Reading Challenge Update

Hello lovely readers!

Now that we are over a third of the way through the year (where did THAT go) I thought I’d review the two reading challenges that I’m taking part in to check my progress and also to look at my Netgalley account to see what percentage my feedback ratio is.

Incidentally, does anyone else get a bit obsessed by their reading stats or is it just me? I digresss…

Ok, so first up I had a look at the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. This challenge compromises 24 categories, so 2 books a month to be identified and read.

Current progress:

23/24 books identified (with an idea for the remaining novel).
9 books completed.
3 further books started but currently incomplete.

Verdict – winning!

I then looked at the Popsugar Reading Challenge – 40 categories so just under 4 books per month to be identified and read.

Current progress:

35/40 books identified. Struggling to think of a book with career advice and a book from a non-human perspective. Can anyone help?
16 books completed.
1 further book started but currently incomplete.

Verdict – on track.

Finally I had a look at my Netgalley account. Netgalley recommend that you have a feedback ratio of 80% or above. I have 11 books which have already been published that I haven’t reviewed – basically that I’m behind on. I have a further 5 books that are due to be published from June onwards that I’m not worrying about yet but that drags my overall feedback ratio to 54% which is quite frankly rubbish.

Verdict – must try harder. 

So overall I think I’m doing ok, I’ll be concentrating on getting my Netgalley score up which will also mean reigning myself in when requesting new titles *sad face*. On a positive note I’m not going to worry about the reading challenges because I seem to be doing quite well in those *happy face*.

How are you getting on with your reading challenges, Netgalley scores or TBR lists? Do you have any suggestions for the two Popsugar categories that I’m struggling with?

Lucinda xxx

 

One Hundred Followers, Yay!

Hello lovely readers,

It seems like only a few weeks ago since I posted that I had 50 followers, and now I have 100! I can’t believe it!

I don’t get too hung up on how “successful” my blog is (seriously, I’d happily tap away into the nothingness even if no-one was reading it) but it means a lot to me that over 100 of you have taken the time to click that little follow button, as well as read, like and comment on my posts.

Thank you all very, very much.

Lucinda xxx

I Wish I Loved My Local Library, But I Don’t.

Confession time – I hate going to my City Centre’s library. I wish I didn’t, but it really is a horrible place.

I have wonderful memories of going to our village hall as a child where there was a small but well stocked library, with a lovely librarian, children’s corner, seating area etc. It could only have been the size of a small storeroom but it had everything I needed as a precocious four year old. As I got older, I obviously had access to my school’s libraries (I read every single book at least twice) which although larger were pretty much static in terms of getting new books in. Our local library was replaced by a mobile one (basically a van full of books) which felt incredibly precarious as you climbed into it up some rickety steps and shook as you walked along it. Again, it wasn’t exactly well stocked (YA hadn’t really been invented so there was just a handful of Judy Blooms and Paula Danzigers in the “teens” section). Luckily, my parents always encouraged me to read and I would pester them to buy me books, so I could continue to be a bookworm throughout my teenage years. Then Amazon happened and books got super cheap, then the Kindle, then Netgalley – so I stopped using the library altogether. It’s only recently that I realised I could download ebooks from them for free that I decided to renew my membership.

That’s when I found that wave after wave of funding cuts have made the library, well, pretty dreadful.

When you walk into our main library (previously a nightclub), you’re presented with a subterranean tunnel which leads to some public toilets. Being pretty much the only public toilets in the city centre, the smell is horrific and they look disgusting (more public services cuts). You can then either take the lift or walk up two flights of stairs to the one main room (the smell permeates all the way to the top of the building). Once there, it’s not immediately obvious where to go. There’s an NHS quit smoking advice centre, a cancer helpdesk, a benefits/asylum area (I think)… but no books. I walked through the security turnstiles and found a small desk at the side of the room. There were people wandering around with lanyards on but it wasn’t immediately obvious if they were librarians, volunteer helpers or people working in the myriad of other services that the library now offers. I assume I’d arrived at the helpdesk (there was no sign) so I picked a lanyard wearer at random and asked if she could renew my membership. I’d previously tried to do this online and it seems that someone had messed it all up, so it took her some time to unpick what they’d done and set me up properly. I made the mistake of leaning on the counter during this process and realised that it was sticky with an unidentified substance (ewwwwwww). I grabbed my new card and got out as fast as I could (but not before two drunk men tried to chat me up).

I’ve used the online services that the library offers – free ebooks and audio books – but I won’t be going back there in a hurry.

So guys, make me jealous – do you have a fabulous local library? Or is yours just as horrible as mine? Do you feel bad for not using it more? Comment below!

The Sunshine Blogger Award

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I’ve been nominated for my very first award! Yay! Thank you so much to Icebreaker694 who put me forward for this! They have a fantastic blog that you should totally go and look at right now. Go on, off you go! Then come back and finish reading my post 🙂

Rules:
Thank the person who nominated you.
Answer 11 questions set by the person who nominated you.
Nominate 11 bloggers to receive the award and write them 11 new questions to answer.

Questions set by Icebreaker 694:

1. What type of YouTube videos do you usually watch?
Usually music videos, or how to guides. The last one was to mend my dishwasher, yawn! Being an adult is boring.

2. If you could undo one thing that happened in the history of the Earth, what would it be?
I’m not sure. There’s obvious stuff like wars – I live in what would have been a medieval city if it hadn’t been completely flattened in WW2 so it would be great to see what that would have looked like (plus, you know, saving the lives of millions of people). On a personal note though, I would like to have stopped my friend from dying from a brain tumor when she was only 20. We all still miss her very much.

3. What is your most anticipated book on your TBR?
There’s two – The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel and Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I feel like I missed the boat with both of these books so I’m looking forwards to them – especially as I’ve heard only good things about them. 
4. Do you have a favorite book publisher? If so then who?
Yes, Virago. In particular l love their VMC collection, which is 20th century classic books written by women in beautiful special edition covers:

I’ve been collecting them for a few years (I even wrote a blog post last year on how much I love them).

5. What is the most random picture you found on the internet?
A picture of my cat’s boyfriend (Jasper) popped up on my Facebook feed because my friend found him in her garden and wanted to keep him! I had to let her know that he belonged to my neighbours and that she had to give him back! Either that or my hard-as-nails, macho friend dressed as a teenage goth with full on eyeliner and nail polish. We were all teenage goths but I just couldn’t picture him being like that.

6. What’s your opinions on graphic novel remakes of an original series?
I haven’t read any graphic novel remakes but I really enjoy graphic novels in general and I think they can only add to the fandom.

7. What do you like to do in your free time?
Gardening! I’ve just got an allotment. I’m growing:
– apples
– pears
– plums
– hazelnuts
– rhubarb
– strawberries
– redcurrants
– blueberries
– tomatoes
– potatoes
– carrots
– onions
– peas
– beans
– parsnips
– sweetcorn
– salad leaves
Plus herbs in a few pots in the garden.

I’m so excited!

8. If you could bring a book/TV show character to life, who would it be?
Severus Snape, always (lol). Mostly so I could look after him. And he could teach my magic.

9. If you could choose your last words, what would they be?
Don’t look in my knicker drawer after I’ve gone! The less said about that the better.

10. What type of animal would you be if you could turn into one?
Chow chow dogs are my spirit animals. They’re big and fluffy, look like bears and don’t like exercise. I’d like to be a pampered pet that just lies around all day eating and sleeping.

11. If you had to choose one book that you could read forever, what book would it be?
If I could only ever read one book for the rest of my life? It would have to be something big and difficult so that it would keep me entertained. Maybe Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon? 

My questions:
1. Have you ever read a book that’s changed your life? If so, how?
2. What book did you hate as a child? Why?
3. If you could spend 24 hours living someone else’s life, who would you choose and why?
4. What would the title of your autobiography be?
5. How do you imagine yourself 10 years from now?
6. What big, obvious, hugely popular books have you not read?
7. What are your thoughts on audiobooks?
8. Have you ever been to a festival or convention?
9. If you could go back in time and re-do one experience or event, what would it be?
10. Can you estimate how many books you’ve read in your lifetime?
11. What three things have you done in your life that you think have improved you as a person?

I nominate:
Lisa@Creativemisfit
The orangutan librarian
Zuky the book bum
By Hook or by Book
Ana@anaslair
Alex@whimsypages
Lara, the book heathen
Veronica
Megan
Melanie Noell Bernard
Keeper of Pages

 

Happy International Woman’s Day!

To all my readers, regardless of gender/lack thereof, Happy Woman’s Day! In celebration, I’ve compiled my own top five lists of amazing female authors whose work I love or who I’m excited about reading or hearing more from. In no particular order, they are…

The Best Women Out There
JK Rowling – “Who?” I hear you ask (ha ha). Do I even need to say anything? Just the best stories, the best characters, books that we’ll still be reading in 100 years time. I aspire to write like her. Fun fact: Did you know Jo called herself “J.K.” because it’s a gender neutral name as it was thought that young boys wouldn’t read her books if they knew they were written by a woman? 

Caitlin Moran – If I could be anyone for a day I think I might be Caitlin Moran. She is the epitome of a no fucks given attitude. She’s talked about a range of formerly taboo subjects, she’s spearheaded the recent resurgence in feminism, she’s hugely inspirational…oh, and she comes from Wolverhampton which is just down the road from me. I love hearing her accent (usually derided and seen as “thick”) because it’s a bit like mine and because she hasn’t tried to cover it up like pretty much every other famous person from that area. If you haven’t read “How to be a Woman” then you really should.

Daphne DuMaurier – What a phenomenal author. I’ve loved everything that she’s written. A lot of her books have great female characters and the way that she creates atmosphere is amazing – no one does it like Daphne.   

Patricia Highsmith – I love the way that Patricia Highsmith creates the most appalling, detestable characters and yet still manages to get you to be on their side. Her mastery over language and the way that she builds a sense of dread and foreboding is really unsurpassed. There’s often a sexual ambiguity to her characters which is really interesting considering the period that her books were written in (and even more fascinating when you read about her personal life). A great author I can’t recommend highly enough. 

Gillian Flynn – Unless you’ve been in a coma or living under a rock I’m sure you’re aware of the phenomenon of Gone Girl, but her other books are just as good. In a way, I see Flynn as the spiritual successor to Daphne DuMaurier and Patricia Highsmith – that sense of tension and atmosphere is a common theme. I love how she tackles the darkest themes and I can’t wait for more of her work.

Female Authors I’ve Missed and I’m Not Sure How it Happened
Zadie Smith – I watched a TV adaptation of NW and I was blown away by the quality of the story. I loved the complexity of the characters and their interactions with each other, plus the gritty realism of living in the UK today. I must prioritise her!

Margaret Atwood – I have literally no idea how I missed Margaret Atwood. I’m currently listening to The Heart Goes Last as an audio book and it’s soooo good! The Handmaids Tale is on my immediate TBR.

Donna Tartt – So a couple of years ago I downloaded The Goldfinch to read because everyone was telling me how great it was and I saw the size of it and thought “I’ll clear some space on my TBR and then I’ll get stuck into it…and unsurprisingly that just never happened. Another one for the immediate TBR.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Her work pops up on my various recommended reading lists everywhere but for some reason (usually because it doesn’t fit into a reading challenge category) I just haven’t clicked the download button. Why, Lucinda?!? I’ve heard nothing but good things and I’m excited to get stuck in to her work but it just hasn’t happened yet. It will though!

Jean M Auel – Again – how has this happened? Maybe because I was too focused on Judy Blume (honourable mention) as a teenager or maybe because of the woefully small selection of books in my local/school library (I read them all at least three times) but somehow I haven’t read any of her work. I have the Clan of the Cave Bear downloaded and ready to go!

Women I want to hear more from (Who Unintentionally All Happen to be British Comedians):
Sue Perkins – I just love her. Everything. About. Her. Is. Awesome. Spectacles is one of the best books that I read last year. I really hope she writes more. She’s so talented and clever and is a brilliant writer. I’ll say again – I love her.

Sara Pascoe – If you own a vagina, you need to read Animal (you should also read it if you don’t, but you’ll have a more immediate connection with the book if you’ve experienced vagina ownership first hand). I’ve never learnt so many facts from a book which is ostensibly a memoir. I was left amazed that I didn’t previously know half of what she’d written and angry that no one has ever taught me this stuff about my own body. Really brave, open and most importantly, funny, this is an amazing book. I need more!

Sarah Millican – I think Sarah Milligan is one of the best comedians currently out there (close your ears Sue Perkins) and her no bullshit women’s magazine Standard Issue is a fabulous enterprise which focuses on pro feminist, positive attitude journalism. She has a book out this year which I have high hopes for.

Emma Kennedy – The Tent, the Bucket and Me is honestly the funniest book I’ve ever read. I burst out laughing on a silent train because of it. I love the way Emma writes and although I didn’t like the follow up book quite as much, I’d definitely like to see more from her.

Meera Syal – Meera could easily have gone on to the “how has it taken me this long to read her stuff list”. Like Caitlin Moran she’s a local girl who really captures what it’s like to live in the West Midlands (for better or worse). I always enjoy her books and would love to see a new one out soon.

So there we go! Do you agree/disagree? Who would you include? Who did I forget? Let me know!

Are You a Librarian? Stop Everything and Read This

Hello lovelies,

I need help! I’m doing a reading challenge with Popsugar and one of the categories is “read a book recommended by a librarian”. Quite frankly, the thought of walking into my main library and saying “hi, recommend a book to me!” is quite frankly terrifying (also I can’t work out how to say this sentence without it sounding incredibly threatening). So, if any of you are librarians could you please recommend something for me to read?

I’m a total magpie when it comes to books so I’ll be happy with a recommendation from any genre.

Thank you in advance!

(Also, I’m struggling to complete two of the Read Harder categories: read a book set in central or south America by a central or south American author and Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. Any ideas would be much appreciated!)

Much love,

Lucinda x

My Trip to Astley Book Farm

It was my birthday last week (yay!) so I convinced my partner (who never reads anything for fun) that it would be a great idea to take me to a book farm for the day. After much moaning (there won’t be much there, you’ll be cold, I’ll be bored etc.) I managed to get him to get up and into the car. One flat tyre and one broken air compressor later (plus more moaning) we swapped cars and off we went.

Finally we arrived and…wow! It’s so cute!

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Photo credit: http://www.astleybookfarm.com

Obviously it didn’t look quite like this in deepest darkest February but you get the idea.

For those of you who aren’t quite sure what a book farm is, it’s literally an old farm which has been filled with books. At Astley, there’s also a coffee shop and a reading area with a massive woodburner kicking out lots of heat. Perfect to snuggle up in front of with your new purchases.

It. Was. Amazing.

Honestly, I could have spent all day there. There were just SO MANY BOOKS! Even my partner found it interesting. I could have bought a carload of paperbacks but I limited myself to just five (TBR list is getting way out of hand).

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How adorable is the Lyra’s Oxford book? Plus, it has a gorgeous bookplate inside:

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In the interests of security I haven’t taken a photo of the full name and address but I thought this was really sweet. Maybe I’ll write to her? Also I thought it was pretty hilarious that she’d put a Harry Potter book plate in a His Dark Materials book. I really love finding pre-owned books with details from their previous owners inside, so I just had to have it.

We had a really lovely lunch in the cafe (all homemade food/cake with a big selection of teas and coffee) which was really delicious and a perfect way to end the trip.

If any of you ever find yourself in the Bedworth/Coventry area of the UK I would highly recommend a visit. Contact details and online shop are all on the website:

http://www.astleybookfarm.com/index.html