Blogging & Reading Goals 2018: End of Year Report

Set Goals

As the old year comes to a close, it’s time to look back at the reading and blogging goals I set for 2018 and see how I did…or didn’t.

Reading Goals

Reading challenges:

TBR Challenge 20182018 TBR Pile Challenge (hosted by RoofBeamReader) – Read all twelve books on my list

FAIL – I only managed to read four books from my list of twelve but I hoping to do better next year.  You can read my 2019 sign-up post here.  

2018 HF Reading Challenge_Graphic2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (hosted by Passages to the Past) – I’m aiming for Prehistoric level which means reading 50+ books

PASS – As a lot of  the books I read are historical fiction, I’ll have to admit this wasn’t really that much of a challenge.  For this reason I’ve decided to pass on this one in 2019.

Buchan of the MonthBuchan of the Month – Read the twelve books I’ve identified and, I hope, participate in some discussion with other bloggers about our reviews

PASS – It would be pretty bad to fail at one of your own reading challenges, wouldn’t it?  My review of this year’s final Buchan of the Month – Sick Heart River – was published earlier today.   There are plenty of Buchan books (fiction and non-fiction) available to be read/re-read, and I’ll be posting my reading list for 2019 in the next few days. 

The Classics ClubClassics Club – I want/need to make more progress on this in order to complete my list by the end of December 2018

PASS/FAIL – This is a fail in the sense that I didn’t manage to complete my list by my original deadline of 31st December but that was a pretty ambitious (OK, crazy) deadline I set myself.  I realised part way through this year there was no way it was going to happen and amended the deadline to 31st December 2021.  I think that’s do-able with my new plan to add a book from the list to my reading schedule each month. 

NetGalley Challenge 2018NetGalley & Edelweiss Challenge 2018 (hosted by Bookish Things & More) – I’m going for Silver level once again which means reading and reviewing 25 books on NetGalley

PASS – A bit like the historical fiction challenge mentioned above, I was able to achieve this fairly easily (I managed over 40) and I’ve retained my 80% plus feedback ratio.  So this is another one I’ve decided to pass on in 2019.

When Are You Reading Challenge 2018When Are You Reading? Challenge 2018 (hosted by Taking on a World of Words) –This challenge involves reading a book predominantly set in each of twelve specified time periods

PASS – Reading twelve historical fiction books is not difficult for me but finding a match for each of the time periods can be surprisingly tricky.  However, I managed to complete the challenge and I’ve signed up for 2019 as well.  Read my sign-up post and provisional reading list here.

What's In A Name 2018What’s In A Name 2018 (hosted by The Worm Hole) – The challenge is to read a book with a title that matches each of six categories.  Easy, you say.  In fact, not as easy as you’d think.

PASS (Provisional) – This one is still in the balance because I’m currently reading the book I need to fit the final category:  ‘A fruit or vegetable’ (Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller).  However, I should finish it later today, although my review probably won’t be published until tomorrow.

Goodreads – I plan to set a target of 156 books (same as 2017)

PASS – Goodreads tells me I’ve read 190 books this year but that includes some DNFs.  My own tally is 188 (including Bitter Orange, mentioned above).  The target of 156 (i.e. three books per week) is about right for me so I’ll go with the same target for 2019.  I don’t exactly need a target but I do like to keep track of the books I read and I always enjoy looking at the Your Year in Books breakdown from Goodreads.

Author review requests:

Reduce my review turnaround time to two months or under (currently three or four)

FAIL – I’m still way behind on reading and reviewing the books sent to me by authors.  (There are twenty-three in the pile currently, the oldest dating from October 2017.) To avoid adding to the issue (and my guilt), I decided to stop accepting new review requests in August 2018, except from authors I’ve worked with before.  My plan for 2019 is to try to read at least one book from my author review pile each month – two, if I can manage it. 


  • Maintain my 80% feedback ratio
  • Attain my 100 Reviews badge
  • Get an auto approval

PASS – I’m going to judge this a pass because I’ve maintained my 80% plus feedback ratio and I attained my 100 reviews badge a few months ago.  The auto approval is out of my control really but I’m hoping if I can get back to reviewing books on my NetGalley shelf closer to publication it might happen in 2019.  

Blogging Goals

  • Continue to take part in Top Ten Tuesday, WWW Wednesdays and Throwback Thursday
  • Start my own meme
  • Update my blog’s theme and graphics
  • Create a blog page(s) devoted to John Buchan
  • Create a blog page to index author Q&As I’ve carried out
  • Take blog tour breaks in February and December

PASS/FAIL – This is another mixture because I have participated most weeks in Top Ten Tuesday and WWW Wednesday but have been a bit remiss with Throwback Thursday.  I’m still searching for a good idea for my own meme but it’s hard because there are so many great ones out there already.  A big fail on updating my blog theme and graphics and on creating the new pages.  Something for the New Year, I think.  I’ve been much better at disciplining myself not to hop on every blog tour I get invited to join (especially if it involves posting a review) and I’ve taken month long blog tour breaks during the year.

Personal Goals

Start a proofreading course

FAIL – This seemed like a good idea but, having researched the time commitment involved, I’m going to park this one for the time being. 

If you had blogging and/or reading goals for 2018, how did you get on?  Will you be setting goals for 2019?  Happy New Year everyone!

Christmas 4

Buchan of the Month: Sick Heart River by John Buchan

Buchan of the Month

SickHeartRiver2About the Book

Lawyer and MP Sir Edward Leithen is given a year to live. Fearing he will die unfulfilled, he devotes his last months to seeking out and restoring to health Galliard, a young Canadian banker. Galliard is in remotest Canada searching for the ‘River of the Sick Heart’. Braving an Arctic winter, Leithen finds the banker and then his own health returns, yet only one of the men will return to civilization ….

Format: Hardcover (318 pp.)    Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: March 1941      Genre: Fiction

Purchase Links*  ǀ  ǀ (supporting UK bookshops)
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Find Sick Heart River on Goodreads

My Review

Sick Heart River is the final book in my Buchan of the Month reading project (for 2018).  (Buchan of the Month will return in 2019 with a new selection of books by John Buchan, both fiction and non-fiction.) It happens to be one of my favourite of his novels (along with Mr. Standfast).

Sick Heart River was Buchan’s last novel.  In fact, he finished it only a fortnight before his death and it was published posthumously.  Although Buchan cannot have known his own death was so close, there is definitely an elegiac quality to the book.  Whilst writing Sick Heart River, Buchan had been completing his autobiography, Memory Hold-the-Door.  Perhaps the process of recalling the experiences of earlier days, the loss of old friends and taking stock contributed to the reflective, meditative sense the reader gets from  Sick Heart River.

Diagnosed with tuberculosis, a legacy of his experiences in the First World War, and with no prospect of recovery, Sir Edward Leithen seeks a way to give purpose to the last few months of his life.  When the task of finding Francis Galliard comes his way, via a mutual friend, initially he has no particular interest on a personal level in the object of his search.  Leithen undertakes the task purely to prevent himself lapsing into self-pity or suffering the slow demise he fears.  As he tells Galliard later: ‘I wasn’t interested in you – I didn’t want to do a kindness to anybody – I wanted something that would keep me on my feet until I died.  It wouldn’t have mattered if I had never heard the name of any of the people concerned.  I was thinking only of myself, and the job suited me.’

Buchan is always good at descriptions of landscape and in the book he captures the harsh beauty of the landscape of northern Canada.  However, he shows that what seems beautiful can also be deadly: ‘Leithen brooded over that mysterious thing, the North.  A part of the globe which had no care for human life, which was not built to man’s scale, a remnant of that Ice Age which long ago had withered the earth.’  The reader witnesses Leithen’s desperate struggle to survive a Canadian winter alongside his companions – the Frizel brothers, Johnny and Lew, and their Hare Indian guides.

One of Buchan’s favourite texts, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, makes an appearance in the book, as it did in Mr. Standfast. However, in this case, The Pilgrim’s Progress is not the benign instrument that assists Richard Hannay to achieve his mission, help him uncover mysteries and reveal insights, as it does in Mr Standfast. In Sick Heart River, it leads to a journey that risks the lives of Leithen and his companions.  Lew Frizel, casting himself in the role of Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress,  initially believes the Sick Heart River to be ‘the River of the Water of Life, same as in Revelation’ where all his sins will be washed away.  However, Lew’s quest to find the Sick Heart River is shown to be a false pilgrimage, a chimera. The Sick Heart River is not, as he imagined, the equivalent of the Land of Beulah or a gateway to Heaven but, as he tells Leithen, ‘the Byroad-to Hell, same as in Bunyan’.

The book explores some familiar themes of Buchan’s novels: fortitude, self-sacrifice, the link between bodily and spiritual health, the spirit of place, and the importance of being in touch with and true to your roots.  As Sick Heart River reaches its conclusion, the world has once more been plunged into the calamity of another war. Remembering his experiences in the First World War, Leithen reflects, ‘It had been waste, futile waste, and death, illimitable, futile death.  Now the same devilment was unloosed again’.  (One of Buchan’s final acts as Governor General of Canada had been to authorise Canada’s declaration of war against Germany in September 1939.)

At the end of Sick Heart River, in an act of epic self-sacrifice and knowing the likely outcome, Leithen takes command of a task that will prove to be his final battle.  As always, the book’s ending leaves me slightly teary.

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In three words: Elegaic, moving, uplifting

Try something similar…A Prince of the Captivity by John Buchan

John BuchanAbout the Author

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was an author, poet, lawyer, publisher, journalist, war correspondent, Member of Parliament, University Chancellor, keen angler and family man.  He was ennobled and, as Lord Tweedsmuir, became Governor-General of Canada.  In this role, he signed Canada’s entry into the Second World War.   Nowadays he is probably best known – maybe only known – as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps.  However, in his lifetime he published over 100 books: fiction, poetry, short stories, biographies, memoirs and history.

You can find out more about John Buchan, his life and literary output by visiting The John Buchan Society website.