Blog: Spring 2019 – A General Update

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Hello again, and welcome to a wee chatty post on my corner of the internet. It’s been quite some time since I checked in with you all – and a lot has changed for me in the last few months, so it feels an appropriate time to do that! So, below the cut there is a 500 word update where I’m talking Fibromyalgia, the Wellcome Prize, Book Slumps, Theatre Trips, Language Learning and lots of other random stuff.

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Blog:- Hello 2019| General Update & Bookish Goals

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Hello and welcome to a new look on Ashleigh’s Bookshelf. After a rather long hiatus, I decided the best way to get back to blogging, and excited about it, was to give the blog itself a bit of a facelift. So, here we have it. It’s purple and inspired by my tattoos in that it’s watercolour-y in theme and I hope you like it! It’s still in progress, and if you have any suggestions or feedback just drop me a message.

The reason there weren’t any posts for the last 3 or 4 months of 2018 is simple – I wasn’t reading. After a few really good months over the Summer my reading motivation just slumped, my reading consisted of Harry Potter fan fiction and I’m not ashamed in the slightest. I bought a PS4 and have rediscovered a love of gaming (Tomb Raider mainly). I’ve been watching movies, drinking wine and making memories with friends. For me, the last few months of 2018 were some of the happiest I’ve had, and before I knew it it’d been 3 months and I hadn’t picked up a book.

Looking back on my reading in 2018 one of the things which I found most rewarding was reading the Wellcome prize longlist – something I hope to do again this year. The longlist is released next month and I actually can’t wait! I’m going to be more about balance this year, as I feel that it’s something I almost conquered towards the end of 2018 and that I want to carry forward. I’ve decided to be less about quantity of books and more about quality and the value they add to my life, so my goals for this year are:-

  • Read one book a week
  • Read more non-fiction
  • If you don’t like it, DNF it.

And reading is going to naturally take a backseat when I’m focusing my time on other things too. For a long while all of my free time was used reading, but I’m enjoying having that variety in my free time and it means I’m enjoying and appreciating things more!

As for the blog – reviews will happen when books are read, I may also do monthly updates again- games I’m playing and movies I’ve watched as well as books.

But for now, I will say goodbye and we shall speak soon!

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The Briefest of Updates

Hello! Long time no speak.

I always seem to make one of these posts at this time of year. When other people’s reading picks up towards the winter, with cozy blankets and hot drinks, mine always drops out. Well, it doesn’t drop off completely but I tend to go through a phase of reading fan fiction and I have zero regrets.

I also may have bought myself a PS4 and I may have been obsessively playing Tomb Raider for the best part of two months.

Anyway, I have purchased a few books lately which I’m excited to get around to so hopefully you’ll be hearing from me again in the new year!

I hope you’re having a lovely Saturday and your festive season is filled with happiness whatever and however you celebrate.

Hiatus Be Gone!

Well hello there my lovely readers, and what a time it’s been since I posted last. The Wellcome Book Prize announced a winner (literally, the one book on the shortlist I didn’t give a damn about – I’m miffed), I booked to see a couple of my favourite authors in conversation (Becky Chambers and Ali Smith, for anyone interested), I’ve been to the theatre, I’ve caught up on TV, become even gayer and I haven’t picked a book up in nearly 2 months.

In fairness, I have been rather unwell, but that’s neither here nor there. It did mean however that I wasn’t in much of a reading mood. That’s changed now. I picked up a book for the first time yesterday and it felt blooming marvellous!

So, expect normal (or rather, normal for me) service to resume on here.

In June I am reading books solely published by Salt. I’ll discuss that more in another post in a couple of days, I just wanted to post today to say thank you to all the wonderful humans among you who actually subscribed while I’ve not been about. It means a lot that even my older reviews are garnering attention still. And thank you to those who have stuck around!

Discussion: January to March Reading Wrap-Up

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Hello my lovely readers, and welcome to a rather different blog post – and one I haven’t done since August last year – a reading wrap up! I gave up doing wrap ups and TBRs because I wasn’t really reading much towards the end of last year and TBRs weren’t working. However, so far this year I’ve read 37 books. THIRTY SEVEN! I was aiming for 2 books a week to meet my goal of 100 books on Good Reads, but currently I’m on track to read around 150 books if I keep up this pace!

General Statistics:-
As I said, I’ve read 37 books so far this year from January to the end of March. The 37 books total 11,998 pages and it works out at an average of 324 pages per book. Which is crazy. I have a spreadsheet which I’ve been logging my reading on since 2012. In 2012 I was happy to have read that many pages in a year so to think I’ve managed to read that many pages in 3 months is incredible!

Diversity:-
Having participated in femmeuary – reading only female authors in February – I’ve somewhat skewed my author gender data, but as it stands 76% (or 28 authors) have been women so far. I’d rather like to keep up with that balance of around 75% female authors as I’m really enjoying what I’m reading so far, and don’t feel like I’m missing anything out!

I’ve also been trying to read from a more diverse range of authors as, I have noticed, my reading is very white – last year I read only 2 books by non-white authors. 2 books. So this year I’ve already surpassed that as 10 of the books – or 27% – have been from authors of a non-white ethnicity. Obviously it’s not ideal to still be around the 25% mark but it’s still a lot more diverse than my previous 2 years reading and, honestly, I’m loving it!

The Books in General:-
Genre wise – just over 50% of my reading has been non-fiction which is something that’s really surprised me when looking at. I know I’ve been reading more non fiction this year simply because I’ve been enjoying it a lot more. I’ve read several memoirs and thanks to the Wellcome prize I’ve also read a large amount of science non-fiction on top of that. This year I’ve also really been enjoying essays and essay collections so I’m pretty sure there’ll be a good balance of fiction to non fiction going forward. Right now as I write this I’m definitely more in a non-fiction mood than I am fiction and, honestly, I’m loving it!

My average rating is 3.6 if I’ve done my maths correctly. I’ve only had one 1* book, and I’ve had nine 5* books (two of which were re-reads in fairness).

Excluding re-reads, my favourite books I’ve read so far this year have been With the End in Mind for non-fiction and for fiction my favourite so far has to be The Gloaming which I do feel is cheating as it was an ARC and isn’t out until the end of next month, but whatever, my blog means my rules and I loved it.

Going Forward in to April:-
I don’t have much in the way of a TBR as such, but I’d like to keep up what I’m doing – as it stands my books per month have been gradually increasing, and while I’m aware it’ll plateau and probably dip at some point, I’d quite like it to keep quite steady at the 10 books a month area. One thing I want to do though is keep the fiction/non-fiction balance at around the 50/50 mark because honestly I am really, really enjoying non fiction lately and I have a lovely little collection of books on gender studies and feminism which I really want to get around to more of over the next few weeks!

If there’s anything anyone would like to see on the blog I’d love to hear from you. I want to do more chatty posts like this, because I feel that I’ve been banging out reviews one after the other (roughly at 1 every 3 days or so at the moment) and not really having time to just blog about reading in general.

I hope you’re all having as productive a reading year as I am so far. Feel free to send me recommendations, on here or on goodreads, as I said I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Books I Hope Father Christmas Brings || Blogmas Day 19

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Hello and welcome to another top ten Tuesday! Today’s topic is one I thought would be easy – it’s the top 10 books that I hope Father Christmas brings me. It was not easy whatsoever. Surprisingly, there aren’t many books I’m after right now, and generally speaking I know my family won’t have bought me books so it’s fruitless to hope!

I really struggled finding 10 books that I’d really like. In the end I settled on special editions, or anthologies, and generally good ‘gift’ books that I’d quite like to have in my collection. There are also a handful of “Christmas” books which is a must at Christmas!

Firstly, the few books that aren’t as “special” – Effi Briest in the Persephone classics edition. I really loved the sound of this when I received a newsletter from Persephone, and it’s been on my wishlist for a long while! The other two that fit in to this category are Egyptian Myths which is a book from a Penguin collection that I’m slowly collecting – I absolutely love myths and legends, so books like this are right up my alley! Also, The Iliad in the Clothbound Classics version – it’s one of the few in the collection I don’t have. The reason it is in the ‘less special’ section is I do have a copy of it in the black spine, so it would be a duplicate book!

As for “Christmas-y” books, we have The Faber Book of Christmas Stories which is absolutely blooming gorgeous and I would absolutely adore to have a copy of! The same, in fact, goes for the remainder of the books. Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson is purely to fuel my love of the womans writing right now. The Night Before Christmas by Gogol is one of the Penguin Christmas Classics, and I love these wee gems. I’ve taken to reading one every Christmas Night, so I’d really like a new one to add to my collection!

The last on the top line is a bit of left field entrant on this top 10, I’ve not had much experience with Wodehouse but a selection of short stories sounds like a good way to get started. This book caught my eye when it was published in hardback around 3 years ago, and even now I’m curious about it. We all need a good laugh, and I think this would be the perfect combination of festive cheer and a good laugh!

Finally we have A Poem for Every Day/Night of the Year – these two books are gorgeous and as I want to get in to more poetry I feel like it might be a nice way to do that, that and I like the idea of actually reading 1(2) poems a day and having it as a project throughout 2018!

The last book on the entire top 10 is The Fox and the Star which I have wanted since it was released but haven’t bought myself but if someone got it for me as a gift I would be over the moon.

As I said, this was a hard top 10 to do! I didn’t realise how few books I actually wanted at the moment until I struggled to get 10 together!

Have you got any books on your christmas wishlist?

300 Subscribers!|| Blogmas Day 18

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Hello my lovely subscribers, all 300 of you!

Today is a brief one, it’s been a long old day and didn’t have anything prepared/scheduled – but in a way that’s a good thing because while I was at work I hit 300 subscribers. So today I’m thanking all 300 of you who have taken the time to read, comment and subscribe over the last few years.

Seriously, thank you so much. Every like, every follow, every comment means so much to me. I know 300 people isn’t a huge amount to most, some of you guys probably have 10 times that amount of subscribers, but it’s a huge amount to me.

This blog started as an outlet when I started university, I never intended for it to become a place where I reviewed every book I read over the course of the last 3 years. It was an online diary for a while, it still is sometimes, but it became so much more to me than that. It’s still an outlet, but for a very different part of me – the creative part of me, the part of me who wants to find like-minded individuals as my Real Life sorely lacks in bookish types.

Because of this blog I have had some amazing conversations with amazing people. I have found other bloggers, read books I wouldn’t normally read, and importantly I’ve found my voice. I feel like my voice and opinion are valid, it’s given me confidence both online and in the ‘real world’.

So, thank you to every one of you who has subscribed, liked, commented, anything because it means the world to me.

 

The TBR Tag (Take Two)|| Blogmas Day 16

 

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Happy Weekend my dearest readers. Today I’m being a wee bit lazy and bringing you a tag post. I have previously done this tag but I think it’s a really good way to review my TBR and see how much things have changed in 2 and a half years.

The original can be found over here. So without further ado lets get in to it!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
My TBR is now all on Goodreads for the most part. But I don’t really have a ‘pile’ as such. All I know is it is now over 200 books high, but I don’t care. I only have my physical book collection on Goodreads though, I have a good number of audiobooks and books on my iPad which probably bump it up.

Is your TBR mostly print or eBook?
Like I said above, I only really track my physical collection. Though I probably have around 100 eBooks to read – either those I have purchased myself or review copies. So I only really ‘track’ my physical collection – but I do probably have more physical books than eBooks now.

How do you determine which book to read next from your TBR?
I go with my gut. I’m a lot less target oriented than I was when I started the blog, and while I like challenging myself and reading things outside of my comfort zone, I’m a lot more of a mood reader now. Often I’ll sit there and read the first few pages of a dozen books before picking what I want to read next, which is time consuming and also causes me to have a lot of deja vu but it works for me now.

A book that’s been on your TBR the longest?
Too many of them have been there for a long time with me saying “I’ll read you one day, but not right now”. One of the longest serving inmates on my bookshelf has to be The Night Circus – I bought it when it was a new release in paperback (which having just googled was 2012!) Oh dear.

A book you recently added to your TBR?
I haven’t bought a lot of books recently actually – but one that springs to mind is A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. It’s both murderous and science, and it got me very excited.

A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
Right now – none of them. I bought beautiful editions of books, not because they were beautiful but because I wanted to read them AND I like my shelves to look pretty. None of them were purchased purely because of their appearance, I wanted to read them before I went shopping for them!

That makes a change!

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
None of them. I intend to read every book I own at some point, and if that desire goes for any one of them I’ll send them to a charity shop without as much as a tear!

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
Becky Chambers third book in the Wayfarers series. Hands down the book I am most anticipating next year. Though the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale is close second!

Oh and Kirsty Logan is releasing a new book next year. That’s a must by!

A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you?
Embarrassingly the answer to this question hasn’t changed all that much. It’s still The Lord of the Rings series. I did actually go off the idea of reading them for a long time, and got rid of the copies I owned. I have since re-purchased and I am determined to read them eventually.

Also, The Night Circus.

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
Right now, none of them. My friends aren’t really big readers, and noone really gives me direct recommendations! So, feel free to recommend books to me!

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
All of them?! If I had endless hours I’d sit and read them all. If I have to pick it would be A History of Magic – the book released in conjunction with the British Library for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter. And I pick it because it is as large as the illustrated editions and not exactly portable, so I need a day or two with nothing on where I can just lose myself in it!

How many books are on your goodreads TBR?
At present, 173. But I haven’t updated it since September so it will have definitely changed since then – as I said initially it’s quite close to the 200 mark in physical books now!

 

 

Identity Crisis?|| Blogmas Day 15

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So today it’s a bit of a late one, and not really book-oriented, because I’m not having the best of days.

The last few days I’ve definitely been having a bit of a wobble (primarily due to my GP not seeing my anti-depressants as an urgent prescription and thinking it acceptable to make me go 3 days without them. They still haven’t done the prescription, but I have enough for a week from the pharmacy, and I can kick up a fuss on Monday if I still don’t have my repeat). However, that isn’t what I want to talk about today (as the rainbow in the header may indicate).

The other week, while on holiday, my friend made an offhand comment about how her dad misunderstood something I put on facebook (he misunderstood my “omg I’m going to be a bridesmaid” post as “omg I’m getting married”). And that she was proud of him because “He congratulated you even though if you were getting married, we all know it’d be to a woman.”

Thinking about it, I realised I’ve never actually ‘come out’. I’ve never felt the need to. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my sexuality, I know I prefer women, I just never felt the need to actually go and label myself. But do I need to tell my friends I’m gay? (or more gay than straight, or as I told my mother when I was all of 12 years old “not as straight as a ruler”).

I feel like I’ve lied to them, which is stupid because when I started uni and met them I never hid myself away. I was always 100% me. I make jokes about myself like “Doc Martens and a plaid shirt, you must be a lesbian!” at least twice a month, I frequently make references to particularly nice looking women, rant about the heteronormativity of the institution of marriage, talk very passionately about my favourite fictional lesbians, and regularly update them on LGBTQ+ news.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly think I’m hiding in Narnia.

I told my mum I was (at the very least) bisexual when I was 12 – as I said above. It was a result of a pretty problematic set of circumstances as to why, involving a much older girl taking advantage of me (and it wasn’t just me, as I came to find out). My parents were cool with it, never told me it was just a phase or any of those cliche things. From what I recall, my actual ‘coming out experience’ with my parents was positive – it was so long ago, and the circumstances around it are those I want to forget, meaning I have sort of blurred it in my head.

But, 12 years on, and with a whole new set of friends around me do I actually need to do the whole coming out thing with the words “hey, guess what, I’m gay(ish)?” or is what I’ve already done – just being me, hella gay, and rocking it – enough?

So, if anyone ever wondered what going 3 days without antidepressants did to you, it is this. It makes you unable to sleep and have anxiety attacks over things people probably already know. It makes you question your whole identity, bring up trauma you thought was long behind you and question your entire existence.

Thank goodness for pharmacists and emergency prescriptions.

5 Star Predictions || Blogmas Day 13

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Seeing as yesterdays post was all about my favourite books of 2017, I thought today would be a very good day to discuss books I haven’t read yet but think will become firm favourites – or 5* reads – in 2018. I’ve seen several people on youtube do this – Mercedes I think was first, but the idea caught on and I thought it would translate well in to a blog post.

A lot of factors make up a 5* book for me, it has to be well written, have a plot that keeps me hooked and have well rounded characters. They’re by no means the only things that makes me give a book 5* – but they do help. Equally, how a book reads influences my rating – books with no chapter breaks, or even paragraph breaks, or just places to generally put the book down and get on with stuff really irk me!

Anyone who follows this blog knows I’m an eclectic reader, and that doesn’t change in the books I feel I’m going to give 5* in 2018! So, let’s discuss.

First up is the classics and to The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This year I really found a love in Russian literature and I have nothing but high hopes for this book. There are a handful of other books by Russian authors on my TBR but this is the one I really want to get around to, but also have the most anticipation about! Interestingly, the next classic I’m optimistic about is Middlemarch by George Eliot which I read 2 years ago and only gave 3*. I’ve since come to appreciate George Eliot’s writing a lot more and I think that on a re-read this could improve enormously for me. It’s probably weird, for someone to predict that they’ll give a re-read of a lesser liked book 5* – but I’m always erring on the wild side!

As for new releases – I have exceedingly high hopes for Becky Chambers in her next instalment in the Wayfarers series Record of a Spaceborn Few. Both previous instalments in the series were 5* reads for me and I have zero doubt about this one. From what I’ve read it doesn’t follow any of the same characters, but that doesn’t worry me because the previous two books were enchanting, diverse and basically, this is the only book I currently have on preorder and I’m excited. I’m also sure that if the wonderful Ali Smith has a release in 2018 it will rocket to the top of my TBR and be a 5 star read. It has to be said that after reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden I’m quite excited about the follow up which is released in January – which the name of escapes me!

More popular fiction, or those books likely to be found on tables in Waterstones, are hard for me to pinpoint as they’re not the sort of books I lean towards but I’d like to finally get around to the two Zadie Smith books I haven’t read yet and the one I’m most optimistic for is NW as one of my friends said I would really enjoy it, so that’s one I’m thinking I may give 5* as I loved White Teeth when I read it years ago.

There are a few short story collections I also have a good feeling about – but short story collections are notoriously hard to give 5* reviews to because often there is just that one story which drags it down! But A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel has been on my TBR for a very long time and I have such high hopes for it. I also have a very good feeling about The Scent of Cinnamon by Charles Lambert which was published by Salt in 2010 and I recently purchased – the first story, from what I read – was amazing and I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet! Also by Salt is another short story collection that I’ve had for over a year which is New World Fairy Tales by Cassandra Parkin.

I think, for now, that is enough books that I think will be 5*. I have over 200 on my TBR so narrowing it down this far was difficult. I’d love to hear what books you’re feeling really optimistic about in 2018 – and any you think I might enjoy because I always enjoy some recommendations!