The Town Of Books: A Literary Guide To Hay-On-Wye

Hay-On-Wye, aptly named Britain’s ‘The Town of Books’ is a reader’s paradise. It seems to be immune to the dying-bookshop trend, as it has 21 bookshops filled with rare editions, recent releases, poetry, and so much more.

I’ve visited twice now, my bank account crying both times, and I can’t wait to go back and add to my reading pile. It’s just a never-ending world of books, and I never seem to walk away from there feeling like I bought everything I wanted – there are always more books to discover!

My favourite bookshops in Hay-On-Wye

Hay Cinema Bookshop

So this bookshop has 200,000 books!! Renovated from a restored cinema, Hay Cinema Bookshop contains every genre you can think of, non-fiction titles like art, music, history and zoology, stunning editions of classics and even a few rare finds. It’s the longest established bookshop in this little town, and you can see why it’s been so successful. I actually got lost in here; my sister came in to find me, and suddenly we had no idea where the exit was, wandering around and just finding more bookshelves – I encountered so many more sections that hadn’t explored yet, so I will definitely be returning soon!

Richard Booth’s Bookshop

Richard Booth, the self-proclaimed ‘King of Hay,’ is known for partly setting up Hay-On-Wye’s second-hand bookshop success. He opened his bookshop in a building that was previously a fire station, purchased books from the deteriorating libraries in America and used them as the beginning stock of the newly opened Richard Booth’s Bookshop. The shop has a quirky atmosphere, comfy seating, and three floors rammed with wooden bookshelves and displays. There’s also a cafe and cinema, but I am yet to take a look at these.

Addyman Books

Addyman Books is divided into three separate shops throughout Hay-On-Wye, and each one caters to different tastes. This one, located on Lion Street, is painted in a beautiful blue colour with intricate patterns that made it feel so luxurious, and the floorboards creaked, and it just smelt of books (obviously), and oh my god I didn’t want to leave. There is a small room dedicated to Penguin Random House, with elaborate shelves filled with vintage Penguin Classics. I had never seen so many vintage Penguins in one place before!

Addyman Annexe

The second out of the three Addyman bookshops (I still need to visit the third – Murder & Mayhem bookshop), it can be considered to be one of the more insta-worthy in Hay-On-Wye. This particular bookshop isn’t just about celebrating the stories told through the written word, but it also celebrates the beauty that books themselves have. The books are organised by colour, and there are little reading nooks dotted throughout the shop.

The best thing about this place, though? The sign outside stating that Kindles are banned.

Hay-On-Wye Booksellers

Hay On Wye Booksellers is one of the most memorable bookshops in this small town, and that is partly due to its unique style. It has a vintage appeal – black and white wood panelling, two floors of wooden-shelving and a little swinging sign; it certainly stands out from the rest of the street. The books range from well-known bestsellers, rare editions, and beautiful covers, you will definitely need to set aside some time when visiting this one. There are sofas and plenty of space to move about, so you’ll feel right at home.

Green Ink Booksellers

Green Ink Booksellers is the newest bookshop to open in Hay-On-Wye, joining the town of books in 2018. I love that in a world where bookshops are becoming a dying trend, there are exceptions like these that give hope for the future of bookselling. The outside of the shop is beautiful: painted in a vibrant teal and gold lettering for its name, you really can’t miss it. The shop focuses on history, philosophy, and literature, spanning over two levels. If you go down the creaky steps, you’ll find editions of memorable classics – an entire shelf dedicated to Enid Blyton was the highlight for me.

The Bookshops I still need to visit

The thing with Hay-On-Wye is that there are just so many bookshops, each requiring a decent amount of time to look at every bookshelf, that it’s impossible to see them all within one or two visits. There are still a few bookshops I need to see, such as:

Murder and Mayhem

This bookshop sells exactly what the name says. Filled with solely crime, thriller, and horror books, it’s high on my list for my next trip to Hay-On-Wye. As the same owner runs it as the Addyman bookshops, I have high expectations.

Poetry Bookshop

It’s strange for me to put this on my list as I don’t love poetry that much. However, as it’s the only bookshop in the UK dedicated solely to poetry, I am curious to see what’s on offer. There are a few poets that I like (Christina Rossetti is my favourite!), so I might surprise myself and find some hidden treasures hidden amongst the shelves.

Honesty Bookshop in Hay Castle

There is a bookshop on the castle grounds!! Hay Castle is currently under construction, so it’s closed until 2020. If only I had realised that Honesty Bookshop is still open! Definitely need to go back soon. This bookshop consists of open shelves against the walls of the castle grounds and has been there since the 1960s. There is a payment box there, all books are £1, and all money goes towards the castle. It’s a beautiful idea that allows you to read a book and enjoy the small bustle of the town centre, and I cannot wait to see it for myself.

Other Things To Do In Hay-On-Wye

Hay-On-Wye is the town of books, but there are other places to see for those who aren’t so interested in the bookshops (probably those who have been dragged there against their will – apologies to my boyfriend). What makes Hay-On-Wye so sweet is that there is nothing but independent shops and eateries – not a single branded in chain in sight (Other than a small Co-Op and Spar).

Here are other places of interest:

Hay Castle

Right now, as I mentioned earlier, the castle is closed for renovations until 2020. This beautiful building is under threat – the walls are collapsing, there are signs of extreme deterioration, the Norman Keep is severely unstable. However, part of the grounds themselves are still open, and they are lovely to walk around if you need a break from all those bookshops.

Independent Shops

Bookshops aren’t the only shops available in Hay-On-Wye. As we walked around the cobbled streets, we found CD and DVD shops, antiques, shops selling costumes, crafts, fudge, anything you can think of.

Another notable store

Another shop that I visited that deserves a mention in this post is Bartums & Co. It’s a beautiful stationary shop that spans across two floors and supplies a range of stationery and writing instruments, such as fine pens and calligraphy, pots of ink and quills, high-quality paper and notebooks, office supplies, bookmarks, letter writing sets, files and folders and so much more. It even smells like an old, traditional stationary shop – it’s a writer’s haven!

On the second level, there is a desk with paper and different types of fountain pens and ink so you can see which pen is right for you. I came out of there with a new bucket-list bookmark (lists all the must-read books of all time) and a letter writing set, but I also almost came out with a set of temporary book tattoos, a new notebook, and a handful of pens. I had to be stopped as by the time I had reached this shop, my bank account was crying…

Eateries in Hay-On-Wye

I have to admit, I wasn’t blown away by the selection of eateries in Hay-On-Wye, but that’s because I couldn’t see that many to choose from, so I’m sure there’s plenty there to find.

For lunch, we went to a cafe called The Shepard’s Parlour, which served freshly made sandwiches, ice cream, soups, and more. The iced coffee was amazing, and my mozzarella sandwich tasted lovely. Will be returning to try the cakes though!

We went to the restaurant at The Three Tuns, a pub with a cute little courtyard at the back, fairy lights running along the wooden staircases. It was an Italian menu, I had crab tagliatelle, and it tasted delicious. However, the brownie was the best part of the meal by far!

If you’re a bookworm, you NEED to visit Hay-On-Wye. It’s a book paradise, filled with rare treasures and well-known favourites for half the price you would expect to pay at Waterstones; safe to say, you will never want to leave.

(I recommend going once you’ve been paid though – your bank account will be very empty after your visit!)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The books I found at Cardiff Castle

A couple of days before Christmas, I visited Cardiff Castle to see the Christmas lights and take a look around, as I’ve never been before. It turns out it has a beautiful library stocked with hundreds of old books! There was artwork along the walls, and the bookcases themselves were decorative as well. The fireplace was huge (I wish they had lit it though, it’s hard to keep warm in a castle!) and a rather elegant-looking Christmas tree had been put up. There was also a wedding taking place at another part of the castle and were due to have their drinks in the library, so at the entrance was a table with champagne flutes on top. Safe to say, I have now chosen a venue for my future wedding.

I’ve tried to find the exact names of the editions of the books mentioned (some you aren’t allowed to touch), but unfortunately, I couldn’t find them all. So this post is more of a cry for help than anything tbh :L If anyone knows anything about them, please let me know!

william shakespeare

 

 

When I searched for these Shakespeare editions, Howard Staunton came up many times. The only issue is, there are lots of different Shakespeare collections by this publisher, and these never came up in my searches. Most of the ones that did though were published in the 1800s, and to me, these look like they come from the same era. I couldn’t see the first volume of this collection in the library either.

alfred tennyson

 

 

These books are a twelve-volume set of The Life and Works of Tennyson, published in 1898 by Macmillan & Co. They are incredibly decorated hardbacks, with green cloth and gilt on the spine. It annoyed me how two of the books have been placed the wrong way round!

victor hugo

 

 

Look how beautiful these Victor Hugo books are! I found these on Abebooks, but most of the publishing details on in French, and Google wouldn’t translate the whole page. From what I could work out, these editions feature black and white illustration amongst the text and have a hard leather cover. They were released sometime in the 18th/19th century and published by Ollendorf (?).

jane austen

 

 

I can’t actually find any information about these. At the bottom of the spine it says ‘Edinburgh MCMXI’, which I typed in to Google, and could only find different editions of Austen novels. If anyone knows anything about these, please let me know! I love the blue covers.

charles dickens

 

 

Again, I couldn’t find any info on these books, which are old editions of Charles Dickens. I searched the exact wording that’s on the spines, but nothing. Any ideas?

The books I got for Christmas

I’m writing this on Boxing day, at my dad’s house with a cup of tea and the smell of my second Christmas dinner roasting away in the oven. I received so many amazing gifts this year; I’ve been incredibly lucky. I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas that’s been warm, cosy and full of fun.

Before Christmas, I posted a list of the books that were on my Christmas list, which did have a few more additions by the time Christmas came around. Some I received and some I didn’t, and I had a few unexpected ones as well. Keep reading to see which ones I had.

A Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

 Image by  Waterstones
Image by Waterstones

This is one of the books that was not my list, but I was still delighted with it. I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard plenty about it. When I was at uni, it was read as part of a module some of my friends were on, and they all spoke highly of it. So now I can read it myself and see if I feel the same.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

As I said on my Christmas list post, I thought I had the whole of Little Women, but once I got to the end of my edition, it turns out I only had part one! And so I’ve been wanting to read the next half ever since. I received the Clothbound Classic edition, the one I was hoping for. The cover is so pretty! I know what happens in the next half (which was called ‘Little Wives’ when it first came out) and I can already tell that it’s going to be emotional.

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

 Image by  Pinterest
Image by Pinterest

Another Clothbound Classic. I’ve read this story before, and Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors. So naturally, I have to own the Clothbound Classic edition. The cover is stunning, and I can’t wait to give it reread.

Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindelwald – J.K Rowling

I’m not usually one for reading scripts and screenplays, but I received Fantastic Beasts, and the cover is so beautiful, I think I’m persuaded. The film was incredible, and it’ll be interesting to read the screenplay.

Spelled – Betsy Schow

 Image by  Amazon
Image by Amazon

So I got this the week before Christmas as part of my Bookstagram Secret Santa. My Secret Santa bought me this book because I love fairy tales, and this book combines all fairy tale characters in one world, like Once Upon A Time. The main character is Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, which makes a nice change to many fairy tale rewritings that I’ve read, as I’ve never read one that features her before.

The War of the Worlds – H.G Wells

This is another one that wasn’t on my list. I’m not a big reader of science fiction, but this book was written during the Victorian era, and I think it’ll be interesting to see what sort of ideas there were concerning aliens. I wasn’t aware of how much knowledge there was about the solar system around this era, as the theory of evolution was still considered to be controversial at the time. The Victorian Era is one of my favourite time periods to learn about, so I’m looking forward to furthering my knowledge.

Poor Unfortunate soul – Serena Valentino

 Image by  Amazon
Image by Amazon

This will be the second of the darker Disney books that I’d have read, the first being based on Beauty and the Beast. I love fairy tale retellings, and so seeing ones based on Disney movies is right up my street. The Little Mermaid is also one of my favourite princesses (and I really like the original story by Hans Christian Anderson), so this book is just perfect for me.

A Literary Christmas – The British Library

There are no words to describe how excited I am to read this book. Christmas has been mentioned in so many books and poems over the years, from Dickens to Alcott, Eliot, and Tusser. This little anthology has included all of these authors and more, allowing you to read about the ghosts of Christmas past and present, what Christmas would be like on a diet, or Christmas day as a Tudor. Filled with short stories, poems, and essays, this book explores Christmas in the literary world, and I can’t wait to dive in.

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

 Image by  Folio Society
Image by Folio Society

If you read my Christmas list post, you’d know that I originally wanted Folio Society’s edition of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. However, after finding out just how expensive they were, decided to settle for a cheaper version instead. So you can imagine my surprise when I unwrapped Folio’s books! I was speechless. I now own the most beautiful editions ever, and I’m so so so happy. I still can’t get over how exquisite they are, and not just the cover, but the quality of paper and Folio’s signature stitched binding. The collection weighs a ton, but I love them. The only downside? They make some of my other books look plain in comparison!

 

 

7 books that are on my Christmas list

I’ve got quite a few books on my Christmas list this year, and it’s getting longer and longer. By the time I’ve published this post, it’s probably grown even more. So here are my top seven at the moment; if I don’t get them for Christmas (which, considering the length of the list, is quite likely!), then I shall certainly be making a trip to Waterstones very soon.

The Penguin Classics book

 Image from  Penguin Random House
Image from Penguin Random House

This book explores literary history, from Ancient Greece, Japanese poetry, War stories and more. I love reading classic literature, and this looks like it’s filled with inspiration for my next reading slump.

The Librarian – Salley Vickers

Any book that is set in a library appeals to me. I want to read this one in particular because it takes place in the 1950s, and I can’t ever remember reading a book set in that decade. I want to see the differences in attitudes towards reading, and I’m also intrigued by the exploration of what children’s literature has on us. It sounds like a wonderfully bookish adventure, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I’d Rather Be Reading – Ann Bogel

A book can have so many effects on you, and it can stay with you for weeks, even years. Bogel captures these moments, as well as many others that a reader experiences. She explores the feeling of your first book, finding a book that you love and finding one that you hate. It encourages you to reflect on the effect that books have on your life, and I think it’s the perfect book for an avid reader.

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

 Image from  Waterstones
Image from Waterstones

After reading Circe, I’ve been keeping my eye out for mythological-based novels, as it’s a new genre that I’ve never really read before. I find Greek myths and legends so interesting, and reading them imagined is just as fascinating. I especially love the idea of the legends being retold through a woman’s perspective, as these stories feature many well-known, iconic women that we don’t know much about. The Silence of the Girls, described as a ‘feminist Iliad,’ where Barker places the female goddesses at the heart of the story, which I’m incredibly intrigued by and can’t wait to read.

The Dark Artifices: The Queen of Air and Darkness – Cassandra Clare

The Mortal Instruments is one of my favourite book collections ever, as are the many other Shadowhunter novels that Clare has released. The Queen of Air and Darkness is the latest addition to The Dark Artifices, and I’ve been waiting for this book for so long. Julian and Emma have become one of my favourite fictional couples, and I have become so engrossed in many of the other characters that I’m somewhat scared to see what happens at the end of this novel, especially after Livia’s death in the last book.

Little Women (Clothbound Classic edition) – Louisa May Alcott

I bought this book recently, and I loved it. However, it turns out it ends at the end of part one and does not include Little Wives, the rest of the story. Penguin’s Clothbound Classic edition has both parts one and two, so I need to get it soon to finish what I started. As well as this, it’s been a while since I added to my growing collection of Clothbound Classics, so this book will solve this problem.

The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

 Image from  The Folio Society
Image from The Folio Society

I’ve seen The Golden Compass but never read the books. I’ve always wanted to, just never got round to it. I’m currently meeting up with someone who’s writing a novel, and she told me that Pullman’s style of writing influenced her. This comment reminded me of The Amber Spyglass, and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. So now I am determined to get a copy and read it. (The Folio Society have a beautiful set of all three books, but they’re over £100! 😦 Currently looking out for different editions, although they all seem to pale in comparison!)