Happy new year all! We’re only a few days into 2019, but I’m already feeling hopeful and excited for what this new year could bring. But before I set some goals for this year, I want to wrap up 2018 and look at the books I read in December.
I managed to read 10 books in December, which was a good way to end the year. A lot of these were shorter manga volumes, but that was to compensate for the mammoth beast that was Kingdom of Ash. (Yes, I read it in the end, no it wasn’t that great.)
Blue Exorcist vol 14 // 4 stars // There was such a big betrayal in this volume that I wasn’t expecting and it completely changed the tone of the book! What a twist. This was an excellent end to the Illuminati story arc and I’m really keen to see where the plot goes next.
Wild Embers // 4 stars // This collection started out mediocre, but it blossomed into something wonderful. The initial poems are almost a warm up before Nikita Gill roars to live. She’s both gentle, encouraging us to love ourselves, and furiously feminist, empowering women to set themselves free and never limit their potential for the sake of anyone else. Some of the greatest poems in this collection are the fairy tale and mythological retellings, where the women become independent of the men in their stories, and grow into warriors, queens, and scholars. The main message of this collection is to kindle the fire inside of you and become the comet you were meant to be, and it certainly inspired me to try and burn brighter.
Love, and you // 3 stars // I’ve been meaning to read this since last year so I’m really pleased I finally got round to it. The majority of this collection was in free verse, which I don’t mind too much, but I do tend to find (personally) that poetry has a bigger impact when it’s more structured. This was the case here, as some of the structured poems spoke to me much more. Having said that, I thought the themes of striving for self-confidence and learning to love yourself were discussed very well and with the understanding of someone who’s dealt with these issues. It’s clear from her poems that Gretchen Gomez is a big advocate of relationship equality, and consent. She speaks from her own experiences and crafts some important messages.
Kingdom of Ash // 3 stars // I deliberated for a while over whether to actually read this or not, but my decision was eventually made for me by my mum, who checked it out of our library. And it was…not great. The narrative was pretty poorly written to me, and the whole plot felt drawn out. (The book could have been at least 200 pages shorter and it would have tightened the plot.) There was also the usual aggressive heteronormativity being pushed on us, with every single character being coupled off into a straight relationship (yay, diversity). Plus, the fight scenes just felt too overdone. SJM must have thought ‘right, this is the final book, everything needs to be as d r a m a t i c as possible’, and then she just went for it. But despite her attempts to make every scene super-over-9000-powered, some fell flat. The final battle between Aelin and Erawan felt like a cop-out after such a build up. But, having said that, there were some chapters I did enjoy. Not many, but a few.
Devoted // 4 stars // Jennifer Mathieu knocks it out the ball park again with another feminist triumph. Rachel grows up as part of a born again Evangelical Christian sect, but begins to question the oppressive elements of her religion. The narrative is emotional, insightful, and sensitive in its discussion of radical religion. Rachel is easy to warm to and sympathise with. She’s gentle and kind, but has formidable inner courage that I really liked. After having been told what to do and how to act her whole life, it was wonderful to see her take charge of her own destiny.
Heartstopper // 5 stars // Hi, my name’s Kate, I read this volume whole in an hour and I’m now obsessed with it. Heartstopper is everything I was hoping for and more. It’s about two teens at an all-boys grammar school who become good friends after they’re put together in form classes. They begin to spend all their time together and start to realise they may have romantic feelings for each other. Honestly, this volume emotionally destroyed me in the best possible way and I can’t wait to continue reading the story online.
Giant Days vol 1 // 4 stars // I read the Giant Days YA adaption in autumn, and it was good, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. BUT, I found that I enjoyed this much more. The art work is vibrantly coloured and drawn in a way that’s designed to make you laugh. Plus, the background settings are so well-drawn that I recognised some of the streets in Sheffield (where it’s set), which I really liked. I also felt the personalities of the three main characters came alive far more in this volume than they did in the book. I know the book covers more than one volume so I know more of the story already, but the graphic novel goes into a lot more detail, making me think I should have perhaps read this first. But, what’s done is done, and I had a great time reading this regardless.
No.6 volumes 6-9 // 4 and 5 stars // I’ve been reading this series on and off for a while and I finally finished it. It was exciting, dramatic, and heart-stopping, and I fell in love with the two main characters throughout their journey. Nezumi and Shion are so good together, and I’d happily read about 50 volumes of their adventures. I wasn’t 100% happy with the final ending, but I was satisfied enough to call this one of my favourite manga series.
So I managed to read everything on my TBR for this month minus Courting Darkness (I started The Girl King in December, so I’m counting it), and I read a few extras that I wasn’t expecting to get to. Not a bad way to end the year.
In December I took part in blogmas, so I was posting A LOT during the month. A few of my favourites were the quiz I created to help you decide which book to read over Christmas and my round up looking back at whether or not I achieved my goals for 2018.
December was a pretty wonderful month for me:
- I went to Germany for Christmas to stay with family and had an amazing time. My family live in Bavaria and it’s honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I’m going to do a full post on this, but we visited, Middlewald and walked through the mountains, went to Garmish (where they hold an annual ski jumping contest on New Year’s Day) and Murnau where the shops and streets are just lovely.
- While in Germany, I got to meet both my baby (second) cousins for the first time and they’re adorable. One is 9 months old and the other four months, and it was lovely to play with them
- I also got to eat PRETZELS for the first time in ages and they did not disappoint. (If you follow my on Instagram, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with pretzels.)
- I bought myself the German version of This Savage Song while I was over there and I ordered the German editions of ADSOM, but they didn’t arrive in time because of new year, so my aunt is posting them to me.
- I celebrated new year standing at the top of a Bavarian forest watching the fireworks go off in the town below, and it was a little bit magical?
- I achieved my Goodreads goal of reading 80 books on Christmas eve, which was a whole week earlier than in 2017!
2018 round up
(This section of the post contains TWs for anxiety and suicide.)
2018 was a great year for me in some respects and not so great in others. I began to thrive in my job and felt like I was successfully completing new projects, while enjoying my work. I reached that point where everything clicks into place and you suddenly understand the company’s different products, markets, and aims. It was a nice feeling.
But around February time I also experienced a bad bout of anxiety that kind of threw me. I’d never experienced anxiety before so I was completely unused to the crushing pain in my chest and the feeling of being overwhelmed. I’m still not entirely sure what brought it on, but I think it may have been experiencing a traumatic event a few weeks previously, when the train I was commuting home on hit someone and they died.
I’m still not sure if that was the cause or just a correlation, but thankfully those feelings of anxiety began to abate within a month or so. I still have occasional days where I just feel slightly anxious for no reason, but it’s never been as bad as then, and I know how to deal with it much better now.
I also feel much more positive and upbeat going into 2019, especially after having such a lovely Christmas, and I want to aim high this year and build on some of the things I achieved last year, such as becoming an ambassador for the BBC Young Writer’s Award. I was thrilled to accept this offer, and even happier to be asked to return as an ambassador this year, so you’ll be seeing more posts from me about the BBC YWA in 2019.
I also grew my social media channels and my blog last year, and managed to hit 900 followers by the end of the year (which I was ecstatic about). I’m now heading towards 1000, and I’m excited to see what this year brings. I also feel like I improved my general blog content last year and although I still didn’t review quite as many books as I’d have liked, I definitely reviewed more than the previous year. My bookstagram was something else that I was particularly pleased with last year, as I feel like I finally found my style and improved my theme. (Although the algorithm is constantly working against us all.)
2018 was also the first time I’d ever organised and hosted my own readathon over Easter, and I enjoyed it so much that I hosted another one after YALC, to try and get through those reply-acquired ARCs. I’m hoping to do the same two readathons this year, so let me know if you’d be interested in joining in.
Last year was also the year when I really started getting invited to publishers’ blogging events. I think I went to four in total, and I had a blast at all of them. I went to YALC (of course) during the summer and made lots of new friends throughout the year who’ve become steadfast best friends. A group of bloggers, including myself, based in the West Midlands also began organising meet ups in Birmingham, Leicester, and Nottingham, and I organised one later in the year. Our usual agenda consists of book shopping and getting lunch, and it’s always incredibly fun to meet up with other like-minded people and spend a day talking about books.
I was lucky enough to get to travel quite a bit last year, and I visited Croatia, France, and Germany. During my trip to France, I went to Paris for the first time and visited somewhere I’d wanted to go for years – Shakespeare and Co. It was as wonderful as everyone says, with its wooden staircases and shelves upon shelves of old and new books in every genre. My trip to Croatia was also my first holiday with my boyfriend, which was so much fun. He loves the cold weather, so he was very happy when it snowed, but I love the warmth, so we’ve agreed that our next holiday will be somewhere hot.
2018 was also a year of personal exploration for me, as I’d known for a while that I was attracted to women, as well as men, but not in the same way, and I finally found a name for it: biromantic. I’ve always felt like I ‘wasn’t fully straight’, but last year was the year when I really considered these feelings, and now I feel better able to explain it: I feel occasional romantic, but not sexual, attraction to women, and occasional romantic and sexual attraction to men. I’d say this makes me demi, because I’d only ever be comfortable doing the doodely with someone I’d known for a long time. I still feel like a bit of an impostor if I call myself queer, especially because I’m in a relationship with a man and there are other people who seem ‘more queer’ than me (if that makes sense?), but this is something I’m going to work on in 2019.
So 2018 was a year with some lows, but also some epic highs. I’m incredibly thankful for all the friends and family I got to spend time with last year, and for all the fun things I got to do. I want to say a huge thank you to you for reading my blog and supporting me in me as I aim to take over the world. Just kidding. But seriously, thank you for reading, liking, and commenting on my blog posts in 2018, it means more than I can say. Here’s to another wonderful year; hopefully we can make it even better than the last.
What were some of your highlights in 2018? Did you read any books that will stay with you for years, or go anywhere that had a big impact on you?