Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | Witch, Please

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is a Halloween freebie, so I thought I'd share my favourite fictional witches with you!

Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: We all know this girl was going to make my list. I love Luna and Ginny and Tonks and so many other HP ladies, too, but Hermione speaks to my inner nerd; she never plays dumb to impress anyone and she's a darn good witch.

Sabrina Spellman from Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003): I grew up in the '90s and always watched this show when I came home from school. I loved Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It's so much fun - and funny! - and I spent a lot of time wishing I had a cat like Salem. What I loved most about Sabrina was that, despite all the magic, her struggles were still the usual struggles teenagers find themselves facing, from homework to bullying to boyfriends.

Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy: Before Harry Potter, I read The Worst Witch. I can clearly remember being given some of the books for one of my birthdays from my Nana and, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I loved the TV series. Poor Mildred's rather hopeless, but you certainly can't fault the girl for trying! That's what I love about her; she makes a mistake, then she gets back up, dusts herself off, and tries again.

Winifred, Mary and Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus (1993): I know these three are the villains but they're SO MUCH FUN. I adore Hocus Pocus, I watched it so many times when I was a child, and Bette Midler's rendition of 'I Put a Spell On You' will always be my favourite.

Sally and Gillian Owens from Practical Magic (1998): I know Practical Magic is also a book, but I'm afraid I'm only familiar with the film. The first time I watched it I didn't like it that much, but then I watched it again and ended up loving it. It's not the best film in the world - it's a little cheesy and, ultimately, very '90s - but what I love most about it is that the love at the centre of it all is the love between these two sisters, and to me that's what witchcraft should be about. Witchcraft is covens and sisterhood, by blood or not, and this film understands that.

Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989): I know, another villain, but Ursula's just fabulous, and she's the only sea witch on the list! She has one of the best Disney villain songs in my opinion (though I think Be Prepared is my favourite) and, like the Sanderson sisters, she's so much fun. It's easy to like witches like them because we know they're going to be defeated, even though it's freaking terrifying that Ursula shrinks merpeople down when they can't pay up and then eats them. I considered putting Maleficent on this list purely because she's one of the few Disney villains who genuinely terrified me as a child, but while I think Sleeping Beauty is beautiful it's never been one of my favourite Disney movies; I'm a child of the '90s, so I love Ursula a little more.

Eglantine Price from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971): Bedknobs and Broomsticks is one of the most underrated Disney films in my opinion, and it's also one of my favourites. Like Practical Magic this was a book first but I'm afraid I'm only familiar with the film starring the fantastic Angela Lansbury. Eglantine is almost an adult Mildred Hubble - she's constantly turning people into rabbits when she means to turn them into toads - the big difference is she's being taught by a magician who doesn't believe in magic, so he gets something of a shock when he discovers that when she casts his spells, they work. Honestly what isn't there to love about a witch who fights Nazis?

Liza Hempstock from The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: Neil Gaiman's one of my favourite authors and The Graveyard Book has to be my favourite book of his (with American Gods a very close second) because of its characters. I adore Bod, I adore Silas, I adore Miss Lupescu and I adore Liza Hempstock - in fact she's quite possibly my favourite character in the book. Bod is taught to fear the unmarked grave just outside the cemetery, buried in unconsecrated ground, but it turns out to be the unmarked grave of a teenage girl executed for being a witch. The fact that all she wants is a gravestone breaks my heart a little and I love her.

Mary Newbury from Witch Child by Celia Rees: I had to include Mary on this list because Witch Child is the book that really got me into witches, not only in fiction but also in terms of European and North American history. 

Meche from Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: One of my favourite heroines from one of my favourite books. If you want to read about witchcraft that's a little different then you need to read Signal to Noise, because not only is it set (refreshingly) in Mexico, as opposed to all the British and American witch stories out there, but Meche learns to cast magic with her vinyl records. I just adore her.

What did you talk about this week?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | My Autumn TBR(s)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is all about books on our Autumn TBR. I love the autumn; it's the beginning of my favourite quarter of the year, all the way up to the New Year, and today I have twenty books to share with you, split into four little TBRs. I have a general autumn TBR, which has accidentally ended up entirely being historical fiction set in the 19th century, a Halloween TBR, a Black History Month TBR and a Sci-Fi Month TBR!

In other words, this is a big pile of books I'd like to try and get through in the next couple of months! I like to try and read spooky books on the run up to Halloween, but October is also Black History Month here in the UK so I'd like to read some of the black authors on my shelves because frankly the amount of black writers I have read is abysmal. Then in November it's the return of Rinn @ Rinn Reads' Sci-Fi Month, so I have some science fiction I'd like to try and cross off my TBR, too!

I'm usually not good with TBRs, but I'm going to be as casual as I like with this one. If I only read one book from each list that'll be fine by me.

Apologies for this humungous post today, but I'd also like to take a quick moment to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I really appreciate all the lovely things you said and I feel like I'm ready to ease back into blogging!

Now on with the TBR!

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet: This historical novel is on this year's Man Booker shortlist and is recommended to fans of Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, which just so happens to be a novel I adore. I love reading darker stories when the autumn comes around and the story of a murder certainly sounds dark.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho: I was supposed to read this with the lovely Mikayla @ Mikayla's Bookshelf back in February but I failed miserably. I really want to cross this book off my TBR, though!

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue: I've yet to read any Emma Donoghue despite owning  a copy of The Sealed Letter but I think her most recent novel sounds fascinating, and as it's a historical novel set in 19th century Ireland I'm hoping it'll satisfy me until the publication of Hannah Kent's The Good People in February.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry: I've started this one already and enjoyed what I read so far, but I put it on hold because I think its atmosphere will make for a perfect autumn read!

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman: This was a Christmas present from my friend Natalie @ A Sea Change who I know loves this series, so it's about time I got around to reading it.

Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn: I love stories involving spiritualism, especially the spiritualism that became so popular during the 19th century, and I've owned this book for a while now. I meant to read it last Halloween and didn't get to it, so I'm hoping I can cross it off my TBR this year!

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot: Yet more Victorian spiritualism, this time written during the Victorian era by one of my favourite authors of the time. I've got a soft spot for George Eliot because it was reading Silas Marner when I was eighteen that made me realise my love for Victorian Literature. I'd never actually heard of this little novella until I stumbled upon it in an independent bookshop in Cornwall and I think it'll be something fun to read one spooky evening.

The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill: The lovely Mikayla @ Mikayla's Bookshelf was kind enough to send me this last Christmas when she discovered my love for Victorian era ghost stories. I've been saving it for Halloween and I can't wait to get to it!

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins: I actually own a copy of The Haunted Hotel on my kindle, which I picked up for free, but I couldn't resist this cool, Alfred Hitchcockian looking edition which I found in this independent bookshop in Wales. Wilkie Collins is another of my favourite classic authors (I adore The Moonstone which is thought to be the very first detective novel) so it's about time I pick up something else for his and, compared to some of his other work, this is a little shorter.

The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland: I have yet to read any Karen Maitland which is particularly bad for someone like me who loves historical fiction. So many of her books sound wonderful but there's something about The Vanishing Witch that particularly calls to me at this time of year, even if it is one of her chunkier books!

Mr. Fox and White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi: I also own Oyeyemi's latest book, her collection What is Not Yours is Not Yours, but I'd really like to try one of her novels first and both of these sound fantastic, plus White is for Witching sounds like an ideal Halloween read, too!

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I'm glad I've at least read a little Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie before with We Should All Be Feminists, but I desperately need to check out her novels and I've heard nothing but fantastic things about this one.

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah: After reading Emily Urquhart's Beyond the Pale last year I've been wanting to read a novel with a person with albinism as the protagonist. I'm fascinated by stories told by characters in prison but all the ones I've read so far have been set in Europe so it'd be interesting to read a story set in Zimbabwe instead.

Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay: Jackie Kay is the current National Poet of Scotland and I've heard nothing but wonderful things about this, her memoir, which tells the story of her search for her birth parents.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I think I'm the only person left who hasn't read this book, and as I've yet to hear a bad review I really want to get to it this November!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Yet another sci-fi book I've heard nothing but wonderful things about and still haven't read. This is one of my closest friend's favourite books so I'd like to check it out soon.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is one of my favourite novels of all time so I can't wait to get my copy of this!

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler: Octavia Butler is pretty famous for her science fiction, particularly Kindred, but I've heard some amazing things about Dawn that really make me want to read it this November.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: Nnedi Okorafor is another author whose work I keep meaning to read, and considering this little novella won a Hugo and a Nebula Award this year I think it's time I read it!

Which books made your list this week?

Sunday, 14 August 2016


2016 hasn't been a good year so far.

Lots of great people have died, from Professor Snape to the Goblin King, and Britain's left the EU, resulting in an increase in racism and xenophobia that's made me feel ashamed to be British.

Outside of those issues, though, it just hasn't been a great year so far for me personally either. I'm not happy, and I haven't been happy for a while. One of the things we don't prepare young people for is how difficult your 20s can be and my 20s have been pretty miserable so far; I'm living far away from pretty much all of my friends, despite trying to find work near them for the past two years, and while so many of my friends are out moving into their own apartments, advancing in careers they love and just having fun together, I feel like I'm wasting time watching my life go by while I'm stuck in this rut I didn't ask for.

I can't catch a break. No matter what I try nothing works out, and there's only so many times I can hear 'You'll get to where you want to be eventually' before I feel like tearing my hair out. I've been in a creative slump since the beginning of the year, both with the reading and writing I've been doing, and the less I write the worse I feel and the worse I feel the less I write. I feel stuck, and I think my blog has been suffering from it; I haven't been updating my blog as regularly as I'd like and even when I do manage to write something I feel like my heart isn't in it.

So I'm going to go for a little while. I may still post the odd thing if the mood takes me - I have a joint review with my lovely friend Natalie @ A Sea Change to write up for the end of the month - but right now I need to concentrate on becoming a little happier. I'm still going to read blogs because I love knowing what you guys are up to and what you've been reading, but right now I don't want to be regularly posting content if I'm not happy with it.

Sorry this has been so whiny and self-pitying, and thanks to everyone who continues to read and comment on my blog. I hope I'll be back with some new stuff sooner rather than later!

Pokemon Go Book Tag

I have to be honest, I was always more of a Digimon girl than a Pokemon girl, but I was certainly in on the hype when Pokemon first became big in the UK. I think Pokemon Go's such a clever idea and, yes, I do have it on my phone, too - it's surprisingly fun!

This tag was created by Aentee @ Read at Midnight, and after seeing Deanna @ Deanna Writes do it I couldn't resist giving it a go myself.

That's such a hard question. I've always been surrounded by books; my parents read to me every night from a very young age, particularly my dad, so I don't think I could single out one book that made me love reading. Some of my earliest memories, however, are of having The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Rainbow Fish and Fantastic Mr. Fox read to me, so I suppose it'd be any one of those!

It has to be Harry Potter. I grew up as part of the Harry Potter Generation, and the series will forever be very dear to me.

Probably The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I have a copy and I'd really like to read it at some point, but everyone loves this series so I'm both worried that I'll be the one person in the world who doesn't like it while also feeling like it can wait longer for my attention than other books on my shelves that aren't as well known.

Lauren Oliver's Delirium falls into the YA dystopian category, but it does it well. When The Hunger Games set dystopian fiction as the next trend in YA quite a lot of rubbish was published, but Delirium's great!

I've heard such good things about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but it's so huge it even has footnotes! It intimidates the hell out of me, but I'm determined to read it one day...

The last book I can remember sacrificing sleep for is Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. I just had to know what happened.

Quite a few. Cinder and Kai from The Lunar Chronicles; Meche and Sebastian from Signal to Noise; Saba and Jack from Blood Red Road; Sue and Maud from Fingersmith; Sephy and Callum from Noughts & Crosses; Sabriel and Touchstone from The Old Kingdom; Maia and Csethiro from The Goblin Emperor... Like I said, quite a few.

I have to go with Moira Young's Blood Red Road, which was just so much fun to read. I started reading it one night a couple of years ago when I couldn't sleep, and ended up staying up until four in the morning. Oops.

I don't have an answer for this one because I think everything has to come to an end eventually. I know that's a really boring answer, but I'd much rather see something end brilliantly than drag on until it becomes crap.

I had to read Louis Sachar's Holes in school, and when we were first given it my thought was 'how is reading a book about a bunch of guys digging holes going to be interesting?' but Holes is so much more than that. By this point I'd say that Holes is pretty much a modern classic within children's fiction and I loved every second of reading it.

Probably Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, which I guess is a lot less hyped now. I've been meaning to read it for years and still haven't got to it, but I love Greece and Greek mythology and I'd like to at least read the first book and see if I'm interested in the rest of the series soon.

I love beautiful books, but I'm not usually one for collector's editions. That being said, I do think this exclusive edition of The BFG is beautiful.

I'm really looking forward to Audrey Coulthurt's debut, Of Fire and Stars, about a princess who's betrothed to another kingdom's prince and ends up falling in love with his sister.

I will buy pretty much anything that has Silvia Moreno-Garcia's name on it. I adored her debut, Signal to Noise, and loved her second novel Certain Dark Things. Whatever she brings out next, I'll be buying it.

I've been impatiently anticipating Becky Chambers' A Closed and Common Orbit for months and months. I loved The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet so much and I can't wait to get my hands on Chambers' second novel.

If you'd like to give this a try then consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

This Week in Books | 10/08/16

This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!

Now: I'm actually in the middle of several books right now, as I have been all year so far, but right now I'm most actively reading Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent, which explores the relationship between religion, science and folklore. The cover's beautiful and it's written wonderfully - I'm enjoying it so far!

Then: I finally introduced myself to Muriel Spark with her most famous piece of work, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I read it in one sitting and while it's not usually the kind of thing I'd read, and a few years ago I probably wouldn't have liked it at all, I did enjoy it; in fact this is the first book I've read where I can genuinely say I enjoyed the way it was written, the structure of the story, more than the story itself, but that didn't make me enjoy it any less which is unusual for me simply because I prefer story to writing technique. It's made me want to read more of Spark's work!

Next: I recently received an eARC of Robin Talley's As I Descended, a modern day lesbian retelling of Macbeth, and I can't wait to get to it. Talley's one of the few YA authors I actively follow, I've read both of her previous novels, and I'm looking forward to seeing how she's adapted my favourite Shakespeare play.

What have you been reading recently?

Friday, 5 August 2016

Review | When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard by Megan Beech

by Megan Beech

My Rating:

Burning Eye seeks to break down some of the barriers that are put up between young poets and publishers to make it more accessible for poets to put work out early in their career. This chapbook from Megan Beech is the third example of Burning Eye working with a young poet in this way. Although still in her second year at University Megan has already caught attention with her infectious reeling wordplay, but, as is already evident in When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard, she is quickly moving on into more complex writing. Megan is not afraid of speaking her mind and grappling with political themes with a confidence missing in many older poets. When I Grow Up To Be Mary Beard captures the sound of a resurgent feminism that demands to be heard and marks Megan out as a name to watch.

When I grow up I want to be Megan Beech.

I practically never review poetry on my blog for two reasons: 1) because I don't read anywhere near as much poetry as I probably should, and 2) I don't think I know enough about poetry to write a fair review. Having said that, this is my blog and, regardless of my inexperience with poetry, when I love a collection as much as I love this one I have to say something about it.

When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard is brimming with fantastically feminist spoken word poetry, from the titular poem all the way through to the very last. As far as poetry goes I'm still figuring out what kind of poetry I like and this collection has made me want to find even more spoken word poets. Thinking about it now I've always enjoyed spoken word poetry; I'd much rather listen to a spoken word poet read their work aloud than read it myself, which is why I've never really found as much joy in reading poetry as I do in reading fiction, and I actually read a lot of these poems aloud to myself, which was such a fun way to read them. Beech uses language and internal rhyme so cleverly and with such skill that, if this is her debut collection, I can't wait to see what she brings out next.

What I loved about Beech's poems, as someone who often finds poetry difficult to translate in my prose-centric head, is that I understood them and I understood the rhythm of them and, most importantly, I understood the message in them. There are moments when this angry, political, frustrated voice breaks through that I identified with so much it's no wonder I love this collection.

Some highlights for me were 'When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard', 'Shakespeare was a Gangster Rapper' and 'Vontrapped', but there wasn't a single poem that I disliked. If I were to put my English graduate hat on and offer any criticism it would be that some of the poems were quite similar in a literal sense; the same words would pop up here and there and I think I only noticed it because this collection is fairly small compared to other collections I own, but it didn't bother me in the slightest. We don't look at the work of poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen and say 'Eh, too much war', so there's no way I'm going to criticise an emerging poet who's using her voice to tackle issues she's passionate about.

Really this is less of a review and more of a gush, but whether you like poetry or not I highly recommend you give this collection a try. I can't wait to see what Megan Beech does next - I'll be keeping an eye on her!

(And if you're interested, you can listen to her read her titular poem here!)

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Olympic Book Tag

The 2016 Olympic Games begin this Friday, which is bizarre; it feels like only yesterday I was watching the 2012 opening ceremony and Rio seemed so far away. How time flies.

Despite not being sporty in the slightest I do enjoy watching bits of the Olympics and luckily, for unfit bookworms such as myself, the lovely Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight has created an Olympic Book Tag so people like me can get involved with the celebrations without breaking out into a sweat, tears or any other kind of bodily fluid.

So, without further ado, let's do the Olympic Book Tag!

I actually found this really difficult to answer, because it's very rarely that I love a book from the very first page. Some of my favourite books in the world I wasn't sure about when I first started reading them, and some books I hate I thought I was going to enjoy when I read the first page. In the end I decided to go with My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland, because it was just what I needed when I read it and, from the very first page, I was invested, interested and entertained.

Technically it's more of a space trip than a road trip, but the title says it all: Becky Chambers' gorgeous debut really is about the long way to a small, angry planet. I love this book, and I can't wait to read A Closed and Common Orbit!

I really don't like love triangles, so I can't answer this one. I'm sure there are some brilliantly written ones somewhere but they're not something I enjoy reading at all.

I enjoyed Transformations, I love poetry that's inspired by fairy tales, but I'm still learning how to understand poetry; I read fiction and non-fiction way more than I read poetry, something I'm trying to rectify, so when I do read poetry I don't always understand it the first time around...

You can't get more summery than a summer-themed anthology! Honestly this anthology is a lot gloomier than I expected it to be considering how cutesy the cover is, so I'd recommend My True Love Gave to Me over this one.

There's a lot more violence in Dark Places than I was expecting, but it suits what's essentially a violent story. I wasn't keen on Gillian Flynn's debut, Sharp Objects, but this book is brilliant.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Fingersmith is the twistiest, turniest book I've ever read, and it's fantastic. Check out Sarah Waters if you haven't already!

I'm still not over it.

One of my favourite novels of all time, The Goblin Emperor's like a rich, delicious bar of chocolate you have to savour to enjoy. To be honest whenever I read this book I speed through it because I love it so much, but it's certainly slower than a lot of the more action-packed fantasy books out there.

I adored The Rainbow Fish when I was a little girl - it's one of the first books I can remember reading, or having read to me, along with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I think I actually liked this one more than The Very Hungry Caterpillar...

If you didn't know already I love guinea pigs, so what could be more perfect than A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice?

I know it's basically SFF blasphemy, but I really didn't enjoy Among Others and I had to force myself to finish it. Check out my review here if you'd like to know more about my thoughts on it!

Whose friendship could possibly be better than Harry, Ron and Hermione's? I love these three dorks, and this series, a hell of a lot.

All three of these books are on my TBR! Dark Mermaids is a crime thriller that features Olympic swimmers who, rather topically, were doped by their government; The Fair Fight is all about 18th century female boxers; and Eat Sweat Play is a non-fiction book about the role of sport in women's lives.

Thanks to Shannon for creating a great tag, and if you want to do it then do it! I'd love to see your answers.