7 Ways to Break Out of a Reading Slump

I cannot count the amount of reading slumps I go through in a year. They’re some of the most horrible things to experience, in my opinion. Each time I suffer, my eyes and thumbs scream at me while my screen time inevitably increases. It’s actually the craving for a digital respite that helps bring me back into the reading world.

Of course, that’s not the only reason. I read books to escape, to travel to different worlds and meet new characters, and, when I haven’t read in a while, I crave those worlds like I’m craving a holiday. But that doesn’t mean I find it easy to actually pick up a book.

We all go through these stages, where reaching out to a book is just too much effort. Sometimes, they’re just too hard to open, too heavy to pick up. So how do we break free and pull ourselves out of these horrible phases of our reading lives?

I’ve compiled a list of tips that have helped me out of reading slumps. Some might not work for you, while others might. If there’s anything I haven’t mentioned, something that’s worked for you, share it down below!

1. Take a book everywhere you go

Now obviously, this is a lot harder to follow now we’re in lockdown. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t carry a book everywhere; just take it with you around the house. Take it with you to your bedroom, kitchen, even your bathroom if you like!

If you’re working from home, keep a book near you for a quick two-minute screen break. Not only will remind you to read, but you’ll also be able to fully relax your mind before slipping back into work mode.

If you’re not working and are staying at home throughout the day, then you have even more time to read. Moving from your bed to your sofa? Take a book with you. Cooking? Read a page or two while your food sizzles away in the pan. Read in your bath or pop it up somewhere in your bathroom while you brush your teeth.

By simply keeping a book near you at all times, you’ll be reminded of your favourite stories, the fact that there’s a whole other world waiting for you. There are literally no excuses for not reading when a book is just seconds away. You’ll be surprised what the mere presence of a book can do for you – it’ll keep you coming back for more.

2. Get someone to read with you

This tip isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it made a difference for me personally. I’m currently reading the LOTR trilogy, which my boyfriend loved when he was younger. He still does now but hasn’t read the books in years (mostly because he doesn’t read -_- ). But his love for the books means that he’s interested in what’s happening, my thoughts on different chapters, so sometimes I’ll read to him while he’s cooking or playing guitar.

This activity connects you to the book more than you realise, and it’ll encourage you to keep on reading as you’re in it together. It doesn’t matter if your reading partner has read the story or not – that’s what’s makes it exciting! You’re both on the same reading voyage, experiencing many lives together.

If you don’t have anyone to read to, maybe try audiobooks instead?

3. Remind yourself why you love reading

We all have fond memories of reading. So when you’re stuck in a slump, relive those memories. Remind yourself why you love reading in the first place.

Did you start reading because you were bored and wanted a hobby? Or maybe you were going through a stressful time and needed a break from your own world? Or perhaps you started because your parents forced you to choose a book from the library when you were little, and you ended up falling in love with the story?

Or was it because of the way certain words made you feel? The images they conjured in your head? Was it because of that one great book that was so perfect it was obviously written just for you?

We all have our own reasons for reading. Use yours as motivation to pick up a book again.

4. Listen to podcasts

I’ve already mentioned audiobooks in this post, but for those who, like me, don’t really get along with them, podcasts are a great alternative.

There are some fantastic podcasts out there that explore the literary world for both readers and writers alike. I find that listening to book reviews, writers’ routines, people’s reading experiences, and more makes me want to snuggle up in a blanket with a book open on my lap. These podcasts remind me of my appreciation for books and the complexities of the literary world, which can make stories more remarkable than I thought.

You feel more involved with the podcast too, sharing the same reading experiences, as part of the community.

If you’re not sure which podcast to start with, I’ve listed my favourites here.

5. Create a reading space – and stick to it!

No matter how small your house or room, you can make yourself a reading nook.

Reading nooks are little spots of heaven, which can be personalised and as open or private as you like. By setting a designated reading space and making use of it as often as you can, you’ll train your brain into switching on reading mode as soon as you sit down in that spot. It’s a bit like setting up a home office – your mind associates the room with work, meaning you’re more awake and motivated than you would be if you worked in bed.

I’ve written a few tips over on UCAS on creating a cosy reading nook – take a look if you’re looking for a place to start.

6. Join a book club

Obviously, right now, you can’t join a book club in person. Still, there are so many ways to connect with fellow book readers virtually.

As a bookstagrammer, I obviously recommend that Instagram reach out to other readers, joining book challenges and hashtags, but that’s not your only option.

You can start your own book club on platforms like Zoom if you know a few people who love reading. It doesn’t have to be a large group – my friend and I literally have our own book club between us, where we read a book a month.

Reading along with other people makes you more motivated, it’s like you have a deadline. I personally cannot work to deadlines set by myself, as I know that I’m the one who set it, so I can extend it as often as I want! So a book club can help keep me motivated and make me pick up a book.

7. Hide. your. damn. phone.

In all honesty, I’m still working on this one. But I am getting better!

Phones are the most distracting things ever, the biggest productivity killers on the planet. How many times have you picked up a book, read a few paragraphs, then became instantly distracted by the sound of notifications coming through?

Yes, sometimes, phones can be useful. I track my reading progress with the Read More app and set an alarm, so I know when I have to get back to work. But usually they just interrupt your reading session more than anything. If you need your phone by you for whatever reason, then make sure to put it on silent or airplane mode. If you don’t need it, keep it in another room, or ask someone to hide it and not tell you where it is until you’re done reading for the day.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get back into reading – if you have any other suggestions, let me know in the comments!

21 Books To Read During Quarantine

Now that the UK is in lockdown for the next three weeks, which means we’re going to spending a lot more time indoors. Which obviously means more time for reading, of course. But where do we start?

I’ve actually fallen into an ongoing reading slump, so this post should hopefully inspire me as much as you guys.

Here are 21 books to see us all through.

1. The Familiars – Stacey Halls

The Familiars book cover

“Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.”

What I love about The Familiars is how engaging it is. I just couldn’t wait to find out next and spent hour after hour reading. For anyone wanting to be captivated for a long period of time, this is the book to go for.

2. Diary Of A Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost … In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

This book had me crying with laughter when I first read it. It’s the perfect comforting read right now – trust me, it’ll put a smile on your face.

3. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

“These thrilling adventures tell the story of Lyra and Will—two ordinary children on a perilous journey through shimmering haunted otherworlds. They will meet witches and armored bears, fallen angels and soul-eating specters. And in the end, the fate of both the living—and the dead—will rely on them.”

Series are great right now as they keep you going through all this uncertainty, keeping you in their worlds for longer. His Dark Materials is an incredible trilogy filled with a multitude of settings and characters, filling your days with magic and companionship.

4. Librarian Of Auschwitz –  Antonio Iturbe

“Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.”

I get that the last thing we want to be reading right now is more doom and gloom, but hear me out on this one. This terrible yet beautiful novel captivates perfectly the magic of books and how they can lift people up, even in the darkest of times. It’s also one you can read in a day, which gives you enough time to quickly move on to something light-hearted afterward.

5. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

“It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.”

Listed for the same reasons as above, but with more humour and less morbidity.

6. Macbeth – William Shakespeare

“One night on the heath, the brave and respected general Macbeth encounters three witches who foretell that he will become king of Scotland. At first sceptical, he’s urged on by the ruthless, single-minded ambitions of Lady Macbeth, who suffers none of her husband’s doubt. But seeing the prophecy through to the bloody end leads them both spiralling into paranoia, tyranny, madness, and murder.”

For those struggling with isolation, reading is the perfect way to put your mind at ease for a while. And who better to remind us of that than Shakespeare himself, whose plays are filled with some of the most beautiful descriptions you’ll ever read? And hey, for those who have never sat down and read a full Shakespeare play, now’s certainly the time.

7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Perhaps the most haunting and tormented love story ever written, Wuthering Heights is the tale of the troubled orphan Heathcliff and his doomed love for Catherine Earnshaw.

Published in 1847, the year before Emily Bronte’s death at the age of thirty, Wuthering Heights has proved to be one of the nineteenth century’s most popular yet disturbing masterpieces. The windswept moors are the unforgettable setting of this tale of the love between the foundling Heathcliff and his wealthy benefactor’s daughter, Catherine. Through Catherine’s betrayal of Heathcliff and his bitter vengeance, their mythic passion haunts the next generation even after their deaths. Incorporating elements of many genres—from gothic novels and ghost stories to poetic allegory—and transcending them all, Wuthering Heights is a mystifying and powerful tour de force.

The Bronte’s novels are filled with mysterious characters, ever-twisting plots, memorable settings, and captivating language. If you’re hoping to read a classic during quarantine, I highly recommend this one.

8. On Writing – Stephen King

“Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.”

This one is for the writers out there. I’ve been struggling to put any words down recently, probably a side effect of my reading slump, and whatever I do write just doesn’t seem to capture the scenes in my head. Stephen King’s book offers some fantastic advice for aspiring authors, including insights to his routine, past rejections, and writing tips. It’s a good way to get yourself back on track.

9. Harry Potter – J.K Rowling

It starts with Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid leaving a baby boy, with a tuft of jet-black hair and a curiously shaped wound on his brow, on the doorstep of number four, Privet Drive. They might have thought that his aunt and uncle would look after him kindly. But ten years later, Harry Potter sleeps in a cupboard under the stairs, and the Dursleys – Vernon, Petunia and their son Dudley – don’t exactly treat him like one of the family. Especially as it becomes clear quite how different from them he is.

As his eleventh birthday arrives, the time comes for Harry Potter to discover the truth about his magical beginnings – and embark on the enthralling, unmissable adventure that will lead him to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, his true friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, powerful secrets and a destiny he cannot avoid …

Because reading Harry Potter will always be the best way to spend your time.

10. Lord Of The Rings – J.R.R Tolkien

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron’s fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

My current isolation read. Tolkien’s trilogy is one hell of a read, and requires some serious dedication. But his rich writing style makes it easier to ignore the outside world by drawing you into Middle-earth. Plus, Sam is one of the best characters ever created.

11. The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

“When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting . . .

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure–a silent companion–that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.”

The Silent Companions is an atmospheric novel that will stay with you for weeks. It’s ideal for when you want to finish a book in one sitting, as Purcell’s alluring Gothic narrative keeps you turning the pages.

12. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Lou is one of my favourite characters of all time – I love her quirkiness and bursts of energy. While the book is darker than the film, Moyes’ masterful writing perfectly captures the relief Lou feels when Will pulls her from of her past and thus carries us through the devastating events in the novel, with Lou coming out the other side as a better person.

13. Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.”

This book contains some of the most stylish aesthetics ever, and it’s so vivid it’s hard to put it down. Plus, the film is being pieced together and I. cannot. wait.

14. The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?”

None of the characters in this book are that likable, but Jessie Burton’s compelling plot is like no other and makes a nice, easy read.

15. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

“Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.”

Big Magic is all about pursuing your creative passions, working on your ideas and being able to express yourself freely in your work. It’s a beautiful book and I highly recommend it, especially for right now.

16. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

Join Alice in Wonderland, where nothing is quite as it seems.On an ordinary summer’s afternoon, Alice tumbles down a hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world with even stranger characters, she meets a grinning cat and a rabbit with a pocket watch, joins a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and plays croquet with the Queen! Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more and more curious by the minute…

In the magical world of Wonderland and the back-to-front Looking-Glass kingdom, order is turned upside-down: a baby turns into a pig; time is abandoned at a tea-party; and a chaotic game of chess makes a 7-year-old a Queen.”

This is a light-hearted read that contains many snippets of wisdom throughout the whimsical puns, riddles and rhymes. A great way to escape our boring, adult world.

17. The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again.

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…”

This is a book like no other. While I personally found the first three chapters slow, it really picks up and I spent the majority of my time trying to work out who the killer was.

18. Game Of Thrones – George R.R Martin

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series has set the benchmark for contemporary epic fantasy. Labelled by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, Martin has conjured a world as complex and vibrant as that of J.R.R. Tolkien, populated by a huge cast of fascinating, complex characters, and boasting a history that stretches back twelve thousand years.

Three great storylines weave through the books, charting the civil war for control of the Seven Kingdoms; the defence of the towering Wall of ice in the uttermost north against the unearthly threat of the Others; and across the Narrow Sea the rise to power of Daenerys Targaryen and the last live dragons in the world.”

Because it’s an epic series that requires a lot of dedication, enough to distract you from the gloom around us right now.

19. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.”

Little Women is a pleasant read that goes well with a warm fire/blanket and mug of tea. Plus, for all the writers out there who feel like they’re hitting a wall, Jo’s passion for writing will help reignite your imagination.

20. The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte

In this sensational, hard-hitting and passionate tale of marital cruelty, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall sees a mysterious tenant, Helen Graham, unmasked not as a ‘wicked woman’ as the local gossips would have it, but as the estranged wife of a brutal alcoholic bully, desperate to protect her son. Using her own experiences with her brother Branwell to depict the cruelty and debauchery from which Helen flees, Anne Bronte wrote her masterpiece to reflect the fragile position of women in society and her belief in universal redemption, but scandalized readers of the time.”

Because we all know about Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but what about Anne Bronte’s Tenant Of Wildfell Hall? Now is a fantastic time to explore more of the Bronte’s works.

21. The Great Gatsby

“The story is of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his new love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920’s.”

Cos what better way to celebrate the 2020’s than taking it back to the Roaring 20’s?

4 Podcasts I Can’t Get Enough Of

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that I’ve finally started listening to podcasts. I’ve become quite bored with music recently, and anyone who knows me knows that I really struggle with audiobooks, so podcasts didn’t generally seem like my thing.

But I decided to take the plunge. And now I can’t stop listening. I am picky with podcasts, though; they need to be good else I daydream and stop paying attention. It’s, therefore, because of this that this post covers only four podcasts – they’re the few that I’ve become absolutely addicted to.

So, these are the four that have captivated me so far:

Book Cheat

I LOVE this podcast – it’s my favourite one so far. Essentially, Dave Warneke, the host, reads a classic novel, so we don’t have to. In each episode, Dave invites two companions to sit down and listen to him tell the story of a classic, including themes and famous quotes. By the end of the episode, you can pretend you’ve read it (handy if you’re an English student trying to read 57548 books at once).

It’s such a simple podcast, yet it’s hilarious. We all know that classic novels are generally long-winded, dramatic, and many events could easily be avoided (cough, Frankenstein, cough). And on top of that, the sharp class and gender divisions just add to the circumstances. The three podcasters pick these out, mimicking their foolishness entirely, e.g., Anne (Persuasion)’s father disapproving of men with self-made wealth and preferring those born into money.

It’s a lighthearted podcast that takes a dive into the canon’s famous works and, in some cases, rips them to shreds while applauding them at the same time. And if that’s not enough, their Australian accents make everything sound fantastic.

FestCast

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’re likely aware of my love for the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Well, Cheltenham Festivals, the masterminds behind the lit, Jazz, Science, and Music festivals, started their own podcast last year, which showcases content from past festivals. There are episodes for readers and thinkers of all sorts, covering topics such as the idea of a gendered brain and the rise of extremism, as well as talks from famous faces like Hilary Clinton, David Mitchell, and J.K Rowling.

I have been inspired by so many talks from the lit festival, so having the ability to relive them brightens my day. As you can imagine, J.K’s talk is my favourite – she even mentions a few places from our home town!

The Guardian Books Podcast

This podcast takes a weekly dive into the world of the written word. Each episode explores the latest trends and movements, as well as recollective discussions of classic works.

Alongside this, authors regularly participate in interviews, focusing on their latest publications and writing routines. My personal favourites include the exploration of The Guardian’s top 100 books, which includes Harry Potter‘s influence on literature, and coverage of the Hay-On-Wye Lit Festival. That episode gave me the closest look at the festival that I’ve had yet.

Some of the discussions that take place on this podcast are so mind-boggling. I do recommend this series as it really makes you think of books in different ways, which you may have not considered before.

The Writing Life

This was the first podcast that I got into, and it’s the only one on this list solely dedicated to writing. Run by the National Centre for Writing, each week, we meet different authors and journalists of different specialisms and explore their writing journeys and techniques. If you lack writing motivation, look no further than this podcast.

My favourite episode is Sarah Perry’s Harriet Martineau lecture, where Perry discusses the ‘Essex girl.’ She looks at women from past and present, bringing forward those lesser-known who made a difference. It’s one of the most captivating and beautiful talks I’ve ever heard.

Following this, while I am not a fan of her novels, Margaret Atwood’s writing tips is a fascinating episode. She is interviewed by the Centre’s young ambassadors, and, as one of the bestselling authors to date, provides an insight into her writing life and encourages her interviewers, and listeners everywhere to get writing.

Episodes also include pitching to agents, becoming a productive writer, finishing your first book, and editing guides – there really isn’t anything this podcast hasn’t covered.

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.