It’s already the Christmas week again, how the hell did that happen? This time last year, I was running around like a headless chicken before Christmas! This year has completely flown by, they really do say that time flies when you’re having fun. 2019 has been my first full year blogging, there’s been some ups and there’s been some low points where I nearly packed the whole lot in, if it wasn’t for the friends I picked up on the way.
So, lets rewind to January, at the beginning of the year when Anne Cater took me upon my first blog tour, I had no blogging experience but she was supportive, patient and kind. I look back on my posts from that time and I just cringe, but with every single post I can see that I got stronger, with the ability to express why I enjoyed a book, I also learnt how to creatively criticise while also applauding a book.
I attended my first book event, in the shape of Headline’s New Voices event, where I met several of their 2019 debut authors and picked up some of my first gorgeous proofs. I also met Amy Louise, more about her later!
February was the first month that I attended the Swansea Blogger’s Collective at the absolutely beautiful building Swansea Waterstones. I was absolutely bricking myself, was I an established enough blogger to attend this meeting. I was still experiencing imposter syndrome and to say I was extremely anxious was an understatement. Well, they were (still are) an absolutely lovely bunch, a group of women and Twitter Guy who absolutely love books. I’ve attended as many as I could this year, we’ve gone book shopping together, for lunch and cocktails. I love them! We were lucky enough for publishers to send us proofs to review, I can’t wait for them to start up again next year!
February was also the month home of Fahrenbruary, this was the month that I put my whole blogging feet in my blogging shoes to read some indie reads published by Fahrenheit Press. It was also the month I became more socially involved in the world of Twitter, I begun chatting with fellow bloggers, including Matt, Mart and Kelly. Plus I discovered one of my favourite books of the year, Red Hands.
On the 1st of March JS Strange’s debut novel came out, called Murder on the Rocks, a cosy welsh murder mystery published by Panther Publishing. This was the very first book that my words were quoted upon, and I couldn’t have picked a better book to lose by quote virginity to! The book is very contemporary Agatha Christie. I’ve never felt so proud of myself.
June was the first time that I got my first non – blog tour surprise Orenda book post, it was glorious, beautiful and made me cry. The book in question was Breakers, after reading Drew’s review I was googley eyed over the books concept and blurb. Seeing my twittering admiration for the review and the book, the next day it arrived in the post. It was also the prize of my first Twitter competition. THEN after I reviewed Breakers, Karen put my quote on the inside flap, what?! *Squealed*
In the lovely July, it was the beginning of the planning for #Orentober. If you missed Orentober (where have you been?!) it was a blogging month developed from the wonderful concept of Fahrenbruary – brain child of Matt and Mart. It was the beginning of colour coordination, rallying up authors and reading Orenda Books! It was also the month I fell head over heals in love with Michael J Malone’s writing, and I raved about it using the hashtag #MaloneMondays
September was a hell of a fabulous whirlwind of a month. Not only was it the final blogging month before Orentober started, you can imagine the stress, but it was also the month that I was invited to attend the inaugural Capital Crime Festival AS A BLOGGER! When I was asked I nearly fainted and wee’d myself all at the same time! Me?! Still suffering imposter syndrome, I packed up my huge suitcase for 4.5 days in that London. I have never travelled anywhere so far from home completely alone before, only knowing some cracking people from online – as well as authors, bloggers and publishers that I admire (ask someone what happened when I met MW Craven if you want a laugh!) including the #CrimeCrew – Meggy, Zoe, Inge, (Rockstar) Ronnie and Penny, one of my favourite publishers Karen Sullivan, Mama Orenda and authors including Steve Cavanagh and RC Bridgestock. Okay I’m rambling a bit, but it was one of the first times that I had faith in myself, that I’ve fitted into such an awesome community of people. I came home with the confidence to travel on the tubes, talk to more people about books and a massive smile on my face!
Not only was September a good month in my blogging life, but also my personal life. I met a blogger who I begun interacting with during Fahrenbruary (i’d been following him since December and finally in Feb he followed me back, talk about keeping a lass on her toes! Anyways, after following his travels to Vietnam we finally (FINALLY) met during my time in that London for the festival…. yes of course it’s everyone’s favourite Beardy Blogger, Mart. Since then, we’ve been in each other’s pockets… well 179 miles away since and it makes me a little (lot) sad to think if I didn’t begin blogging and continue to do so through those bad times I may have missed out on meeting and absolutely incredible human being.
Anyway, enough of all the hearts and flowers, it’s time for the muchly anticipated Orentober or October as it’s more commonly known. During this month I had an awesome partner in crime, Kelly Van Damme. Kelly and I begun blogging around the same time, we became to know each other more during the Fahrenbruary events as we tag team interviewed Ariana (author of Red Hands) and experienced our first taste of Fahrenheit Press. Kelly was also the one that chastised me for not reading some damn great books, that I’ve now read and adored…. she knows her books that Kelly. Anyway, Orentober, we worked together perfectly, providing 31 days of Orenda posts, from interviews, to Music Mondays and reviews. For two ‘newbie’ bloggers we stressed and hoped it went well, and it was absolutely fantastic – it still makes my heart smile with all the support and book love that was shared during the month. And Orentober 2.0 will be back next year, with a planning committee, so even more content for y’all.
After all the hustle and bustle of October, I took the month off to read my own books, relax my mind and bask in the post glow of a great month. November was a month where I fell in love with audiobooks, they’re practical and I sleep better when I’ve had a 30 minute listen before bed. I can be quite a anxious person and my brain will just go on and on but after some time with the audiobooks, it switches off. On to a winner there!
An idea was also born in November, remember Amy, who I mentioned earlier? She’s a fabulous blogger over at Tomes With Tea, not only does she absolute love books, she’s a superb reviewer AND she’s studying for her last degree year – superwoman right? I met Amy at the SBC and we are so similar it’s crazy, not only are we both addicted to true crime but also tea! So, Amy came to me and asked if i’d like to co-blog with her. The answer was abso-f**king-lutley, we both worry we don’t post enough and although I for now will maintain my own blog for upcoming blog tours, i’ll be reviewing my own reads and some proofs over at our joint blog… *drumroll* Over My Read Body, i’m not completely sure of a concrete launch date but you can follow us on Twitter at @ReadingsMurder.
Finally, we are at December, I attempted to do a whole month of #IndiesOfChristmas, I think I got as far as 16 days, which is my fault, I was on such a blogging high after Orentober that I though I could smash out another 31 consecutive posts, while reading for blog tours, family life and maintaining a long distance relationship. I couldn’t and I pulled out – the posts will be done but weekly in the new year when I’m back ‘proper blogging’.
Overall, this year has been a pivotal year for me in areas of blogging and my personal life, it’s also helped me grow as a person – one of which is learning to say no and not feeling guilty. I love every single blogging opportunity that I have been given this year, when authors and publishers have such faith in you as a blogger to provide you with books to read and review, whether they are for tours or not, I am so hugely grateful. BUT I’ve learnt that I don’t have to say yes to ever single book review request that pops into my email, or every single blog tour to stay relevant. That’s okay, because I blog for me, I blog because I love books and I blog so I can share that love with those who are interested. I will continue to say yes but i’m not going to over exert myself, because burning the candles at both ends isn’t good. I recently read a tweet about it being okay not to read, if you don’t fancy blogging don’t, if you do, do! That’s the advice i’m taking out of this year! I do absolutely adore blogging though so don’t think you’re getting rid of me!
Okay, enough of that, I’ve probably missed so much out but I have loved this year as a blogger, meeting people I can call my friends and read books that may not have been on my radar until now. Thank-you to everyone who has been a part of my blogging journey, whether from the very beginning or only the last few weeks, you all make me smile. I also want to thank Drew, our favourite Sarcastic Enigma who told me to put on my big girl pants and continue blogging when I was at a pretty low point, he’s been a great support and who knows, I may not still have the blog if it wasn’t for his encouragement at that time! I’ve also found ‘my group’ or a square where we check on each-other, we even did a secret Santa this year which turned out not so secret, so shout out to my Book Square buddies Mac (aka Chris MacDonald who has his debut novel A Wash of Black coming out in February 2020. You can pre-order your copy here!), Sarah and Zoe who keep me relatively sane with their support and friendships!
So, 2019 is about to finish, what are my hopes for next year? Some would say bookish plans and resolutions, well here are mine… don’t worry they are in bullet point format!
- Not to over commit to bookish plans, and if I do, not walk through struggling with a smile on my face but ask for help or take a break.
- Talk about committing to something, Mac and I have decided to take part in a few Stephen King – esque readalongs, January is the month of Needful Things – this is an Instagram readalong by Jobis89, check it out!
- I’m not going to set myself a reading goal on Goodreads next year, this year I felt like I was in competition with myself, reading constantly in my free time (which is nice) but next year i’d like to chill with a bit of tv or a film now and again because this year I’ve watched minimal shows that everyone has raved about!
- Blog a maximum of twice a week on my own blog and once on the co- blog, but if I can’t i’m not going to panic about it.
- I hope to read further out of my comfort zone, especially reading more translated fiction and feminist fiction, I feel that would satisfy my need for personal ‘growth’.
- Listen to more audiobooks and to continue to be a firm fan of libraries.
- To continue to be hugely grateful to those who provide me with opportunities to review their books, provide me with pre – release reads and just to be thankful that i’m part of this excellent community.
I think that’s all, again I’ve probably forgotten something but next year is going to be absolutely fantastic, filled with incredible reads and lots of book love. For the rest of this year, i’m going to enjoy the Christmas TV, squeezing in some reading and chocolate, ended with a trip to London! I hope that everyone has a fabulous Christmas filled with joy, love, turkey (or vegetarian / vegan alternatives) and books!