When you fail your reading challenge…

 

So….we both failed our Goodreads reading challenges for 2017. What does this mean? What is life, even?

There’s only one thing for it. In the words of Aaliyah (R.I.P.), “dust yourself off and try again”. Here’s some more thoughts:

 

Janelle says…

I finished my Goodreads 2017 reading challenge at 43 books read out of a goal of 48. So close, I could throttle something (I’m looking at you, 11.22.63).

I’ve never not completed my Goodreads challenge before. At first I was in a bit of shock, how could this be? I ALWAYS finished my Goodreads challenge. But you know, as much as I would have liked to have read 5 books on 31 December to sneak over the line, that will never happen. No use crying about it, right? I still read 43 books, which is amazing and I’m really happy with that.

On a side note, I also failed my #ShelfLove reading challenge for 2017. Man, I was crrrrap at challenges last year! I was aiming to read between 21-30 unread books off my own shelves, but I ended up only reading 16. Still, that’s more than I got to for this challenge in 2016, so I guess that’s something. And this year I REALLY want to stay away from the library more. I MEAN IT (this time).

More about our 2018 reading goals later…

 

Mel says…

I set my 2017 Goodreads goal at 30 books….I failed miserably and only managed to scrape over halfway with 18/30 books.

Much like Janelle, I blame 11/22/63 for taking up MONTHS of my time with its 1000+ pages but because it was SO good, I will get over that.

2017 was the year I decided to focus on differing genres and I am so glad I did. I discovered some excellent new authors and am very excited for what’s to come in 2018.

 

How about you? Did you win at any reading challenges last year?

 

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Let Down – Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water

by Paula Hawkins

image1

Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Crime Fiction

“Again! Again!”

The men bind her again. Different this time: left thumb to right toe, right thumb to left. The rope around her waist. This time, they carry her into the water.

“Please,” she starts to beg, because she’s not sure that she can face it, the blackness and the cold…

…She sinks. By the time they drag her out the second time, her lips are the blue of a bruise, and her breath is gone for good.”

 

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

Mel says…

 

Ugh, whhhhyyyyyyyy!!!???? Why was this book such a let down?? What did Paula Hawkins do that was so different to The Girl on the Train?! Sigh…

It took me roughly 3/4 of the book to finally understand who’s who, without having to read 1-2 pages of their designated chapter and that was my biggest pet peeve. What was with the large amount of characters that the plot followed? Why couldn’t the plot be solely told through the protagonist, who I am still confused as to whether it was Jules or Lena, but either would have been fine.

The plot was interesting and intriguing, but my focused wained due to the confusion from all the different angles and I began resenting this book by page 200.

This was my main holiday read over the Christmas break and I’m somewhat disappointed that I stuck with it.

2/5 stars 😦

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy Read – A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

December 2017 – Janelle’s choice

A Darker Shade of Magic

by V. E. Schwab

IMG_0276.JPG

Published 2015

Genres: Fantasy

“Kell brought the blade to the back of his forearm. He’d already carved one line today, for the door that brought him this far. Now he carved a second. His blood, a rich ruby red, welled up and over, and he returned the knife to its sheath and touched his fingers to the cut and then to the wall, redrawing the circle and the line that ran through it. Kell guided his sleeve down over the wound – he’d treat all the cuts once he was home – and cast a last glance back at the babbling king before pressing his palm flat to the mark on the wall.
It hummed with magic.
As Tascen’, he said. Transfer. 
The patterned paper rippled and softened and gave way under his touch, and Kell stepped forward and through.

In this richly fantastical world exists four parallel Londons – dull Grey London, vibrant Red London, dangerous White London, and banished Black London. Kell is one of only two Antari, someone with a magical gift that allows him to travel between the Londons. Not long after coming in to possession of a mysterious object, Kell meets Lila Bard and the fates of the two become intertwined as they learn the truth about the object, and fight together to keep it out of the wrong hands.

Mel says…

When Janelle suggested ADSoM, I had heard zero about this book/series. She explained the concept of parallel London’s to me and as a self confessed London literary lover, I was sold.

I devoured this book in just over a week (an achievement for me, as I have a very active toddler) and I was not disappointed. After 100-odd pages, I was able to understand the differing versions of magical versus non-magical London’s and how the movement between each “city” worked.

There were a few sections to the book that I felt could have been written better and others that bored me, but overall it was an exciting tale and one I would be interested in continuing through the series.

I bumped up my review from 3.5 to 4 stars, as it isn’t very often, lately, that a book has me eagerly wanting to get home and read.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Janelle says…

I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this book! I’ve heard so much about the Darker Shade of Magic series (there are now three books), and the concept of parallel cities and being able to move between them was so exciting to me. Especially with that city being London, there’s just some kind of extra special magical air about it.

This world was so vast and detailed, I just loved V. E. Schwab’s imagination. She must have had a blast writing this. In the first 50 or so pages I felt a bit overwhelmed by all that was being thrown at me, but then stuff started happening and I sank in to it quite comfortably.

The scene-setting and richly-drawn characters, landscapes and details of the lives in this world where my favourite part of this book. When I look back at the plot now that I’ve finished reading it, I feel like at the bones of it, it was a pretty simple story that has been done before. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it and will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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Buddy Read – 11/22/63 by Stephen King

August/September 2017 – Mel’s choice

11/22/63

by Stephen King

Published 2011

Genres: Historical Fiction/Thriller

 

“You’re healthy and in the prime of life. You can go back, and you can stop it.’
He leaned forward, his eyes not just bright; they were blazing.
‘You can change history, Jake. Do you understand that? John Kennedy can live.”

Maine high school teacher, Jake Epping is about to have his life turned upside down. The owner of the local diner reveals to Jake that he’s discovered a portal to travel back to the 1950’s, and wants to enlist Jake to carry out his plan to stop the Kennedy assassination. What will life be like for Jake in a different era to the one he knows? And could he really stop Lee Harvey Oswald?

 

Mel says…

Wowsers, what a ride!

11/22/63 took me 2 months to read from cover to cover. It was a damn big commitment when it comes to books, at 1080 pages, but I kept chipping away at it and boy am I glad I did.

This is my second attempt at completing this book. The first attempt was a ‘did not finish’ (DNF) due to lack of dedication and the sheer volume of pages to devour. BUT, I picked this as our August (come September) Buddy Read so Janelle and I could keep each other motivated enough to stick it out to the end.

Aside from the sizing of literature, this was an excellent addition to the Stephen King collection. It is only the second King novel that I have read, but it won’t be the last! The amount of research and thought that were put into these pages is astounding and evident. If I was naive enough, you could tell me this was a Non-Fictional recount of a time travellers journey and I would whole-heartedly believe you.

I felt that 1080 pages was too long for this story however, as it was edging to the finale, I was sad to think it would soon be over. As the day of the assassination neared, I myself felt the nervousness and eagerness that I could believe of George Amberson/Jake Epping and felt that King took his readers to those emotions with such cleverness, from a master of the written word.

I rate 11/22/63 4.5 stars. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever been fascinated by the JFK assassination and has ever asked themselves, ‘was Oswald a lone gunman?’

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Janelle says…

I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book. However, I am glad that Mel chose it as our Buddy Read, as I think the sheer size of the thing would have forever turned me off it had I not been forced to read it.

I agree with Mel that it did not have to be quite so lengthy. The middle of the book did get taken up with the details of George Amberson’s/Jake Epping’s new life in the past, and while some of that was necessary to the plot, I got bored with the story at this point. It was difficult to motivate myself to read on to the end, and I did consider DNF’ing the book.

BUT I wouldn’t let it defeat me! It started out so strong, and having had previous success with reading King, I persevered. The story raced towards a thrilling finish and I ended up breezing through the last third of the book. I’m not sure I was entirely satisfied with the ending, only because a possible (and much more exciting, in my opinion) ending was hinted at and then didn’t eventuate, so I had been expecting and hoping for a different conclusion. In general, I was expecting and hoping for more time travel back and forth, and was somewhat disappointed when the protagonist got stuck in the late 50’s/early 60’s for the majority of the book.

Overall, not my favourite King so far but well worth the read if you can handle the commitment.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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Conflicted – The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson

The Scent of You

by Maggie Alderson

Book

Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Chic Lit

“Your glass might be half-empty or half-full, whatever – I’m wearing mine on my head, juggling it, making it into a percussion instrument. It’s not what you’re doing, or where you go, or who you’re with, but what you make it into.”

Polly’s life is great. Her children are away at uni, her glamorous mother – still modelling at eighty-five – is happily settled in a  retirement village, and her perfume blog is taking off. Then her husband announces he needs some space and promptly vanishes.
As Polly grapples with her bewildering situation, she clings to a few new friends to keep her going – Shirlee, the loudmouthed yoga student; Guy, the mysterious, infuriating and hugely talented perfumer; and Edward, an old flame from university.
And while she distracts herself with the heady world of luxury perfume, Polly knows she can’t keep reality at bay forever. Eventually she is forced to confront some difficult truths; about her husband, herself and who she really wants to be.

Mel says…

I really, REALLY wanted to like this book. I fell in love with Maggie Alderson years ago and have collected her novels ever since, but I must sadly say, I am glad I borrowed this one from the library…

The Scent of You is about self love, self worth and discovery, and I was eager to go on this whimsical journey with the protagonist, Polly.  In the beginning, the plot developed well and kept me eager to discover what would happen next. The mystery surrounding Polly’s husbands disappearance was at the forefront of my eagerness to keep turning pages.

By halfway, the story had veered its focus away from the husband’s disappearance and started focusing in on Polly’s relationships with other men and her children. This is when I started to get confused and bored. The anticipation of finding out why the husband had disappeared was losing all appeal and I began to struggle with my reading.

Polly became infuriating to read and I struggled to care about how her life would pan out, purely due to the drawn out conclusion. By the time the big reveal took place, I was disappointed and glad it was almost over.

It is hard to put my finger on exactly what this book was lacking, but one thing is for certain, it required more soul.

I struggled through the second half of this book and the only reason I stuck with it to the end was out of love for Maggie Alderson. This was a miss for me and it breaks my heart to say it, but don’t waste your time.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Adventures on the bookternet – favourite BookTubers

It’s time for more ADVENTURES ON THE BOOKTERNET!

Today we look at some of my favourite BookTubers. Yes I said BookTubers, which if you don’t know, is a thing. BookTubers will typically vlog about what they are planning to read next, or review their recent reads, or talk about books they recently purchased or otherwise received. In between, they might post videos about more specific bookish topics, like “Books that have been in my TBR pile forever!”, or “My favourite books in translation”, or “Book mail unboxing”.

BookTube is a great way to find book reviews and new books to add to your TBR. Personally, I also enjoy living vicariously through BookTubers when they vlog about the 14 books they purchased in the last month, when I might have bought 1 or 0.

My favourite time to watch BookTube is while preparing dinner, with a glass of wine in hand. Perfection.

Here are some of my favourites to get you started:

 

SavidgeReads

One of my favourite BookTube channels to start off with. Simon Savidge also co-hosts The Readers podcast, which I mentioned in my post about favourite podcasters. I love his chatty, funny, sometimes fumbly style, and how he often “goes off on a tangent” (his BookTube style is exactly the same as his podcast style). His videos are mainly wrap-ups and hauls, but he also does “coffee and a catch-up” videos, occasional unboxing videos, and sometimes joins in with random “tags” (kind of like “linkys” in the blog world). His taste tends towards literary fiction, but with occasional thrillers and poetry thrown in.

 

PeruseProject

Regan is as bubbly as they come, her energy is infectious! She LOVES books and LOVES talking about books. Her wheelhouse is YA and fantasy, and her channel is mainly reviews, wrap-ups and hauls. So if you’re thinking about picking up something in the YA or fantasy genres and wouldn’t mind hearing someone else’s opinion on it first, this is the place to come. Chances are Regan’s read it!

 

MercysBookishMusings

Whenever I jump on to check BookTube, this is pretty much the first channel I’ll check on to see if anything’s new. Mercy’s “About” page reads “I’m just someone who enjoys reading. I don’t have a degree in English Literature and I’ll never write a novel.” I love her channel for her honest, no-holds-barred reviews, and the fact that her tastes are very similar to my own (literary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, non-fiction). If you want to get a taste for her style, check out one of my favourite reviews by Mercy – A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I love how riled up she gets, fantastic! Language warning though.

 

Jen Campbell

Jen is a bit of a BookTube institution. Her observations are so well-constructed, sometimes she has a way of saying something that makes you think “yes! I thought the same but didn’t know how to put it into words!”. She has a wide variety of videos, if you look at her playlists you see what I mean. Apart from the usual wrap-ups and hauls, she talks about diversity in books, poetry, publishing (she is also an author), and general chats, among other things. Her tastes tend to sway more towards literary fiction, poetry, and fairy tales.

 

Lauren and the Books

Watching Lauren talk about books just makes me want to be her friend – she’s casual, happy, and just generally seems to be having a great time. She created the Cosy Reading Night, a seasonal event that anyone can join in with on BookTube, Twitter, Instagram, or wherever you are on the internet. The idea is that you drop everything for a few hours on the night that’s been chosen, grab yourself some books, some snacks (the snacks are a VITAL part of this), get cosy, and do some readin’. What could be better? Lauren tends towards literary fiction, and she also looooves Harry Potter. She has a diverse range of videos, so there’s something for everyone to love here.

 

That should be enough to get you started! Let me know if you watch any of these channels, or if you follow any other BookTubers we should know about!

 

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The dreaded reading slump – how to get over it

In case you hadn’t noticed, things have been a little quiet over here in LBoBsville. That’s because we’ve been suffering from…

 

 

READING SLUMP

 

 

What’s reading slump? It’s when an otherwise active reader suddenly has no desire to read, or can’t get the same enjoyment that they usually do out of reading. Some people just take this with a grain of salt and wait for it to pass, while others panic and stress about losing their love of reading, never reading another book again, and dying alone and miserable.

Here are some ways that we’ve tried or heard of to combat this most hideous of ailments:

 

1. Netflix and chill

Some people swear by the method of “leaning in” to your reading slump. Just go with it, we all need a break. Your brain is obviously telling you that it wants a break from reading, so go and do something else for a while. Binge on the newest Netflix series. Get crafty. Write something. Exercise. Sit and do nothing. Anything but reading. And before you know it, the urge will strike you again.

 

2. Switch it up

Janelle’s current slump was the result of binging on too much yoga-related non-fiction all at once, and basically burning out. Think about what your recent reads were right before your slump. Do you notice a pattern? Are they all of the same or similar genre/s? Then perhaps it’s time to delve into something a little different. Reading too much romance? Try sci-fi or non-fiction. Too much non-fiction? A good thriller might sort you out. Too much thrill? How about a travel memoir? And so forth.

 

3. Soldier on

Another common remedy is to just power through. Make yourself finish that book, damn it! Force yourself to concentrate on that sentence and stop re-reading it over and over. Leave your phone in another room so you can focus on your book. Persistence pays off.

 

4. Keep it light

Perhaps a good strategy could be to choose something light and fun for your next read? If you’ve got something on your TBR which you know is not going to be complex, deep, or draining, now is the time to give it a go. Reading something for pure enjoyment, without the expectation that you will learn something or have to concentrate too hard, could be the boost that will get you back into reading.

 

5. Bookify your life

Listen to a bookish podcast. Check out some Booktube channels. Have a wander through your local library of bookshop. Ask a friend what books they’ve loved lately. Bringing bookish inspo into your life in other ways, especially ways that involve being part of the wider bookish community, can be super motivating!

 

Ahh….just writing this post has made us ready to jump back in!

Got any tips of your own to wrangle a reading slump?

 

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Buddy Read – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

May 2017 – Janelle’s choice

 

Big Magic

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Published 2015

Genres: Non-Fiction / Self-help

 

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”

Elizabeth Gilbert is a champion of creative living, and in this book she shares tips on pushing past fear, giving yourself permission, and committing, to live out your most creative dreams.

 

Janelle says…

This is my second time reading this book, and while I can see why others have taken fault with it, I still love it. This is Liz Gilbert’s call to creativity, a kick-up-the-bum that we all sometimes need. Applicable to whatever your form of creative outlet is, this book quashes the usual excuses for not starting that project, or making time to do something you love, or taking that chance. Fear/time/embarrassment/lack of confidence….she covers it all. This book is your permission slip to allow yourself to do whatever it is that you truly yearn to do. In fact she says so herself in the book, she personally gives you permission!

Admittedly, at times this book does get a bit woo-woo. But while I don’t necessarily believe in Gilbert’s way of viewing how ideas are born and realised, I do think it’s a fun and motivating way of thinking about it. Meditating on the thought that if you don’t pick up a floating idea and do something about it, it will move on to someone else, does make me feel more inclined to take my ideas seriously lest I lose them.

I don’t really get why Gilbert cops such a lashing from critics and readers, I think she deserves to be cut some slack. I loved Eat Pray Love, and I love Big Magic. The first time I experienced Big Magic was on audio, and I felt so inspired I wanted to shout from the mountaintop about all the amazing things it made me want to do with my life. In the time between reading this the first time and reading it the second time, I have taken a big step in making one of my creative dreams come to fruition, and reading this again while knowing that I AM already allowing myself my creative freedom made me so happy and proud. And honestly, Big Magic did play a part in giving me the nudge that I needed to get going.

If you have ideas or hobbies or passions, or even if you don’t but you’d like to, let Elizabeth Gilbert inspire you to make your life full of beautiful creativity!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Mel says…

I’m going to start by stating that I am not a creative person, in that I don’t write (aside from this blog), paint, build, dance or play music. I wish I had a creative bone in my body, but sadly I have attempted all of the above and I just don’t have the talent or patience for such things.

With that said, I found it hard to connect with Big Magic. I would read several pages and get bored, put the book down and not touch it for days.

There was the occasional passage that I found intriguing, such as Liz Gilbert’s theory on Multiple Discovery. I like to think that ideas are out in the Universe, just waiting for their creator to grab them with both hands and mould them into something brilliant. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy, for some strange reason.

Aside from this, I have to admit I did a lot of skimming and then decided to give up after 3/4 of the way through. I apologise to my sister, who I know loves this book, but I just could not relate and so will forever more be a huge fan of creativity, but I was not created to be the creator…

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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Consuming – Shelter by Jung Yun

Shelter

by Jung Yun

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Thriller

“He shakes his head and glances at Gertie, who hasn’t said a word since she turned toward the window. Her eyebrows are angled sharply into a frown, and her mouth is open as if she means to speak, but can’t.

“Is something wrong with the yard?” he asks.

Slowly, she lifts her finger and taps on the glass. “I think that woman out there – I think she might be naked.

 

Kyung is the son of Korean parents, and lives with his American wife and son. His upbringing, while lavish, was lacking in affection and warmth, and his connection with his parents as an adult is shaky. But when an act of unspeakable violence suddenly impacts the family, they find themselves thrown together and having to confront their issues from the past and deal with their internal demons.

 

Janelle says…

This book was such a pleasant surprise. I’m still thinking about the story and how much I loved it.

I was expecting a story roughly centred around Asian immigrants trying to make a life in America. I don’t know where I got that expectation from, but I was wrong. This is an exploration of family dynamics and secrets, particularly within non-Western cultures. It looks at both gender and race. It deals with grief and trauma, and it packs quite a few tough scenes. It’s certainly not an easy read, but it’s so thoughtful and moving, and leaves a lot to ponder.

What struck me most about this book was just how much it packed in, and how appealing it would be to a wide range of readers. You’ll notice I’ve categorised it as both literary fiction and thriller, and it’s true – I can’t completely dump it within either category. The plot kept me keen the whole way through, every time I had to put the book down I couldn’t wait to get back to it to find out what else it had in store. It had a few unexpected turns, and I questioned my views on various characters time and again. It kept moving at a steady pace which is something that’s important to me to keep my attention.

Shelter was both shattering and entertaining. It was just a solid, enjoyable read. It would be perfect for book clubs, I think you could discuss this with other people for hours. One of my favourite reads so far this year. Highly recommended!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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How do you read so much?

 

Janelle says…

I get asked this question all the time. I work five days a week, I have two children, I go to the gym and do yoga, and I read. I don’t feel like I read a huge amount, I average about one book per week. But for some people, that’s a lot more reading than they themselves manage. They can’t fathom how I can get this amount of reading done along with tending to all my other responsibilities and obligations, which may be similar to what they have going on in their own lives. So I’m always being asked, “How do you find the time?”. Here’s how I find it:

 

Audiobooks

In my opinion this is the quickest way to increasing the number of books you read. If you listen to books on audio, you can listen to them at times when it is impossible to be reading a print or e-book. In the car. In the morning while getting ready for work. At the gym. While you take the dog for a walk. While you hang out the washing. While you pick up the dog poop off the lawn. While you make dinner. I listen to audiobooks in all of the above scenarios, and let me tell you, if I consistently always had an audiobook on the go, I would double the number of books I get through, guaranteed. It’s also a lot easier to get your hands on audiobooks than you might think – public libraries have them available for loan on mp3, trusty old cd, or through the free BorrowBox app so you can listen on your phone.

 

Reading on my lunch break

I can’t function during the day unless I have a lunch break away from my desk, and I try to make sure that break includes reading. Preferably outside in the sun. Not only is this very good for you, especially if you work at a desk in front of a screen like me, but it will help push you through those pages faster. It all adds up!

 

Reading every night

I also can’t function unless I read every night. At least in bed before sleep, if not during the time leading up to going to bed. This is when I get most of my reading done. If I manage to devote myself entirely to reading for the night after the kids go to sleep, this gives me at least a good one-and-a-half hours of page turning. There are plenty of other distractions though, like my phone and Netflix, so this is about dedication and prioritising how you want to spend your time. If you would like to spend more of your evening time reading, you simply need to make that commitment to yourself. Leave your phone in another room or turn it off. Grab a blanket and a cup of tea, and sit in a quiet comfy corner somewhere and just immerse yourself in it.

 

Sign up for a reading challenge

Maybe you’re the competitive type who would be spurned on by a challenge? There are plenty of them out there, to suit whatever it is you would like to get out of your reading. Simply want to read more books? Try the Goodreads annual reading challenge. Want to diversify and broaden your reading horizons? Give the Book Riot Read Harder challenge a go. I wrote a post about some reading challenges taking place in 2017, so check that out for some suggestions if you’d like to add a bit of extra motivation to your reading life.

 

Start a book blog with your sister so you feel obligated to read

That way you’ll have to read at least one thing every month, lest you be shamed in front of the whole internet!

 

Have I missed anything? Do you have any other tips for bringing more reading in to your life?

 

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