Coffee Time Tuesdays: Reading Updates and a Spring Release

Hello, dear readers, and happy spring! I know this is controversial across the world, but where I’m from, spring comes on 1 March and no later. So, I’m officially in renewed spirits.

I love spring, it’s my favourite season. The trees are blooming, everything is greener, mornings are sunny, but still keep a fresh chill, it’s magic, and I can’t wait to indulge in it for the next three months.

In just over a week, I’ll be in Paris to celebrate my partner’s 25th birthday, and I can’t contain myself. The architecture, the landmarks, the bakeries, the beautiful lilt of spoken French all around me on the street. I’m so excited. 

And because excitement and energy have been the keywords for me in the past couple of weeks, I’ve also found fresh enthusiasm for my current reads. I’m still very much taking it slow with my reading, as I’d like 2023 to be all about mindfulness. But, since you last heard from me, I finished two books, so let me get you up to speed.

Recent Reads

February’s book club read, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou was an indulgence. I read this first book in Angelou’s series of memoirs when I was 16 and, I confess, didn’t much get all the underlayers of race and identity explored. I’m glad to have re-read it, now with a much deeper understanding of the social and political context of Angelou’s childhood and teenage years in 1930s and 40s America.

I savoured this book. It’s a difficult, but powerful book. I’ve been acutely aware of my white privilege for years now, but still this memoir made me check in again with myself and think about all the essential things in my life that I’ve always seen as a given. Here’s an abstract that stopped me in my tracks:

“Whitefolks couldn’t be people because their feet were too small, their skin too white and see-throughy, and they didn’t walk on the balls of their feet the way people did — they walked on their heels like horses. People were those who lived on my side of town.” — Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

TW: The book includes some graphic depictions of sexual assault, rape, racism, and physical assault.

The second book I finished recently is Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell. I liked this book, it’s an informative overview of the power of language behind cults and cultish practices. As a massive language nerd, I loved the concept behind it. It analyses the special vocabularies of infamous groups such as Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate, but also dives into day-to-day cultish practices such as marketing and fitness trends.

Although the parts analysing extreme cults were incredibly intriguing, most of the book explores the language behind MLM (multi-level marketing) and fitness and wellness practices, as well as social media trends, making it feel uncomfortably close to home, but in a thought-provoking, rather than anxiety-inducing way. 

My only criticism of the book is how often it would mention something, then go “more on that in part 5” or “more on that later”, which I found very disruptive of my reading flow and interest in the topic. I rated it 3.75 stars and I would recommend it to those interested in the power of language to shape our beliefs and behaviours.

New Book Release

Today’s fresh-off-the-press book release is actually a non-fiction pick. I rarely recommend non-fiction, as I’m an escapism and fiction fan through and through, but Enchantment: Reawakening Wonder in an Exhausted Age by Katherine May sounds like a non-fiction book I’d eagerly pick up.

With spring comes renewal, an appreciation of nature as it does its magic and comes back to life, and a desire for cleansing: of our homes, bodies, souls, and habits. Enchantment teaches us to stop and embrace mindfulness and wonder, prompted by the beauty of nature and everything around us.

Craving a different path, May explores the restorative properties of the natural world and begins to rekindle her sense of wonder. It is a journey that takes her from sacred wells to wild moors, from cradling seas to starfalls. Through deliberate attention and ritual, she finds nourishment and a more hopeful relationship to the world around her. — the publisher

Enchantment comes out this Thursday, 9 March.

And that’s it for today’s column, one about new beginnings. What have you been reading and are you looking forward to spring, if, of course, you’re in the Northern hemisphere? Let me know in the comments!

Coffee Time Tuesdays: Bookish Activities for Valentine’s Day And a New Romance

Hello, dear readers, and happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you’re all in for a corny, sickly-sweet day, whether you’re celebrating with your partner, best friends, or on your own.

I have a Valentine’s special column for you today, because who said readers can’t have fun? If you’re stuck for ideas on how to spend your day in a bookish way, have a nosy at some of the options below. There’s something for couples, something for friends, and a solo suggestion, because today should be about love of all kinds, and especially love for yourself.

If all you want to do today is wrap up warm and read a cheesy romance, though, don’t worry, I got you. Stay tuned until the end to see what cutesy new release I’m recommending this week.

Bookish cook-off for an unforgettable dinner date

One of the dreamiest ways to spend quality time with your significant other is at home, doing something wholesome for each other. And a home-cooked dinner date is just the thing to indulge in if you’re both laid back and not bothered about going out.

Why not make the cooking even better by choosing recipes evoking some famous moments from books? Whether it be devilled eggs inspired by The Secret Life of Bees, fried chicken inspired by The Great Gatsby, or a strawberry tart inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, why not prepare something extra-special to mark this romantic day?

For some inspiration, check out this blog by Southern Living or this super comprehensive Pinterest board with hundreds of ideas.

Board games for book nerds

If you’re single and today is an excuse to have a bunch of friends over to drink colourful and slightly underwhelming home-made cocktails and play board games on the carpet, you’re welcome.

Board games as a couple can work, but everyone knows they’re the best when a larger group is involved. So here are some suggestions of board games for bookworms.

  • The Literary Witches’ Oracle — get all deep and prophetic with the girlies by diving into the wisdom of famous female authors expertly depicted in this oracle game
  • 221B Baker Street — get those little grey cells moving with this fun mystery game and see which one of your friends gets the most territorial with Sherlock Holmes trivia
  • Story Box— readers should have a wild imagination and this little gem of a game will bring it to surface; maybe the one with the best story gets an extra cocktail?

Jigsaw puzzle and audiobooks

And if you’re your own Valentine today, that’s perfect too. Make sure you give yourself some time to relax and do the things you love, and if that happens to be bookish jigsaws while listening to audiobooks, who am I to judge?

This used to be my favourite insomnia activity back in university and I seriously miss it. The way a jigsaw keeps your eyes and hands engaged while your mind is deeply connected to the audiobook is truly magical. Sometimes we forget to enjoy the slow processes for the sake of efficiency.

My favourite combination would be a World of Jane Austen jigsaw combined with an Alexandria Bellefleur romance, like Count Your Lucky Stars.

Honourable mentions

  • Find a poem to dedicate to your partner and read it out loud to them
  • Build a book nook
  • Organise blind dates with books — buy books for your friends/partner and make them guess what they are based on some clues

Hot New Book Release

Today’s pick is Always the Almost, by Edward Underhill. This sweet queer romance is fresh off the press and sounds like the dreamy, heart-warming story we all need on Valentine’s Day.

A trans pianist makes a New Year’s resolution on a frozen Wisconsin night to win regionals and win back his ex, but a new boy complicates things in Edward Underhill’s heartfelt debut YA rom-dram, Always the Almost. — the publisher

This sounds a lot like Felix Ever After — a sweet, important tale of acceptance, pride, and identity, with some teenage angst and drama wrapped around it. I chose a young adult release because it’s likely to be a super quick read and one that will surely bring on those butterflies.

And that’s it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesdays, Valentine’s edition. What other bookish activities would you add to the mix? And how are you celebrating, if at all? Let me know in the comments!

3 Bookish Content Prompts to Beat Writer’s Block

When your niche is books and reading, content can get quite repetitive. After all, there are only so many book reviews and reading lists you can write before you’re over it.

Coffee Time Reviews is a publication for pour-your-heart-out book reviews and any other kind of books-related content. But lately, I’ve mainly found myself commissioning reviews or recommendations lists. Nothing wrong with that, but I feel like freshening things up a little, not only for me and my own writing, but also for my contributors.

There’s so much we can do with bookish content. And I previously pushed a lot of it through the different series at CTR, like the Author Spotlight series or the Books by Memory series.

This piece is a tribute to those series and a pledge to bring them back. If you love writing about books and your reading experiences, why not try to go against the grain and play around with these three writing prompts? 

Two of these are existing series at Coffee Time Reviews which I’d like to revive and invite new contributors to add to, but one of them is a brand new idea that I’m really excited about, so make sure to read to the end to find out more.

Books by Memory

The Books by Memory series invites you to share your re-reading experiences: what changed, how much did you actually remember, what was new, and did you perceive the book differently?

This content prompt may or may not come from my unhinged tendency to return to books I loved like you return to your warm bed on a cold, dark morning. I’m notorious for reading the same book at least three times when I love it and find comfort in it.

But your reason for revisiting an old favourite (or, why not, a book you were initially lukewarm to) might be different. You might need to re-read a book for a particular purpose. For instance, my next book club read is I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, which I read eight years ago for the first time. It’s not a book I’d normally want to revisit, but I now have a reason and I’m curious how my more mature mind will perceive it.

So, I encourage you to write about your re-reads. Chances are, they won’t feel the same as when you read the book for the first time. Here’s an example by our writer Julie Borden:

Behind the Scenes

Are you an author as well as a reader? Are you writing anything creatively? Have you tried self-publishing your books? Are you querying for an agent? Any and all author endeavours can be shared through our Behind the Scenes series, where authors who also happen to be bookworms can give insights into the publishing industry.

This is a content prompt I’m very keen to pursue as a published poet and novel writer, and I hope others will be inspired to do the same. There’s a strong connection between reading and writing and it’s always fascinating for those who don’t necessarily think about the other side of the industry, to see and appreciate the convoluted ways of publishing and what an author has to do to get there.

Here’s an example by Patrick Witz:

Bookworm Confessions

Now this is where it’s at as far as bookish content prompts go. Coffee Time Reviews is all about the readers. It’s all about you passionate bookworms and how your reading experiences are shaping who you are.

Enough of how books can make you super productive or a 5am routine machine.

Why do you think I don’t care about rigid writing guidelines when commissioning content for CTR? It’s because I don’t care about anything other than how a book moved you, or changed you, how it made you laugh, cry, die inside or find yourself. All of that is important to me and to other readers looking for recommendations. It has power to move and influence others, to drive conversations.

But Bookworm Confessions takes it to the next level. Because if you write a bookworm confession, that’s where it gets super personal. Your content can be about your guilty pleasures, a rant about an unpopular opinion (I really dislike Classics, for example), or about how a book led to your gay awakening. Anything like that would be wholesome to see at CTR or, on the internet in general.

Enough of how books can make you super productive or a 5am routine machine. Enough of books about money and books about the secret to success. How did a book truly change your life? How did it truly move you? What was your most heart-tearing-ugly-crying-world-shutdown reading experience and why? Why are you a better person because of a book?

Write about it. Write about genuine, emotional things that can make others reflect on how they read and how they can find value in this wonderful hobby that brings us all together.

Here’s an example from Kelsea Daulton and one from me:

These are the three bookish content prompts I’m challenging you to tackle when you want to write but aren’t that inspired. I look forward to seeing all your submissions.

I’m a writer, poet and editor based in the UK and I cover books and reading, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. For more of my stories, please consider signing up for a Medium membership through my referral link.

Coffee Time Tuesdays: TV Adaptation Excitement and Book Club News

Hello, dear readers, and happy February! How’s your week going so far? I’m now the proud owner of a somewhat fixed reading routine and I’ve been finding myself picking up books a lot more often throughout the day.

This is a huge development for me, as I’m usually a pretty chaotic reader, doing all-consuming binges followed by reading hardly anything for a while. I’m either so invested in my books that I refuse to do anything else, or I’m so underwhelmed by them that I only read 10–20 pages at a time.

So sitting down with a book for an hour each night, or picking it up for a bit in the morning is an interesting change in my routine, and one I wholeheartedly welcome.

What I’ve Been Reading

In the past two weeks, I finished two books and started one more. Thank You For Listening, by Julia Whelan was my first romance of 2023 and it didn’t disappoint. I listened to it on Scribd, and I’m so glad I did, because Julia is a stunning narrator.

A good narrator is all I need to become invested in an audiobook. If the narration is off, I can’t listen to it. It irks me. Julia Whelan has a smooth, adaptable voice that effortlessly slips into character without awkward mimicry. 

I found her romance unique with just the right amount of tropes. There were complex relationships outside of the main couple, interesting family and friendship dynamics, important conversations around disability and I really enjoyed the fact that it centres two audiobook narrators. As a listener, you hardly ever think about the narrator, and it was intriguing to see what may go on behind the scenes.

The second book I finished was Out by Natsuo Kirino, a Japanese thriller considered a modern classic. I haven’t been so conflicted about a book since I read 1984 by George Orwell. Both books had the same effect in that they made me scream at them in frustration while still appreciating that, critically, they’re good books.

I discussed Out with my book club last night, and it was reassuring to see everyone else shared largely the same opinions: why is the writing so devoid of feeling, why are some of the characters walking stereotypes, why aren’t the relationships explored more, and, for crying out loud, what’s with the problematic ‘falling in love with your rapist’ trope?

This is a thriller centring four working class women with pretty hopeless lives. So some of the problematic tropes technically make sense in the context. As much as we’d like to live in an ideal world, instances where desperate people do immoral things still happen. So I’m on the fence about how to judge the book in this context. But I can appreciate the complexity of the characters, the descriptions of the mundane, and the themes.

My Current Read

After the intense gruesomeness, body horror and just general despair in Out, I felt the need for a guaranteed heart-warming story. So I, predictably, picked up one of my comfort reads: The Charm Offensive, by Alison Cochrun.

This is my third reread of this sweet, wholesome queer love story with a strong mental health hook, and I’m, of course, in over my head. I don’t know how, but I’ve listened to 7 hours of it in just a couple of days, while being at work or at home with my partner.

Find out more about why I love The Charm Offensive so much in my review and podcast episode below.

Onto More Exciting News

The Prime Video teaser trailer for Daisy Jones & The Six is here and oh. My God. It looks so good. I’m particularly excited for the music in this show, as Taylor Jenkins Reid has done a great job of evoking those 70s vibes by writing a full album for this fictional band, granted just the lyrics.

But the biggest hit Regret Me has come out and it sounds exactly as it should. So I hope more music from Aurora is in the books for the show, because it might just become my entire personality.

The show comes out on 3 March and I can’t contain myself.

I reviewed Daisy Jones & The Six below:

Other Updates

I had the pleasure to chat to Justin Boyette for his brand new podcast and publication, Internet Ink, on my poetry, journey into getting my first book deal, publishing my first English poetry collection, Why My Country Failed Me and Other Bird Songs, being an editor, and more.

Check out our conversation and give Justin a follow to stay in the loop with his great content.

And that’s it for today’s column! We’ve changed the hot new release for a hot new adaptation and I have zero regrets. Are you excited for the show? And are there any other adaptations you’re really pumped about? Heartstopper season 2 and Red, White and Royal Blue are some of my most anticipated ones.

Eliza Lita is a freelance writer based in the UK. She covers books and reading, fitness, lifestyle, and personal development. For more of her stories, please consider signing up for a Medium membership through her referral link.

Coffee Time Tuesdays: What We’re Reading, a Book Club Update and New Book Release

Hello, dear readers! How’s your week going? Anything exciting on your TBR? I, for one, am happy to report I finally defeated the January slump and ticked off my first book of 2023.

I’m tremendously happy about that. Every January comes with a lot of reflection, distractions, and almost zero reading appetite for me. And this year is no different. But in the past week, not particularly energised by my other hobbies, and successfully getting into a routine, my reading had everything to gain.

I’ve been finding myself saving slots of time during the day just to relax with a book, and that’s how I got to finish The Maidens, by Alex Michaelides. This is a dark academia murder mystery which was guaranteed to get me out of my slump. For about three days, this book kept me in a chokehold.

And it was worth it. While not a literary masterpiece by any margin, The Maidens was dark, gripping, atmospheric, and delivered a satisfying plot twist at the end. Because of how shocked I was by the plot twist in Michaelides’s other book, The Silent Patient, I was eagerly expecting something similar and he did not disappoint.

The book played with my mind too, which I love in a murder mystery, and it got me completely fooled more than once. I enjoyed the academic motifs and all the references to Greek mythology. Was it a little over the top? Definitely, but not in a cringey way. I rated it 3.75 stars.

If you’d like a more thorough review, this one from Nayanika Saikia perfectly captures it:

What I’m Reading and Book Club News

Another book I haven’t been able to put down is Matrix by Lauren Groff. This is a weird but very interesting book I got for my birthday and finally committed to. When I started reading it, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I chose it. It’s got almost none of the plot and genre elements I usually enjoy. It’s about a super fierce French crusader princess who gets exiled to an English abbey where she is put in a position of power.

The book is set in the 12th century, way too far in history for anything I’d normally enjoy. But despite the sometimes graphic depictions of life in the 12th century, I’m oddly fascinated by it. The queer and feminist themes probably have a lot to do with that. It’s a nice, short, concentrated gem of a book and I’m savouring it greatly.

And I’m also reading Out by Natsuo Kirino, which is considered a Japanese modern classic. This is my book club read of the month and definitely an out-of-my-comfort zone read. It’s a thriller set in late 1990s Japan, where a group of women working the overnight shift at a lunchbox factory get involved in a domestic murder.

I’m not very far in the book, but the pace seems to have picked up. It’s not a happy book by any stretch, which can make it difficult to digest especially if you’re not in the right headspace. Lots of trigger warnings for domestic and sexual violence, so be wary of that if you’re thinking to read it.

New Book Release

Small World by Laura Zigman is today’s pick. This has been out for a couple of weeks and it sounds like an ideal end of January read.

Written with wry humor and keen sensitivity, Small World is a powerful novel of sisterhood and hope — a reminder that sometimes you have to look back in order to move ahead. — the Publisher

When divorced sisters Joyce and Lydia move in together as they navigate their new lives, the hope that they would bond and become closer than ever quickly frays. A tragic family past, the grief of losing their disabled sister, Eleanor, when she was just ten years old, and frustration from their neighbours puts the sisters’ relationship to test.

I love a novel centring sibling relationships — I find them fascinatingly complicated. I’m curious what will happen to Joyce and Lydia in the end.

And that’s it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesday. What are you reading and can you relate to the January slump? Let me know in the comments!

‘It Starts With Us’: A Sequel to Remember

CW: *This book contains mentions of child abandonment, domestic abuse recounted and homelessness recounted*

Colleen Hoover is back again with yet another fantastic publication from the author of one of the best-selling franchises.

It Starts With Us is a sequel to the beloved It Ends With Us. We continue the journey of Atlas and Lily who have survived against all odds to be reunited again.

When I first read the prequel to this novel, I was in awe of the way in which the lead characters were described. Both of them, still young, had faced endless struggles against abuse.

In the next part, we see how Lily had moved on from her traumatic past with her father and her husband Ryle. Now she navigates her life as a single mother with her daughter, Emerson.

It isn’t until one morning that she bumps into her first love, Atlas and all the emotions are flooded back to her. Now she must decide whether to give love another chance or to stay away due to her past experiences.

This book has been one of the most awaited sequels to ever be written. Even the author wrote it as a gift to her readers.

Colleen Hoover writes, on the first page of the book: “This novel was written as a thank-you for the tremendous support.”

What impresses me the most about the plot of this book is that it isn’t just limited to the main characters. We also get an insight on Atlas’s abusive mother and how she became the kind of parent that she was.

A new character was also introduced in this book, much to the readers’ surprise. Atlas discovers he has a teenage brother Josh from her mother’s old boyfriend. Not only he was treated the same, abusive way that Atlas was, but he also fled from home and took shelter at Atlas’s restaurant.

This book explores the journey from overcoming a cruel past and developing into a better, brighter future. Both Atlas and Lily now have successful careers as they both move in their respective directions whilst keeping close contact.

The way the author has emphasized the significance of healing is very impressive. Atlas never forced Lily to be in a relationship with him but instead took his time with her and let her grow on her own.

This book is definitely worth the hype and is something people should read when they want to feel motivated about either a failed relationship with a partner or a parent.

Another interesting part of the book was the bond between Atlas and his brother. Though Atlas had only just come to know about him, he took him in and cherished him like a real brother. This has been a new thing for me since I don’t usually come across step-sibling relationships that are positive.

The way Lily is also trying to be civil with her abusive ex-husband and let their daughter have joint custody is really something that needs to be highlighted in today’s generation. Parents play an important growth in a child’s upbringing and having both parents be with them can enhance a strong personality trait.

Lily also has tremendous support from Ryle’s sister and her best friend Alyssa. Alyssa, being Ryle’s sister, still chose to side with Lily, since she was the victim.

Lily and Atlas decided to give love another shot and bring back the feelings that were once in full bloom.

This book doesn’t focus on cliche romance but instead focuses on all the little steps one has to take that lead up to that relationship. In all honesty, it has to be one of the best novels I’ve read in 2022.

It Starts With Us is more than a book. It is an experience that one should take at least once in their lifetime.

Coffee Time Tuesdays: 5 Most Anticipated Releases of 2023

Hello, dear readers and happy Tuesday! We don’t say that very much, do we? It’s usually happy Monday or happy Friday, the middle of the week hardly gets any well wishes — maybe because most people are zombie-ing through it.

In true beginning of the year fashion, I’m grappling with a paralysing reading slump. At this point, I just know it won’t go away for a while, so I’ve stopped fighting it. 

This means I don’t have a lot of updates on the reading front — personally. But because the world doesn’t revolve around my big head, the show must go on, as they say, so of course the publishers have plenty of material for me to carry on with the weekly column despite my bookish failings.

If you’re new to the Coffee Time Tuesdays column, what you can expect from me (almost) every week is a little reading check-in which usually prompts some reflections on reading habits, expectations, pressures, or trends. And then I like to end with a new book release of the week.

But today I decided to go all out and give you not one, not two, but five of the most anticipated book releases of 2023. 

1. ‘Spare’ by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

This has been everywhere for the past week, so it’s only fair that it makes this list. I’m actually very intrigued by Prince Harry’s memoir. It’s no secret the royal has taken a bit of a rebel stance in the last few years in order to protect his family, and do you know what? I applaud that.

If nothing else, this should be an intriguing read where we get a — potentially tongue-in-cheek — insight into the lavish lives of the misunderstood royals, the media drama surrounding them, and how they deal with the pressures of their birthright.

Let’s see if H delivers. Spare just came out today.

2. ‘Yellowface’ by R.F. Kuang

The beloved author of Babel and These Violent Delights strikes again, this time trying her hand at the thriller-satire cross-genre. Yellowface is a dark literary thriller with a writing subplot. We love to see it. 

Kuang’s previous books didn’t quite call out to me, but this one sounds right up my street and I’m so excited to finally be able to join the fan club. Because rest assured, readers. I will join. The fan club.

Yellowface comes out on 25 May.

3. ‘Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute’ by Talia Hibbert

The minute I saw this title, I knew it had to go on the list. Because Talia Hibbert can do romance right. 

I used to roll my eyes at most romance novels. I found some decent ones along the way, but the best romance I’ve ever read is of the queer sub-genre. I feel like straight romance has been so overdone, that all the tropes and stereotypes are now dusty and boring.

But not Talia Hibbert’s romance. She just knows her stuff. All I want from a love story is a deep, meaningful connection and some well-rounded characters. And Hibbert’s Brown Sisters series does that exquisitely.

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute is about a content creator (hello?) and an athlete who are testing their abilities to survive the great outdoors. Sounds like a fun ride.

4. ‘The London Séance Society’ by Sarah Penner

For those of you gothic-lovers out there, Sarah Penner, author of the acclaimed novel The Lost Apothecary, is back this year with another historical thriller with elements of the occult.

The London Séance Society follows renowned spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire and her understudy, Lenna, on a quest to solve a murder in Victorian London. Will Vaudeline’s mysterious power and Lenna’s incredulousness be enough to lead them to the murderer?

This sounds like the perfect autumn read. I know we’re only in January, but a girl can dream. Curiously, The London Séance Society comes out on 7 March.

5. ‘Old Babes in the Wood’ by Margaret Atwood

The queen that is Margaret Atwood returns in 2023 with a short story collection of a wild title. Literally. 

Old Babes in the Wood sounds like a convoluted but well curated collection of stories that cover mundane experiences, bringing them under a magnifying glass through the masterful vision of Atwood’s writing.

From best friends quarrelling, a daughter who thinks her mother is a witch, to elderly female academics, cats, snails, and well-known historical figures, the stories have it all. Do we know what exactly to expect? Absolutely not. And that’s the point.

Margaret Atwood’s short story collection comes out on 7 March.

From controversial memoirs, to ravishing romance, heart-pounding thrillers, and contemporary classics, it looks like the publishers will have us in a chokehold in 2023.

What are your most anticipated books of the year?

Coffee Time Tuesdays: New Year, New Reading Habits?

Happy New Year, dear readers! How’s 2023 treating you so far? Did you complete your 2022 reading challenge?

I didn’t. And at first, I was disappointed. In 2021, I set out to read 50 books and I read 55. So when I set my challenge for 2022, I thought 55 would be perfectly doable, even surpassable. But what I failed to take into account was that reading isn’t always an upward hill. 

Even though I’ve been reading more and more each year, that doesn’t mean that in 10 years’ time I’ll be able to complete something ridiculous like 300 books. That’s not how it works.

So, as December was slipping through my fingers, I decided to take a step back and reassess. Initially, I was planning a couple of 24h readathons which would have allowed me to get to 50 books. Still a failed challenge, but at least close enough. I started frantically browsing Scribd for shorter audiobooks that could get me there.

It was at the bottom of this spiral that I decided I was going bonkers and I needed to stop. Reading is not about numbers, I used to declare high and proud not three weeks ago. Then why the struggle? If I couldn’t read 55 books in 11 months and 3 weeks, why would I force the last 12 into a week? It didn’t feel natural and it didn’t suit my style.

I’m an intuitive reader. I like to read when I feel like it and thus enjoy it fully. If I get absorbed in a story, then absorbed I will stay, my nose buried in those pages until the very last one. 

So, I chose to make peace with the fact that my reading challenge would be incomplete. I’m not saying that it was a fail. It was just incomplete. To be continued.

I read 45 books in 2022, six of which in December alone. Not because I forced myself, but because I enjoyed them. I’d call that a win. I would also call a win that I’m still trying to decide on a top 10, because so many of those 45 books were wonderful, and I simply can’t make my mind up.

One of my main resolutions for 2023 is to become more mindful and live more fully in the moment. And I don’t mean just in my reading time, but in general. I want to enjoy more quiet moments, go out for walks without headphones, and savour each meal without desensitising myself completely by watching a YouTube video while eating.

In Other News

This year, I’m set on the wild option to not start a reading challenge at all, but rather see where books take me. I’m finally moving to Storygraph and leaving Goodreads behind. ‘Better luck in 2023’? No thanks, Goodreads, I’ll have a better time reading without the pressure of ticking off a challenge.

And another exciting update is that I’ve joined a book club. We read modern classics, which makes me slightly nervous but excited to branch out and test the waters outside contemporary fiction. I used to love modern classics, so I’m sure it will be a success. I’m so happy to connect with other readers in this way and I hope my book club reads will make it into this column, so you know how it’s going.

If you’ve been meaning to find a book club for ages, this is your sign to try it out. It’s all part of the rich and rewarding experience of reading.

New Book Release

The New Life by Tom Crewe just came out in the US and is coming in the UK on 12 January. This is a highly acclaimed story of queer love, writing, and resilience, set in Victorian England, where two men come together to change the oppressive landscape against those who love differently. 

What brings them together? One is and one loves a queer person. John is married, but that doesn’t stop his love for Frank. And when Henry’s wife, Edith, falls in love with another woman, he and John take the rogue decision to write a book meant to challenge the laws against homosexuality.

The book explores how far someone is prepared to go to stop injustice and pave the way for future generations to live freely and proudly.

‘Filled with nuance and tenderness . . . charting the lives of men and women who inspired not only political progress but an entire new way of living and loving’ Colm Tóibín

I, for one, can’t wait to dive in.

And that’s it for this week’s column. Can you relate to my reading challenge woes? Are you starting a challenge in 2023? And, above all, how are you? Here’s to a peaceful, mindful, and intentional new year filled with new favourite books!

Coffee Time Tuesdays: My Bookish Christmas List

Hello, dear jolly readers! How’s the last week before Christmas going for you? Are you done with the gift buying? And, most importantly, have you bought something for yourself to slide under the tree on Sunday morning?

I’m a huge promoter of treating one’s self, especially at Christmas, so I went on a little endeavour last Saturday, to find a few bits to wrap and place under the tree just for myself. You know, when you would like certain things but don’t want to buy them because they’re not absolutely necessary, although they’re nice? That’s what I did on Saturday and what inspired the theme of today’s column.

Of course I have a special book to open on Christmas morning, and it’s none other than the latest Waterstones edition of the complete Sherlock Holmes collection — a beautiful, foiled monster of a hardback I had zero hesitation in buying for myself.

But that got me thinking — what else is on my bookish Christmas list? Although I technically can afford to spoil myself a little more, I try to exercise restraint and save up for our planned travels in 2023, so this list will stay a dream for now.

I wanted to share it with you, though, hoping to inspire you to not only spoil yourself a little this Christmas, but also to consider the bookworms in your life. If you still have some last-minute shopping to do, I hope this list will help.

My Bookish Christmas List

  1. A signed or special edition of a favourite book — the Waterstones exclusive edition of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo nearly made it into my shopping basket this year. I received the 10th anniversary edition of The Song of Achilles last year and it’s one of my most prized possessions.
  2. A bookish candle — I once came across a locally-produced line of candles with different bookish scents, like ‘antique library’ or ‘old paper’, and they still live in my heart rent-free.
  3. A bookish subscription — I’m not one for uncertainty, opting instead to be in full control of what I choose to read, but a subscription box sounds like so much fun. The ones that caught my eye the most here in the UK are the Tea Time Bookshop subscription boxes. They’re genre or season-themed, which takes the anxiety factor out of it, while still preserving the surprise. I would love to try their Best Seller box.
  4. A reading-themed notebook/journal — I’ve had my eye on the Bodleian Libraries journals for years, yet I never get around to buying one. Something else always takes priority, and I do have a lot of notebooks already. Maybe one day.
  5. A bookish jigsaw — Waterstones, my favourite weekend place, strikes again, with their stunning new jigsaws of different literary worlds. There’s Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens (although why someone would make a jigsaw of Dickens’s world is beyond me, but each to their own), Shakespeare, and more. Personally, I would love The World of the Brontes the most.
  6. A miniature book nook — I’ve seen these trending on Instagram lately and, even though they’re the most useless, most patience-testing things ever, I want one. No, I need one. They’re so cute. 

Of course the list could go on, but I think I’ve covered most categories that I would love right now. What else would you add?

New Book Release

I’ve been binging some sweet Christmas romance novels this month, so this week’s hot new release definitely reflects that. As you settle down to wait for the festive moment to kick in and the pudding to bake, why not pick up In It to Win It by Sharon C. Cooper?

This is a new romance, on the market only since last week, which sounds wildly entertaining and gripping. Morgan and Drake used to date, until she left him without an explanation. Now that they’re both on the market for the same property, the former couple have to go through a ridiculous competition set by the property’s rich landlord. And of course this will rekindle past feelings and fresh angst.

A property contest at the heart of a romance? Weird, but original, I have to say. This sounds perfect for those who aren’t necessarily into festive books, but still enjoy a good love story.

And that’s it for this week’s Coffee Time Tuesday, the last one before Christmas. I hope you’re all looking forward to a restful and joy-filled day with your loved ones, and don’t forget to spoil yourselves a little, if you can. What are you reading while waiting for Santa?

Coffee Time Tuesdays: Books I Wish I Read in 2022

3 titles on my 2022 TBR I will carry over into 2023 and a brand new book release in today’s column

Well, hello there, dear readers! How’s your December going? Anyone else scrabbling helplessly to get through the pile of books they’ve started and don’t hope to finish before New Year’s? No? Just me, then.

I’m currently at the office (I work in a university, so my office of the day is in an arts building, which is pretty cool), sipping my eggnog latte and organising my day. And as I was going through ideas for today’s column, I realised, maybe not unexpectedly, that my list of 22 must-reads of 2022 will remain tragically incomplete this year.

My chaotic reading habits are no secret, at this point. I read intuitively — so TBRs are pretty pointless for me. I also struggle, despite my best efforts, with weeks’-long reading slumps at least three times a year, and when those slumps strike, the last thing I want is a difficult, sad, or widely acclaimed book that I know very well I can’t focus on and appreciate fully. Yet those types of books always end up on my TBR.

Hence, the backlog of unticked titles on my 2022 to-read list. At this point, I’m fine with it. I’m the first person who will say reading shouldn’t be about numbers or tick-boxes. But that’s not to say I’m giving up on my list altogether. 

I will write a more in-depth article going through my whole list of 22 books I aimed to read in 2022. But today, I decided to share with you three titles I’ll definitely carry over into 2023.

‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara

I’ve been meaning to read this tragic landmark of the bookish world for at least a year now. I never seem to be in the right headspace for it. But I do have moments sometimes when I crave intense emotion and I usually turn to books to satisfy that need.

So A Little Life will be among the first titles I’ll pick up next year. You’ve heard it here first. January is a pretty miserable time anyway, might as well read a book that fits the mood to get through it.

I know this book is incredibly difficult, with a million trigger warnings attached to it. Before I even bought it, I did my research to make sure it wasn’t something I would struggle to get through in an emotionally controlled way. Why do I want to put myself through it, you might ask? Honestly, because of its popularity. Seldom have I seen a book trigger such strong and raw reactions and I’d like to form my own opinion on it.

‘Apocalyptic Swing’ by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Keeping with the jolly theme, this poetry collection was intrigue at first sight — getting me to add it to my TBR as soon as I heard Lauren, the sister of Kat from paperbackdreams on YouTube, talk about it.

Lauren has very similar reading tastes to mine and she’s one of the only booktubers (although, technically, she’s a booktuber’s sister) who recommend good contemporary poetry. 

Apocalyptic Swing covers themes of life, faith, sexuality, violence transcending the physical world, and the role of music and culture in binding life together. 

I’m committed to becoming more familiar with contemporary poetry in the English-speaking world, so this will be top of the list next year. The only reason why I haven’t gotten around to reading it is that it’s virtually impossible to find — but I’ll get it one way or another.

‘Malibu Rising’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid

How could I miss a new, popular release from one of my favourite authors, you’re asking? Well, I may or may not have let the season slip through my fingers, and before I knew it, it was too cold and the leaves were too maroon for me to read a book about Hollywood stars surfing in Malibu.

My summer was jam-packed. I moved house in June, I had my university graduation in July, bearing in mind I also work for the university, so those two weeks were intense with long work days. Then my parents visited, then my birthday came, and then I went home on holiday. That was my summer. I did start Malibu Rising in late August but never got around to finishing it. One for next summer, for sure.

Hot New Release

This week’s new release is a surprising one. Although I try to recommend new books as universally appealing as possible, I do gravitate towards the genres I enjoy the most, because those types of books usually catch my eye.

But this week I’m recommending fantasy, which I almost never read. Anastasia by Sophie Lark made the cut, though, with its magical take on the well-known tragic story of the Romanovs. 

Here’s what the blurb says:

Anastasia is the princess no one needs: the fourth daughter born to an emperor without a son, and the only royal lacking a magical gift. Until she collides with a young Cossack rebel, changing both their lives forever.

Damien is taken from everything he knows and raised as a ward of the Romanovs. Anastasia develops a strange kind of magic shared only by the Black Monk Rasputin. While her power grows in secret, boosted by forbidden contact with Damien, Anastasia makes a mistake with terrible consequences.

I mean, come on. Can you say no to a dark, magical story of royalty, history and love? I certainly can’t, even if it makes me dip my toes into a genre I rarely reach for. Anastasia has been out since last Tuesday, so it’s still nice and fresh off the press.

And that’s it for today’s Coffee Time Tuesday. What books from your 2022 TBR are you committed to reading next year? And if you’re one of the rare creatures who actually read their entire list for 2022, what were the highlights? Let me know in the comments!