My Top 5 Shakespeare Plays

My Top 5 Shakespeare Plays

3b1b89e11cad57adfe5caab18f766606

Shakespeare’s a very particular style that not everyone likes. But, I am a strong believer that the right Shakespeare play may just swing you over into the Bard club. If you’ve not really read Shakespeare before, or you would like to try out his work a-new, see below my recommendations for plays.

These are my favourite Shakespeare plays, and there’s honestly something here for everyone. (You’ll notice I’ve also not included one play in particular. My reasons for this at the end)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. As You Like It.

Related image

There’s a reason this play is my favourite Shakespeare play of all time. It’s witty, it’s easy to understand and follow, and there are some fantastic reflections and comedy in this play. I’ve been in this play as an actor (Duke Senior, say what), and I’ve also studied this play for my HSC. I still remember large swaths of the lines (most that weren’t mine). It’s a pastoral play (meaning it takes place in the country and idealises country living) which deals with some interesting situations. With a main character who cross dresses for a majority of the play for “protection”, the antics are funny and ridiculous; everyone is trying to protect their identity as all fear the same person.

2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Image result for a midsummer night's dreamIf you want to go on the biggest trip you’ve ever been on (in a safe, family way), then this is the play for you. It is on the longer side, as it does deal with multiple characters and story-lines at once. This play’s had several adaptions to screen, so if you don’t feel like reading you can get your netflix and chill on. With talking donkeys that used to be actors, the king and queen of the faeries, a bunch of young people in a love quadrangle and a whole range of bizarre side characters, this ones worth it for the laughs and bants.

3. Taming of the Shrew

Image result for taming of the shrew

One of the most underrated plays of the bunch. The banter and sass in this play is AMAZING, with some of the sickest roasting you’ve ever seen. You’ll see a lot of yourself, and people you know in these characters, and it’s hard not to get invested in the two major story-lines. I am slightly biased again, I’ve been in this play as an actor (Senior Gremio. The most fun I’ve ever had making a character) but most English teachers love this as well. The dramatic techniques present are beautiful, and while a much smaller cast than some of the other Shakespeare plays, this one will capture you. Even non-Shakespeare inclined friends really like this one. Think Pride and Prejudice mixed with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (weird combo but trust me).

4. Macbeth

208_Macbeth

The dark Emo one of the bunch, Macbeth holds such a special place in my heart. I love the grim scottishness of this play. Multiple people go mad/round the twist. There’s so much intrigue it’s basically Season 1 of Game of Thrones. There are prophecies and witches, rebellions and murder. There’s something in this play for everyone. I was lucky enough in 2018 to see this live in a theater in the round (they built a pop-up ‘globe’ that was in Sydney for a few months) and it was some of the best theater I’ve ever seen.

5. Hamlet

51ZaFL6B7lL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

It’s hard to put Hamlet down as a short, sharp description. Hamlet I think is the most elegantly written of the bunch. The punchy dialogue, the great mental trouble the main character goes through, the death, the drama. It’s like house of cards and game of thrones had a baby, and then killed it. It also has two side characters who deserved better and are two of my favs (Rozencratz and Gilderstien deserved more!). Plus don’t you want to understand where that all to oft repeated quote comes from?

 

So where’s the play that shall remain nameless? I’ll tell you where, in the trash bin where it belongs. Dirty, filthy Verona with it’s teenage marriage and stupid plot. I hates it. But that’s a blog post for another time

Advertisements

10 Things I’ve Learned in the Last Year

10 things i've learned

So, I’ve been a bit quiet over the past year. There’s been a big reason. I’ve gone through a major overhaul in all parts of my life; my mental, emotional and physical health has totally been flipped, and i’m now in such a good place. I’m also now focusing on going back to what I enjoy most, and picking back up hobbies that I put aside to focus on myself. One of those things, is blogging.

I didn’t want to just re-appear and not have anything to show from my absence; I really wanted to share what I’ve learned so this might help others who are maybe going through a period of change in their lives as well. So here are just a few of the things I’ve learned in the past year.

  1. Your mental health should be high on your priority list;
    I neglected my mental health for years. I ignored and blocked things out rather than dealing with them. I would make excuses as to why I wouldn’t spend time on my mental health, and had managed to convince myself that I was fine when I wasn’t. Looking after your mental health is so important, even if you don’t have things like anxiety or depression or other conditions. Just because you’re someone who doesn’t suffer from that (read: me), doesn’t mean that your mental health is automatically fine and you’re “all good.” I’m still working on this (burnout is hell), but i’m getting so much better at looking after myself mentally. Take time out to just think, and to sort through your emotions with yourself. Find some meditation techniques that work for you. Talk with friends if you need help working through things; you’re not burdening them with your feelings, they’re happy to help. And please do not discount your own feelings and mental health just because you feel like you don’t have the traditional signs for a condition.
  2. Trying new things can lead to exciting discoveries
    I’ve made it my mission over the last year to try as many new things as I can; new foods, going to cool events, new exercise classes/experiences, new places to visit etc. It’s lead to the best year I’ve ever had. I’ve made so many new memories and enjoyed so many new experiences I never would have dreamt of doing before. One of my favourites has been Yoga. I’ve always wanted to get into yoga but always figured I wasn’t fit/flexible enough. In January 2019 I thought, stuff it, let’s just try it anyway. My 30 day trial package has led to classes every week at a local studio. I’m slowly becoming more and more flexible, and I love the challenges in some of the asanas. I’ve learned my favoured style of Yoga is Vinyasa. I’ve learned Bikrahm is waaay too hot for my liking. And this is all because I went out of my way to try something new.
  3. Diets don’t work- life style changes do
    Trust me on this, diets – especially fad ones- don’t work. Ignoring the science for a bit, my yo-yoing weight through my late teens and early 20’s is the biggest proof I can offer you. I finally gave up on diets and flipped my whole lifestyle upside down changing my attitude towards food, becoming aware of bad habits and my personal triggers for eating, and how my body reacts with certain types of exercise. It was a few months of trial and error, but I’ve finally worked it out. In 2018 I lost close to 15 kgs (33 pounds). I haven’t weighed myself yet so far this year (I don’t believe in scales) but I’ve likely lost a few more. I’ve dropped down 3 clothing sizes in the last year and a half. I feel fantastic, and I’ve got ten times the energy I used to have. And not because of a diet- because I changed my whole life.
  4. Men/friends who only answer your messages when it’s convenient to them and they want something from you aren’t worth your time or energy
    I’ve learned this the hard way. And it’s one of those lessons you have to learn for yourself before you truly know. I bent over backwards for a guy in 2018 who cared about me only when he had “the time”. I had to wait for him to message me. I was expected to be the one chasing him. If I tried to question him about things, I was the bad guy. I wasted 7 months pining after a guy who was only interested in having me chase him. I let it happen because I thought that was what men did. News flash, it most definitely is not. At least this dude admits he’s an asshole.
  5. Things happen when they should happen, and not necessarily when you want them to.
    This is still something i’m getting used to. I like to rush things; from relationships, work, major life events, etc. Good things come to those who wait.
  6. Try and keep on top of your health
    If your back is feeling sore, or you can feel a tickle in the back of your throat, don’t ignore it. Do something about it. Go and see a remedial masseuse before your back gets too bad. Get on the green tea and honey, and rest up when you’re feeling sick. When your mental health dips, don’t ignore it. Take time out and reach out to friends.
  7. Pour as much energy and love as you can into the friends and people that deserve it
    Those true people in your life deserve your love and attention. Turn your focus on them. Your relationships with people will deepen and connections strengthen like never before. Showing them how much they mean to you via actions and words will do wonders for both them and you.
  8. If you tell yourself you can do it, you can.
    I told myself I could complete one of the hard hikes in the Blue Mountains. I did it. Almost died, but did it like a boss. I told myself I could do anything a trainer through at me in a bootcamp, and what do you know, i’m a regular bootcamper.
  9. Don’t be afraid to take risks in the kitchen- they’re often delicious
    I’ve really embraced my inner chef this year. The results are delicious. My family is very appreciative. I’m way more comfortable in the kitchen than I ever was, and I’ve really found a love for cooking and trying new ingredients
  10. Embrace your hobbies and really focus on making time to do the things you love
    As I said earlier, I’ve been really focusing on this over the past few months. Over the past year I’ve thrown myself back into my great love of community theater, and I’m hoping now to put greater focus on my other two hobbies of Cosplay and writing (hello blog!)

My Holiday TBR!- Ireland 2017

tumblr_mjqgy7GDeW1r4g1p5o1_250.gif

As I’ve begun packing for my upcoming holiday – I fly out on 1 July eep!!- one very important thing is coming with me… my Kindle. As a booklover, there was no way I was leaving the country without a few books to while away my transit hours. And due to a rather strict luggage limit on the tour I’m going on, my trusty kindle has taken one for the team.

I don’t usually do TBR’s, purely because of my hot and cold reading patterns, but Holidays are always big reading times for me. I also get a kick out of seeing what books people take with them on holiday- it says a lot about their personality style.

Here are the books i’m taking with me to Ireland;

  1. The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales 

25938482

By all reports this is a silly, slightly trashy read which is heavily inspired by genre fiction. Some hate it, some love it. The ones who love it sold me. I wanted something quick and easy to read that would amuse me on a plane ride. This seems to fit the bill. It might be stupid, but I cant wait to test it.

2. Wintersong by S Jae-Jones

24763621 (1)

I stumbled on this one by accident as it popped up in my recommended books on goodreads. A reviewer promised heavy references to Labyrinth and that’s all they had to say! The power of the Voodoo was too much and it came into my hands quickly and easily

3. Dawn Study by Maria V Snyder

16130760

So I’ve been looking for this book in bookstores for the last few months and haven’t been able to find it. It’s the latest (and appears to be the last) book in the Chronicles of Ixia which I’ve been hooked on since 2015. When I saw it on the Amazon store I was so giddy I squealed with delight. I really hope this is as good as the rest of the series!!!

4. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

16085481.jpg

Buzzfeed promised me this book is hilarious. I’m hoping buzzfeed isn’t lying to me. I wanted a comedy book to balance out my reading list. I wanted a cross section of different options to read. I’m also always down to read some diverse fiction.

5. A Conjuring of Light by V E Schwab

29939230.jpg

I really enjoyed the first book- V E Schwab has magical writing abilities and, lets be honest, everything she touches is gold- and when the second book popped up in popular on Amazon, I just kinda went for it. It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a dystopian fiction on my list.

6 Years on; Success, adult Life and Old Classmates

6-years-on-pic

Much to my horror, I had a bit of a realisation this year. It’s been 6 years since I’ve been at High School. 6 years. That’s just plain ridiculous.

It feels like just yesterday I was furiously studying for university, feeling the pressure of my 17 years of life, and wondering what the hell I was going to do with myself post school. That final year is built up so much and yet ends so dramatically; for something that has such a small ripple in your adult life, it’s something that tends to hang around you a lot.

I’ve changed a lot; the 17 year old Ashleigh wouldn’t recognise the current almost 23 year old sitting in this office chair. I didn’t follow 17 year old Ashleigh’s goals, nor did I even stay with 17 year old Ashleigh’s friends. 17 year old Ashleigh was shy, woefully insecure and so clueless about what she wanted. She was willing to let her friends and peers walk all over her, because she was ‘nice’ and didn’t have a spine. She was in love with an unattainable and unhealthy dream.

I was definitely a University person. High School was a dark time. I didn’t fit in; I liked the course content but hated the peers. University was my coming of age. I learned more about the world and myself in those three years than I had bargained for. I miss University; I really enjoyed my time there.

In the years since High School I’ve earned a University Degree, travelled overseas, went back to College to get a Diploma, and got a full time job in an area I never even thought of 6 years ago. I learned to be ambitious. I learned how to love. I learned that boys are clueless, and that if you find one who makes you laugh, he should probably stick around.

I was a ugly duckling. And now i’m a swan.

Don’t get me wrong; I never lost my baby fat and I still haven’t been able to work out what to do with my hair, but I’m pretty damn happy with where I am personally.

Success of course is relative. What I count as success doesn’t match others. Just as what I have achieved isn’t the same story as my classmates.

Like I mentioned, I didn’t really like my classmates in High School. The limited strong connections I formed with some people, shattered soon after leaving School as we left to pursue our own interests. In high school, you’re thrown in tiny rooms with people who are so different from you, that in the real world, it would never work. You’re with each other because you have to be. It’s either stick together, or go alone.

Going alone is a scary thought, and one 17 year old Ashleigh was not brave enough to make.

I haven’t kept in contact with anyone since high school; a combination of choice and physically loosing touch with people. But there is Facebook, and Facebook- the devil that it is- allows me to see if others in my year have found success too.

Some have

Some haven’t.

The some who have, I’m proud of. They did it! They’ve made it past all that awful indecision and self-finding and have carved their own niche into a very full world. They’ve demanded the world take notice of them, and I’m so proud of them.

There’s the fashion stylist, styling models, rich clients and national celebs. One is a successful body builder who tours local competitions. One is a very well loved personal trainer who has started her own active-wear line. Another has arguably started one of the best up and coming hair salons in the region; he’s got a successful franchise of 6 stores and is opening new stores in Sydney each time I check in on him online.

Another has written a book. And that book is the inspiration behind my post.

Keaton never struck me as someone with a love for the written word. I don’t know if it was because I was always wrapped up in my own head, or because I just didn’t know him that well. We rotated around the same groups, and had similar friends, but I can’t say I ever sat down and had a conversation with him. In Keaton’s defence, it was because I was determined to make myself invisible and small, and not due to any fault on his part.

When I saw a few months ago he had secured a publisher for his book, I was surprised. A) that someone had so much motivation to break into such a closed market, and b) because I had no idea he was a writer. I instantly knew I had to get my hands on a copy of this book when it came out. Success is so hard won that it should be celebrated; if Keaton needed an audience, I was happy to volunteer my time.

I’ve always admired writers. Partly from being a book addict from birth, and the other half because writing was always a hobby and a pipe dream. Since I was young, it’s been one of those unachievable dreams of mine to have a story published. And Keaton had done it.

I followed the progress of the book closely, and after a great deal of searching to find a copy, I managed to get one not long after it was released.

It was a small book, but one that had obviously had a lot of time and care poured into it. Every choice was deliberate and well thought out. His writing was economical, frank and showed such an astounding amount of self-awareness and acceptance that I couldn’t help but be awed.

Keaton’s got this adult thing figured out.

Keaton’s book is a life-coaching style of non-fiction which calls on the reader to focus on their inner knowledge and inspires them to change their behaviours to better their chances. To put it simply, Keaton wants to help his readers get where he is; happy (or working towards it) and on the right path.

Keaton doesn’t claim to give you the secrets of life; rather he guides you to the right path to find the right tools to find them. A lot of the comments he makes and questions he raises has come at a time of my life where I was also asking them of myself. This has been an immense comfort to me.

I am very proud of Keaton; I think he’s done a banger of a job. He’s defiantly someone we need to keep an eye on.

Dwayne “the rock” Johnson said that “success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” This is something that I believe is fundamentally true, and something that Keaton is hinting at in his book.

I am an ambitious woman; I’m only at the beginning of my road, but my goals are clear and i’m working towards them. I have lots left to do before I can claim I am a success, though I have had success over the last 6 years. I am and always have been, a quiet achiever. But in 4 years when the inevitable High School reunions begin to be organised, I am looking forward to celebrating what I have achieved with others and their achievements. I’ll admit it, there’s that secret part of me that looks forward to shoving my happiness and progress in the face of those who doubted me and underestimated me, but I am human. Humans are entitled to a bit of wickedness every now and then.

If the last 6 years have changed me, than it’s little doubt that the next 6 years will change me yet again. Time goes very quickly, and I’ve got lots to do in that time.

My old classmates won’t talk about me to their friends; I am fairly certain they’ve forgotten I was in class with them. But I don’t measure my success by them, just as they shouldn’t measure their success by me. When I’m where I want to be though, I look forward to what they’ll say about me then.

When I graduated high school, Firework by Katy Perry was the pump-up song, and Warner Bros. had just released the last Harry Potter . Charlie Sheen had a melt-down, and the world fell in love with the Royals again with the Cinderella wedding of the decade. 17 year old Ashleigh was obsessed with Harry Potter (still am lets be real) and wanted to be a journalist.

It seems like yesterday, but I wouldn’t trade the last six years for all the world.

_________________________________________________________________

33573460

Goodreads    ||    The Book Depository   ||   Amazon/Kindle

My top 5 and 5 least favourite books of 2016

book slam.gif

Ok, so who’s ready for one of the most controversial posts in the book review community? The silence is overwhelming. I’m a bit late here, but to coincide with my last post, here are my top 5 and top 5 of 2016.

I’m going to be doing this slightly differently.

For my top 5 I wont be giving a small review on why I liked them; I want others- if they are inspired to- to read them for themselves and come up with their own opinions. Or if you, dear reader, have read one, please give me your review in the comments. That will certainly mix these things up. I will however include some links to the good reads page and if I managed to review it last year, there will be a link to my review. (Don’t worry my reviews tend to be spoiler free)

For my least favourite books, I will write only one line. In that one line I will say in summary, why I didn’t like it.

Cool? Cool.

New Top 5.jpg

1322638442outlander20thann3in

Goodreads

___________________________________

18798983

Goodreads

Review

___________________________________

20613470

Goodreads

Review

_____________________________________

17927395

Goodreads

__________________________________

9774199

Goodreads

Review

 

5 Least favourite books of 2016.jpg

 

23719469.jpg

Goodreads

Why: Story with good idea executed very poorly with weak characters.
______________________________________________________

24951755

Goodreads

Review: Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M Elliott

Why: Bad history re-tellings and teenage angst don’t make good bedfellows.
_____________________________________________________________

14061955

Goodreads

Why: A bad case of second book syndrome and a book that was nothing like the first.
________________________________________________________________

22328546

Goodreads

Why: It made me saliva vomit constantly.
___________________________________________________________

2493 (1).jpg

Goodreads

Why: It was ok… but just ok…and a bit of a pipe dream.

Festive Christmas Book Tag

Ok… so this year…. I failed hard on book blogging.

Like so hard.

As in I stopped in June and have not been able to get back into the role since.

I know… i’m a bad blogger.

But as my 2016 Book Challenge this year enters it’s last leg and I begin planning things for the new year, I’ve decided to kick things off right for the new year, I’m just going to go ahead and try to immerse myself in the blogging world. Some of my favourite posts are book tags and so I went hunting for a festive tag to get things going.

I wasn’t tagged in this, and I’m not quite sure who the original creator was but I saw this on Reader Rayner’s blog and had to give it a whirl.

  1. A Fictional Family you would like to spend Christmas dinner with;

b4f0b890285921a0dc5db81a48dce02e

I would love to spend Christmas Dinner with the Murray’s at Lallybroch (Outlander Series). I feel like Jenny and Ian would have a nice, quiet and homey Christmas planned surrounded by their many children and grand children. I imagine it to be a larger version of my on family’s Christmas and I think that’s why there’s a pull there. And I just love Lallybroch ok?

 

2. A bookish item you would like to receive as a Christmas gift.

cute-cat-on-stack-of-old-books-animated-gif

Just books mate. Any book on my good reads TBR list would be lovely.

 

3. A fictional character you think would be the perfect Christmas elf

lunalovegood_wb_f6_lunalovegoodinquibblerspecsonhogwartsexpress_still_080615_port

Come on, wouldn’t Luna be the perfect Elf? I feel like she’d get a lot done but you’d get quite weird presents. But she’s so immersed in the magical and her own world, I feel like she’d volunteer for the job and take it quite seriously.

 

4. Match a book to its perfect Christmas song

This was a hard one. Took me a bit to think of a good match. In the end I think the best fit is; “Baby it’s Cold Outside” and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

17927395

 

5. Bah Humbug; a book or a fictional character you’ve been disappointed in and that should be put on the naughty list.

This was a hard one. I think it’s because I generally have read quite good books recently and because I’m very picky on my reading pile, I can generally avoid duds. However, in a case of good luck running out, I did pick a dud while on Holidays recently that I thought would be fantastic but I’m really struggling to get into. I’m about 1/2 way through and seriously considering marking it as a DNF. It’s really disappointing because I was quite excited about the book as it promised an interesting premise and a new twist on a classic. It hasn’t delivered. So I name Stealing Snow by Danielle Page as my candidate.

9781408872932

 

6. A book or character you think deserves more love and appreciation and deserves to be put on the nice list.

My answer for this could in fact be Outlander but that would be lame and I don’t like repeating books on tags. Outlander does have- by the end of 2016- quite a growing fanbase so I’ve decided to shine light on another gem that doesn’t get a lot of press, why I don’t know.

9464733

Yo this book is HILARIOUS. I read this book this year upon a buzzfeed recommendation of little known books and I LOVED it. It’s silly, it’s frenetic, it’s poignant and so ridiculous it’s genius. Libba Bray purposefully delves into uncharted waters and creates a brilliant criticism of current western society. It’s a book that I think everyone needs to read; it’s quick and a lot deeper than you see on first glance.

 

7. Red, Gold and Green; a book cover that has a wonderfully christmasy feel to it

17378527

This may be a bit out there this one, but I’m nominating the Raven King which is the last book in the Raven Cycle series by Maggie Steifvater. My reasoning behind this decision is that it’s like the “Ice Queen” in a bunch of stories I could have chosen. It’s a much darker Christmas tale than we usually hear at this time of year, but the triumph of friendship and family over the odds is what cinched the deal. This is a book about coming together to face a large threat. The quest to get home during the holiday season (at least on the south coast in Australia) could be mirrored by the boy’s and Blue’s dash towards the end. And hey, at least we all know that our family situations at home are not as mad as Blue’s or the boy’s.

 

8. A book or a series that you love so much that you want everyone to find it under your Christmas Tree this year so that they can read it and love it too

Again, it was hard not to pick Outlander. But, I’ve instead gone for…

18304322

This book just needs to be read by everyone. I think it would cater to multiple tastes and it’s got a message that everyone needs to hear. This book turned my year around and when I was feeling truly crap about myself, it held my hand, sang soft Dolly Parton songs in my ear and showed me that things were ok. This book is a triumph and everyone needs to read it.

 

Thank you all for indulging me, both with this post and this year. I tag everyone who would like to have a go with this tag. It’s lots of fun.

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

9774199

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness 

or: SOMEONE GET ME ON THE NEXT PLANE TO LONDON STAT!

Goodreads     ||     The Book Depository

 

Synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos.

What is more interesting than vampires and witches in Oxford? Clearly nothing. Everyone else go home, Deborah Harkness has just won at life.

I LOVED this book.

This is one of those books that sucks you in so deep you scarcely even realise you’re addicted until you look at your clock and realise its 11:30pm and you have to get up at 6:30am. This book’s pull is so tantalizingly gentle and mesmerizing that it’s almost as if Matthew is whispering suggested advice in your ear.

I’ve always wanted to study at Oxford- it’s one of those dreams you know will never happen but you wish like hell for it anyway- and Harkness brought me there, swathing me in loving prose and dense descriptive language.

Harkness has a unique writing style that reeks of the pragmatism of someone who learned to write through essays and scholarly styles. Yet while this should lead for a dry book, it doesn’t. Her writing is carefully paced and all paragraphs carefully constructed. Conversation between all characters is effortlessly natural at the same time not prone to monologues or un-realistic cues. Action happens in the same way life happens; the characters don’t know what’s going on and struggle to find their place.

And that’s what I like about Harkness’ writing; she doesn’t play the all-knowing author. There’s none of that arrogance that sometimes lingers when the author plays the ‘great puppet master’; Harkness shows a humility and respect in her writing that’s obvious from page one and made me respect her from the very beginning.

This book is incredibly detail dense. Harkness takes pains to develop the story at a grass root level, leaving in swaths of ‘pointless’ days for Diana, including the human things – like daily exercise and endless hours at work- that most authors shy away from or cut out as it doesn’t suit their grand plan. Don’t be put off, this makes everything work. You don’t resent Harkness for leaving this in; it allows the audience to become very connected to Diana, and makes the story live, breath and feel like it COULD happen.

Harkness, doesn’t present the glamour witches and vampires that we are used to. She revels in their weirdness. Witches aren’t the hobbled old granny-crone, nor are they the glam child wonder that we are suffocated with;- there rather presented as real, run of the mill people who just so happen to have a different sense of the world. Harkness’ witches are more wiccans than actual supernatural beings. And I bloody loved it.

The vampires were rude, stuck in their ways and struggled with food. I loved it.

The deamons- an interesting new addition to the mythological world from Harkness- much like the witches, felt real enough that it’s easy to imagine passing them on the street in real life.

And that’s where the power of this book lies. Harkness has created a dual world that has such strong tethers to actual life, that she seduces you into thinking that all of it, has the possibility of being true. She seduces you through witty one-liners, a complex and deeply intriguing plot that just keeps flip flopping, and very very detailed descriptions and prose.

Harkness is a world builder, and the world she built for this story is so tempting that it’s hard to tear yourself from the pages. This is a monster of a book, and upon receiving it, I was more than a little intimidated. But I barely noticed the 800 pages that I churned through in two weeks. This such an intriguing story and I was so compelled to work out the mysteries and why things worked, that I found myself at the end before I realised I had past half way.

I am more than a little desperate to find out what happens next;- the cliff hanger absolutely sucked me dry (HA. Get it?) but as I’ve been on a self imposed book buying ban (which I failed miserably) since early March, I’ve had to tough it out since finishing this book in early march. The next book- what appears to be another significant beast- I’m hopping to read in the next few months. Harkness has set up a very interesting series and I am really hoping that the next book doesn’t let me down and does this one justice.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look at pictures of the Oxford campus and cry because I can’t attend.

My Top 5 books for Those Entering a New Life Stage

There will always be those moments where your totally unsure of yourself. A period where one part or phase of your life is ending and another is beginning. During that period, you’ll probably unknowingly seek media, or people, that support the feelings of hesitancy, worry or uncertainty. Books- to me a remedy of everything- are mediums of connected-ness; there is nothing better than finding that book that just gets you.

If you are going through something similar to this, or know someone who is, here are my top 5 books that may help and soothe that inherent anxiety that comes with moving to a new stage of life. Whether you’re starting a new school, finishing school, moving to a new town or changing the way you see yourself and the world around you, these books are for you. These are the books that have been my friend in these times.

Ashleigh’s Top 5 Books for Change

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FANGIRL-cover-rainbow-rowell

Summary;- Cath, a self-professed fan girl and fan fiction writer by night, is furiously trying to adjust to College life. Life is so much easier for Cath inside the world of her beloved characters- Simon Snow and Baz. Simon doesn’t have to deal with declaring a major, her room mate and her room mates strangely alluring best friend, or a sister who seems to have totally changed personalities.

Why you should read it; This book is one of the first books that I have found that gets the life and experiences of someone with Nerdy/Bookworm tendencies. This book helped me transition to a new college and degree and the great strides of independence that came with turning 21 and growing up for real. This book assured me that I was a fully functional human being and it was totally fine if I didn’t know where I was going with my life. It gave me warm fuzzy cuddles as I groped with accepting the real world over my much preferred fandom world, and really helped me understand myself and my reactions to other people more.

This is a book for my fellow nerds adjusting to full-fledged adult life. Perfect for someone like me who was moving from University/college to the real world or moving to a post-graduate qualification. This would also help someone brand new to University/College life.

_________________________________________________________________

Paper Towns by John Green

51hgkNew+XL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Summary:- Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Why you should read it;- This wouldn’t be a list for books about life changes without mentioning a John Green book. Green spends a lot of time in all his books contemplating the things that make us human and allowing his characters moments of intense introspection. His characters are so similar to his readers, that he essentially allows those readers to cling onto this character development and internal change and facilitate similar moments for themselves. The reason I chose paper towns is simple; Q is one of those every-man characters who the readers can identify with. He attempts to take on life from a different perspective and while he figures out, in the end, it’s not the sort of life he wants to lead, he’s glad he did it anyway. This makes it the perfect book for readers heading towards a life changing decision. Green offers us multiple methods of coping and lets the reader decide what method best suits them; will you pull a Margot? Will you embrace life like Ben? Or will you try and decide with the most evidence like Q?

This book is a multi-generational book that could be used in a multitude of different situations. This book would go down just as well for a 15-17 year old as it would for someone struggling in their 30’s despite the “young adult” category it is often given.

_________________________________________________________________

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

download

Summary;- In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Why does happiness have to be so hard?

Why you should read it;- This book is so moving it’s almost unreal. The plethora of emotions you feel is incredible and this book will be a remarkable lifeline to so many people. For someone who is struggling to cope with depression, this is the book for them. For someone struggling with a part of themselves which others perceive to be wrong or too different and out there, this is the book for them. Everyone can find some part of themselves in Aaron, whether it is coping with loosing childhood friends, a family members death, a struggle with perceiving themselves and defining their unique identity, or the many other things Aaron struggles with. Silvera doesn’t hold back, and his insight into life is amazing. This book will soothe you and help you feel not so alone. It will also remind you, that things can be way worse and change shouldn’t be feared.

This book is for people going through mental and emotional changes; coming to terms with themselves, their heritage, their sexuality, their background and their connection to the big wide world.

_________________________________________________________________

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

12885649 (1)

Summary:- In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.
When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature. May the odds be ever in your favour

Why you should read it:- Sometimes, it’s the books we least expect that help us. The Hunger Games series is one of those. The series deals with grief in an intuitive way, and respectfully shows us PTSD in a way that’s recognizable and teaches that it’s ok not to be ok. It shows us the perils of relentlessly pursuing  vengeance but also lets the reader know that everyone has different ways of overcoming bad things. This book is also the perfect escapist tool; once you’ve been sucked in, you are glued to the pages and find a refuge with Katniss, Peeta and Gale inside the pages. This book will help you work through that inherent anxiety comes with changes you can’t control and help you understand that sometimes big problems can be shared so that you solely don’t have to carry the burden.

This is for anyone who’s feeling out of control or out of touch with their surroundings and hates the feeling. This is for people feeling dispassionate with their current life situation or for anyone looking for new life goals.

_________________________________________________________________

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

18304322.jpg

Summary:- Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson has always been at home in her own skin. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does.

Why you should read it:-This is one of the best self love books I have had the privilege to come across. This isn’t your typical underdog story. This is so much better. It is utterly unpredictable but so hopeful and helpful for anyone who has looked at their body and not felt totally happy (i’m sure most people). This isn’t just for people who’ve felt too big, I would suggest that someone who felt too under weight would find similar inspiration here. Murphy presents a variety of different personality types and body types for our introspection. None of them are totally at home in their own skin. All of them struggle against the self imposed societal norms. This book simultaneously encourages you to find your best assets and love your worst, while it makes you feel fired up and impassioned. This book makes you want to go out and hug everyone you meet telling them how beautiful they are.

This book is for people who are experiencing any sort of change in the way they see themselves; changes to their body, their perceptions of their body, their mental health and changes to levels of confidence.

_________________________________________________________________

I hope that people find these recommendations useful and that they find the book in there for them. These are my own personal recommendations for books that have helped me through times of change and may not work for everyone. I tried to pick books different from what would usually be recommended, and tried to pick a variety of different genres, author styles and subject matter. Each book was chosen for a particular type of change that people usually encounter.

Please leave a comment down below providing your own recommendations for books for change.

Have an excellent day 🙂

OUTLANDER BOOK TAG!!!!

89Ojkyb.gif

When Sasha Alsberg at abookutopia created this tag a week or two ago, I knew I had to do it. This was confirmed when I saw Tashapolis‘ version today. If you’ve been around me for the last 6 months, then you’ll know that this story/show has become very dear to me and in honour of season 2 which is currently showing, I think it’s time we get some Outlander up in here!

The only rule in this tag was to try and avoid answering with Outlander to these questions.

  1. You touch some standing stones, and you get transported back in time.What year would you end up in? 

Oh I’d love to turn up in 1945. World War II fascinates me and I’d love to run around London or New York in the last year of the war. As a history major who focused on the early half of the 20th Century, the idea of being transported to such a pinnacle moment in modern history is beyond drool-worthy. Give me the war rations, the black outs and the general anxiety. Wouldn’t bother me.

… My mother tells me I’m strange constantly. Don’t worry I’m fine.

2. Claire is a good nurse. But what type of skill would you want that a fictional character excels at?

I would love to have the abilities of Ruby from Dangerous Minds by Alexandra Bracken. Even though the Dangerous Minds trilogy constantly reminds us how dangerous Ruby is and even though she runs into more than a few problems during the series, I honestly think it’s an awesome skill/ability. She’s incredibly empathetic to the people around her and she’s saved people she loves on more than one occasion. I would obviously only use the ability for the greater good…. *awkward cough*

3. Jamie and Claire are the ultimate relationship goals. Who is your favourite fictional couple?

OH there are SO many character I could answer with right now. Not all are canon…. Anyhoo, my answer for this question has to be Sydney and Adrian from the Blood Lines series by Richelle Mead. OH MY LORD. I LOVE these two together. Honestly, they were just made for each other. I’ve got so many Sydrian feels right now just thinking about it. OWIE!

4. The ending of Outlander was shocking. What is one book that you read that totally blew your mind? 

Oh man. Do I have some stories to tell you… Trying to pick just one is hard, because there has been a few books that have ripped the carpet out from under me. Outlander was obviously one of them, even though I knew what was happening as I had watched the series. But for this tag, I’m going to have to say Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins. It was a scream of a book and so much darn fun. The dialogue was witty, and southern charm dripped from every inch. I loved the major plot twists towards the end of the book. The end was just so shocking, it was like someone came up and shoved you out of your backless stilettos while you were standing at the top of some steep stairs.

5. Scotland has lots of castles and we see a few in Outlander. What fictional kingdom would you want to live in?

I think the answer to this is plainly obvious…

its real for us.gif

 

6. Outlander has some very steamy scenes. What is your favourite romance novel?

Oooh… this is hard. A lot of the steamiest scenes in the books that I read happen to be in books that aren’t strictly romance. Most books I read only have romance as a sub-plot to the larger YA/Sci-fi backdrop. Given this, I’m going to break the rules of this tag and simply pick Outlander. Because lord, this book had me sweatin like a sinner in church. It was fire. It was god damn panty dropping. Miss Gabaldon  certainly knows how to write her romance scenes. (PSA: Don’t read or watch Outlander if you’re below the age of 18. Trust me my dears, you won’t be ready no matter how mature you are. Promise Aunty Ash you won’t read it until you reach the big 18) 

7. The Jacobite Rebellion is a huge plot point in Outlander. What is one of your favourite battles from a book?

Oh OH. SIT DOWN KIDDIES. I’ve read and seen a lot of final battles in my time. But I think the most intense one has to go to the one that literally choked the air out of me; The Other Side of Dawn by John Marsden. The last book in the Tomorrow Series, this book is one non-stop final battle that goes through varying stages. The tension of the previous 6 books culminates in one final anxiety driven conclusion that made 15 year old Ashleigh sob. Multiple times. Sometimes, I couldn’t bear to look at the page and read what was coming next. Didn’t want to know what stupid thing Ellie was going to do next. AUGH THIS BOOK. It’s been a good 7 years and I still can’t get over this book.

8. Jamie and Claire get married very unexpectedly. What fictional character would you like to marry on a whim?

Oh DUDE. I literally wrote a whole blog post about this particular gentleman. And honestly, in an absolute heartbeat I’d be at the end of the aisle in my best dress. My Outlander style wedding would definitely be to one, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. Because, as we know, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

tumblr_lnr7a1q8Kz1qbxuoq.gif

 

9. Scotland is a very beautiful place. What fictional world would you love to visit?

OOOOOHHHH. THIS IS SO HARD…. uh…..

more sobbing.gif

How do I choose?

Bloody hell let’s just go with Middle Earth

tumblr_mjqgy7GDeW1r4g1p5o1_250.gif

10. If you could change the past, would you?

Both Sasha and Natasha said no to this question and I can totally understand their reasoning, but I actually dont agree. I would try to change the past, but I’d be awfully selective. I am a firm beleiver that somethings may very well be a fixed point in time, and obviously, to avoid erasing myself from existance, as well as many other people, one would have to be very delicate when fiddling with time. In the end, I would probably alter certain events that SHOULDNT have happened and didn’t overly mess with time.

get.gif

 

SO, laddies and lasses, that was me Outlander tag ye ken?

I here by tag the following by name: Adventures of a Bibliophile , Alicia from Hashtag Love Books and Bookworm Maniac

I also tag absolutely everyone else that wants to do it! Because I never get tagged in things and I want everyone to have all the blog opportunities in the world.

Have a gif of Jamie eating a bannock to fill you for your voyage back into the interwebs.

anigif_optimized-9186-1437596177-2

Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

24751478

Soundless by Richelle Mead

or: I can hear clearly now the Hiatus has gone

Goodreads   ||  The Book Depository

Synopsis: For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village. Her people are at the mercy of a mysterious faraway kingdom, which delivers food in return for precious metals mined from the treacherous cliffs surrounding them. When villagers begin to lose their sight, their rations shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the boy she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation. Then Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon…

I honestly don’t know why people don’t like this book. I loved this book! Some of my favourite reviewers really disliked it and I was really shocked when I found out. I do agree, Mead sometimes misses the mark, but I honestly really liked this book.

I’ve never really been exposed to much Chinese mythology, and Mead’s story has certainly inspired me to read more. Mead has done her research here, and while some are complaining of it’s lack of authenticity coming from a white author, I think they’re not considering how many people are now going to look into Chinese mythology because of this book.

Was there a few times Mead’s white-ness showed through? Yes. Did I mind? No. It can be forgiven because Mead has been nothing but respectful.

I liked the setting and the world building, I loved that the characters were deaf. I loved the tension and the struggle within the book. I loved the ending. I loved it.

I loved this book because it was so different to what Mead usually offers us. Mead made the brave call to go out on a limb and go into a new area. Because it was her first book since the end of the Vampire Academy/Bloodlines Universe, it was bound to stir up some anticipation and controversy.

This book did however, have issues with pace. Sometimes it felt like Mead was spending too long on parts that should have been short,sharp and snappy and racing over parts that needed more explanation. This isn’t a new problem for Mead, she struggled with this in the Dark Swan series and one or two books in Bloodlines/VA. I would have loved more time spent on the nature of a society where everyone is deaf; I feel like she skipped over it and focused solely on the village problem of not having food. I also wish she had taken more time to weave the cultural mythologies and fantasy through the story a bit more so it wasn’t so sharp of a surprise when very very strong fantasy was shoved down our throats right at the end.

I also kind of feel like Mead rushed this book. This entire book felt hurried. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I was just a bit jolted by her change in narration style, but this I feel ties closely into her pace issues. Given hindsight and more recent knowledge on Mead’s up and coming projects- this feels like she quickly spat this book out before her new series, like she wanted to get the idea out of her head before she dedicated herself to the new series.

But, overall, as I said, I really enjoyed this book. I totally understand peoples different opinions and I totally understand why people may take offense. If you have been offended, I’d like to appologise on Mead’s behalf. We are still a long way from delivering perfect PoC stories, but I feel like this is a step in the right direction and encouraging the masses to read more PoC things.

I received this book in my November OwlCrate and I was so stoked to receive this book. Thank you Owlcrate!

Read: American Hardcover Edition

This Book was read in 2015 and was apart of my 2015 Reading Challenge.