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Monday, January 30, 2017

My 2017 Bullet Journal

Well, since everyone and their grandmother is bullet journalling these days, it was only a matter of time that I started it too as I am nothing if not a complete lemming. I test drove bullet journalling at the end of last year to see if it was right for me and it was immediately apparent to my list-maker, planning-obsessed sensibilities that it was.

I like bullet journalling because, a) it combines a planner and a notebook into one cohesive unit, b) you can individualize the planner to your liking, and c) it is in analog rather than in digital, and I find that putting pen to paper helps me organize my life in a way that computers never quite could.

Because I always love seeing other people's pictures of their bullet journals (I am so nosy) and because a few people have asked me to share some spreads from my journal, I will post some pics below from my Leuchtturm1917 Dotted Hardcover Notebook (A5), in royal blue, for anyone interested.

Full disclaimer though: none of these ideas are my own; they are all taken from other people's posts on pinterest, instagram, etc. I am not particularly artistic or creative like a lot of people in the bullet journal community, so I often look to others for inspiration. Wherever possible, I've tried to find the source of my inspiration and post them here.

Typical Bullet Journal key. Design blatantly stolen from @thevintagewren

2017 Year at a Glance. So I can keep track of important events coming up.

Weight Loss Goals. Gone are the days when I can just eat whatever I want... thankfully I am (pathetically) motivated by colouring in little boxes so this works for me. Based off @bulletjournalweightloss

Budget Goals (again colouring in boxes). I would like to save at least $1,000 a month... Kind of easier said than done at the moment as work has dried up for me so we're living off one income for two people. But I am a firm believer that the best goals in life are the most challenging ones. Based off S. Warrington.

Chore Schedule. I am a recent new homeowner and I am more motivated than ever to take good care of my living space, so I'm giving this chore schedule a try and it seems to be working pretty well for me so far. I'm not much of a doodler, but when I put together this page, I ended up with three big blank spaces so I randomly scribbled in some cleaning items. Based off TinkerTeacherMakerMom

Graphic Novels TBR. I have quite a few regular (boring) list pages (movies to see, wish list items to buy, home improvement projects to do, etc.), and the above is just an example of that. This list of graphic novels to read is based off of the recommendations that people gave me when I asked for some last year.

Monthly Spread. I prefer a boxed monthly spread to the standard list monthly spread that the bullet journal founder recommends, with a list of the major tasks that I want to get done on the right.

Monthly Tracker and Gratitude Log. Trackers are a good way to keep track of habits you are trying to maintain. And because one of my new year's resolutions was to be more thankful, I have decided to write down one thing I am grateful for every day this year. Based off BohoBerry.

Weekly Spread. Because I'm not working at the moment, my days aren't very structured so I don't feel as though I have a need for bullet journal dailies. Instead, I just do weeklies. I like to plan out general and home tasks I want to get done during the week (based off my main monthly task list), plan out my meals (so I know what to buy at the grocery store and what and when to defrost), and to list my chores for the week (based off my chore schedule above).

Et voila: a peak into my 2017 bullet journal featuring no original spreads of my own, but still great ideas to keep organized. I hope this post has given you the semblance that I've got my sh*t together in life, even if that is certainly not the case.

Do you bullet journal? If you do, I'd love to see some pics of your spreads so link me up!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Spring 2017 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the HarperCollins Spring 2017 Catalog:

Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood
Date: March 21, 2017
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Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems. 

Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a crossbow-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her—but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?

I mean, how cute does this look/sound?? You know I love a story about a magical school, and there are a lot of other elements that I love that are mentioned in the synopsis for Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded besides.

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
Date: May 2, 2017
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A Great Winged One will soon arise and cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. And just as Night slays Day, and Day slays Night, so also shall another Black Witch rise to meet him, her powers vast beyond imagining.
So foretells the greatest prophecy of the Gardnerian mages. Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch, drove back the enemy forces and saved her people during the Realm War. Now a new evil is on the horizon, and her granddaughter, Elloren, is believed to be Carnissa’s heir—but while she is the absolute image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else.
When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren is eager to join her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University and finally embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the University, which admits all manner of peoples—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of her people—is an even more treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

Manon's chapters in the Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas are some of my favourites, and I thought instantly of that when The Black Witch came on my radar. I really hope this is as good as it sounds!

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Date: May 30, 2017
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In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community, and has no desire to try.
Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea's biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

And finally, Eliza and Her Monsters has been drawing a lot of comparisons to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell for obvious reasons. So seeing how much I loved and identified with Fangirl, I'm definitely curious about this one!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these HarperCollins Spring 2017 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the HarperCollins Spring 2017 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Published: October 14, 2014 / January 5, 2016
Pages: 213 / 291
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4 Stars

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). 

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't), this international best seller featuring Tokyo's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home - and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

The KonMari Method of tidying up: keep only the items that bring you joy in your life. Seems like obvious common sense in a way, doesn't it? And yet I'm sure I'm not alone in owning many more items than necessary in my home - objects that are extras, or are kept around "just in case", or else are kept despite the fact that they are in varied amounts of disrepair. Well, Marie Kondo advocates getting rid of all of that stuff and keeping only the few items that are either a) used regularly or b) "spark joy" in order to keep your home tidy and your life de-cluttered and happy.

There are two issues I have when it comes to this method though. First, I really don't feel as though I have the money at the moment to take on what Marie Kondo is recommending. I mean sure, I would love to throw out/donate and replace all items of clothing that have holes and all the old objects in my home that are used second-hand, but unfortunately I am not working at this time and don't have much in the way of spending money. Kondo recommends tidying up all in one go instead of in little bits at a time, but this is just not a reality for me at the moment unless I was willing to get rid of almost everything I own all at once and not be able to replace it.

And secondly, I think I'm just too left-brained for some of Kondo's practices. Kondo believes that all inanimate objects are imbued with energy. And she advocates talking to all the objects in our lives, thanking them for the jobs they perform for us. It's just... a little too "out there" for me personally. It's not something I would be able to take seriously, and I know I certainly would not be able to feel such energies coming from objects to determine whether they "spark joy" in me.

Still, Marie Kondo makes a lot of other good points that I could see myself benefitting from. I know that lots of clutter in my home often makes me feel stressed. And it just seems like obvious good advice: if you don't love it or use it regularly, then don't keep it. I hope to start employing some of the practices that she talks about in her books (like de-cluttering by category instead of place and designating a "home" for all objects) and I anticipate seeing good results in the overall happiness and efficiency of my life. Though I will have to do it at my own pace (because of money issues) and in my own way (because I don't think any inanimate object has energy that could spark joy in me exactly as Kondo describes).

Anyways,  I would be curious if anyone reading this has tried the KonMari Method - did it work for you?

Author Links:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My 2016 Bookish Stats

For three years now, I have been keeping track of my bookish stats in an extensive spreadsheet so that I can compile the data at the end of the year, make some graphs, and keep track of the trends in my reading (see my 2014 bookish stats and my 2015 bookish stats). Yes, I am a nerd. But I will not deny my unabashed love for Microsoft Excel and all its many uses... 

So. In 2016 I read 175 books. I am proud not only of this number, but of the fact that I have been steadily increasing my number of books read every year by 25 books since 2011. So of course now that I am so close to *200 books* read in a year, I feel like I just have to challenge myself to do it, you know? Of course, I will need to read a bunch of shorter books this year to have a shot at meeting such a goal... We'll see what happens.

I consider it a good reading year when the majority of books I read are 4 stars and above. So I am happy to say that 2016 was a very good year for me in books as roughly 75% of books I read were 4 (or 3.5 rounded up) stars to 5 stars, with only a few duds.

Here is a breakdown of books read by genre from 2014 to 2016. Fantasy reading is back on top for me after that weird anomaly in 2015 when contemporary reads actually surpassed fantasy reads. I also read a lot more dystopians in 2016 (I read a few backlist series that I've had on my TBR forever, like the Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld and the Shatter Me Trilogy by Tahereh Mafi). And I've really been embracing and enjoying non-fiction a whole lot this past year.

I read zero review books in 2016, nor did I purchase any books. All the books I read in 2016 were either borrowed from the library or gifted to me (i.e.. FREE). Now this might be the stat I'm most proud of, and my wallet thanks me! Occasionally I do miss the days of receiving advanced books for review from publishers and all the excitement that went along with that, but overall I find I'm happiest not reading and reviewing on anyone's schedule but my own.

Only three data points here, but I'm pleased that I've managed to meet my goal to read more diverse books: in 2016, almost 25% of the books I read had a MC who was a person of colour.

I've also managed to read more books with an LGBT representation, with over 15% of books read in 2016 featuring a LGBT MC.

And finally, I've managed to increase the percentage of standalones I read in 2016 to almost 50% (probably all those non-fiction reads I read). I still love me a good series read, but I was getting a bit overwhelmed with the number of series I was taking on so I am happy I decided to do less series-reading in 2016.

So there you have it (if anyone did indeed read this post to the end...)! In 2017, I would like to continue to read more non-fiction as I really enjoyed it in 2016. I would also like to read more diversely and limit the number of series I have on the go. I am considering taking up e-galley reading for publishers again (though not in any major capacity), and I plan on maintaining my book buying ban for 2017. Here's to a good year in reading!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Stacking the Shelves: Holiday 2016 Edition

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews to showcase books that I have received for review, bought, borrowed, been gifted, or won to read.

Happy New Year! It's been a year since I participated in the Stacking the Shelves meme to show off my 2015 holiday book haul. I'm super excited and grateful for the books I got over the 2016 holiday season so I thought I would show them off as well:

To start off, a few books I received pre-holidays from the work I do as a bookkeeper for my dad's company:
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas - I ordered this shortly after completing Queen of Shadows, which I loved. I will hopefully get to reading this soon - certainly before the final Throne of Glass book comes out this year!

Leuchtturm1917 Dotted Hardcover Notebook (A5), Royal Blue - In the tail end of 2016, I decided to try my hand at bullet journalling and quickly fell in love. I've always been a planner and list-maker, but have always done so digitally - to varied success. With bullet journalling, there's something about planning in analog that just works for me and has been keeping me on track and motivated to be productive. So I decided to treat myself to a pretty new journal for the new year!

Holiday Gifts:
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - from Ambur of Burning Impossibly Bright
I've only read one Melina Marchetta book before - Jellicoe Road - and I found it to be so beautiful and impactful. So I'm looking forward to my next Marchetta read!

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson - from Sara of Just Another Story
I have heard nothing but the most amazing things about this author and this book and so I am stoked to read this!

Uprooted by Naomi Novik - from Micheline of Lunar Rainbows
Here's another one that seemingly everyone loved. I just KNOW that this one will end up being a favourite fantasy of mine!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - from in-laws
My in-laws both loved this book a lot and thoughtfully thought I would like it as well.

As with last year, I can't help but feel SO lucky to have so many people in my life who are so thoughtful and know my reading tastes so well! I expect 2017 will be a good year in books for me :)