Books that should be in every library

This post was inspired by The Librarian, in which the protagonist is a children’s librarian. Throughout the book, so many children’s’ books are mentioned and how amazing they are. It made me think about books that have impacted me, and why they should be read by pretty much everyone on this planet. I’ve tried to stick with children’s books, but it’s turned out to be an even split between them and adults books. It was so hard to leave any out!

Let me know which books you would include in this list!

To Kill A Mockingbird

It’s a heart-wrenching book that oozes powerful themes such as racism, prejudice, adolescence, cruelty – ideas that are still relevant today. The life lessons that Atticus preaches (and practices himself – one of the many reasons why he is the best character in the novel) are just priceless.

Alice in Wonderland

It’s not hard for a child to become wrapped up in Lewis Carroll’s fantasy world of Wonderland. It’s a whimsical yet incredibly-crafted tale in which Alice gradually learns to see things in different perspectives. The book is filled with charming and memorable characters whom Alice doesn’t judge, but she accepts that each one is different, even if she is taken back by this whole new world at times.

Carroll also comes up with some beautiful, relatable quotes. Here are two of my favourites:

‘Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality’ – Cheshire Cat

You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants a magical solution for their problem and everyone refuses to believe in magic.’ – Mad Hatter

I feel that it’s worth reading this book for statements like this alone.

The Great Gatsby

Another adult book, but seriously, if you haven’t read The Great Gatsby yet, why the hell not? This book provides a timeless insight into society and the people who are part of it, even if Fitzgerald’s novel is set in the 1920s. The issues explored are still relevant today. It’s a love story, a rags-to-riches tale, a warning of corruption and money. Also, yes, it’s 10000x better than the Leo DiCaprio film.

The Secret Garden

There’s just something magical about The Secret Garden that keeps you entice for pretty much the rest of your life. Whenever the title pops up, you instantly think of the thousands of roses, the determined character of Sarah, who learns to take care of herself and eventually discovers the magic of the natural world. Also, you cannot forget about Martha, the Yorkshire servant who is possibly the sweetest character in the novel. It’s a different kind of book in which the goodness of seemingly unlikeable characters is revealed without the guidance of adults.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

No matter how old you are, I think that every person alive should read this book. Anne was an extraordinary girl with a good way of thinking. Through her diary, not only do you get a first-hand account of the effects that WW2 brought, but you also experience her adolescence, her perseverance to get through this haunting period and her desire to live life the best way that she can.

For me, the most saddening thing about her life is that Anne died only months before the camps were liberated.

Harry Potter

I feel like pretty much 90% of the population has read the Harry Potter books, so in this case, I’ll keep it short. This isn’t just a story about wizards and witches; it’s a tale of bravery, friendship, and childhood – there are so many life lessons hidden amongst the magical tale. It amazes me that someone could conjure up a world as intricate as this, so many details that create this illusion that there really is a Hogwarts nestled in Scotland.

Macbeth

I think that everyone should read a Shakespeare play at least once in their lives. Not just study it, but actually read it. And not only because of the supernatural elements that make it a perfect read for autumn. There are so many themes throughout this play that have captured readers since the dawn of time – thirst for power, the meaning of life, and what lies within people’s hearts. The characters themselves are based on real people, And, most importantly, behind the fancy language, there’s a fast-paced, enticing story!

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice isn’t just a love story. It explores the stereotypes that people are constantly faced with – it’s literally about people who are proud and prejudiced. Characters judge each other thanks to influences around them, and they find that they’re wrong, once they’ve taken the time to actually get to know each other (if you’ve read this book, you’ll know that it’s not that simple, but it’s the best of way to explain it without any spoilers!). It’s a message that can still be applied today.

Wuthering Heights

I couldn’t write this list without featuring one of my all-time favourite books. Wuthering Heights is great because the characters in this are flawed; Heathcliff is cruel and horrible, and Cathy is selfish af. But yet, Heathcliff loves her anyway. I won’t call this book realistic because it most certainly isn’t and dark as hell in some parts, but the fact that you can’t decide on which character to like as your opinion of them changes throughout the story is something that we should learn to expect in real life. That, and Bronte’s writing is brilliant.

review: The Librarian

SPOILERS AHEAD

I have been procrastinating with this review a lot, simply because, as sad as I am to say it, I was a little disappointed by The Librarian. I’m not saying that it’s a bad book, I still enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favourite and definitely not as exciting as I thought it would be.

I loved Salley Vickers’ message throughout this book – libraries matter. I agree, I used to love going to the library when I was little, I still carry my first ever library card in my purse! I volunteered at the library for a few summers before I went away to uni, helping out with the Reading Challenge, organising events for families while encouraging children to read. So Sylvia’s plan to bring the children’s library to life resonates with me. It’s what made me buy the book. It was lovely to read how the children of East Mole acquired an interest in reading and fell in love with the children’s classics that Sylvia recommends, and reading about the beauty of children’s books:

‘Maybe [ . . . ] it’s because children’s authors can write about magic, other worlds, and be taken seriously’

The library also proves to be a catalyst for Sylvia. The theft of Tropic of Cancer from the restricted section, a dissatisfied boss and neighbour, an affair with the doctor – whose daughter regularly visited the library when Sylvia was working – risk Sylvia’s good-heartedness and her career.

I liked that there were so many different characters in this novel, all with a range of personalities. I found it interesting that Sylvia never quite fits in with each one, there’s always some sort of difference between the characters she engages with.

What I didn’t like about the book was how jumpy the narrative was. Not in terms of plot (although the last chapter jumps ahead about seventy years, something that I found unnecessary), but in terms of scenes and conversations. Usually, the speech is written without stating who’s saying what (which isn’t a problem as it’s easy to follow on’ but Vickers does not include the movements that the characters are making at the time. An example of this is when speaking with the doctor (I’ve completely forgotten his name, oops), he suddenly changes conversation by asking ‘Why are you laughing?’ This changed the narrative for me, as I had no idea that Sylvia was laughing – it was not indicated anywhere in this section – and I was not imagining her that way. So it took me out of the novel slightly. (disclaimer – I don’t have the book with me at the moment, so if that is not the exact speech, I apologise!)

This is not the only instance when Vicker’s writing put me off – I personally found some of the descriptions quite flat and plain at times. I was unable to paint a clear image from her words during some scenes, which is the most important thing when it comes to writing for me.

Finally, I really wasn’t a fan of the time jump at the end. I felt too disconnected from the characters (granted this is 70 years on, so they were different, but it was like they were complete strangers), and I just didn’t find much point to it. Once it mentioned that Sylvia had married (someone who we never met) and passed away, I wanted to put the book down. I felt like, after spending so much time with this lovely character, I would have liked a bit more detail on her husband and family life.

The Librarian is definitely not the worst book I read, and I loved so many aspects of it, the story itself was sweet. But I personally could not get on with Vicker’s style of writing. This book has been quite successful, so it appeals to other readers, clearly, but it just wasn’t for me.

8 things that made me happy this month

March was a pretty good month – it usually is anyway because the weather is slightly warmer and sunnier and we’re even closer to summer, but this time it was really really good.

New books

I bought myself two new books this month which always makes me happy. The first one was The Bear and the Nightingale, which I have heard so many good things about, and Enchante, one that I had never heard of before but sounded interesting, and the cover is beautiful! It’s set during the French Revolution and I’ve never read a book that’s set in that time period, so I’m excited to start reading it.

 

 

I met Katherine Arden

The advantage of working in Cheltenham is that I am close to a Waterstones five days a week, and I can easily fit their events into my day. I spent my work break last week queuing amongst the bookshelves, clutching The Bear and the Nightingale, praying that I would have time to meet Katherine Arden. I did, even if it was for only five minutes, but she was lovely, and I wish I had more time to speak to her properly. She took the time with everyone she talked to, making an effort to get to know her fans, which I thought was so lovely of her. Many authors tend to take a sign-and-go approach to book signings, so it was lovely to see someone who chilled out a bit more.

I had an awesome review at work

I had my three-month review on Friday, and I felt proud of myself. I’m doing really well, and I know my targets for the next three months – I’m looking forward to improving myself and coming out with even better results.

Tried a Costa-Kinder Bueno Concoction

Hot chocolate is one of my go-to drinks at Costa, and now that they’ve released the white hot chocolate, it’s all I seem to be drinking. One of the girls who works in one of the Cheltenham branches suggested I add a hazelnut shot to it because it tastes like Kinder Bueno, and she wasn’t wrong. It’s not sickly, not too sweet, yet still satisfies my chocolate cravings. I order a medium size and it’s gone in about three seconds every. time. I highly recommend.

My Instagram is taking off

I wrote in a recent post that I hadn’t loved my bookstagram really, which is a shame as it’s what led me to create this blog and I have such fun with it. However, I’ve been going out quite a bit and taking lots of photos, plus with new books to take pictures off, and I think I’m back on track.

Just a quick note to say, thank you to those who are following me, I’ve made so many friends across different countries, and if it weren’t for you guys, I wouldn’t have started this blog.

I’ve read the most books this month compared to the beginning of the year

January and February were quite slow in terms of reading. Jan was about reading His Dark Materials series (reviews here and here – I did read all three, just haven’t written up my thoughts on the third installment whoops) and in February I got hardly any reading done.

However, this month, I’ve read books such as The Familiars, The Silence of the Girls, The Librarian and right now, The Bear and the Nightingale. Reading these types of books as well have provided me with so much inspiration for my writing, both novel and blog, and I love it. March has been a productive month for me.

 

 

I’m going to Rome!!!

My boyfriend and I booked a holiday to Rome in September, and I’m already so excited I think I might explode.

I took my place as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms

HBO revealed that six replicas of the Iron Throne have been placed in different locations across the world – turns out the first, the Throne of the Forest, was in Puzzlewood in Forest of Dean. On Saturday we went for a hunt through the forest, and after TWO AND A HALF HOURS of waiting, I was crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. An epic way to end the month.

An ode to the creative person

Want to know something awesome?

You can lift yourself into a whole new world, just by putting words down on a piece of paper. Write one word, then another, and then another, and soon you will find yourself transported into a different world that is built entirely by your imagination.

Creative people are the best kind of people, not that I’m biased or anything ha. Creatives are curious, excited, passionate, always noticing the little things about their world and channeling their discoveries and ideas into their work, no matter what form it takes.

Curious about everything and anything, wanting to play around and explore, experimenting with what you love. It’s all about that moment when a thought hits you hard enough to ignite a spark that’s so strong it consumes you; it’s suddenly all you can think about. If you’re doing something small and mundane like washing up or sat at your desk in the office trying to concentrate on the task at hand, but instead you sit there dreaming about this idea and the impact it could have. Because, in one way or another, every project you take on will have some sort of influence somewhere, even if it is only on yourself.

Creative people never stop working, you see. Even if it’s only thinking about the next stage of their work, preparing themselves for when they can get to their desired workspace and start putting pen to paper (or paintbrush to canvas, or fingers to keyboard or guitar strings, or fingers to camera – that last one was so poorly written, but you get what I mean ha). When you look at successful creatives, there is one common thread between every single one of them: they never gave up. They kept on working for as long as they could on a daily basis. Any moment of time that they suddenly have, they used it for their pursuits. Creative people are some of the most hardworking people you will ever meet. And they are like this for many reasons.

One is that they literally cannot escape their ideas. Ideas loom over you, taking over your life. They can stay with you for days, months, years. They sit with you when you’re drinking your morning coffee, walking alongside you on your morning commute, sleeping next to you every night. Ideas attach themselves to you, and consumes you, the basis of your motivation.

Another reason is the fight. I think what’s amazing about creatives is that they fight against the time they have and their struggles, with no guarantee that it will ever amount to anything. Emily Dickinson wrote against the lack of encouragement she received, the lack of response from those who read her work, continuously scribbling away in isolation and her loneliness. Charles Dickens fought against his lack of education and his poor working conditions by writing fifteen novels and hundreds of short stories, campaigning for social reforms like children’s rights and education. Nothing stops a creative person, because they refuse to let it.

To put it simply, creative people are amazing.

Creativity is a raw expression of oneself – no one creates work from nothing (I hope I got that saying right). Creatives are motivated by what they see, feel, hear, think. They then take all of that and put it on display for everyone to see. I don’t think there’s anything braver.

Just think. That book you read that you can’t stop thinking about? That song that you listen to on repeat without interruption? That film that you keep telling people to watch? That photograph or artwork that was so captivating you almost cried? That musical that had you on the edge of your seat? Creative people did that. They’ve had an impact on your life, by expressing something from their own.

To summarise, I love being a creative person. Also, more importantly, I love writing.

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.