Top Ten Tuesday; Top Ten Books of 2014

Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by The Broke and The Bookish. Although this was actually a list for a few weeks ago, I thought I’d give myself time to read a few more books before doing this list. I didn’t read quite as many books as I hoped to this year, only reading 23.

10. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

With a fascinating premise of a woman who relives her life every time she dies, giving her a chance to fix the mistakes which lead to her death, this never quite lived up to my expectations. Some lives were much more fascinating than others, leading me to wish that I could skip certain parts of the novel. The lack of consistency in this novel prevents it from being higher in this list.

9.The Making of A Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This Victorian novel subverts the typical romantic and melodramatic genres by having very realistic and non dramatic characters at the helm, which creates a very interesting read, even if the end is anti-climatic and disappointing.

8. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The beautiful and detailed descriptions in this novel are what truly makes it engaging. Although the story of a child seemingly created from snow is fascinating in itself, it is the writing which makes this book so enjoyable.

7.1984 by George Orwell

With a sense of impending doom building throughout the novel, and a realistic and hopeless tone throughout, this is a definitely intriguing, if bleak novel, and would have been higher on this list, if not for the dull middle section.

6. More Than This by Patrick Ness

One of my favourite writers, this has a very intriguing plot – like all of Ness’ novels – and deals with a boy who commits suicide only to wake up later in an abandoned place strangely similar to his childhood home. Using a dystopian concept to explore the importance of friendship, the hopeful tone of this novel was what made it really touching to me.

5. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Funny, fresh and touching, this managed to combine amusing tales at the beginning with real life and heart breaking issues, keeping the reader engaged through the variety of multi faceted characters.

4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simson

A beautiful romance novel about the unexpected nature of love, this tale of how one autistic man can change his mundane life in order to gain happiness was touching in a way it did not expect it to be.

3. Dracula by Bram Stoker

The gradual build up of suspense through several seemingly unrelated plot points make this incredibly gripping – until the rather anti climatic ending, which prevented this from being higher in the list.

2. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

These sexually charged, vivid, Gothic stories based upon fairy tales are unique and fascinating, twisting their source material to create much weirder, darker and passionate tales.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
One of my top three novels of all time, this classic story of a woman’s search for happiness on her own terms was infinitely empowering to me.

Read my full review here;  https://nellymair.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/jane-eyre-reader-i-loved-it/

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Sherlock Holmes Exhibition; The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die

Books, Classics

The world’s most famous detective, and the most prolific screen character in film, has recently been brought back into public attention through the numerous adaptations that has happened over the last few years, and with Ian McKellen to soon play the character, it seems unlikely his popularity will wane soon. The Museum of London’s exhibition is seizing this opportunity and explores the influences behind the character, and why he has managed to remain so popular for so long.

Regardless of whether or not you have read or enjoyed the short stories and books – I have only read “The Sign of Four” – if you have any interest in any of the adaptations, then I would recommend this exhibition. It is a very deep investigation of all the influences, with texts from Edgar Allan Poe’s detective stories, as well as the original Sherlock Holme’s stories themselves, and paintings of Victorian London – so that the visitors can fully emerse themselves into the routes and weather which Holmes and Watson experience. Certain points, however, seemed slightly unnecessary and long winded – two whole rooms of Victorian paintings seemed potentially slight overkill. For me, the second best part of the exhibition, was the final room when it compared the original tales with the adaptations, with montages and costumes from the various versions. (The best part, of course, was the book case at the beginning which opened when pushed – it has always been my dream to enter a secret corridor through a hidden panel in a book case, and for now, this will have to do.)

One issue with the exhibition was that it was not laid out very well – it was very popular, and the way that the displays required you to move around made it hard to see each part and to navigate the exhibition. It was also very easy to miss certain parts because of the lack of labelling, and certain parts – for instance the original manuscripts of the stories – being difficult to read, with no written transcript.

Overall, it was a very interesting exhibition that I would recommend visiting if you have read or watched anything based upon the stories.

Month in Review; July

Books, Film, music, Theatre, TV

Songs I’ve loved this month;

Do You Remember The First Time – Sophie Ellis Bextor (originally by Pulp)

Recently I have become a big fan of Sophie Ellis Bextor, and I especially love this cover of a classic Pulp song which she did for Britpop at the BBC.

Wasted by Tiesto

This is not the kind of music that I would usually listen to, but the tune is so upbeat that I think it’s perfect for summer. It’s especially great when combined with the very feel good music video.

Book of the month;The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion a feel good romantic comedy about a man with aspergers and his attempt to find his perfect wife. Enter Rosie, the chaotic but fun girl who is completely unlike what he’s looking for. The plot may sound cliché, but the viewpoint was very interesting and amusing as you had a glimpse into the protagonist’s ridiculously ordered life. It was also incredibly endearing to see him experience things he never expected, and his character development raises this book above your standard chick lit.

TV Shows I’ve loved this month;

In The Flesh – as I have said numerous times on this blog, I started watching this show earlier this month, and it’s since become one of my all time favourites. Although it’s about zombies, it follows very human issues, and manages to be meaningful whilst also being exciting.

Utopia – a conspiracy thriller, Utopia is about five people who take interest in a graphic novel and then start to be hunted by a secret corporation. Filled with unexpected plot twists and complicated, likable characters, who seem realistic, Utopia is definitely worth a watch.

Best Thing I Saw This Month;

Les Miserables at The Queens Theatre, LondonLes Miserables Tickets poster

Hardly a ground breaking suggestion, Les Miserables is well known for it’s great
soundtrack and epic story. All the cast are incredibly talented, and this is one of the most powerful things you can see at the theatre, so if you haven’t seen it yet, then listen to the hype, and go see it.

Top Ten Tuesday; Characters I’d want with me on a desert island

Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by The Broke and The Brookish and this week is the ten characters we’d want with us on a desert island. I found this really difficult, because my favourite characters are often complicated and brooding, which potentially would not be a great combination on a desert island. Anyway, here is my top ten;

0e366824189373910. Finnick Odair

Finnick became victor of the Hunger Games when he was 14 and survived the third Quarter Quell as well so he’d be able to protect us from any weird-Island enemies that might show up. He also comes from District 4, the fishing district, so he’d be able to feed us, and would be good with water, enabling him to help us get off the island. He’s also absolutely gorgeous, so that might make the desert island experience slightly more enjoyable.

images9. Westley

A great duellist, climber, hand to hand fighter, as well as being intelligent, Westley would easily kill any monsters on the island, and might be able to use his experience as a pirate to get us off the island. He’s also adorable (not to mention beautiful) and the story of his love for Buttercup and his adventures thereafter would make a great campfire story.

imagesI93UA9UP8 & 7. Fred and George Weasley

So far all of the choices, whilst clever and talented, have been very serious – I love them all, but they might be slightly difficult to get along with in close proximity. Fred and George Weasley on the other hand, would “diffuse the tension” with funny quips and pranks.

ND1tsotoc6. Nancy Drew

I really struggled with this – I really wanted to include Veronica Mars, but as I haven’t yet read “The Thousand Dollar Tan Line”, I decided on her 1930s counterpart, the original teenage detective, Nancy Drew. I read some of these books when I was younger, and I don’t remember a huge amount from them, other than that Nancy was independent and highly intelligent, very helpful skills in this kind of situation. I think at least one detective is absolutely necessary on this island, after all, it could be a “And Then There Were None” situation.

mm4n5. Miss Marple

I thought really hard about this – I knew I wanted a maternal figure on my island and I eventually decided that Miss Marple was perfect. Caring, as well as a great gossip, and obviously her fantastic deduction skills would be very helpful on the island – it would be interesting to see her and Nancy work together to solve any mysteries.

4. Hermione Grangeruntitled (8)

The Golden Trio would not have stood a chance if it were not for Hermione, and I’d like to think that if we were on a desert island, she could save us too. She would definitely have something in her bag which could help us, and she’d always have a detailed plan on how to get us off the island. Of course, she’d also have several spells she could use in a case of emergency!

untitled (9)3. Ron Weasley

Maybe it’s a sign of my obsession that I have four Harry Potter characters on this list, but I love them all! I was really torn between the twins or Ron, so I decided on both. Although constantly underestimated, Ron has his moments of brilliance – after all he did survive seven years of near-death experiences. He’s also a great friend and very amusing, and having both him and Hermione on the island (without Harry Potter, the greatest cock block of all time) would be very cute!

untitled (10)2. Bridget Jones

I feel a very personal connection to Bridget; I relate to her in so many ways. I think she would be just as lost and confused on an island as me, which would make me feel better about freaking out. She’d probably handle it by singing a Madonna song (if it works in a Thai prison, why not a desert island?) and I would totally be up for that.

images2PYJ0Y911. Elizabeth Bennet

If there is ever a list about spending time with fictional character, Elizabeth Bennett will always be number one on that list. ALWAYS. Funny, independent, and with some great quips about the rest of the people on the island (even if her assumptions are not always correct) she’d be great to hang out with whilst the others work out how to get us off.

Top Ten Tuesday; Ten Classics You Want to Read

Books, Classics

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme started by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week it is ten classics. Although they actually said 10 favourite classics, I haven’t read quite enough classics yet to write that, but I’m eager to so instead this week it is the 10 classics I want to read.

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1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

2. Dracula by Bram Stoker

3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

4. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

5. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

6. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

7. Emma by Jane Austen

8. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

9. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

10. The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Top Ten Tuesday; Summer To Be Read List

Books

I have an affinity for lists, and so I’ve decided to start joining in with The Broke and The Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday and this week it is your summer TBR list;

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1. Cruel Summer by James Dawson
This seems like the perfect holiday book; it’s set in a Spanish villa and is about a group of friends who are told that their friend, who they believed committed suicide, was murdered.
2. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
I’ve really enjoyed some of Kate Morton’s other books, and although I attempted to read this before I know she’s not the best at beginnings, so I think a long holiday is the perfect opportunity to get through it.
3. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
I love a good murder mystery, and – added bonus- it’s written by JK Rowling, so I’m especially excited for this.
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book is about the only Neil Gaiman book I’ve read (although I did read Stardust ages ago, but I feel it needs a reread as I can remember nothing about it) and that book demonstrated Gaiman’s great ability to tell a story.
5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I’m planning to read more classics in the summer, and this is one of the ones I’m most eager for. I recently read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (the sister of Emily, who wrote this book), and I’ve heard very good things about Wuthering Heights.
6. The Making of A Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Frances Hodgson Burnett is – of course – known for her childhood classics “The Little Princess” and “The Secret Garden” but I’m eager to try out this novel, which is a combination of the classic Cinderella story with a more gothic thriller aspect.
7. Emma by Jane Austen
I started reading this a while ago, but I got quite busy so I didn’t manage to finish it. Although I know it will not live up to Pride and Prejudice, I like the idea of Emma, the nosey, slightly unlikable protagonist, and there are so many adaptations of it which I’ve been saving up to watch until after I’ve read the book.
8. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
I’ve heard very good things about this book, and I do love a good murder mystery, so I’m optimistic.
9. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
I know very little about this book, other than that my sister recommended it, and my other knowledge is based on the Gossip Girl episode in which they perform it, so I just hope it lives up to my sister’s praise.
10. Vanity Fair by William Thackery
Although it’s very long – which I must admit has put me off slightly – I am intrigued by Becky Sharp, who sounds fabulous.

Jane Eyre; Reader, I loved it

Books, Classics

ImageToday is Charlotte Bronte’s 198th birthday, and so I thought I’d post my review of Jane Eyre, which has become one of my favourite books.

(There are spoilers in this review, but I refuse to hide it, because, come on dude, this book has been out 150 years)
Although an absolute classic, I will admit that I first attempted this book a few years ago and gave up with the claims that it was dull. Now, doing it for AS level, I was forced through what was admittedly a slow start – although it is rendered much better when analysed and looked at from hindsight. Although commonly referred to as a “love story”, I agree with the view that this is instead a bildungsroman about Jane’s search for identity and love from an isolated and unfortunate background. Due to this, it frustrates me that all adaptations paint it as otherwise – although only half of the book is spent at Thornfield, and the rest at Lowood and Moors House, all adaptations focus merely on Thornfield, a choice which decreases the reader’s ability to see Jane’s journey. It is also frustrating that this book is seen so commonly as a “love story” as it puts men off reading it and labels it as a “girls book”, something which profoundly irritates me, as this book deserves to be read by almost everyone, in the same way that everyone is encouraged to classics by male authors.

I am not saying that this book is without flaws; due to its age, it is sometimes a struggle to get through, and I think perhaps I will have to read it again to fully appreciate it – I admit my love for it was helped along by watching the BBC 2006 adaptation (a fabulous version which I will touch upon later.) 

The relationship between Jane and Rochester is, at least to begin with, incredibly dysfunctional. At one bit Rochester even threatens violence; “If you do not listen to reason Jane, I will try violence” and manipulates Jane time and time again. However, whilst some aspects are certainly not ones you would want in your own love life, it is impossible not to root for such a couple. When reading Charlotte Bronte’s beautiful prose, you understand that it is almost as if they are two halves who have found each other, and they fit together perfectly, their passionate and all consuming love making this one of the best interpretations of a love ever – despite the numerous barriers for their relationship (WHY DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE A WIFE ROCHESTER) and their reconciliation at the end of the novel was breathtaking. 

I will admit that I did not fall entirely for Jane, the main character. I know what you’re thinking; “What blasphemy! You call yourself a feminist, yet you do not like one of the most independent and inspirational female characters in literature?!” and yes, I am afraid that she did not entirely captivate me. I thought for a character who I had believed to be feisty and passionate, she didn’t really say a lot (although I understand this was because of repression of women at the time) and she was incredibly judgmental. Every single person was remarked upon; no matter how nice to her they were, their frivolities or stupidity would be pointed out.

The character of Rochester, whilst eccentric, was entirely enjoyable. I could not help but laugh at his behaviours, my class, whilst reading this, joked at what it would be like if Mr Rochester were to write a dating book, which would be filled with advice such as “when proposing to the love of your life, make sure to start with convincing her that she must go to Ireland.” Wow, does Rochester have Game. He is also the biggest diva ever to grace the page, literally he is the Mariah Carey of the 1800s.

One thing I really did not understand about Jane was her choice in friends; why oh why would anyone ever be as desperate as she was to maintain friendship with as insufferable a character as St John?! I will admit that when we were first introduced to him, I felt sympathy for him, and rooted for him and Rosamund to get together, although I already knew the ending of that story, I thought it tragic, and due to his inability to admit his feelings he already irritated me slightly, but I felt no particularly dislike for him. But then he started forcing Jane to act a certain way, and pressured her into marrying him, and by this point all slither of like for him evaporated. I am not joking when I say that he was one of my least favourite characters in the entirety of literature.

Oh and speaking of friends I didn’t see the appeal of, Helen Burns seemed very preachy for an 11 year old, and once again I didn’t really see the attraction. Of course it was touching that Helen died in Jane’s arms and Jane never forgot her, but as a stand alone character she wasn’t the best.

Bertha, of course, is a fascinating character, especially when you look at the feminist and racist interpretations of her character, one of my favourites being that she represents Jane’s darker self.

I especially love looking at feminist intepretations of this book – I’m one of those weird people who love to analyse things and look at other people’s understanding of the most minor phrases, and when you do this all sorts of interesting commentary comes out which I find fascinating.

I said earlier that I would talk about the 2006 Adaptation and I will; it is the best that has been so far (that I have watched). Ruth Wilson plays a passionate Jane, and Toby Stephen is an incredible Rochester, to the point that I liked Rochester way more in this version than in the actual book. They have incredible sexual tension, and the romance is one of the best aspects of this version, the proposal scene in particular is just fantastic – Ruth Wilson really gets across Jane’s outburst of emotion, and this scene brought me to tears.
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This is a truly fascinating book, that whilst it takes a while to get into, and potentially can be appreciated better in hindsight than whilst in the midst of reading it, deserves to be read by everyone. (seriously, go read it.)