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 20 Questions Book Tag

March has been a busy old month for reviews and blog tours on The Shelf so I thought a change of pace in the form of a book tag might be nice this weekend. This one was created by buydebook over on Goodreads and seemed like a lot of fun.

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

I prefer standalones to series – asking me to read your unfinished seven book fantasy epic is asking me to enter into a long-term reading relationship (yes, I’m looking at you George R R Martin) and I’m just not sure I’m ready for that kind of commitment in my reading life right now. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s more than three books long, I want to know that it’s REALLY good before I start it. Series with books that can be read as standalones, as with Agatha Christie or Terry Pratchett, are an exception to this rule however, as is Harry Potter.

2. How do you feel about cliffhangers?

Depends on how they’re done. I find a lot of the time they’re included just for the sake of it (and to generate hype for the next book in a series) which I think is…a bit of a cheap shot if I’m being honest. I prefer it when each book wraps up it’s own story but manages to show that there’s more to develop in the next one in the series. Kudos to J K Rowling for getting this absolutely right with HP.

3. Hardback or paperback?

Paperback, always. Just so much easier to read and carry around with you. That said, nothing is as nice as a gorgeous special edition hardback on a bookshelf. And always, always print over ebook. My Kindle is useful when I’m on the go but a physical book will always be my first love.

4. Favourite book?

The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien. The one book I regularly re-read and I never fail to get sucked into the world that Tolkien builds. And yes, I know it has dull bits and there’s far too much singing at times; but I shall love it forever despite its flaws.

5. Least favourite book? 

Can’t say I have one. If I don’t like a book, I generally either don’t finish it or don’t remember much about it!

6. Love triangles, yes or no?

Again, depends on how they’re handled. If we’re going down the Bella/Edward/Jacob route from Twilight, it’s a red flag (in fact, you can include most things about Twilight in my list of red flags – sorry Twilight fans but it wasn’t in my wheelhouse) but if we’re looking at a Willoughby/Brandon/Marianne from Sense & Sensibility sort of situation then the romantic tension can really add to the story.

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

Prisoner of Tehran  by Marina Nemat. It was my book club’s choice for March but I just didn’t like the writing style at all so I only made it about three chapters in. Everyone else loved it though so who am I to judge?

8. A book you’re currently reading?

Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan. It’s fantastic.

9. Last book you recommended to someone?

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. One of my friends is a true crime fan and I think she’ll devour this, despite the dark subject matter. Just so well written, researched and balanced.

10. Oldest book you’ve read (by publication date)?

Probably Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain. Or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, although it’s debatable as to when that was ‘written’.

11. Newest book you’ve read (by publication date)?

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce – it’s not published until 05 April 2018! Review coming very soon (heads up, it’s wonderful)

12. Favourite author?

As Loki would say “it varies from moment to moment”!

13. Buying books or borrowing books?

Both! I’m increasingly making use of my local library however, in an effort to save funds – so at the moment, I’m probably more of a borrower.

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

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. So many people loved this one but found the narrator more unlikeable than unreliable and I guessed the ending about a third of the way in. Plus can we stop calling grown women ‘girls’ in book titles please?

15. Bookmarks or dog-ears?

Dogs-ears? Sacrilege! Bookmarks all the way for me.

16. A book you can always re-read?

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I love all of Jane’s novels but this one merits repeated reading. Each time I read it, I get another layer of her bookish in-jokes. Plus Henry Tilney is just delicious isn’t he? In my dream film cast, he’s played by Tom Hiddleston…

17. Can you read whilst listening to music?

Only classical. I have a playlist of music that doesn’t have any words – it’s a mix of film music, video game scores and classical music, and I listen to it when I’m reading and also when I’m writing.

18. One POV or multiple POV?

I don’t have an especial preference for either, although I do think if you’re going to move between multiple characters’ heads, you need to have a reason why you’re doing that.

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

Usually over multiple days. With the demands of the day job, the household and the occasional need to have a social life, opportunities to read books in one sitting are few and far between.

20. Who do you tag?

Everyone! I love reading other people’s responses to book tags so if you like the look of this one, please do join in!

I’d also love to have your answers to any of the questions above in the comments down below, or come say hi over on Twitter! I’ll be back next week with another book review but, in the meantime…

Happy Reading! x