★★
I See You by Clare Mackintosh - ★★★★★
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - ★★★★
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue - ★★★★
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper - ★★★
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson - ★★★★
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - ★★★★
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan - ★★★
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf - ★★★★
Room by Emma Donoghue - ★★★★
A Snow Garden and Other Stories by Rachel Joyce - ★★★
The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher -

Some reading stats for 2016:
12,240 total pages read
1 non fiction book
30 books by female authors / 12 by male authors

Looking back over everything I've read this year, I'm really pleased! I discovered Kate Atkinson whose books I've been meaning to read for years, and also Emma Donoghue who only came on to my radar after the release of Room - having read two of her novels this year I have definitely added her to my list of auto-buy authors and I plan to read more of her back catalogue.
A few of the books I've read have become firm favourites, especially Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. I'm so glad I finally read them and I'm actually quite glad I did so at an age where I could fully appreciate them. Also joining the list are The Ballroom by Anna Hope and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - both absolutely beautiful. My least favourite read of 2016 was Peter Pan - I know, I was surprised too! I thought it was absolutely horrible. You can read my full review here.

Reading Goals for 2017
One of my reading resolutions for 2016 was to read a popular trilogy that had passed me by. As I've mentioned, I read His Dark Materials and absolutely loved it, so I'm sticking with this idea for one of my 2017 goals. The trilogy I'd really like to get to this year is The Millennium Trilogy by Steig Larsson. I've heard good things!

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 2017, I'm also going to be doing a full HP re-read. I've purchased myself a brand new boxed set of the children's paperbacks and I can't wait to settle back into the wizarding world.

Last year I said I wanted to challenge myself to take on a really big book, with 1000+ pages. In particular I really wanted to read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but I didn't get around to it, so I'm taking this goal with me into 2017, and I will read it this year! I might even make it one of the first books I read as I think it will be perfect to chase away the January blues.

More generally, I'm going to set my Goodreads challenge goal slightly higher and aim for 35 books in 2017. Wish me luck!
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