August Wrap-Up

08 - august wrapup

Good Evening and happy bank holiday weekend to those of you fortunate enough to be enjoying the last long weekend before Christmas! I know bank holidays are a very British thing, and I also know that my Scottish pals don’t get to enjoy the Late August holiday – but, as I have 4 days off work without any of my holiday allowance being eaten up I thought it was about time I updated you on my reading.

August has been a relatively productive month in that I actually did read a couple of books – and several graphic novels. Much more productive than July which was consumed by War and Peace! August has also been great because I’ve really got back in to gaming – nothing hardcore but it has definitely consumed a lot of my time this month! I’ve been playing a mix of things, but my life has been consumed by a game on my iPad called Battle Cats – yeah. Don’t ask.

On to the reading. In August I read 5 books – 2 novels and 3 graphic novels. One of the novels was more of a novella, but it does seem that in spite of War and Peace being a chunker my love of big ole books has not dissipated because as I write this I’m a quarter of the way through Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I’m absolutely rocketing through it and I should be done with it by the end of the month (yay for long weekends!)

I am, however, acutely aware that I have not reviewed any of the books I read this month. And that’s for no reason other than I haven’t been in the mood to. However, I am now in the process of writing a tonne of reviews of books that I’ve read in the last few months but haven’t got around to – so September is going to be quite a catch up month and you can look forward to more regular posts from me. Reviews to look out for in the next couple of weeks include:-

  • Lumberjanes – Volumes 1 through to 6 – Noelle Stevenson et al.
  • The Wizard of Oz Graphic Novel series – Eric Shanower et al.
  • The Infinite Loop – Pierrick Colinet
  • Bringing in the Sheaves – Rev’d. Richard Coles
  • Justine – Alice Thompson
  • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens

08 - september goals

I don’t have a particularly strict TBR for September, but I do have a few books I’d like to get around to. I’m actually going on holiday at the end of the month and visiting family in Scotland, so I’m hoping that will provide some intense reading. Also, it’s between an 8 and 10 hour car trip each way which is absolutely perfect for a long audiobook (or two!)! So, if anyone has any recommendations I’d be more than happy to hear them!

However, I do have a couple of books that I’ve been sitting on and wanting to read for what feels like forever and I’d like to finally get around to them this month. So I’m putting them here for the world to see and hoping it’ll make me finally read them:-

September TBRIt’s quite a varied pile – as you can probably see. A little bit of non-fiction, modern classic, science fiction, and a very literary book. But I think it’s a good pile for me to be picking from as it’s quite varied.

I would also like to read a classic this month but as of yet I haven’t decided what it’ll be. I may find a meaty one to listen to as an audiobook at the end of the month in the car! We shall just have to see.

As I said, if anyone has any recommendations for good, long audiobooks drop them down in the comments because I’m always excited to have a new audiobook!

As always, thanks for reading!

The Briefest of Updates

Hello lovely readers, today I just wanted to check in to say hi, and reassure you all that I’m still alive. I’ve had quite a few people find my blog in the last few weeks I’ve not been posting and just wanted to say welcome to you, and also say hi to the people who have been reading since thestart. 

I’ve not been reading lately. Where most people have summer sprints and love nothing more than sitting out in the sun with a good book, I’m the exact opposite. When that sun comes out and it starts getting warmer, the last thing I feel like doing is reading. 

In the last couple of months I’ve read only Stay With Me and some of War and Peace. And I’m okay with that. I’ve already reached my goal on Goodreads of reading 50 books. 

I will be back reading soon, of that I’m certain, and I will be reviewing Stay With Me eventually, and War and Peace when it’s finished. I’m thinking by the start of August normal service will resume. 

Anyway, I am now off to spend a day catching up with one of my best friends and anticipate buying some new clothes in Joules, maybe a bath bomb in lush and generally treat myself. Though, I haven’t bought books in a while and maybe feel a haul coming on!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking around! 

May Wrap Up

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It’s been a very long time since I read enough in a month to warrant a wrap up – but being off work sick for the majority of the month has meant that I’ve got a lot more reading than usual under my belt. Books are the only thing that have kept me sane this month, so I thought it a good time to reinstate wrap-ups. I’m hoping they’ll become a regular thing again, because I do have a very nice spreadsheet with lots of data on, and it seems a shame not to share it!

So, this month I read a total of 19 things – which is insane. It doubled my total books read this year. 10 of them were graphic novels – I read Volumes 1-4 of Lumberjanes and also started reading the Marvel interpretations/graphic novels of The Wizard of Oz. I found they’ve been a really good distraction on bad days when I can’t focus on too many words or big plots but still want to feel like I’ve been achieving something. I’m still not sure if I’m going to do full reviews of graphic novels, or wait until I’ve finished a bulk of them and do more mass-reviewing. Let me know what you think would be best!

Of the 11 other books, it was a really good mix between literary fiction, short stories, non fiction, classics, and even a couple of kids books! I really enjoyed everything I read this month aside from The Seamstress and the Wind. My average rating was a whopping 3.7 – and as someone who is an eternal 3* reviewer that was quite impressive for me (taking out the graphic novels it’s 3.6 average). As for pages, I read a massive 4658 – which for me is boggling. The last time I read that much was July 2015 (according to my spreadsheet) – given the place I was in then compared to now, I don’t know how I’ve done it!

My favourite books this month, by country miles, were My Cousin Rachel and Crime and Punishment. I really can’t wait for next month for more du Maurier and also starting another Russian behemoth of a book – War and Peace. I can’t wait to get started on that tomorrow for the readalong that Ange & Yamini are hosting (Goodreads group can be found here with links to all the information).

Next month is looking to be another tough one – I’m still not back at work, I’m still signed off but I’m looking at maybe doing a phased return, which would be a much better balance for me all things considered. I’ve got a lot of life-things happening next month – my baby sister is 21, I’m going on holiday at the end of the month, and I am HOPEFULLY getting a tattoo (health permitting!)

I’m not going to do a TBR, because alongside War and Peace I have no idea what I’ll be reading. I will however probably do a holiday TBR closer to the event!

I hope you all have had a wonderful May & that your June is full of sunshine and books.

Thanks for reading!

Discussion: Graphic Novels & Stepping Outside a Comfort Zone

Okay, so a bit of a chance of pace from my more recent posts which have been predominantly reviews (being off work sick has some benefits in that I have been reading prolifically for the first time in ages). Today I want to talk about Graphic Novels.

Graphic novels are something that I never thought were for me. I was never a big comic book reader as a kid and as a result of me never being in to this style of reading; I truly believed that graphic novels were not going to be for me. I had this perception, quite naively, that they weren’t going to be something worth the time or the effort. I can appreciate good art, but I love a good story, and that’s something I honestly believed I was not going to get from a graphic novel.

Anyway, the crux of this is that they especially weren’t something I was willing to spend money on.

Cut to the present day – Amazon Prime recently added a new feature to the ever growing list of benefits included with the subscription. This feature, Prime Reading, has a couple of hundred books available to borrow from their library – and it included graphic novels. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to give a graphic novel a go. I understand that on an iPad it’s going to be hugely different to reading a physical copy, but actually it’s a lot more convenient for someone like me who can’t get to the library easily!

I downloaded the first volume of Lumberjanes. Lumberjanes is a graphic novel I’d heard of, and interested me more than many of the others available on a number of levels – artwork, characters, and everyone I’d seen talk about it enjoyed it.

I loved it. I absolutely bloody loved it. I sat there, I laughed out loud, read it in one sitting, and proceeded to buy the next 3 volumes. And also Nimona. 

I don’t think I’m ever going to be someone who will talk about them a lot, I probably won’t ever own physical copies as I’m quite happy reading them on ComiXology on my iPad. I understand how/why it’s fantastic to read a physical copy, but for me they’re just too space-consuming and actually I really loved the concept of zooming in on sections and really appreciating the art – as for me that’s probably a bigger component of a graphic novel than the story line!

Ultimately I surprised myself at how much I did enjoy reading a graphic novel, and I can’t wait to read more of them.

How about you, dear readers, do you like graphic novels? dislike them? Never tried them? Discuss because I’d really like to get a conversation going on this!

As always, thanks for reading!

Blog: Happy International Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia Awareness Day! (or a not so happy day if you’re me)

May 12th marks the day on which Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia (FM) are actually recognised. For those who don’t know what either of those conditions are, they’re multifaceted conditions which cause extreme (chronic) fatigue and also muscular/joint pains, which cause impact on daily life and inability to carry out seemingly benign or simple tasks. Everyone presents with different symptoms, different levels of pain and ability – they’re most certainly conditions on sliding scales, and it’s a scale that can slide in either direction at any time it chooses.

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Discussion: Wellcome Book Prize 2017

I had intended for this to be a post before the winner was announced – however, that plan got put on the backburner and here I am now, 45 minutes after the winner was announced, a little in shock. It’s the most wonderful kind of shock because I am so, so happy with which book has been named the winner.

To warn you, this is a 500 word ramble.

In case you haven’t seen who won – I’m about to spoil it for you. It was Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal. This has made Wellcome Prize history as it’s the first book to have been translated and won, which is incredible – and honestly a testament to the translation skill. In a prize shortlist which was so diverse, fiction and non fiction, men and women, the possibility of a posthumous award, the outcome of a translated book winning – honestly it’s boggling how wonderfully diverse the shortlist was and I really, really love that this book won.

Mend the Living didn’t shout like some books do, it was more quiet in what it was putting across. It’s one that the more I’ve thought about since I finished it 2 weeks ago, the more I’ve loved it – to the point that I actually changed my rating on goodreads and bumped this up to a 5* book. It was quiet in both the way it was written, and also the media surrounding it – a lot of focus was on When Breath Becomes Air and The Tidal Zone. The hard science in The Gene and I Contain Multitudes was overwhelming and impressive, and I enjoyed both those books.

For me, the two it came down to were How to Survive a Plague and Mend the Living – out of the two the better book won in my opinion. They were both a lot less publicised, somewhat pushed to the back of the tables in my local bookshops, they were definitely not talked about enough. I actually had a conversation with a few of the booksellers in my local Waterstones, and told them that out of the entire shortlist Mend the Living was the one I would say ‘read’ – and a couple of them did.

I’m quite sad I didn’t put a prediction post up – because I would so love to have been right before the event (it’s all very well and good saying I TOLD YOU SO, but when there’s no evidence to back it up it’s not nearly as impressive!)

Seriously folks, read this book. It’s incredible and it really won’t disappoint. It’s a very, very worthy winner and I will be thrusting it in to several people’s hands in the near future. I hope that several more of her books are translated in to English because I would so, so love to see what else this woman can write.

If you can’t tell, I’m very happy.

July Wrap Up and an August TBR

07 - july wrapup

July was beautiful. It was possibly the most crazy month of my life and I have made so many memories. I was working full time (and managing, something I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do), I graduated, I saw Finding Dory on opening night, and I went to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I laughed until I was crying, I smiled until my face hurt, I got a sun tan, I didn’t fall over on stage when they called my name, I made new friends, I caught up with old ones, played some Pokemon Go and honestly, I didn’t read all that much. But it was amazing and I don’t regret one second of it (okay, I lie, I wish I didn’t wear the heels for graduation).

But, as this is primarily a blog in which I talk about books, that is what I shall do now. I read 5 books, I’m happy with 5 books. Sadly, there were only a couple that I really loved, most of them were 3* reads. I read in total 1964 pages, which I’m pretty happy with, though I would like to see myself break 2000 again soon as I haven’t done that since April!

My favourite book was Animal by Sara Pascoe, closely followed by The Cursed Child (obviously). Animal was better than How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, and I loved that book. As for The Cursed Child, well, it was glorified fanfiction but what can I say, I’m fanfiction trash.

07 - august goalsThis month I want to read the remainder of the books I wanted to read in July and didn’t. So, that’s The Essex SerpentThe Brinks That Built the Houses, Human ActsThe Adventures of the Busts of Eva Peron, and finally The Last Pilot. So that’s the 5 books I definitely want to read, I would like to get around to another classic this month, and maybe some poetry too.

One thing I definitely want to do this month is keep on top of this blog a bit more, and be a bit more structured. I’ve recently lost my mojo when it comes to what I want to say and do on here and, like I said a few months ago, I want to take this more seriously which is something I haven’t been doing as of late and I want that to change. So, consider that a promise!

I’ve got some really fun things planned this month, I’m going to see Sarah Millican on the 8th, I’m helping some friends move in to their first home together, seeing two of my oldest friends and having dinner. So I think it’s going to be good. Life is feeling good, and that’s a little strange if I’m honest.

Have a lovely August!

Blog: Taking it Seriously

At the start of this year I decided I wanted to take the things I love to do more seriously. I have a lot of things I like to do, but if you haven’t already worked it out I love books more than most things. As I’ve gone through my degree they’ve become a lot more important to me, as has this blog. But in spite of that personal promise, it took me a long time to realise that this is something I could take more seriously.

Reaching the end of my degree, and not really knowing where I’m going next I put the important things down on paper. Oddly, or not so oddly, reading – and indeed this blog – came out quite close to the top of things I love to put time an effort in to (and feel like I achieve something in doing so!)

To take this more seriously, I gave myself a facelift; new layout, header, and even a new picture of me! Secondly, more importantly, you can now find this blog at ashleighsbookshelf.co.uk. While things will remain, on the whole, the same some things might change up along the way. Needless to say I’m quite excited about this next phase of my blogging experience.

Any suggestions you have for me, or things you’d like to see, I’d love to hear!

Thanks for sticking around

Ashleigh

Blog: The Pain of the Reading Slump

I’m in a reading slump. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I had such a big slump. Even when I last posted about being in a slump (December) I still managed to read 9 books in that month. Granted, they were primarily rereads but I still managed to read 9 books! I haven’t even finished one book this month, granted I am reading Les Misérables but a huge, beastly book isn’t normally something that deters me and it still isn’t, I’m really enjoying it but… I’m just not in the mood to read, even though I want to be reading and it’s frustrating. It seems as though those two feelings conflict but they really don’t, I want to read I just don’t feel like it…

I feel pressure to read sometimes, the pressure comes only from myself, but I feel if I’m not reading I’m not producing content for this blog, and that makes me sad because I love this blog. I love writing posts, interacting with those of you who read it and not being able to do that because I’m not doing anything to write about is getting me down.

The main issue I have is I don’t feel I’ve achieved anything. Nothing. I don’t feel I’ve made any significant headway on anything else, least of all my dissertation or any coursework, I’ve not even been watching TV. I just don’t understand where my time has been going or what I’ve been doing with it. I have nothing to show for it.

Gah. I’m feeling really zapped right now. That could also be antibiotics talking as I’m doped up to my eyeballs, but alas. Normal business shall resume soon, I just needed to get this off of my chest!

Blog: Readers Guilt|| Blogmas Day 22

I haven’t picked a book up for a couple of days and, as someone who talks about reading a lot, this makes me feel guilty. It’s a weird feeling because it’s a completely unfounded notion. Noone is going to penalise me for not reading a book for a few days, noone is judging or actively harassing me but I feel I should be reading when I’m spending my free time doing other stuff. I have two shelves full of books, plus an overspill downstairs. I have so many books that I want to be reading but, right now, I just don’t feel like reading.

I’ve really been enjoying watching TV lately and that’s not a bad thing. I love watching TV, especially with my mum as it’s rare she actually enjoys a show that I do. This past couple of weeks I’ve got my mum hooked on one of my favourite TV shows – Major Crimes. I’ve had a tonne recorded and as she had a day off we genuinely sat and watched 6 episodes pretty much back to back today and it was fantastic. We rarely get to spend time just loafing about watching telly so it’s been really, really great to be able to do that. I also watched The Good Life Christmas special. Twice. 1970s comedy was gold, especially The Good Life, I just love it so very much.

But I have this pressure on me wherein I feel I ought to be reading. The pressure comes from noone but myself, which is why it’s especially annoying, but it’s fuelled by reading goals and targets I set myself. It’s fuelled by watching other people read obscene amounts and wanting to keep up with the best of them. Essentially, I have a reading inferiority complex.

Now, I’ve read 94 books this year and I want to make it to a nice, round 100. Can I do that? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I want to enjoy time with my family, I want to watch TV and make shortbread and sing Christmas songs (badly, I must add, as I currently have the tail end of flu and sound like a 96 year old man with emphysema). What I also know is this pressure I put myself under has me wanting to read less.

So, I’m not reading right now and I’m starting to feel okay about that.