Some Great Reads on the Great War

Hello! Hope you’re having a good Sunday. Now as many of you may know, today marks the centenary for Armistice Day and in honour of the occasion, I thought it would be good to share some books and poems that bring the memory of the war to life. While I am not necessarily well versed in a lot of books on the subject, I do think it’s an important part of history and that honouring the dead is something we can all do with a simple moment of remembrance.

Poets

To start off, I just wanted to share a couple of poems that particularly move me:

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Fiction

The Duration

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Birdsong– I really love Faulks’ evocative writing style and Birdsong is one of his best works in that regard. Stunningly written, I love how this reflects on the war, managing to reflect on both before and after.

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Private Peaceful– I have always loved this moving, beautifully written book. As much as it is a fantastic book for children, I still believe that it’s a profound indictment against the horrors of this particular war.

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War Horse– I’m putting two Morpurgo books on here simply because they’re both such worthwhile reads. And, unique to this list, it’s also written from the perspective of a horse.

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Flambards– This is a really old, but romantic story, spanning the years before and after the war. Why I think it’s great for this list is because it deals with love and loss and the tremendous impact of the war on individuals.

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Shell House– another romance, but with a fairly obvious twist. I do believe this is an interesting and worthwhile take on the war. While I don’t think all the parts of this book totally gel, the reason I’ve included it is because the comparison to modern day and history is rather different. I also think that the best part of this book are the flashbacks and that these parts particularly capture the tragedy of the war.

The Aftermath

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Blood Red, Snow White– while not strictly speaking about the trenches or the war directly, this colourful read follows Arthur Ransome’s journey as a spy as Russia fell to communism. It captures a completely different side to this period in history, focusing on fallout in Russia from WW1 and the ripple effect of that. It’s also written in a fairytale-esque voice, which made it a captivating read from start to finish.

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The Waste Land– while not strictly speaking about World War I, I think this book is permeated with the shadow of the war. Its vivid descriptions and hidden depths make it a thoroughly worthwhile read.

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The Secret Countess– I actually mentioned this favourite earlier today when I quoted its opening. Not only does this have the interesting perspective of Russian exiles, one amazing thing about this book was how it deals with the aftermath of the Great War and exists very much in its shadow.

So there you go. What is your favourite World War I poem or book? Let me know in the comments!

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Books I would throw on a bonfire (except not really cos book burning is bad)

day after tomorrowAnd how could you think I would do such a thing! Buuut say there was a post-apocalyptic ice age, where there was a desperate shortage of energy, and I was stuck in a library The Day After Tomorrow style… well then I’d have to think of a few books that would be the first to go (after we’d got rid of the tax section of course). In honour of bonfire night, I thought it’d be a good idea to try this thought experiment (insert all the obvious disclaimers that I do not condone book burning under any circumstances except the apocalypse). And since this is for a noble cause, I figured I’d try and stick to books that actively bother me with their wrongness rather than simply the worst books ever. So without further ado, here’s the books I’d choose to burn baby burn:

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Thirteen Reasons Why– I’m going straight in there with a controversial choice. Now it’s not that I don’t think we’ll need books on mental health in the scenario- quite the contrary! Yet while a lot of people praise this for “starting a conversation”, I genuinely believe there are more productive conversation starters. Of all the books of this sort I’ve picked up, this one sets my teeth on edge the most thanks to its questionable portrayal of depression. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this- and that’s okay- but I’m not ever going to be on board with this representation of suicide as a revenge fantasy. I’d think keeping the DSM would be a better conservation of resources than this.

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Fifty Shades of Grey– okay, going from possibly the least popular book to bash, to one where a lot of people are gonna agree. I simply don’t see the need for the world to keep this book around. If humanity is really desperate for books of this sort, we may as well go on literotica and make printouts. That would be a better alternative.

New Moon/Eclipse/Breaking Dawn– c’mon, it makes total sense to get rid of the book that inspired Fifty Shades. And if we don’t get rid of this, some other middle aged woman might be inspired to write another fanfic (possibly called One Hundred Tones of Mauve). I’m doing the world a favour.  I kept trying to figure out which one of these was the worst- but after the first one (which, sparkly vampires aside, isn’t terrible) they all get on my wick- so it’s onto the pyre with them!

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Ashes to Ashes– now here’s perhaps a strange one for me to pick, cos I didn’t actually hate this book and liked the series as a whole- BUT I think the ending here was so disappointing. So the reason I’m tossing this one onto the flames is cos I want to give the authors another shot at writing the ending. (Also it was kind of appropriately titled for this list 😉 )

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Court of Thorns and Roses– oh boy, people are gonna come at me with torches and pitchforks for this choice. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the worst book in the world… I just think the story could have started at book 2.

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Dorian– this choice is sparked by my absolute love of the book this is based on: Picture of Dorian Gray. The original is wonderful, this book is crap. It doesn’t add anything to the original story except for an unhealthy dose of AIDs. And while I’m trying to not put books on here just cos they disgust me personally, this doesn’t do anything with the story except for add an air of pretension. It’s like it was written to say “look, I’m so clever, I reimagined Dorian Gray as gay”- which isn’t clever, it’s an on-the-nose interpretation that anyone could have made (but made better).

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Nutshell– as for other retellings the world could do without- this one tops my list. Like the previous choice, it’s based on a much finer work (in this case Hamlet). Frankly, the world doesn’t need a version of Hamlet where the main character is a foetus. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but it also isn’t necessarily a good idea to butcher all the beautiful quotes from the original in an attempt to come across as smart. That’s only as smart as it is to write as a sentient baby with teen attitudes and a middle aged voice.

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The Girl with the Pearl Earring– while not originally a book, I did also pick this because it detracts from the original artwork on which it’s based. Like a lot of books on this list, I don’t believe it’s terrible. In fact, it’s actually pretty well written. That said, I don’t think it even slightly captured the beauty of the Vermeer piece. Nor did it make any sense for the mc to completely lack the enchanting innocence of the painting. It was the kind of voice that would have gone better with an interpretation of something like the Mona Lisa. It was like this book was written by someone that had never actually seen the painting and was endlessly frustrating because of that.

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As I Lay Dying– this is my least favourite book ever- so yeah, I’m feel no guilt about putting this in the furnace of forgotten literary history. This is one of the few times I’m being totally biased with this list (okay the whole list is biased- but I haven’t just put down all the books I hate in case other people like them). But this is the pinnacle of postmodernist bull and it totally deserves to be on this list. It’s a book that deliberately confuses you in order to justify its foregone conclusion that words are insufficient to convey meaning and arghhh it never ceases to make me heated. Since this book feels like a slap in the face to literature, I don’t even imagine the author would mind us burning it.

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The Communist Manifesto– it’s fairly simple why this is on the list: it caused the deaths of 100 million people. And as much as I like to tell people to read this cos it’s important we learn the lessons of the 20th century, if it comes down to the world being rebooted, then yeah, this shit can burn.

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Mein Kampf– cos I’m all about equality 😉 Again, it’s important this book exists cos it teaches us about the past- buuut it’d make great firewood. Also it’s poetic justice, you know.

Oops that list got away from me at the end and got a little dark. Still- let’s be real- Guy Fawkes Night always was somewhat political 😉 So with that in mind, I wish all my compatriots a great bonfire night!

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Okay so *deep breaths everyone* but do you agree or disagree with my choices? And- if you had to- which books would you put on a bonfire? Let me know in the comments!

The Very Best Anti Heroes

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So I’ve been talking quite a bit about who’s the very best at being bad guys lately. And I’ve also chatted about some of my favourite villains before. But do you know what I’ve never done on here? Got into who my favourite anti-heroes are- which is why I made this list! I have quite the lineup for you, so lettttts bring out the contestants:

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Dorian Gray– possibly the quintessential anti-hero. What makes his journey so enticing is that he starts off as little more than a blank slate, yet as the story goes on, his little faults were drawn out and painted onto a horrifying canvass! (which, incidentally, is literally the plot for the book 😉 )

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Doctor Faustus– speaking of the ULTIMATE anti-hero, can we get a round of applause for the original schmuck-that-sold-his-soul-to-the-devil?! Louder- not sure he can hear you in hell…

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Macbeth– we’ve got to get a Shakespearean hero in here somewhere. And man, is Macbeth a killer anti-hero- I mean, he’s literally a killer and he’s not much of a squeaky clean hero (out out damn spot… which was technically said by his wife)

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Galharrow– a newbie, but a goodie, Galharrow may be rough around the edges, but he’s wicked funny and remarkably sympathetic (probably one of the nicer ones on this list).

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Prince Jorg– I was so tempted to fill up this list with *all* the Mark Lawrence characters- because I’m pretty confident he’s the king of anti-heroes at this point- but in the end I decided to just go with Jorg because he really takes the biscuit (and stabs you in the face afterwards).

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Narrator from Notes from Underground– this unnamed narrator is quite the misery guts- eaten up with resentment and anguish, he’d give even Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov a run for his money- and that’s saying something!

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Robert Wringhim Colwan– before there were any other confessions related books or movies, this guy was doing the dirty. Possibly crazy or enticed by a demon- who can say!?

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The Godfather– so you come to me on the day of little importance to me and you ask me for an anti hero… and I’m gonna point you in the direction of the original godfather- cos he strokes cats in a menacing manner! (not something he actually does in the book, but whatever)

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Kaz Brekker! Yes, his name comes with an explanation point. It’s deliberate.

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Victor Vale– I feel almost mean putting him on this list, cos he’s so misunderstood… but also technically quite bad 😉

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Celaena Sardothien– okay, some of you may say “she’s not an anti-hero”- and yeah, that’s probably true by now, sorta… but she did literally start out as an assassin and was still happily killing people till book 4 (though most of them technically deserved it)

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Jaime Lannister– just about any hero from GOT would do, but honestly, none have had a bigger turnaround than Jaime. I started out loathing this guy- no one could have convinced me at the start that I’d end up praying he doesn’t die!

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Adelina– Adelina has one of my *favourite* character arcs- which I can’t get into cos of spoilers, but it’s sooooo good (read it)

And we’ll stop at thirteen, cos that seems appropriate for Halloween 🙂

So do you agree with my choices? Who are your favourite anti-heroes? Let me know in the comments!

Bloggers who Deserve More Attention #2

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Hello all! A while back I did a post about bloggers I love who don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve and I thought it would be fun to make an (irregular) thing out of it. Originally I thought it’d be great to nudge you to check out other people while I was away- buuut that didn’t end up happening (/I was busy and wasn’t blogging much of anything). Still- that’s no reason not to go ahead and do it now! Cos who doesn’t love discovering fantastic bloggers and reading awesome content? So without further ado, here’s part 2 of bloggers you should check out:

Lydia @22 is still young adult– Lydia’s reviews are just so beautiful that I always end up adding whatever book she’s talking about to my list. Not only is this blog a fantastic place to grow your tbr, I also find that if I have read the book, her reviews remind me why I loved it and make me all warm and fuzzy about it!

Cindy @Readctbooks– Cindy is one of those bloggers that captures the *need to fangirl* feeling! Loads of her reviews just make me so excited to pick up whatever she’s reading. I love her take on memes and fun updates-  her blog is such an entertaining place to be!

Ayunda Bhuwana– Ayunda is recently celebrating her bloggiversary and I must say she’s taking the blogosphere by storm! With her great takes on books and films, and just sharing her life and travels, she covers a lot of bases in an incredibly engaging way. I also love her slick design and am so glad she’s returned to blogging!

Sarah @Art Expedition– Sarah is one of the most talented people on this platform and her blog most certainly showcases this. Her paintings and photography are simply stunning and I really recommend you check it out- you’ll be in for a treat! She also writes very beautifully about why she chooses certain subjects and Art Expedition all round a great place to visit on the blogosphere!

Maddie @Of Reading and Random Things– the bookish discussions on this blog are always fascinating and get me thinking- which is why it’s worth checking her out! It’s always interesting to explore some of the topics she gets into- like which is better: books or video games? Or blogging vs vlogging? And if that’s not enough for you, there’s plenty of awesome book reviews and tags over there to get fulfil all your bookish needs!

The Bibliophile Empress– one of the things I like best about Kristyn is her thoughtful discussion posts- she eloquently puts forth her point of view and it’s really worthwhile to hear her out. I have to admit, as a classicist, her informative and educational mythology posts make me super excited as well!

Dragons & Zombies– not only does Sarah have excellent taste in books (I’m biased 😉 ) she also brings so much personality to her blog. I love that she covers so many different topics as well- like movies, travel and even wrestling! There’s really no other book blogger like her and I don’t know why you’re still reading this instead of going to check her out right now! 😉

Suziey @Of all the books in all the libraries– if you’re looking for varied book tastes then you’ve come to the right place! Suziey covers everything from Nancy Drew to contemporary romance to classics. Her reviews are always so in depth that you get an excellent idea of what to expect and whether to pick it up for yourself. Not to mention, she does great book hauls (which admittedly can be dangerous for us bookaholics to see 😉 ) Her blog often puts me in a great mood- especially after her upbeat tag about music today! Also, who doesn’t love the reference she’s making with her blog title?

Carolina @Fictionologyst– Carolina is one of the sweetest people I’ve met recently and is super friendly! Her personality comes across so well on her blog and I always enjoy reading her enthusiastic reviews and posts!!

Book Beach Bunny– Book Beach Bunny has such amazing reviews of TV, films and books! They’re honest and will give you the lowdown of what to add to your list- and perhaps also what to avoid. She’s really clear on what the book/film/show has going for it- and that’s really helpful to me! Plus, she has a very entertaining way of doing things and makes me laugh!

If you’re looking for more wonderful bloggers you need to look out for, feel free to check out:

Bloggers Who Deserve More Attention #1

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Obviously there are loads more bloggers who deserve *all the attention*- so who do you think I should be looking out for? And do you know any of these bloggers? Will you be checking them out? Let me know in the comments!

Required Reading: Books I read in High School- Inspired by Kristin Kraves

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Yeahhh I’ve been horrible at blogging this month! And I can’t blame school or anything like that, because I graduated years ago and only promise that I’ll be back to blogging properly soon! Since we are well into September though, I thought I might talk about the books that were my required reading way back when. While it may not be fresh in my memory, I still have plenty to say about all the books I studied and was totally inspired by the lovely Kristin Krave’s awesome post on the topic! (Also, dudes, her blog is jam packed with fantastic content and to top it all off is gorgeous to look at!)

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The Tempest– My first official go at a Shakespeare play in school… and I didn’t really like it. I blame the random person I met at my cousin’s drama college that said it was about “oh look at all the magic I can do… but I’m not gonna bother doing it now!” In fairness, that’s not the best summary of the play, though I still think of that every time I think of the play! Fortunately this wasn’t my only introduction to Shakespeare and had more to look forward to…

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Macbeth– this was my favourite for quite some time, because, let’s be honest, it’s probably the most entertaining of Shakespeare’s plays!

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Othello– I had pretty mixed feelings about Othello- while it is dramatic, well written and has one of the best villains of all time, it never did capture my attention the way some of the others did.

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Merchant of Venice– I’m fairly torn about my feelings for this one. Part of me doesn’t know why every school teacher likes to be edgy by choosing it. Even if it’s not as anti-Semitic as Jew of Malta, thanks to the “Hath not a Jew eyes” speech, the villain is still a racist stereotype. That said it does explore the nature of prejudice, given what a-holes everyone else in the play is. Still, while it’s interesting to study, I’ve never been overly keen on Merchant.

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Jane Eyre– I’ll admit, I was pretty dorky and had already read this by the time it came up on the syllabus, which meant I got to be that annoying kid that said “oh look at the foreshadowing” every so often 😉

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To Kill a Mockingbird– this should be on the syllabus in every school- not only is it one of the richest texts you can choose to study, but the story is also deeply impactful and has stayed with me all this time… okay admittedly I do also remember it really well because I reread it a lot in preparation for my exam- yet one of the best things about this book is that wasn’t a chore in the slightest!

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All My Sons– I have to admit, I don’t remember as much about this one, though I do recall finding it dramatic and being very invested in it.

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The Yellow Wallpaper– this was such a great book to be set- entertaining, complex and ridiculously short (let’s be real- who doesn’t want that for an exam text?). There are so many reasons why I’m always recommending this one on here- but just in case you haven’t read it, it’s out of copyright, so you can check it out for free on Project Gutenburg (it’ll only take you half an hour and is perfect pre-Halloween reading!)

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Pride and Prejudice– it was actually thanks to this being put on the syllabus that I ended up loving it. I’d already picked this up a few years earlier and hadn’t been taken with it. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I knew I’d have to reread it, there’s a chance I’d have given up on Austen altogether. Instead, I gave her books another shot and now she’s one of my favourite authors.  But if you want to read more about how that came about you can check out this post.

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Tess of the D’Urbervilles– I was pretty ecstatic to be set this, because I already loved Hardy. I know he can be hit or miss for readers- he just so happens to be a massive hit for me! I love the drama, emotional intensity and evocative landscapes. Tess is easily one of his best works, yet I was also happy to use it as a springboard to explore Hardy’s Wessex and other works.

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Rapture– this is the only poetry collection I’m including on here, cos most of them were from all different poets and compiled by the exam board. One poet that examiners all seem to love is Carol Ann Duffy…. because they hate children and want us all to suffer immensely. When I think of this poetry collection my brain still recoils with an UGH NO! I think of all the books on this list, this is the only one I truly DESPISE. Why? Because it’s pretentious, nicks all of the best lines from actually good poems and, contrary to what some critic I had to quote said, it did not “twist cliché into something new”, it was, quite simply, just clichéd.

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The Great Gatsbywhat Gatsby? Okay, if you can’t tell from my lame joke, I’m a fan. While this book isn’t long, there is a lot packed into it: tremendous characterisation, a layered story and exquisite prose.

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Picture of Dorian Gray– I chose this as part of an independent study, because obviously I already loved it- yet I will also say that this is always one of my go-tos of “a book that everyone will love”, because I feel like there’s something in it for everyone.

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Doctor Faustus– I chose this to go with Dorian Gray for the independent study and I found it incredibly inspiring- well in terms of writing, I’m not taking notes on how to live my life from a man that sold his soul to the devil!

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Never Let Me Go– my teacher suggested this and it was supposed to compliment the more anti-hero led works I’d chosen for my independent study, though I can’t say it was a lighter read. If anything, it was the most depressing of the bunch! That said, it was an excellent pick and my favourite Ishiguro to this day.

And that’s about it! What were your favourite books you studied in school? Which books did you hate? Let me know in the comments!

What to Read When You’re Feeling Super Lazy

Hello again!! Yes, I’m actually posting twice in a week- you’re not seeing things! Oh you thought you’d seen the last of me for this month? Well sorry to disappoint 😉 I wanted to do a great “here’s what I’ve been reading this summer guys!” post- but let’s be real, I’ve not actually been doing much reading. Instead, I thought I’d give you an idea of what I’ve been reading/to give myself an idea of what I *should* be reading.

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Labels on food packets– ermmm yeah this is one of the things I’m actually reading at the moment- to be fair, it’s helping me practice another language, so it’s not cos I’ve become a food nut and I’m not totally weird (okay I am a little weird but you knew that already 😉 )

Road signs– same reason as above- it’s practice! (also directions probably count here, but I think I’ve got enough boring things on this list).

Blog posts!– that way you can be productive…  but I’m not even slightly productive right now, so yeah, this is why this is also a “what I should be reading” post.

My own writing– I can’t even say this is editing- it’s more like I’m reading and rereading the same chapter out of frustration that I can’t get past it- what did I say about being unproductive?

Half of articles Google recommends– let’s be honest, I click on a lot of the articles Google sends me, whether I’m interested or not (I am weak), even though I feel like a lot of the topics Google only thinks I’m interested in cos I keep checking out the articles they send me. But because I’m not actually that bothered about them, I’ll usually read the headline and maybe skim the first couple of paragraphs. So yeah, this is super lazy reading.

Headlines of articles on topics I care about– which, again, are most Google recommendations. But the thing is, if I am genuinely interested in the topic (let’s face it, it’s probably book related) then I’m probably going to “save it for later”- and yes, I used quotes because, I’ll be real, I’m never going to read all those things later.

Two or three pages of a boring book– and yes, I deliberately chose to say a boring book, because obviously if it’s dull then I don’t have to get invested and I can quit it after a few pages… which is perfect for lazy reading (also, yes, I should probably just DNF said book).

So yeah, as you can probably tell my attention span is something like this right now…

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That’s all for now- what do you read when you’re feeling super lazy? What do you think I should be reading as well? Let me know in the comments!

Relaxing Reads!

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Recently I’ve felt the need for some serious down time. And obviously being a bookworm, I ALWAYS turn to books in my hour of need. I thought I’d share some of the book series I turn to when the going gets tough! Here’s a quick list:

Discworld– this is my go to whenever I just need to chill and have fun. These eccentric, witty and hilarious books never fail to put me in a good mood!

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Howl’s moving castle– another wacky writer that I consider every time I’m looking for some fun has to be Diana Wynne Jones. And while I grew up more on the Crestomanci series, I’ve been trying more of the Howl’s Moving Castle series later. Honestly, if you need a break from anything heavy, I recommend either of these.

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Song of the Lioness– this is one of the few series on the list I haven’t been reading lately, but I used to take these on holiday, because they are such a fun read. They’re often described as “gateway to fantasy” books and I think that title’s pretty apt. If you’re looking for fantasy, but don’t want to read anything dark, grim or grimdark, this could do the trick!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians– this one is fairly new to me. Surprisingly (and despite recommendations *for years*) I didn’t start this till about a year ago. I thought it was too young for me so didn’t continue until recently when I realised how much I missed out on this as a teen- and how great it is when you just need to chill!

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Harry Potter– Good ol’ HP has been there for me through virtually every stage of my life. It’s like turning to a good friend in my hour of need. I know many of the kinks and turns in the story, and yet, like all the best friends, it never fails to surprise me.

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Anna and the French Kiss– I certainly appreciate a good contemporary companion novel series and this one really works for me- especially the last one in the series Isla and the Happily Ever After– which… well, swoon!

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Summers of the Sisterhood– since I’m talking contemporary, let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. As a contemporary series, it deals with a lot of issues like family, friendship and love- all with a charming deftness that will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside (well, except for the last one- it’s my favourite, but it’s quite the change of tone- maybe save the last one for a different kind of mood!)

And that’s all for now- do you have any go-to books when you’re looking to relax? Let me know in the comment! I’d greatly appreciate all the recommendations!