February Book Haul

My apologies for missing my last post. I’ve had migraines continually for the fast two weeks and I hadn’t prepared enough posts to schedule while I was out for the count. But I’m back! Yay!

I wasn’t planning to buy 17 books this month. I really wasn’t. But there was a sale on Kindle, so I got nine of them for under $5 each, and they’ve been on my radar for quite some time. So I caved. Still, it’s an improvement from January.

An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

Genre YA Historical Fiction

Release 26 February 2019

Series No

Why I’m interested History, poisons, secret societies

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Genre Fantasy

Release 2019

Series No

Why I’m interested High fantasy, strong female leads, dragons

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Want by Cindy Pon

Genre YA Sci Fi

Release June 2017

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Futuristic dystopian heist set in an environmentally ravaged alternate Taipei

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Toxic by Lydia Kang

Genre YA Sci Fi

Release November 2018

Series No

Why I’m interested 

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Genre Romance

Release 22 January 2019

Series No

Why I’m interested Pride and Prejudice retelling set in modern Pakistan

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A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

Genre YA Fantasy

Release August 2018

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Retelling of the myth of King Midas

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Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra

Genre YA Fantasy

Release January 2018

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Indian inspired world, assassins

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The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

Genre YA Fantasy

Release June 2017

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Sumerian inspired mythology

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Genre YA Sci Fi

Release October 2015

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Unusual narrative structure, rave reviews

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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Genre Romance

Release June 2018

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Rave reviews, Asperger’s representation

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The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

Genre Sci-Fi Mystery Fantasy

Release August 2018

Series No

Why I’m interested Time travel

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All the Little Bones by Ellie Marney

Genre YA Fantasy/Romance

Release September 2018

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Circuses, romance while on the run, pretty cover

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Enchantress by James Maxwell

Genre YA Fantasy

Release July 2014

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Classic fantasy

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The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark

Genre Sci-Fi Fantasy

Release August 2018

Series No

Why I’m interested West African inspired fantasy, gods

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The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss

Genre YA Fantasy

Release June 2018

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Fascinating forbidden magic, necromancy

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Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia Ed. By Anita Heiss

Genre Non-fiction

Release April 2018

Series No

Why I’m interested Relevant social issues, memoirs

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We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Genre YA Fantasy

Release 26 February 2019

Series Yes

Why I’m interested Feminist fantasy, LGBT representation, gorgeous cover

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Mini Review: The Children of Jocasta || Natalie Haynes

The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes

Historical Fiction

336 pages

Release date: 2017

Standalone

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis from GoodReads

In The Children of Jocasta, Natalie Haynes takes a fresh perspective on an ancient story, reimagining in gripping prose how the Oedipus and Antigone stories would look if the oft-overlooked female characters took centre stage. Retelling the myth to reveal a new side of an ancient story . . .

My siblings and I have grown up in a cursed house, children of cursed parents . . .

Jocasta is just fifteen when she is told that she must marry the King of Thebes, an old man she has never met. Her life has never been her own, and nor will it be, unless she outlives her strange, absent husband.

Ismene is the same age when she is attacked in the palace she calls home. Since the day of her parents’ tragic deaths a decade earlier, she has always longed to feel safe with the family she still has. But with a single act of violence, all that is about to change.

With the turn of these two events, a tragedy is set in motion. But not as you know it.

Why I was interested:

It’s a retelling of Oedipus and Antigone myths from Jocasta and Ismene’s perspectives, taking inspiration from the various extant versions of the stories.

What I liked:

Both Jocasta and Ismene are minor/ secondary characters in the original myths, and the author has given these previously silent female characters agency. The Children of Jocasta is in the same vein as Circe by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, and of similar quality.

The writing was beautifully executed, and I thought it was clever to have Jocasta’s story (in the past) in third person, while Ismene’s was in first person. It differentiated the stories, and both narratives were well written and engaging. In addition the world building was so seamlessly incorporated into the text, that I still have a really clear mental image of Thebes and the landscape of Ancient Greece weeks later.

Ismene and Jocasta were so compelling as characters that I found it hard to put my Kindle down. Their seperate stories eventually intertwined, culminating in a new, historically believable narrative. Some of the secondary characters seemed a bit flat throughout the book, but this affect was completely intentional, and clearly a choice the author considered when writing. It even forms part of the discussion in the text – Ismene’s character is choosing to write her own history, and there’s an exploration of how to write without intimate knowledge of everyone else’s thoughts, intentions, actions, especially people whose lives affect your own without you even knowing.

What I disliked: 

The only thing I didn’t love about this book was the final chapter. It was a little out of left field for me, so I was quite confused. I thought perhaps I had missed something, and had to go back a couple chapters.

Let’s Chat

Do you like Greek mythology retellings? Have you read The Children of Jocasta? What did you think?

Mini Review: Echo North|| Joanna Ruth Meyer

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

YA Fantasy

400 pages

Release Date: 2019

Standalone

4.5/ 5 stars

Synopsis from GoodReads

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart after her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an offer: for her to come and live with him for a year. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, Echo discovers centuries-old secrets, a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up—otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever

Why I was interested: 

It’s a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon! I’m not as familiar with this fairytale, so I’m interested to see where the author takes it.

General comments:

I really enjoyed Echo North. The writing was lovely, the world building was phenomenal, and the characters were engaging. I loved how the author took inspiration from different myths and fairytales, such as Cupid and Psyche, Beauty and the Beast, Tam Lin and The Snow Queen; and wove them together to create something new and unique.

What I liked: 

  • Body positivity: Echo was scarred on her face as a child, and it really affects her self esteem and relationships with others. Over the course of the novel, Echo’s self- esteem and self-worth really grow, and she learns to embrace her body as it is.
  • Friendships: I enjoyed watching Echo’s relationships with the white wolf, Mokosh, and Hal grow throughout the story. The developing relationships mirrored Echo’s own personal growth.
  • The atmosphere: The writing was beautiful, and I every time I opened the book I was enveloped in this feeling of whimsy and magic and unreality.
  • The worldbuilding: The world of Echo North felt very expansive, and the setting was rich and well thought out. My favourite part was the library of mirror-books, which allowed both the reader and the characters to explore multiple realities.

What I disliked: 

  • That it ended?

Let’s Chat

Are you a fan of fairytale retellings? Have you read Echo North? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely || Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse so Dark and Lonely

YA Fantasy

496 pages

Release date: January 2019

# 1 in series

4/5 stars

Synopsis from GoodReads

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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Why I was interested: 

It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast!

What I Liked:

First up, I really liked the disability representation in this book. Harper, our female lead,  has cerebral palsy, and a side character, Jamison, is an amputee. I really felt that Brigid Kemmerer portrayed disabilities in general both realistically and sensitively. Harper’s cerebral palsy obviously affects her, and she’s aware of her limitations, but she doesn’t let it stop her from living. As a person with disabilities myself, I really appreciated that Harper’s cerebral palsy was a part of her, but wasn’t her defining feature. I think this message is really important, and sadly is not something I come across a lot in literature.

I liked the twist on original story which meant that Rhen was human most of the time, and only became a beast at the end of each season. Rhen and Harper also weren’t confined to living alone in the castle together. I think it was quite a smart decision, because it allowed Rhen and Harper to develop through their interactions with a whole cast of side characters, not just each other. These two points also completely sidestepped the issues of bestiality and Stockholm Syndrome that people often find disturbing or uncomfortable in Beauty and the Beast.

I liked the development of the romantic relationship between Rhen and Harper. They built their relationship slowly on foundations of respect and understanding. I also appreciated that while their characters experienced growth over the course of the book, they really stayed true to their personalities. I love consistent characters, and Kemmerer really pulled through for me.

To sum up, I thought the writing was lovely, the plot was solid, and the characters were great.

What I disliked:

I really think this would have been more successful as a standalone novel. I wasn’t that impressed with the twist that is used to lead on to the next book. As soon as it was hinted at, I picked it, and I just groaned. In my head I’m saying ‘Nooo, don’t do it. Don’t go there!’ But it went there. Honestly, the end is really what bumped down the star rating, and I probably won’t pick up the next book, because I just don’t care enough to find out what happens. Most of the story wrapped up, so I’m happy to leave it at that.

I also felt that the worldbuilding as a whole was a bit lacking. Emberfall could have been really contrasted with Washington D.C., where Harper is from, but a few days after reading A Curse so Dark and Lonely, I can’t picture the setting at all. Besides the curse, nothing about the world and the history of Emberfall has stuck with me.

My only other slight disappointment was with the main villain, Lillith. She was the stereotypical crazy witch character. I just sort of wanted a bit more from her than sadism and a bad temper. I guess I just like my villains to have more substance these days.

Let’s chat

Do you like Beauty and the Beast retellings? Have you read A Curse so Dark and Lonely? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!

 

The Goose Girl || Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

YA Fantasy

383 pages

Release date: 2005

# 1 in series (standalone)

4/ 5 stars

CW: Violence, animal death

Synopsis (from GoodReads)

Anidora-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s incredible stories, and learning the language of the birds. Little knowing how valuable her aunt’s strange knowledge would prove to be when she grew older. From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become a queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must understand her own incredible talents before she can overcome those who wish her harm.

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Why I was interested:

It’s a retelling of The Goose Girl, and I love retellings.

What I liked:

I liked the magic system. It was simple, and the basic premise was that certain people have the ability to ‘speak.’ Some possess a gift for speaking to people, persuading them, guiding them, that sort of thing. Others can speak to animals, and our princess is one of these, learning to speak to birds from her aunt. The final ability is rare and allows a person to ‘speak’ to inanimate things, such as wind, or fire.

I liked that while magic was a useful tool, it was not the solution to Ani’s problems. I also liked that it was like any other skill – you had to learn and practice and hone it over time. It wasn’t instant. All that was inherent was the ability to be able to learn. So in Ani’s case, she spent years practicing her ability to speak to swans and other types of birds. She didn’t magically work it all out over night.

I enjoyed the romance in the Goose Girl, mainly because it was subtle and sweet, and didn’t take centre stage. The emphasis in The Goose Girl was really on friendship, ‘found family,’ and developing self confidence in the face of adversity. I really adored Ani’s friendships with a number of side characters, and overall I felt that Ani’s growth was really organic and believable.

What I didn’t like: 

As you can see above I’ve given a content warning for animal death. I found it rather distressing personally, and I don’t know if I can even say it was justified, or that it really contributed to the story. Either way, I don’t think the on page gore was necessary at all.

My only other comment regards that depth and complexity of the secondary characters (which was pretty much every character apart from Ani). The bad guys are pretty stereotypical and 2D, and any complexity in the other side characters is only really hinted at and not much explored in this novel (but there are other novels in the series!). So if you like all of your characters deep, and morally grey, this is not the book for you. It’s probably going a bit far to say this was something I really disliked. I just wish I had got a bit more from the side characters.

Let’s Chat

Do you like fairytale retellings? What is your favourite? Have you read The Goose Girl? Let me know in the comments below.

Three Books I’ll Give a Second Chance & Why

Usually I won’t go back to a book that I’ve DNF’d. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. But there are three books I DNF’d last year that I’m reconsidering, and these are the reasons why.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

My issues with The Poppy War related to pacing and plot. It was slow and nothing much was happening, and there was a ton of info dumping in the form of ‘school lessons’. I was also a bit leery because Asian Studies was my major and I was having trouble disconnecting from the ‘facts’ and getting emotionally invested in the story. It’s based on the Sino-Japanese wars, the annexation of Manchuria and The Nanjing Massacre. Part of it is because I know how horrific it all was in reality, and I’m worried about how it’s going to affect me if I actually care about the characters. It has fantastic reviews, but what really encouraged me to try again was reading a blog post by the author talking about the necessity of violence and brutality in the story, which I really respected. You can find it here.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

I can’t stand the purple prose in this, mostly because it seems so at odds with the dark gritty atmosphere. I didn’t really feel connected to the characters either, and the endless footnotes were super distracting. But the worldbuilding and plot were so interesting that I really just want to know what happens. I put it down months ago and I still think about it, so I am going to grit my teeth and just dive back in. Whether I continue the series or not is a completely different matter.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

I had so many problems with this book. The pacing was slow, the descriptions were overdone, and the characters in the main storyline (in the past) were boooring. I also felt like I was reading Memoirs of a Geisha with magic. But the magic system was cool, and had a lot of potential. Plus present day Tea was dark and mysterious, and I kind of want to know how she gets from boring to badass. Also, people have promised that book 2 is better. If I just think of it as a retelling, maybe I can get through it?

Have you ever returned to a book you previously DNF’d? If so what was it?

Fairytaleathon Wrap Up

I had really hoped to have read a lot more during Fairytaleathon, but I only ended up finishing two books. Still, they were both 4 star reads, so I guess I can’t complain too much. So without further ado, these are the books I read.

Challenge 4: Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Fantasy Novella

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I liked:

  • The magic system and world building was dark and enthralling – you can injure a person’s shadow or spirit, ghosts are used as energy to power cities etc.
  • There was huge gender diversity, and it was portrayed as normal, which was awesome (and confusing for me to start with, but I was so there for this)
  • Our two main characters, Nuawa and Lussadh, were both quite reserved, cold, strategic, and blunt, but I really quite liked both of them, and I felt they were complex and consistent. I understood their motivations, and was able to sympathise with them.

What I (sort of) disliked:

  • I did balk at the use of the term Occidental to begin with, because of the associations with Orientalism. I think perhaps it is a case of the author taking back power and agency by re-appropriating terms that were traditionally used to ‘Other’ Middle Eastern and Asian peoples, and thus oppress and dehumanise them. But that is just a guess, and I still felt a bit uncomfortable with the use of the term. I just feel that any kind of term that raises those connotations and divisions between people just perpetuates the same kind of thinking.

Challenge 3, 6, & 8: A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

YA Fantasy

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I liked:

  • It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast!
  • Great disability representation! The main character, Harper, has cerebral palsy, and I thought it was handled realistically and sensitively.
  • The twist on the original allowed Rhen and Harper to interact with a range of people, as well as avoiding some of the more disturbing connotations that people dislike in Beauty and the Beast, like bestiality and Stockholm syndrome.
  • The side characters were awesome!
  • Rhen and Harper’s growth was well handled, and their relationship was built on respect and trust.

What I disliked: 

  • I felt it would have been better as a standalone, and wasn’t that impressed with the twist to keep the series going.
  • The main villain, Lillith, was really flat and stereotypical. I wanted a bit more than a sadistic witch with a bad temper.
  • I felt that the worldbuilding as a whole wasn’t that strong. Days later, I can’t remember much of the setting at all.

 

Let’s Chat

What are your favourite fairytale retellings? Have you read either of these books, and what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments below.

SALE! $5 or less on Kindle Australia

Hey all, so at the moment there seems to be a bit of a sale on some pretty popular YA books (and some adult ones too) on Kindle Australia, so I thought I’d provide some links if you’re interested. I have no idea how long they’ll be this cheap, so get them while they’re hot! (There are also a few new releases that seem to be cheaper as well, including The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi)

0- $1

The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories ed. Mahvesh Murad $0.99

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan $0.99

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang $0.99

$1 – $2

The Jewel by Amy Ewing $1.67

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones $1.99

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee $1.99

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross $1.99

Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson $1.99

Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop $1.99

$2- $3

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken $2.99

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone $2.84

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa$2.99

Angelfall by Susan Ee $2.99

$3- $4

The City of Bones by Martha Wells $3.99

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas $3.25

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew $3.71

The Queen of All That Dies by Laura Thalassa $3.99

Illuminae by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff $3.99

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb $3.99

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo $3.99

Sabriel by Garth Nix $3.99

Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell $3.79

$4 – $5

The Archived by V.E. Schwab $4.39

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas $4.99

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo $4.99

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab $4.39

Delirium by Lauren Oliver $4.99

This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab $4.39

Vicious by V.E. Schwab $4.39

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova $4.42

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carrier $4.99

$5 – $6

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon $5.41

The Mermaid by Christina Henry $5.83

Red Queen by Christina Henry $5.83

Alice by Christina Henry $5.61

Lost Boy by Christina Henry $5.83

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones $5.83

 

 

 

January Book Haul # 5 || Other Books

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White Lotus by Libbie Hawker

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 2016

Series: Yes (trilogy)

Why I’m interested: It’s set in Ancient Egypt with the traditional story of Cinderella woven in.

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Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 2015

Series: No

Why I’m interested: It’s about Zenobia, rebel queen of Syria.

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House of Rejoicing by Libbie Hawker

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 2015

Series: Yes, trilogy

Why I’m interested: It’s set in Ancient Egypt during the time of Akhenaten from the points of view of various women in his life

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The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman

Genre: Non-Fiction History

Release Date: 2018

Series: No

Why I’m Interested: Poisons. What else is there to say?

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Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Release Date: 2018

Series: No

Why I’m interested: Magical and wintry, with an eagle huntress, and inventor and an organ made of icicles.

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Odd and True by Cat Winters

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Release Date: 2017

Series: No

Why I’m interested: Monster slaying girls and disability representation.

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A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Leudecke

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2017

Series: Yes

Why I’m interested: Magical and wintry.

I Started a Bullet Journal! || January Flip Through

I’ve been watching tons of bullet journal videos on YouTube lately, and it’s kind of my new obsession. I love watching other people’s monthly spreads, and how creative they are. There’s something really calming and satisfying about it. I especially love Amanda Rach Lee and Inprint.

Anyway, I decided to start my own. It’s a bit of a mish mash at the moment, and I’ve taken inspiration from a lot of other videos (I’m estimating at least a hundred, but I could be grossly overestimating) and some pictures on instagram, of which there are way too many to name. Sadly, I am not the most creative/artistic person myself, so I don’t feel like it’s terribly original. If I have copied any ideas and you want me to give credit, let me know and I am more than happy to do so.

Anyway, on to the pictures!

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Firstly, here’s my cover page. I wanted to go for fireworks and lanterns for the new year. I took a lot of inspiration from Amanda Rach Lee’s January spread, which you can find here.

Next I’ve jotted down by monthly goals, my monthly TBR, and new releases I’m interested in coming out in January. If I’ve completed a goal, or purchased a book, I’ve marked it.

Next up is my Calendar. I didn’t decorate it much because I was terrified of going overboard and making it messy. I’m a bit of a perfectionist… I’ve tracked each book I read during January, and I’ve planned my blog posts. I changed them a lot, so there’s quite a bit of white-out tape… as you can probably tell…

Next up – my ridiculously long book haul, followed by my January wrap up. I had a pretty good reading month.

Next I wrote some recommendation lists, continued my book haul (because I went nuts in January), and some blog discussion ideas. I’ve been really hesitant to post my genocide in SciFi/Fantasy books because I’m worried it’s too morbid and triggering. (Apparently I didn’t even finish writing it in my journal. Whoops. The Fever King is by Victoria Lee in case you’re wondering, and it will be released 1 March.)

Overall I’m pretty pleased. My writing is all over the place, but it is what it is. I plan to practice hand lettering and calligraphy over the coming months. So hopefully my journal will look better as time goes on.

Do you also have a bullet journal? If not, how do you like to keep track of your reading?