Friday, 31 October 2014

Classics & Contemporaries | Victorian Vampires

Happy Halloween!

This month in Classics & Contemporaries we're going to explore  a section of the spooky genre that is Victorian Gothic, one of my personal favourites. I did an entire module on Victorian Gothic at university and I loved it, so I've been looking forward to this installment!

When it comes to Victorian Gothic there are some very famous pieces of literature; Bram Stoker's Dracula, Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights just to name a few. Today, however, I've opted to explore some of the lesser known, but equally fabulous, pieces of Victorian Gothic fiction out there.

So today we're going to look at some vampire stories, and neither of them are Dracula!

First published in 1871 (that's right - before Dracula!), J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla tells the story of Laura, a young girl who lives in Styria with her retired, widowed father, who has been looking forward to a visit from Bertha Rheinfeldt, the niece of her father's friend. Her father receives a letter from his friend, General Spielsdorf, informing the two of them that Bertha has died under mysterious circumstances which he will soon discuss with Laura's father in more detail.

Disappointed that she will have no companion, Laura's prayers are answered when a carriage accident outside their home leaves a young girl, around Laura's age, in their care. The girl introduces herself as Carmilla, and she and Laura immediately bond when the two of them recognise each other from a strange dream they both claim to have had during their childhood.

Carmilla and Laura grow intimately close, but as the months wear on it is clear there is more to Carmilla than meets the eye.

First thing's first: Carmilla is more of a novella than a novel, my edition is only 108 pages long, so whether you feel intimidated by classics or not I highly recommend giving it a try, especially at this time of year. It's one of my favourite classics, and has one of the most exquisite last lines of any story ever. I love it!

There are plenty of reasons to read Carmilla; it's a pre-Dracula example of vampirism in literature, and when it comes to monsters in literature the Victorian era is possibly the best era to start your exploration; because of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, Victorian society was terrified by the prospect of devolution. If people really had evolved from apes, did that mean they could revert back to an animalistic state? Was devolution responsible for criminals, homosexuals and over-ambitious women?

Carmilla is beautifully written and utterly haunting, and the relationship between Carmilla and Laura is both fascinating and tragic.

But if you don't feel ready to tackle any 19th century fiction just yet, there's a piece of historical fiction that's perfect for this time of year!

First published in 1999, Sarah Waters' Affinity tells the story of Margaret Prior, a woman who is recovering from a suicide attempt following the death of her beloved father. She decides to volunteer at the nearby women's prison, Millbank, as part of her rehabilitive charity work, where she works as a companion to the inmates. She speaks with them, listens to their stories and their troubles, and is discouraged from growing close to any of them.

One woman in particular, however, intrigues her. Selina Dawes claims to be a spiritualist who has found herself in prison after one of her séances led to the death of one woman and the deep disturbance of another. Though Margaret is initially sceptical of Selina's claims, she slowly becomes enamoured by this mysterious, enchanting woman.

But is Selina all that she appears to be?

Obviously there are many differences between Carmilla and Affinity, the most obvious being that there are no vampires in Affinity! But there are many similarities between them. They are both beautifully written, both claustrophobic and gothic, and both set in the 19th century. I have mentioned Sarah Waters in Classics & Contemporaries before - here! - as an author well known for her LGBT historical fiction, and Affinity is no different. Margaret and Seline's sexuality is not shied away from at all throughout the novel; in fact if you're a lover of historical fiction who would like to see more LGBT characters in the books you read I highly recommend giving her work a try if you haven't already. The majority of Waters' novels include LGBT characters in lead roles, perhaps her most famous works being Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet.

Similarly, if you'd like to see more LGBT characters in your classics then Carmilla is the ideal book for you! It's often described as 'the lesbian vampire story', though whether or not that description is true is debatable; there are certainly elements of the homoerotic throughout the text, but I would be surprised if Le Fanu himself meant it as an LGBT text.

All the same, if Affinity interests you then there's no reason you wouldn't enjoy Carmilla!

Next we have an even shorter and even lesser known 19th century vampire story...

Robert Louis Stevenson is no stranger to the Victorian Gothic genre. He is perhaps most famous for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Treasure Island, but during his life he also wrote many short stories, and many of those short stories were spooky and included elements of the gothic and fantastical.

Olalla is one such story. First published in 1885, Olalla tells the story of a nameless English soldier who is recovering from his injuries received in the Peninsular War. Still weak, his doctor advises him to stay with a once noble Spanish family, consisting of a mother and her two children: her son, Felipe, and her mysterious daughter, Olalla.

Our narrator feels welcome and comfortable in his temporary home, although he believes his hostess and her son to be slothful and dim-witted, but something seems odd. Though he hears of Olalla he does not see her, and each night when he goes to sleep he hears wild noises as though he were staying in a mad house.

When he finally meets Olalla he discovers that, unlike her mother and brother, she is extraordinarily intelligent and the two of them fall deeply in love with one another. He wishes to take her away from her home, but when he cuts his wrist on some glass while trying to orchestrate their escape, Olalla's family have an incredibly strong reaction to his blood...

Olalla is a very interesting piece of gothic fiction in that it is still being debated as to whether or not it is a vampire story or a werewolf story, for there are strong cases for both. After all, it wasn't only vampires that were popular in Victorian Gothic fiction - werewolves, ghosts and monsters were also very popular!

Just as Carmilla explores the idea of devolution, in Olalla we have an idea common in Victorian vampire fiction: fallen noble families with bad blood. In Olalla it is implied that Olalla's mother and brother, and indeed Olalla herself, are the way they are because they are the product of years and years of inbreeding. This idea of tainted nobility can also be seen in Dracula, the most famous vampire story in history, and it can even be seen in more modern incarnations of the vampire story such as Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque's American Vampire graphic novel series, where a new breed of vampire is able to survive beneath the sun and threatens the existence of vampires who are stuck in their bourgeoisie-esque ways.

But for a 21st century recommendation, I've turned to YA!

Sarah Beth Durst's Drink, Slay, Love is a fun standalone about 16 year old Pearl, a classic vampire - she's allergic to the sun, loves blood and really quite evil - who is stabbed through the heart by a unicorn. Naturally, her family, who just so happen to be the vampire mafia, think she's been attacked by a vampire hunter - because unicorns don't exist! - but what really shocks them, and Pearl, is that she's suddenly able to withstand the sun. In fact, she's slowly becoming less and less vampiric.

Never to waste an opportunity, especially with the Vampire King coming to visit, Pearl's family decide to make use of her new 'talents' and send her to high school. Why? For dinner, of course. But can Pearl really feed her family, and the King, her newfound friends when she's slowly starting to develop a conscience? And does she really have a choice? Because if she doesn't offer up her classmates, she's dead meat anyway...

Drink, Slay, Love is nothing like its 19th century fear-mongering ancestors, but there's certainly elements of the early vampires within the story even when they are being parodied. Like Olalla, Drink, Slay, Love plays on this idea of old, intimidating families who are as threatening to each other as they are to outsiders.

Obviously there are more differences than similarities here - there's a unicorn, for heaven's sake! - but if you enjoy this brilliantly bizarre and self-aware novel, then I don't see why you won't enjoy a 19th century short story.

As always, I hope this has been an interesting installment of Classics & Contemporaries! Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

What's Up Wednesday | 29/10/14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to stay in touch!

What I'm Reading

Since last week I've finished Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (loved it!) and read The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove, and Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders by Susanne Alleyn.

At the moment I'm reading Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield, which I'm really enjoying; it's like a subtle ghost story hidden in a gothic novel, and Setterfield has the most beautiful writing style. It's a great read for this time of year! And in the spirit of Halloween I'm going to try and finish Bellman & Black and Blackout by Mira Grant, and I'm going to attempt to read Half Bad by Sally Green too, all before November arrives.

Let's see how well that goes...

What I'm Writing

I should be plotting and planning for NaNoWriMo, but as is usually the case whenever I try to plan anything, a SNI has been tickling my brain and I've jotted down the odd sentence. It's only a short story, but it's been that long since I've sat and written a short story that I want to try and get a draft of it written this week.

What Works For Me

Being left alone. I know that probably sounds so grumpy and antisocial, but I've finished university (for now - with any luck I'll be able to do a PhD either next year or the year after) and I'm back to living with my parents because it's a very lucky person who can leave uni and afford to leave home, too. I love my parents; they're lovely and supportive and just genuinely some of the funniest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting, but we live in a bungalow where it's very hard to find quiet, alone space unless I'm in the house when both of my parents are at work. I don't have a desk in my room - again, we live in a bungalow, so while my room is beautiful there's no way I could fit a desk in there - and I couldn't sit and write for hours with my laptop on my knee.

As great as my parents are, it's very distracting when I'm sat at the dining table and they want to talk to me or ask me what I'm doing. It's not that I don't like talking to them and don't appreciate their interest, it's just that I think they're still learning that even though it doesn't look like it, I am actually working when I'm sitting at my laptop and typing furiously. Even if I am still in my pyjamas.

So alone time. Alone time works for me.

What Else Is New

My degree certificate arrived in the post! My parents think I should frame it, but I'm not so sure; I can't help feeling I'd seem like a bit of a twat if I framed my certificate. (Apologies to anyone who has framed their degree!)

No, that's not a typo. That's really how you spell my name!
Yesterday I joined a new writing group and it was a lot of fun! The group meets on the last Tuesday of every month and everyone I met yesterday was lovely. I'm looking forward to meeting some more writers - I was wondering where they'd all been hiding!

Oh, I'm also going to be taking part in Sci-Fi November, hosted by Rinn Reads and Oh, The Books! I'm still something of a newbie when it comes to science fiction, which is why I decided to take part. I've already scheduled the majority of my posts for throughout November, which is a big weight off my shoulders considering I'm attempting NaNo this year!

Other than that it's been a pretty quiet week. What's new with you?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Top Ten Tuesday | Characters I'd Be For Halloween!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find out everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Top Ten Books/Movies To Read Or Watch To Get In The Halloween Spirit OR Top Ten Characters Who I Would Totally Want To Be For Halloween' which is far too fun to pass up! I don't really read much horror, something I need to change, so I decided to go with the latter - here are the top ten book characters I'd most like to dress up as for Halloween!

1) Georgia Mason from Feed by Mira Grant: To be honest most of the characters on this list aren't exactly spooky or scary, they're just characters I'd like an excuse to dress up as. Having said that, Georgia is the heroine of a zombie novel so she's pretty fitting for Halloween! She's also one of my favourite heroines of all time, so I'd love to dress up as her.

2) Helena Ravenclaw from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: What's not spooky about the ghost of a murdered witch? I knew someone from Harry Potter was going to be on this list - in fact even someone like Bellatrix would be a great character to be for Halloween - but I decided to go with Helena because I think she's one of the lesser loved Potter characters.

3) Johanna Mason from Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: All you need is a wetsuit and a bloody axe. If that doesn't scream Halloween then frankly I don't know what does!

4) Carmilla from Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Carmilla is one of my all time favourite classics. It's a vampire novella, with a homosexual protagonist, that was written before Bram Stoker's Dracula and has one of the most haunting last lines of any book I've ever read. I think Carmilla woud be a fantastic character to dress up as for Halloween.

5) Victor(ia) Frankenstein from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Frankenstein's another favourite of mine. Genderbend the main character (or not if you're a guy!) and you have a brilliant character for Halloween!

6) Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: I feel like people who love experimenting with make up would have great fun dressing up as Levana. We don't actually know what she really looks like, so that would be a lot of fun to play around with, and I imagine a character like Levana would have some gorgeous dresses.

7) Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris: I think Clarice would be especially fun to dress up as if you could coerce one of your friends into dressing up as Hannibal Lecter!

8) The Other Mother from Coraline by Neil Gaiman: Surely everyone familiar with Coraline can agree that the Other Mother is absolutely terrifying? With some well placed face paint it shouldn't be too hard to put some buttons over your eyes!

9) The Cheshire Cat from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: It might be a children's book but I've always found something sinister about the Cheshire Cat, and I think he's another character that would be a lot of fun to dress up as - you could really go wild with a lot of bright make up and cool contacts!

10) Lirael from Lirael by Garth Nix: Lirael is the Abhorsen. She spends her days controlling the dead and righting the wrongs of Necromancers. Cool, right? Plus I imagine her costume would be pretty awesome. (Bonus points if you have a dog).

Who made your top ten?

Monday, 27 October 2014

My End of Year Historical Fiction TBR!

It's the last week of October - where has the year gone? - and there are still so many historical fiction books I haven't read yet!

Below are twelve pieces of historical fiction I'd love to have under my belt before 2015!

by Daphne du Maurier

by Alexandre Dumas

(I'm going to be hosting a Count of Monte Cristo read-a-long in November! If you're interested in taking part check out the Facebook group for all the information you need here!)

by Robin LaFevers

by Rosemary Goring

by C. J. Sansom

by Geraldine Brooks

by Stef Penney

by Sarah Waters

by Hannah Kent

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

by Eva Ibbotson

by Diana Gabaldon

Friday, 24 October 2014

Historical Film Recommendations!

On Monday I talked about some of my favourite historical/period dramas - you can find that post here! - so today I thought I'd recommend some of my favourite historical films.

There's a whole variety of films here, so whether you like serious dramas or something a little more adventurous there's something here for everyone!

The Mummy, dir. by Stephen Sommers (1999)

The Mummy is usually classed as an adventure film, or even a dark fantasy film, but given that the beginning of the film takes place in Ancient Egypt and the rest of the film takes place in the '20s it's also a historical film. I never get bored of this film, and I've watched it so many times that my disc is starting to skip because it's wearing out! It's fun and entertaining, and a great source of escapism. The 2001 sequel, The Mummy Returns, is also a great film. We don't talk about the third one. Never.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, dir. by Gore Verbinski (2003)

Another fun one, and one that pretty much everyone in the world has seen. This, like The Mummy, is one of my all time favourite films and I love it. Jack Sparrow was my first ever character crush and he's held a special place in my heart ever since. This film put pirate stories back on the map.

Elizabeth, dir. by Shekhar Kapur (1998)

Here we have a more serious film, but it's well worth a watch. Elizabeth tells the story of the rise of Elizabeth I to the English monarchy and all the danger, lust and heartbreak that comes with it. Cate Blanchett is an enchanting Elizabeth. The 2007 sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, is worth checking out, too!

Braveheart, dir. by Mel Gibson (1995)

There are dozens and dozens of historical inaccuracies throughout Braveheart, so much so that one of the history professors at my university cringed at the mere mention of it, but it's still one of my favourite films of all time. It might not be a particularly accurate portrayal of William Wallace's life, but at its heart it's a story brimming with courage and empathy. And it doesn't hurt that I love every single costume Sophie Marceau wears.

Marie Antoinette, dir. by Sofia Coppola (2006)

I didn't actually get around to watching Marie Antoinette until the beginning of this year, and it's a shame I waited so long to watch it because I really enjoyed it! Like Pompeii, this film has a brilliant soundtrack for a completely different reason; the soundtrack is full of '80s new wave and post-punk music, but each song used, from Hong Kong Garden to I Want Candy, sums up Marie Antoinette perfectly. I recommend this film for sleepovers involving cake and face masks!

Which films do you love?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What's Up Wednesday! | 22/10/14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to stay in touch!

It's been a while! I went on a little hiatus while I finished up my MA and I've been rather busy recently, so it's time to catch up!

What I'm Reading

Since I last took part in WUW I've read Deadline by Mira Grant, Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier, Blood Sinister by Celia Rees (reviewed here), The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (reviewed here), American Vampire: Volume 1 by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King (reviewed here), and Printer's Devil Court by Susan Hill (reviewed here).

I've discovered my love for Daphne du Maurier and right now I'm just over halfway through Rebecca and loving it (Mrs Danvers - what a bitch!), and I've borrowed Jamaica Inn and The Parasites from my local library so I'll be reading those soon.

I'm also going to be hosting a Count of Monte Cristo Read-a-Long this November. There's a Facebook group here with all the information you need to know if you want to join in; I'd really love it if more people joined in!

What I'm Writing

After finishing my MA I needed to take a break from Bloodroot and Bracken, because by the time I handed in my portfolio I was ready to tear my hair out. So this year I'm attempting NaNoWriMo (again) and I'm not going to put any pressure on myself to complete a novel, I'd just like to write as much as I can, even if it's crap, about one of the many other novel ideas dancing around in my head. Now that I'm back in South Wales with my family it seems only fitting to write a story that's been in my head recently which is set in Medieval Wales and involves dragons!

If you're taking part in NaNoWriMo and you want to add me as a writing buddy, you can find me here!

What Works For Me

Films OSTs! I like listening to music when I write, but when it comes to music with lyrics I can often get distracted and start singing along rather than concentrating on what I'm doing. But when you find the right film score writing's a breeze! Recently I've been loving the Pompeii soundtrack.

What Else Is New

Okay, quite a lot has happened since I last participated in WUW so this section is probably going to be kinda long. I'll try to be as concise as possible!

Well I finished my MA, and yesterday I got my results and I PASSED WITH A DISTINCTION! I'm so pleased that all that hard work and stress has paid off, and now I can start looking into applying for PhDs which is very exciting!

I also have a new blog design after finally giving myself a kick up the backside and taking an afternoon out to make it look pretty - I'm very pleased with the end result. I think it looks slightly less amateur now!

Over the past month I've been doing an internship with a video game company in Wales where I've been helping them to write the script for a new sci-fi adventure game. My internship came to an end last week and I've been offered a job, starting in January, to work for the company as a Game Writer! I'm so excited - it's very rare to come out of a Creative Writing MA and be able to walk into a writing job, so I'm incredibly lucky and thankful.

On the 11th October, a day after my birthday, we welcomed a new person into our family when my older sister gave birth to her third child, Neive Autumn. We went up north to visit them at the weekend and she's absolutely gorgeous. She's such a good baby; she never cries, she just snuggles up and sleeps, and if she wants to let you know that she's hungry she tends to just start sucking on your shoulder. She has loads of dark hair and she's just adorable. I could eat her up.

So what's new with you?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Top Ten Tuesday | Series I Want to Start!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Top New Series I Want to Start'. I've gone with series that have been published since 2012 or later, and none of them have been completed yet. So, without further ado, here are my top ten:

by Mira Grant

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.

by Trudi Canavan

In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, discovers a sentient book in an ancient tomb. Vella was once a young sorcerer-maker, until she was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been gathering information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.

Elsewhere, in a land ruled by the priests since a terrible war depleted all but a little magic, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows from her ability to sense the stain it leaves behind that she has a talent for it, and that there are people willing to teach her how to use it, should she ever need to risks the Angels’ wrath.

Further away, a people called the Travelers live their entire lives on the move, trading goods from one world to another. They know that each world has its own store of magic, reducing or increasing a sorcerer’s abilities, so that if one entered a weak world they may be unable to leave it again. Each family maintains a safe trading route passed down through countless generations and modified whenever local strife makes visiting dangerous. But this is not the only knowledge the Travelers store within their stories and songs, collected over millennia spent roaming the universe. They know a great change is due, and that change brings both loss and opportunity.

by S. E. Grove

She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.
Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.  Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

by Nancy Bilyeau

Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.

While Joanna is in the Tower, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester forces her to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may possess the ability to end the Reformation.

With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must decide who she can trust so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life.

by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. 

by Julie Kagawa

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

by Chris Kuzneski

The Hunters: a team of renegades - an ex-military leader, a historian, a computer whiz, a weapons expert and a thief - financed by a billionaire philanthropist are tasked with finding the world's most legendary treasures. 

The Mission: recover a vast Romanian treasure that was stolen by the Russians nearly a century ago. Fearing a Germany victory in World War 1, the Romanian government signed a deal to guarantee the safety of the country's most valuable artifacts until after the war. In 1916 two treasure trains full of gold and the most precious objects of the Romanian state - paintings, jewellery from the Royal family, ancient Dacien artifacts - were sent to the underground vaults in the Kremlin only to be lost to the Romanian people forever as Russia severed all diplomatic relations with the country and scattered the treasure to its outlying regions. With a haul valued at over $3.5 billion dollars, everyone wants to claim the vast treasure but its location has remained a mystery, until now.

Can the Hunters succeed where all others have failed?

by J. A. White

Hand in hand, the witch's children walked down the empty road.

When Kara Westfall was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother, Taff, are still shunned by the people of their village, who believe that nothing is more evil than magic . . . except, perhaps, the mysterious forest that covers nearly the entire island. It has many names, this place. Sometimes it is called the Dark Wood, or Sordyr's Realm. But mostly it's called the Thickety.

The black-leaved trees swayed toward Kara and then away, as though beckoning her.

The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother.

And that is just the beginning of the story.

by Elizabeth May

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen

WHY WE LOVE IT: Five best friends spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp...defeating yetis, three-eyed wolves, and giant falcons...what’s not to love?!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls and features five butt-kicking, rad teenage girls wailing on monsters and solving a mystery with the whole world at stake. And with the talent of acclaimed cartoonist Noelle Stevenson, talented newcomer Grace Ellis writing, and Brooke Allen on art, this is going to be a spectacular series that you won’t want to miss. 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! 

Which books made your top ten?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Period/Historical Drama Recommendations!

It probably comes as no surprise that, considering I love historical fiction so much, I'm partial to a good old historical/period drama show, too. If you're in the mood for one such show, here are some of my recommendations!

Okay, now before those of you who love your historical accuracy flee in disgust, please hear me out! Like you I had no interest in watching The Tudors when it first came out. I love my Tudor history, but pretty much every adaptation of their lives (aside from the Elizabeth films starring the stunning Cate Blanchett) have been a huge disappointment. I turned on an episode of The Tudors when it was on TV and was immediately met with a sex scene in the woods, between who I would later discover were Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I decided then and there that I wasn't interested in watching a show that was just about bodice-ripping and hanky panky and turned it back off. Then one of my friends introduced it to me in university and convinced me to give it another try, and I'm so glad I did - now it's one of my favourite shows!

Now I'm not going to sit here and say that this is the most historically accurate show on TV - although in its defense it put a lot more effort into being historically accurate than most other Tudor adaptations I've seen! - but what The Tudors has done that I appreciate and adore is humanise Henry VIII and all six of his wives. All of his wives, from Katherine of Aragon to Catherine Parr, are given likable and dislikable qualities, and I love all of them, grow frustrated with all of them, for completely different reasons. The Tudors is one of the few shows I've watched that has made an effort to remind its audience that Henry and his wives were real people and not just portraits.

Yes there's a lot of hanky panky - but unlike shows like Game of Thrones all of the sex scenes, apart from one which isn't graphic and is included because it is an event that is believed to have happened, are consensual - and there are a lot of pretty dresses and shaven legs and gorgeous men, but I don't care! I really like this show, and I recommend it to any history lover out there who's been hesitant to give it a try!

I discovered The Bletchley Circle fairly recently, in fact I'm still in the middle of watching it, but as soon as I realised it was a show about a group of women who broke codes during the war and were now using their skills to fight crime and the patriarchy I knew I had to watch it. Then, luckily for me, it was showing on TV again!

The first series follows Susan Gray, a code breaker during the War, who is certain there is a pattern to the killings and that she can use it to catch the killer, if only the police and her husband would listen to her. Frustrated, she contacts three women with whom she worked at Bletchley Park, and the four of them work together to solve the murders.

It's so good. Just watch it.

If I say to you: Richard Armitage. Richard Armitage in 19th century clothes. Richard Armitage in a top hat. Surely that's all I need to say to get you to watch the BBC's adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South?

This show was introduced to me by the same friend who introduced me to The Tudors, so we can blame her for me wanting to marry Richard Armitage. North and South is a very simple story, and yet it's enthralling; it follows Margaret Hale who must move from the South of England to the North when her father decides to leave the clergy and takes up a position as a teacher. The cold, dark, industrial North is very different to the idyllic South that Margaret is accustomed to, and she can't stand John Thornton, the owner of a cotton mill and one of her father's pupils.

When the workers begin to strike Thornton shows his true colours as a man who wants what's best for his family and those who work for him, and Margaret begins to see him in a different light.

At its heart North and South is a love story, but even if love stories aren't to your taste I still recommend this little serial - it's gorgeous!

Earlier this year the BBC brought another brilliant drama to our TV screens in the form of The Crimson Field, a show which follows the lives of four voluntary nurses, and the rest of the military hospital, during The First World War.

Each of the six episodes of the series explores a number of themes, from the early treatment of shellshock to the punishment of deserters, and they do so in a respectful, touching way. Sadly the BBC has chosen not to renew the series which is incredibly frustrating, not only because it is a fantastic show that deserves screen time, but also because there are many questions that have been left unanswered.

That being said the first series doesn't end on a huge question mark, so even though the show has been discontinued the first series is still worth a watch!

The Borgias is much more similar to The Tudors - it's raunchier and more violent, and oddly addictive. When I first watched the show it took me a couple of episodes to get into it - the first episode in particular I think is a little boring; when I first watched it I was convinced I wasn't going to like the show - but by episode three I was hooked, and I marathoned the rest of the first series in the space of a few days.

What really gives this show its wow factor is the cast; I love Jeremy Irons, and he's a brilliant Roderigo, but the two actors who really sell the show to me are Holliday Grainger and François Arnaud, who play Lucrezia and Cesare respectively. Their scenes together are mesmerising, and I definitely recommend checking this show out if you haven't already!

What have you been watching recently?