My 2017 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #2

Greetings folks! Today I bring you the second of my quarterly check-ins on my 2017 Resolutions. As you may, or may not (I often don’t!), remember, I set some resolutions or goals for this year. I do it every year and every year, without fail, I forget my goals unless I keep them on a handily placed sheet of paper or, as is this year’s case, in the front of my bullet journal. I’m also doing check-ins every so often to keep myself accountable – so you can take a peek at my first quarterly check-in, and then let us now have a look at my progress in the months of April, May, and June, shall we?

READING, BLOGGING & WATCHING GOALS

 

1. Read at least 52 books in 2017

Verdict: On Track
At the time of writing this post, I’m sitting pretty at 46 books which Goodreads informs me is 20 books ahead of schedule. Let us take a moment to bask once more in the glow of that meaningless and arbitrary accolade, shall we? Back in Quarterly Check-in #1 I was wondering whether to up my Goodreads goal to 75 books but I’ve decided now not to do that. Whilst I’m sure it’s an achievable number, I want to concentrate on reading some longer books over the summer and I don’t want to constantly be thinking in the back of my head about my Goodreads goal – so at 52 books it shall stay!

2. Write more reviews

Verdict: Failing
Let me explain something – if I dislike a book, I find it infinitely easier to write a review explaining why me and the book didn’t get along very well. A recent case in point is Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. When it comes to a book I liked, if I loved it I will be high and delirious on the buzz of all the feelings and I will then happily skip onto reading my next book, forgetting to write a review. Skip forward a few weeks and then I have a moment of realisation that I never did write that gushing review about that book I loved. At that point I start to feel that perhaps too much time has passed for me to properly convey my adoration so the review remains unwritten. This is a silly cycle to get trapped into and I must do better.

3. Blog more & comment more

Verdict:  On Track(ish)
For a while back there I was on something of a roll with posting to a vaguely regular schedule. And I wouldn’t say I’m failing this goal because I do still post a decent enough amount of things every week – it’s just that in recent days and weeks I’m feeling a bit disheartened about the quality of my blog. Don’t get me wrong, I love participating in weekly memes and all that jazz but I do find myself settling on doing posts like this because they’re “easy posts” for me to write and don’t require huge amounts of thought on my part. I’d like to have more discussion posts and reviews and interesting content. Truthfully, it’s been a while since I’ve been truly 100% happy with any of my posts and I constantly struggle to find the right tone for my blog given my academic literature background but desire to appeal also to a more popular audience. (Maybe that in itself is worth a blog post to unpack some of those feelings – would that be of interest to anyone?)

4. Read at least 4 classics

Verdict: Completed!
Guys, guys, guys, I’ve actually completed a goal – yay! I’ve read Hard Times by Charles Dickens, A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, Howards End by E.M. Forster, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Ok, ok, so Atwood probably counts a modern classic at a push, but it’s still considering a classic so I’m completely allowing myself this one. I didn’t even have to think “ugh maybe I should read a classic”, I just found myself picking up A Room with a View and then that led to me realising I found Forster’s style very readable and then I followed it up with Howards End and voila, here we are. It feels good to actually have something completed and so early in the year – but I suspect that’s because this was an easily quantifiable goal and I set the bar pretty low… even so, I’ll take it!

5. Be mindful of Reading Challenges and actually complete them!

Verdict: On Track
In terms of the Goodreads Challenge and the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge, I’m on track. For Around the Year we’re at week 27 and I’m at 36 out of 52 books which is not too bad at all. As for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, I’m no longer failing it quite as spectacularly as I was at my first quarterly check-in – I’ve now completed 8 out of 24 challenges which, don’t get me wrong, isn’t brilliant but it’s definitely better than I was doing. Must keep these challenges more in the back of my head as they will definitely require some tailored TBRs for me. And finally as far as Mount TBR goes, I’ve achieved Pike’s Peak (yay!) and am now aiming for Mount Blanc which means another 12 books – I got this, guys.

6. Explore more TV shows/films

Verdict: Failing
Unless you count watching far too many episodes of Police Interceptors as “progress” then, yeah, I’m failing this quite spectacularly. Case in point: yesterday when stuck on a train journey I chose to re-watch Ed Byrne’s Different Class rather than watch The Circle which I had not seen and wanted to. I ALWAYS choose re-watching for the sake of nostalgia/assured enjoyment and I need to stop doing this and let myself explore some new TV and film.

PERSONAL GOALS

 

1. Exercise more regularly

Verdict: Failing
So I changed jobs during quarter 2 which has meant that my walk to/from work has shortened considerably. However, that 10 minute (as opposed to 20 minute) walk in on a morning is now uphill and at speed because I panic about being late. And the downhill walk on the way to the station to get home is also at speed because otherwise I’d miss a train by like 2 minutes and have to wait for the next one. All of this is a way of procrastinating talking about what I really should be talking about… the gym. Ha hahahahaha ha ha. yeah, no, the gym is taking my money for no reason at all since I couldn’t tell you the last time I went. A combination of sheer laziness, lack of motivation, and near-constant blisters on the back of my feet making wearing my gym shoes uncomfortable have all meant I haven’t been in a while. It’s gonna hurt when I do but I know I need to work on my fitness. Sigh.

Also, if any of you happen to know of any beginners yoga videos online can you hook me up? I’m not so much about the mind-clearing and meditation aspects of it but I really need to improve my core strength, stability, and flexibility so I’d greatly appreciate any recommendations.

2. Experiment and find a skincare routine that works

Verdict: On Track
I’m still loving the St Ive’s face scrub in my morning shower but I’m yet to find a day cream that I really like. I continue to use No. 7 but I’m still vaguely suspicious that, despite its claims, it’s not actually the best thing for my sensitive skin. Will report back more later.

3. Travel more

Verdict: On Track
Ok so technically I haven’t been anywhere much since my last check-in (aside from tagging along with Liz and her parents on a lovely day trip to the Lake District which remains stunning by the way) but I do have a pretty damn exciting holiday planned – I’m going to Washington DC and New York! This is all down to Liz being amazed and getting flights but yeah we’re popping over to Washington for a few days to see all the sights and then we’re on a train to NYC for a couple of days and seeing Phantom on Broadway. I’m so ridiculously excited I can’t even begin to explain. Also, if you have recs for places to eat and/or things to do in DC or NYC, please let me know!

4. Allow myself to write more

Verdict: Failing
As I stated in my previous check-in: “I need to let myself write more, whether that is working on that novel I abandoned during NaNoWriMo or trying to get inspiration for some kind of new project. Or maybe I should just allow myself to write more reviews, for a start.” Nothing has changed since and I agree with that previous statement.

Overall

As we stand at the mid-way point of the year, I don’t think I’m doing too badly on a lot of my goals. I’m on-track mostly with my blogging and reading related goals, it’s just my “real life” and personal ones that could do with some much needed attention. That’s pretty par for the course for my life in general, to be perfectly honest. As the weather gets better though, my excuses for the exercise and travel goals really don’t really hold much weight and I will hopefully be trying to address these in the coming months.

Did you make New Years’ Resolutions or goals for this year?
How are you doing at achieving them?


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Discussion | Reading Before Watching

Hi folks, I bring you something of a discussion post regarding something that has been on my mind recently – reading before watching. Let me clarify – reading a book before watching the adaptation.

I think I speak for all of us readers when I say that we tend to hold to the sanctity of the source material whenever a television or film adaptation is announced – if it’s a favourite book we probably worry and fret about whether a production team is about to completely ruin something precious to us. Likewise, we might just be excited to see a story we love come to the big or small screen, and look forward to more people experiencing that story, in whatever format that is.

But, readers, I have a dilemma: what do you do when a new series is announced, based on a book, and you haven’t read the book – do you wait for the TV show so that the adaptation is new and fresh for you, or do you read the book beforehand? My instinct obviously tells me to read the book first before watching the adaptation but part of me always wonders if I’m not potentially dampening my enjoyment of the TV show or film. After all – I know what is going to happen then, and nothing is shocking or unexpected (unless they completely diverge from the source material).

nightmanagerI was thinking about this yesterday as I was doing a re-watch of The Night Manager series and had an inclination to re-read the book again. I recalled that, despite having read the book back in February 2016, before the miniseries started airing, I was still overwhelmingly tense and on the edge of my seat whilst watching the adaptation. Now, admittedly, some of that is because I have a slight inclination towards Tom Hiddleston (understatement of the century) so, you know, what you gonna do… but aside from that I also was tense because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. In the effort to modernise the source material and make it more relevant for a 2016 audience, the production team had made the decision to change some key elements of the story. This meant that, though I had read the source material, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the series by “spoiling” any of the plot’s twists and turns. But not all adaptations are like this.

howardsendLast night I picked up Howards End by E.M. Forster. After having read A Room with a View last week and found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how readable I found Forster’s writing style, I decided to give Forster’s most famous novel a read. Then I remembered that the BBC are producing a miniseries of the book which is due to be released later this year starring Hayley Atwell and Matthew MacFadyen (I am sure there are plenty of others too but, I mean, my priority will always be Hayley Atwell because she’s Hayley Atwell). I had a moment of pause then – surely every little twist and turn of the adaptation would be spoiled if I read the novel first? After all, period dramas based on classics or modern classics do tend to push for faithfulness to the source material, for fear of upsetting the delicate sensibilities of readers and their expectations. So if I read the book, would I be as inclined towards watching the series, when it did air on TV?

Despite this momentary dilemma, I am fully aware that it will not stop me from reading the book – as a reader I will always lean towards the side of the primacy of the book, regardless of how excited I am to see an adaptation on the big or small screen, and the book will probably always win. But that doesn’t mean the adaptation won’t put up a damn good fight…

But beware: on the other side of the coin lurks a trap, a trap that I often fall into. On the occasions when I do see a film or TV show adapted from a book first, even if I end up loving the adaptation, sometimes I never quite get around to reading the book afterwards. I know, I know, I’m a terrible reader! After all, I know what happens in the story, so reading the story suddenly isn’t quite as high priority as all the other books on my TBR. I know how it goes, I know how it ends, I’ve experienced the story, regardless of the format it was in… and there are so many other stories that I haven’t experienced yet that deserve my time and attention. This happened with another le Carré book – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I had embarked on a mission to read the book once upon a time, got super confused, and abandoned it. Then I watched the 2011 film starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley, and, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, the book suddenly didn’t really seem a priority any more. I knew so what was the point any more?

Well, Emma, I’m sure the book is much more nuanced, I hear you say, to which I say: touché. And so the vicious cycle keeps on spinning…

Do you have this dilemma too? Do you have to make sure you read a book before watching its TV or film adaptation – or does it not bother you so much? Do you think the effect of a TV or film adaptation is sometimes “spoiled” because you know what’s going to happen, because you read the book first? Does this cause anyone else as much indecision as it does me? On the more positive note – what TV/film adaptations are you looking forward to in the future? Chat to me in the comments below, I’d love to talk adaptations!


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My 2017 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #1

I have a horrible tendency of setting New Year’s Resolutions and then promptly forgetting about them completely until 1st January of the following year when I start setting new ones for the year ahead. Obviously that defeats the entire point of having goals to begin with, so I’ve decided to do quarterly ‘check-ins’ with my goals and progress, partly to keep me accountable but mostly to force me to remember to actively work towards achieving resolutions rather than having them become utterly pointless. This is the first check-in, so I’ll do a quick look at each of my 2017 Resolutions and see how I’ve fared in the months of January, February, and March.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2017 Resolutions you can find that post here. Now let us examine how I’m doing…

READING, BLOGGING & WATCHING GOALS

1. Read at least 52 books in 2017

Verdict: On Track
At the time of writing this post, I’ve read 26 books and Goodreads informs me that I am well on track to completing the arbitrary 52 books goal I set myself as I am 14 books ahead of schedule. Thank you, Goodreads, that’s very good to know, I shall bask in the glow of that meaningless accolade. I know my own reading pace, and I know it fluctuates, so setting a book a week seemed like a manageable goal, and I have previously achieved it. Maybe I can even get to 75 books this year – is that too ambitious? We’ll see how I’m feeling when I get to Quarterly Check-in #2.

2. Write more reviews

Verdict: Failing
I really need to  buck up my ideas when it comes to writing reviews. Sometimes, it’s much easier to write a review for a book you hated – does anyone else ever feel that? My A Court of Thorns and Roses review just spewed out onto the page/screen so easily, whereas trying to explain why I love Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy is a bit harder and so I keep putting it off which is silly because of course I want to gush about the books I love, that’s part of the whole point of this blog in the first place. Must do better.

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Friday Reads | 13th January 2017

Another week, another Friday, another Friday Reads. This one is a little special, however, since it’s my first of 2017. Happy 2017, here’s to (probably inevitably) more of the same… at least in terms of reading!

gofOn that note, I’m still reading/listening to the audiobook I was listening to in my previous Friday Reads back in December 2016 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling. This is making many a morning train ride bearable, but it’s also a bloody long book, so progress seems quite slow going (and it feels it at times, too!). I’m about 58% of the way through and I’ve just experienced the hilarity that is The Yule Ball chapter. (Ron and Hermione’s argument is my favourite thing ever, ngl.) So onwards and upwards into the trials and tribulations of The Triwizard Tournament and I’m actually really looking forward to the second half of the book because, although I watch the film quite a lot, I don’t very often re-read Goblet of Fire, for obvious length-based reasons.

darkestmindsI’m also reading The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I requested and was sent this to review for Cuckoo Review, a writing programme/website I’m part of (in my own small way), and my review is due on Monday so I really, really need to get cracking with finishing this book. I’m… enjoying it reasonably so far, I think. Actually, a lot of the reasons I’m not wholly invested in the story aren’t really the book’s fault so I’m not sure where I will stand on it in my review, to be honest – is it the book’s fault that I am kind of over the whole heroine-of-book’s POV in a dystopian world narrative? I’m not sure. And it’s going to make completing my review a little tricky but, hey, that’s sort of a challenge in and of itself. And it’s good to be challenged when reading/reviewing.

asouenetflixHaving said both of those things… I’m also very aware that today is the darkest of days – the day that Netflix drops A Series of Unfortunate Events! I haven’t been this excited for a TV show in a while (well, since the Gilmore Girls specials) and whilst it would be nice to sit here and pretend this weekend will be dedicated entirely to reading… I’d be lying through my teeth – I fully intend to carve out a large block of time to snuggle up and not move for (hopefully) hours whilst I watch ASOUE. Likewise, me and Liz keep putting off going outside after work in order to go to the cinema and see Assassin’s Creed, but it’s now showing at a small local cinema and its proximity and cheaper price makes it an appealing offer ahead of the Odeon in town, and we should be seeing it sometime this weekend. And that sounds like a pretty damn ideal weekend to me!


So, those are my likely reading plans for today and heading into the weekend ahead. Do you have any Friday Reads posts?

Or perhaps just some fun plans for the weekend? Are you excited for A Series of Unfortunate Events like I am? Or perhaps a new film release? Let me know in the comments!


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My 2017 Resolutions

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over… and a new one just begun… 

Ok, ok, relax, I promise I will stop singing before I really get started! But, if it wasn’t obvious from that introductory lyric, or from the title, this is my Resolutions post. Yes, that’s right everyone, once again I pretend that I’m actually going to work productively towards improving various aspects of my life.

(I’m not even going to talk about my 2016 resolutions; let us just say I achieved very few of them. I will do better this year. I’m determined.)

I like resolutions. Even if they’re never fulfilled, it’s good to aim for the stars, then even if you fall a little short, at least you’ve still aimed for something higher than just the same old same old.

That being said, I’ve said this before and not done anything about it – I am a serial re-watcher and re-reader. There’s always something comforting about re-experiencing something with which you’re very familiar – you already know you love it, you know how it ends, and there are no nasty hidden surprises along the way. Books, films, tv shows, life… I’m very happy to get comfy in this comfort zone of mine and never let myself experience the new in the wide world outside of the bubble. (There’s a reason why I have this Vampire Weekend lyric on my About page – “You know I love the past ’cause I hate suspense”.)

Being comfy is… fine… but it also means you don’t get to discover new things and, potentially, new favourites which you’d then want to re-experience to your heart’s content. I want to change that so badly. So I need to stop saying I’ll watch/read/do more in the future and just fucking do it. (Pardon the French!) A lot of my 2017 Resolutions below are in the spirit of this attitude, so let’s just get right to it…

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Strictly Saturdays | The One With The Final

It’s that time of year again – dust off your ballgowns, get out those sequins and glitter I know you have, or just get the snacks in and settle down for this year’s Strictly Come DancingThat’s right folks, everyone’s favourite prime-time British TV show is back! No, not Bake Off, the other one – the one where celebrities of varying degrees of apparent “fame” are paired up with dancers who have the thankless task of teaching them how to stop tripping over their feet and actually look graceful instead.

For this year’s Strictly, I happen to be in the fortune position of officially living with a fellow Strictly Come Dancing fan. This means only one thing – doubled-up live-blogging… because just bitching comments to each other verbally clearly isn’t enough – in this technological age, they must be recorded for posterity’s sake. So… that’s what this thing is.

Here’s how it works:
Each week myself and Liz are bringing you a tag-team live-blog of Strictly Come Dancing. We are alternating whose blog it is posted on so if you want to keep up-to-date with our clearly deeply insightful commentaries, then you should make sure you’re following both of our blogs. (/end shameless promotion)

In case you missed it last week’s recap can be found here on Liz’s blog. This week, it is the Grand Final. Not only that, it is Len’s last final, his last show, as judge on Strictly. To say both of us are a little bit emotional about that fact doesn’t quite do justice. I anticipate we might feel a little bit teary at any given point of this finale.

Let’s get dancing…

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Strictly Saturdays | The One At The Musicals

It’s that time of year again – dust off your ballgowns, get out those sequins and glitter I know you have, or just get the snacks in and settle down for this year’s Strictly Come DancingThat’s right folks, everyone’s favourite prime-time British TV show is back! No, not Bake Off, the other one – the one where celebrities of varying degrees of apparent “fame” are paired up with dancers who have the thankless task of teaching them how to stop tripping over their feet and actually look graceful instead.

For this year’s Strictly, I happen to be in the fortune position of officially living with a fellow Strictly Come Dancing fan. This means only one thing – doubled-up live-blogging… because just bitching comments to each other verbally clearly isn’t enough – in this technological age, they must be recorded for posterity’s sake. So… that’s what this thing is.

Here’s how it works:
Each week myself and Liz are bringing you a tag-team live-blog of Strictly Come Dancing. We are alternating whose blog it is posted on so if you want to keep up-to-date with our clearly deeply insightful commentaries, then you should make sure you’re following both of our blogs. (/end shameless promotion)

In case you missed it last week’s recap can be found here on Liz’s blog. This week, it’s Musicals Week! Time to dig out even more glitter and show tunes… although, I must admit, my favourite musicals aren’t getting a look in tonight. Let’s get dancing…

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Strictly Saturdays | The One Where Neil Distracts Liz

It’s that time of year again – dust off your ballgowns, get out those sequins and glitter I know you have, or just get the snacks in and settle down for this year’s Strictly Come DancingThat’s right folks, everyone’s favourite prime-time British TV show is back! No, not Bake Off, the other one – the one where celebrities of varying degrees of apparent “fame” are paired up with dancers who have the thankless task of teaching them how to stop tripping over their feet and actually look graceful instead.

For this year’s Strictly, I happen to be in the fortune position of officially living with a fellow Strictly Come Dancing fan. This means only one thing – doubled-up live-blogging… because just bitching comments to each other verbally clearly isn’t enough – in this technological age, they must be recorded for posterity’s sake. So… that’s what this thing is.

Here’s how it works:
Each week myself and Liz are bringing you a tag-team live-blog of Strictly Come Dancing. We are alternating whose blog it is posted on so if you want to keep up-to-date with our clearly deeply insightful commentaries, then you should make sure you’re following both of our blogs. (/end shameless promotion)

In case you missed it last week’s recap can be found here on Liz’s blog. This week, it’s Blackpool! I think Blackpool needs no introduction, everyone knows making it to Blackpool and getting to dance in the Tower Ballroom is a true honour and perk of making it this far in Strictly. Let’s get dancing…

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Strictly Saturdays | The One With Valentina and Santiago

This might be a bit of an odd post. For one thing, we have a guest in our household and therefore a guest contributor to tonight’s Strictly post – our friend from university, Cathy. Cathy’s famous quote “Geographers don’t get lost, they merely explore” features proudly on Liz’s blog and it’s very, very nice to have her here with us for this weekend. We have already warned her about the intense dislike we hold for Laura and she has agreed she doesn’t much care for her, so she passed that test.

Now onto the more pertinent reason for why this post might be a little odd – earlier, after a very successful evening spent shivering in the cold whilst watching drummers and people larking about a bit too blasé-ly with fire, we then watched Liverpool’s Bonfire Night fireworks show on Albert Dock. And now I’m suffering the after effects of the cold by sneezing every few seconds… which makes typing a little difficult. So this might be patchy, let’s see, shall we?

Liz: Ohh Claudia. I feel like the thigh split in Claudia’s dress is very daring.

Cathy: I absolutely love Claudia.

Emma: Ooof Danny looks good wearing braces.

Liz: [sighs at the mere sight of Natalie]

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Strictly Saturdays | The One Where Ed Balls Makes Frank Spencer Look Butch

It’s that time of year again – dust off your ballgowns, get out those sequins and glitter I know you have, or just get the snacks in and settle down for this year’s Strictly Come DancingThat’s right folks, everyone’s favourite prime-time British TV show is back! No, not Bake Off, the other one – the one where celebrities of varying degrees of apparent “fame” are paired up with dancers who have the thankless task of teaching them how to stop tripping over their feet and actually look graceful instead.

For this year’s Strictly, I happen to be in the fortune position of officially living with a fellow Strictly Come Dancing fan. This means only one thing – doubled-up live-blogging… because just bitching comments to each other verbally clearly isn’t enough – in this technological age, they must be recorded for posterity’s sake. So… that’s what this thing is.

Here’s how it works:
Each week myself and Liz are bringing you a tag-team live-blog of Strictly Come Dancing. We are alternating whose blog it is posted on so if you want to keep up-to-date with our clearly deeply insightful commentaries, then you should make sure you’re following both of our blogs. (/end shameless promotion)

For those who missed it, last week’s recap of Movie Week can be found here on Liz’s blog.

Last week was an upset for both of us – Tameka left and we spent the rest of the night seething (one of us more than the other) that Laura managed to be saved, despite the fact the dance-off dance she did was sloppier than her first performance whereas Tameka’s improved, having taken the judges’ comments on-board and adjusted in the space of five minutes between finding out she was in the dance-off and actually dancing again. We are also mourning the loss of having an excuse to see Gorka every week – though I’m sure he will be involved in the pro dances for the rest of the series, it’s just not the same, unless he is front and centre always.

Strictly drama has also made its way into tabloids this week as Will Young quit the show amidst ridiculous rumours that slowly cleared to reveal “personal reasons” (stress, anxiety etc.) for leaving. This means Will and Karen are no more and there’s one less couple left dancing. Our first thought upon hearing this? Does this mean we can bring back Gorka and Tameka?!!? Seems not. Shame.

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