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The Reset of the New Year

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Whilst social media has been busy promising itself to be healthier, fitter, more hydrated and less in debt this week, I’ve decided to use the coming of the new year as more of a reset rather than a reinvent. I lost my way a bit towards the end of 2017 – I didn’t sleep enough, read enough or write enough. I just drooped, a bit down but definitely not out!

Now that’s not to say 2017 was a bad year at all. It saw my sister marry my lovely brother-in-law and my best friend marry her best friend. It saw more of my books entering bookshops. I visited new and old places on holiday and swapped living alone for living with the boy… just (he moved in at 5pm on New Years Eve!).

That being said, I want 2018 to be a place that sees me heading back towards to bookshelves and this blog again. I only managed 36/50 books in my Goodreads challenge last year, what with wedmin and other things taking precedence over reading, so now, with the new year I am resetting. I’m aiming for what I hope to be a manageable (if not underestimated) 40 books this year and in the spirit of easing me back in, I’m in the middle of rereading one of my favourite series – The Hunger Games (reviews here, here and here).

I also want to read more new releases and actually read them not just have them languishing on the bookshelves until they’re no longer new. So to help me stay on top of new releases (and to give future me little treats to look forward to!) I’ve got four books on pre-order, one to arrive every month between now and April:

2018 TBR

At the end of this month I’m finally getting my hands on Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I’ve been desperately waiting for it to come out in paperback and now it has, the wait is (almost) over!

I saw a lot of bloggers raving about The Hazel Wood over the Christmas period – lucky devils getting proof copies! – so that’s going to be my February read.

On 1st March the new Louise O’Neill is landing in my letterbox – Almost Love. I’ve loved everything she’s written thus far so fingers crossed it continues! It sounds like it will be another amazing read from the blurb though.

And to see me into April is The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson. Again, this has been popping up all over my social media of late and with a title like that, it was too intriguing not to purchase.

I want 2018 to be a bookish new year, a happy new year and an explorative new year. I want to read those books that have been waiting to be read. I wish to clear the shelves a little and, most importantly, to enjoy words again.

So to paraphrase one of my favourite literary redheads this is a new year, fresh with no mistakes in it yet! So let’s enjoy it!

anneofgreengables

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The Joy of Giving (Secretly…)

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This is the second year I have taken part in The Broke and The Bookish Secret Santa and the second year I have absolutely loved it! For people who are unfamiliar with #TBTBSanta let me explain…

In November, the amazing Jamie from The Broke and The Bookish (of Top Ten Tuesday fame) announces the dates for that year’s #TBTBSanta (this years post is here). You then send her an email outlining what type of reader you are, what your Christmas wishlist would be and what level of Secret Santa you want to take part in (1 book and a small gift, 1–2 books and a couple of goodies* or 2+ books and goodies).

You then wait with baited breath whilst she works UNBELIEVABLY hard to pair everyone up so you get someone with a similar level to you and, ideally, from the same country. There are usually over 400 Secret Santas to match ­– I don’t know how she does it! A few weeks later, you’ll get an email with your Santee’s details and off you go!

I’ve absolutely loved taking part in #TBTBSanta but I know some of you are wondering why would anyone volunteer to buy a present for a perfect stranger and how do you even start?!

Secret Santa 2017

Well firstly, I love a challenge. Buying bookish presents for a bookish stranger is really fun! You’re given a shortlist of book they’d like to receive, so you’re not blindly scouring the shelves, but once you’ve ticked off the major parts of the Secret Santa it’s time to get creative!

My Santee has already received her present so I’m ok to share the below to give you an insight to what I bought and how I shopped for the lovely Elena

Secret Santa 2017 2

  1. The Hobbit graphic novel –­ Elena is a HUGE graphic novel and LOTR fan and, as I bought this last year in French for my boyfriend, I thought it was the perfect curveball title to add to her list.
  2. Elijah’s Mermaid – Elena sent me a wish list link from Amazon so I got her a copy of this book (it’s also on my wish list so I hope it’s a good read!)
  3. Rosie Riveter / Stranger Things stickers – through some good ol’ fashioned Twitter stalking, I found out that Elena is a ST fan and a bit of a feminist so I thought these stickers from Punky Pins were perfect for jazzing up some notebooks
  4. Whittards Hot Chocolate stick – festive tea is a tried and tested fave amongst Secret Santa packages but Elena let me know in her email that she’s more of a hot choc girl so I picked up this fancier version for her to enjoy.
  5. Pen and pencil set – again, Twitter informed me that Elena has just started her new job and who doesn’t love fancy stationery?!
  6. Icicles Yankee Candle votive – I absolutely LOVE Yankee candles and this festive scent is one of my faves.
  7. Christmas socks – it’s just a must-have, surely?
  8. Black Panther Funko Pop keyring – I love a Pop Funko but I know the full-sized ones are not to everyone’s taste so a keyring is the perfect compromise. Twitter informed me that Black Panther is one of Elena’s favourite Marvel characters so the Black Panther Funko it had to be!
  9. The Suffragettes (Penguin Little Black Classics) – as I said above, Elena is a bit of feminist (girl after my own heart!) so this little extra was a must-buy for her!
  10. Candy canes – it’s Christmas!

I love making Christmas that little bit special for someone and the #TBTBSANTA allows me to spread the festive cheer to a complete stranger. You never fully know anyone’s motives for doing an online Secret Santa but it’s so lovely that Jamie garners together the book-blogging community to share the love and spread the goodwill.

Watch this space for the reveal of what my Secret Santa sent me…

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Reading “Feelings”

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This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, a week designed to raise awareness and start conversations. My picture-book, Feelings, aims to start those conversations about the emotions we experience much earlier – getting children to recognise and understand what feelings are.

Picture books are magical things. They introduce children to wonderful creatures, imaginary places and the art of storytelling but that’s not all. They also teach children to read pictures and to understand imagery before they can even read words. Feelings, uses picture book principles to help children read and understand how emotions feel without prescription and, most importantly, without judgement.

Feelings is a peek-through picture book that looks to take the reader on a journey through a range of emotions they might experience, with the philosophy of:

Looking from the outside, I may seem the same as you, but deep beneath the surface feelings bubble, stir and brew…”.

The same character appears on every spread, by way of a central cutaway, to explore the emotional spectrum. My Publisher, Thomas Truong, came up with this format to give readers a ‘guide’ and illustrator Richard Jones deliberately made the character androgynous so not to exclude any readers from the journey.

Illustrator Richard Jones explains what it was like to tackle the huge subject of feelings through art:

The moment I read the text for Feelings I knew it could be not only a thoughtful, magical book but a useful one too.

Having worked in a busy children’s library for nearly 15 years I was aware there are very few accessible books for children that tackle the complicated, knotty subject of feelings.

Although there are many tangled distinctions between feeling and emotion it was my role as the illustrator to focus on the feeling – the unique reaction to an emotional response that makes us the person we are. 

Each page needed to be imaginative, inventive and interesting to young eyes but not so specific or abstruse that the reader cannot relate to the feeling portrayed.

FeelingsFeelings is a book designed to start conversations about how we feel, to help make children feel comfortable and confident in talking about or drawing their emotions. It can be used both in the classroom for art projects and poetry lessons or as a one-on-one storybook, allowing parents to guide their child. We’ve had some lovely responses from teachers and bloggers posting the pictures children have done to show how they feel and we’d love to see more! Use the tag #FeelingsBook to share and discuss – join the conversation.

 

Feelings can be purchased online (Amazon, Waterstones, etc.) or in your local bookshop.

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Four Years of Going Through the Wardrobe!

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Today my little blog turns four –

1,096 days Through the Wardrobe door!

I’ve read, reviewed and spread bookish good cheer,

So it’s time to celebrate another literary year!

Blogging is a tricky little beast but one I wouldn’t be without. Yes, book blogs may be ten a penny but, to me, they are so incredibly important. I discover books, people and ideas through the blogging world that I wouldn’t have come across on my own. I see more of the literary market, themes and blockbusters through blogs and social media than what my tastes or day-to-day working life would allow.

Through the Wardrobe is four years old today – four YEARS old!! Though it may be just a quiet toddler within the blogging community, I never believed my little space in the virtual universe would 1) ever be sustained for so long and 2) still be something I am so passionate about. I absolutely love being able to share bookish recommendations, thoughts and musings with you and I shall endeavour to continue and grow Through the Wardrobe over the next twelve months. Thank you so SO much for visiting, following and supporting this blog and me this past year. TTWers – you will never know how much that means!

Now time for some cake!

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Joyful January?!

It’s nearly the end of January – yay!! (also, already, how did that happen?!) The opening month of the year has always had a bad reputation for being the bleakest 31 days of the year and whilst this isn’t a wholly unfounded reputation, I’ve been attempting to look at the positives to beat those dreaded January Blues.

Potential financial turmoil (six weeks between paydays –who thought that one up?!) and the hideousness of that inauguration aside, January isn’t really too terrible a month and I’ve come up with ten reasons why it needs to be reviewed and re-categorised as a not-so-bad after all…

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Reset button
A new year gives us the opportunity to reset everything – to take stock of the last year and put things behind us, taking only the good things into the new. It’s refreshingly daunting.

Lighter days
We have passed the shortest day of the year (21st December) and now each day is getting longer and lighter – woohoo!

Chilly sunshine
I love days that are chilly but with brilliant with sunshine and this Jan has had plenty! Big scarfs and chunky knitwear – yes please!

Better health
I know the old adage of “new year, new me” and the pitfalls of going all out in the first week of Jan only to completely stop by the second. But hopefully one or two small changes will stick to make this year healthier than the last!

Good ol’ fashioned clear out
It’s cathartic to have a clear out every once in a while and January is the perfect month for digging out boxes and tidying away. You can’t afford to go out so make your nest the best one it can be!

Bargains to be had
Yes, you can’t afford everything you want from the sales and we’ve all fallen into the “up to XX% off” trap (3% off is NOT a sale!) but there are bargains to be had out there if we just have the patience to look (and do the maths!)

Hibernating
January is the month to batten down the hatches, light those candles and settle down to read your Christmas books. Hibernation goals happen in Jan!

Rediscovering Christmas pressies
For the past two years I have journeyed home for Christmas on the train, leaving my opened Christmas presents for my very kind parents to drive back. When they drop off my parcel of goodies early Jan, it’s like opening my presents all over again!

Sherlock
This January delivered the last (potentially) series of Sherlock and had me fixed to my screen of a Sunday eve. I am a big fan of the Gatiss/Moffat, Cumberbatch/Freeman show and this season, for me, it was back on form!

A clean diary
I love a paper diary and every year, as is tradition, Father Christmas hides in my stocking a new clean diary for the year ahead. Not only do I get to go through the old one, reminiscing about the year before, but I get to transfer birthdays, anniversaries, up-coming events in a nice shiny new calendar that’s fresh with no mistakes in.

We’re nearly there though, through the not-so-bad month and waiting with baited breath to see what the rest of 2017 has in store! Hope you’ve had a good start to the year TTWers!

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An Ode to Resolutions

The tree is undressed and the bottles all drained,

The wreath is unhung and some pounds have been gained!

Christmas is over and the New Year seen in,

Resolutions are made – let the ‘new me’ begin!

 

I’ll look after the pennies, I’ll budget and plan –

It’s the year of good finance, a frivolity ban!

But the sales are a calling – they only come once a year,

And Jan is too bleak, it needs spending cheer!

 

So I’ll go to the gym and workout every day,

To be lean, thin and lithe and half what I weigh!

Early mornings are hell! More sleep must be better

Than plodding and panting in an old uni sweater.

 

The diet’s the thing! A complete overhaul!

More fresh fruit and veg ­and no pizza at all!

But no wonder I’m hungry, I live like a rabbit…

Will I ever catch on to this ‘clean-eating’ habit?

 

Right, I’ll stop all the booze – no pub trips in sight,

I’ll resist the temptation with all of my might!

A leaving do? A birthday? A Friday night drink?

It would be rude not to go… just a quick one I think!

 

Saying “yes” to new things will enrich my life –

I could knit, be an artist, a chef or a wife (?!)

But the one thing I want more than hobbies and fun

Is a night on the sofa and a meal just for one!

 

So for this shiny New Year, I think the best aim,

Is to be happy, healthy and mostly… the same!

No impossible changes or drastic amends –

Just good times and laughter with family and friends.

 

© Libby Walden, 2017