Tag Archives: challenge

Disney Readalong Wrap Up

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about taking part in the Disney Readalong from 6th-12thMay. There were five challenges:

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I allowed myself to extend the challenge into Sunday 13thMay, as most of the Saturday evening was taken up with the Eurovision Song Contest. Work was really busy that week as well, meaning I didn’t get as much time for reading as I would have liked due to being super tired when I got home each evening. But I did complete three of the prompts!

 

1) Frozen – a book set in winter: I read Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf. This book was brilliant if a little hard to follow when reading in a tired state of mind. It felt like it was semi-autobiographical, I’m not sure if it was or not. The book follows Alicia as she navigates adulthood with divorced parents and an autistic sibling – the eponymous brother, whom she feels is trapped as if in an ice block – and tries to make her way both in work and relationships. This narrative is interspersed with research into polar exploration, anecdotes about successful and unsuccessful attempts to reach the North and South poles and related scientific discoveries. These are woven into the storyline so Alicia’s story as she applies her research to her own life. I really enjoyed this book, I’ve never read anything else like it. I will definitely be rereading it when I am more awake so I can take more in and appreciate the writing more.

 

3) Aurora’s Dress – a book with pink and blue on the cover: I read The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley. I am a big fan of the webseries The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, the accompanying novel, last year. I loved this spin-off/sequel which follows Lydia as she tries to recover from the fallout of the scandal that occurred during Lizzie’s vlog series (it is a bit different from the Pride and Prejudice storyline as it is modernised so I won’t give away any spoilers). One of my favourite things about the series is the exploration of the relationship between the sisters. As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, Lydia in the book feels like a plot device used to bring Lizzy and Darcy together, and is quite caricatured. In the webseries and accompanying novels, Lydia is very much her own character, with agency and real, deep emotions. It was great to catch up with these characters again and get a glimpse of what comes next in their stories.

 

5) Cinderella – read the Grimm fairytale and watch the Disney movie. I used to watch this film in French all the time so it felt weird that I opted to watch it in English this time. I had forgotten how sappy and instalove-y the film is, but it has good music and I love the little animal creatures (especially Lucifer the cat who is one of the better Disney villains). I was surprised how different the fairytale is, there are three balls for one thing. I’m looking forward to reading more of the Grimm fairytales as I only recognise a few of the titles.

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So that was my first prompted readathon! I enjoyed the experience but will maybe check out my work schedule before taking part in another one.

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Readathons and other bookish things

Sorry it’s been a while again. April turned into a surprisingly busy month, which came and went in a flurry of activity and weather. And then May snuck in out of nowhere and took me by surprise – but I think things should settle down into more of a routine now.

So I thought I’d bring you an update on my reading/book buying/writing New Years Resolutions and how they are going. Short answer: things never go to plan, do they?!

Writing is the quickest one to cover – I’ve not been doing much (can you tell?) but I still intend to do more. I’m trying to figure a few things out about the future at the moment, including how writing will fit into it, but I do miss writing fiction and I want to make more time for that in my life. I will get there!

In terms of buying books, I have fallen off the wagon a few times… Of the fifteen books I have bought so far this year, five were for Ninjabookclub and one was in a Ninjabookbox. Two my Vicar recommended to help with the whole figuring out the future thing (he would have lent them to me but someone else was borrowing them). That leaves seven which I have no excuse for, other than that they were cheap or signed copies and I wanted them. Still I certainly have had worse starts to the year in terms of book buying. I’m aiming to read all the books I buy this year this year in an attempt to justify their purchase (one of them is no. 4 in a series, of which I have only read one so far, so that will be fun…)

I have had some success in unhauling this year, though. In January my parents and I sorted through a number of boxes they are keeping in their attic for me, which included many books I had kept from my childhood. I gave two boxes to friends for their kids and one box to a charity shop. Since then I have also weeded out a few more from my shelves which I was not excited about reading any more. I am also stricter with myself about not keeping books I have read unless I gave them 4 or more stars.

Each year I set my Goodreads target as one higher than the number of books I read the previous year, meaning my target for this year is 78 books. Currently I have read 29, which is three books ahead of schedule. You would think that this would mean my TBR is decreasing, but, surprisingly, it is not. The main problem is how easily I can request books from the library. Southampton City Libraries allow you to request any books from any of their libraries for free, and they have a great range. I have borrowed fifteen books from the library this year so far, eight of which I have read and seven I am currently borrowing.

So my TBR shelf on Goodreads has only gone down by four since the start of the year. And I’m not even sure I’ve added all the books I bought to it…

So in an attempt to address this I have started coming up with a monthly TBR, which includes a mixture of books I have bought and borrowed. I am usually a bit ambitious to allow for mood reading. I am going to try not to borrow any more library books until I have read everything I have borrowed from family and friends as well. And I’m going to try EVEN HARDER not to buy books other than for NinjaBookClub… (let’s see how that goes!)

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Last weekend was Dewey’s 24 hour Readathon, which I took part in for the first time. I joined over 1900 other readers and together we read half a million pages in 24 hours. I wasn’t able to join in the whole 24 hours, but I did enjoy focusing on reading time instead of watching tv, etc. I will take part in the next one in October for sure. I am also on the lookout for other readathons/readalongs I can take part in, to help tackle my TBR with focused reading. This one was easy because there were no stipulations as to genres or categories. I have come across several intriguing sounding readathons on BookTube (the bookish area of YouTube) that I have thought about taking part in but I would have had to resort to buying books for some of the prompts and we already know I am trying to avoid that!

But the other day I came across a readathon with fewer categories and I already had books to meet all of them! So today I have started the Disney Readalong, hosted on BookTube by Cherrie Walker, Tiny Book Dragon and Cristina’s Journey. The readathon is from 6-12thMay and there are five prompts as follows:

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Here is my TBR for the week:

  1. Frozen: Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf– I’m not sure if this is actually set in Winter but it is about Polar Exploration so I think it counts.
  2. Dory: Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne– this was the hardest category as I am generally pretty aware of what books I own (despite there being so many) but I was surprised to see this on my bookshelf so it got picked
  3. Aurora’s Dress: The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley– actually this was pretty hard too as I had loads of books with one or the other colour but I like that I found one where the colours are actually clothing. I am a big fan of the YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and I read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet last year so I am happy to be finally reading this one.
  4. Huey, Dewey & Louie: The Counterfeit Guest by Rose Melikan– this is the second book in the Mary Finch trilogy. I read the first, The Blackstone Key, last autumn and loved it so I have been keen to get around to this one.
  5. Cinderella:Although I slightly disagree that Grimm was the original version (I think Charles Perrault’s version predates theirs, and I’m not even sure his was the original) it does give me a good excuse to finally read my gorgeous edition of Grimm’s fairytales. Although I only have to read Cinderella for the prompt, I will also be reading the rest as my next short story collection to read. And it’s never a problem to have to watch a Disney movie. This one has probably my least favourite prince, but it’s worth watching just for Lucifer the cat.

 

They are all fairly short – The Counterfeit Guest is the longest but based on the first in the series it won’t be too challenging a read and I am saving it for last anyway! I started Brother in Ice this morning and it is really good so far. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything like it before.

I will be tweeting my reading for the week, probably from my personal twitter rather than the blog twitter (@cerilouisew rather than @mayibethemoon) but please feel free to follow both accounts…!!

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions Part One – Reading and Writing Goals

2017 was a big year for me. I turned 30, moved back out from my parents’ house into one I partially own, and completed the final part of my Masters, including a 15000 word dissertation.

You may have noticed that one of the things to take a back seat in the last year was this blog, as I while I was studying I just did not have the time to spare on writing for fun, and since finishing my course in October I have needed to give my brain a rest. But I miss all the writing, the stringing together of words in new and meaningful ways. So one of my goals for 2018 is to get back into good writing habits. I intend to post on here a lot more frequently than last year – I’m aiming for at least once a week. I’m also working toward more variety in what I post. I want to practice more creative writing, but also review more books and films, to share some of what influences me creatively. I would like to share some reflections from what I learnt from my course, and get back into blogging my Bible studies. So look out for a more eclectic mix of posts from me in the future. I hope you enjoy what I have to share. I recognise that some of that might not appeal to you, dear reader, but I hope you find something that you like and stick with me for the rest, as there might be something that surprises you. I don’t know. I am still trying to find my voice and work out what kind of a writer I am.

Outside of the blog, I also had several novels I was working on before I had to put them on the back burner while studying, so I will be reviving them. I’m aiming to finish a first draft of at least one of them before the summer of 2019 (as per my #Next5 goals from 2014) so I will be dedicating time to work on them too.

I haven’t quite worked out exactly how to make myself more disciplined in my writing yet, but it will probably involve setting aside an hour a day for a certain number of days per week for focused writing, on whatever topic. One thing I am definitely going to do is not put off writing reviews – when I read a book or see a film that I want to write about I will aim to get my thoughts down that week while it is fresh. Earlier this year I read a book that meant a lot to me and I really intended to review it, but before I knew it months had passed and I couldn’t really remember all the details that I wanted to share. So no more procrastinating. (On which note, I feel proud of myself as I have already written two reviews today, which I will be sharing here soon! Go me starting my resolutions early!)

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One of the delightful aspects of having my own place again was that I was able to unpack all my boxes of books that had been in storage for three years. Unfortunately this has also lead to an explosion of my TBR list, not helped by my addiction to buying books (I bought over 50 books this year, and was given around 30, not to mention ones I’ve borrowed from the library. My Goodreads to read shelf currently has 549 items on it). So, as I am severely running out of shelf space, I recognise the need to not buy more books next year.

The slight problem with not buying ANY books (other than that I don’t think I could cope with going cold turkey) is that one of the greatest joys of my life this year has been discovering the #Ninjabookcommunity – I subscribe to the quarterly #Ninjabookbox and have loved discovering more great independently published books through #Ninjabookclub. Of my top three books of the year, one was from a #Ninjabookbox (Star Shot by Mary Ann Constantine, published by Seren books) and one was our #Ninjabookclub pick for November (How to Be a Kosovan Bride by Naomi Hamill, published by Salt). The third I received from my partner in the #Ninjabookswap (The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James, although I don’t know if the publisher Walker books are independent as that was not a requirement of the swap and I can’t find the list at the moment).

So instead of cutting out bookbuying entirely, I will be attempting in 2018 to only buy ninja-related books – as in, they are in the #ninjabookbox, for #ninjabookclub or bought on a #ninjaorganised bookshop crawl (which I am hoping to take part in). I’m aiming for less than 20. The ONLY exception will be if I can stick to this until December I will treat myself to J.R.R. Tolkein’s Letters from Father Christmas as 2018 is also going to be my year for re-reading Tolkien and it will be Christmas.

This means that I am kind-of accidentally taking part in #Ninjabookbox’s #IndieChallenge – to buy more/only independently published books in 2018. I have discovered so many great books this year that I would not have come across otherwise through the Ninja influence that I am now a firm supporter of Independent publishers and want to help promote their books to a wider audience.

I have set other limits for myself as to how many books I am allowed to borrow or reread, but my main goal is to get my TBR list down to a more reasonable amount. I know that one year is not going to make a great deal of difference so I will have to see how long I can stick to this…

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So there you have it, my Writing and Reading goals for 2018. I have a couple of other things I want to work on for myself, which I will share in the not-to-distant future.

Rhi’s Fundraising Challenge

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One of the best things about having a blog is getting to tell some amazing stories, even when they are not my own… I have some pretty awesome friends and this week I want to share the fundraising exploits of my friend Rhi. I’ve asked her to tell you all a little of what she’s up to in the next few weeks:

‘As a part of a charity apprenticeship that I’m completing this year with the charity Child.org, I’m running a challenge fundraiser at the end of April. The challenge is called ‘Survive on Five’ and I will be living on £1 a day for 5 days to raise funds and awareness of children living in poverty in Ghana and Kenya. Child.org works to empower some of the world’s most vulnerable children by providing them with access to quality health care, education, water and food. Key projects include HealthStart which teaches life skills, provides family planning information and provides malaria nets and deworming treatment as well as school feeding programmes which consistently provide nutritious meals, helping children not to have to worry where their next meal will come from. As well as my fundraising challenge, I am currently creating a product called Mystery Books which I hope to take around local fayres and events. I will also be running an event in the autumn as well as other fundraising ideas so watch this space’

I personally am very excited about the mystery books, being such a bookworm…! Rhi describes this as: ‘Mystery books are wrapped up books with clues on the front – buy a literary present for yourself and helping children at the same time!’ I understand that Rhi is parting with books from her own collection so they will all come with her recommendation. If you fancy a blind date with a good book you need look no further!

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If you want to support Rhi, you can donate here: http://child.org/me/food-fiver-challenge

#30by30 number 16 – finish writing “The Girl in the Electric Blue Dress”

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I often have really vivid dreams that stay with me a long time after I wake up. Sometimes these are just the jumbled meanderings of my subconscious trying to make sense of my life – like the time I was stressed about work and dreamt that someone had rearranged the office over the weekend and I couldn’t find my desk. Occasionally, though, a crazy dream brings me the nugget of an idea for a story. I had one such dream last summer.

It started with a picture of a girl wearing, you guessed it, and electric blue dress. Actually, when I woke up the story was nearly fully formed, I just needed to write it down. But finding time to put pen to paper is never easy and that first day after the dream I just had time to sketch out the first scene. Then life happened and my creative writing ended up on the back burner again.

But the girl in the dress stayed in the back of my mind, and I knew I needed to tell her story. So it only seemed fair to her to make it part of my #30by30 challenge. In November I was meeting up with a friend in Bath so I took my notebook and pencil on the train and used the journey time to write, but it wasn’t quite long enough. So my notebook went on holiday with me over Christmas (it’s a big ole notebook so I could have done without the weight, I probably should get a smaller one… if you’re wondering, that is my notebook in the picture, in a former life it was my teacher’s planner. I hate to be wasteful). I finished the story in my hotel room overlooking the sea.

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I spent last weekend typing it up and editing it, although, being so short, it didn’t need much work to make it presentable. And I’m going to share it here over the next couple of weeks. I’ll put the first part up later today (I know, two posts in one day! What is the world coming to?!)

I’ve had a hard time explaining the genre to my friends, it’s part urban fantasy, part dystopian, part ghost story. Actually, when I thought about it, I decided the best way of explaining it is as a fairy story. There’s a kind of princess, a sort of wicked king, an almost knight in shining armour and a definite fairy godmother so I think that’s what I’ll call it – a modern fairytale.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

#30by30 number 21 – Become a Patreon

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One of my aims with #30by30 is to support and promote things that I care about, in an effort to be less self-centred, I guess.

Anyway, not too long ago I heard of a website called Patreon which allows creative types to fundraise from supporters to help them to continue to create in fields that are often difficult to progress in when you are starting out. It’s a bit like Kickstarter or Indigogo, but instead of helping to get a specific project off the ground, patrons fund the ongoing work of a writer, actor, artist, singer etc.

I currently can only afford to support two people at $1 per month each, which, with the associated fees and currency conversion rates should be a little less than £2 per month, but I’m hoping to be able to increase that in the future as most of the artists offer extra content to the higher level supporters.

But for now, it gives me the opportunity on this blog to tell you about the people I support and to promote their work to you 🙂 I also recommend you head over to www.patreon.com to check out some of the other creative people that use that site to see if there are any you would like to support!

 

So the first person I chose to support is Mya Gosling of goodticklebrain.com – a mostly Shakespeare webcomic. The first time I heard of Mya was when her three panel plays were featured on some list or other of things to check out on the Internet. In those comics she condensed each Shakespeare play to three points, illustrated by stick figures. She also retells the plays act-by-act and scene-by-scene, which really helps to bring the stories to life. She does other one-off or occasional comics – the recent Shakespeare’s missing mothers series had me crying with laughter, as did the Hamlet/Sound of Music crossover comics. For a Shakespeare geek like myself, there are very few more enjoyable things on the Internet. Also, the complete works t-shirt she created is one of my favourite items of clothing and a great conversation starter…

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My second patronee (not convinced that’s the correct term but never mind!) is Mary Kate Wiles, an actress and vlogger. A couple of years ago some friends recommended I watch the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube – a modern adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Lizzie has a video diary. I LOVE Jane Austen so I am always a little reluctant to watch spin-offs and non-period adaptations, but with much Persuasion (!) I gave it a try and I did not regret it.

Mary Kate was cast as Lizzie’s irrepressible younger sister Lydia. One of my favourite things about the show was that Lydia really came to life as a rounded character rather than just a plot device (sorry Miss Austen!) – showing the quality of the writing but also MK’s brilliant acting. Last year I re-watched the series and mentioned to a friend that I was doing so, and she asked if I had seen MK’s Craftversations videos, which I immediately investigated. In these videos, MK interviews a friend from the world of YouTube (actor, writer, producer, etc) while they carry out a craft activity. I love these videos because not only do they give me great ideas for craft projects to try but they have also introduced me to lots of other fun YouTube series that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

So there you have it, two of my favourite Internet people. I’d love to hear if you support anyone on Patreon and if so, who and why 🙂

30by30 number 6.2 – meet someone famous(ish)

Now, my #30by30 challenge is barely a month old and I’ve already hit a hitch. I’ve had to swap out one of my challenges.

In the summer I was sent a picture of a flyer for a group that knits items for the neonatal unit of a local hospital, and I had intended to join this group as part of my challenge. Unfortunately, when I called the number there was no answer. I have since heard from a friend that the flyer had such an overwhelming response that the phone number had to be disconnected.

I love knitting, crochet and other craft activities, but tend to mainly make things for myself or for friends, so I am still hoping to find a charitable project to unleash my knitting skills on (if you know of anything based in the Hampshire area please let me know). In case that doesn’t work out, however, I have come up with a replacement challenge.

I had toyed with the idea of putting ‘meet someone famous’ on the list in the first place, but thought it unlikely that I would get the opportunity. So seeing as I met some slightly famous people on Friday night I decided it would be remiss not to use this as my new challenge no 6.

A little over a year ago there was a series on BBC called The Naked Choir – a competition to find the UK’s best a cappella group, presented by Gareth Malone. I love anything a cappella and Gareth Malone has a great track record for uncovering talent so I knew this was worth a watch (his latest show The Choir: Gareth’s Best in Britain is not disappointing, either).

I quickly identified the group I hoped would win, and sure enough, they did! The Sons of Pitches are a midlands-based, all-male, six-piece group with brilliant technique and a great sense of humour. Since winning the competition, they have built up a fairly large YouTube fan base and are currently on their second UK tour. I persuaded some friends to tag along to their Basingstoke show on Friday night and it was easily one of the best gigs I’ve been to in my life, ranging from hilarious improvised songs about roundabouts and Philip Schofield (you had to be there) to simple emotive performances (their rendition of Wuthering Heights still gives me chills every time I hear it). Seriously, if you have the opportunity to see them live, it is definitely worth it.

The great thing about seeing a band at the start of their careers is that they are still small enough to be able to come out to meet the fans after the show. And as I had driven, my poor friends had to wait patiently while I said hello to each band member (and take photos for me).

So that’s probably enough fangirling for one week, but you really should check out their YouTube channel, or at least just watch this one video: