Why The Order Of The Phoenix Is The Best Harry Potter Book

Whenever you ask someone what the best Harry Potter book is, it’s usually Prisoner Of Azkaban. Now, I’m not saying it’s a terrible book – I can see why some deem it the most significant. It’s a lot darker compared to the first two Harry Potter books, the characters come into their own, whereas in the previous two they are still finding themselves and their way around the wizarding world, and we meet Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather and a key character in the series.

But, Order Of The Phoenix speaks more volumes for me. While many say that it’s a challenging read – I mean it is 766 pages, a vast amount compared to Philosopher’s Stone (223 pages) – and that it’s not as fun as the previous installments in the series, I personally liked it because of those reasons. Order Of The Phoenix is a major turning point for Harry and his friends, so it only fits for the book to carry a different tone.

So, here are just some of the many, many reasons why Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix is the best book in the Harry Potter series.

It contains one of the most significant moments in the series

Think back to the prophecy made by Professor Trelawny to Dumbledore:

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…”

— Professor Trelawny

This quote is spoken during Trelawny’s interview for the position of Divination teacher at Hogwarts, and while Dumbledore was giving the interview, Snape overheard the first part of the prophecy which he then reported to Voldemort. This resulted in James and Lily Potter going into hiding once Dumbledore warned them, but, after trusting Peter Pettigrew with their location, Voldemort killed them while trying to kill Harry. After this, one of Voldemort’s aims was to find out the end of the prophecy.

He believed that the last part of the prophecy would tell him how to kill Harry, and so a large part of the Order’s work was to prevent this from happening. In the end, Voldemort never got to hear the rest of the prophecy, but Harry did, which also led to Dumbledore’s explanation of why Voldemort is so obsessed with him. This conversation was one of the big moments that we had been waiting for – after reading the first four books and waiting for the reason to be revealed, it finally happened, setting up the premise for the last two installments of this series. The Harry Potter franchise rests on that explanation.

The Breaking Down Of Harry Potter

Ok, I’m not saying that Harry’s meltdowns are a good thing because they’re not. However, it makes him a more relatable character and gives him depth.

There are many darker themes throughout this novel, and truths are revealed about a handful of characters which shows them in a new light. And one example of this is James Potter.

During Harry’s Occlumency lessons, he watched James act like an arrogant bully towards Snape when they were at Hogwarts, a glass-shattering illusion for Harry, and readers everywhere, as a character who we thought was a hero wasn’t all that we thought he was.

This can even be said for Dumbledore. As Harry grows throughout the series, his relationship with Dumbledore becomes slightly strained and frustrating, especially in this book when he abandons Harry during one of the worst years of his life. Because of this, he then feels more alone than ever and is thus vulnerable to Voldemort.

These revelations throughout the book, mourning for Cedric, the pressure of leading Dumbledore’s Army, the death of Sirius and that fact that, at the end of the novel, Voldemort is still alive and well, all add up to this feeling of hatred in Harry. It all comes together as a weight that makes him feel alone and like nothing more than a pawn in an extremely dark game.

We’ve all experienced these feelings (obviously we’re not being hunted by the darkest wizard of all time, but you get what I mean), so to see our hero break down, constantly feeling tired and broken, can kind of create a somewhat reassuring feeling inside us readers. Like Harry comes to realise at the end of the novel, we are not alone, even though it feels that way sometimes.

Realistic Themes

Yes, this is a book set in a wizarding world, but several themes are incredibly relevant right now.

One of the most central themes is the abuse of power, as illustrated best by the most hated character in the wizarding world: Professor Umbridge.

It is clear to see that Dolores Umbridge loves power more than anything else. As she rises from the Defence Against The Dark Arts professor to a leading role in Hogwarts, she continues to exert her authority in cruel ways, even going as far as firing Trelawny (until Albus Dumbledore intervenes).

She, along with the Ministry, uses Voldemort’s return as a campaign for continuous political power, worrying that if everyone sides with Harry and Dumbledore, people will attempt to overthrow the Ministry. The fact that Fudge has that much control that he succeeds in creating an active campaign against Harry that detriments the public’s safety without anyone realising, apart from the few people who do, is terrifying, and shows the extent leaders will go through to maintain their power.

Another theme that features strongly in Order Of The Phoenix is the rise of youth activism. Right now, our generation is protesting against global warming, unequal rights, causes that will significantly affect our future. In the book, Dumbledore’s Army rises against the restrictions that the Ministry imposes by practicing defensive spells and learning to defend themselves against the dark forces that roam free. It was a protest against Umbridge and her tight reign throughout Hogwarts. They fight for what is right.

Through this, J.K Rowling is teaching her readers to not settle for injustice. And, going by the movements that our generations have created such as #metoo and Black Lives Matter, her readers are listening.

It Shows That J.K Rowling Stopped Messing Around

The first three Harry Potter books were fun and light-hearted, full of wizarding delights, owls and Quidditch games. The way that death is treated in these books prove this; Quill’s death was nowhere near as saddening as Cedric’s death in The Goblet Of Fire, as Quill was a villain. We all loved Cedric. It broke us, as it suddenly took away the belief that the good characters will survive.

Rowling then decided to really rub it in by killing Sirius.

Harry had only just found the family that he had wanted all his life. His father figure, someone to look up to. He was Harry’s chance to escape the Dursley’s home. So Rowling decides to rip all of that to shreds.

The fact that she does this just as a small glimmer of happiness is entering Harry’s life tells us that no one is safe, evil, or not. It is from this point that we started to worry about our favourite characters.

Secondary characters come into their own

As mentioned earlier, in Prisoner of Azkaban, we see Harry, Ron and Hermione come into their own after spending the first two books sussing out the wizarding world.

Well, in Order Of The Phoenix, more of our favourite characters came into the spotlight. Moody, Tonks, Lupin, Fred, and George (to name a few), all become prominent characters. We learn more about Ron’s parents and how they’ve previously battled Death Eaters and are ready to do it again. We get an insight into Snape’s life, turning him into more of a three-dimensional character. Harry’s relationship grows with these characters, which they all benefit from.

What is your favourite Harry Potter book?

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!)

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.

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.

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.

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?

Review: Coram Boy

SPOILERS AHEAD

Winner of the 2001 Whitbread Award, Coram Boy relates the intertwining stories of Meshak Gardiner and Alexander Ashbrook, two young men of different abilities and backgrounds who nonetheless find their fate inextricably linked. Meshak, the mentally handicapped son of Otis Gardiner, helps his father dispose of unwanted children; generally infants whose mothers think that Mr. Gardiner will transport them to Coram Hospital, a newly-created facility to care for abandoned children. Able to convince the distraught mothers that their newborns will be well-cared for in exchange for a small fee, Mr. Gardiner later hands the infants over to Meshak, who then buries the children in the woods. Years of burying infants and selling older ones into slavery have made Mr. Gardiner rich, but one day he is accused of blackmailing the wealthy mothers of these children. Everyone believes that he was hanged for his crimes and that his son, Meshak, quietly slipped away. Not until years later do people realize what happened to the Gardiners and all of the abandoned children.

***

Historical fiction is my favourite genre. I’ve always been fascinated with history, and so reading stories that allow me to live the lives based upon past events excites me so much. I’m currently writing a historical fiction novel myself, and for the setting, I’ve been inspired by the Forest of Dean, my home, and its surrounding areas. Coram Boy takes place in Gloucester as well as London, so it was nice to read a book of this genre that’s set in the same county as mine. I could see how Jamila Gavin captured two 18th century cities, both of which were clearly researched in meticulous detail, in their dirtiest light, exploring the lives of the lower classes instead of just focusing on the more privileged.

One of the things that stood out for me was the character of Meshak. He is described as a ‘simpleton’ and is treated poorly throughout the novel, particularly by his father. He has a strong moral compass, even though there are times when it becomes a bit warped (trying to keep Aaron from his parents to protect his ‘angel’s’ son, for example). He is plagued by the voices of the children that he buries, feeling guilty over the fact that he didn’t save them. Gavin capture this with chilling sentences like ‘He feels the need to be dead.’ For a boy as young as Meshak to think something like this is just heartbreaking.

While the story is told through an omniscient narrator, the majority of the events are experienced through the children’s perspective, which, in a way, makes some of the horrific events seem worse. When Meshak sees black slaves, for example. ‘It was human, wasn’t it? He licked his finger and smoothed it over the baby’s skin to see if the black would come off.’ The way that this baby is alienated because of his skin colour is shocking, and the way that Meshak innocently rubs him with his finger to see if the colour would come off shows the severity of the racism during this period.

Racism is also explored through Toby, a black orphan and Aaron’s best friend. Toby’s treatment at Mr. Gaddarn’s party is exceptionally saddening, as ‘the ladies adored him, and loved to bounce him on their knees, feed him sweets, and push their fingers under his turban to feel his extraordinarily crinkly hair.’ I never knew that black children were hired to be poked and prodded simply for entertainment during this time period, and, to say the least, it was appalling.

The characters of Alex and Thomas are two of my favourites in this novel. They both come from different worlds and yet are united through their love of music. I felt so sorry for Alex, as his father forbids him to follow his passion. I have to say though; there were times when I forgot Alex’s age and thought him as older, so the times when I was reminded of his age completely changed my image of him.

I also felt this way with Melissa, who, at the start of the book, is fourteen years old. She acts her age at the beginning, from joining in with her sibling’s games and experiencing her first period, but then also sleeps with Alex and gets pregnant. I could not imagine characters as naive as these having sex. Also, the fact that Melissa was able to conceal her entire pregnancy and birth is hard to believe tbh. There were moments when her youth was highlighted, such as when she thought she could raise her child at home without her parents noticing, not realising how noisy a baby could be, her focus on knitting cute little clothes for it. Not to mention her reaction to her growing ‘roundness’ and her disbelief when her maid informed her of her pregnancy. If anything, moments like this made it so much harder for me to believe this subplot.

I enjoyed Coram Boy, mainly because of the amount of history intertwined in this novel. Gavin covers a range of diverse perspectives when it comes to 18th century London, allowing the reader to explore this world in so many different ways. It’s a dark book that features some appalling attitudes amongst the characters, and Gavin conveys their beliefs in such a gripping way that you can’t help but feel shocked at some of the events. Aside from the issues regarding ages, I think this novel is beautifully written and an incredible read for both adults and children.

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!)