Friday, 31 January 2014

Reading Wrap Up | January 2014

Aside from one book I didn't really stick to any of the books I intended to read this month, but January was a really fun reading month for me nonetheless because the books I did read I loved. It was a great start to the year!

by Neil Gaiman

My Rating: 

Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

I managed to finish American Gods in the middle of January, and though it took me a while to read - it's rather dense - I absolutely loved it. If you're a fan of Neil Gaiman's and you haven't read this yet then I'd definitely recommend it, and it's also a great read for any lover of mythology out there!

Even though this was the first book I read in 2014, it could very well be one of the best books I read this year and I can't wait for it to be adapted into a television show!

by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Since reading Cinder at the end of 2013 The Lunar Chronicles has become my new obsession, so I was determined to read Scarlet this month in time for the release of Cress next month. I just can't believe I'm going to have to wait until the end of 2015 for the final book in the series!

This was a brilliant continuation of Cinder's story, and I absolutely loved what Meyer did with the Little Red Cap story. Just like Cinder, Scarlet was such an original reinterpretation of a very popular fairy tale. I can't wait for my copy of Cress to arrive!

by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. In Glitches, a short prequel story to Cinder, we see the results of that illness play out, and the emotional toll that takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch...

I don't have an e-reader, so when I discovered Marissa Meyer's short stories were on Wattpad I was ecstatic - I could finally read them!

Glitches takes place before the events of Cinder and follows Cinder as a little girl when she is first taken to her new family in New Beijing. It was such a sweet, sad story, and little Cinder broke my heart. I've never wanted to give someone a cuddle so much.

Some people on Goodreads recommend reading this before reading Cinder, but I think it's actually better to read Cinder first; by the time you've finished the novel you've already developed an attachment to Cinder, and Glitches has more poignancy.

by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 

It is time. The boy must leave his family to serve in the Queen's army. To be chosen is an honor. To decline is impossible. The boy is modified. He is trained for several years, and learns to fight to the death. He proves to the Queen—and to himself—that he is capable of evil. He is just the kind of soldier the Queen wants: the alpha of his pack.

Once I read Glitches I immediately dove into The Queen's Army, another of Meyer's short stories that takes place before the events of Scarlet. Like Glitches, however, I would recommend reading Scarlet first, because I think The Queen's Army can easily be considered spoiler material if you'd rather let yourself be surprised by the events that unfold in Scarlet.

I really enjoyed this story too, though I didn't find it as emotional as I found Glitches. It's still a great little addition to the series and well worth a read if you haven't gotten around to it yet!

As you can see, January turned into something of a Lunar Chronicles month for me to prepare me for the release of Cress. I am so unbelievably excited for that book.

What did you read in January?

Monday, 27 January 2014

My 2014 Booket List!

I was hoping to have a review of Neil Gaiman's American Gods for you today, but alas uni work has taken priority on my to-do list so my review will just have to remain unfinished for a little while longer!

However, I am determined to provide a new blog post every Monday and Friday so I have something else for you. Instead of a review I'm going to give you a list of books I'd like to finally tick off my TBR list by the end of 2014!

I've picked one book each from eight genres - Historical Fiction; Science Fiction; Fantasy; Contemporary; Horror; Crime; Classic; Non-Fiction - as well as a duology, a trilogy, and a longer series.

I know there are even more genres than the ones on my list, but if I picked a book from every genre imaginable this list would be endless...


by Alexandre Dumas

Imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Edmond Dantès spends 14 bitter years in a dungeon. When his daring escape plan works he uses all he has learned during his incarceration to mastermind an elaborate plan of revenge that will bring punishment to those he holds responsible for his fate. No longer the naïve sailor who disappeared into the dark fortress all those years ago, he reinvents himself as the charming, mysterious, and powerful Count of Monte Cristo.

The Count of Monte Cristo was the first book that I mentioned in my previous post about Classics I'd like to try and read this year. Out of all the ones I mentioned this is the one I'd like to read most this year, not only because it's huge but because I've owned my copy for about four years and it's ridiculous that I still haven't read it.


by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I actually purchased my copy of Fangirl back in October when my sister gave me some spending money for my birthday, but I've yet to get around to reading it. Story of my life really. I took it home with me over Christmas with the intention of reading it but I just wasn't in the mood for a contemporary read, and since then I've spoken to a friend of mine (whose blog can be found here) who also hasn't read it yet. So we've decided to read it together when we both have a copy to hand!

Historical Fiction

by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby's household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves - fingersmiths - for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home. 

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives - Gentleman, a somewhat elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud's vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be left to live out her days in a mental hospital. With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways. . . 

To be perfectly honest with you I just want to read some Sarah Waters in general. She's one of those authors I'd somehow never heard of before last year, and then I stumbled across all of her books at once. I also discovered she did her English MA at my university! I'm pretty sure Fingersmith is the novel she's most famous for, and I managed to find a copy in great condition in a charity shop in South Wales so I can't wait to sink my teeth into it.


by Sarah J. Maas

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

If you'd asked me which book I'd put in this category this time last month I'd've said something completely different, but as it happens I stumbled across a copy of Throne of Glass for less than a fiver and picked it up because I've heard nothing but praise for it. I think there's six books planned for this series so far, and I know book two's already out, so I'd better get started!

Science Fiction

by Marissa Meyer

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

What a surprise, right? Perhaps I'm cheating a bit here - The Lunar Chronicles might not be what some people think of when you mention sci-fi - but unfortunately I'm not a big reader of the genre. I definitely need to read more of it in future, and right now The Lunar Chronicles is doing a great job of coaxing me into it. I'm currently half way through Scarlet, the second book in the series, and I pre ordered my copy of Cress just the other day. I can't wait for it to arrive next month!


by James Herbert

"We thought we’d found our haven, a cottage deep in the heart of the forest. Charming, maybe a little run down, but so peaceful. That was the first part of the Magic. Midge’s painting and my music soared to new heights of creativity. That was another part of the Magic. Our love for each other – well, that became the supreme Magic. But the cottage had an alternative side. The Bad Magic." 
"What happened to us there was horrendous beyond belief. The healings, the crazy sect who wanted our home for themselves, the hideous creatures that crawled from the nether regions, and the bats – oh God, the bats! Even now those terrible things seem impossible to me. Yet they happened..."

Here we have yet another genre I've barely read any of, and I haven't read any James Herbert at all. I think The Fog might be Herbert's most famous novel, but I've been meaning to read The Magic Cottage for years because it's my Dad's favourite of Herbert's novels; he made it sound very creepy when he told me about it. Now I just need to get my hands on a copy!


by Karen Rose

A secret cellar
A multimedia designer is hard at work. His latest computer game,Inquisitor, heralds a new era in state-of-the-art graphics. But there's only one way to ensure that the death scenes are realistic enough...

An isolated field
Detective Ciccotelli's day begins with one grave, one body and no murder weapon. It ends with sixteen graves, but only nine bodies and the realisation that the killer will strike again...

A living hell
When it's discovered that the murder weapons are similar to those used in medieval torture, Ciccotelli knows that he's up against the most dangerous opponent of his career - let the games begin...

When it comes to this particular genre I'm more likely to read it when it's mixed with something else. Basically, I read an awful lot of Historical Crime, but not a lot of Contemporary Crime at all. I really want to cross this book - and the ones that follow it Scream For Me and Kill For Me - off my list because it's been on it for far too long. With any luck it'll get me into reading more Crime set in the modern day.


by Ian Mortimer

The past is a foreign country - this is your guide.

We think of Queen Elizabeth I's reign (1558-1603) as a golden age. But what was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory sit alongside the vagrants, diseases, violence, sexism and famine of the time?

In this book Ian Mortimer reveals a country in which life expectancy is in the early thirties, people still starve to death and Catholics are persecuted for their faith. Yet it produces some of the finest writing in the English language, some of the most magnificent architecture, and sees Elizabeth's subjects settle in America and circumnavigate the globe. Welcome to a country that is, in all its contradictions, the 
very crucible of the modern world.

When it comes to Non-Fiction it's books like this one that I read the most. I'm a huge History nerd and the Tudor era fascinates me just as it's fascinated generations of people before me and will continue to fascinate people in the future. While the Tudor monarchs themselves were incredibly interesting I was so excited when I came across a book that could teach me what life was like for the Average Joe in the 16th/17th century. Not only will this book be fun to read, but it'll also be a great help considering the novel I'm working on for my MA is set in Elizabethan England!


by Alison Goodman
Sixteen-year-old Eon has a dream, and a mission. For years, he's been studying sword-work and magic, toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye-an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.
But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.
When Eon's secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic...and her life.
There aren't enough duologies in the world and I've been dying to read this one for a while now. I love the idea of reading two books and finishing a series; in fact there are plenty of trilogies out there which could have done without being spread across three books! I don't own either of these books just yet, but I think I might order them in time for my Easter holiday so I can complete a series while taking a break from uni life.


by J. R. R. Tolkien

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron's fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

Out of all the trilogies in the world I have yet to read this is the one I really need to read the most. I love Peter Jackson's adaptations of Tolkien's masterpiece but I so want to read the original stories - so far there's just been something so intimidating about them! I'm thinking of saving them for the summer and working my way through the trilogy in July and August.


by Michael Grant
In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.
Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents-unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers-that grow stronger by the day.
It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...
I bought my copy of Gone a couple of years ago, and long before that it always caught my eye each time I passed it in the book shop. Last year the series finally came to an end with the release of Light and now that the series is finished I'm eager to get started on it at last; especially as one of my friends recently read the entire series in the space of two weeks because she enjoyed them that much!

What are you hoping to cross off your booket list this year? Check back next week for my review on American Gods and at the end of this week for my January Wrap-Up!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Review | Cinder by Marissa Meyer

by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Despite finishing it in the final month of 2013, Marissa Meyer's Cinder was most definitely one of my favourite reads of last year.

Like many people all around the world I grew up on the Grimm's Fairy Tales, so when there was a sudden boom of fairy tale retellings in the publishing world I was ecstatic! There's definitely no lack of fiction based on Cinderella - Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted and Gregory Maguire's Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister being just two examples - it's one of those stories that everyone knows. Besides, who doesn't love an underdog?

What's brilliant about Meyer's retelling is that it's just so original. In Cinder our Cinderella - obviously shortened to 'Cinder' - is a cyborg mechanic whose cruel stepmother sells her to the authorities, so that they can use her for medical testing, in an attempt to find a cure for the plague which is killing thousands across New Beijing and the world. The problem is all the cyborgs that have gone before her have died.

Life gets pretty hard for Cinder. Her stepsister Peony, whom she loves, falls ill, she starts to develop feelings for the handsome Kai, Prince of New Beijing, when the two keep bumping into each other, and on top of all that the evil Queen Levana, who just so happens to live on the moon, journeys to Earth with the intention of marrying Kai after the death of his sick father.

The thing I loved most about this novel was Cinder herself. She wasn't the typical 'Cinderella' figure, instead she had a certain independence to her and a brilliant sense of humour. Because Meyer made her so likeable it was even more heartbreaking when everything started to go wrong for her - particularly during the heart-wrenching scenes involving her and Prince Kai near the end of the novel.

The Prince himself was also a pleasant surprise. I've often found in fairy tale retellings that the heroines tend to be incredibly three dimensional characters - which is wonderful - but their love interests often turn out rather samey; a lot of the time they are your typical 'Prince Charming'. Kai, however, was given scenes in the novel in which Cinder was not present, giving him the chance to develop as a character and not only as a love interest.

I also loved Iko, Cinder's mechanical sidekick and friend, who is kind of the Fairy Godmother of the tale, and encourages Cinder when the rest of the world tries to tear her down.

Our villain, Queen Levana, was a little typical in terms of a fairy tale villain, but I felt as though she worked as a homage towards all the Evil Queens, Wicked Stepmothers and Witches that came before her, and she was certainly sufficiently threatening for the story. I can see she's going to be the cause of even more trouble in the future!

It's not only Meyer's characters that are strong, her worldbuilding is also fantastic. New Beijing and the other new continents of the world, all of which came about after yet another World War, are both far enough away from what we know for the sake of the novel's science fiction genre, and close enough for us to see the similarities between Cinder's world and our own. I can't wait to explore other parts of the world in the rest of the series!

So if I loved the novel that much, why did I give it 4.5 stars instead of a full 5? Well I gave it a slightly lower rating for two reasons: 1) Because I worked out the twist concerning Cinder's identity pretty early on in the novel and 2) Because I have a feeling The Lunar Chronicles is going to be ones of those series that just gets better and better, so I want to save up my 5 stars for future use!

The novel's one flaw, if we really want to call it that, is that it can be a little predictable in places, but it's so fun and cool and exciting that I just don't care! I adored this novel, and I can't wait to get my hands on Scarlet and for the release of Cress next month!

Thanks for reading! J.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Jess Suggests | Classics

Last week I gave you the classics I'd still like to read, so today I thought I'd recommend some of my favourite classics instead!

by Mary Shelley

At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

I didn't get around to reading Mary Shelley's infamous novel until I was in my second year of university, and I so wish I had read it sooner because it's now one of my favourite novels of all time!

What surprised me most when reading Frankenstein was just how easy it was to read. Unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of the Romantic movement in literature - I've always found the context of the period, like the French Revolution, more interesting than the literature it inspired - so I often find it difficult to read purely because I rarely enjoy it. Frankenstein, however, blew me away.

It's a fantastic, atmospheric, thought provoking piece of literature, and I can honestly say that if you haven't read this classic yet you're missing out!

by Wilkie Collins

‘When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else’

The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel’s household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as ‘the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels’, The Moonstone is a marvellously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear.

Before there was Arthur Conan Doyle there was Wilkie Collins. The Moonstone is believed to be the very first detective novel, and it's a gorgeous one at that.

Collins expertly weaves characters and events to create a story that is rich with intrigue, suspicion and Indian culture. It's rather dense, as a lot of Victorian novels tend to be, but it's well worth your patience if you decide to give it a try!

There's an array of characters, some you'll love and some you'll despise, but all of them make up one of the best Victorian novels - and indeed one of the best novels period - that I have ever read.

by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"One of th' gardens is locked up. No one has been in it for ten years."
When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of mysterious secrets. There are nearly one hundred rooms, most of which are locked, and the house is filled with creepy old portraits and suits of armor. Mary rarely sees her uncle, and perhaps most unsettling of all is that at night she hears the sound of someone crying down one of the long corridors.
The gardens surrounding the odd property are Mary's escape and she explores every inch of them - all except for the mysterious walled-in, locked garden. Then one day, Mary discovers a key. Could it open the door to the garden?
Classics don't always have to be long, introspective pieces of fiction - The Secret Garden is proof of this!

Even though it's a children's story The Secret Garden deals with quite a few dark themes - as children's stories often do! - including child neglect and what initially appears to be terminal illness.

Unlike Sara Crewe, the heroine of Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess, Mary Lennox is a spoiled, selfish little girl, and yet we as readers still fall in love with her because, also unlike Sara, Mary develops a lot more as a character. We watch her learn how to interact with other children, and learn how to care for both them and the garden that she discovers.

I love this book, and I highly recommend it!

by Anne Brontë

'The name of governess, I soon found, was a mere mockery … my pupils had no more notion of obedience than a wild, unbroken colt’

When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes’s enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë’s first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society.

Anne Brontë has to be one of the most underrated English authors; she's often overshadowed by her sisters Charlotte and Emily, who are famous for novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Anne deserves a lot more recognition, as it is believed she is one of England's earliest feminist writers - this certainly isn't surprising when we look at Helen, the heroine of Anne's most famous work The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Agnes Grey, Anne's other novel, is much more autobiographical, and deals with the troubles many governesses in Victorian England faced. What I love most about this story is that it's just nice. While Wuthering Heights's Heathcliff murders puppies, Agnes Grey's Mr Weston rescues cats. 

Agnes is an endearing heroine, and I would so love it if more people read Anne's work!

by George Orwell

Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

This novella is brilliant because it's creepy. This shouldn't come as any surprise given that Orwell is also the author of the terrifying Nineteen Eighty-Four; the mother of the modern dystopian novel.

One of the main reasons I love this novella is because it's a political satire - it's based on real events in Russian history, and if that's not frightening I don't know what is!

It should also be praised for having one of the best last lines of any story ever, when I first read it it gave me chills!

Again, if you haven't read this already I highly recommend it. I only read it last year, and I really wish I'd read it sooner - it's a lot shorter than I initially thought!

With any luck you've seen something here that you might check out in future! If you could recommend a classic, which one would it be?

Friday, 17 January 2014

TBR | Classics

I love a good classic - who doesn't? - and while there are quite a few I've already read there are so many more that I still haven't read yet, so I thought I'd share them with you!

I don't know if I'm going to read these classics in 2014, it'd be nice if I did but I'm not going to put any pressure on myself to read things I'm not in the mood to read. I think that's why I had so many slumps in 2013 - all I could think about was the challenge to read 50 books that I'd set myself. I'm very proud I completed that challenge but I won't be setting myself another one this year just because reading became a chore rather than something I enjoyed.

So, here's the list of classics that I own which I still haven't read. I'd like to try and read them this year!

by Alexandre Dumas

Imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Edmond Dantès spends 14 bitter years in a dungeon. When his daring escape plan works he uses all he has learned during his incarceration to mastermind an elaborate plan of revenge that will bring punishment to those he holds responsible for his fate. No longer the naïve sailor who disappeared into the dark fortress all those years ago, he reinvents himself as the charming, mysterious, and powerful Count of Monte Cristo.

The Count of Monte Cristo is the one book on this list that I have actually started, though I think I've only read the first two chapters so far, which is barely any of the book at all.

I certainly should have read this book already, given that I'm fairly sure I've owned my copy for about six years. Oops! I think the main reason I haven't started it until now is just because I've always found its size intimidating. The story sounds amazing - I love a revenge story - and I think there's a very good chance it could become one of my favourite books once I'm done with it, I just need to get through it all first.

More than any other books on this list, I'm determined to read this one this year!

by Charlotte Brontë

With neither friends nor family, Lucy Snowe sets sail from England to find employment in a girls' boarding school in the small town of Villette.

There she struggles to retain her self- possession in the face of unruly pupils, an initially suspicious headmaster and her own complex feelings, first for the school's English doctor and then for the dictatorial professor Paul Emmanuel. Drawing on her own deeply unhappy experiences as a governess in Brussels, Charlotte Brontë's last and most autobiographical novel is a powerfully moving study of isolation and the pain of unrequited love, narrated by a heroine determined to preserve an independent spirit in the face of adverse circumstances.

As much as I love the Brontës the only novel written by Charlotte that I've read so far is Jane Eyre, it being the most well known of her works. I've heard great things about all of her novels, though, and I bought myself this copy of Villette last year purely because I thought the cover was really pretty.

Villette was Charlotte's final novel and the story sounds pretty interesting, so I'm hoping I'll get around to reading it this year!

by Bram Stoker

A young lawyer on an assignment finds himself imprisoned in a Transylvanian castle by his mysterious host. Back at home his fiancée and friends are menaced by a malevolent force which seems intent on imposing suffering and destruction. Can the devil really have arrived on England’s shores? And what is it that he hungers for so desperately?

Considering I had to study this novel for the final two weeks of my Victorian Gothic module I really should have read it by now. Though I feel I should receive some credit for managing to discuss a novel I hadn't read in class...

I've tried to read this book several times, but each time I've tried I just haven't been able to get into it and I'm not entirely sure why. It was written in Whitby, though, a town very close to where I grew up, and I'd love to finally be able to say that I've read it.

I can't see myself reading it any time soon - unless the Dracula show I've recorded puts me in the mood - but I may save it for Halloween 2014 and read it then!

by Jane Austen

'I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.'

Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

I'm going to tell you a secret: I don't like Jane Austen's novels.

The stories themselves are entertaining enough to watch adaptations of, but I just can't get away with Austen's writing style. People are always trying to tell me how funny and witty she is, and while sometimes I can see it there are other times where I want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon.

I think one of the biggest reasons I dislike her novels is that the first Austen novel I read was Persuasion, which I had to read for school when I was seventeen. I absolutely hated it. Mainly because of the heroine; I finished that novel feeling as though she had learned nothing, and I hate it when a book makes me feel like that.

Since then I've had to read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey all for university and I just didn't enjoy her writing style. 

So why do I want to try and read Emma? Well I can't judge it until I've at least tried it, and it seems a shame that it's sitting unread on my shelf. I should also point out that I bought my copy of Emma before I read Persuasion, so I had no idea I was going to dislike Austen's writing then.

If I'm in the mood perhaps I'll give Emma a try this year!

by George Eliot

Dorothea Brooke can find no acceptable outlet for her talents or energy and few who share her ideals. As an upper middle-class woman in Victorian England she can't learn Greek or Latin simply for herself; she certainly can't become an architect or have a career; and thus, Dorothea finds herself "Saint Theresa of nothing." Believing she will be happy and fulfilled as "the lampholder" for his great scholarly work, she marries the self-centered intellectual Casaubon, twenty-seven years her senior. Dorothea is not the only character caught by the expectations of British society in this huge, sprawling book. Middlemarch stands above its large and varied fictional community, picking up and examining characters like a jeweler observing stones. There is Lydgate, a struggling young doctor in love with the beautiful but unsuitable Rosamond Vincy; Rosamond's gambling brother Fred and his love, the plain-speaking Mary Garth; Will Ladislaw, Casaubon's attractive cousin, and the ever-curious Mrs. Cadwallader. The characters mingle and interact, bowing and turning in an intricate dance of social expectations and desires. Through them George Eliot creates a full, textured picture of life in provincial nineteenth-century England.

George Eliot was another author I was introduced to in school, and, unlike Jane Austen, my introduction to her was much sweeter.

So far all I've read of Eliot's is the novella Silas Marner, a classic which I love. Unlike Persuasion, the characters in Silas Marner all get their just deserts and I love to see that happen in a story because it rarely happens in real life!

During the second year of my A Levels I studied the theme of 'love through the ages'. We looked at extracts of prose, plays and poetry from Renaissance to Contemporary literature, and this included a few extracts from Middlemarch. The extract I remember reading most vividly involved poor Dorothea thinking of how disappointing her marriage had turned out to be.

Since then it's been on my to-read list, and I might just get around to it in 2014.

by Charles Dickens

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... These well-known and loved lines begin Dickens's most exciting novel, set during the bloodiest moments of the French Revolution. When former aristocrat Charles Darnay learns that an old family servant needs his help, he abandons his safe haven in England and returns to Paris. But once there, the Revolutionary authorities arrest him not for anything he has done, but for his rich family's crimes. Also in danger: his wife, Lucie, their young daughter, and her aged father, who have followed him across the Channel. 

I have to admit I haven't actually read much Dickens at all. I read Oliver Twist when I was a child after my parents bought me a beautiful, illustrated version. Since then I haven't gone back to it, however, because Nancy's death terrified me when I was little.

I've also read A Christmas Carol - the Christmas story - and I love it! I think it's also one of Dickens' more enjoyable stories purely because it's more of a novella than a novel, and therefore isn't as intimidating.

Other than that, though, I've only watched adaptations. I'd never been particularly interested in reading A Tale of Two Cities before last year - I always found the 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' quote rather irritating - but recently I've been developing more of an interest in French literature and French history. I had no real idea what A Tale of Two Cities was about, so when I discovered it was set during the time of the French Revolution I bought a copy!

by Victor Hugo

In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmerelda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destroy her that only Quasimodo can prevent. 

Speaking of the French, here's another French classic!

Like a lot of people out there I'm a huge fan of Disney's version of Hugo's classic tale, but I'm aware that the original source material is much darker. Even though I'm fairly sure the novel doesn't include talking gargoyles or sing-alongs I'd still love to read it, especially considering I've yet to read anything written by Victor Hugo.

I'd love to work my way through Les Misérables at some point, but The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a lot shorter, so I think I'll start with that one first!

by Elizabeth Gaskell

When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. 

Gaskell is yet another author whose works I've barely read. So far the only story of hers I have read is The Old Nurse's Story, a short ghost story which I liked a lot, but I'd love to sink my teeth into one of her novels.

I already know the story behind North and South as I watched the BBC adaptation a couple of years ago, and it only made me want to read the book more. Richard Armitage will forever be my John Thornton; he looked brilliant in a top hat!

Not only that, but I think Margaret Hale will be a literary heroine I can relate to. I know from personal experience what it's like to have to move from one end of the country to another because of my dad's work - in fact I've done it several times.

So with any luck, North and South will be another classic I get through this year!

by Wilkie Collins

"There in the middle of the broad, bright high-road-there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven-stood the figure of a solitary woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments."

Thus young Walter Hartright first meets the mysterious woman in white in what soon became one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century. Secrets, mistaken identities, surprise revelations, amnesia, locked rooms and locked asylums, and an unorthodox villain made this mystery thriller an instant success when it first appeared in 1860, and it has continued to enthrall readers ever since. From the hero's foreboding before his arrival at Limmeridge House to the nefarious plot concerning the beautiful Laura, the breathtaking tension of Collin's narrative created a new literary genre of suspense fiction, which profoundly shaped the course of English popular writing. 

I read The Moonstone for a module in Victorian Popular Fiction back in 2012 and it quickly became not only one of my favourite classics, but one of my favourite books of all time. Ever since then I've been dying to read something else by Wilkie Collins, and I believe The Woman in White is his most famous work.

Like The Count of Monte Cristo, however, I've always found its size kind of intimidating - it's a pretty big book! Even so I'd like to try and read The Woman in White this year if I can!

If you read all of that I applaud you! This turned out to be a longer post than I'd expected...

Are there any classics you'd like to cross off your list in 2014?