T5W | Vampires!

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Books Featuring [paranormal creature of your choice] here is the previously mentioned paranormal creature topic. This topic will revolve around one type of paranormal creature of your choice. So books featuring vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, demons, fae, zombies, etc.  

This week I’ve decided to base my post around my favourite depictions of vampires who, let’s face it, don’t have the best showing in literature nowadays – they mostly peaked with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the general genre has been downhill ever since sparkly vampires became a thing. This observation has also been made by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes in her brilliant video and, just like Sam, I’ve decided to widen my source from just books to media in general – books, TV shows, and films. It’s safe to say there’s a wide range of vampires here, from the serious to the silly, but I enjoy every single one of these vampiric representations.

darkdaysclubHonourable Mention: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

I had to give this book/series an honourable mention because it’s basically Jane Austen crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer – our genteel young lady, Lady Helen, trains how to fight demons which, let me tell you, isn’t easy in layers of crinolines. The reason this gets a look-in is because it features a token appearance from Lord Byron and just the suggestion that Byron could have something vampiric about him makes me giggle like an idiot.

Print5. Soulless by Gail Carriger

Much in the same fun vein as The Dark Days’ Club, Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series tells of young lady Alexia Tarabotti who consorts with vampires, werewolves, and demons but is especially horrified by the lack of manners from some of these beasts. I love that vampires and werewolves are an integrated part of the social and political system in Carriger’s steampunk England. Plus her flamboyant vampire friend Lord Akeldama is hilarious – definitely a more ridiculous representation of vampires but entertaining all the same.

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Review | My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Title: My Salinger Year (2017)
Author: Joanna Rakoff
Read: 23rd – 27th September 2017
Genre: non-fiction; memoir
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. She spends her days in the plush, wood-panelled agency, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches, and at night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Brooklyn apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities and struggling to trust her own artistic sense, Joanna is given the task of answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back… Poignant, keenly observed and irresistibly funny, My Salinger Year is a memoir about literary New York in the late 1990s, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself swept into one of the last great stories and entangled with one of the last great figures of the century. Above all, it is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer and a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives.” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Discussion | Studying vs. Reading Books

Today, we begin with unpacking the very title of this discussion post: I realise that it’s never a simple dichotomy of ‘studying’ a book and ‘reading’ a book simply “for the sake of it”. However, I chose the title for this blog post because I wish to unpack some thoughts I’m having regarding enjoying a book for entertainment’s sake vs. enjoying a book for studying’s sake. There are plenty of books which I didn’t necessarily enjoy on its own merit, as a singular story, but came to enjoy after further study of secondary material or after a lively seminar discussion with people at university. I would probably count Frankenstein, The Moonstone, Dracula, Wuthering Heights, and A Tale of Two Cities among that number.

This topic has come to mind particularly today because I just DNFed Jane Eyre. I have never studied this book (somehow) in all my many years of studying English literature. I picked it up on a whim sometime when I was at secondary school and read it but didn’t love it as I thought I probably should have. I just didn’t get along with Charlotte Bronte’s writing style or pacing even though I enjoyed the concept and overall plot. I decided recently that perhaps I ought to give it a re-read because I am now older and (hopefully) wiser, and with #Victober happening this month, it felt like fate to re-read it now. Reader, I DNFed it.

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The House Cup Reading Challenge | Sign Up & TBR

Guess what everyone? I haven’t learnt from any of my mistakes in the past few months (don’t join in on multiple readathons and readalongs, folks) and I’m enthusiastically signing up for the House Cup Reading Challenge. That’s right, it’s a Harry Potter themed readathon… so you can see why I had an issue saying no, right?

The readathon is taking place from Sunday 15th October until Sunday 1st November and is hosted by Lauren of Live, Love, Read/@BetweenDPages; Alex of Book Daisy Reviews/@booksydaisy; Kelsey of Kelsey’s Cluttered Bookshelf/@Kelsenator; and Erica of Escape Under the Cover/@slychica08. The aim? Read some books based on the challenges which (you guessed it) are Hogwarts-themed! You earn points based on the number of books you complete which fulfill the Main and Bonus Challenges (20 points and 10 points respectively) and then report your points to your House’s Head Girl at the end of the readathon. Using the hashtag #housecupreadingchallenge on Twitter will also earn you 1 point per tweet (limited to 20 points total). Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

The Reading Challenges

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T5W | Favourite Creepy Settings

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Favourite Creepy Settings: these don’t have to be from horror books, but any setting from any book that gave you the heebie jeebies…in a good way. I don’t read many/any horror books so thank goodness Sam specified that these settings could be from any kind of book! These places might not feature in scary books but they definitely do creep me out!

5. Manderley from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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Could I answer a Top 5 Wednesday list about creepy places without mentioning Manderley? I don’t think so! Manderley itself, as an estate, sounds potentially beautiful but the way that it is described by the narrator in a dreamlike, slightly surreal way in the opening chapter of this novel unsettles the reader from the very beginning. As the reader is introduced to Manderley through this unnamed second wife’s eyes when she first comes to her new husband’s home after the wedding, and the pressure she feels to be as good as his first wife, Rebecca, results in Manderley having an encroaching and overwhelming presence in the story itself.

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Review | The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Title: The Princess Diarist (2016)
Author: Carrie Fisher
Read: 24th July – 3rd August
Genre: non-fiction; memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford. With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Tag | Burn, Rewrite, Reread #2

Guys, guys, another week has passed, including another Thursday so welcome to this week’s Tag Thursday. This week is a little different because I’m going to do the Burn, Rewrite, Reread tag. This is just like the Kiss/Marry/Cliff game (cough Shag/Marry/Kill for the older among us), but book-related! I did this tag a while ago but I was reminded of how much fun it is to do when I saw Kelly’s Rambles do this tag recently. So I’m doing it again and I’m calling it Burn, Rewrite, Reread #2.

Rules

  • Randomly choose 3 books (Tip: Use the “Sort > Random” option on your Goodreads’ Read shelf.).
  • For each group, decide which book to burn, which one to rewrite, and which to reread (a lot like Kiss, Marry, Kill).
  • Repeat until you completed three rounds (or six).

Round One

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T5W | Books Featuring Witches

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Books Featuring Witches: So there is a topic later this month about paranormal creatures, but 1. witches aren’t creatures and 2. they deserve their own topic. These can be “witch books” or books that happen to feature witches as characters, whether they are main characters or side characters. 

5. The Worst Witch series – Jill Murphy

This is probably one of my earliest forays into the world of witches and witchcraft – I adored these books, and then they became a TV show and I ate that up too. Murphy’s books told the first tale I’d read of a boarding school attended by witches and I just wanted so badly to join Mildred Hubble and her pals at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches.

4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

Let’s just get this one nice and out of the way early, shall we? Is there a T5W that goes by where I don’t feel the need to mention Harry Potter? Even though I feel like Harry Potter might be a given for this question… I’m still mentioning it anyway. One of the things I love about the fourth book (which I know is an unpopular one) is getting to see other wizards and witches, particularly from Beauxbatons, and I’m so glad that the continuing Wizarding World of JK Rowling output is also showing readers/viewers different countries’ witches and wizards.

3. His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman

I remember reading about the witch clans and Serafina Pekkala and thinking those women were badass and I wanted to be like them. Years later and I’m not sure my opinion has changed – I’m currently doing a read-through of the trilogy to make sure though.

2. Grishaverse, esp. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

I can’t not include the Grisha because they are amazing. Would I say they’re “witches” in the traditional sense? Well, yes, because it fits my argument- Nina is repeatedly called a witch by Matthias, the stern Fjerdan witchhunter who obviously is going to fall in love with her (who wouldn’t?), and given how formidable her powers are, it’s easy to see why her kind inspires fear in the druskelle people.

1. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Liza Hempstock is a witch and she’s fab. She was accused of witchcraft and burned alive, hence why she’s buried in the unhallowed ground beside Bod’s graveyard. Finding Liza sad because of her unmarked grave, Bod vows to find a headstone for her, and she later repays the favour when she rescues him from the pawnbroker who tries to kidnap him. She also says what remains one of my favourite quotes in the entire book, and of all-time, actually: “Truly, life is wasted on the living, Nobody Owens. For one of us is too foolish to live, and it is not I.”

That’s it for now, folks, those were my Top 5 books featuring witches. I could always use some more recommendations so what are some of your favourite books featuring witches? I’d always welcome recs! And be sure to link me to your Top 5 Wednesday post, if you have one, as I’d love to read it.


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September 2017 | Wrap Up

All in all, September has been a bit of a mixed bag. At the start of the month I went to my very first (and hopefully not last) trip to the US. Rather optimistically I took a couple of books with me and a Kindle loaded up with many ARCs that I really ought to get to. Surprise, surprise, I was having such a good time in DC that I kind of forgot about reading, apart from on one rather sunny day when I read a book in the shadow of the Washington Monument which was all kinds of surreal for me, the girl who hasn’t travelled any further than Spain or Greece before this. I also managed to squeeze in a little reading on the train from DC to New York but aside from that I didn’t really think about it. (Side note: I thought I’d read on the train home from London but, guess what, jet lag and not sleeping on the plane home is a bitch and I don’t do well with it.)

However, once I was back in England I tried to get to a few books I’d been meaning to finish off in order to start clearing that growing ‘currently reading’ shelf. It’s been a mostly successful month, in that sense, though I still haven’t finished You Know What, but I’m hopeful that next month will be the month I do. I’m also still in the midst of my His Dark Materials read-through as I’m listening to the audiobook for Northern Lights so it’s taken me a little longer to get through. That shouldn’t take too long to finish though and then I’ll move on to the second and third books in the trilogy. Anyhow let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s see what I did finish reading in this past month…

In September, I read a total of 7 books – 5 fiction and 2 non-fiction, amounting to 2000 pages in total, and, of these, 0 books were re-reads* – go me!

In terms of format: 5 were paperback, 1 was hardback, and was an ebook.

And as for genre, very broadly speaking, books were fantasy, 2 were non-fiction, 1 was magical realism, and 1 was contemporary/romance.

Onto the books themselves…

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Down the TBR Hole #8

Welcome folks to the eighth round of Down the TBR Hole. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my seventhmy sixthmy fifthmy fourthmy thirdmy second or my first round post or check out Lia at Lost in a Story who is the creator of this wonderful meme/project.

I’m trying to make this a regular feature of my blogging schedule because it’s good to regularly reevaluate if/why you want to read a book – that way you don’t come back to your TBR years later and have no clue why a title piqued your interest in the first place. I’ve also added a summary of results bit at the bottom of each round so I can track how many books I’ve kept and ditched from my TBR shelf in each round and overall.

Just a reminder of how this works:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Outside of doing these posts semi-regularly I have also been culling my TBR list at random points when I’m bored – all of this is good in terms of getting my TBR to a reasonable amount of books but it also means that these posts are getting harder for me to do as I’m beginning to really agonise over whether to ditch or keep books on there. Not that any of this is a bad thing! Let’s get going on the 10 books under scrutiny today…

1. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Why is it there? I’m a slight completionist, and I am still slightly ashamed that I have an MA with Distinction in Early modern literature but I still haven’t read all of Shakespeare’s plays. This is one of the number that I haven’t read, though I’m aware of the story behind it, and I love the modern adaptation of it via 10 Things I Hate About You – an excellent film and, if you say otherwise, I will fight you on it.
Do I own it? Yes
Verdict? Keep

2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Why is it there? See above comment. Interestingly, I have no idea what happens in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – this play is one of the few of Shakespeare’s that I haven’t seen some kind of adaptation of, and I know nothing about its plot. I’m really intrigued to finally get to this (hopefully soon) so this has to stay on my TBR.
Do I own it? Yes
Verdict? Keep

3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Why is it there? I likely saw this on a ‘best books of all-time’ list or was inspired by Rory Gilmore’s rather impressive book collection which must include this book. A few months back a bunch of Booktubers did a readalong of this and I was interested in it, but I never even bought a copy so I could join in. Looking back, I think that was a sign that I don’t want to get to this quite enough for it to stay on my TBR list. A readalong is likely the only way I’ll be motivated enough to read a book that’s so huge so maybe if I see one sometime soon, I’ll have a change of heart but, until then, I think this one can go. I might end up watching the film though.
Do I own it? No
Verdict? Ditch

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