25 Novels in a Year

Who doesn’t love reading? I’d wager that the sort of person who does not credit the merits of a good book isn’t worth wasting time on!

I made a New Year’s resolution last year to read 25 novels. Surprisingly, 2 books a month wasn’t really a challenge, and there were periods of up to a week where I didn’t read. Below are the titles of the books I read, including any opinions some might have sparked off.

The Silver Smith’s Wife 

an enjoyable read without any real depth. A murder mystery of sorts, but tangled up with social intricacies of Victorian London, class struggles, and a touch of supernatural that didn’t seem to sit right with me. 3/5

Outlander

This book was magical! Claire, a nurse who served in France on the battlefields of World War II, is transported back in time and thrown into the path of Jaime Fraser, some 300 years earlier. Scottish Clan feuds, fights, sex, romance… it has it all. I loved it so much I followed it up with the sequal. (There are 5 books in the series I believe) 5/5

Outlander: Dragonfly in Amber 

Picture of Dorian Gray

The Wizard of Oz

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When God was a Rabbit

A wonderful tale of a troubled family coming together through adversity. As a reader, I was a person stuffed into a cupboard and watching this beautifully complex family interact with one another whilst I held my breath as I peered through the key hole. 5/5

The Miniaturist

A bit of a let down for me. This book tried to take on so many issues in 15th century Holland – Homosexuality, Race, Mixed race children, Religion, social conduct… but dealt with them all in a poor conclusion. The imagery is beautiful, however the real question of the identity of the miniaturist is never satisfactorily answered, and the main character is a little irritating. 3/5

Frankenstein

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Matilda

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

A beautiful follow up from the writer of “The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared”. Similar in style, and no less delightful. 4/5

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

The Fault in Our Stars

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H is for Hawk 

I ADORED this non-fiction book, capturing the author’s struggle with her grief following her father’s untimely death, and with her newly adopted Goshawk. It’s because of this book that I am adding The Goshawk by T H White to next year’s list.

The Earthquake Bird

The Remains of the Day

Eastern Jewel

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The Gospel of Loki

A great easy read if you’re into the Avengers. Loki is given a new dimension, though none so much as Thor. A good short read that is sure to bring a chuckle or two. 3/5

Mendelsohn in on the Roof

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Far From the Maddening Crowd

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 The Bees 

This was so interesing. I love bees anyway, and this book brought their world of the Hive to life in a way I could never have imagined. A must read for anyone wanting to try something a little different, and for any self-respecting Entomologist!

Clariel

Prequel to the much loved Abhorsen Series. A quick read, mainly because this is still teen fiction, and I am no longer a teen! Reawakened my love for the original tales so much more. Great story, but not quite there. 4/5

1984

Only read this for the fist time, and I was stunned by it’s relevance even today. This book should be on the mandatory reading list for society. 5/5

Sum

Talk to the Tail 

Tom Cox, creator of the well loved @MYSADCAT account, has written 4 books about his adventures with his many cats. Laugh out loud funny, easy to read, and so relatable for anyone who has cats of their own or even knows anything about the cats exploits from following on Twitter. 5/5

 

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New Year’s Resolutions

Does anyone else not really bother with New Year’s Resolutions? Or do you make them in earnest, and never really keep them?

I decided that as the New Year coincided with a new promotion and new responsibilities, that my New Year’s Resolutions should be somehow tied in, to keep me motivated!

However, NYRs tend to be shoddy rhetoric-driven scraps of promises that we make to ourselves. Why do we let ourselves down so readily?

 

Create Good Habits

Many NYRs are never realised because they were never measurable in the first place!! At work we are set SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound) and this should also apply to objectives and goals that we set for ourselves.

Motivational writers often talk about forming good habits rather than trying to go hell for leather in the first few weeks and “failing”.

Set some goals that are easy to achieve (but not too easy!) then ramp things up a little, piece by piece. Before you know it, a new activity or behavior will feel like second nature, and become part of your routine.

If something isn’t working for you, that’s OK too. If you’re giving up on something, be sure to at least analyse the reasons why you are doing so, to try and at least take a lesson away from it all.

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I’ve written down some ideas I’ve had for mine this year!

Power dress

Look good, feel good. A universal truth. If you feel good, you are confident (but not arrogant) and confidence radiates outwards and can have a positive impact on everything you do.

With my new promotion I figured that I should dress to impress (and impress only myself, I’m not doing it for anyone else’s benefit, mind you).

So today, I did a little shopping in Zara….

(this one isn’t measurable, unless I commit to spending £100 a month on clothes at least. Something I can definitely manage!)

Hobbies not Weight Loss

My weight fluctuates by 1-2 Kgs throughout the year and it doesn’t tend to be a pressing issue for me. There are times when I wish I was a little thinner, trimmer and in general more healthy, but that’s a maelstrom of highly complex biochem and I ain’t going there.

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Instead, I want to find hobbies that I enjoy that just so happen to be exercise. Dancing, Yoga and squash are things I want to try out doing more often. If I can be active at least 3 times a week, that doesn’t disrupt my schedule too much and will most likely keep me healthy and happy.

Show my husband how wonderful I think he is

I have a great, supportive and kind husband who I just don’t shout about enough. I can be quick to temper at times, and he is the person in my life who least deserves it. I want to commit to taking him for lunch when he least expects it, leaving him notes, helping him with his routine if he is stressed or running behind. These things don’t all cost money, and only go to show that I value him, and want to help him because I love him more than anything else.

Read 25 novels

This is a repeat objective from last year, which I smashed by 3 extra books. I LOVE reading, and it is not a chore for me at all. However at times I can be distracted by social media, at bed times or on public transport, when that time could better be put to use by diving into a book.

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Does anyone else have any NYR inspiration?

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Christmas : It’s kind of like marmite…

Christmas. The other, much dirtier ‘C’ word.

For many of us, it’s a time of year to get really excited about; Cosy fires, festive drinks, a haze of gluttony and food comas, carols, drinky-poos and of course, presents and Christmas day with your family all around you.

For others, those very same things can induce dread so debilitating it can cause a hernia. Aside from the fact that high-street stores can start off with festive window displays and carols as soon as Halloween is over (what about bonfire night? At least give some recovery time, please?!?!?) Christmas can be a financial strain for some, who tumble into a spiral of over commitment and debts in order to fulfill the happiness and gift giving quota that society seems to demand of us these days.

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My little tree!!!

I’m the first to coo over beautifully arranged Instagram photos of the PERFECTLY wrapped gifts, luxury brand gift bags, and impossibly beautiful living room Christmas trees. But in the back of my head there’s a tiny voice that scoffs and says, ‘well that’s all well and good if you want to sell off a kindey AND don’t have a day job. Or children. Or cats….’.

Christmas has become a commercial frenzy. We all know this. I thought I would list my top favourite things about this time of year that I cherish, that don’t really cost a penny, alongside the things I wish didn’t matter, and would banish.

Cherish

That feeling I get in the back of my throat when I hear Nat King Cole or Ella Fitzgerald croon out a big band classic Christmas song. They don’t make ’em like that anymore. I can’t help myself from welling up!

Banish

Gifts from Santa? NO! As a parent, you can still maintain the magic of Christmas and the legend of Ol’ Saint Nick, but still take credit for the gifts you spent hours in shops picking out (and hours at work to pay for them). Kids are bound to get a little present-crazy when Christmas morning comes, but it’s important for them to understand WHO they came from and HOW they came to be there – through hard work and through kindness and thought.

Cherish

Family traditions and rituals around Christmas time are the things money can’t buy. Whether it’s getting everyone together in early December to put up the tree with carols on in the background, or whether it’s going carol singing in your local church. Do you make sure you all sit around the table to breakfast together? Keep them. Trust me, they matter the most, especially when loved ones move away, or pass on.

Banish

Shops selling to us as early as October. I know it’s because people start their shopping that early, but if believes about how tall a gift pile needs to be weren’t perpetuated by marketing ploys, we’d all consider gifts by their merit and not their quantity. I can’t stand the “that’ll do” outlook some people have, but then I can’t blame them either. They’re conditioned to feel stressed.

Cherish

Snow! It falls so rarely around this time of year. Get wrapped up and get out there and make a snow man.

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Cherish

Cheesy Christmas movies are all about the Christmas spirit – being with your family, all warm and loved when it’s so cold outside.

Banish

you have to spend as much on gift wrap as the present itself, right? WRONG! my top tip – everytime you get a gift bag, keep it, and reuse it next time you had out a gift. Buy your cards and wrap on sale in Jan for the year after, taking all the stress away when you realise you don’t have any, and also dramatically reducing your spend.

 

Do you have pet hates at Christmas? What are your  treasured Christmas traditions? Leave me a comment below!

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Gear4Geeks

I was really excited to find out about Gear4Geeks and be offered to do a collab with them on my blog.

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Any gamer geek ladies out there will know what I mean when I say that geekery in fashion is definitely very one sided. From band t-shirts to slogan tees from your favourite TV show, film or Game ; they’re either made to fit men, and therefore equate to us wearing a tent-like boxy t-shirt made of thick, robust and unflattering cotton, or they’re tailored with busty models in mind, if the slogan placement is anything to go by (I mean,I bet she doesn’t know her FFVII from her FFVIII amirite?!)

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Say it, Picard.

There’s a distinct lack of quality out there in the garments that are available, and often girls can’t express their passions for geekery in the same way it is so easy for men to do. (If you ask me if I borrowed this top from my boyfriend I will punch you in the face!)

Geark4Geeks are one of the few e-retailers out there who are offering high-quality and female-oriented clothing items. Batman, Disney, Harry Potter, Star Wars, to name a few, are represented here!

I chose a girly kitty dress, some awesome Mario colourful leggings and a Bambi vest to cover the whole range of what they offer.

Shoutout to Kallisti Jewellery for sending me this kickass Princess Peach necklace to match these leggings! Find her here on twitter, and on Etsy!

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The quality of these items is excellent, and I would highly recommend Gear4Geeks! – Browse their website for yourself!

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In case anyone was wondering, I’ve listed some of my favourite games of all time below – do we have any in common??

  • Final Fantasy (7-10)
  • Elder Scrolls
  • Mass Effect series
  • Devil May Cry
  • Bioshock Series
  • Fallout
  • Crash Bandicoot

Also I take Star Trek over Star Wars, My favourite Avenger is Thor, Vincent Valentine is a way better hero than Cloud Strife, and Terminator has so many plot holes I cannot even cope.

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Where we’re going, we don’t need plotholes!

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How to use your skills for Social Good

Hello readers!

I took part in #BlogHour this week and I asked if people would find a blog post about using your skills to do social good useful. The answer was a resounding yes, so here it is!

I’m sure many of us want to help out charities, but struggle to find opportunities or to know which they would be best suited to. I’ve written a guide crossed with my experiences this year.

What is Social Good?

First, I’d better start by defining what I mean by Social Good. The simplest way of describing it is by talking about the work of charities. Charities exist to address a social or health-related issue, and direct all their efforts and capital towards solving it.

There are other structures that organisations can adopt to address an issue – Social Enterprise, Not for Profits… the long and short of all three of these structures is that they are set up and geared towards delivering positive societal results, or positive social impact – ergo, Social Good.

 

Volunteering your time

Operating Capital, or cash to spend, can often be hard to come by for these organisations, and they often solely rely on donations coming in, and heavily on their fleet of volunteers. Cash is the main challenge for charities, to ensure a constant influx of income to remain sustainable.

I often wondered, as I met with lots of enthusiastic representatives from charities, or founders of Social Enterprises, how I could help them with my own time and my own skill set.

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Volunteering can get a bad rap – think of those mac-wearing ‘hippy-types’* who accost you in shopping centers and make you feel guilty that you have somewhere to be – even though you know you’ve got a list of Direct Debits each month going to charities like those they represent. Volunteering isn’t often glamorous, either, and I can’t really blame people for not being enthused , in spite of stabs of guilt.

Time is precious, right? You want to make sure that any time you give is put to maximum use, and has the highest impact it can.

Charities are often capital strapped, and therefore believe it or not their focusses are in the wrong place. Getting money trough the door is and will always be a struggle. But the problem will still exist and need to be fixed.

It’s a circular problem.

How you can use your skills to best effect

Something in my brain clicked in May this year, when talking to a lovely Lady from British Bee Keepers Association at a conference in London.

“Surely,” I said. “There are ways that you can sell what you are doing as a service, so that you can move on to bigger and better things?”

Her eyes lit up, we started chatting and before I knew it we were in planning workshop meetings with trustees, building a commercial model that might become a business case in the future.

That was me, doing what I do on a daily basis, but helping a cause I was passionate about. It didn’t feel like traditional volunteering. I felt useful.

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What are your skills? Are you a great negotiator? Are you good at debating, at selling an idea? Then there’s definitely a charity that can use your skills. You just need to put yourself in front of the right person.

Are you good at planning? Is organisation your thing? Are you a social butterfly? Then maybe charity events and fundraisers are your bag!

Are you a blogger (I know many of you are!). Do you get a lot of readers? Large social reach? Charities often don’t have the time or capital to invest in social media – could you help them there?

Look out for smaller charities, or new campaigns and initiatives on social media or local community message boards. Connect with the campaign leaders and reach out with a friendly ‘hello, I’m happy to help!”.

A conversation over a coffee lead me to agree to working with a campaign leader for Cats Protection on their strategy and community engagement plan.

Another conversation and I was helping a social enterprise Cathartic on investigating Crowd funding as an option to seed-fund the business.

To summarise, thinking laterally about what you are good at and the problem that needs to be solved can often throw up very interesting and highly rewarding opportunities for you and for charities and Social Good organisations. Donating your time pro-bono can be very rewarding, anfd who knows, it could lead to something wonderful!

Have you got charities you’re passionate about? Drop me a comment and we can chat about how you can get involved!

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*I do not mean offence by this generalisation!