Top 5 English Eccentrics in Books

Hello all! So after my post yesterday I started thinking very tangentially about the best of British things… and I came up with the English Eccentric, because one of the best thing about this country is the infamous English Eccentrics (yes other countries have interesting animals roaming about in the wild… we have peculiar and unusual people wandering about in wellies) And while I was musing about this over my cup of tea, I decided this would be a great chance to show the WORLD the kind of book characters that are Oh-So-English.

Without further ado- here are my top five favourite English Eccentrics in books:

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Mr Bennet– eccentrics are supposedly a little irregular and don’t bow to conventions- this suits Mr Bennet to a T. With his subtle humour and frequently disappearing off to his library, he doesn’t necessarily always act as he should. Still, he’s one of the most loveable father figures in literature and definitely has his family’s interests at heart.

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Dumbledore!!– Not-quite-a-doddery-old-fool, Dumbledore is one helluva wizard, with rather a particular taste in sweets. He probably should have told Harry what was up earlier in the story, yet I think that’s part of his charm (no pun intended)

Arkham cover D final

Lord Henry– outrageous, witty and totally outside the box, Henry steals the show as the voice for Wilde in Picture of Dorian Gray. And yes, his humour tends towards the more mischievous side, but we love him for it. (BTW the ’09 film portrayal *is not* the same character, so I didn’t use that picture)

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Aunt Betseyfrom David Copperfield I reckon there are *loads* of Dickensian characters that could fill this slot, I just happen to find her exceptionally wacky.

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DEATH– and not just any Death, Pratchett’s Death. I think all of Pratchett’s works are the blueprint for the eccentricities of his soul, so I can’t really put my finger on why this character calls to me as the best example. I just think that the little oddities of Death’s behaviour in the Discworld really takes the biscuit… or the curry (he’s a fan 😉 )

This is by no means an exhaustive list- who do you think is a great eccentric (English) character? Let me know in the comments!

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Write Your Heart Out… Great Books About Writing

Hello all! I figured since I’ve been talking about writing, it might be fun to list some fiction that features writing! This was actually a surprisingly hard list to come up with books for though. Either I don’t read enough books starring writers or there aren’t many of them (which is weird cos there’s a cliché about a lot of authors writing about writers)

The Angel’s Game– you guys know I love Shadow of the Wind and this sequel is almost as good. Where the first Cemetery of Forgotten Books focused on reading, this one focuses on writing! And man, Zafon clearly knows what he’s doing there!

angels-game

I Capture the Castle– this begins with the best opening line of all time: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” So yeah, it’s about writing- but also SO MUCH MORE!

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Fangirl– one of my favourite things about this book (apart from the romance, obviously) was how well Rowell managed to capture that feeling of writing. Though everyone has a different style, this managed to capture something universal about the process.

FangirlWIP

Shosha– Ahh Bashevis Singer- everything he writes is lyrical and fairytale-esque. I can’t gush enough about his writing! This is a little different to other books on this list though, since it’s only partly about the journey of the author, and more about a lost world, an enduring love and the shadow of a future that threatens to overwhelm it all.

shosha

Keep the Aspidistra Flying– this was an excellent book about a struggling poet- but obviously being by Orwell it’s not as simple as that. It’s also about conformity, “the money-world” and the question of whether we should follow our dreams at all…

keep the aspidistra flying

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. Do you know any good books about writing? Let me know in the comments!

Explosive Books For Bonfire Night!

Remember, remember the fifth of November…

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Yup- tonight is Bonfire Night in the UK!! And one of the best things about living in a flat is that I’ve been getting a free firework display out my window all week! 😀 Anyhoo, in the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to write a quick post celebrating some explosive books (very quick, since I’m currently burning the candle at both ends with my Nano plans… but more on that another time 😉 ) Here we go…

Jude the Obscure– let’s start of nice and gently… WITH THE MOST DEVASTATING BOOK OF ALL TIME!! (what did you think this was going to be a sparkler- NOPE this is a firecracker straight through the heart- you’re welcome 😉 ) Jude was shocking back in the day, but to my mind I can’t see a future when this will cease to have an impact.

jude

Engleby– who likes a good thriller? Me! And this has a killer of a plot twist and like one of those fountain-thingys is seriously underrated.

Engleby

Gone Girl– speaking of thrillers, I could hardly fail to include Flynn’s masterpiece, since this book officially has the BIGGEST plot twist EVER! Now I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it there (just know it’s an *epic* book and well worth a read!!)

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Game of Thrones– moving onto fantasy, everyone knows by now that Martin is the king of the plot twist- and let’s be honest, no one saw that first main character dying way back in the day…game of thrones book

Young Elites– I was pleasantly surprised by this dark book for loads of reasons- not least because it had the most incendiary, unexpected ending!! It popped up out of nowhere!!

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Crooked Kingdom– okay do I really need to let you know how much I love this book after raving about it last week?! This book is DYNAMITE from beginning to end (and man, that ending really blew everything up *sobs*)

crooked kingdom

Checkmate– alright, so being more literal now, this book centres round a bomb plot, that may or may not go off… It’s high stakes and tense stuff. And the whole book being will she/won’t she really reminds me of a Catherine Wheel (Also, if you can’t tell I really want to bring this series circling back 😉 )

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Illuminae– and speaking of a explosions, that’s just how this starts. And if you think it lets up at any point in the story, you would be WRONG! From beginning to end, this book’s a meteoric ball of excitement! Speaking of which…

illuminae

The Martian– AHH this book is a rollercoaster of emotions- it makes you feel simultaneously stressed and excited and awestruck! And if rockets are your jam, then this book will send you to Mars!

the martian

Golden Son– I really I could have said any of the books in the Red Rising trilogy, but if you know how this ends, then you know that this second instalment in particular BLOWS ALL THE OTHERS OUT OF THE WATER!!

golden son

Okay, I sincerely apologise to you for any harm done by my godawful puns in this post 😉 Hopefully I’ve not scared you away 😉

While we’re on explosive topics, I wanted to announce on my blog (in case you missed it over on twitter) that the winner of my giveaway was Daley Downing– I’m so excited because she’s an amazing blogger and author!! So please do check her out here!!

And that’s all for today- do you have any *explosive* book recommendations? And do you celebrate Bonfire Night? Let me know in the comments! And have a great rest of the weekend!!

I am a MONSTER- some (really specific) bookish confessions

This is one of my favourite times of year. So to celebrate, I’ve dug deep and found some awfully specific, monstrous confessions. Let’s jump right in:

  1. writing in books exhibit aI’ve mentioned before, but I don’t take good care of my books– I write in them, I dogear the pages, I don’t (always) care if the spines are creased- still the vast majority are second hand, so #noguilt

 

  1. Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverI had a lot of firsts with Harry Potter, some of which may not be so popular… As some of you may know Harry Potter was the first “big” book I read, introducing me to the wonderful world of books when I was seven… but that’s not where the story ended and that’s not the only impact it had on my reading journey. You see, I’m actually sentimental about Harry Potter for a reason that might be sacrilegious to some: it’s also the first book I critiqued (#sorrynotsorry). Annnd even this little fact is enough to get me in trouble, so I’ll leave that there (can you tell I’m a little afraid? 😉 )

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  1. wideacreI stopped reading historical fiction for two years at one point. And since this is a confessions piece, I’m gonna be brutally honest: it was cos I was so scarred by Phillipa Gregory (and irritated by the historical inaccuracy in her books). I know that’s harsh, but it was especially harsh on me, cos I love a good piece of historical fiction. Of course, I stupidly picked up another Gregory book not so long ago… I never learn! Gah!

 

  1. murder-on-the-orient-express-agatha-christieI’ve never read an Agatha Christie book and I don’t plan to– it’s a niggling thing that I probably should, but at the same time I have no desire to pick one up no matter how many times I see it in the library.

 

 

  1. twilightI’m to blame for spreading Twilight round my year like a plague. This was unintentional- but I can never avoid the fact it was *my* copies of Twilight that did the rounds in my school. Oops.

 

 

  1. 'Me_Before_You'I don’t always cry at sad books– I was dried eyed over The Fault in Our Stars  and even in the notoriously devastating Me Before You– which I sobbed over- I cried at the *wrong* part. Highlight for spoiler: not the part when he dies, but when she’s raped earlier in the book.

 

 

  1. whoopsI answered a question on an exam once for a book I hadn’t read… because, you know, I hadn’t revised properly. And do you know what? I actually did just fine in that exam. Maybe the other sections pulled up the grade- but I distinctly remember that exam getting progressively more awful. (Of course I bluffed in class too, but I feel like this is slightly worse)

 

  1. grimmsI have *a lot* of different Fairy Tale anthologies– for instance I have 4 of Grimms alone… Normally I’m pretty good with book doubles- since I got my Shakespeare compendium, I’ve gotten rid of all other copies except a nice one of Richard II. BUT when it comes to Fairy Tales, there’s no limit to the number of copies I have/want. I mean there’s totally reasons for this: some of them are collectibles, others have different essays at the back, and I feel like with translations you need several versions to see which one you like (at least that’s my opinion- when I did Classics at uni, I generally felt it helped to have a minimum of three translations in front of you- especially if you were doing a close reading) So yeah… totally justifiable… (help me out here, I’m floundering a little 😉 )

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  1. eekI cannot always read books that hit too close to home– yeah I know we should read outside our comfort zone, but if a book is actually on a subject I know a lot about, I will (somewhat subconsciously) avoid it.

 

  1. City_of_Bones (1)I deliberately spoiled myself for the Mortal Instruments. I’m not even sorry I did this one, cos to be honest I *cannot* read books about incest. And obviously I did not think Clare was really gonna go in that direction, but I still had to find out for sure so I could be safe. The bad part about this was that once I checked it wasn’t actually the case, I still continued reading spoilers, cos I got a little hooked- so yeahhh, I spoiled a huge amount of that series for myself. Whoopsy daisy.

Okay, so now’s the time you can publically condemn/commend me! Were any of these particularly shocking? (so much so you can no longer look at my monkey face) Do you relate? Or do you have any oddly specific bookish confessions of your own? Let me know in the comments!

In Defence of Bad Parents in Books

No I don’t literally mean I’m defending bad parents in books (nothing makes me *rage* more than bad parents irl, so rest assured this is not a pro-abusive parents post, obviously). HOWEVER, more and more, I’m seeing people complain that there are not enough decent parent figures in books. And this is a fair criticism, because you know, not every parent has to be a totally useless douchbag. Yet there is something that can be said for lousy parents in books and there are plenty of reasons why this is a useful trope. So I’m gonna break it down today and talk about why sometimes it’s good to have bad parents in books:

stormbreakerIt can be plot expedient– I heard an author saying when I was younger that they always got the parents out of the way at the beginning so that children could have adventures- which I was a-okay with, cos I’m in favour of adventures. So yes, it may be ridiculous that somehow Alex Rider has managed to lose 3 parent figures, but at least that meant he was free to save the world (yes, said author was Anthony Horowitz).

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverThey provide a good foil for the hero– Let’s face it, we all love to hate villains. And what is more usefully positioned as a villain than a parent? They literally have access to where the hero sleeps, eats and can even control where they go to school. Think of all the added tension this provides! I mean, it was hard enough for Harry that he had to save the world from Voldemort, but every book had to deal with the Dursleys as well… Yikes- I’d pick Voldy any day 😉……………………………

City_of_Bones (1)It’s unsettling– of course “home” or “family” is *supposed* to be the safest thing in the world, yet revealing that the villain is none other than your father of all people can make the hero question everything. Are they still a good person? Were any of their positive memories real? Think of the trauma it created in Mortal Instruments when we find out that Valentine might have fathered not one, but two of our heroes (excusing the silly love triangle it created of course)

game of thrones book“Oh sympathy where have you gone…”– (three cheers if you know that song 😉 ) okay seriously though, where would be without the amount of sympathy that crappy parents instantly creates for the main character. Who can pretend like their sympathy for Samwell Tarley didn’t surge when we realised how bad his home life was in Game of Thrones. Realistically speaking, it’s easier for us as readers to sympathise with characters who have real problems, as opposed to the whiny self-obsessed heroine whose main concern is chipping a nail or who will take them to prom.

tuliptouchIt’s a fact of life– sure we’d like to believe every childhood is sunshine and kittens and rainbows, yet sadly too many children grow up in homes where abuse is the norm. Rather than normalising or encouraging these behaviours, having bad parents in books actually can provide comfort for children going through traumatic childhoods. It creates a sense that “you are not alone”. If we pretend like this is not a thing, we actually *do* risk normalising these behaviours, and ignoring the problem. As hard as sad as it is to acknowledge, books like Tulip Touch are true to some people’s experiences. So let’s not write children from abusive homes out of books, cos they do exist.

matildaIt can teach us all to be more empathetic– let’s face it, I will always champion books which can make us more empathetic to other people’s experiences. So even if a child has no point of reference for what it might be like to grow up in a negative home environment, books can be the gateway to understand different and difficult life experiences. Whether this is in realistic books, or stories like Matilda, we can identify the character traits and come to understand reality just that little bit more.

So do you agree or disagree? Do you think bad parents have a place in books? Let me know in the comments!

Types of Parents in Books

Hi all! I have a quick, fun post today about types of parents in books. Some of these I hate, some I like, let’s just get right to it…

  1. saint anythingNon-Absent Absentee Parents– gosh I hate these ones- they’re there, but they’re not quite *there*. They are totally oblivious to things like their daughter becoming a vampire or stupidly manage to somehow invite a sexual predator to come live with them (hello Saint Anything– yes I’m talking to you!) Easily confused with…

 

  1. twilightCool Cat Parents– you know the type: the I’m-so-cool-I’m-basically-your-sister ones. Not gonna lie, I find these ones irritating too. Because arghhh can’t they just be a parent for one second?! But no, they’re too busy being “scatty” (another word for useless) and marrying some sporty guy to actually be of some use (yes, I am talking about Bella Swan’s mum)

 

  1. to all the boysThe I’m-doing-the-best-I-can type– and I don’t mean that sarkily, I mean it in a sweet kind of way. I mean, they’re a bit rough around the edges, often still learning the ropes and can even have a ton of problems, but at least they’re trying to do the best they can! Like Lara Jean’s absolutely lovable dad- who hasn’t had it easy but makes things work.

 

  1. matildaTotally tyrannical– not to be confused with a tyrannosaurus rex, though they have that temperament. Nope, these are humans that have about as much virtue as a toilet brush. Take Mr and Mrs Wormwood as an example- they literally punished their daughter for reading. It doesn’t get much worse.

 

  1. City_of_Bones (1)The Villain All-Along– often slick and charming, this one can totally take us by surprise, cos they were the villain all along (chorus of sighs). I did think of an example here that was super spoilery, but decided not to go with it, so instead I’m just gonna say Valentine from Mortal Instruments) cos we all know he’s the bad guy.

 

Annnd I think I’ll leave it there for now. Which parents in books do you like the most? Which ones get on your last nerves? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Genuinely Unsettling Children’s Stories

Sometimes children’s books are scary when we think about them (sometimes they’re scary even if we don’t think about them). So I decided to compile a list of books for children that are really quite terrifying and will make adults wonder if there isn’t a monster hiding at the back of their closet… In no particular order:

  1. The Witches – Roald Dahl

thewitchesTo be honest, it’s a Dahl book, nuff said. I could literally pick a whole selection of Roald Dahl’s books- but since this one legitimately gave me nightmares, I had to choose it.

 

 

  1. Hansel and Gretel – Grimm’s Brothers

Hansel-and-gretel-rackhamI remember learning Bettleheim’s theory of how children will avoid stories that they find too much for them, and man, I heard this story once and avoided it like the plague. I know a lot of the Grimm’s tales are much grimmer in the original form, but this one is terrifying no matter which way you spin it and will always be the scariest of any collection. Plus, it doesn’t help that as an adult, I’ve heard some even freakier psychoanalytic readings of this story.

  1. Goosebumps: Calling All Creeps! – R L Stine

calling all creepsAgain, a lot of Stine’s books are creepy, but this one takes the biscuit… or cake… Seriously this book will make you look at bake sales in an entirely different light… (spoiler alert: it’s also one of the few scary kids’ books where the bad guys are allowed to win)

 

  1. Tales of Terror – Pike

pike tales of terrorThough I read this as a child, this one is for slightly older teens… and there’s a reason! I know I scare easily- but these have got to be some of the freakiest stories I’ve ever read. Still, I reread them so many times (goodness knows why!) and they left me all tingly and terrified every time!

 

  1. The Doomspell – Cliff McNish

doomspellI read a couple of McNish’s actual scary books when I was older and they had me sleeping with the light on- ironically though, nothing beats how absolutely mind-blowingly scary the witches are in this book!! I mean, if you thought the witches are scary in the Witches try reading this!!

 

  1. Tales of the Peculiar – Ransom Riggs

tales of the peculiarI saw online that this was aimed a 12+… 12+? Seriously? I read this when I was double that age and it freaked me out!! Okay, excusing the fact that I am a scaredy cat, this is actually an awesome collection.

 

  1. Coraline – Neil Gaiman

coralineAhh so many of Gaiman’s books are creepilicious and even though this may be aimed at a younger audience, it’s actually the most unsettling one I’ve read so far.

 

 

  1. Through the Woods – Emily Carroll

through the woodsAnother one aimed at 12+… I get the reasoning, since it doesn’t have anything graphic (no pun intended) in it, but I still don’t know if this would have scarred me as a twelve year old or just made me mature faster (and probably left me with even darker appetites in literature)

 

  1. Another Me – Cathy Macphail

another me macphailWhile not my favourite of Macphail’s books, she is definitely underrated (although I believe this one’s getting turned into a film) and this one genuinely scared me, because it had me thinking “what if”- speaking of which…

 

  1. Brother’s in the Land – Robert Swindells

brothers in the landApparently books like these about the nuclear apocalypse were all the range in the sixties, so when I excitedly told my mum about this book, she shrugged her shoulders at me. I, however, have found these books have gone out of fashion, so for me this was exciting, fresh and terrifying. Also, this is another author I believe is *massively* overlooked- sure, his books may not be new, but if you’re looking for scary reads you can’t go wrong with books like Abomination or Stone Cold.

So agree with my list? Disagree? And do you have any unsettling children’s books that come to mind? Let me know in the comments!