Read and Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge

Read and Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • Title: The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • Author: Thomas Hardy
  • Published: 1886

The Mayor of Casterbridge is dubbed a ‘tragedy’ novel. It is about Michael Henchard, a hay-trusser who sells his wife Susan and their daughter Elizabeth-Jane to a sailor on a drunken whim. Years later, Susan arrives in Casterbridge and, to her surprise, finds Henchard is the Mayor and is a reformed man. The pair reunite, but both Henchard and Susan are keeping secrets from one another, and the past refuses to stay buried.

In true Hardy style, multiple taboos are introduced quickly in The Mayor of Casterbridge, such as the maltreatment of women, drunkenness, fights, fake identities, and death.

The number of problems each character faced, and how these problems impacted upon the other characters made the book feel very much like an 19th century predecessor to The Jeremy Kyle Show!

I thought The Mayor of Casterbridge was okay, despite having a dislike for most of the characters; each character was selfish and deceptive in varying amounts, so it was hard to feel sympathetic for any of them.

The Mayor of Casterbridge has particularly witty moments, and I liked the Harry Potter-like language in this passage:

‘she [Elizabeth-Jane] no longer spoke of “dumbledores” but of “humble bees” […] that when she had not slept she did not quaintly tell the servants next morning that she had been “hag-rid,” but that she had “suffered from indigestion.”’

(Chapter 20)

I think it’s still unclear as to whether this passage inspired J.K. Rowling, when it came to writing her best-selling children’s fantasy series. In an interview with Stephanie Loer for The Boston Globe, Rowling said:

“Some of the names are invented… Dumbledore […] is an Old English word meaning bumblebee. Hagrid, who by the way is one of my favourite characters, also comes from an Old English word – hagridden – meaning having a nightmarish night.”

Regardless, I liked The Mayor of Casterbridge (not as much as Jude The Obscure however) – not because of its maybe links to the Harry Potter books, but because of Hardy’s ability to simply tell a good story.

Thanks for reading! Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed.

– Judith

Read and Review: The Eyre Affair

Read and Review: The Eyre Affair
  • Title: The Eyre Affair
  • Author: Jasper Fforde
  • Published: 2001

The Eyre Affair draws on a mix of genres, such as humour thriller, sci-fi, detective and fantasy. It tells the story of Thursday Next, a literary detective in an alternative 1985, where everyone is obsessed with literature. The real world and the “book world” overlap, quite literally bringing citizens’ favourite book characters to life, which is all fun and games… until Jane Eyre is kidnapped.

My favourite aspect of The Eyre Affair was its witty references to “pop” literature, such as the Dickens’ books – this reminded me of Dickensian, the BBC drama set within the fictional world of Dickens – or the Shakespeare/Marlowe conspiracy theory. At times, these references seemed a little heavy-handed, but I think this excess paid off, adding to the charm of the alternative reality.

I also appreciated how Thursday’s own narrative, in some ways, mirrored the narrative of Jane Eyre. This was a clever and well-executed idea, and I enjoyed the allusion to how Thursday’s intervention and “reconstruction” of Jane Eyre resulted in the Bronte story we know and love today.

Yet despite its title, The Eyre Affair took longer than expected to focus on its main plot, the Jane Eyre kidnapping.

A lot of time was spent building the world with at times clunky or (dare I say it) cheesy sci-fi abstract descriptions, and introducing characters who, to me, held no significant role in the narrative. Although world-building is a significant part of any series, I prefer books where this description and scene-setting is done more subtly, rather than a heavy exposition.

However, the time spent in The Eyre Affair background and character descriptions may reduce the level of exposition needed further down the line, and these characters may well be more significant in future books in the Thursday Next series, so I can’t complain too much.

Overall, despite my criticisms, I really enjoyed The Eyre Affair. Although he “relies” on existing texts and authors (to an extent) to construct his own story, he blends his own ideas and style with existing characters and texts well, and it was a fun, light-hearted read.

I’d love to read the rest of the Thursday Next series, as well as more books by Jasper Fforde, an author previously unknown to me.

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Georgia Rose

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Georgia Rose

Welcome back to another post in my new series, From One Blogger To Another, where I interview / chat with a different blogger or writer on a monthly basis.

This time, I interviewed Georgia Rose, a writer and blogger from Cambridgeshire, England.

Image result for georgia rose book

As well as reading and writing, she has a lifelong passion for horses, and her family. Her two dogs, Poppy and Ruby, delight in accompanying Georgia to book events.

In addition to writing, Georgia runs her own business, which provides companies with book-keeping and administrative services.

Her first book, A Single Step, was published in 2014. A Single Step was succeeded by Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water, forming The Grayson Trilogy. Georgia said: “They are a series of mysterious and romantic adventure stories, written from the point of view of my heroine, Emma Grayson.”

“Completing my trilogy is one of my biggest achievements. I struggled desperately getting the last one done as it was terrifically hard work, so it was an utter relief to finally have it finished. I loved the entire writing experience – even the difficult parts.”

All three books currently have at least a 4 star rating on Amazon or Goodreads, one of the most popular sites for book reviews.

However, Georgia agreed that negative reviews are as equally valuable as positive ones. “Negative reviews do exactly what reviews are meant to do, which is to inform potential readers.”

“For example, someone reviewed my book recently and complained about my use of the F word and the descriptive sex scene. It was a well written review and provided me with helpful feedback. If another potential reader read that review, and decide they don’t like that type of book, they can save their money by finding something more appealing to them.”

Georgia is a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, a group of readers and bloggers dedicated to reading new books and sharing their reviews. She also has her own blog.

“Someone told me I should have a blog, so I started one. I had no idea how it worked and I scrabbled around for quite a while trying to work out what I should put on it.” Georgia admitted. “My blogging style is a bit patchy; I post odd reviews and share others’ too. I think I’ve got better this year though, as I’ve committed to posting at least once a month!”

Georgia revealed her frustration with blogging to me. “I find that blogging is just something else that takes me further away from writing my next book. I see myself as an author first and a blogger second.”

Georgia’s favourite genres to read are serious romances, psychological or crime thrillers and mysteries.

“My favourite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I’ve always said Pride and Prejudice because I was converted into liking it, I think!” she joked. “I had to study it during my O Level years, and really disliked it at first. However, because I had to pay attention, think about it, and write about it, I grew to love it! I have reread it many times since.”

I asked Georgia which author she’d most love to meet. “There are so many!” she gushed. “If I had to pick one it would be Sue Grafton. I love her Alphabet Series and how she has managed to work her way through almost the entire alphabet, keeping the fabulous protagonist Kinsey Millhone intact. We would have so much to talk about!”

Grafton’s Alphabet Series are a series of crime novels, following the private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Her most recent addition to the series, X, was released on the 2nd of August last year.

However, whilst I love finding new book-to-film adaptations to talk about, Georgia Rose isn’t so keen. “If I’ve ever enjoyed a book, I won’t watch a film adaptation because they always ruin it for me.” she explained. “There are some exceptions however; I’ve enjoyed both the books and films of the Harry Potter series with my children, and I think the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was utterly perfect.”

In her reading, Georgia also steers clear of the fantasy genre. “I soon get bored with the overly complicated place names and character names, and fictional creatures just can’t hold my interest.” she said.

“I’m also not keen on frothy romances; everyone is beautiful and you can see the happy ending from a mile away!” she continued. “I need something more than just boy meets girl, which is probably why I write romantic suspense.” Since the release of The Grayson Trilogy, Georgia also published a short story, The Joker, which expands the storyline of one of her characters.

Finally, I asked Georgia if she had any advice for aspiring writers who may be reading our interview today. She said, “Yes: stop calling yourself an aspiring writer!”

She explained, “If you write, you are a writer. Believe in what you do. If you want to write a book, stop putting it off – no-one else is going to write it for you. Sit down and start typing. It’s that straightforward.”

You can find Georgia Rose on Twitter at @GeorgiaRoseBook and her website is www.georgiarosebooks.com.

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Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (1)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (1)

This is my first ever WWW Wednesday post!

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I try and keep my Goodreads ‘Currently Reading’ shelf as up-to-date as possible. This can be quite a task, as I have a habit of reading multiple books on the go! My current fiction reads are: The Eyre Affair (Jasper Fforde, 2001), 11/22/63 (Stephen King, 2011) and The Man In The High Castle (Philip K. Dick, 1962). I’m also reading some non-fiction Christian books, as well as some literary criticisms on the side. I’m certainly a busy bee.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I finished reading Lady Susan (Jane Austen, 1871) – I plan on writing a blog post on this soon – but the other most recent text I finished reading was The Wife’s Lament, an Old English poem, about loss, love and lamenting (I wanted to alliterate). I recently published my “book review” of it too, which you can find here:

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Hopefully next month I’ll have finished my mountain of current reads, and moved on to some other books. I’d like to read The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy, 1886) at some point.


Thanks for reading!

Have you read any of my choices? What are you currently reading?

– Judith

#RBRT [BONUS] Read and Review: GIRL IN A GOLDEN CAGE by LUCY BRANCH @lucyBranch11 #BookReview #CrimeThriller

#RBRT [BONUS] Read and Review: GIRL IN A GOLDEN CAGE by LUCY BRANCH @lucyBranch11 #BookReview #CrimeThriller
  • Title: Girl In A Golden Cage
  • Author: Lucy Branch
  • Published: 2016
  • Started: 19th December 2016
  • Finished: 31st December 2016

Girl In A Golden Cage is about Francesca Milliardo as she discovers she has an extraordinary and supernatural talent. She visits her rich father in Milan, and enjoys a life of glitz and glamour – a refreshing change from her home in the UK, but slowly begins to feel more unsettled.

From my understanding, Girl In A Golden Cage is the sequel to A Rarer Gift Than Gold, which I’m only just realising now. I haven’t read A Rarer Gift Than Gold, which, according to Amazon, is about Abigail Argent, a skilled craftsman, who can enhance the beauty in metal sculptures. She discovers her craft is linked the art of alchemy*, and uncovers a dangerous secret.

*Alchemy is a philosophical and protoscientific tradition with the aim of purifying certain objects. I had to look it up.

Although Abigail features in Girl In A Golden Cage, I don’t think I’ve missed out, despite not reading the first book. Francesca is a new character, and we explore the seemingly luxurious and wonderful Italian through her eyes – not Abigail’s – and watch her gradually uncover her father’s deception.

There are lots of Italian references (obviously) and a lot of artistic language and description. I didn’t really understand these parts – I’m not a very artistic or multi-cultural person, but I am confident Branch knows what she’s talking about. Amazon lists some of her achievements, such as studying at University College London, The Royal College of Art and Victoria Albert Museum and being a restorer of public sculptures and historic features.

My favourite aspect of this book were Francesca’s “out of body” experiences; they were supernatural, but not scary. While I don’t believe in “out of body” experiences in real life, I think it’s a fascinating subject to write fiction about, and made the storyline enjoyable.

While I liked the character of Lorin, I thought his motivations for involving himself Francesca were a little predictable. I didn’t feel that their connection was “real”, despite Francesca believing she was in a genuine and trusting relationship.

Also, I’m not sure what genre Girl In A Golden Cage is meant to be – it’s very difficult to pin down. There’s suspense, but it’s not wholly a mystery novel. There are some violent moments, and criminal activity does crop up, but I don’t feel like there’s enough to classify it as a crime novel. If anyone has any suggestions as to a genre which best fits this book, I’d be glad to hear them.

For me, the main let-down of Girl In A Golden Cage was a little too much unnecessary dialogue and the subsequent description of speech acts (e.g. he said/she said). I’m a strong believer in not overusing dialogue (or obvious narration) to convey basic information. For example (this is not lifted from the book, but an exaggerated example), I prefer to interpret a speaker’s body language, for instance, based on the way they speak and the character traits that have already been assigned to them, rather than a descriptive line of dialogue such as: “I am very annoyed” said the man, in a frustrated tone of voice, folding his arms and scowling.

On the whole, despite not reading A Rarer Gift Than Gold (oops), I managed to enjoy Girl In A Golden Cage and thought it was a good book, although I can’t put into words exactly why that is!

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

 A Rarer Gift Than Gold is available to buy as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

Girl In A Golden Cage is available to buy as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

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Thanks for reading! This is another bonus ReadandReview post, and another #RBRT review.

Thank you to Lucy Branch, who sent me a copy of her book for free. You can find her website here: www.lucybranch.com

If you enjoyed this review, please give it a ‘like’ or leave a lovely comment down below. Happy reading!

– Judith

Film Review: 12 Days of Blogmas Day #9: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Film Review: 12 Days of Blogmas Day #9: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

We’re creeping ever closer towards Christmas, but unfortunately this blog post isn’t Christmas-themed (sorry)!

As I’ve already mentioned before, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a classic children’s story and film people enjoy watching at Christmas. However, I already wrote a film review of it here back in March, so instead I thought I’d watch and review its sequel instead.

  • Title:The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Director:Andrew Adamson
  • Released:2008

I remember seeing Prince Caspian in the cinema when it came out. It is about the four Pevensie children, who return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian (played by Ben Barnes) in his struggle with for the throne against his corrupt uncle, King Miraz (played by Sergio Castellitto).

I think Prince Caspian is a good sequel; I liked the fact the actors were older because it gives the characters more maturity and allows the director to explore darker themes, in a similar way to the Harry Potter films. Of course, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets were good films, but by The Prisoner of Azkaban, there was more development, a higher sense of threat and you knew the characters could be tested more – which makes for a more interesting experience as an older viewer.

In addition, I found it easier to engage with all four main characters: Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes), Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) and Peter Pevensie (William Moseley) because they’ve all grown up, whereas in the first film, I always preferred Peter and Susan, as opposed to the more childish Edmund and Lucy.

I particularly appreciated the growth of Edmund’s character; he steps up and makes careful decisions, learning from his previous mistakes in Narnia, highlighting the change from his weedy and foolish character from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

However, I’m not sure how I feel about the eponymous Prince Caspian – despite the film being titled after him, it still felt like Prince Caspian was still more about the Pevensies, and Prince Caspian was just a “tag along”. Although, I did like the suggestion that he and Susan liked each other, and the competitive rivalry created between Peter and Caspian – this added for comic relief in more serious moments of battles and politics. Eddie Izzard’s Reepicheep also added humour.

Of course, it wouldn’t be The Chronicles of Narnia without Aslan, and Liam Neeson reprises the role to bestow more wisdom on the children. I also love the theme music – you know something great is going to happen when the score begins to play.

When I talked about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I discussed some Christian themes from the first film, so it seems only fitting to do that here too. What struck me was Lucy’s fervent faith in Aslan (symbolising a Christian’s belief in God), even when some of her siblings begin to doubt and follow their own ways. This is developed further by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), as it is just Edmund and Lucy who travel to Narnia because Susan and Peter have become “too old” for the world of Narnia. Maybe I’ll write a review of Dawn Treader one day…

I recommend both The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian as good family-friendly films, great for watching at Christmas time. This is a lengthier review than my first Narnia blog post, but I really enjoyed writing it.

If you liked reading this post, please click ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ my blog for more posts. Stay tuned for Blogmas Day 10 tomorrow!

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #5: Festive Book Quotes

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #5: Festive Book Quotes

Welcome back to Blogmas! Today I’ve been reading up on some lovely Christmas-themed quotes from well-known books I’ve read to share with you.

1. Marcus Zusak, The Book Thief 

“It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”

When I first read The Book Thief, Zusak’s beautiful descriptions struck me; I think he writes in a very poetic way, which is unusual given that some of his characters are illiterate, and of course this quote is no exception.

2. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

“Always winter and never Christmas.”

This quote has quite sad undertone. It highlight’s Narnia’s cold, harsh landscapes under the reign of The White Queen that lack the joy, light and warmth of Christmas. It’s a relief, then, when Father Christmas finally arrives, giving gifts to the Pevensie children – followed by an even greater joy when Aslan returns.

3. The Bible, Luke Chapter 2: 10-11

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

This is a quote from The Bible, from the Gospel of Luke. This part of Luke’s account tells us of the Birth of Jesus, the son of God. I think it is important to remember that Christmas is still a religious celebration for Christians around the world – this can be easy to forget in the midst of present-buying, food shopping and cheesy Christmas jumpers – and has a great deal of meaning. Christmas spreads a message of love, peace, joy and light – things I think we all need at the minute, given what’s going in our world.


I hope you enjoyed this little Blogmas post; please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ ReadandReview2016 for more blog posts.

If you want to read more Christmas-themed book quotes, I encourage you read this article from Barnes and Noble, from last year, – it greatly amused me: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/10-great-literary-quotes-to-add-to-this-years-christmas-card/

Thanks for reading!

– Judith