The Marmite Book Tag.

This tag is again stolen from YouTube. It’s actually called the Love-it-or-Hate-it tag, but I thought I’d rename it the Marmite tag to spice it up because, you know, Marmite is famous for being love-it-or-hate it. I’m quite enjoying these book tags and it means I’m posting more often… but I’m sorry if you’re not! Let me know what you think.

1. Top 3 favourite books?

I hate this question. I CAN’T CHOOSE.

2. Top 3 least favourite books?

This is easier. Atonement, Heart of Darkness and Twilight.

3. Top 3 favourite characters?

Again, very difficult. Ron Weasley, Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara.

4. Top 3 least favorite characters?

Bella Swan because she’s such a boring Mary-Sue, Scarlett O’Hara (I love her and hate her) because she didn’t realise she was in love with Rhett until it was too late and Dolores Umbridge… What can I say? I must not tell lies.

5. Biggest let-down?

The hype of Fifty Shades of Grey ruined it for me. Everyone was saying how amazing it was but it’s probably the worst-written book I’ve ever said. Then again, the hype wasn’t really about the quality of writing so maybe that’s unfair of me?

6. Books that you liked that other people hated?

Frankenstein. My whole class was sick of studying by the time our exam rolled round, but I couldn’t get enough!

7. Characters that people love but you hated?

I’m not the greatest fan of Katniss Everdeen if I’m honest. It’s just like, “CHOOSE PEETA ALREADY!”.

8. Characters that people hate but you loved?

I don’t think this has ever really happened. Although when people say Scarlett O’Hara is a bitch I leap to her defense, even though she is a little bit.

9. Best Quotes?

“Indifference and neglect often too much more damage than outright dislike”- J.K. Rowling (through Albus Dumbledore)
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Oscar Wilde (through Lord Henry)

10. Worst Quotes?

Excuse my swearing but… “I don’t make love. I f*ck… Hard.” GIVE ME A BREAK.

11. Books you didn’t finish?

The Stranger’s Child, The Bell Jar, Lolita, Wolf Hall.

12. What book have you read the most times?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

13. Series where the first book was amazing but went downhill from there?

The Gemma Doyle trilogy, which I read a few years ago. I usually find with trilogies that the first book is good, the second one not so much and then the third is as good/better than the first- but this isn’t always true. For example, the third Hunger Games novel is definitely the worst.

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This-or-that

1. Audio book or book in hand

Book in hand. I’ve never actually listened to an audio book. Maybe I will as a kind of experiment for this blog…

2. Paperback or hardback?

I prefer paperbacks, and not just because they’re cheaper.

3. Fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction every time!
4. Fantasy world or real life issues?

I think the two often intertwine- Harry Potter is set in a fantasy world but also deals with a lot of real life issues. I don’t read huge amounts of fantasy though, so real life issues I guess.

5. Harry Potter or Twilight?

HARRY POTTER

6. Kindle or iPad?

I don’t have an iPad, but I’d rather read on a Kindle anyway because it feels like reading from a page rather than off a screen.

7. Borrow or buy?

Buy.

8. Bookstore or online?

Online is quicker and easier, but there’s nothing like the bookshop experience.

9. Tell me onetime or total trilogy?

Uuuh?

10. Monster read or short and sweet?

Doesn’t matter as long as it’s good.
11. Starry-eyed romance or full of action?

Mmm… I’m a hopeless romantic so I’m going with the former, but anything that’s too gushy (Twilight! Fifty Shades of Grey!) gets on my nerves.

12. When reading: curling up in your snuggie or sunbathing?

No preference.

13. Hot chocolate or latte?

Hot chocolate… but what does this have to do with reading?

14. Read the review or decide for yourself?

If I’m trying to choose between two books then I might be influenced by reviews, but normally I like to decide for myself.

Saturday’s book tag

Apologies if you’re starting to get bored with these ‘book tags’, but I’m really trying to blog at least every other day, but I’m a busy student, so I don’t have time to read an entire book each day- lovely though that would be.

1. Favorite childhood book?
The Harry Potter series, no question.

2. What are you reading right now?
On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

3. Bad book habit?
Hmmm… never using a book mark, despite owning about 10!

4. Do you have an e-reader?
Yes- I’ve got a Kindle and I love it!

5. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?
I prefer to read one at a time, but if I’m reading something especially heavy going I’ll try and mix it up with a bit of lighter reading material. The only problem is that I’ve got to be really careful about keeping a good balance!

6. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not particularly, but when I’m using my Kindle I tend to highlight more so that I can remember all the points I want to bring up!

7. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)?
Hmm… Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I can appreciate it, but not enjoy it. The overwhelming sensation when I finished it was relief!

8. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Oooh that’s a tough one! I’ve read so many amazing ones… maybe The Picture of Dorian Grey? Or Gone with the Wind? Or The Great Gatsby? Or Jane Eyre? ARGH I CAN’T CHOOSE.

9. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I wouldn’t say that I really have a ‘comfort zone’- I’ve got quite eclectic tastes.

10. What is your reading comfort zone?
Same as question nine- I don’t really have one. I’m willing to give anything a go!

11. Can you read on the bus?
Absolutely!

12. Favorite place to read?
Lying on my bed.

13. What is your policy on book lending?
Never lend Harry Potter to anyone. Ever.

14. Do you ever dog-ear books?
No- I’m absolutely terrible at using bookmarks, which is one of the advantages of using a Kindle!

15. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Never! Unless I’m studying them, of course.

16. Not even with text books?
Nope.

17. What is your favorite language to read in?
English, although I can read in French too, but as it’s not my first language it takes me a bit longer.

18. What makes you love a book?
There’s no set formula for me. I think most great books have interesting characters, a great plot and raise interesting questions but there are no ‘musts’.

19. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Whether or not I enjoyed the book, and whether or not I think the recommendee will. There’s no point recommending a book that you know someone won’t enjoy.

20. Favorite genre?
I love the Victorian Gothic and 20th century American literature, but I’m willing to try anything!

21. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
I don’t read much sci-fi, but that doesn’t mean I’d ever rule it out!

22. Favorite biography?
Michael McIntyre’s- it’s hilarious.

23. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Never!

24. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
I find all books inspiring in their own way… however none particularly spring to mind.

25. Favorite reading snack?
Chocolate, for sure!

26. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Probably J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

27. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
How long is a piece of string?

28. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I can usually find something positive to say about a book because there’s always someone who’ll enjoy it. I like most books, but to varying degrees, so I don’t think I’ve ever written a totally negative one. I wouldn’t be averse to it though, but I would avoid being scathing.

29. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Hmm… Russian!

30. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I don’t know that “intimidating” is a word you could use to describe a book. Gone with the Wind sometimes puts people off with its length, but I’ve never been scared to read anything.

31. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
War and Peace, just because I know it’ll take me ages. It’s a plan for next summer!
32. Favorite Poet?

I like Yeats, Hardy and Seamus Henley. I was always gutted that I didn’t get to study the latter at GCSE

33. Favorite fictional character?
Ron Weasley. Or Scarlett O’Hara, for very different reasons.

34. Favorite fictional villain?
Milton’s Satan; I love his inner torment and his complexity.

35. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
I like to take a mix of chick lit and more serious stuff.

36. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

Not very long.

37. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

I read The Bell Jar at a time when I was feeling very down myself and I found it too much, but I’m definitely planning to pick it up again over Christmas.

38. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
People coming in my room to talk to me- well, not random people, my family. Or if our neighbours call round!

39. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I always seem to find flaws in film adaptations, but I do love Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Or The Perks of Being a Wallflower– they did a great job with that.

40. Most disappointing film adaptation?
My Sister’s Keeper because they changed the ending! What’s that about?

41. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Oh gosh… I don’t really know!

42. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Never.

43. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
A very slow plot- or exams.

44. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Not especially.

45. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
It depends on the book and how much I liked it.

46. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
All those books about fallen angels and things.

47. Name a book that made you angry.
Twilight!

48. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
The Man who was Thursday– I’d never heard of it before I read it but now I’m so glad I did!

49. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

Atonement.

50. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

Most books! If you enjoy it, then don’t feel too guilty.

 

The Man who was Thursday

 

The Man who was Thursday: A Nightmare by G. K. Chesterton

To give you a little background on this book, it was published in 1908 and it’s so extraordinary that it’s hard to believe that the author’s middle name was Keith. I don’t mean extraordinary as in extraordinarily good, though it is absolutely brilliant, but extraordinary in that it has to be one of the most bizarre novels I have ever read. It follows the story of Gabriel Syme, a policeman and poet who, as the result of an argument with an anarchist poet, Gregory, gets appointed to the Supreme Anarchist Council. However, Syme soon discovers that all of the councillors are actually policemen, fighting against the leader, who calls himself Sunday. The book is a battle between order and anarchy, with the men trying to comprehend and defeat Sunday.

Right away the novel takes on dreamlike qualities, as settings and company in the first chapter changes without question from the characters involved. A table also falls through the floor as though that were an everyday occurrence and real-life practicalities (money, family ties, friends, work) take a back seat as the men run around England and France at first from, and then in the pursuit of, the incomprehensible Sunday. To me at least, without the indication from the title, it was clear that this was all a dream. Chesterton perfectly captures the realistic yet abstract qualities of a dream with his writing, a feat which not many writers I’ve read can boast. Yet, as with a dream, one completely forgets that what’s happening is not real and becomes caught up in the odd adventures.

The novel is also full of philosophy, which can start to feel slightly tiresome after a while, although the impassioned speeches of the characters do make an entertaining read, even if some of what they’re saying has a faint air of ridiculousness. But in spite of the fact that anarchy seems to be a central theme The Man who was Thursday, the ending reveals that that is not what it is really about at all. It is about God, His incomprehensibility and His mysterious ways. I really want to write more on the ending but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s thinking of reading it, because I feel it’s one of those books which is much better if you don’t have a clue about the ending; the frustrating fun is in the guessing. So let’s just say that the overall idea seems to be that you have to trust God and have faith in him, in the face of all his contradictions and the suffering He puts us through. (I’d just like to point out, so as not to offend anyone or seem as though I am preaching, these ideas are my interpretation of Chesterton’s views, rather than an expression of my own.)

Basically, The Man who was Thursday is a bizarre-but-brilliant work of literature which will keep you guessing right until the last page. Chesterton proves himself to be a writer of considerable skill with the way in which he captures the unrealistic yet vivid character of a dream, however if you’re into realist novels then this one is not for you! However, if you love philosophical, boundary-pushing literature then it’s safe to say you’ll devour this!

Have YOU read The Man who was Thursday? What did you think? It’s a fascinating novel so I’d love to know!

Book tag questions

I’ve just finished the most incredible, mind-warping (if that’s a word) book and I can’t wait to post about it, but first I thought I’d find another book tag to do because I quite enjoyed doing yesterday’s ‘The Seven Deadly Sins of Reading’ tag!

Q: How do you organise your bookshelf? 

I don’t have a real organisational structure to my shelf. A few months ago I got bored and tried to bring some order into it, but it was really for aesthetic purposes. I keep series together when possible, although my shelves aren’t wide enough to have every single series together. Harry Potter resides on a low shelf for easy access but that’s it as far as the logic of positioning goes. I’ve kept all my Penguin modern classics- such as The Crucible and Animal Farm– together on the top shelf, along with other ‘intellectual’ books like The Secret History, and then all the classics I bought at the garden centre on a middle shelf because they’ve all got the same cover and I bought them all at the same time. Then there are loads of books which don’t stack neatly, so they’re just piled on top!

Q: What advice would you give to other book reviewers?

I haven’t been doing this for that long, but I’d say you’ve just got to stick at it. I cringe when reading my first few posts because they were utter rubbish, but I’ve since got into the swing of things and I feel like my reviews are more structured. Including pictures is a good idea because it’s aesthetically pleasing, and I’d also say that you don’t just have to write about novels; you could talk about broader literary issues too!

Q: What are your favourite books?

This question is always such a difficult one to answer! The Harry Potter series has had a big impact on my life and helped me cope with some hard times during secondary school, so that series will always be close to my heart. I also absolutely love The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini because it’s so beautifully written, so desperately sad and such an incredible story. Gone with the Wind is another book I can’t get enough off and I just adore The Great Gatsby, so much so that I read it in about 24 hours! A childhood favourite is Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, although as I’ve grown older I’ve realised just how genius those works and understood things that never even occurred to me before. I find that the Noughts and Crosses trilogy is just breathtaking, Jane Eyre is one of the most absorbing books I’ve ever read and The Picture of Dorian Grey is just pure genius. I’m getting gushy now. Oh, and Frankenstein, because it’s a truly fascinating novel. Okay, I’ll stop now.

Q: Where do you like to read?

I like to read in a quiet place so that I can focus my full attention on the book, and I like to be warm and comfortable- I’m like a cat. My favourite place to read is lying on my bed, but I also really enjoy reading on public transport for some reason. I also love sitting in the sun and reading because it’s just blissful. But really, it doesn’t matter that much- if you like reading, you can’t be fussy about where you do it. I can’t read in the car though because it makes me feel sick, which I hate because reading would otherwise be the perfect way to whittle away long journeys!

Q: What is your favourite book cover?

Well, the golden rule of reading is ‘never judge a book by its cover’, so I don’t feel that this should matter too much. I do love the cover of Gone with the Wind because it’s just so romantic and the covers of the Noughts and Crosses trilogy because they’re so simple yet eye catching. But really, it doesn’t matter to me!

I challenge YOU to do this book tag!

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of Reading!

I’m trying to update this blog more regularly since I know I’ve been slacking lately, so as I’m between books at the moment I decided to look up so fun book tags to do and stumbled upon this one on YouTube.

 GREED – What is your most expensive book? What is your least expensive book?

I’ve never actually spent an extortionate amount on books in one go. I mean, I spend a lot of money on books but I don’t think I’ve ever spent over £10 on one book. However, that’s not to say I don’t own expensive books- I’ve received several as presents from my parents, which is always lovely. Off the top of my head I can think of Harry Potter- Film Wizardry, which isn’t exactly a literary classic, but it did cost £25.00. My least expensive physical books would have to be my classics like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which I bought from a garden centre when they had a two-for-five pounds deal. I have read some books for free on my Kindle though, which is a great and accessible way of reading the classics, even though I know many are opposed to e-books.

WRATH—What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

This is quite a hard one; at the moment I wouldn’t say I have a love/hate relationship with any author. When I was in my early teens though, I did often finding myself simultaneously loving and hating Cecily von Ziegesar, the author of the Gossip Girl series. I am ashamed to admit that I was completely addicted to the series aged about 13, even though I knew that it was total trash and more predictable than the X Factor.

GLUTTONY—What book have you deliciously devoured over and over with no shame whatsoever?

This applies to many, many books. I like rereading; it’s like meeting up with an old friend. I try not to reread too much though, because most of the time I’d much rather find new books and hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? But the book I’ve probably read the most times is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I haven’t reread it in about a year and a half, but when I was younger I never stopped reading it. I can probably quote the whole novel. I’ve even read it in French.

SLOTH—What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

The Stranger’s Child, I’m ashamed to say. I started reading and loved it but when J.K. Rowling’s new book came out I just had to read that, and I’ve yet to return to Two Acres.

PRIDE—What book do you most talk about in order to sound like a very intellectual reader?

Hmm… I do read a fair few intellectual books to be fair, but that’s not to say I avoid trash like the plague either. I have eclectic tastes. I find that 1984 is always quite a good one to bring up, or something like Gone with the Wind, simply because it’s 1011 pages long!

LUST—What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?

Ooh, interesting! I think the most attractive male character when I was younger was definitely Patch from the Hush Hush series; I really fell for the whole dark-and-dangerous thing. I love Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind (see, I always bring it up!) and Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby because whilst on the surface they seem like scoundrels, they are actually big-hearted, noble in some ways, and very romantic.

ENVY—What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

Don’t get me started on this one- oops, too late! Anna Karenina, The Devil in the Flesh, the complete volume of Paradise LostBurmese Days, The Beautiful and Damned and East of Eden all immediately spring to mind, but there are many, many more!

I challenged YOU to complete this tag- what are your seven deadly sins of reading? Let me know in a comment or just post it on your own blog!

The Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Wallpole

This novel is considered to be the pioneering Gothic work and so for a student who loves Gothic literature it is simply a must! 
However, it is very obvious that The Castle of Otranto is an early Gothic work because it lacks that polished feel of the urban Gothic. Whilst Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde and Robert Louis Stephenson come up with imaginative ways to chill their readers, the events in this novel are almost comical, making it hard to believe that readers were genuinely frightened- though of course society has changed and is now, thanks to Hollywood, desensitised to blood, gore and ghosts. Yet the novel has elements that make it an enjoyable read, once you learn to overlook its flaws; after all, without it who knows if Dracula and Jane Eyre would be gracing our shelves?

The novel starts with a wedding between Conrad, son of the tyrannical prince Manfred, and Isabella, a beautiful maiden when tragedy strikes- a giant helmet appears out of nowhere and crushes the bridegroom to death- shock! Horror! Sorry, sorry, I shouldn’t laugh but it’s hard to get past the ridiculousness of this first incident. If this were written today it would be ridiculed and probably never published but let’s remember that the films and novels that make this seem comical in comparison didn’t exist in 1764- and perhaps wouldn’t have come into existence if it weren’t for Walpole, or at least not in quite the same way. Anyway, distraught at the loss of his only heir, Manfred decides to marry his son’s intended, Isabella, who understandably rejects him and flees with the help of a peasant, Theodore. Isabella begins to develop feelings for the virtuous Theodore, who falls in love with Manfred’s daughter, Matilda- I won’t ruin the plot but I will say that chaos ensues!

The main problem I found with this novel was the characters- they were simply too one-sided and hard to sympathise with. Hippolita, Manfred’s long-suffering wife, takes everything lying down and won’t hear a word against her horrible husband whilst  Theodore is so  brave and pure of spirit that he is willing to lay down his life for complete strangers. However I was surprised to find that Isabella was probably the character who lifted off the page the most for me; unlike Matilda and Hippolita she actually had a backbone and refused to accept the cruelty of Manfred. Yes, Theodore helped her to escape but you get the feeling she could have done it alone. The character of Isabella contrasts with other young women in Gothic novels I’ve read, such as Lucy Westenra and Elizabeth Lavenza- although the character is still influenced by gender stereotyping, she has a will of her own, much like Mina Harker in Dracula.

On the whole, The Castle of Otranto is definitely worth reading it you’re particularly interested in the Gothic and the 18th century but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone; it’s definitely a book-lover’s sort of book. I’m definitely glad that I read it as it has given me a broader understanding of the Gothic genre on the whole, but it’s not the kind of book that most people would read for pleasure. However, that’s not to say it’s not worth reading- every book is worth reading!

Have YOU read The Castle of Otranto? What did you think of it? Let me know!

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

 

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Okay, so I know I’ve been TERRIBLE lately. I’ve been silent since… late September I think? I wouldn’t blame you for deserting me. I’m very, very sorry. I have been reading, just not blogging- and I’ve missed it. A lot.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is, like so many other 19th century Gothic works, often slightly marred by popular culture. Much as Frankenstein’s monster is not a green, gormless, bloodthirsty thing, Dr. Jeykll is not an extremely moral man who pushed science too far- though it is fair to say that the perception of Hyde as a greedy, bloodthirsty chap is pretty spot on. In fact, I wouldn’t even go as far to say that Jekyll and Hyde are two different people- Jekyll is just Hyde with self-restraint. Whilst Hyde doesn’t seem aware of morals and is unaffected by social convention, Jekyll is more shaped by oppressive social rules and feels that he should adhere to them, but could he do what he pleased he would behave like Hyde all of the time. Previous to reading this book I had thought that Jekyll was a virtuous man who transformed into Hyde for some sort of experiment that went horrible wrong, but my good-vs.-evil view of the novel wasn’t exactly spot on. The conflict in the novel isn’t between Jekyll and Hyde, rather it all takes place within Jekyll as he tries to ignore his impulses and do what society says is right. As Vladimir Nabovok argues, the “good vs. evil” perception of the novel is misleading because Jekyll is not a morally good person- he is just moral enough to suffer at the hands of his conscience.

Another thing that it seems not many people know about are the embedded narratives within the novel- included, I suspect, as they are in so many other Gothic works, to give the novel an air of credibility and prove that the whole tale is not some sort of delusion of Jekyll’s. I personally feel that the embedded narratives give the novel a rather more clunky feel, for want of a better word, but that’s just me speaking from a 21st century perspective, as the format is not used as often anymore. However, it is still an intriguing tale and deeply interesting, mainly because of its continuing relevance to society. The battle between good and evil is an ongoing topic of interest, as well are topics such as repression and morality, meaning that although the novella was written over 100 years ago it tackles contemporary issues.

Have YOU read The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? What did you think? Please let me know!