“O let my books be then the eloquence and dumb presagers of my speaking breast.”

Sonnet 23

William Shakespeare

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

130101-162138

As a special ‘welcome to 2013’ present, here’s the next instalment of my 30 Day Book Challenge… Maybe you could pick up one of the books to aid the tiredness or pounding headache from last night’s parties and celebrations?! 😉

DAY 15: Favourite book dealing with foreign culture – ‘The House of the Spirits’ by imagesIsabel Allende, which I’ve blogged about before, is a great book and Allende writes in incredible detail and desciption about Chile, esepcially during the revolution, but I also think ‘Wild Swans’ by Jung Chang is an amazing book – I knew virtually nothing about China’s history before, but this book is engaging, informative and gripping – and a brilliant novel for getting to grips with the effect of China’s history on real people, not just the bare political facts.

DAY 16: Favourite book turned movie – I know it isn’t strictly a movie, more of a tv serial, but I’m currently watching the entirity of the BBC adimagesaptation of ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens. I watched some of it when it first came out, but I think I was only about 12ish, and now I actually understand it – even though Dickens is often confusing, with all the different characters and their criss-crossed relationships, in this adaptation it’s easy to understand everythin, and they actually make the comic characters quite funny, or at least, I think so. I’ve never actually read the book (oh, the shame!) but if you’re immediately put off by the mention of Dickens, in this book, a character spontaneously combusts! You don’t get much cooler than that 😉

But if rom-coms are more your type of fun, the old, 1995 BBC adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is also brilliant – both adapted for the screen by Andrew Davies coincidentally.

DAY 17: Book turned movie and completely desecrated – Well this is easy. ‘P.S. I Love You’ is a brilliant ‘rainy day’ book; imagesenjoyable, bit sad, uplifting, basically chick-lit to be honest, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t well-written. I cannot believe what they did to the movie. The book is touching, romantic, but not soppy and funny, like all of Cecelia Ahern‘s novels, yet the film is literally about two hours of Hilary Swank crying. And that is it.

DAY 18: A book you can’t find on shelves anymore that you love – Hmmm… I think I’m bending the rules a bit here, but when I wanted to read ‘Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austen’ by Fay Wheldon, I couldn’t find at any of the bookshops, only second hand on amazon. imagesUsually I only buy present-books on Amazon, because with books for myself I have to feel and smell them. Yep, call me weird, but that’s just part of being an English-nerd 🙂 So buying it online (and not a particularly nice edition to be honest, as you can see) was a bit of a disappointment. If you can get this online, it’s a great read; especially the section on the ‘city of authors’

DAY 19: A book that changed your mind about a particular subject (non-fiction) – Hard to put one down for this; I’m afraid I don’t read lots of non-fiction books, unless they’re about Shakespeare or English, and I like to think I’m reasonably open-minded about those two topics. It isn’t a non-fiction book, but ‘The Odd Women’ by George Gissing, which I’ve written in more detail about before massively changed my mind about the idea of feminism and of the suffragette movement – it made it more real somehow.

DAY 20: A book you would recommend to an ignorant/racist/closed minded person – Well, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee is the most obvious one I suppose, butimages a good book for anyone is ‘The Pig that Wants to be Eaten and 99 other thought experiments’ by Julian Baggini. It’s got very brief quick chapters with one page fictional situations which have moral/ethical dilemmas hidden in them and then two or three pages more explaining the theories behind these and the questions behind them, and how these relate to our lives. They’re great because they’re so short, but even if you don’t read the explainy-bit, the situations are still really interesting and thought-provoking. Worth getting to put on a coffee table, to prep for conversation starters or even to put in the bathroom!

DAY 21: A guilty pleasure book- Anything at all by Cecelia Ahern or Sophie Kinsella. Ok, so I know these books aren’t the most intellectually stimulating, but wimagesho cares?! Sometimes it’s just nice to relax and unwind with a easy, funny novel. My favourite of Kinsella’s is ‘Twenties Girl’. Unfortunately, Kinsella’s heroines are always a bit irritating, imagesquite helpless and inept, but oh well, everything turns out ok in the end 🙂 Ahern’s books pose a few more moral questions; my personal favourite is probably ‘The Book of Tomorrow’. They aren’t so much typical rom-coms, but hide more interesting ethical dilemmas underneath, although admittedly, lots of it is a bit frivolous.

So there we are! Another seven days done, and just one week more to do 🙂 Thanks for reading – I’ll try and post more during the week and if you have any suggestions for what I should be reading or watching, feel free to comment. This Thursday, I’m going to see ‘The Dark Earth and the Light Sky’ at The Almeida, which is about the poet, Edward Thomas and his friendRobert Frost, so I’ll try and upload a review and some photos from that afterwards. I’m reading ‘Brighton Rock’ at the moment, so if I finish that, I’ll post about that too. See you then and Happy New Year!

“Things past redress are now with me past care”

Richard II, Act 2, Scene 3

William Shakespeare

I’m sorry, ok? I was out at Winter Wonderland and then watched ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ with my family and completley forgot to post the second update of my 30-day book challenge. I know, I know, shocking. So that’s what this post’s title is about – regret, remorse and moving on! So, let’s hasten ahead to…

DAY 8: An unpopular book you believe should be a bestseller – This one was tricky, since for imagesthe past year I’ve mostly been reading classics, or popular modern books to give myself a good grounding for university and A Level English. But after a much consideration, I came up with two. The first is a kids book, ‘Cosmic’ by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who is an absolutely amazing author – I’m not sure how popular this book is, but no one I ever speak to has heard of it. It’s about Liam who’s a twelve-year-old kid who looks around thirty. Liam cons his way onto the first spaceship to take civilians into space, as the adult chaperone for a group of four children. It’s not long before Liam, in charge of cimageshildren the same age as him, is stuck between in space, where he’s always wanted to be—only unfortunately he’s 239,000 miles from home. If you’ve got kids, buy them this, it’s amazing 🙂 The second book is ‘Bang, Bang, You’re Dead’ by Narinder Dhami – I think this might be another childrens book, but it deals with some quite adult themes, so personally, I think anyone can read it. Mia goes to school one day to hear about a gunman prowling the corridors. She remembers hearing her brother threatening to do something ‘bad’, and through her memories you discover about her family, her past, her personality – the best bit is the HUGE twist at the end – you’ll never guess it.

DAY 9: A book you’ve read more than once- ummm… every book?! I always re-read books if I’ve enjoyed them over and over again. But a key one I read twice is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ bimagesy Harper Lee. I think I read this too young the first time, or I just wasn’t in the right mood, but whatever it was, I didn’t enjoy it that much the first time. However, I re-read it a few years ago, and, like almost everyone else, loved it (of course!)

DAY 10: The first novel you remember reading – probably ‘The Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton. These are some of the best children’s books EVER. Again, if you have kids, BUY/BORROW THEM IMMEDIATELY

DAY 11: The book that made you fall in love with reading – Every single one of the Noel Streatfield books plus ‘The Swish of the Curtain’ by Pamela Brown.

DAY 12: A book so emotionally draining you couldn’t complete it or had to set it aside – Definitely the third in the Hunger Games series – imagesMockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Yeah, it’s massively mainstream, but with good reason. The first two are brilliant and then this one… just… no. She just decides to kill off every single likeable character – not fair.

DAY 13: Nonfiction book that you enjoyed – ‘The Genius of Shakespeare’ by Jonathan Bate. LOVE this book – everything is interesting and easy to understand – but more on it later, I’ll do a whole separate blog post on all my Shakespeare books. Suffice to say that it’s way better than I expected.

DAY 14: Book that should be on high school/college required reading list – Another Shakespeare book that I’ll discuss later (partly because I have a lot to say, and partly because IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE and I need to go hang up my imagesstocking 😉 ): ‘Shakespeare on Toast’ by Ben Crystal. I  initially thought this was a little patronising, but actually it explains everything you need/want to know about Shakespeare to a high standard, but very easily and enjoyably. I think that if some of my fellow students at GCSE English had maybe read this, our discussions on ‘The Merchant of Venice’ might have produced something more than the obvious ‘Is Shylock a racist?’ question

Anyway, so that’s that for this blog post. I’ll try and update more during the week, but I might be reading through all the books in my book pile so I can’t promise anything! Have an amazing Christmas 🙂

“You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2, Scene 1

William Shakespeare

Another quick little post about another b-e-a-utiful book, that my friend Sophie gave me as a Christmas present 🙂

It’s a lovely hardback Penguin Classics copy of ‘Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass’ which is especially cool, since she’s one of the only good heroines with my name – all the other Alice’s in books are ancient aunts or annoying best friends.  And it has a bookmark (always good) andthe original illustrations and smooooth pages. So again, I’m in love 😉

121223-135232

As you can see, I’m getting in the Christmassy mood ready for Tuesday! Looking forward to my ‘book pile’ – I always get one from my parents with all the books I can’t afford, and then I’ll have even more to blog about.

Second part of the ’30 Day Challenge’ coming up later today!

 

“Painfully to pore upon a book to seek the light of truth”

Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 1, Scene 1

William Shakespeare

After reading a couple of book blogs on here, I’ve decided to take up… *dramatic duh,duh, duuuhhh and drum-roll*…the 30 Day Book Challenge. Since, even with my fabulous purple hardback, I can’t find 30 Shakespearean quotes about reading and books, I’m going to do this week by week, rather than daily. So, without further ado, as Raven would say:

“Let the Challenge…Begin.”untitled

DAY 1: Favourite Book –Well, I’m going to refuse to answer this question on principle; there are too many good books out there, lots of which I haven’t read, and I simply can’t choose which one is my favourite. Sorry guys!

DAY 2: Least Favourite Book – Another difficult question… probably ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ byimages Henry James. I have to be honest, it was a struggle getting through this. I originally read it in preparation for my AS Level text ‘The Turn of the Screw’ last summer and I didn’t like any of the characters except Ralph, who *SPOILER ALERT* dies at the end. That said, it prepared me for the unsatisfying ending of TOTS – it must be a trademark of James’ or something. His descriptions take pages and pages to get through, each sentence becoming more and more convoluted, as the meaning gets lost amongst the constant commas and semi-colons and dashes and colons and conjunctives, and brackets and clauses and semi-clauses… I must have re-read the same page at least five times. Maybe other people would like this book, but… for me, no.

DAY 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud – Actually, I’m just reading ‘The Lost Continent’ by Bill Brysoimagesn at the moment and it is super funny:

“My grandmother was the only person I ever knew – possibly the only person who ever lived – who actually made things from the recipes on the backs of food packets. These dishes always had names like ‘Rice Krispies ‘n’ Banana Chunks Upside-Down Cake’ or ‘Del Monte Lima Bean ‘n’ Pretzels Party Snacks’. Generally they consisted of suspiciously large amounts of the manufacturer’s own products, usually in combinations you wouldn’t think of except perhaps in an especially severe famine.”

I have a head cold at the moment, and this book is definitely a great, easy read for those times when you just need something relaxing and uncomplicated, which I, at least, found very funny.

DAY 4: Book that makes you cry – I’m not meaning to impress you or anything, but I actually don’t cry at books very often. I know, the memeuntitled on the right says it all 😉 It’s a bit of a cliche, but the last Harry Potter did make me cry – how could she kill off Fred and Lupin?? (yep, I didn’t even put a *SPOILER ALERT* sign on there, because if you haven’t read the Harry Potter series WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WITH YOUR LIFE??)

(I joke, of course. But read them. Please.)

DAY 5: Book you wish you could live in – ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by CS Lewis specifically, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. I love these books, but this or ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ is probably my favourite; it has Christmas, snow, battles, Aslan, talking beavers and trees, summer, coronations…need I go on? I think children’s literature is probably the easiest thing to answer this question with, since those worlds are the most fantastical and perfect, and often have the most detailed descriptions, as I think kids are happier listening to/reading pages of imagery and similies to form a detailed picture in their imagination, which means these worlds are the some of the most fully formed of any.

DAY 6: Favourite young adult book- Hmm… I was going to be completely predictable and say ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy by Suzanne Collins. But although I absolutely loved these, my favourite would have to be ‘Life As We Knew It’ by Susan Pfeffer. I picked this up on the suntitledpur of the moment at my school library, and it’s ridiculously gripping. Whenever I heard the words ‘sci-fi’ before, I had been sceptical, but this book is just too good; the moon gets knocked out of its orbit, causing huge tidal waves, famine, etc. and it’s told from the viewpoint of a teenage girl. Seriously tense.

DAY 7: Book you can quote/recite- Well, not to sound like a total nerd, but I can quote Juliet’s speech from the balcony scene in Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Awfully, since this is a book blog, I find it much easier to quote lines from films or audiobooks than from books, because I get too caught up in the descriptions or the emotions behind the characters to remember the actual lines. This means I can quote many, many Agatha Christies, Meg Cabots and ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen, but not some of my absolute favourites, like Catch-22.

That’s it for this week, but keep checking back for another seven next Sunday (when there’ll be only 2 days ’till Christmas!) and for other book reviews. Thanks for reading 🙂

“The very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly to your service.”

The Tempest, Act 3, Scene 1

William Shakespeare

Yes, that’s right everyone – I’m in love *cue romantic, soaring violins and birds tweeting*

Last week I found the most perfect book ever, in one of the most perfect bookshops ever (Blackwells, in Oxford), and I want, nay need, to tell you about it!

121210-223459

It’s called ‘Shakespeare Quotations’ by The Arden Shakespeare, and even though it’s not a book for reading as such, it’s just so pretty and lovely and special that you all need to go buy it. Like, now 😉121210-224711

This is why I couldn’t cope with just a Kindle. I get that they’re useful for journeys, holidays, etc, but this book is purple. And hardback. And it has a purple bookmark and a pink inside cover and silver words on the front and a lovely cover and it’s the perfect size and it just feels right and even if I never use it I still love it so much. Although I did use it on both my blog posts today (you lucky things, getting two in one day 😉 ), so it’s already been worth it.

 

 

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”

King Henry V, Act III, Scene I

William Shakespeare

I can’t believe I forgot two of my favourite children’s books! I only realised when I got home from school, so here they are. Enjoy!

  • “What Katy Did” Susan Coolidge: Love these books (there are five in total), and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, although I found Cousin Helen a bit overly saintly for my liking.
  • “The Railway Children” Edith Nesbitt: Finally, a children’s book where the film is as good as the novel. I love Jenny Agutter as Bobby (one of the best heroines ever, in my opinion) and I have (yet another!) tape of Agutter reading the book.
  • “The Saturdays” Elizabeth Enright:Surely one of the greatest and most undiscovered series in children’s literature (at least in England, the books are originally American, so I don’t know about over there). There are four books in total, and I simply cant decide which one I love the most. They tell the story of Mona, Rush, Randy and Oliver Melendy and their father and their beloved housekeeper, Cuffy. In the first book, the Melendys decide to pool their allowances in their Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club or I.S.A.A.C  to let one of them, each Saturday, do something memorable and something they’ve always wanted to do. All the books are so worth reading; please, I beg of you, READ THEM!
  • “Swallows and Amazons” Arthur Ransome: Much more famous than ‘The Saturdays’, but (almost) as good. I saw a production earlier this year in the West End (it’s touring at the moment: http://swallowsamazons.co.uk/the-show/. It was much better than I anticipated, although personally the actress playing Titty wasn’t as good as I wanted her to be; but then, that would be pretty hard and she was one of the people I desperately wanted to be friends with when I was younger. As my family (especially my dad) will tell you, I’m not a big fan of sailing although I can crew reasonably well, but this book (there are more in the series, but I never got into them as much) made me want to sail.

Ok, those are all for now, but you can bet that as soon as I publish this I’ll remember more. Hopefully speak soon! Please comment with your suggestions or opinions. Thanks for everyone who reads this, especially Stan, who actually bothered to talk to me about it, Sophie, who kindly read all of them, and Eduin, Emma, Ed, Leila, Sophia and Martha for giving my blog loads more views and making me feel popular!ImageImage

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players”

‘As You Like It’ Act 2, Scene 7

Willliam Shakespeare

Since I haven’t finished reading my latest book, ‘1599’ by James Shapiro, I thought I’d talk about my favourite childrens’ books – not the generic ones that everyone knows about, but the ones I still read when I’m sick or sad or just need some comforting. I read the other day that 94% of 400 secondary school teachers said that pupils prefer to be using the internet rather than reading and that many didn’t know what ‘Anne of Green Gables’ was. So here is my ultimate list for you/your children/your grandchildren:

  • ‘Little Women’ Lousia May Alcott: A classic you can’t go wrong with- everyone loves Jo and the sisters’ escapades. Not many people know that there are at least three other books in the series where you can find out what happens to the March family.
  • ‘Anne of Green Gables’ Lucy Maud Montgomery: Another classic children’s book, mainly aimed a girls, about Anne, an orphan who comes to live on Prince Edward Island in Canada after being adopted by Marilla and Mathew, siblings in their fifties and sixties. Again, though many know the first book, there are eight book in total, the last two of which, I’m ashamed to admit, I haven’t read.
  • ‘The Secret Garden’ Frances Hodgson Burnett: Just amazing. Go and read it – the tape (yes, I still have tapes, not CDs) is great as well.This leads me onto…
  • ‘Ballet Shoes’, ‘The Painted Garden’, ‘Apple Bough’ Noel Streatfeild: Noel Streatfeild is probably my favourite childrens author ever. She is just perfect. These can be read separately or as a trilogy, as the original girls, Paulina, Petrova and Posy Fossil, who appear in ‘Ballet Shoes’ (which was recently made into a TV-film, starring Emma Watson) also make appearances in the other two books. If you don’t have these go get them now, I don’t care what age you are. Some of my other favourites by Streafeild are: ‘White Boots’, the ‘Gemma’ series. ‘Curtain Up’ (or ‘Theater Shoes’) and ‘Party Frock’ (or ‘Party Shoes’). All of them are mainly about actors, singers, dancers, mimics or musicians and are immersed in the world of the theatre, as Streatfeild herself was an actress for ten years. However, the children in them are very real; they aren’t without faults, and so the books are all the better.
  • Talking of the world of theatre, ‘The Swish of the Curtain’ Pamela Brown was my absolute favourite book was I was younger. The characters are real and have real problems, but of course they manage to overcome them by the end, like in any good children’s story. There are five books in total in the series, though the fifth one has not been published for many decades now, and so is very expensive and difficult to get hold of. Hopefully, there will be a republish of it soon, as I’ve read all the others!
  • ‘The Little Princess’ Frances Hodgson Burnett: Very famous for very good reasons. Another young girl, who is talented (of course), but has problems (she’s poor and her beloved father has died, in this case) in a book that ends happily *sigh* so satisfying to read.
  • ‘The Faraway Tree’ series Enid Blyton: In my opinion, these are definitely the best of Blyton. I did like ‘St Clares’ and ‘Malory Towers’ but the Faraway Tree or ‘The Wishing Chair’ stories were my favourites. Who doesn’t love the thought of a magical land at the top of a huge tree inhabited by elves and pixies, which changes every week to something new? Or a chair that can fly you anywhere; Toyland, Birthdayland…? Need I say more?
  • ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Laura Ingalls Wilder: Another series I avidly read my way through. They actually start with ‘Little House in the Big Woods’, but most know them through ‘The little House on the Prairie’. They’re based on the author’s life and every single one is good, as you see Laura and her sister Mary and their Ma and Pa grow up and travel on. My personal favourite is ‘Little House on Plum Creek’
  • Any book you can lay your hands on Roald Dahl: Come on, everyone knows ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factoy’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’, ‘Matilda’, etc. The books are infinitely better than any of the films, although I do like the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version of ‘Charlie’. The best of all (if you can get them), are the tapes with Dahl himself reading them aloud. They are all I used to listen to on car journeys; his voice matches the stories perfectly- comforting, but exciting. There is also a second book in the ‘Charlie’ series, called ‘Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator’ which you should definitely read if (if? when!) you enjoy the first one.
  • ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ C.S. Lewis: Again, this isn’t actually the first book, which is ‘The Magician’s Nephew’, but is the most famous. I actually think the recent film adaptations are very good, but nothing can live up to the books themsleves, though I love the BBC dramatisations on tape that you can get. There are, I think, seven in total, but the best ones are ‘The Magician’s Nephew’, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and ‘The Rise of the Dawn Treader’

Those are all I can think of for now, and all I have time for, but comment with your favourites!ImageImage