Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Monthly Review: February 2017

 
What I Read
I re-read two books, Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay and (for the Old School Kidlit challenge) The Tanglewoods' Secret by Patricia St. John. The first of these I enjoyed much more than I did the first time around, the second not as much.
 
I also read quite a lot of other books; mostly classics. I really enjoyed A World of Girls by L.T. Meade, The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, and Half Magic by Edward Eager, and also quite enjoyed The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.
 
In terms of modern books, Alice-Miranda on Holiday by Jacqueline Harvey turned out to be just about as good as the first book in the series; St Grizzle's School for Girls, Goats and Random Boys was quite enjoyable, although a little bit silly, and I felt that A Quiet Kind of Thunder, although not in a genre I read much, presented a good representation of a character struggling with anxiety and selective mutism.
 
Reviews I've written are linked in book titles; reviews for some of the other books should appear soon.
 
Reading Challenge Progress
I've had a bit more success this month than last!
Old School Kidlit: This month's theme was a book you loved in childhood. I reread The Tanglewoods' Secret, the review of which should hopefully be up tomorrow.
Mount TBR: Two of the books I read this month counted for this: Saffy's Angel and The Tanglewoods' Secret. Both were rereads but fit the requirements for the challenge (books I read at least five years ago and bought after the first time I read them).
Back to the Classics: I've only just joined this challenge, but I've already managed to cross off one category; A Wrinkle in Time counts as my award-winning classic. My review should be up soon.
 
I re-read two books this month, which puts my total at four. I haven't read any non-fiction, but I read two books last month, so I'm still on track for twelve this year.
 
Posts
I participated in I Love Austen Week, hosted by Hamlette.
I listed Ten Books I Enjoyed More Than I Thought I Would, for Top Ten Tuesday.
I signed up for Back to the Classics 2017.
 
Currently Reading
I'm currently actively reading A College Girl by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey (which I'm really enjoying), A Wiltshire Diary by Francis Kilvert, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle, and I'm rereading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (so good!). I'm trying to make myself finish some of these before I start any more, but we'll see how that goes.


Thursday, 23 February 2017

Back to the Classics 2017

 
So I'm a little bit late to the party, but I've decided to sign up for Back to the Classics 2017, hosted by Books and Chocolate. The aim is to read (up to) twelve books from different categories. I'm not sure whether I'll get all twelve of them completed, but I'm going to give it a go! Below is my rough list of what I plan to read (which will probably change). I've left a couple blank as I'm not sure what I'm going to read for them (suggestions welcome). There's still a few days to sign up if you'd like to participate but haven't yet!
 
1. A 19th century classic: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
2. A 20th century classic: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. A classic by a woman author: Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
4. A classic in translation: The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
5. A classic originally published before 1800: a Shakespeare play
6. A romance classic: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
7. A Gothic or horror classic: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
8. A classic with a number in the title: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title
10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit:
?
11. An award-winning classic: The Circus is Coming by Noel Streatfeild
12. A Russian classic: ?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Books I Didn't Expect to Like as Much as I Did

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is Books I Liked More/Less Than I Thought I Would. I've decided to go with Books I Liked More Than I Thought I Would, as I decided I'd rather compile a list of books I really enjoyed than ones I didn't like as much.

http://www.brokeandbookish.com
 
The first four books are ones I read at school because they were shortlisted for an award, and I had pretty low expectations for some of them, but they all turned out to be pretty good. The others are ones I chose myself and expected to enjoy, but they exceeded my expectations.
 
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Airman by Eoin Colfer
I read this because it was on the Carnegie shortlist one year, which I was reading through with some others at school. I didn't expect to enjoy it because it looked quite sci-fi-y which wasn't really a genre I enjoyed then. But actually, I really enjoyed it! (It's really more historical than sci-fi; now I'd probably class it as ruritanian).
 
Creature of the Night by Kate Thompson
Also read because it was on the Carnegie shortlist. This wasn't the kind of book I would usually read, and I found the start a bit slow, but once it got going I did enjoy it quite a lot.
 
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Again, this was probably not the kind of book I would usually read, but I thought it was pretty good.
 
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This was on the Red House shortlist. I'd seen it around a lot and thought I might be interested in it, but was hesitant because I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it and it also looked like it could be quite violent/dark. Which it kind of was, but I really enjoyed it anyway.
 
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Raider's Tide by Maggie Prince
I picked this up very cheaply at a school library sale, thinking it might be enjoyable - it's historical fiction which is one of my favourite genres, but I don't think I had massively high expectations for it. However, I really liked it (and discovered on rereading it lately that it still holds up now, which not everything I read as a teenager does).
 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
I mean, I expected to enjoy this but had some reservations about it. However, although I am aware that it had some flaws, I did find it a very entertaining read which I enjoyed a lot (and it would have been amazing to see on stage).
 
Escape from Rome by Caroline Lawrence
This was the first in a sequel-series to one of my favourite series when I was younger, and I wasn't sure whether it would be as good, or whether I would enjoy it as much now as I would have done had it been out eight or ten years ago. But it was really good, and I think I possibly prefer it to the original Roman Mysteries series. (The sequel was very good, too, and I'm now eagerly awaiting book three.)
 
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Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This is not the sort of book I usually tend to read, but I'd heard so many good things about it that I decided to try it, although I was a bit hesitant, and I am glad to say I really enjoyed it.
 
Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay
I love Hilary McKay's books, but the first time I read this book (which was one of the first of hers that I read) I thought it was enjoyable, but nothing special (I rated it three stars). However, on rereading it recently I enjoyed it so much more. I hope to reread some of the other books in the series soon!
 
The Small Woman by Alan Burgess
This was another book I expected to enjoy, but I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Although it's non-fiction, it's also a gripping narrative.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review: The Thirty-Nine Steps

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Summary: Richard Hannay, recently returned to London after some years in the British colonies, is bored of his life and fed up of English society - until one day a mysterious man turns up in his flat with a rather sensational story. He claims to have uncovered a secret plot, with potentially huge ramifications, and that there are men trying to kill him to prevent him from revealing their secret. When the man is murdered several days later, it seems that his story is indeed true, and Hannay realises that, not only will the men now be after him, but so will the police, as there is strong circumstantial evidence that points to him as the murderer. So he flees to Scotland, where he must try to survive, evading capture by either of the parties after him, long enough to be able to relate the man's story to the relevant authorities - but will they even believe him?
 
I saw the film of this a while ago and enjoyed it, but I didn't remember that much about it. Probably this was a good thing, because it meant that most of the twists in the book still took me by surprise. I found this an enjoyable, entertaining story, although thrillers aren't usually my cup of tea. I enjoy mysteries, but generally prefer ones where the story is focused on the puzzle and the characters, whereas this story is more action-focused, with the main character mostly trying to stay alive and escape from the bad guys. However, Hannay has does have some entertaining adventures along the way, and manages a few clever escapes, and I still enjoyed this book. It's also a very quick read, which I read in one afternoon/evening. If it's the sort of thing you enjoy, then I'd definitely recommend it.

This is book #7 I've reviewed for the Classics Club. I'm just over a year in, so I'm a little behind schedule, but I'm hoping to read and review some more books soon.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

I Love Austen Week Tag!

Hamlette at Hamlette's Soliloquy is hosting I Love Austen Week this week - a week dedicated to all things Jane Austen! Be sure to check out the festivities here if you feel so inclined. Here are my answers to the week's tag.
 
 
1.  Which did you experience first, a Jane Austen book or a movie based on one?
My first proper experience with Jane Austen was the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film. I didn't know much about the story beforehand and wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I LOVED it. So I quickly started searching out other film adaptations, and of course the books themselves. I think I had seen at least one film version of each book before reading it.

2.  What is your favourite Austen book?
Until a few days ago I would have said Sense & Sensibility, but I've recently started rereading Pride & Prejudice and suspect that it is about to take over. There are just so many good bits that I'd forgotten!
 
3.  Favourite heroine?  Why do you like her best?
This is quite a hard question! I think Elinor, Anne and Jane are the ones I would most like to know in real life. But I like all of them (except maybe Emma, but I like her character arc through the story).
 
4.  Favourite hero?  Why do you like him best?
I really like Colonel Brandon (especially Alan Rickman's version). He's just a really nice guy :) Although again, I find it difficult to pick a favourite.
 
5.  Do you have a favourite film adaptation of Austen's work?
My favourite Austen film adaptation (and possibly my overall favourite film) is the 1995 version of Sense & Sensibility. I basically just love everything about it. I also really like the Kate Beckinsale Emma, and both versions of Pride & Prejudice (controversial I know). (I wrote about my thoughts on different adaptations here.)
 
6.  Have your Austen tastes changed over the years?  (Did you start out liking one story best, but now like another better?  Did you think she was boring at first, then changed your mind?  Etc.)
Well, my actual first experience with Jane Austen was watching the first two hours of Emma at a friend's house, and I actually found it quite boring. However a few months later I watched P&P and decided that she was definitely not boring. Since then, though, my opinions have not changed materially, although possible I've come to appreciate different things about her stories than when I was initially introduced to them. [I do like Emma now (although it's not one of my favourite of her books, I really like the Kate Beckinsale film, although I still haven't seen the 2009 one all the way through), but I think it is a story that improves on acquaintance - I enjoy it more knowing the full story than I did before.]
 
7.  Do you have any cool Austen-themed things (mugs, t-shirts, etc)?  (Feel free to share photos if you want.)
No, although I do have a very nice boxed set of all of her novels.
 
8.  If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would you ask her?
I can't think of anything off the top of my head.
 
9.  Imagine someone is making a new film of any Jane Austen story you choose, and you get to cast the leads.  What story do you want filmed, and who would you choose to act in it?
I would like someone to make a good, accurate version of Mansfield Park. I'm not sure about casting though - I don't think I know enough actors to make an informed decision.

10.  Share up to five favourite Jane Austen quotations!
 "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." - Pride & Prejudice (such a good opening line; indeed the whole first chapter of P&P is just so good)

"I cannot make speeches, Emma. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more." - Emma
 
 "We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him." - Pride & Prejudice

"People always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them." - Sense & Sensibility

"Oh!" cried Marianne, "with what transporting sensations have I formerly seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven as much as possible from the sight."
   "It is not every one," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves."
- Sense & Sensibility