Historical Fiction That Stayed With Me

I used to think I wasn’t a fan of historical fiction and that I never could become one (largely I blame Phillippa Gregory’s ridiculous books). BUT then I realised there was so much astounding historical fiction out there that I was really doing it a disservice and limiting myself far too much. In the last few years, the number of historical fiction books I’ve read has skyrocketed and I’ve discovered some shiny new favourites. Today, I wanted to share with you just some of the most memorable historical fiction I’ve read in recent years:

Code Name Verity– this female-led WW2 novel is guaranteed to shoot you down and hit you in the *FEELS*!

Beneath a Scarlet Sky– the imagery in this WW2 historical fiction (based on real events) is so strong I can’t get them out of my head! There are so many scenes that I have replaying in my head. It is a story that cannot be forgotten. 

The Nightingale– considering I don’t read a lot of WW2 books, this list is full of them! But Hannah’s take on the French resistance and occupation is one of the most powerful portrayal’s I’ve ever picked up and well worth checking out (if you haven’t done so already!)

What the Wind Knows– I’m not always one for time-traveling books, but this one set in Ireland during the troubles swept me away. I lost myself in this unusual stand-out romance and can happily recommend you do the same!

Kindred– speaking of books that blend time travel with history, I would be remiss not to mention Butler’s brilliant novel on the American slave trade. Insightful and harrowing, it’s an unforgettable read.

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo– one of the things I admire most about Reid’s new books is her sense of time and place. And a big bonus is her unusual choice of time periods and characters- like in this showstopping historical fic set in the golden age of Hollywood. 

The Familiars– if you really want to forget the familiar, then getting lost in Halls’ witchy historical fiction could be for you. With more heart than I was expecting, this gets to the heart of witch trials in the darkest corners of Northern England.

Wolf Hall– okay yes, the Tudors have been done to death… but what about a take on Cromwell plotting all those deaths?! Mantel’s masterful series

The Huntress– it’s hard to choose between this and Quinn’s Alice Network (following female spies in WW1)- but I had to go with this cross between a thriller and historical fiction because this post WW2 Nazi hunt kept me on the edge of my seat for every turn of the page.

Alias Grace– and for something a bit different, this historic murder mystery is a slightly supernatural thriller that will take you on a very unexpected journey. Crossing continents and into deadly realms, you may get more than you bargain for if you pick this up 😉

And that’s all I’ve got… for now! I definitely want to build on this list- so what books do you recommend?? What are your favourite historical fiction novels? Let me know in the comments!

Weird Books and Plays I Like

Cos I’m a great big weirdo 😉

Book of Hidden Things– this is easily the most unpopular book on this list and yet I absolutely love this odd story set in southern Italy. Four friends meet up every year for a pact with a dark origin. Devilish and superbly strange, I recommend this for anyone looking for a book with a bit of atmosphere and a lot of weird goings-on.

Wolf in the Whale– another book that may not be particularly well-known (and yet is totally worth checking out), this historical fiction with a magical-bent imagines what happened when the Vikings invaded Inuit land (hint: it’s grim and fascinating)

Coraline– dark as hell, this parent-swap story will give you nightmares (if you’re like me and easily scared that is 😉)

Alice in Wonderland– the classic weird book!! I’d be remiss not to mention Carroll’s masterpiece. Fun and more than a little peculiar, Alice is a delightful (and sometimes scary) vision of a mad world… but then, we’re all a little mad here 😉

Waiting for Godot– it was a toss up between this and Endgame, as both fit the bill of being exceptionally weird! Of course, it’s all a metaphor for life and god and yada yada yada… but you can’t avoid the fact it’s an odd play!! Especially thanks to Beckett’s trademark trick of having you laugh in the midst of all the dark chaos.

The Rhinosaurus– Eunesco’s theatre of the absurd isn’t all that absurd given the society we live in. When you think about the society we live in, it’s hardly unusual for people to be wondering if the random rhino waltzing across the stage has one horn or two.

The Trial– the expression Kafkaesque exists for a reason- and yet this novel is the least odd on the list (considering how close to reality it can be). 

The Stranger– well, it’s no surprise that a book with this title is a little strange- but then Camu’s existential tale of murder was hardly going to be straightforward, right?

Alright, that’s all for now! Do you have anymore weird and wonderful suggestions for me? And have you enjoyed any of these books too? Let me know in the comments!

Humorous horror, Amusing Mysteries & Light Thrillers!

Because sometimes there can be a hint of light in the darkest of books!

Horrorstor– this is my number one pick for a horror book AND a humorous graphic novel! Such an unusual book, styled like an Ikea catalogue, it tells the story of a haunted furniture shop. Which, as it turns out, can be creepy as hell!

The Ivies– mean girls meets murder in this (somewhat satiric) boarding school drama, where, as it turns out, ultra-competitive college admissions can be deadly. And while the characters in this book may take their futures very seriously indeed, the author had a lot of fun with this topic and didn’t take herself too seriously… which made for a great read!

The Thursday Murder Club– on the subject of amusing murder mysteries, this story of a crack-team of old aged pensioners solving crime is absolutely as entertaining as it sounds!

The Appeal– this book is enjoyable in so many ways! Not only is it a book which pokes fun at English village life, but it also allows *you* to solve the mystery it sets up. With emails and a series of clues, the reader gets to answer the who, what and why for themselves. 

The Maid– far more character-driven than most mysteries, the focus is far less on the plot and more on the personal development of the protagonist. I found myself rooting for the maid throughout this emotional read.

***BONUS*** Good Omens– while not technically a thriller, I do think that the APOCALYPSE IS NIGH plot is a pretty thrilling topic… and only a duo like Pratchett and Gaiman could’ve made it as hilarious as they did!

And that’s all for now! Do you agree with my choice? Do you have any suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

Moody Books!

Because I’m in a bit of a mood… for some spook season books! 😉

Gallant– this was my latest moody read and it was just perfect for those Halloween vibes! Scwhab brilliantly executed this dark family drama with its edgy fairy tale feel.

Our Crooked Hearts– possibly the moodiest book I’ve read this year, Our Crooked Hearts is an angsty coming of age story full of witches and dark deeds that will haunt you for years to come.

House of Hollow– on that note, here’s another edgy book for those looking for a strong dose of YA horror! 

Winterwood– of course, if you’re looking for something a little more witchy, you absolutely will not go wrong with Shea Ernshaw’s stunningly atmospheric story!

Wuthering Heights– delving more into realistic books (but still with an edge of the ethereal) Wuthering Heights is an excellent classic for those seeking something a little gloomy for those autumnal nights. 

Book of Hidden Things– but if you need something a little weirder and totally different, then perhaps pick up this odd little book set in Southern Italy. If you want something that will take you far away from the everyday and will leave you with an unsettling feeling of unknowing- look no further!

Darkest Part of the Forest– one of the more unusual fairy tale style stories I’ve read, this will take you from the everyday into, well, the darkest part of the forest where you’ll discover the Fae aren’t quite so lovely as they’re often portrayed. 

The Diviners– sticking with YA, I thoroughly enjoyed this supernatural series, with its murder mysteries and end-of-the-world-is-nigh plots! Such an inventive quartet that’s absolutely worth picking up (particularly in audiobook form thanks to the wonderful January LaVoy)

Raven Boys– you really can’t beat this series for atmosphere and pretty prose! With its premise of the heroine’s first love being doomed to die, this definitely has its moody moments (in amongst all the adventure and excitement). 

Darker Shade of Magic– seems like a good idea to begin and end a post like this with a Schwab book, since no one does moody quite like her 😉 and I really do love this fantasy series for its melancholic tone and sombre storylines. 

And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? And do you have any other moody suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

Books set in Bookshops!!

Books, books and more books- that’s what this blog is all about! Which is why I’m sharing some books set in one of my happy places… bookshops!

Words in Deep Blue– this is a book about finding your way back to yourself after deep grief- so it is fitting that much of it is set in a place that offers so much meaning to the world.  

One True Loves– yes, it’s another book where the protagonist overcomes loss by immersing herself in the bookish world, but this one has more of a twist. Instead, the bookshop is a place to find yourself, when everything seems lost.

Shadow of the Wind– you had to know this book would be on this list! This stunning mystery begins with the discovery of a very special book from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, setting in motion a story that will sweep you away to the streets of Barcelona.

Neverending Story– another very special story that begins in a bookshop and takes you far away to discover the worth of stories themselves.

84 Charing Cross Road– a charming and humorous read that really shows how books (and bookshops) can bring us together!

You– annnd for a complete change of pace, I’ve included this sharp thriller. As much as Joe, the novel’s pov, would like you to believe he is simply a sweet and thoughtful bookseller…

Honestly I really want to read more books set in bookshops cos this list doesn’t seem long enough! Do you have any recommendations? What books do you love set in bookshops? Let me know in the comments!

A Few Clever and Brilliant Dark Academia Books

Cloak-and-dagger societies, creepy libraries and gothic settings- what’s not to love about dark academia? As we step into the autumn months, I know I’m looking for those cosy, mysterious, atmospheric reads. So what better than a little dark academia to get us in the mood…

Ninth House– Bardugo’s adult horror certainly packs a punch. A pacy fantasy filled with intrigue, it’s certainly a good place to start if you’re looking for something truly dark.

A Deadly Education– what could be more fitting for this topic than a book about a school trying to kill its students?

The Furies– witchy and dark, this mythically inspired book definitely delves into dark academia with its philosophical air.

Secret History– aside from having a very clever murder mystery at its core, the book is steeped in the study of classics.

The Maidens– this takes dark academia to another level. Bringing Greek mythology into the modern world, it’s not just the students who are about to be schooled in just how dark classics can be.

The It Girl– I’m including this for the settings more than anything else. Based in Oxford and Edinburgh, it has that academic vibe just from the atmosphere. Besides, part of the fun of the mystery is tied to the prestigious location.

The Ivies– anyone fancy cutthroat college admissions? Because that’s what this YA thriller’s all about. Of course, this doesn’t have the moody tone dark academia is famous for, but it certainly has an air of mystery and is a fun one to cleanse the palate!

And that’s all for now! Did you enjoy any of these? What are your favourite dark academia books? Let me know in the comments!

My Ultimate Austen Adaptation Ranking

Last month, I was inspired to reread and rewatch some of the works of Austen. And once I got started, I couldn’t stop. Because, well, it’s Austen. And who doesn’t love knowing there’s going to be a happy ending? However, when it comes to adaptations they are not always guaranteed (as well we know). Which is why I decided to rank these- hopefully if you follow this list you might at least avoid some major disappointment 😉

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, since I haven’t watched all the movies and tv series (there’s A LOT!) And I decided that while Mansfield Park is a good adaptation, I’d leave it off this list, since my view will be coloured by the fact I don’t like it much as a story.

Anyhoo, let’s get onto the rankings, shall we?

#13 Persuasion 2022– they didn’t even try with this one. As I discussed in my review it was NOTHING like the original. And it was boring to boot. So yeah, not much of an adaptation.

#12 Sense and Sensibility 1995– *unpopular opinion* I really didn’t like this movie. It just doesn’t capture the magic of the book for me and feels more like lots of other soapy shmultzy Hollywood romances. I must be one of the only people to think this way (given all the accolades its received) but it feels disconnected to the source material for me. Particularly with regard to the casting for the sisters.

#11 Clueless– it’s a great idea… but somehow transposing the story onto Beverley Hills just ruins it for me. I can manage to appreciate Emma in the regency period, but when she’s the modern day equivalent, I find her extremely irritating.

#10 Bridget Jones Diary– I know this isn’t a direct adaptation, but that’s not gonna stop me including it. And unfortunately, simply having Colin Firth is not enough to make me love this movie. I might have been the wrong age for it when it came out and I don’t believe its aged that well.

#9/#8 Persuasion 1995/Persuasion 2007– I’m gonna be lazy and stick these two together. Both of them are fine, but nothing spectacular. WHICH IS WHY WE NEED A GOOD PERSUASION ADAPTATION- GAH!!!

#7 Emma 1996– this is reasonably high simply because I really like the Mr Knightley in this one. It’s nothing special as an adaptation, but I do enjoy watching it.

#6 Emma 2009– I often think the TV versions work better- and this is a good example of that. With plenty of space, there was more of a chance to get the book right. And this version also manages to have quite a bit of passion behind it.

#5 Emma 2020– it’s a shock to me this is so high up the list, considering I didn’t even want to watch it at one point. But this genuinely made me laugh, had *the best* Emma and was a joy to watch. I would’ve even rated it even higher… had it not been for the nosebleed scene.

#4 Pride and Prejudice 2005– gosh this is a very romantic version. It’s not as accurate simply because it’s compressed to fit the run time. But it’s a lovely movie all the same. And Keira Knightley makes an excellent Lizzie Bennet (even if no one could ever believe her plain). Not as sold on Darcy if I’m honest.

#3 Northanger Abbey 2007– this is just such a fun adaptation. I love how they were rather playful with this adaptation- it suits the tone and book so well. It never fails to put me in a good mood and is a pleasure to rewatch.

#2 Sense and Sensibility 2008– not my favourite of the books and yet it ranks so much higher on this list because of how beautifully its done. It brings tears to my eyes every time and captures both the sense and sensibility sides of the story.

#1 Pride and Prejudice 1995– because you simply can’t beat it.

Okay, dare I ask: do you agree or disagree with my ranking? What are your favourite Austen adaptations? And which ones do you dislike? Let me know in the comments!

Books I don’t like that will end up as classics

*I think

**don’t stone me if I’m wrong

I’ve often discussed books that I think will end up as classics. Indeed, even talked about books that I would LOVE to get that moniker (but sadly don’t think it’s realistic). Yet recently I was thinking of all the books that end up in the classics section that I don’t like. Ergo, it stands to reason there’s going to be a fair number of books in the future that I really don’t like that are considered classics. I’m not sure that any of these will become classics (and goodness knows in some cases I’d really rather they didn’t) but here’s a few books that I think will end up on those shelves one day:

Conversations with Friends– if I’m feeling really pessimistic, then I’d say this’ll end up as a classic. God knows, some people think there’s something profound about the millennial ennui of the characters, their insipid ramblings and awful behaviour. But clearly, it’s going over well with the “right” sort of people, so what do I know?

Atonement– honestly, I’d really rather McEwan doesn’t end up in the classics’ section. I once went to a lecture where the professor praised him for his sense of chronology… and if that doesn’t tell you the levels of mediocrity I think his writing stoops to, I don’t know what will. Anyway, what was I saying about him being a future classic? Oh yeah, it’s probably going to happen. Because there are people (far more important than me and you) who think that he’s saying something profound with his writing. And I for one think that if it has to happen with any of his books, it ought to be Atonement, quite simply because it’s the best of a bad bunch. In theory, it has an interesting plot and characters (even if in actuality its rather a dry book that’s surpassed by its film adaptation).

Girl Woman Other– I’m going to struggle to say anything positive about this book, since I’m rather a fan of punctuation. Still, there are those who deem it an important and seminal work of literature… I think you’ll have to go find a review from one of those people if you want to know why it’ll probably end up as a classic. Also, it has a Booker Prize, so it’ll probably end up as a classic whether I care for it or not.

Handmaid’s Tale– this is perhaps the most meritorious of the books on this list. Particularly as Atwood is such a stellar writer. However, as I’ve made clear in other posts, I’ve no admiration for Atwood’s logic (or lack thereof) in her worldbuilding, so this will never be a favourite of mine. That said, I think that it certainly leads to thought-provoking discussion.

The Goldfinch– okay this is also not a bad book at all, just one I didn’t love. I strongly believe that the Secret History is Tartt’s masterpiece, BUT I can see the intrigue and deep characterisation in this book, even if I wasn’t bowled away by it. I definitely think that this could warrant being studied and pored over by future generations.

Okay, I think I managed to shake off some of my negativity towards the end of this post! Even if it was a tricky task!!

What do you think? Will these end up as classics? Do you agree or disagree with my sentiments? And do you have any books you hate that you reckon will become classics anyway? Let me know in the comments! Don’t be shy!

If you didn’t like this, try that…

Because I felt like turning the “if you like this, try that…” post on its head. So I’ve picked a bunch of not-so-popular books and books I frankly just don’t like annnd have decided to suggest some (better) alternatives. Let’s get to it!

Twilight Try… basically any actual vampire book

But alright since I’m pushed to it, I’m suggesting the classic take (admittedly this one was tricky for me, since I don’t actually like vampire books much).

Duke and I Try A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting

A modern twist on regency that’s not rapey!! Also, it happens to be a lot of fun and hella romantic to boot.

Inspector Calls Try Between Shades of Grey

If you want to know what the ideas Priestly was promoting actually resulted in, try one this brilliant YA by Sepetys. Unless you think communism is cool, in which case, I can’t help you.

Eragon Try Lord of the Rings

And while you’re at it, maybe watch the original Star Wars trilogy. You’ll get an idea of what he was going for without having to read the work of a fourteen year old bankrolled by his parents.

Hush Hush Try Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Basically, I’d suggest not trying any other angel and demon love story. This is the only one you’ll ever need. Which is a good thing, since all the other ones are rubbish.

The Magicians Try Unkindness of Magicians

This might be one of the only ones where I’m in the minority, but for me an Unkindness of Magicians was the savage and cutting edge adult magician story I was looking for when I picked up the Magicians. If I could go back in time and only read one, I’d pick An Unkindness every time.

And that’s all for now! Have I convinced you to try any of these? Do you agree or disagree with some of my picks? And do you have any other (better) suggestions (particularly for Twilight)? Let me know in the comments!

If you like this, try that…

Here’s a classic post that I don’t know if I’ve ever actually done… so I’m doing it! I thought it would be fun to take popular books and recommend something similar (but also quite different that you may never have heard of!) Let’s jump right into it!

Game of Thrones Try Dark Queens

Okay, yes, there’s no dragons or magic or undead zombies BUT there’s more than enough machinations and crazy royals to go round. Absolutely worth giving this non fic a go if you want to know about a real-life game of thrones.

Man’s Search for Meaning Try Happiest Man on Earth

While this has very different messaging, I do think this is another life-affirming book about the Holocaust that everyone should try (and perhaps is not quite as well known).

Radio Silence Try Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry

Because we need more books about what it’s like to fumble through teenage-hood. This is such a strong coming of age story- particularly because the main character really doesn’t have it all figure out… and isn’t that the whole point of coming of age stories??

The Light Between Worlds Try Elidor

Perhaps both of these are not quite as well known as they should be HOWEVER I strongly feel like these takes on the Narnia-style portal story are TOTALLY worth reading. Both show that leaving your world behind and going through a transformative (and indeed traumatic) experience is not something you can just shrug off.

Six of Crows Try the Thief

Though this lacks the band-of-brothers-and-sisters feel of Six of Crows, I do recommend this for a similarly dramatic heist story. And, while very different, the characters are the standout part of the book.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown Try Summer Job

Because the fish-out-of-water, last-chance-to-make-it story really reminded me of this fun rom com I read last year. Both books are exactly what I needed to relax in the hot weather!

And that’s all I have for now! Do you have any other recommendations for these? Do you agree with my suggestions? Let me know in the comments!