Totally Should’ve Book Tag

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Hello all! Gosh- I just looked at the date I was first tagged for this and had to double check my blog in case I’d already done it, cos it was sooo long ago. I guess that title says it all: I totally should have done this book tag already! Anyway, huge thank you to the queen of contemporary recs Deanna @A Novel Glimpse, the always awesome Rivermoose Reads and the supremely lovely Sophie @Blame Chocolate!

Totally Should’ve Gotten A Sequel

 It’s really hard to pick a standalone where I’d have liked a sequel, but I’m gonna go with I Capture the Castle– it doesn’t need a second one, but I’d just like more.

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 Totally Should’ve Had A Spin-Off Series

Harry Potter- we need a Marauders series already!!!

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 Totally Should’ve Ended Differently

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin… That ending was just ugh.

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 Totally Should’ve Had A T.V . Show

Ooh there are so many books being turned into TV shows, so maybe I can influence someone. I’d love it if the Black Magicians Trilogy was made into a series. And there’s a sequel series- so you know, the series could go on for ages *hint hint nudge nudge* tv producers 😉

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 Totally Should’ve Had A Film Franchise

Again- I can dream of someone actually listening to this- but how cool would the Shades of Magic series be if it was a film franchise?

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Also can we please please please have a Carry On Film?! (Please!!!)

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(okay I know I asked for two, but both of those would be amazing, and if you don’t ask, you don’t get)

 Totally Should’ve Had One Point of View

I think actually Knife Edge- while the first one worked really well with dual perspective, the second one could have done without it (as much as I am in love with this series)

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 Totally Should’ve Had A Cover Change

When in the history of books has anyone asked for a cover change?! I guess the new Mortal Instrument covers are an improvement (I’ll begrudgingly admit that the old ones needed to be updated).

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 Totally Should’ve Stopped Reading

Hush Hush– why oh why did I bother to finish that series?

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 Totally Should’ve Kept The Cover

Oh easy!! I woke up one day and my entire Iron Fey series on my kindle changed from this…

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To this…

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I’m sure everyone that hates seeing faces on covers was made happier by this change, but I just don’t find them as interesting to look at. And *I know* I shouldn’t really be upset cos these are virtual books and all… but it was just so sad :/

 Totally Shouldn’t Have Pre-judged

Hmm interestingly enough, I didn’t actually have high expectations for Daughter of Smoke and Bone- I’d read *a lot* of books around that time about angels and demons, but they’d all sucked. To say I was pleasantly surprised by it would be a *massive* understatement. I am so glad that I picked this book up anyway, cos this is one of my all-time favourite series now!!

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Totally Tagging:

Ali @I Wuv Books, Daley Downing, Didi Oviatt, Panic at the Bookstore, Maniacal Book Unicorn, Marie’s Library, Charlotte Annelise and Michaela @ Journey into Books (as usual no pressure to do it- yada yada yada)

And that’s all folks! Do you *totally* agree with my answers? Or *totally* disagree? Or just *totally* think I need to stop saying *totally*? 😉 Let me know in the comments!

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Shabby Sunday – Random Discoveries…

Hello all- I just have a quick post for you today, cos my computer has been temperamental all day (it’s called the Mad Hatter for a reason 😉 )

“Shabby Sunday” is a really cool meme about sharing old books, created by the awesome Mischenko over @ReadRantRock&Roll– she does this every week, so I highly recommend checking her out. I don’t normally get into memes, but this one just spoke to me, especially cos I made a couple of exciting discoveries in a pile of old books recently, including this copy of Middlemarch:

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Quite unassuming on the outside, but look at the date!

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It turned up in some of my mum’s old books, though she has no idea where it came from. Now I’ll admit Middlemarch is not my favourite George Eliot (too many descriptions of provincial life made me dock bananas) but no bookworm can fail to be excited about a book over a hundred years old!

Okay admittedly some people won’t be excited by that, which is why I’m leaving you with some lovely pics of an old copy of Vanity Fair- likewise the cover is quite plain- however inside it has the most gorgeous illustrations!

I’ve not actually read this book yet- though I’ve been meaning to- rest assured I won’t risk reading this copy as it’s pretty fragile (fortunately I have one of those freebie copies on my kindle). Regardless it was a lovely discovery to make cos I just love ogling old books from time to time 😉

And that’s all from me for today! Let me know what you think of either of these in the comments!

Some Casual Book Porn

Okay- before everyone gets their panties in a twist, no this is not actual porn. I’ve just accumulated a lot of books for my physical TBR lately and thought I might share it with you.

So here are the books that have been sitting on my shelf a while…

IMG_20170929_183727563And then there are the books I got a couple of days ago from the library because for some reason I worried I wouldn’t have enough to read (well I actually went to give some books back, but who has the willpower to walk into a *house of books* and come out with nothing?)IMG_20170929_183654230And I got these for my birthday yesterday….

Since we’re on the subject I also got the fifth season of Game of Thrones on DVD and this (super easy) guitar book cos I’ve been teaching myself for a few months and my family are bored of hearing me play “Auld Lang Syne” over and over 😉 (plus this just so happens to be my favourite Beatles album cos it’s all their number one hits!)

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So there you have it, plenty of bookish delights to get off on (sorry I couldn’t resist!)

Have you read any of these? Did you like them? (I don’t actually want to hear if you didn’t since I’m gonna read them anyway now haha!)

Books With A Predictive Function

Hello all! Just a quick post today as I thought I’d share what I think are the most prophetic books ever written. Cos sometimes all I want to do is plug some of my favourite books and hail authors as geniuses. And no, these are not my spooky predictions for the future, because the events of these books have already come to pass. So I promise that none of this will happen again… (I hope).

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1984 – Yes, yes, I basically created this list because I finally wrote my review for this book the other day and the thought of this coming true is still fresh in my mind. Of course, Orwell’s novel in part relates to the tragedy of communist experiment unfolding at the time of writing, which somewhat takes away its “predictive function”, yet the fear that this could re-emerge in the future is evident in how many times lately we’ve heard the phrase “it’s like 1984”. *Shudders all round*.

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War of the Worlds – Whenever I think of “author turned prophet” I think of H G Wells, because man I’m not kidding, you can find *a ton* of his predictions online that came true (including the atom bomb). The reason why I’m including this one is mainly cos it’s the only one I’ve read and I enjoyed it so much that I thought now would be a good time to recommend it- but Wells did manage to predict Lasers in this book (published in 1898) which is pretty darn cool if you ask me.

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Notes from the Underground – Did he define the 19th century man or undermine it? Is Dostoevsky foretelling the collapse of humanism or simply bearing witness? Hard to tell- but one can be certain that there is an eye to the future in all of Dostoevsky’s works. Not least in the way he (using Nietsche as a guide) practically predicted the Soviet Union- however there is a better example of that in…

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The Trial – It’s *freaky* how similar the surreal world Kafka presents is to Solzhenitsyn’s real life descriptions. I swear that before I began reading Gulag Archipelago I did not see an ounce of realism in this story. Oh how I wish that was still the case. And speaking of reality…

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Fahrenheit 451 – Okay, so I’m cheating with this one, because this book is more reflective of Nazism than reinventing the wheel. However, I cannot help but praise its genius for the way it captures elements of history and transposes them onto the future. The possibility of this happening again is, horrifyingly, all too real.  If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this a-m-a-z-i-n-g book, you can check out my review here.

Phew! That was a pretty gloomy post! Have you read any of these? Do you have any more suggestions for eerily prophetic books? Let me know in the comments!

1984 Has Come And Gone… Or Has It?

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“Everyone always thinks everything is 1984,” my brother says “except things that actually are.”

How true that is. Not a day goes by when someone, somewhere tells us something is “just like 1984”. Last week for instance, failed candidate for US presidency Hilary Clinton published a book that told us the true meaning of 1984 is how you should put our faith in the people in charge:

“Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism … this is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered. The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust towards exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves.

With a nice sleight of hand, Clinton tries to make us see that two plus two is in fact five and that Orwell’s true intent was to make us trust authority- who knew? Of course, sarcasm aside, if you ignore the initial subterfuge of her quote, you’ll see where Clinton’s literary analysis is lacking. For that scene is not about making Winston, an already highly sceptical character, question his surroundings, but quite the opposite- it is to make him an obedient cog in the society’s machine. Regardless of what you may think of current orange overlords, the message of 1984 is not to give over your wits to leaders who’ve been in office for 30 years or the oh-so-saintly media.

1984 is a profoundly anti-authoritarian book. It is, as the quote on my book jacket aptly says “a powerful cry for freedom of thought and expression”. More than anything it is a call for individuality against an authority that would seek to wipe out any shade of difference in thought or feeling. To such an ideology dissent is dangerous, thinking something different is not okay and dialogue is a form of violence (conveniently so that it can put down with actual violence).

And yes, all that I’m saying is obvious- yet somehow I see so many people missing the point of the book. For me, reading this alongside Solzhenitsyn, there could be no doubt of the parallels with communist societies. In case the use of the word  “comrade” wasn’t clear enough, the break-up of families, re-education and kangaroo courts should be a clue. But alas, people are so focused on fascism that they fail to see these vivid parallels.

Beyond this historicity, there were many issues that chillingly reminded me of our own society. Everyone has their personal “take away” from this book- somewhere they’ve seen bureaucracy get out of hand perhaps, or worse, freedom of thought be inhibited. For me, the moment came when I read this quote:

“Winston had a curious feeling that this was not a real human being anymore but some kind of dummy. It was not a man’s brain that was speaking, it was his larynx”

I was cast back to university and the shallow schools of thought (yes, that’s right I went there- but where else can I express myself if not a piece on Orwell?) which act as a substitute for engaging your brain and encourages lazy thinking. Implement a feminist reading, for instance, and the sight of a naked lady in art equals “females lacking power in a patriarchal society”- the book can be labelled as oppressive or sexist and the reader gets to go away feeling clever without ever having to think. Nice and convenient.

But there were more universal messages here too. There were the infamous mentions of “Newspeak”- everyone and their mother has heard someone use this term lately- and that’s because there are an awful lot of people with all kinds of agendas telling everyone what they can and cannot say, adding new (and unnecessary) words to the lexicon to further some political end, and throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way. Frankly, this should terrify us more than anything, for controlling language is a way to control thoughts (to paraphrase Jordan B Peterson, articulation is how we formulate our ideas).

Naturally this also lends itself to one of the biggest messages of the book: the ability to determine what is true. For if you cannot think, you cannot determine what reality is. In the book, the most significant manifestation of this is five minutes of hate directed at Emmanuel- the enemy constructed to be the all-encompassing target of baseless anger. It could be that he is someone genuinely flawed, or not, it does not matter. As long as there is a single individual on whose shoulders we can place all our blame for society’s woes.

Yet for all this, I did not see this book as a call to implement systems or for angry mobs to overthrow governments. Again this would be a misunderstanding of Orwell- for this book, together with Animal Farm, explicitly demonstrates how *all* power can be corrupted. No it is not a book to inspire a collective- it is a call for individuality. Maybe even to be that one person in the crowd whom people hurl abuse at. It is up to the individual to wake up and pay attention. To see what is going on under our very nose. To speak while we still can speak, to laugh, to refuse to be cowed. Freedom is whittled away all the time and most of the time we don’t even notice- well here’s a book telling us to take notice.

Nor do I think this was a book calling for the creation of a utopia- as this book exemplifies and history teaches, utopian philosophies (including Nazism and Marxism) veer straight into a dystopic reality as soon as they’re implemented. More’s the pity then that so many modern dystopias end in the overthrow of a government and the set-up of something resembling a utopia. Yes, every dystopia is a direct descendent of this great book, and yet so many miss the mark (I can only praise the rare endings such as in The Declaration where a system is set up, but it is implied it would go the same way as the last). There is something infinitely gloomy about dystopias and one cannot pretend they offer all the solutions.

Bleak as it is, ten years ago when I first read this book, I was so struck by the sheer horror of it, I closed it and thought “never again”. Yet after rereading it and getting so much more out of it this time round, I know that it is a novel that must be read and reread. And what with constant frustrations to our freedom in the world around us, I am sure to find myself revisiting it in the future. In which case, to return to my brother’s quote at the beginning… maybe everything really is 1984.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you read this masterpiece? Will you read it? Let me know in the comments below!

How Realistic Should Books Be?

CharlieMERKELEons and eons ago I read a post about how we *need* more bodily functions in books- now my first instinct was (naturally) “EWW”, quickly followed by “you need to read more books”. Let’s dispense with that myth right away, because bodily functions come up in books way more than you think, the most obvious example being its use in the satiric tradition. Everyone and their mother- from Horace to cartoonists in Charlie Hebdo- have used this technique at some point. Sorry to those writers who think this is the road to uniqueness, but this is nothing “new” or “EDGY” 😉

beautiful broken thingsYet this is just symptomatic of a wider issue. Because more and more I’m seeing books and art trying to replicate the most mundane parts of human existence. As I mentioned in my review of Beautiful Broken Things, there were far *too many* references to texting and social media squeezed in. Apart from being extremely dull, it served *no purpose* in the book. Which brings me to my first rule of thumb…

game of thrones bookFOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY (and unholy) don’t do this if you don’t have a reason. I’m never one to entirely close off any avenues when it comes to art- and this subject is no different. Thus WHEN IT SERVES A PURPOSE it is perfectly reasonable to include it. I mean, we can all think of how much grittier the death of a certain somebody is in Game of Thrones when they are dispatched whilst on the toilet. That shock factor killed it for me.

deenieIt’s therefore apparent that this can be a feature in some books, but authors really ought to know their genre. As I’ve already mentioned crude jokes easily fit into comedic subject matter, yet I do think this can be expanded out into other areas. Personally, when I was a teen I was very grateful for books by Judy Blume for educating me and normalising a lot of things I didn’t understand at the time.

the recruit cherubHOWEVER this should be used sparingly- and I mean SPARINGLY. It is way too easy for this trope to be overused- for instance, while it was funny the first time a major spy operation in the Cherub series was interrupted by someone’s inability to control their bladder, this quickly got overused and became an *insert we need a bit more drama* crutch for the plot. Not good.

my-bed-tracey-emin-011Gross gimmicks and the like should never be the sole focus of any piece of art. To my mind this merely debases the medium. It’s no secret at this stage that I am disparaging of some forms of modern art (#notall). I never argue that it’s not art- that would be as pointless as the art itself- only that it is poor versions of art. For art, good art, can be appreciated on multiple levels, whereas something like Tracy Emin’s bed is designed to shock and repulse you, which really takes little effort to achieve and has no depth of meaning.

judeOn the other end of the spectrum, one can take a look at the horrors of a book like Jude the Obscure. Many people would argue this also has shocking moments (don’t worry, no spoilers) but every single shock is woven into the story for a good reason. It is supposed to make you feel the plight of the poor, the constant injustices, the impossibility of bettering oneself. Yes, it is a book designed to make you feel shell-shocked, though not without just cause. No one could say this could be read on one level alone.

0787_07Still, as any fantasy lover knows, there are *plenty* of books which avoid any hint of the real world altogether and that is a-okay with me. Not all books are designed to be realistic and the ones that are don’t always need to scream its realism at us. Sometimes what we need from books is a touch of idealism. The Alexei Karamazov’s of the book world inspire us to be better; Michaelangelo’s Pieta’s lift us up out of our murky human existence to something resembling the divine. Art should be truer than the real world. Reducing it down to the basic necessities of life- and yes, weirdly enough, facebook and the like has become a part of that- gives us nothing as readers. Frankly, I know how to send/receive a text and most of us know how our body works- we don’t need reminding of these things all the time. Publishers, authors, readers take note- this is not a burning issue (if it is for you, please see a doctor).

Well, that was a subject I never thought I’d cover. I feel a little dirty now. What do you think? How real should books be? Let me know in the comments!

The Ugly Truth About Beautiful Broken Things

beautiful broken thingsThis is the story of how everything went wrong. First of all, I went to the library to pick up another book by the author- yet for some unexplained reason this book was there in its stead. Then, I read the book… gah- well you’ll all get to hear more about what I thought about that in a minute. Finally I came to write the review… annnd I lost my notes. So nothing’s really gone right with this book, but that’s okay we’ll improvise!

Starting out with Beautiful Broken Things, I knew right away that this book and I were going to have problems. It quickly became apparent that the style was childish and the author had chosen to integrate irrelevant text conversations into the narrativenot good. All the quirky formatting and the constant intrusion of social media did nothing for me. In fact, it made the story feel even more mundane than I was already suspecting it would be.

Because my goodness, way too much of the subject matter was inane-it was like getting stuck on the train without headphones and being unable to tune out a grating, trivial conversation.  I know we praise books for being “real” but there is a limit to how much I want a book to resemble reality. When it feels this uninteresting, it no longer feels like literature, but rather one of those transcripts taken to observe an accent for a historical record.

And so I cannot say this book was unrealistic. Nor was it an entirely inaccurate portrayal of mental illness, which will no doubt have many people reaching for it (since that’s the hot topic of the day). BUT hold your horses. I will not pretend to favour books which are designed to be educational over those that are artistic when dealing with this topic, yet when books are designed to be educational (as I would classify this book) I would hope that they would tread carefully. Unfortunately, I did not think this book would be a good educational tool since along with the truths it uttered, it wound in so much pseudo-science nonsense.

A little truth can be a dangerous thing and when reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel like this would serve as more of a “how to self-destruct” guide, especially considering the over-sensationalised ending. I am loathe to tell people what they should and shouldn’t read- not least cos people will immediately run away and do the opposite. But, and I rarely if ever say this, I do not see how this can be a healthy read. I would not give this to teenagers- I honestly do not believe it is appropriate. All I can praise with regards to how it deals with mental health is the list of charities at the end.

Add to that a truly detestable main character, who undermines all of the logic in the book, and this was not a worthwhile reading experience for me. Honestly, I found her to be a totally spoilt weirdo, who was so obsessed with courting drama that she somehow takes a traumatised classmate under her wing… by being a total bitch to her (see what I mean about lacking logic!?!) I did think it was clever to present the book from her perspective, because it did highlight the idea that someone can appear to be functioning just fine to an outsider, and that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. Like I said, there were the occasional messages that hit the right spot- it’s just a shame most of it missed by miles.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Will you read it? Let me know in the comments!