review: The Familiars

SPOILERS AHEAD

If you’re following me on Insta, you probably know by now that I’m writing a novel. What I am yet to mention (I think?) is that it’s set on the witch trials. So when I first heard of The Familiars by Stacey Hall, I knew I had to get it.

A few months later, after being distracted by Christmas book stack, it’s now sitting closed on my bookshelf after spending a few days travelling everywhere with me. I couldn’t put it down.

The plot, characters and basically every aspect of this novel has been thoroughly researched (bar a few fictional embroideries), but none of that bogged down the story. Something happened in every chapter, the pacing was perfect, and I fell in love with two main characters, Fleetwood and Alice.

Fleetwood was my favourite character. I loved how determined she was, and that she was outspoken and didn’t hesitate to speak unless she needed to. There were many scenes throughout the book that occurred around the dining table – where Fleetwood would hear most of the news concerning the Pendle witches – and she always asked lots of questions and dug for information, even though this would not have been within her wifely role.

Even though I liked the character of Alice, I personally felt that there wasn’t much revealed about her. By the end of the novel, we know about her home and family, her previous job, little info on her mother, and the fact she can’t read, but nothing about her personality itself. She serves as a shadow throughout the book, popping in and out fairly quickly for such an important character.

Although, saying that, the scene where Fleetwood teaches Alice to write her name was one of my favourites. It was so well thought out, like how Alice questioned why Fleetwood’s name is longer even though it has the same amount of syllables as her own. ‘She smiled and took it from me’ was one of the few times that I could remember where Alice smiled in this book, so it was nice to see her doing something for herself, not being a midwife or working to provide for her drunken father. A moment of pure happiness.

It was also nice to see Fleetwood fulfilling the motherly role that she desperately wants. At this point, we’re unsure if she will survive the birth of her child, so this scene at least provided her with a small chance to have an impact on someone’s life.

One thing that I was disappointed about was that we didn’t get to see the trial of the Pendle witches. While witches are mentioned over and over, and we see the Devizes child who is alluded to be one, as is Alice, we don’t really witness any hangings or anything. We see the prison in which they are kept – which Hall described amazingly well, I remember feeling a chill when reading that section – but I would have liked to see the trial itself, especially as it’s such a significant historical event. Fleetwood was unconscious during childbirth so missed it, but Richard travelled there to rescue Alice for her, maybe we could have switched to his POV for a chapter and witnessed this ourselves?

This is only a small criticism though, as I still loved the novel and would definitely pick it up again. Books based on the witch trials are my favourites, so if there are any you recommend, please let me know!

Reading is Power

Yesterday was World Book Day, and this year’s theme was ‘Reading is Power.’

I don’t believe that this holiday should be just for primary schools, as you don’t need to be in school to appreciate books in all their greatness. If it were allowed, I would have walked into work dressed up as my favourite book character (I was genuinely considering dressing up as Alice or Cathy…)

I’ve read many books that have made me feel empowered, that made me want to fill up my flask with tea and then get out there and right all the wrongs in this world. Because, after I’ve finished reading a book, I’ve either learned something new or reminds me of my life goals. It’s like each book gives me a goal that I need to accomplish, and I am confident that I can. There are only a few books that I’ve read that have made me doubt myself.

Harry Potter taught me never to give up, Jacqueline Wilson’s books made me realise that no one’s lives are perfect and that fact alone brings us all closer, and The Chronicles of Narnia told me that growing up isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

One of my favourite quotes is: ‘All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen.’ It’s from Matilda, another book that taught me some valuable lessons, but the main thing that I took from it is that reading can take us to worlds far away from this one, dreamy respites that bring us happiness (and sadness, shock, and some serious fictional crushes it’s that good a book). The things we take from these worlds resonate with us when we’re living our everyday lives. I find that it’s hard to stay mad at a world when you can see the beauty in it, when the vivid descriptions that we read echo in every little thing that’s around us.

Furthermore, I find that reading gives you a sense of morality, and opens your eyes to what is happening in this world. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’d know that historical fiction is my favourite genre, and that’s because it helps me see how much progress has been made regarding things such as equality, racism, money, but also how there is still so much to do.

I recently read The Familiars (review coming soon) and was struck by how oppressed women were. One line that I can remember is ‘I wouldn’t wish a girl’s life on anybody’ (if that’s not the exact quote I’m sorry, I’m writing this on the train and don’t have it on hand!). It made me realise that yes, we’ve made an incredible amount of progress and we’re lucky to be living now instead of back then where we would all most likely be either married, worked to the bone or dead, as blunt as that sounds. However, there can be times where we are still looked down upon, made subject to disgusting comments and not treated with respect. Many books are being published now, (not forgetting the ones that have been around for centuries, of course!), that are trying and bring out a woman’s voice to emphasise these issues, and I think it’s one of the main reasons why we are currently as aware as we are.

Reading can initiate a change in thought, a call to action and anything in between. Reading makes us feel empowered, and gives us the confidence to, excuse the cliche, be the change we want to see in the world. And I can’t think of anything that’s as amazing as that.

Finding The Time To Write

Notebook

For as long as I can remember, everyone has told me that the key to becoming a great writer is to write something every day. It’s true, and I’ve always known that; my writing is usually better quality when I’m doing it consistently. It’s also easier to come up with ideas for both my book blog and novel after frequent reading sessions.

Recently though, my writing routine has been fading into oblivion. Being hit by a spark of creativity is rare, and it’s been frustrating me for a while.

I’ve been thinking about my writing a lot the past few weeks or so. Last month, I went full time in my marketing job as I began to take on more responsibilities, an exciting step in the right direction for me. Plus, it’s nice to have a job that I actually enjoy (pretty sure that this is the first time ever?)

‘an exciting step in the right direction.’ I’m looking at these words as if they shouldn’t be there like they’re wrong, and I’m telling lies.

This is all that I’ve been doing of late – questioning everything, doubting my decisions. My number one ambition in life is to become an author and a freelance writer alongside, but how can I do that if I’m not writing?

This very post that you’re reading is the most that I’ve written, in one go, in a while. Before, I found it so easy to write, even on a train at 7.30 in the morning that’s filled with bleary-eyed commuters who have taken all the seats. However, for the past few weeks, all I’ve been doing is getting my notebook out, and that’s it. Either no words come to mind and I struggle to put pen to paper, or I force myself to jot down random things that come out as dry, bland and, frankly, crap. I hated it, the thought of a blank page or horrid sentences that meant absolutely nothing.

Every writer I know has gone through either a burnout or writer’s block. A few weeks ago, this is what I thought my problem was; It was a week where I had a lot to do, I was tired every day and had recently finished writing a piece for another site. Once I had written that that was it. I stopped writing, my reading slowed down, and I was falling asleep almost as soon as I got home. Nothing was being done. I kept telling myself that I had done quite a lot recently, and so a few days off wasn’t hurting anyone. But now I fear that this is becoming my routine, and I can’t let that happen.

My lack of reading and writing is reflected clearly through my content on not only this blog but my bookstagram as well. The last time I had a serious photo session was before I went full time, well over a month ago now. That’s pretty obvious if you look at my feed – my recent photos were either taken within five minutes featuring books that have already appeared on my account multiple times, or unused images that were taken months ago.

This weekend I have more time, so I WILL get outside and take better photos.

Even though I have more time right now, I don’t necessarily mean that I have less work to do or anything. My weekends are usually spent with my boyfriend, friends or family, as I don’t really get to see them during the week. But I also have my novel, blog, and freelance work, and that’s a lot to squeeze into a weekend. Maybe that’s why it goes so quickly.

Maybe I need to take a step back and consider different ways to do this. My freelance work has high priority, obviously, but I’m determined to make more time for my novel. This could mean neglecting my blog (not that I post regularly enough on here anyway, whoops) which makes me feel somewhat sad because I like writing on here. But, for now, it might have to become my random, sporadic-moments-of-creativity thing and my novel the essential, instead of the other way round.

I’m not saying I hate my job because I don’t. I enjoy it. It’s the changes in my routine that I’m not so fussed about. I just want to feel motivated again, have a longing to write all day, every day, even when I genuinely can’t at times. I want to get excited when I have an idea, and I want that to happen often. I always used to, and I miss it.

My goal this year was to finish my first draft, and I’m going to stick to that goal. I’m determined to be a writer again.

Mary Queen of Scots

SPOILERS AHEAD

I was looking forward to seeing this film, as I have a fascination with the Tudors as well as the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth !. I find it incredible that during a time when women were oppressed and degraded, two Queens were ruling two great countries at the same time.

While there were some issues that I had with the film, I still enjoyed it and would be happy to watch it again. The acting from both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie was incredible; I couldn’t imagine two actresses who would play these challenging roles any better.

I had no idea that David Tennant was in this movie, playing John Knox. It was his accent that made me recognise him, not his appearance, as he was wearing a long beard and wig and dark robes throughout the whole film. I know Tennant as Doctor Who and the angry officer in Broadchurch, so this for me was entirely different from his prominent roles. However, I loved his portrayal of Knox, he was aggressive and emotive, thus making it easy to see why the real, charismatic Knox had obtained so many followers.

I love how the way that this film presents these two formidable Queens as merely two women trying to do what is right. This portrayal was more dignified than say, Reign, the American TV show that portrays Mary’s life in a more sensual way (which is still really good though!).

It’s strange to think that, if these two characters were not queens who were pitted together by royals, they would have probably worked together and become great allies, as hinted by Mary naming Elizabeth, her son’s godmother. James went on to be the first King of both England and Scotland, a historic moment and an indication of what could have been, had these two women were not rivals.

Furthermore, this can also be suggested by one, and possibly the most prominent, scene of the whole movie. Most of the rivalry takes place via the course of letters, where each queen has to wait weeks before receiving the next letter. Naturally, this created a challenge for the filmmakers, as a verbal fight is harder when conveying a sense of competition, so they invented a scene near the end of the film in which Mary and Elizabeth meet face to face. The issue with this scene is, while I get what the filmmakers were trying to do, the two queens never met face to face. Knowing this fact kind of ruined this part of the movie for me, as I had heard that it was overall quite historically accurate, but because of this scene, I started to doubt the whole thing together. I also highly doubt that Mary had her ladies rip apart her black dress to reveal a bright red one at her beheading.

Overall, I loved the film, aside from that one meeting scene at the end. There was a lot in terms of plot to squeeze in; you can’t blame the crew for making this film two hours long. However, they managed to tell Mary’s story in a way that had me crying for her, and admiring her even more (and Elizabeth too, of course.)

Review: The Subtle Knife

SPOILERS AHEAD

The second installment of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials struck me as almost entirely different from the first. It was darker and more gruesome, set in a different world (England as we know it, not the alternate version in Northern Lights). An array of new characters are introduced in this novel alongside the characters I already know and love, and a whole new meaning of Dust is revealed.

We are immediately introduced to Will, who doesn’t comply with novel stereotypes – he’s not the wise kid or the one who tries to act tough. He is set on protecting his mother at all costs, his thoughts continually wondering back to her throughout the novel. His familial circumstances have affected his upbringing, as he comes across as older than his years. This is further shown through his friendship with Lyra, who is now in a completely different world to her own. He looks after her in ways that reminded me of a parent and child, such as stopping her from being hit by a car and teaching her how to cook an omelette and baked beans. I loved their relationship, seeing them look out for one another while they fight to stay alive. They both grow up as the novel progresses, them making each other coffee in the mornings just seemed so cute.

The overall plot of the book was kind of like two novels in one. Any scenes that related to Mrs. Coulter, Scoresby or the witches seemed like the sequel that I was expecting, but when the plot followed Will’s story, it just seemed so different to what I was reading a few chapters ago. I loved the story and enjoyed following Will and Lyra on their story, but when the two merged or switched to one another it just didn’t seem to fit for me; it was disorientating in a way. I didn’t think it was a smooth transition.

It also took a while for the subtle knife to turn up, but when it did, I loved the concept. A blade that can cut through everything, including air, was different from anything I’ve read, and it was nice to see Will with his own device, like Lyra’s alethiometer.

Like the first book, Pullman’s writing was breathtaking. I’ve been struggling with my writing recently, so this novel has been just what I needed. From little descriptions of fire, ‘the embers of a fire glowed’ to the horror of Lee Scoresby’s death. The final words of his life were heartbreaking:

“Lee saw the fireball and head through the roar in his ears Hester saying, “That’s the last of ’em, Lee.”

He said, or thought, “Those poor men didn’t have to come to this, nor did we.”

She said, “We held ’em off. We held out. We’re a-helping Lyra.”

Then she was pressing her little proud broken self against his face, as close as she could get, and then they died.”

The last sentence of that passage brought tears to my eyes. The phrase ‘her little proud self’ broke me, as the wording presented Hester as a superhero in a children’s book, which is what she and Scoresby have been throughout the series so far. They come across as soldiers who died fighting, and the fact that that’s how they’ll be remembered is somewhat comforting but horrible at the same time.

I also love the idea of Spectres. They reminded me of Dementors from Harry Potter, which is probably partly why I liked them. I pictured them as ghostly figures floating hazily around adults, and when they suck the souls of various characters throughout the book, I had goosebumps.

Overall, I didn’t prefer this book to the first one, but I did still really enjoy it. My reading suffered this month, so that could partly be why there were times when I felt like I was reading a completely different trilogy. I also really missed the ice bears! I’d say this book succumbed to the middle book syndrome, although Pullman’s language and characterisation certainly made up for it.

Tour of Gloucester Cathedral’s Library

After exploring the library at Cardiff Castle and then taking a trip to Chepstow Castle, I was inspired to prioritise my novel over everything else that I’m doing at the moment, and look into gaining more research. So I headed straight for Gloucester Cathedral.

The library at Gloucester Cathedral is incredible. It’s full of beautiful books (organised by how they would have been when the library first opened centuries ago) that you can flip through, the archivist and volunteers are passionate and love to answer your questions, and if you listen carefully, you can even hear the choir practicing below.

I went for the second time last week, and yet it felt different to before. The archivist always changes which books they have out for us to look through, and so there’s still something new to learn. I went with my friend who asked questions that I had never thought of, so I got to find out even more.

  Photo by    dancingonthewildfrontier
Photo by dancingonthewildfrontier

The library itself is long and narrow, as the structure of the cathedral meant that the library is squeezed into a confined space, and then it opens up at the end. It can store about 500 books roughly, but the sad thing is, no one knows what happened to the original texts. Books were often donated to other scholars, monks, and libraries, but they were also burned if they contradicted the beliefs of the period. I didn’t know that they were sometimes taken apart so that the bindings could be used for another book as well, and the previous book would then be discarded. It’s sad to know that we will never really be sure of what happened to books that were stored in this library, as they would have had so much history inside them. But the fact that some were recycled and made into more books is lovely, as their life had been extended.

My friend has an interest in oriental books, and so one of the volunteers brought out a book of cultural songs that were translated by a French author. The pages featured song lyrics that were translated and accompanied by beautiful illustrations.

When speaking with one of the other volunteers, we started to talk about the preservation of the books and bookbinding. She showed us a book that was bound so poorly I almost cried! The spine was a completely different cover to the original book and looked a bit artificial. When the book is opened, the pages separated in the middle, so the inside of the spine was visible, a big no when it comes to bookbinding! (I hope I explained that right because unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of this 😦

The same volunteer (just realised I haven’t introduced her! Diana Heywood) also mentioned that she has recently published her novel, titled ‘This Game of Blood and Iron,’ which is available from Waterstones.

The Cathedral library allows you to arrange research days, where you are given a desk and books that related to your project, and you’re just left to it. I’ve arranged a date for February, and I’ll be focusing on witchcraft to see if I find anything for my novel. My book list is: The poetry of witchcraft, illustrated by copies of the plays on the Lancashire witches (the original 1854 edition, only 80 copies were published!), The history of the Inquisition, translated into English by Samuel Chandler (1731) and another which is entirely in Latin so I can’t say what it is, but it was published in 1568. There will be herbal books to add to the list as well. I’m so excited – I can’t believe I’m going to be reading books like these!

As well as this, there were photographs, records and archive materials spread throughout the library as well.

I love the Cathedral’s library, and I can’t wait to return in February to learn even more about their beautiful books.

Book blogs that I love

Just in case you haven’t already caught on, my favourite thing to do in this world is read. But, there are times when I fancy nothing more than lying in bed with a cup of tea and seeing what my favourite book bloggers have been posting.

Most of my favourite book bloggers, I have found through Instagram. Before I even realised bookstagramming was a thing, I was following book accounts simply because I loved their photos, and then I slowly started reading a few of their blog posts. Now, there is a handful whom I follow religiously; I will read any post that they have published and like every single one of their photos. They were the first accounts I followed when I started my bookstagram and the inspiration behind my blog.

I’ve compiled this list for anyone wanting to up their TBR list, are looking for ideas for their blogs, or are wanting to be blown away by more beautiful book accounts. I’ve only written about five, but there are so many more out there that I love.

Books and Quills

 Image by  booksandquills
Image by booksandquills

This is one of the first book blogs I followed. Books and Quills moved from the Netherlands years ago, and now she shares her adventures on her blog. Books aren’t the only thing that she focuses on; you can also find food and travel bits as well. She also has a YouTube, which is where I often turn to if I’m in need of career motivation or reading inspiration (she used to work in publishing), and her posts range from reviews to reading lists to travel diaries – she covers pretty much everything you need.

Simone and her books

 Image by  Simone and Her Books
Image by Simone and Her Books

Simone is another blogger whose posts I have spent hours reading. I’m pretty sure she has read every book imaginable, and if not then she certainly has them all ready to go in her TBR pile. I like how varied her reads are; they’re not all just bestsellers or classics that everyone already knows and love. Her reviews are insightful, and her bookstagram photos will undoubtedly leave you craving a cup of tea.

Wandering Bibliophile

 Image by  Wandering Bibliophile
Image by Wandering Bibliophile

Another blogger who I have been following for a while. Her photos are so cute and creative, and some of her recent ones are incredible; they feature floating Owlcrates and literary clouds! Her blog, Paperback Passport, focuses on not just books, but travel and lifestyle as well, plus she has her book club and newsletter. I love the names of her accounts, ‘Wandering Bibliophile’ and ‘Paperback Passport,’ as they represent the many magical worlds one experiences when they open a book.

The Aze Reads

 Image by  The Aze Reads
Image by The Aze Reads

Above is one of the photos that I’ve encountered on Instagram which inspired my account. Any blog that is run by a uni student automatically appeals to me, because their content can sometimes relate to the books their studying, or what they’ve learned, and I love hearing about what people discover. What is particularly relatable, is that Erika also wants to work in publishing and loves writing as much as reading, so her account is right up my street!

Whatshotblog

 Image by  Whatshotblog
Image by Whatshotblog

This is one blog whose posts I never miss. I love her content, my recent favourite being The Ultimate Guide to Alice in Wonderland in Oxford. While this blog is more of a travel blog, it is filled with book content also, featuring reviews, bookish guides and lists, and book locations. She’s also a massive Harry Potter fan and creates stunning flatlays, the perfect blogging combination.

Review: Northern Lights

SPOILERS AHEAD

I’ve heard so many good things about the His Dark Materials trilogy, and so many people have told me to read the books. The film The Golden Compass was my favourite when it came out, but I still didn’t read the books. For Christmas, I received The Folio Society’s editions, and Northern Lights was the last book I picked up in 2018 and the first I finished in 2019. Safe to say, it certainly lived up to my expectations.

I love Lyra. She’s feisty and intelligent and curious, everything that I want to be, essentially! I also enjoyed the moments when her childish nature shone through the text: ‘But it didn’t seem to Lyra that she would ever grow up.’ It highlights the fact that even though she is on this long journey and is part of a huge task that could change everything about her world, she is still a child at the end of the day. But that fact that she is not letting the weight of her journey crush her is what makes her one of my favourite fictional characters.

It’s not just Lyra’s characterisation that’s brilliant, though. Pullman gives each character their own dialect – the gypsy’s slang, or the educated upper class – which makes them feel more real, and they all have a range of personalities that will have you sympathising with them at least once in the novel, even if you despise them.

Saying that there is one thing that I didn’t like, and it is the tiniest of criticisms. When Lyra reunites with Ioreck just before his fight with Iofur, she calls him ‘dear’ multiple times. This could just be me, but when I was a child, the word ‘dear’ made me shudder and think of an old man addressing his wife. I can’t see Lyra using it for Ioreck, or anyone even if she grew up in a world of scholars. Again, this could just be me though, as I’m not one for pet names, especially ‘dear.’

Pullman’s style of writing draws you into the narrative. The world he has created is beautiful, even though many of the locations, such as Oxford, Lapland, and Svalbard are not fictional. However, he has transformed them into places that seem more magical and alive, in a way it saddens me that our version of these places is not filled with armored bears and witches and sacred devices like the alethiometer.

Speaking of the alethiometer, I think the idea of that alone is incredible. I would never have imagined an object that can answer your questions through symbolism. Pullman has a vivid mind, and it’s this fact alone that makes me want to read more of his works.

One scene that stood out for and still replays in my head, even while reading The Subtle Knife, is the fight between Iorek and Iofur in part three. The language Pullman uses here is beautiful:

‘Like two great masses of rock balanced on adjoining peaks and shaken loose by an earthquake.’

‘And that was when Ioreck moved. Like a wave that has been building its strength over a thousand miles of ocean, and which makes a little stir in the deep water, but which when it reaches the shallows rears itself high into the sky, terrifying the shore-dwellers, before crashing down on the land with irresistible power.’

As a writer, I struggle with fight scenes. My novel is set in the 1600s, and the weaponry and techniques were very different during this period. I can never create the right imagery, but the way Pullman has in these lines is overwhelmingly clever. The nature imagery and similes convey the power and brutality of the fights while maintaining the grace and dignity of the two bears. This technique also works well with the third person narrative, for, if the story was told in the first person, he may not have been able to use this technique as well, as Lyra would probably not have seen it this way.

I do find that this book is a bit like Harry Potter, in the sense that it’s adaptable for a wide audience. It’s a children’s book, and yet I’m reading it at 22 years old, and loving every minute of it. However, I do sometimes struggle to see how someone Lyra’s age could read this and not get confused at times, such as the conversations surrounding Dust.

It has taken me far too long to read this book; I wish I started it sooner. Pullman has created a beautiful world filled with wonder and magic, and it has left me in awe. I’ve started reading the next in the series, The Subtle Knife, and I’m already enjoying it just as much.

Also, while I was writing this, I took a quiz to see who my daemon would be. I got a golden monkey, because I’m ‘ambitious, worldly and smart’. I’d prefer to have an owl though…

Let me know which animal your daemon would be!

Are fairy tales sexist?

This is a debate that keeps popping in and out of social media, the news, classrooms, pretty much anywhere you turn. I was reminded of it when reading Little Women, in which the girls tell stories that reminded me of fairy tales.

In an era of #metoo, people have been finding issues with fairy tales, claiming that they are offensive towards both men and women as they encourage gender stereotypes. It was recently brought to light once again by Keira Knightley, who refuses to let her daughter watch Disney’s Cinderella or The Little Mermaid. While her comments focused solely on Disney, many people have been considering fairy tales in general as well, with one mother wanting to ban the story of Sleeping Beauty in schools.

In all fairness, you can see why people view fairy tales as problematic. In most, women are damsel in distress’ who wait for their princes to save them, and in both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, they are both kissed while unconscious (in the original Sleeping Beauty, the prince rapes her, and she wakes up to give birth to twins!). Ariel gives up her voice for a man in The Little Mermaid, and in Cinderella, only by marrying the Prince can Cinderella escape. I mean, none of this screams female empowerment to me.

Also, they don’t exactly set good examples for men either. Fairy tales glorify the ‘perfect’ man who is strong, handsome and able to defeat any villain that he encounters. He is fearless and doesn’t appear to have tear ducts. And with suicide being the most common cause of death for men in the UK, being reminded of these emotionless expectations aren’t exactly ideal.

I personally love fairy tales, from the originals, retellings and of course Disney films. They are ancient stories that have lived through centuries. They’re great for quick reads, and I like to think of them as a reminder of the progress we have made when it comes to gender equality.

Fairy tales are pieces of history. Cinderella was first published in 1697, with many other stories published in the 1800s. They are old stories, and folktales passed through the ages. If we were to ban these, we would be erasing evidence of the ideas people used to have. They belong to a time where people were not encouraged to question what they read like we are now. People were less skeptical; they followed what was written. We can see glimpses of this in classic literature. To ban fairy tales would be like banning Little Women or Taming of the Shew, or any Austen novel. They are going to be seen in a different light; much loved at the time of their release, now the flaws in society during the time are exposed. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate them as what they are: iconic pieces of literature.

Furthermore, if we’re looking at ‘modern’ fairy tales, we can clearly see that they too reflect the social values at the time – of our time. Dark retellings are extremely popular, and often the author reverses the roles in the story, so the ‘princess’ saves herself. The remake of Beauty and the Beast portrays LeFou as a gay character (not focusing on it too much of course, so that the attention remained on the film itself) which deters from the heroic male stereotype and Frozen, which is based on The Snow Queen, focuses on the love of two sisters. Angela Carter’s collection of short stories, The Bloody Chamber, even though it was published in the 80s, takes the tropes in fairy tales and turns them around, such as the protagonist’s mother rescuing her from her husband’s (Bluebeard) castle instead of her brothers. And that was written decades ago! Writers for both fiction and film are listening to what our society is saying, and it shows. Children having access to both the originals and more modern takes of these tales will show them just how far we’ve come regarding gender ideals, and they will be encouraged to continue this progress.

Also, let’s give people, no matter what age, a bit of credit. The fact that people believe that children will grow up still thinking that they should spend their lives waiting for their Prince Charming to find them. I can remember Holly Willoughby saying that banning fairy tales is insulting to women as it suggests that we can differentiate between fact and fiction, and I agree. It creates the impression that we’re as stupid as they make out in the stories. We’re going to go out and work, see our friends, build our own lives, and Prince Charming can arrive whenever he wants to. But we’re not necessarily going to drop everything for him and succumb to a life of domesticity.

Times change, ideas change, and so does society. But stories stand the test of time. If we were to ban a piece of literature just because it doesn’t agree with our views, then we would eventually ban every book out there. And who would want to live in a world with no books? I certainly wouldn’t. History has never been completely moral, but I’d rather accept that any misogynistic line that’s crept its way on to a page is nothing more than a sign of its time, instead of erasing a beautiful story from the world.

My favourite books of 2018

Today I’m going to post my favourite books of 2018. Not all of these were necessarily published this year, although there are quite a few on this list that were. This list is in no particular order; I feel that choosing my number one book of 2018 would be an impossible task. Every time I think I know the answer, I suddenly discover a new book that I love just as much!

The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

“Death, once conceived, was rapacious. It took all with it .”

If you follow me on Insta, I’m sure you’re sick of me talking about this book by now. So I’ll make it short. If you like historical fiction, gothic horror, or are simply looking for a book that you can’t put down, then this is the one for you. It’s set in an old mansion filled with dark secrets, the main character is forced into a lonely and horrific situation and any person that lives in that house is far from safe.

The Corset – Laura Purcell

“But then I have noted that murderous thoughts seldom trouble the pretty and the fashionable.” 

Again, once I have raved about far too many times. But the second novel by Purcell is just as dark and terrifying. This one starts with a young woman, Ruth Butterham, who has been accused of murder. This Victorian gothic tale explores her life leading up to this point, uncovering a sad and dark past, while the second narrator, Dorothea is determined to help her as much as she can.

You can read my review of these two books here.

The Eve of Man – Tom and Giovanna Fletcher

“Against all odds, she survived. The first girl born in fifty years. They called her Eve…”

I love the world that the Fletcher’s created in this book, as well as the characters. The second book is currently being written, and after the ending in the first, it better come soon. It’s a book that I wouldn’t usually pick up, but once I started reading, I could see why so many people were raving about it. It’s the story of the first girl to be born on Earth in fifty years, and it’s one you definitely want to read.

This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

“So I told them the truth: the hours are terrible, the pay is terrible, the conditions are terrible; you’re underappreciated, unsupported, disrespected and frequently physically endangered. But there’s no better job in the world.” 

We are incredibly lucky to have the NHS. Adam Kay kept a diary when he worked as a junior doctor, and now he’s published it so we can all experience his ups and downs. From unbelievable patients and funny remarks, this book provides an insight into the work of a doctor, in a witty and sarcastic way.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

I’m not one for books about motivation, sorting out your life, etc. because frankly I find them quite dull. I just can’t get into them, I don’t find them interesting or motivating, and I just end up putting them aside. But Big Magic is a different kind of motivational book. It is aimed at creatives, helping you work towards your goals and whatever it is that you are passionate about. Gilbert explores the concept of ‘inspiration’, and gives us insight into her creative process. If you are struggling to make a start with your creative endeavors, this book will provide you with the kick that you need.

Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi

“I may have implied on several occasions to several different people that I may have been Jesus Christ, but I haven’t decided yet what I am or who I am.” 

I read this book as for university, and it is one that has stayed with me. It’s an account of the case and trial of Charles Manson, as told by the persecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. While it did take me a while to get into it, I still learnt so much about Manson, and it was interesting to see the amount of work that went into the case by the police.

All That She Can See – Carrie Fletcher

“To the voices in our heads that tell us we aren’t good enough: do be quiet.” 

My friend recommended this book to me and I’m so happy she did. It’s such a sweet book, where the protagonist has her own little bakery (you will get very hungry when reading this!) and just wants to make people feel better with her sweet treats – and her ability to see emotions. But of course, nothing ever goes to plan, and she runs into some trouble along the way.

The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

“While I was repairing a broken shelf in the crime section, I overheard an elderly customer confusing E. L. James and M. R. James while discussing horror fiction with her friend. She is either going to be pleasantly surprised or deeply shocked when she gets home with the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey she bought.”

I have this thing for books that are set in bookshops and libraries, so of course I bought this one as soon as I saw it. Shaun Bythell is blunt and sarcastic, and is filled with details about the book-buying process, the customers that he encounters and his not-so-reliable staff. It sounds like he wants to put people off running a bookstore, but strangely, it made me want to own one even more?

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?” 

This book is so cleverly written, it just had to be featured in this list. Full of traditional crime-noir motifs, complex characters and inner battles between the protagonist and the bodies he inhabits, it’s a read that you will not want to put down. It’s long, over 500 pages, but that’s because there are so many events and little details that all add up to the novel’s conclusion, nothing could be missed out. I did struggle to get into it first, but after the first few hosts, the situation is explained and the rest of the book is clear.

Read my review for this book here.