2017 Literary Goals

2016 has been a trying year. Much has happened in my personal life (and in the wider world) and sadly the majority of it has been bad. It’s hard to carry on with the things you love when you can think of nothing other than the bad stuff going on (or it’s hard for me anyway). Unfortunately I didn’t read much in 2016 and, even worse, I didn’t track any of my reading so I don’t really know what I did and whether I read what I wanted to. 2017, hopefully, will be different. And so, with this in mind, I made some goals for the coming year. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with them! Here’s to next year, hopefully it’s better than last year.

Goal #1 – Listen to at least 6 audio books. 

I’ve had an audible account for a while now and I’m racking up the audio books, but I haven’t actually listened to any for a while. I used to listen to them at the gym but then I discovered some amazing podcasts and they pretty much took over my life. I’d like to get back into listening to audio books, and hopefully one every two months will be a more than achievable goal.

Goal #2 – Keep up with reviews.

Reviews aren’t just fun for me, they’re actually pretty helpful. I like to read but unless I become obsessed with a book it can be hard for me to remember everything that happens and what I like and dislike. If I write it all down in a review I can look back on it in the future and know what I did and did not enjoy. I also know that reading reviews can be helpful for others when they’re deciding whether to pick up a book and I love being able to guide people into finding books they love. Hopefully I’ll be doing far more reviews this coming year so watch out for them!

Goal #3 – Start a spreadsheet to track my reading and read a wider variety.

Like I said before, I didn’t track my reading at all this past year and so I really have no idea what I read. In 2017 I may go a tiiiiiny bit overboard in the opposite direction – I’ve created a huge spreadsheet to document my reading. It has around 26 columns from title, author and date published all the way through to various forms of representation. I’m tracking a lot. It may end up being too much, and maybe half my columns will lie unused for most of the year, but I think it’s important to me to try and get all of this information down. It also ties in to the goal of wider reading. I want to read a wider variety of authors and characters (not just straight white teens written by straight white adults), I want to read more genres and get out of my comfort zone, and I really want to read more non fiction. Hopefully by charting all of this information I can really see whether I’m being more diverse and, if not, I can change things up so that I am.

Goal #4 – Participate in the POPSUGAR 2017 Reading Challenge AND the Book Riot 2017 Read Harder Challenge. 

I’ve never really done a reading challenge like this before, but I figure it may help me expand my reading a bit (and so ties in nicely with my previous goal). I probably won’t be able to read a separate book for each part of each challenge, but hopefully I will for most of them! I’m aiming to complete the Book Riot challenge fully, and complete the main section of the POPSUGAR one. I may not get onto the “Advanced” section for POPSUGAR but here’s hoping! If you guys are interested in these challenges you can find the Book Riot challenge here and the POPSUGAR challenge here.

Goal #5 – Read (at some point this year) THESE specific books.

I usually don’t make lists of books I “HAVE” to read within a certain month/year because it puts pressure on to just “get it done” and then I might not enjoy them as much as I would usually. There are certain books I really want to read this year so I really hope I’ll find time for them at some point in 2017. They are:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – yes I still haven’t read it (not my fault, my copy was delivered to my parents home not my flat and this is the first time I’ve been back to my family home this year) but I need to. I. Need. To.

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman – I started this book a while back but I never finished it and now I’ve forgotten most of it. Hopefully at some point this year I can restart it and actually finish it this time!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – Jodi came to do a talk about this book in Edinburgh and my flatmate and I went along. It was brilliant! She had great insight and her talk was beautiful. I can’t wait to get the chance to read this one.

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser // Bad Food Britain by Joanna Blythman // The Shape We’re In by Sarah Boseley – these all fit under the same category really, but they’re all factual books about the food industry that I’m really interested to read and see how accurate and unbiased they are. I haven’t really read much about the food/diet industry but it’s a field that does interest me so hopefully I’ll get my teeth into these three this year.

Do you guys have any reading goals for 2017? Mine aren’t very specific (apart from the last one) but hopefully I’ll get back into reading for pleasure and interest this year and it’ll be a great year! Here’s hoping, eh?

 

 

 

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Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I went to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (known forevermore as MP because who has time to write out huge titles?) on Friday but only just got around to doing a review – hopefully my memory has survived! Anyway, this review has a bit of a disclaimer at the start. I have read the book, although admittedly only the first in the series. Yes, the film is a bit different to the book. HOWEVER, this review isn’t about the book, and it isn’t a list of similarities and differences (I can do both of those things in separate posts if people are interested). When I go to see a film, I watch it FOR THE FILM. Not so I can sit there with a checklist noting down every tiny deviation from the book it was based on. Books and films are different mediums, and they require different things. In my opinion anyway, there are very, very, VERY few books that can be turned into successful, ENJOYABLE films simply by getting actors to recite all the words in the book. They are different art forms and I like to treat them as such. Obviously everyone has their own opinions on the topic and no one opinion is the “right one”, we’re all just different and have different views on the subject. Yay diverse thinking! But when I went to see this film, I put my liking of the book to one side and just concentrated on the film as a film. The people who work on films work just as hard as writers to create their chosen piece of art, and I think they deserve from me, an avid consumer, at least the courtesy to watch their film for what it is and not just write it off because it isn’t a carbon copy of the book.

So, the TL;DR for this disclaimer is this: Yay books! Yay films! However, there will be no books in this review. ONLY FILM. And with that, on with the show!

Continue reading “Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

I’m Free!!!

Well that’s it. Another term finished and another train to catch. I’m on my way home for Christmas and the train is pretty quiet, everyone wrapped up in their own lives. I’m carting a load of presents for my parents and dogs and I’m feeling pretty good. The train is warm, the weather is dreary and soon I’ll be seeing my family and friends once more. I’ve never been homesick, it’s only really when I’m on my way back that I remember that, actually, I do miss Staffordshire and the people I left behind.

 

My last exam was on Thursday so I’ve been celebrating this weekend. I think I’ve done pretty well in my Psych and Archaeology, and maybe not quite so well in the Linguistics but we shall see. There’s nothing I can do now, so why let it ruin my trip?

 

I’m very excited about my trip to London in January. My friends and I might be going to Harry Potter world, and we’re definitely going to see a West End show and visit the Globe Theatre. I want to see the Tower as well. It’ll be a brilliant trip, and we can’t wait.

 

I’m only spending 10 days at home this time, but I’ll get to see my family and friends, and my best friend is coming back to Edinburgh with me for New Years! Woo! I’ll be back in time for an escape themed party on New Year’s Eve, and it’ll be great fun. Hopefully the start of a great year.

 

What are your plans for Christmas? Are you visiting family, going home for the holidays, making your own Christmas? Whatever you do, I hope you have a lovely time!

A Weekend in Inverness – The Good and The Bad

Hey all!  I’m writing this the day after I came back from Inverness – and what a trip it was! I went with a friend and we took the bus all the way up (a pretty taxing journey but nice scenery). Firstly, Inverness is so pretty! Even when we got there in the dark and with heavy rain, it was so lovely (probably because of the pretty buildings and Christmas street lights). And the bridges were lit up!! I definitely wasn’t expecting that. I would’ve spent ages staring at them if I wasn’t drowning with every second we were outside. We got there in the evening on Friday, ate and went straight up to our room. We might’ve done some night time exploring if it weren’t for the rain but we were both pretty tired so we agreed to go up to our room and start the trip the following morning.

An aside here about the hotel we stayed in – it was called the Waverly Guest House and it’s on Union Street (which is about 5 minutes away from the bus station and literally across the street from the train station). We got a very good deal from Groupon (or Wowcher, or some other site like that but I’m pretty sure it’s Groupon) and paid £50 for 3 nights bed and breakfast. It was amazing value! The room was very nice (ours had 3 single beds, 2 chests of drawers, a table with a kettle and tea/coffee, and a TV). It wasn’t en suite but there were 2 bathrooms along our corridor (shared between 5 rooms I think?) and I never had to wait or anything. The rooms were clean and tidy. They weren’t cleaned during our stay (they probably would have been if we’d stayed longer I guess) but I’m not a messy person so it was fine. You got a hand towel and bath towel, and there’s also hand dryers in the bathrooms. Breakfast was a “continental” style – a selection of cereals, toast (white and brown, with individual butters and jams/marmalade), bananas and pain au chocolat. You could pay extra for a cooked breakfast,  but at £9 I thought that was pretty pricey (especially as I’m a pescetarian and my friend is a vegetarian). You could ask for eggs on toast or croissants and a few other things but again, they had an additional charge which I think was pretty steep (if you really wanted a croissant there’s a coop down the street where you could buy them for a lot cheaper). These additional items were the only thing I thought wasn’t value for money however – the rooms and the included breakfast were brilliant.

On Saturday we woke at 7 (breakfast was 7:30-9:30 Monday-Saturday and we wanted to get an early start). We had been planning on going to the Highland Park/zoo in Aviemore; however, due to some unfortunate circumstances my friend decided to leave that day after breakfast. This unexpectedly made my trip into a solo adventure (my first solo holiday, exciting!). On the Saturday it drizzled pretty continuously throughout the morning, although it did pick up in the afternoon (I’d advise you to take scarves, hats, gloves and waterproof jackets if you visit Inverness in the winter). Because of the weather and the scarce buses available (and the person who I have the zoo pass with no longer being here) I decided not to go Aviemore and instead explored Inverness itself. I went to the shopping centre (thrilling I know), walked up to the castle (now the Sheriff’s Courts) and wandered around the Museum. I’d highly recommend the kinetic theatre show in the museum (upstairs, in the art gallery bit). It was beautiful! I have some photos but in order to really understand how lovely it was you need to watch it complete with the music.

Once I’d spent a few happy hours in the museum (it’s quite small but there’s quite a lot crammed in), I wandered along the river and explored the Old Town a bit. The Victorian Market building (just opposite the train station) is very nice. I went out for dinner and then retreated to my room kinda early to plan where I was going to go the next day.

On Sunday, I originally wanted to go to the Ship Space – a museum with scale replicas of the Titanic, submarines, lifeboats etc. that you can actually go on! I had breakfast, snaffled some bananas and a pain au chocolat so I wouldn’t have to buy lunch (such a rebel, me) and set off. There were blue skies! The first of the trip! Woo! I had taken a photo of the map to the Ship Space on my phone and so set off, determined and enthusiastic. After wandering for half an hour and doubling back on myself several times (and stopping suddenly and squinting at my phone a LOT), my enthusiasm was waning. I asked three people where I could find “the Ship Space”, “the ship museum”, “the titanic museum”, and “the place with the titanic replica. There’s a bridge near it” all to no avail. So in the end, I packed away my directions, gave up on outside help, picked a direction and started walking. I found some lovely buildings! I never did get to the Ship Space though…maybe next time.

In the end, Sunday was spent wandering aimlessly, admiring the pretty houses and generally getting myself lost and found again. Apart from a heavy rainstorm in the middle of the day, it stayed pretty dry, albeit cold. The weekend overall was uneventful, a nice way to relax and unwind before exams start.

Relaxation ended on Monday, when I had to get home. Originally supposed to be getting the bus home with my friend, I had to get the train back instead. Bought my ticket on Saturday, fine. Picked it up on Sunday, all good. Went to station on Monday…cancelled. Bummer. After finally tracking down a member of staff and asking what I was supposed to do, I was directed onto a bus. I had to get the bus to Perth which was an ordeal in itself. The bus smelled strongly of mould, the woman sitting next to me fell asleep on my arm and it was looooooong. Again, lots of nice scenery though. And there was a cute dog in the aisle! Yay for the small things. At Perth train station we were put onto a train to Edinburgh and finally home was in sight. I have to say, the train journey was lovely – I spent most of it staring out of the window in glee. Stunning countryside.

And then I was finally home! Taking two and a half hours longer than it was supposed to and leaving me completely shattered, but I was home. All in all, I had an amazing time in Inverness (and I took lots of photos, which I will put into a separate post). Would I go there again in winter? Hell no. Would I go there again in summer? ABSOLUTELY YES!! In fact, I think I will go back in summer 2016 (just during the week and hopefully without all the dodgy weather). I love Inverness and would highly recommend it to anyone who fancies a short break in the Capital of the Highlands.

Goals for my next trip to Inverness: going to the Highlands Park (I think there’s more buses during the week so fingers crossed); finding the Ship Space (second time lucky!); going to the Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns (a battlefield and Bronze Age tomb that’s a little way out from Inverness – I’d take a bus out and spend the day there if I went to Inverness during the week next time); doing an open top bus tour of the city (they don’t run in the winter and it wasn’t ideal weather for open top this time anyway).

Illness, Deadlines and Inverness!

Hey everyone. It’s been a busy, stressful few weeks, which hasn’t been helped by me falling ill a couple of weeks ago and feeling terrible for ages. At first it was just a cold which wouldn’t have affected me too badly (I get a lot of colds, so I’m pretty used to them by now), but then I developed a bad cough and sore throat, and a recurrent ear infection made an unwelcome visit and everything just went south. I’m feeling on the up now though (at least my cold is gone and I can semi hear again, even if my cough is still here) so hopefully things will just get better from here. At the very least, I should be back on full form by Christmas. Also, it’s December so I can officially say YAY CHRISTMAS IS COMING and none of you can hate me for it!

I also had coursework to complete for every subject (an essay for linguistics, a lit review for psychology and an essay AND a report for human skeleton). They were all due within weeks of each other, and me feeling lousy definitely did not speed up the writing process. BUT they’re all done now (at last, finally, hoorah) so now I can have a small break before my exams start. I’ve decided to celebrate by going to…

INVERNESS!!!

Inverness is a Highland-y place in Scotland (quite a bit further north than Ed). I’ve never been and I’m REALLY excited. I’m going with a friend of mine, we’re staying in a local B&B, and we plan to visit the zoo/Highland Park  near there that’s connected to Edinburgh zoo. The rest of the weekend we haven’t quite decided yet. We’re leaving today (Friday) and returning on Monday. I don’t yet know whether there is wifi where we’re staying, but if so you will hopefully get an update of each day (complete with PICTURES). Fingers crossed, eh?

Well anyway, I hope you’ve all had a better start to the winter than I have, and I hope you have a great weekend! Let me know if you plan on going anywhere fun this December. See you soon!

Bit of Light Reading…New Statesman?!

Hey all! How are you? Having a good year so far? Mine has been…busy. I’m now in my second year of university and enjoying the work a lot so far – even if there is more of it than there was last year! I’m still taking way way WAY too many books out of the library and I’m still renewing the uni library books I took out in October. I’ll get through them…

Recently a Linguistics assignment led me to look for articles on current affairs and this led me to what is now my go to website for light reading when I wake up in the morning – New Statesman. It’s the website for the magazine of the same name, and  is all about politics, culture, current affairs and so on. While I’ve always been relatively interested in these topics, I’ve never felt the urge to buy magazines like this one. I watch the news if it’s on. I have a BBC news app that I scroll through sometimes. I read the free newspaper on Edinburgh buses if there’s one left when I get on. But having spent a while trawling the internet in search of suitable articles, I came across this website and before I knew it I had spent half an hour flicking through it. It was far better than I suspected and, while I probably still wouldn’t buy the magazine, I highly recommend the website. There’s a ton of articles on all different subjects, all well written and the perfect mix between simplicity (nothing worse than not understanding anything that goes on) and information. There’s so much there! Give it a try. Or – if you already frequent websites such as these, what would you recommend to me?

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Spinach

Today I wanted to share a really simple recipe I tried out yesterday. It was REALLY good and didn’t take long at all. (Frying the gnocchi instead of boiling was an idea I had while reading this blog post on One Green Planet. My recipe is not exactly like this one, but it is where I got my inspiration so go check it out if you’re curious – their recipe is for mushrooms, asparagus and brussel sprouts whereas I just used what was in my fridge at the time).


Ingredients:

1 portion gnocchi

Pack of mushrooms

A few handfuls of spinach

2 cloves garlic (or however much you like)

A little oil for the pan (you can also use water or oil spray but the gnocchi may not get as crispy)

Cheese (optional)
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and, once it’s hot, add your gnocchi (make sure you keep them as separate as possible). Stir occasionally and cook until they are lovely and brown and crisp.

While the gnocchi is cooking, peel and crush your garlic and wash and chop your mushrooms. I used a whole pack of mushrooms because they were all I had (and I just love mushrooms) but if you want to add other veggies then adjust your quantities according to your preferences. At this point I also rinsed the spinach.

When the gnocchi is cooked, remove it from the pan and add the mushrooms and garlic instead. Cook them through and then remove from the pan also. Add your spinach to the pan and leave to wilt a little. Then add everything back into the pan, season (I just used black pepper and a tiny bit of salt but you do what herbs and seasoning you like best/have to hand), and plate up.

I grated some cheese on top but you can leave this out if you prefer. This dish is easily made vegan by leaving off the cheese (or using vegan cheese) and ensuring your gnocchi is vegan. You can add any vegetables you want to this, just make sure everything is cooked through before you serve.

And that’d it’s! I hope you enjoy this recipe, and let me know in the comments if you try it and what you think of it.