Top Lists

Top Ten Tuesday #5: Books I Read In School

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This week I’m joining in with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The theme is ‘Back to School’, so I’m going with just a list of the books I remember reading in school, in no particular order. This comes to nine, but I’m sure there must have been more!

Angela's Ashes Jane Eyre Chinese Cinderella

I vividly remember reading Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt with my class when I was 14, by which point I’d already read it. I also remember, above all else, watching the film and our teacher rushing to fast-forward any ‘inappropriate’ bits, blushing and stammering throughout the whole thing… Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one book I have previously discussed, more specifically how I absolutely love it. However, it was not love at first sight – mostly because reading books for GCSE English meant tearing every little sentence apart from some kind of hidden meaning. Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah is probably the first book I remember reading at school, I must have read it in primary school when I was 9 or 10 and had already read it several times before (massive book nerd for life). It’s a really interesting look into the culture of China, and the practices of that time, but it’s also very sad.

Pride and Prejudice Wuthering Heights Lord of the Flies

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a book that I feel really suffered at school. I enjoyed it, but also know that I would’ve loved it even more, as would my classmates, if we hadn’t had to completely pull it apart. If we’d just read it as it is, I feel that everyone in the class would have enjoyed it, instead of developing a future hatred for the classics… Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte also suffered from this, although admittedly I did try and re-read it a few years ago and struggled just with the first chapter because of the gardener/servant/whatever he was. The accent was too thick to understand! I also remember the film version of this with Ralph Fiennes much more than anything in the book. Lord of the Flies by William Golding however, I really really loved. It was so different to everything we’d read so far, and I even went so far as to hunt down books inspired by it – I did find one that was a female version of the story, which I then leant to classmates and never got back. I can’t even remember what it was called now!

Crucible Macbeth An Inspector Calls

I studied The Crucible by Arthur Miller for both English and Drama GCSEs. I really enjoyed it, and there are so many different and wonderful adaptations of the plays. It is insane how the community starts to fall apart from the inside because of these crazy beliefs. Of course we had to read some Shakespeare, and Macbeth by William Shakespeare is the one that really stands out. Which reminds me, I still need to watch the film version released last year featuring Michael Fassbender… And finally, An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley. We read this in Year 7 or 8, and I remember it being pretty fun – acting it out in English class and following the mystery.

Which books do you remember reading in school? Did any of them really stand out?

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Review

Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books: after reading it first at school aged 16, I then re-read in 2014. This time round, without the need to analyse every little detail, I absolutely fell in love with it. Ever since then, I’ve been looking out for any Jane Eyre inspired books or retellings, which is why I was so eager to accept a copy of Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.

Jane Steele is not strictly a retelling of Jane EyreJane Eyre is in fact one of the favourite books of the protagonist, and she often references it. Her story mirrors that of Jane Eyre’s, with some differences, and there are many small references to parts of the book. However, the main difference between this Jane and the original? Jane Steele is a killer. It might seem like a rather outlandish and ridiculous idea, but actually it works so well. Jane Eyre is already a Gothic novel – the huge house, a mysterious employer, strange noises at night and of course the goings on in the attic… Lyndsey Faye takes all of this and adds even more.

This Jane is not the one we know – she is not meek, but cool and cunning. And despite being a killer, she is a likeable character. The book describes her as a ‘serial killer’, but I wouldn’t go as far as that. She kills when she has to – for self-defence, or to protect others, rather than just picking targets at random. But despite knowing from the very beginning that Jane is a murderer, when the murders happen they are still shocking and brutal. Jane Steele is practically the opposite of Jane Eyre in every way – she is confident, sexual, more experience with life, not to mention has slight murderous tendencies… yet despite this, I could easily tie the events of this book back to the original.

There are other differences too. Instead of a ward from France, Mr. Thornfield (Rochester) has a ward from India. Mr. Thornfield is also a lot more open and talkative than Mr. Rochester, but still very mysterious. Lyndsey Faye also reverses some events from the book, e.g. Charles Thornfield spooking Jane’s horse as she is riding down the lane, as opposed to the other way round, which was how Jane Eyre met Mr. Rochester for the first time.

Beautifully written, with a tone that truly evokes the original, Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele is a truly gripping book, perfect for fans of Jane Eyre who are looking for something a little bit different. I’ve read a faerie version of Jane Eyre (Ironskin), but I never expected to come across something like this! It is incredibly clever and still original enough to stand out, whilst still drawing from the major events of Jane Eyre. I liked that Jane Steele referenced Bronte’s work herself, somehow that grounded it even more. And if my review isn’t enough to convince you, know that this also comes highly recommended by the Jane Eyre expert herself, Charlene!

 

Favourite Quote:

[Jane, on meeting Mr. Thornfield for the first time] “If I were to kill this very intriguing man, I wonder how difficult he would make the task?”

This stood out to me so much, because it is definitely not something that would have come out of Jane Eyre’s mouth!

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Thoughts

Thoughts #30: Five Classics I STILL Haven’t Read!

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Despite having always been a big reader, I really do feel that I haven’t read enough classics. I’ve obviously felt this way for a while, having set up my Classics Challenge a few years ago. My recent re-read and following love for Jane Eyre has only served to remind me that there are so many wonderful classics out there that I need to hurry up and read! I wanted to share some of those with you today, and would love to know if you’ve read any of them, and what you thought.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair

Scorned for her lack of money and breeding, Becky Sharp must use all her wit, charm and considerable sex appeal to escape her drab destiny as a governess. From London’s ballrooms to the battlefields of Waterloo, the bewitching Becky works her wiles on a gallery of memorable characters, including her lecherous employer, Sir Pitt, his rich sister, Miss Crawley, and Pitt’s dashing son, Rawdon, the first of Becky’s misguided sexual entanglements. Vanity Fair is a richly entertaining comedy that asks the reader, “Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?”

Having recently re-watched the film adaptation of Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray and starring Reese Witherspoon, I was yet again questioning why I still haven’t read this. It’s witty and satirical, and I really enjoyed the film. Becky is a wonderful character and a total breath of fresh air compared to many of the female characters of her day. She’s determined, intelligent – and she knows how to use her gender as a weapon for her own benefit. The only thing that’s putting me off at the moment is the length of the book – around 750 pages. But I won’t know until I try, right?

The Odyssey by Homer

The Odyssey

The Odyssey recounts the story of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca from the Trojan war and tells how, championed by Athene and hounded by the wrathful sea-god Poseidon, Odysseus encounters the ferocious Cyclops, escapes Scylla and Charybdis and yields temporarily to the lures of Circe and Calypso before he overcomes the trials awaiting him on Ithaca. Only then is he reunited with his faithful wife Penelope, his wanderings at an end.

Oops. I know, I know. Having done my Bachelors degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, I probably should have already read The Odyssey, right? Well… I haven’t. Yet. I have read The Iliad though, and really love that one. I have this on my Kindle, but I also have a gorgeous Penguin edition which I’d much rather read than the ebook version.

The Monk by Matthew Lewis

The Monk

Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The great struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads its main character, the monk Ambrosio, to temptation and the breaking of his vows, then to sexual obsession and rape, and finally to murder in order to conceal his guilt.

I can’t remember how I first came across The Monk by Matthew Lewis, but I knew that I had to read it. Although looking at the blurb now, that seems like a strange thing to say… That was over three years ago, and I still haven’t made any progress. I feel like it might be quite a difficult one to read, but as long as it’s not The Scarlet Letter standards of difficult (WORST. BOOK. EVER.) then I’m good.

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray sells his soul in exchange for eternal youth and beauty. Under the influence of Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, where he is able to indulge his desires while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only Dorian’s picture bears the traces of his decadence.

Ahh, The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde, I have attempted to read you before. I was foolishly swayed by the film version starring Ben Barnes, but you’re not really much like that, are you? I did enjoy what I read of the book (around half of it), but somehow never quite finished it.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird

A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father ― a crusading local lawyer ― risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

To be honest, I’m really quite amazed that we never read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee at school – I know it was studied in previous years. Despite my love of books set in the Southern US (I really don’t know why… I blame True Blood and that enchanting Louisiana accent), I’ve just never gotten round to reading this classic.

Are there any classics you really feel you need to read soon? Have you read any of the ones on my list?

Top Lists

Top Reads of 2014

Top Reads 2014

As the title suggests, it’s time to share my top reads of 2014! I read so many good books this year that it’s not a top ten, but a top fifteen… And now, in no particular order:

Lexicon by Max Barry Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene Jane Eyre

Lexicon by Max Barry was a wonderful surprise. Sent to me by Hodder, it took a little while for me to pick it up, but I’m so glad I did. It is insanely clever and unique and DEFINITELY worth a read. Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene was another surprise from Hodder (who spoil me!), a fantastic new start to a fantasy series, with a truly gorgeous cover. And Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë… oh this book. I am so SO glad I re-read it!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was one of those books that I’d heard such good things about, bought a copy of and still hadn’t read. Then I finally got to it at the beginning of the year, and was blown away. I even met Laini in April, when the third book in the series was released, but I still have yet to read that one. Perfect for my Borgia fascination, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant is a wonderful piece of historical fiction that I just devoured. It’s got everything you could ever want in historical fiction – backstabbing, court gossip, murder – and everything you would expect from a book about the Borgias. And The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, why did I take so long to get to you?? I have the second book in Leiden, and I’m looking forward to reading it in January.

Brideshead Revisited Insignia by S.J. Kincaid 2495562

Another classic I’m glad I tried, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is truly wonderful, and completely satisfied my taste for books set in Oxford (yes this is a thing). Insignia by S.J. Kincaid, on the other hand, completely satisfied my thirst for another book similar to Ready Player One. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is a fantastic, if rather long, follow up to The Name of the Wind. It is one epic fantasy series I will not forget.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud was one of those books that took me completely by surprise; I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did and now I recommend the series to everyone. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was another wonderful library find, the first in a Young Adult fantasy series that I can’t wait to continue. And when it comes to autobiographies, I’m not sure if you can beat Cash by Johnny Cash. One of my favourite singers, his life was absolutely fascinating to read about and I loved the way it was written too – as if the reader is just sat having a drink with Johnny.

Seraphina Fangirl Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

A very recent addition to my list, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is another one that caught me by surprise. At first I wasn’t sure, but as I read more of the book I was utterly enchanted by her take on dragons. And once again showing that I really need to branch out and maybe not always judge books based on genre, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was an ABSOLUTE treat. I loved Cath and instantly identified with her. And finally, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding pretty much satisfied my post-Firefly needs. SO GOOD.

What were your top reads this year?

Thoughts

Thoughts #29: How I Came To Love Jane Eyre

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When I was sixteen, I had to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë for school, and at that point it didn’t make much of an impact on me. It wasn’t that I disliked the book, but it was always difficult to feel particularly passionate about anything we read in English class – we read books out loud together, and the teacher inevitably ended up picking the slowest reader to read to the rest of the class, which frustrated me. As well as this, many other people in my class just had no interest in books at all, and would muck around for the entire lesson, ruining it for others.

So seven years went by where I had read Jane Eyre, but had no particular strong feelings about it. That is, until I watched the 2011 film adaptation, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.

Well hello there, Edward.

Well hello there, Edward.

The atmosphere of the film instantly gripped me. It was dark and Gothic, but also full of hope. Jane was not loved or well cared for as a child, and her teenage years were not particularly pleasant either, but she found joy in the small things like drawing and painting. Like many fellow readers as well as myself, she used fantasies to escape difficult times, painting whatever imagined worlds or creatures came into her head.

The gorgeous score, the wonderful, rugged landscapes, the palettes used, the perfectly cast characters (*COUGH*MICHAELFASSBENDER*COUGH*), the beautiful locations, the camerawork – everything just melded together to make this wonderful, heart-breaking film. And as many an avid reader knows, you’ve always got to read the book the film is based on!

So with that in mind, I dove back into Jane Eyre – and found myself falling utterly in love with it. I read the entire thing in a day, a lazy Sunday where literally all I did was read the book whilst listening to the soundtrack on repeat again and again. That was a good day.

So why do I love it so much? I feel like it transcends its time. At a time where women were meant to be meek, shy little things, Jane stands up for herself. From her aunt mistreating her when she was a little girl, to her time at Lowood School, and finally her time at Thornfield Hall as a governess, she is not afraid to speak her mind and act accordingly. Although Jane finds herself falling in love with Mr. Rochester, despite his apparent indifference, bluntness and more than occasional rudeness, she respects herself too much to let anything happen. And this beautiful, beautiful quote from Jane herself:

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”

jane eyre gif

This is a book where our main character recognises that she is plain, but she doesn’t dwell on it – because she knows what matters is how you treat others, how kind, honest and loyal a person is. She recognises those qualities in Mr. Rochester, and proclaims them equals (he is described as not being traditionally handsome), despite his wealth. But what I most admire about Jane is how much respect she has for herself. She may be very much in love with Mr. Rochester, but as soon as she finds out about the ol’ wife in the attic situation she is out of there. She knows that living as his mistress will not be good for her and will always play on her conscience, so she leaves, even though it breaks her heart. She is brave, she is good, and she is ultimately one of the best female role models in fiction for the very reason that she doesn’t make a man one of her sole purposes of being. He has to respect her before he can have her.

She may go back to him in the end, after the situation is er, ‘sorted’, but by this point he has also made his sacrifices. I’m not usually bothered about romance in stories, in fact half the time I feel it gets in the way, but my gosh do I love Jane and Mr. Rochester together. The ending of Jane Eyre makes me bawl and I’m not ashamed to admit it. These two lost souls have finally found each other, and it makes me so happy.

jane eyre gif

Have you read Jane Eyre, or seen any of the film adaptations? What did you think?

Review

Review: Ironskin (Ironskin #1) by Tina Connolly

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I recently re-read Jane Eyre for the first time since school, and it was like reading a completely new book. Without the need to analyse every scene, I was completely and utterly wrapped up in this world, following Jane’s story and heartbreak. I couldn’t get enough of it: I read the book in two days, I watched the Mia Wasikowska/Michael Fassbender film adaptation twice in those same two days, and listened to the soundtrack of said film on repeat endlessly. And that was when I remembered: I had this book on my Kindle, a paranormal retelling of Jane Eyre.

So it was with great excitement that I dove into Ironskin, hoping to rediscover some of those feelings and familiar moments. And whilst Ironskin is a retelling, it doesn’t stick quite so closely to original events as you’d think, and Tina Connolly plays really cleverly on Brontë’s work. In Jane Eliot’s world, fairies and other creatures such as dwarves are real – but fairies are most definitely not the cutesy little magical beings we know from fairytales. Five years previously, there was a Great War between the fairies and humans, and many people were killed or injured. Those injured by the fairies become cursed – Jane’s particular curse is rage – and she must wear a mask of iron to keep the rage in.

Whilst Jane is not a penniless orphan, as the original Jane is, she is an outcast in her own way. She is Ironskin, which immediately pushes her to the edge of society. She has a younger sister who is the total opposite – where Jane is plain, quiet, conservative but also strong-willed, Helen is outgoing, fun-loving and very much determined to integrate herself into high society. She is a representation of how important these people perceive appearance to be. There was definitely much more of a focus on Jane’s appearance in this book – in the original Jane Eyre she is occasionally referred to as being rather plain, but Brontë doesn’t dwell on it. However, in this one, Jane becomes a little fixated on her appearance and there were a couple of moments where it felt like she’d moved on from being this sharp, witty and fiercely independent character, to someone more like her sister.

Rochart was a lot less fickle and mysterious than Mr. Rochester. It was obvious that he had feelings for Jane, he wasn’t constantly pulling away which I felt left a lot to be desired with the romance. There just wasn’t very much chemistry between the two – why is Jane interested in him? Because he’s the only male she knows? I also didn’t understand how she was so surprised by his ‘big reveal’, when half the book had pretty much given it away. Hint: it’s not a mad wife in the attic. The ending also felt a bit… lacklustre. Although it was a big event with lots of action, there was just something missing.

However, I really did enjoy this book. It may follow the events of Jane Eyre and take plenty of inspiration from it, but it’s also very much its own story. I guess it’s a big task to try and live up to the original book, but Connolly gets close. There were plenty of little references in the story – like the room where Rochart and Jane meet is the ‘red room’, and when Jane has to go away for her sister’s wedding Rochart says he was expecting a ‘madeup story about a dying aunt’. My favourite thing however, was how in the original book, Mr. Rochester is constantly referring to Jane as an imp or a fairy, and when she meets him outside Thornfield he asks if she was ‘waiting for her people’. This took that idea and expanded on it hugely – to great success.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: June 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of thirteen books: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, X-Force Vol 2: Old Ghosts by Craig Kyle, Ultimate X-Men: Ultimate Collection Vol 1 by Mark Millar, The Quick by Lauren Owen, Marvel 70th Anniversary by Stan Lee, Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) by Mark Lawrence, Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand by Ed Brubaker, Dangerous Days in the Roman Empire by Terry Deary, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, The Three by Sarah Lotz, Boy21 by Matthew Quick and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

I’m still reading Marvel comics! There are suddenly a lot more available on the county library system, so I’m making use of it while I still can. My standout book of the month was definitely Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, about the Borgia family. I find them fascinating, and this account of their lives (albeit partly fictionalised) was just brilliant. Brave New World was my book group’s Sci-Fi Book of the Month – unfortunately I didn’t get round to our fantasy choice, but I’m hoping to read it this month.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read four books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge and fully recruited Storm, contributing three bonus points to my team. I also managed to defeat Loki for an extra three bonus points! July’s villain is no other than the notorious Dr. Doom, and I already have my books planned to defeat him. They’re all ARCs waiting for review – even better!
  • I raised my Goodreads goal to one hundred books, and have currently read eighty-four towards that goal.

 

Currently reading:

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Off the blog:

June has been STRESSFUL – hence a lack of posts towards the end, as well as lack of commenting on other blogs. If you saw my post on accommodation last week – well I think it’s sorted. I’ve finally been able to reserve a room. But the email says they’ll let you know at the latest five days before the move in date whether it’s approved. FIVE DAYS?? What if you get rejected? I expect they rarely reject anyone unless they’re not a student and have somehow got through the system – but WHAT? What if you’re rejected, how do they think you’ll find somewhere else in five days, because all other student accommodation will have gone by then. Ugh. Well… if all goes to plan, I have myself my own little apartment in Leiden. A little further than I thought from the faculty, about a 10-15 min bike ride/25 minute walk to the centre, but it’s somewhere to live! And an actual apartment to myself. And of course I’ve nosed around the area on Google Maps, and it looks lovely 🙂 Now that it’s sorted, I feel like I can get on with making other arrangements for Leiden.

Oh, and I also discovered a new love for Jane Eyre, which I re-read for the first time in seven years after reading it at school. I watched the newer film version with Michael Fassbender and Mia Wakowski, and the soundtrack is just GORGEOUS.

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How was June for you? Hopefully less stressful than mine!