Top 5 YA Fantasy Series

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Hello everyone! 

This post is probably going to show my age, so let's kick things off with me saying that as a 24 year old woman I can sadly no longer class myself as a young adult. However, being a fully fledged adult does not mean I don't still enjoy reading YA as a genre. If you are old, like me, when you were a teen YA didn't really exist and all those books came under teen fiction. YA sprang to life when I had already passed into adulthood, so forgive me if some of these books blur into other age groups. 

Long intro aside, I am here today to give you a brief over-view of my top 5 YA fantasy series :-) They are in no particular order!

1. The Great Library by Rachel Caine

These books are for those of you who love books about libraries. They follow Jess as he integrates the Great Library of Alexandria on the orders of his book smuggler father. He was born into the brutal world of smuggling illegal books around the world, with no mercy shown to those who are caught by the library. Overtime the library has seized control of the world, rationing books and knowledge to only those deemed worthy. This provides and ideal environment for anarchy to grow. The anarchists like to burn: books, libraries, cities. They value human life above books. Now Jess is stuck somewhere between the two. His love of books makes him want to protect them, but his even fiercer love of his friends is tearing him in two. 

2. Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Sabriel is missing, I lent her to a friend :-)

The Abhorsen series has been going on for years, I read the first three books when I was still a teen! The book starts with Sabriel, the daughter of the Abhorsen crossing the wall into the Old Kingdom to find take up her heritage. As the Abhorsen-in-waiting she has to learn how to use the 7 bells to banish creatures returning from the rivers of death. This might sound a bit gruesome to some of my more squeamish readers, but I promise you these books are gripping. The next few books bring more main characters into play, creating a complex landscape of inter-woven stories. 

3. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke  

I love these books so much, Dustfinger was the first male character I ever truly fell in love with. This story follows Meggie and her father Mo as they run from the criminal Capricorn. Capricorn is no normal villain, he is the villain of a storybook, plucked out of his own story by Mo's silver tongue. Meggie has inherited Mo's gift, but she also has a gift of her own. Her written words can alter the story she is reading, but this comes with a price when she reads herself into a story she has rapidly lost control of. This series blurs the lines between the real and the written in the most fantastic ways :-) 

4. Tales Of The Otori by Lian Hearn 

Again, some books are missing! 

The Tales Of The Otori are loosely set in medieval Japan with elements of magic. Takeo was born in a remote village, worshiping a forbidden god. When his village and family are massacred he discovers he has mysterious skills, skills some may call magic. These skills mark him as a member of the Tribe, but his skills surpass even their levels of normal. He is the most powerful Tribe member for many generations, transforming him into a hunted man. Add to this his heritage as an Otori and a forbidden romance with the most beautiful woman in the empire and you have one hell of a good story! This book is for lovers of Game Of Thrones and The White Queen. 

5. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

This series being on the list will not surprise anyone. Cassandra Clare is well known as the queen of YA fiction after her Mortal Instruments series shook the world. Don't get me wrong, I love that series, but this one struck me more. Tessa is such an interesting character fighting between her feelings for two different men and her own strong morals. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it follows Tessa, a young american woman arriving in London to meet her brother. Her brother never shows and she is kidnapped by the terrible Dark Sisters who torture her into revealing her ability to change into any person she chooses as long as she has access to a personal item of theirs. If this wasn't enough, she is drawn into the world of the Shadow Hunters, sworn to fight demons invading our realm. Among these are Jem and Will, two men as different as night and day, but both quickly staking claims on her heart. She must join their ranks to fight not only demons, but The Magister's harsh destructive automatons which threaten to over-run the world. 

I hope this hasn't rambled on too much for all of you! Please let me know your favourite YA fantasy series in the comments below :-) I'm always looking for new recommendations! 


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A Beginners Guide To H. G. Wells

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Hello everyone! 

Today I'm here to talk about the grandfather of classic science fiction - H. G. Wells! This author has long been a favourite of mine, ever since I discovered The War Of The Worlds. Which I'm sure many of you will know from the excellent movie. The problem with this movie is that it can overshadow the books a little so I'm going to give you a beginners guide to reading this amazing author's work. 

Let's start with the most accessible of his novels: The War Of The Worlds and The Time Machine. Both of these novels are fast paced and thrilling. The War Of The Worlds details an alien invasion of planet earth, bringing with it the near destruction of human kind. The Time Machine tells the story of the nuttiest of all professors creating a time machine taking him thousands of years into the future. What he finds there is at first glance utopia, but with a little digging he learns that all paradises come with a dark price. When I read these novels I completely forgot they were written in the 1800's, the language is fluid and easy to read. These are the best place to start for H. G. Wells, once you've read these there is no going back and you'll be begging for more stories! 

The Invisible Man is almost as fast paced as the above, but it is a little slower to get into which could be off-putting as your first read. Once you are used to H. G. Wells' writing style you'll fly through this one. It follows Griffin, a mad scientist who has perfected a formula for making creatures invisible. This sounds amazing in theory, but it leaves Griffin desperate and friendless, slowly descending into murderous madness. He will stop at nothing to find the cure. I love the flow of this narrative, it jumps backwards and forwards in time as Griffin's tale becomes clearer, leaving you desperate for more after each page. 

The next two books aren't really hard to get into, but they do fall on the weirder end of the H. G. Wells scale. The Island Of Doctor Moreau is all about the horrors of vivisection and the ultimate mad scientist. Doctor Moreau lives on a deserted island with only his "creations" for company, creations is a kind word really. They are more like monsters, blended from the corpses of men and animals. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen when you try too hard to control nature.

Penguin's Little Black Classics collection is pure genius and they did not miss their mark with their choice of three short stories. The Sea Raiders tells of man-eating sea creatures raiding a seaside resort, which sounds comical, but when you read it it's terrifying! The Magic Shop and The Land Ironclads are two of his strangest stories and are not for the fans of realism. These two would not be out of place in Wonderland! The Magic Shop walks that fine line between tricks to delight children and sinister illusions made to frighten and horrify adults. The Land Ironclads tells a story of destruction on the battlefield at the hands of unstoppable mechanical fiends. Both these stories are bizarre and twisted, more for those who appreciate surreal literature. 

H. G. Wells is the perfect author to read if you love Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he perfectly captures all the dangers of scientific advancement whilst weaving tales of terror and suspense. His novels are timeless and I wish more people were still reading these! 

Have I inspired you to read any of these or have you already read them? Let me know in the comments below :-) 


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Why You Should Read Mansfield Park

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Hello everyone, 

This year is going to be the year of the chunky classics. I'm planning on sinking my teeth into as many as possible, starting with Mansfield Park by Jane Austen! I did cheat a little bit with this one and started it in 2017, carrying it over into the new year to wrap it up, but I am so glad I started with this one :-)

I have been a fan of Jane Austen since I was a child, I loved watching the tv and movie adaptations and I devoured Sense and Sensibility! From there I went on to read all her shorter novels, with Persuasion reigning as my long term favourite. Then I read Mansfield Park and boy did it knock Persuasion off its pedestal! So I am here today, singing the praises of my new favourite Austen, to give you 5 reasons why you should read this book. 

1. Fanny Price is the most fascinating heroine I have ever encountered
As a general rule novels are either character or plot driven, with the majority of character driven books being dictated by the protagonist. This is not the case in Mansfield Park. Fanny Price is so passive that she is almost invisible. I have never read a novel with a heroine you barely notice! She just bobs along following her cousins and their friends, reflecting on their decisions and predicting the outcomes of their poor choices. She is the ultimate advocate for patience, showing that if you make choices selflessly and based on good morals you will eventually get what you want. 

2. This book is laugh out loud funny!
I found so many of these characters completely ridiculous that I couldn't help laughing out loud at their antics. In my mind the winner of the most ridiculous person award goes to Henry Crawford. This man is such a pompous ass, in fact he is almost a caricature of the typical womaniser of Jane Austen's day. He makes sport of causing young women to fall in love with him, filling his jar of hearts everywhere he goes. Sounds familiar for some men (and women) of our day too right? However, he meets his match with Fanny. He chases her for so long to no avail that he convinces himself he is in love with her! Obviously he isn't really, it is a case of wanting desperately that which he can never have. A very good taste of his own medicine if you ask me. 

3. Hating a literary character is a lot of fun
I'm assuming many of you have read Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, or at least watched the movie. Is Dolores Umbridge not one of the most hateful characters you have ever read? Well Fanny's Aunt Norris certainly gives her a run for her money. I hated her from my first encounter with her, she is mean spirited, snobbish and controlling. She despises Fanny for no better reason than the circumstances of her birth and idolises Maria for being high-born and beautiful, despite Fanny being a far nicer person than Maria could ever be. Reading her downfall at the end of the book and watching her get the social isolation she deserves is so much fun! 

4. Mansfield Park is a clever piece of social commentary
This book shows close up the very common practice of poor relations handing one or more children over to wealthier relatives to raise and house as their own. In the days before birth control family sizes could get a bit out of control and sending your children away wasn't seen as harsh, but as a kindness. Fanny is a recipient of this "kindness". Theoretically it should be great for her going to live with richer "betters", but in reality she is never truly accepted as one of their own. She lives in that twilight zone of better than a servant, but not as good as one of the children. It is a hard place for her to live and gives her all her strong morals and very dutiful nature. The commentary is seen most strongly when Sir Thomas (Fanny's uncle) urges her to accept Henry Crawford's proposal of marriage based on his lineage and wealth. Sir Thomas purposefully ignores his questionable morals and improper behaviour, growing angry at Fanny's protestations that she does not love him and would be miserable. In those days women were almost forced to marry men they did not care for on a daily basis and this is something Jane Austen spent her whole life rebelling against. Obviously there are more areas of social commentary than this, but I chose this as an example because I felt it to be the moist poignant. 

5. There is romance in abundance! 
So many people read Jane Austen's novels for the romance and it is definitely not lacking in this story. There is something here for everyone! The unrequited love of Julia for Henry Crawford is touching and cute, making you reminisce about all the silly crushes you had when you were young. Edmund and Mary's love burns bright and passionately, with arguments causing sparks to fly. This one definitely reminds you of that destructive relationship you held onto for too long. Maria and Mr. Rushworth have a selfish form of love, with Maria loving his money and status far more than she loves the man himself. Henry Crawford's pursuit of Fanny is comical and laughable, it made me want to reach into the pages and shake Fanny saying "please don't fall for this man, he doesn't really love you!" And finally, the slow-burning natural love of Edmund and Fanny is the cherry on top of a wonderful bookish cake. Fanny loves Edmund for years, supporting him and advising him even when it pushed him into the arms of another. She is so selfless and kind, that you wish for Edmund to love her almost as much as she does. Eventually he comes to his senses and realises that he what he desperately wanted to see in Mary Crawford has always been there in Fanny Price if he had only cared to look :-) 

Those are my reasons to read Mansfield Park and if they don't persuade you nothing will! I wish I could go back and read this book from scratch all over again, but as I can't do that, instead I'll look forward to the many times I will be re-reading it. I hope you enjoyed this post, if you've read this book let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below :-) 


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Ethan Frome Review

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Hello everyone, 

If, like me, you are currently in the south of England you will be experiencing some very stormy weather! Now I think this is an excellent excuse for staying indoors cozied up with a good book. For me, one of those books is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton so I'm here today with a review for you. 

Ethan Frome is a struggling farmer in a small isolated hill town in America. He has been leading a life full of misfortune, trapped first by sickly parents then by a loveless marriage and he is beginning to wonder why any of it is worth doing at all. This is when his wife's cousin Mattie comes to stay, in name she is there to care for his wife Zenobia, but in reality she is there because she has nowhere else to go. Ethan falls in love with Mattie's vibrant optimism, her yearning for knowledge he can teach and her good humour. He starts to fantasise about what life would be like with Mattie by his side instead of Zenobia. Now, feelings like that don't stay secret for long and Zenobia decides to intervene with disastrous consequences for the whole family. 

Rating: 4 Stars 

Positives: Excellent writing and characterisation, very thought-provoking 

Negatives: Depressing as hell

For lovers of: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy 

I gave this book 4 stars simply because of how much it made me think. Normally a story has a clear villain and some people would argue Zenobia is that person, but I disagree. All the characters are at fault really. Zenobia is the un-loving hypochondriac wife who is nonetheless jealous of her husband showing attention to another woman and does her best to thwart his happiness. Ethan is the husband who despises his wife, neglects her and lusts after her younger and more attractive cousin. Mattie is at  fault for encouraging Ethan, knowing full well he is married and that leaving his wife would render her destitute. All I see in this book is desperation. I pitied all of the characters and their hopeless state. At one point I had growing respect for Ethan when he resolved to not leave his wife and do "the right thing", but then he attempts suicide with Mattie and ruins it all. Yes I understand their reasoning, but him alive with Mattie or dead with her leaves Zenobia in the same position. There is a very misplaced sense of romance to their actions, which I appreciate, but do not like! 

The writing of this story is very compelling and I will definitely pick up more Edith Wharton. I have heard her described as one of the true American realists and I think it is essential to read her work as a comparison to Thomas Hardy's very British realism. Ethan doesn't have the amiableness of the iconic Tess or Hester, but he is nonetheless a very believable character. 

I am hoping to move onto a more up-lifting book next, most likely some more Jane Austen. I think more than one book like this in a row would be bad for my morale! Mansfield Park feels like a suitable joyful novel :-) 

Have you read this book or other works by Edith Wharton? Let me know in the comments below :-) 


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Hello 2018

Monday, 1 January 2018

Hello everyone, 

Firstly: Happy New Year! I hope you all saw in the new year with family and friends around you. I had a lovely quiet evening of drinks chatting with my friends and Mr. GingerSnap :-) 

It's quite hard to believe that 2017 is already over, it was such an exciting year for us. I finished university after 5 years, got my dream job, travelled around the world with the man I love and then we moved to Devon to start a new chapter in our life. At the beginning of last year I thought that with such a busy year ahead I wouldn't have much time for reading and in some ways I was right, in others I was very wrong. The evidence is featured below! 

I set myself the challenge of reading 30 books, which thinking back is very un-ambitious. I ended up reading a phenomenal 113 books, which is more than I ever imagined myself reading! When I say I didn't have much time for reading, I promise I wasn't exaggerating. That fact can be seen in how low my average page length was. Due to lack of time I read a lot of novellas, poetry, plays and Penguin Little Black Classics. I really enjoyed most of the books I read this year and choosing a top 5 feels impossible, but I'll give it a try: 

1. The Truth by Terry Pratchett 
2. The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
3. Within The Sanctuary Of Wings by Marie Brennan
4. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
5. The Reader On The 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

So now that 2018 has unexpectedly rolled around the corner I am at my usual loss as to what resolutions to make. Every year I find myself scrambling for resolutions and choose ones unreasonable or impossible to achieve. 2018 will be different, I am going to set myself five bookish resolutions not only achievable, but fun to carry out. 

    1. I will try not set myself silly goals and challenges for my reading, they push me into a slump and suck the fun out of it for me. I am only going to take part in challenges I enjoy :-)

  2. 2018 is going to be the year of the big books. I want to read 5 BIG books. Now when I say big, I'm talking over 700 pages! 

3. I would like to read between 10 and 30 (or more, more is good) Penguin English Library titles. This list has so many amazing authors and stories featured, it will be perfect for expanding my knowledge of classics :-) 

 4. I would like to finish reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Last year I made it through just over half and I enjoyed every minute of it. Sherlock, this is your year!

  5. So often I end up reading authors I know and love, leaving me feeling guilty for not exploring new writers. I will remedy this by reading at least 5 books by authors I have never heard of. 

Those are all my sensible resolutions for the next year. I am so looking forward to getting stuck into these and feel like I am already making great strides towards this in today's read. I started and finished Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome today and am planning a review for later this week, so keep your eyes peeled bookworms! 

What have you been reading and what are your resolutions, bookish and non-bookish, for the coming year? Let me know in the comments below :-)


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