Book Tags

BOOK TAG!!! The Afternoon Tea Book Tag

It’s been a little while since I took part in a book tag so many thanks to Ashley over at Books Are 42 for tagging me in this one, originally created by The Incessant Bookworm! Who, after all, doesn’t love a good cup of tea and some related afternoon-tea nibbles, especially if you can curl up with a good book whilst partaking of it?

Finger Sandwiches: A Book You Savoured Every Minute Of

I absolutely loved every moment of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. With its combination of old-school glamour and intrigue and its tender examination of life-long love and devotion, it was a novel that absolutely lived up to the hype and had me hooked from first page to last.

Scones: A Book Everyone Should Own

A good dictionary! Yes, I know that’s something of a dull answer – and probably demonstrates the extent of my word-nerdery – but tastes in fiction and non-fiction vary and I genuinely do think that the benefits of a dictionary are under-rated. One of the (many) benefits of reading is an improved vocabulary and I enjoy being able to look up the meaning of new or unfamiliar words that I read.

As a PhD student and lecturer, I’m also very aware of how easy it is to fall prey to malapropisms if you’re not careful. English is a fascinating language but there are many ‘confusables’ (there/their/they’re being just a few of them) so a dictionary – and a good, user-friendly grammar guide such as Dryer’s English or Eats, Shoots and Leaves – are invaluable.

Biscuits: A Book that Can be Finished in One Sitting

I read Claire Keegan’s masterful Small Things Like These in one sitting way back in January and still haven’t found the words to write up a full review. It’s a wonderful novel of quiet heroism and tenderness that with a resonance that belies its slender 128 pages.

In an Irish town in 1985, coal and timber merchant Bill Furlong is preparing for Christmas: his busiest season. As Bill does his rounds, the reader gets a glimpse into this small community and, gradually, we begin to see the silences that lie at the heart of a town in thrall to – and controlled by – the Church.

Beautifully written and deeply touching, Small Things Like These is one of those novellas you need to curl up with and lose yourself in, and that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

Patisserie: A Book that is Light and Easy to Read

If I’m in a reading slump, I usually find myself returning to Agatha Christie. Her ingenious plotting never fails to keep the pages turning whilst spending time with Poirot or Miss Marple invariably feels like spending time with an old friend.

I’ve been re-reading the Poirot books in order via audiobook and have just finished listening to Death in the Clouds. They’re brilliantly narrated by Hugh Fraser (who played Captain Hastings in the ITV adaptation), with some titles also available narrated by David Suchet and Kenneth Branagh, both of whom have played Poirot to much acclaim.

I also find the British Library Crime Classics series to be similarly easy and enjoyable reads. John Bude’s series featuring Superintendent Meredith – which begins with The Lake District Murder – has become a firm favourite whilst I’ve enjoyed the short story collections Murder by the Book: Bibliophile Mysteries and Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries, both edited by Martin Edwards.

Showstopper: A Book that Blew You Away

I don’t often get ‘blown away’ by books but I raved about both Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers and Piranesi by Susanna Clarke once I’d finished them, and have since urged copies of both onto numerous friends and relations.

Set in a fantastic House and featuring an unforgettable protagonist Piranesi, is a seemingly simple tale that becomes increasingly fantastical. Small Pleasures, by contrast, begins with a fantastical tale that, once you dig beneath the surface, is a relatively simple story of love, longing, and – yes – the titular small pleasures.

Both novels are beautifully written and immersive experiences that, although they tell their tales simply, do so with great warmth and with a tenderness that captures the human experience on the page.

Tea: A Heart-warming Classic

J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is my go-to classic novel and I’ve written several times on the blog about why I love it so. For the sake of variety, therefore, I will suggest another classic here.

I’ve just finished reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch for the first time and I absolutely adored it. Don’t be put off by its length (or its preoccupation with the 1832 Reform Bill). Instead focus on Eliot’s blisteringly realistic portrait of provincial life in all its varied and messy glory.

Doomed romances, grasping relatives, hoary old misers, damaging secrets, warm-hearted fathers, impoverished clergymen: all of them jump out of the pages of Middlemarch, coming alive thanks to Eliot’s attention to detail and biting wit. Henry James described Middlemarch as a ‘treasure-house of detail’ while Virginia Woolf famously endorsed George Eliot’s masterpiece as ‘one of the few English novels written for grown-up people’: I concur with both.

Many thanks again to Ashlee for tagging me, and to The Incessant Bookwork for creating such a fun tag! I’m tagging:

Stephen at Stephen Writes

Hannah at Han Loves to Read

Danni at For Books Sake

and anyone else who’d like to take part! If you do decide to give the tag ago, please tag me in your posts so I can see your responses – and don’t forget to credit the tag creator too!

All of the books mentioned today can be purchased from all good booksellers and online retailers.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews and content on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags

The Book Snob Book Tag!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a non-review post (so many books, so little time to read and review them all!) so today I’m having a go at the Book Snob book tag, which was originally created by Tia and all the Books over on YouTube.

I was tagged by the lovely Jenny over at Jen Jen Reviews – thank you for the tag Jenny!!

This tag is really good fun and will hopefully give you a little bit of insight into my personal reading tastes and the way I like to read. So without further ado, let’s get on with the tag!

ADAPTATION SNOB: Do you always read the book before watching the film/ TV show?

Almost always.

That said, I’m not necessarily always of the opinion that ‘the book was better’ however (Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was, in my opinion, a far better film than it was a book, as was Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl) and I have no issues with adaptations that retain the spirit of the book whilst playing fast and loose with some of the details (such as in the recent adaptation The Personal History of David Copperfield).

In fact, some of my favourite adaptations are those that present the book to me in a new light (Autumn de Wilde’s Emma, Greta Gershwin’s Little Women), or that streamline the reading experience for the screen (Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings). Ultimately, an adaptation of a book is just that – an adaptation – and it isn’t the job of adaptation to be wholly faithful to the source. Instead, for me, a good adaptation conveys what is special about the book to a new audience and in a new medium.

And whilst I will always try to read a book before watching an adaptation, I do love that film and TV allows me to enjoy characters and story arcs that I probably wouldn’t pick up and read. I’m not the world’s biggest comic fan, for example, but I can watch and enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. I’m also not a huge reader of romance – but loved the Bridgerton TV series! And David Copperfield? Never read it! Dickens has never really gelled with me – but thanks to seeing the film, I now have the book on my TBR.

FORMAT SNOB: You can only choose one format in which to read books for the rest of your life. Which one do you choose: physical books, eBooks, or audiobooks?

Artist Credit: Maria Scriven

100% physical books. My Kindle is super convenient for when I’m reading on the go, and audiobooks are fantastic for listening to during my daily commute but, for me, nothing beats the feel of reading a physical book. Plus I struggle to read for long periods on the screen.

There’s something tactile about the reading experience that means that, for certain genres, I have to be reading in a physical format to fully immerse myself in the reading experience. So whilst I can happily listen to non-fiction on audio, or read a thriller on my Kindle, I need to hold a physical copy to immerse myself in the latest literary novel.

SHIP SNOB: Would you date or marry a non-reader?

I kind of did! My husband is a reader but I think he’d be the first to admit that he’s somewhere off my level of obsessed! And, when we first met, he really wasn’t a big reader having, like many people, been put off reading by English classes at school.

Despite not being a huge reader himself, my husband always accepted my love of books and the fact that I would spend a lot of my time reading – it sort of goes with the territory when you date an English Literature student, and that’s before you add in that reading is one of my favourite ways to spend my free time. And, over time, he began to become more interested in reading himself because we’d often talk about what I was reading, watch book programmes together and, of course, visit lots of bookshops and libraries.

Artist Credit: Debbie Tung

Nowadays my husband has a really varied reading taste – one that is quite different to mine (he’s much more of a sci-fan fan, and he reads a lot more non-fiction and classics than I do) – and, although he doesn’t read as much as me, he’s a much faster reader than I am when he really gets into a book!

To be honest, I think the fact that he loves that I love reading is the most important thing – and the fact that he puts up with my ever-increasing TBR, my ability to blank everyone and everything when lost in a book, and my propensity to find and visit the nearest bookshop wherever we go!

GENRE SNOB: You have to ditch one genre – never to be read again for the rest of your life. Which one do you ditch?

Probably sci-fi. I don’t read a huge amount of fantasy, sci-fi, or romance but, out of the three, I probably read more books that can be classed as fantasy or romance – or have fantasy/romance elements within them – than I do sci-fi.

By this though, I should say I mean hard sci-fi, which I don’t read a lot of. However I’ve read and enjoyed books that contain sci-fi elements but are placed into other genres – the most common being what gets termed ‘speculative fiction’, which seems to cover everything that is deemed to “literary” to be given a definitive genre label (and yes, that annoys me – see the question below about book snobbery!).

UBER GENRE SNOB: You can only choose to read from one genre for the rest of your life. Which genre do you choose?

Artist Credit: Tom Gauld

Now this IS a really tricky choice because I’m a mood reader so I wander between genres pretty freely – there is no monogamy in my reading life!

If I say ‘contemporary fiction’ is that cheating? Because I feel like a lot of genre fiction that can’t be categorically labelled gets placed into contemporary fiction so I’d still be able to read lots of different types of books.

If you absolutely made me have to choose a defined genre, I’d say either historical fiction or crime/mystery. Both are genres I can’t imagine being without in my reading life – and most of my favourite books tend to have a historical or crime element to them.

COMMUNITY SNOB: Which genre do you think receives the most snobbery from the bookish community?

As I mentioned above, I think most genre fiction gets some snobbery – and I have no idea why, especially given the fact that many prize-winning, acclaimed, and historically notable books are, essentially, genre fiction.

Jane Austen? Romance writer. Mary Shelley? Horror. Wilkie Collins? I think you’d be hard pressed to read The Moonstone and say it’s not a crime novel. And current literary heavyweights such as Kazuo Ishiguro are open about the fact that they write within – and utilise – many of the tropes of certain genres (see this really interesting interview Ishiguro gave to Neil Gaiman when the former published his ‘speculative’ novel The Buried Giant).

As someone who reads a lot of crime fiction, it really annoys me that certain genres – most notably sci-fi, fantasy, and romance – are treated with snobbery, and that that snobbery sometimes extends to the readers who love and enjoy those books. Ultimately, reading is a pleasure and you should read what you love – whether that’s heavyweight literary fiction, hot-under-the-collar erotica, or a page-turning thriller!

On the plus side, I think BookTube and blogging has done a lot to reduce book snobbery. There may still be some of it within the mainstream press but one of the things I love about the bookish community on blogs and social media is the fact that there are readers sharing the wide variety of books they love and enjoy.

So those are my answers to the Book Snob book tag! Thank you again to Jenny for tagging me – do check her out over at Jen Jen Reviews if you haven’t already! I’m tagging:

If you buy any books as a result of this post, please support a local indie bookshop if you can by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews and features on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags

The 20 Questions Book Tag

I’m back this week with another book tag thanks to my lovely Write Reads friend Noly over at The Artsy Reader, who very kindly tagged me in The 20 Questions Book Tag.

As there’s twenty questions to get through, I’d better get going!

1. How many books are too many books in a series?

If I’m honest, I’m not a big reader of series. I prefer standalones because I don’t have to worry about keeping pace with the release of the next book, or falling behind and risking spoilers if I don’t manage to read the latest title straight away. One a series gets past 3/4 titles, I do find it a little intimidating to jump in and begin reading unless the books all work as stories in their own right (as with Agatha Christie’s Poirot or Miss Marple series, for example).

That said, my bookish buddy Fiona, who blogs over at Fi’s Biblio Files, has recently introduced me to the Chronicles of St Marys series (11 books, 15 short stories, a spin-off series, and counting!) and re-introduced me to Rivers of London (9 novels, several graphic novels, and several short story collections to date) and I am enjoying working my way through those – albeit very slowly!

2. How do you feel about cliffhangers?

It very much depends on the book. I think cliffhangers and ambiguous endings have to be very carefully implemented and controlled to be done well and to not leave the reader frustrated. When they are done well however, a good cliffhanger can leave you desperate to read more – as with The Inheritance Games, which wrapped up one story and then dangled another at the end which I just cannot wait to get to!

3. Hardback or Paperback?

There are some GORGEOUS special edition hardbacks out there – the independant bookshop edition of Emma Stonex’s wonderful The Lamplighters being my most recent favourite – so I do treat myself to those if I really want to read a book and think it will be a ‘keeper’. The introduction of £12.99 hardbacks for some fiction titles in the UK has also made them much more affordable. Paperback is probably still my preferred reading format though as it’s easier to carry around a paperback than a hardback – and easier on the wrists if the book is a chunkster!

4. Favourite book?

A VERY difficult question as it does vary from day to day. I’m going to go with J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings though as that’s the book I re-read most frequently. I don’t actually read a lot of high fantasy but there is something about Tolkien that just sweeps me away to my happy place every time I pick the book up.

5. Least favourite book?

I don’t really have one. I made my peace with DNF’ing books I don’t enjoy a long time ago – so if I think a boook is utter bobbins then I probably won’t finish it! There are a fair few books I’ve read that I find deeply problematic but that’s a different question and one that needs more time and space to answer than I have here!

6. Love triangles, yes or no?

Not really a trope I enjoy, no. I think it gets overused a lot and is often done in quite an insensitive way.

7. The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?

I had to put Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women down for a bit – not because it isn’t brilliant (it is) but because my headspace was not in a great place and the injustice of what happens to those women, as well as the way in which their experiences resonate with the everyday sexism so many of us face on a daily basis, was making me both very sad and deeply angry. I’ll go back to it when I’m in a better space because I think it’ll be a very important book.

8. A book you’re currently reading?

I’m currenty reading K. J. Maitland’s The Drowned City for a blog tour in April – it’s a historical mystery-thriller set in England during the reign of James I. I’m also reading Emily M. Danforth’s Plain Bad Heroines for the ‘Conquer a Conker’ weekend, and am very slowly making my way through Samuel Richardson’s HUGE epistalory novel Clarissa with my university book group. Am really enjoying all three!

9. Last book you recommended to someone?

I’ve been raving about Emma Stonex’s The Lamplighters to anyone who will listen – it’s just fantastic.

10. Oldest book you’ve read?

Difficult to say as I read a lot of ancient bardic literature for my PhD, much of which is thought to come from a much older oral history. It’d probably be one of the Greek classics though – The Odyssey, The Iliad and The Aeniad are favourites, as are the tragedies of Euripedes.

11. Newest book you’ve read?

I’ve read a few that aren’t published yet for blog tours and as ARCs – so probably those! The Drowned City comes out on 01 April, and I also have some Netgalley titles that are April/May releases.

12. Favourite author?

I don’t really have one! There’s a lot of authors that I enjoy and whose work I seek out – Margaret Atwood, Sarah/Rhiannon Ward, Jess Kidd, Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Atkinson – but I wouldn’t say any one author stands out as a ‘favourite’.

13. Buying books or borrowing books?

Both! I am a big fan of my local library and think that libraries are vital – and often undervalued – parts of our local communities. I am also a big supporter of independant and high-street booksellers and try to support them as much (and as often) as I can.

14. A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love?

For many and varied reasons I have issues with a few popular series -most notably Harry Potter and Twilight. Nothing against those who love them but they’re not – or at least no longer – for me.

15. Bookmarks or dog-ears?

Bookmarks every time. I’m not saying that I have never dog-earred a book but I do usually try to use a bookmark. I have some really pretty ones that I have acquired over the years so it seems a shame not to use them!

16. A book you can always reread?

The Lord of the Rings! Apart from that though, I do re-read Agatha Christie a lot – especially the Miss Marple novels and short stories – and also Jane Austen. They’re my go-to re-reads if I am suffering a reading slump or a book hangover.

17. Can you read while listening to music?

Only if it doesn’t have words. I have a playlist of classical music and game/film soundtracks that I like to listen to while I am reading – it’s all super chill so adds to the cosy ‘book fort’ vibe. I love reading on the sofa, snuggled under a blanket with a hot drink, some relaxed music, and my cat for company!

18. One POV or multiple POVs?

It really depends on the book. Some books need a single point of view to keep the narrative tension, or need an omniscinet narrator who provides a distance in perspective. Others need more than one point of view for exactly the same reasons! I think the key thing if you’re going to change perspective is that there is a reason for it – there’s nothing worse than a POV that feels as if it is there for the sake of it.

19. Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?

I can read a book in one sitting but I very seldom have the time to do so! Between the PhD, work, and family/life stuff, it usually takes me several days to read a book – and sometimes a few weeks!

20. Who do you tag?

I know a lot of people have already been tagged in this but I am going to add:

Fiona at Fi’s Biblio Files

Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek

Haadiya at Her Bookish Obsession

Danni at For Books Sake

Sammie at The Bookwyrm’s Den

A big thank you again to Noly at The Artsy Reader for tagging me!

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags

BOOK TAG!! The Spooky Scary Skeletons Tag – Movie Edition!

It is October! The month of spooky happenings is upon us and it will soon be time to crack out the Halloween reads and curl up by the fireside as the nights darken around us. So many thanks to Danni at For Books Sake for tagging me in this seasonally appropriate book tag, as created by Leafing Through Time!

Friday the Thirteenth: What is a superstition you believe in?

I’m a fairly rational person but there are certain superstitions I just follow because they were such a big part of my childhood, such as ‘see a penny, pick it up, and all day long, you’ll have good luck’. I also call black cats ‘lucky’ and avoid walking under ladders.

IT: What scares you the most?

I tend to be more scared of things happening to people I love than to me. In terms of personal fears, I’m really not fond of spiders. They’re fascinating creatures – and amazing for keeping the nasty bugs away from the garden – but the way they move just gives me the shivers! My compromise with spiders is that they get left alone if they stay outside – if they’re in my house I’m afraid they get served with an eviction notice sharpish!

Scary Movie: What’s a book or movie that made you laugh?

Anything by Bill Bryson tends to make me laugh – he has such a wry sense of humour and a great eye for the absurd. His two books about Britain – Notes from a Small Island and The Road to Little Dribbling – always make me howl, although his book about houses, At Home: An Informal History of Private Life is probably my favourite book by him as it is packed with interesting bits of social history.

Frankenstein: Who is your favourite monster?

I’m not sure that ‘monster’ is the right word but I think the story of Medusa is really interesting. For a long time she’s been known as the woman with the snakes for hair who can turn people to stone, but – as with many female figures in antiquity – her story is much more complicted than that. According to Ovid, Medusa was seduced (read: sexually assaulted) by the god Poseidon in the Temple of Athena. This act of sacrilige angered Athena who, for some inexplicable reason, decided to punish Medusa by turning her hair into snakes (instead of, I don’t know, taking the matter up with Poseidon maybe?). The Medusa myth is long overdue a re-write and I’d love to see an author such as Natalie Haynes or Madeline Miller provide Medusa’s own persepctive on her experiences, in the manner of A Thousand Ships or Circe.

Paranormal Activity: You’ve turned into a ghost! What ghostly thing are you going to do?

Haunt people I don’t like. There’s a few world leaders in need of a good old-fashioned haunting right now!

Scream: What is the scariest book/movie you’ve ever read/seen?

Definitely Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black! I read the book on one dark and stormy October evening when I was curled up in a caravan with the wind howling around the van and rain lashing on the roof – it made for a very atmospheric read and I didn’t sleep a wink! It’s an exemplary ghost story, filled with atmosphere and with one of the most malevolent ghosts to grace the pages of a book. The film, whilst not an exact adaptation, does an excellent job of rendering the atmosphere and the scares, whilst the stage play adaptation is suitably terrifying!

Zombieland: The zombie apocalypse has begun! What will be your weapon and hideout of choice?

I’m going to follow the guidance given in Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide – a long-handled melee weapon and a remote location (because everyone knows that, in the zombie apocalypse, human survivors are going to be the real enemy). So its a nice weighty golf club and a remote house (preferably moated) for me. Although no hiding for too long – the secret to survival in the zombie apocalypse is to keep moving!

Dark Shadows: What is your favourite book or movie featuring vampires?

You can’t beat a classic so I’m going to go with Dracula by Bram Stoker. Whilst Stoker wasn’t the first writer to turn to vampires, he did create a lot of the traits we associate with them today and the book remains a riveting read today.

Hocus Pocus: You are now a witch. What would be your first wicked act?

As with the haunting, I think there’s a few world leaders, global businesses, and lukers in dark corners of the internet who are in need of a good hexing in the world right now!

The Nightmare Before Christmas: You get to plan Halloween this year! What will you do to make it an unforgettable day?

I’m not a big celebrator of Halloween – as a Brit, I find the decorations and the trick and treating to be overly commercialised. I prefer to think more in terms of the Gaelic tradition of Samhain, which marks the end of Harvest and the coming of Winter – so this time of year is all about bonfires, ghost stories, and cosy winter food and drink!

Thank you again to For Books Sake for tagging me! I’m going to tag Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek, Stephen at Stephen Writes – and you! If you decide to give this tag a go, please link back to this post as well as to the tag’s original creator!

Reviews and content on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags

The Summer Bucket List Book Tag

Summer might be coming to an end (although you wouldn’t know if from the glorious sunshine we’ve had in the UK the last few days) but that doesn’t mean an end to summery thoughts!

I got tagged in the Summer Bucket List Book tag by the wonderful @_forbookssake some weeks ago but have only just got caught up enough on blog tours, overdue reviews, and PhD writing to be able to take part. The tag was created by @readbytiffany.

Hit the Beach: a book set by the sea

I’m going to go with Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier because (whisper it) I haven’t read it yet.

Terrible, I know and I really must rectify that. It’s one of my Mum’s favourite books and she bought me the GORGEOUS 80th anniversary edition so I have a copy sitting on my shelf. I’ve just never quite found the right time to read it although, with a new adaptation coming to Netflix this autumn, now might be the perfect opportunity!

Anyway, despite not having read Rebecca (yet), I do know that it’s the sea plays quite a crucial part in the plot. The novel opens in Monte Carlo, by the glistening waters of the Mediterranean, and the famous Manderley has lawns stretching down to the sea – and to a seaside hut that hides terrible secrets.

Watch Fireworks: a book that had a fiery romance

I don’t read a huge amount of romance but I do enjoy a good romance subplot in other genres of literature so for this one I’m going to pick Ambrose Parry’s The Way of All Flesh, the first in a series of historical mysteries that follow medical student Will Raven and housemaid Sarah Fisher.

Will and Sarah make for an unlikely couple – he thinks she’s too clever for her own good and her first impressions are that he’s an arrogant little upstart – but they soon realise that their combined intellects will make them formidable foes for Edinburgh’s criminal underworld.

Go For A Road Trip: a book that involves a journey

Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian is one of my favourite novels (and one of the few books I’ve re-read more than once) and involves an epic journey that takes our protagonists from the dreaming spires of Oxford, through Eastern Europe and across to Istanbul.

It’s a glorious romp of a novel that combines a poignant coming-of-age tale with an elegant literary mystery. Throw in a series of adventures, a hidden family history, and a deadly, possibly immortal enemy, and you’ve got a page-turning novel that ticked all of my boxes.

Camp Under The Stars: a book that had you starstruck

The talent and craftsmanship of authors is a continual delight to me but the most recent read that utterly bowled me over was Bernardine Evaristo’s masterful Girl, Woman, Other.

A thoroughly deserving winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other captivated me with its exuberant portrayal of black lives in Britain today. Told from the perspectives of twelve very different characters, this novel teems with life.

As the characters grapple with the ever-present spectre of racism, interrogate their own sense of gendered and cultural identities, and develop connections that cross the boundaries of generations, class, culture, and race, Girl, Woman, Other masterfully interrogates and explores the multitudes of modern-day Britain.

Marathon Some Movies: a book you couldn’t put down

Again, there are many books that could have filled this category but, most recently, Jess Kidd’s Things in Jars had me utterly captivated for days.

You can read my full review here but, in brief, Things in Jars is an enthralling blend of detective story, personal journey, and magical realism and it’s heroine, the indomitable Bridie Divine, is one of the best literary creations I think I’ve ever read.

Go Out For An Ice Cream: a book with a sweet romance

As I said earlier, I don’t read a huge amount of romance but there is the occasional sweet romance to be found in other genres.

My favourite is probably the one that develops between quiet, self-effacing merchant Jonah Hancock and vivacious, spoilt courtesan Angelica Neal in Imogen Hermes Gower’s The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, a joyful romp of a novel that delights in the eccentricities of eighteenth-century life.

I’ve reviewed this one in full on The Shelf so do check that out here for more details of this fabulous novel!

Picnic In The Park: a book that was a breath of fresh air

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Inheritance Games came along at just the right time for me. I’d been reading a lot of quite heavy eighteenth-century literature for my PhD and, as a result, was in a bit of a book slump when it came to my recreational reading.

I tend not to read a lot of YA but The Inheritance Games, with it’s combination of clever Knives Out style puzzling, sizzling teen romance, rich-people problems, and family intrigue had me feverishly turning the pages! It was the perfect refresher after long days at my desk.

Again, a full review is available here!

Go For A Hike: a character who conquered an obstacle

I’m choosing another book from my TBR here: Cash Carraway’s memoir Skint Estate.

Whilst I haven’t yet read Cash’s memoir, I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at Lighthouse Books in Edinburgh last summer and was astounded by the obstacles that she had overcome.

Alone, pregnant, and living in a women’s refuse, Cash was unable to vote in the 2010 general election that ushered the age of austerity into Britain. Despite being one of the people most likely to be impacted by the proposed cuts, her voice had been silenced.

Living below the poverty line and trapped in a brutal cycle of universal credit, zero-hours contracts, rising rents, and public service cuts, Cash struggled to bring up her daughter in a society that seemed determined to reduce her – and those like her – to a working-class stereotype. Her memoir promises to be a raw and cutting recollection of these struggles, and of Cash’s refusal to be beaten down and her determination to stay afloat in a world designed for you to sink.

Grill Some BBQ: a book featuring delicious food

As if I could choose anything other than Joanne Harris’ Chocolat for this prompt!

This magical novel, the first in Harris’ series set in and around the small village of Lansquenet and featuring the mysterious Vianne Rocher, involves – as the name suggests – chocolate.

When newcomer Vianne opens a chocolate shop in the middle of Lent, she finds herself at odds with local priest Father Reynaud. But whilst her non-attendance at church and her ability to read tarot lead to her ostracisation by the more devout members of the village, Vianne’s vivacity and generosity soon begins to attract the more eclectic members of the community.

Chocolat is a joyously vivid novel that revels in the celebration of giving in to our desires, following our dreams and enjoying a little bit of what you fancy. Just don’t try to read it without your favourite sweet treat to hand!

Watch The Sunrise: a book that inspired you

Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was both revelatory and inspirational.

As an introvert then working in an extroverted sales environment, it was sometimes difficult to get my opinions heard or my skillset valued. Quiet showed me that I didn’t need to be controlling a conversation in order to make observations within it, that listening can be as valuable as speaking, and that innovation can come from moments of solitude.

Drawing on a mixture of personal experience, scientific enquiry, and anecdotal evidence, Quiet showed how introverts like me are a valuable (although often under-valued) part of a workforce and allowed me to become at ease with my need for silence and space in a world that, sometimes, feels overwhelmingly loud.

I hope you enjoyed reading my entry into the Summer Bucket List Book Tag and thank you again to Danni at @_forbookssake for tagging me! As summer is coming to an end, I’m not going to tag anyone in this tag myself but, if you do want to have a go at the tag, please do so and please do tag back to this post and to the original creator!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags

The ‘Would You Rather’ Book Tag!

As you know, I do love a good book tag – so a huge thank you to Laura at Roachie’s Reviews for tagging me in this one!

The rules are simple – answer the questions given to you by your nominator, then make up your own questions and tag others!

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Would you rather be stuck on a long plane/train journey without a book or with a book you know you hate?

This is a relatively easy one for me. I hate being bored so I’d always rather have a book than be without something to read. So even if the book in question was Wuthering Heights (sorry Heathcliff/Cathy fans!), I’d rather face a long journey with some reading matter than without!

Would you rather have books for free but have them in your least preferred format, or have to pay a high price for all your books in your most preferred format?

I am a huge believer in paying authors for their work. Whilst blogging means I’m lucky enough to get the occasional freebie, I have no problem with the price of books – in fact, I think they’re one of the best value forms of entertainment that you can get! And libraries do a fantastic job of letting those of us with limited budgets access lots of lovely books for free!

So I’d take paying a higher price for all my books (as long as that means I’m supporting writers and booksellers) and getting to read a nice physical book (paperback preferably) than getting all freebies but being forced to always read digitally.

Would you rather be a famous author and never read again, or never write again and be able to read anything you like?

I’d take being a reader over being a writer any day. I do love to write but I’d be lost without the ability to read.

Would you rather go to Hogwarts or be given enough money to be comfortable for the rest of your life?


Seriously though, I think I’d take the ability to give me and my family a comfortable life over a trip to Hogwarts. Hogwarts might be magical but it’s still secondary school – and secondary school sucked the first time I had to do it.

Also, the question doesn’t specify if I get to be a witch if I go to Hogwarts – how terrible would it be if you could visit the castle but not take part in any of the lessons?!?!

Would you rather have to read the last chapter of every new book first, or never read the last chapter?

I skip to the end and read the last chapter of most of my books anyway. Yes, I know, I’m a monster. But, for me, reading is about the journey and not the destination.

It’s the end of the world. Would you rather get stuck in a bookshop and have to risk your life to find food, or get stuck in a supermarket/grocery store without anything to read?

Bookshop. I’ll probably die but at least I’ll die happy (and well-read)!

Would you rather have to listen to amazing audiobooks with an irritating narrator or listen to rubbish books with a wonderful narrator?

Ooooh, tricky one! I think I’d take the amazing narrator with the rubbish book.

Great audiobook narrators can make even mediocre books sound great, whereas I think an irritating narrator would make me stop listening to even the most compelling book. Audio is, after all, about the listening experience!

Would you rather read a book where the page was missing with a dramatic twist or a book where the author doesn’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re?

Definitely the missing page. The ‘there, their, they’re’ thing makes me twitch when someone gets it wrong.

Would you rather read a book that transports you to the past or the future?

I love me a historical novel – it’s probably my favourite genre – so definitely the past!

And now for my QUESTIONS (mwahahahaha!)! I’m tagging Drew over at The Tattooed Book Geek, Nicola at Short Books and Scribes, and Asha at A Cat, A Book, and a Cup of Tea…and YOU! Yes, I would love anyone who thinks this is fun to have a go – do tag me in your posts as I would love to read your answers.

And I would like to know…

  1. Would you rather spend a month in the setting/world of your favourite novel or a lifetime being friends with your favourite character?
  2. Would you rather read physical books but only with TV/movie tie-in covers or e-books with beautifully designed covers?
  3. Would you rather go to the ball at Netherfield Park (Pride & Prejudice) or go drinking at The Prancing Pony (The Lord of the Rings)?
  4.  Would you rather hang out with your favourite hero or your favourite villain?
  5. Would you rather have a friend who never returns your books or one who returns them promptly but turns down the corners of the pages and breaks the spine?
  6. Would rather love a book everyone hates or hate a book everyone loves?
  7. Your favourite book has been adapted for TV – yay! Would you rather they changed the ending but the casting was perfect or would you want a faithful adaptation but your favourite character looks nothing like you imagined?
  8. Would you rather read curled up by a roaring fire or lying on a sunny beach?
  9. Would you rather read a book with an annoying cliffhanger (and the author hasn’t written the next one yet) or read a book with a brilliant ending but your favourite character dies?
  10. Would you rather read your least favourite book monthly or never be able to read your favourite book again?

Thank you again to Laura for tagging me. She’s over at Roachie’s Reviews so go give her a follow for more awesome bookish content!

And, until next time…

Happy Reading! x

Book Tags

Inside and Out Book Tag!

I’ve been absolutely swamped with reviews recently so I recognise that it’s been a little while since I last put any non-review content on the blog.

So when I saw this one over on Drew’s ‘The Tattooed Book Geek‘ blog (which I highly recommend you go and check out), I thought I would give it a go – give both me and all of you a slight change of pace!

Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough?

I don’t really have a preference over where the blurb information is provided. Back of the book is arguably more standard – and nice and easy to read when you’re browsing in a bookshop – but books with French flaps are pretty too.

Not a fan of quotes instead of a blurb though – I don’t especially care if Author A thought Author B’s book was the best thing since sliced bread, but I would like to know a little about the story before I purchase.

Since attempting (and miserably failing) to write decent book summaries for this blog, I do have a new appreciation of the art of good blurb writing though – there’s a reason I tend to use the publisher’s blurb at the start of my review posts! Providing enough information to entice the reader without accidentally spoiling the plot is an art. Because there really is nothing worse than a spoiler!

New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: audiobook, e-book, paperback, or hardcover?

I’m a tree book over e-book reader any day. As a postgraduate student, I spend nigh on every damn day stuck at a computer so I like to get away from the screen when I’m doing my ‘non-work’ reading. My Kindle is great for holidays and Netgalley proofs, but I vastly prefer a nice paperback any day.

That said, there have been some gorgeous hardcovers released over the last few years so my hardback collection has increased quite substantially. Paperbacks are still my preference for carting about the place but a nice chunky hardback is good to curl up with at the end of the day.

And audiobooks are awesome for getting some reading in during the commute. The production value on some of them is just outstanding. I’m listening to Daisy Jones and the Six at the moment and it’s full-cast audio so the different voices of the various band members really stand out. I’m sure the book is great but now I’ve heard the audio version, I couldn’t imagine ‘reading’ it any other way.

Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, take notes, make comments? Or do you keep your books clean clean clean? 

In my academic existence, I do write in books – notes in the margins, underlining etc. Always in pencil and only ever in books I own – the number of students who deface library copies is truly horrifying!

In my reading life, I tend to avoid writing in my books. Poetry is the exception – I find I need to unpick poetry a little more than prose so I’ll often annotate in pencil as I read. If I do want to make a note of a quote for a review, I use those peel-off sticky tabs to mark the place. Or I turn down the corner of the page. Yes, I’m a monster, I know…

Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author’s gender?

Not at all. If the book is a good one and the story/subject appeals then the author could be a shapeshifting wizard from Mars for all I care!

I probably do read marginally more books written by women on average – maybe because there are more female authors in the genres I tend to read? – but I wouldn’t say that the author’s gender is a conscious decision when I pick up a book.

Ever read ahead? Or have you ever read the last page way before you got there?

Yes, all the time. Knowing how the story ends doesn’t really bother me – it’s the journey and not the destination that’s the interesting part.

That said, I try to avoid skipping ahead with crime novels. Finding out whodunnit before the end of the book is the worst, and part of the joy of reading them is trying to figure it out before the detective does!

Organized bookshelves, or outrageous bookshelves?

Is there such a thing as organised chaos?

My shelves are very loosely arranged by genre – crime/thriller has its own shelf, as do classics, sci-fi/fantasy/horror, poetry/plays, and YA/children’s books. Non-fiction is roughly organised into history, biography, feminist manifestos, and books about books.

General fiction is a complete free for all, although I do try and keep titles by authors together, and I generally have separate shelves for hardback and paperbacks.

At the moment, a number of the shelves of double-stacked, which means that I either need to read more, buy less, or have a good old-fashioned book cull!

Have you ever bought a book based on the cover alone?

Absolutely. I picked up Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent purely because of the cover – and was well rewarded as it was my favourite book of that year!

Most of the time though, the cover draws me in but it will be the blurb that sells me the book – or a quick read of the first page or two.

Final question. Take it outside to read, or stay in?

Inside, always.

I love the idea of reading outdoors, the sun on my face and the wind in my hair and all that. Apart from the sun in my face makes me squint, the wind in my hair stops me from seeing the page, every wasp/ant/bug in existence seems to be instantly attracted to me the moment I step outdoors, and I turn a lovely shade of lobster if left in the sunshine without factor 50 plastered all over me for longer than 10 seconds.

So indoors it is. Preferably with a comfy chair/sofa, a blanket, and an endlessly re-filling mug of tea. And the cat, if she’s feeling generous.

And that’s it! I’m not going to tag anyone else but if you’d like to have a go at the Inside Out Book Tag yourself, do link to this post and I’ll head over and have a read of your answers! And, until the next time…

Happy Reading! x