WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

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’m reading a non-fiction, Shooting History, by Jon Snow – an autobiographical account of modern history and journalism Snow was involved in. I’ve also been sent another book to read for Rosie’s Book Review Team, The Devil In The Countryside, a historical thriller by Cory Barclay. I’m also reading another free book to review – Being Simon Haines, by Tom Vaughan MacAulay.

It’s also exam-season, so as a form of revision, I’m aiming to re-read texts that will be covered in my exams. Here’s how I’ve got on so far:

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I read so much over the Easter break! I read The Seagull, a play by Anton Chekhov, as well some more Stephen King novels of course – The Shining and The Tommyknockers. I also finished the thriller Perfect People by Peter James, as well as The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I also received a new book, Commune: Book One, to read and review for Joshua Gayou, a new author.

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

As I really enjoyed Perfect People, I want to explore the works of Peter James, and the thriller genre as whole, further. It would also be nice to read some more classic literature as well.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Christina Philippou

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Christina Philippou

This week, I interviewed Christina Philippou, a writer and university lecturer from the UK. She enjoys playing and coaching sport, spending time with her family, and reading.

Chris used to be a fussy reader, and read only contemporary or crime novels. She has since learned to develop her appreciation for a wider range of genres. “Now that I’m less picky, I’ve discovered books that I love, in genres I never would have considered in the past.” she explained, “I will read pretty much anything, except pure horror or incredibly upsetting stories. I’m quite new to the romance genre, although I think erotica novels are still a step too far for me!”

Chris began her own blog about a year and a half ago, although it feels like much longer. “Blogging is ingrained in my routine now; I have been doing it all my life!” she said.

 “I realised that I was reading and reviewing so many books that it would nice to be able to share my reviews on my own platform. I also like to document thoughts on my own writing journey.”

Chris is also a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Although RBRT’s policy is to only publish book reviews with 3* or more, Chris believes negative reviews have their place.

“This may sound controversial, but I think negative, constructive reviews are useful to both writers and readers. As a reader, I always look out for negative reviews, as I feel they tell me far more than the positive ones.” Chris said.

Yet despite her stance on negative reviews, Chris has had bad experiences in the past with authors who demanded she removed 3* reviews from her blog which were deemed ‘unfavourable’.

 “Nowadays, there are so many books available in the marketplace, that you simply can’t rely on the number of reviews to judge a book by.” she said, “I find looking at 1* and 2* reviews enlightening, and I can take away important lessons about how it was written, how well the plot developed, and so on.”

“Providing they are non-malicious, negative reviews are important, and that is why I give them.”

Chris is also the second writer I’ve spoken to who has a love of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. “The BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is my favourite book-to-film adaptation, but there’s also a brilliant adaptation of Persuasion too!”

However, not only is Chris a blogger and book reviewer, she is a debut author. Her first novel, Lost in Static, was published in September last year. “I’ve always enjoyed writing; my book began as a simple creative writing project whilst I was on maternity leave, but now it’s developed into a novel!”

Lost in Static is the same story, told from four different perspectives. “I would describe the writing style as short and sharp, which is most likely a by-product of my previous job as a forensic accountant, where succinctness is key.” Chris revealed. “I’m a ‘no-frills’ kind of person, and I think my writing definitely reflects that aspect of my personality.”

Chris uses her blog to promote her book, as well as posting book reviews, interviews and suggestions for other writers. I asked her for her most important piece of advice for any aspiring writer reading this interview. She told me, “Write for yourself. It’s the best and most enjoyable way.”

You can find Christina Philippou on Twitter at @CPhilippou123 and her website is cphilippou123.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

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

Themes in: Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Themes in: Lady Susan by Jane Austen

This is the start of another new blogging series!

I plan to go slightly more in-depth than a regular book review and, as an English student, talk about some of the significant themes and messages of a particular book.*

*My choice in books may or may not be influenced by what I’m studying in my English degree.

Lady Susan is an epistolary novella by Jane Austen, published posthumously in 1891, but she wrote it as a teenager, before her most popular works. It is about Lady Susan, a beautiful, manipulative, and flirtatious widow who seeks not only to marry off her daughter, but a second advantageous marriage for herself to ensure financial security.

Class and Society

I think a key theme in Lady Susan is class and society; Austen paints a world in which marriage is for riches, not love, and women have no chance of succeeding unless they are attached to a man. However, Austen takes this idea, which is common in her other novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, and completely subverts it. She criticises the patriarchal society in which she lives and writes about, by creating a strong female character who takes on remarkably “male” characteristics. Lady Susan toys with various men’s affections, controlling their emotions and thoughts towards her – just as Captain Wickham did in Pride and Prejudice, and Mr Willoughby did in Sense and Sensibility.

Patriarchy

Following on from this, Austen highlights the power Lady Susan has, despite the fact she is a woman in a patriarchal society. She is a ‘Lady’, not by marriage, but by birth, and so already belongs to a certain status, without the need of a husband. She is also a widow, a scarily powerful social position, because she is much older than the men she flirts with, as well as sexually experienced. Personally, I think this was Austen’s way of exploring subversive ideas as a teenager in a covert manner – it would be too unacceptable for her to behave in this way herself, so she fantasised and wrote about it instead. This may have also been the motivation behind the narrative arc of Pride and Prejudice’s Lydia, a giggly young girl easily swept along by notions of love, marriage and sex.

Gender

Another significant theme in Lady Susan is gender; although Lady Susan needs a man to provide her income, she challenges patriarchy and feminine stereotypes in other ways. Her interaction with her daughter Frederica is so unlike a conventional mother. She is cold and cruel, which might reflect a stereotypical 18th/19th century father instead – a distant figure who makes financial arrangements for the family, but lacks an emotional connection to them.  Speaking of lacking emotional connections, Lady Susan only develops relationships when it is convenient and beneficial to her. Whilst this is incredibly selfish, her selfishness highlights her rationality and logic – traits which were seen as more “masculine” than “feminine”.

In this way, then, Lady Susan does not fit the mould of a conventional feminine protagonist, but that’s what’s so good about Lady Susan.

Although I didn’t enjoy the character of Lady Susan, the epistolary style, or the rushed ending, I enjoyed how Austen fearlessly subverted all the conventions I’d come to expect from a typical Austen novel, and raised some key themes to think about in the process.

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Thank you for reading this blog post! It was nice for me to “vent” a little in a more literary way, rather than just always focus on my likes/dislikes.

If you’d like to read more of these style of blog posts, please click ‘Like’ or leave some feedback in a comment below!

– 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

12 Days of Blogmas Day #2: Naughty & Nice Book Characters

12 Days of Blogmas Day #2: Naughty & Nice Book Characters

Happy Blogmas! This is Day 2 of my 12 Days of Blogmas!

Today I’ll be thinking over some of the books I’ve read this year, and choose three characters have been Naughty and three characters have been Nice. My judgements were formed based on how deplorable (or not) their actions were, and how much I like them (either as protagonists or antagonists).

Nice

Forrest Gump from Forrest Gump (Winston Groom, 1986)

Forrest Gump is one of my favourite stories, and I think Forrest is well-deserving of being on Santa’s Nice list. He’s such a caring, thoughtful, and lovable character who tries to do right by as many people as he can, despite his limited intelligence. Of course, he’s not perfect – he is easily lead, struggles with addiction, and hurts Jenny deeply – but then again, nobody is. Forrest learns from his mistakes however, and I think this is his redeeming quality.

Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)

Colonel Brandon is an absolute gentleman in Sense and Sensibility, and is particularly contrasted with the seemingly brilliant, but deceptive, John Willoughby. Both men fall in love with Marianne Dashwood and while Willoughby leads Marianne to believe they are in a loving, courting relationship and then breaks her heart, Brandon behaves with nothing but grace, generosity and kindness towards the entire Dashwood family. Safe to say, I am very glad that by the end of the novel, I am very glad that by the end of the novel, Marianne returns Brandon’s affections.

Sir John Falstaff from Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 (William Shakespeare, 1597)

Falstaff is a kind of father figure to Hal, particularly in Henry IV Part 1, and provides much comic relief, through his exaggerated recounting of events, over-exuberant lifestyle and use of language. I particularly enjoyed Roger Allam’s portrayal of Falstaff in the Globe on Screen productions, directed by Dominic Dromgoole. However, ultimately, Falstaff is flawed. He is fat, vain, arrogant and cowardly, spending most of his time with prostitutes and drinking away stolen money, and thus is cast out when Hal becomes King. However, annoyingly, I still really like the character of Falstaff, which is why I’ve placed him on my “Nice” list!

Naughty

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (Charlotte Bronte, 1847)

For anyone who has read Wuthering Heights, this is an obvious choice. Heathcliff is vengeful, calculated and seemingly takes pleasure from others’ misery. However, as a character, I am still drawn to him; Heathcliff fascinates me. He seems capable of love, particularly towards Cathy, but it is an all-consuming passion which is ultimately destructive and dangerous. He strikes up a special bond with Nelly, and is a subverted father figure for numerous characters, such as Hareton, Linton and young Catherine. In short, Heathcliff is a complex and “fun” character to read about and talk about, despite his antagonism and he’s my favourite character from Wuthering Heights.

Brady Hartfield from Mr Mercedes (Stephen King, 2014)

Brady is a heartless killer from King’s thriller and murder mystery novel. He slaughters a queue of people at a job fair by driving into them with a stolen Mercedes and leaves clues for the police for the next year and especially taunting retired detective Bill Hodges with notes and possible evidence. I really enjoyed this plot and I thought Hartfield was really well-written. He simultaneously sounds like a petulant child and a dangerous killer, a dumb criminal and a calculated genius. I found him very creepy and naturally, given the events of the book, a horrific character.

Amy and Nick Dunne from Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, 2012)

After speaking of horrific and evil characters, how could I not mention the Dunne family from Flynn’s thriller Gone Girl? Amy is such a powerful character; she is manipulative, clever but scarily violent too. I was also fascinated by her “pregnancy” storyline too – I really like it when creators explore this subject for some reason, be it in books. films or television. Nick is equally flawed – he is an unfaithful liar and uses some pretty creepy language such as:

‘I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts.’

And that’s only on the first page!

Amy and Nick are a scary, subverted form of the ideal middle-class idea of marriage and I really like how Flynn played around with this. The Dunne family are certainly worthy of being on the “Naughty” list.


Those are my thoughts: do you agree or disagree with them? Would you place anyone else on the “Naughty” or “Nice” lists?

Happy Blogmas!

– Judith

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

Recently, I’ve been listening to a LOT of Taylor Swift, a singer I’ve been an on/off fan of since being a young teen. Yet for some reason, I’ve been listening to lots of her songs, so this Tag Tuesday, the Taylor Swift Book Tag seemed like an obvious choice. Let’s answer some Qs with some As then!

1. We Are Never Ever Getting Backing Together: Pick book you were sure you were in love with, but then wanted to break up with

I really liked the Twilight series as a young teen – I read them all in less than a week. In hindsight, I’m not sure they were the best books ever written. Plus, the franchise on a whole gets a lot of criticism, so it can be a bit embarrassing to admit that I liked them. (So I’m combating this by telling 300+ people that I liked the Twilight books… sure)

2. Red: Pick a book with a red cover

I’d have to choose my beautiful edition of And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (1939), which features the characters as portrayed in the 2015 BBC adaptation. If you haven’t read the book, you need to! If you haven’t watched the TV series, you need to! They’re both brilliantly made and very enjoyable.

3. The Best Day: Pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic

This question reminds me of my My Life In Books Challenge, where I talked about different books I read and loved as a child. I would probably have to say The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911) because I loved it as a little girl, and I feel like I can connect to the book’s characters and events, given its Yorkshire backdrop.

4. Love Story: Pick a book with forbidden love

I really don’t read many love stories, and none with a sense of “forbidden” love. I’d probably have to choose the classic, Romeo and Juliet (1597) – which is also referenced in Taylor’s song!

5. I Knew You Were Trouble: Pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love

There are so many! I love a good villain. I’d definitely say Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (1847). I’d also say Count Olaf, from the Series of Unfortunate Events books, O’Brien from 1984 (1949) or Camille’s mother from Sharp Objects (2006). Then there’s always Macbeth and Lady Macbeth too…

6. Innocent: Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for

I’m notorious for avoiding spoilers at all costs (unless I accidentally find out something myself). My brother ruined a lot of books and films for me as a child, although no specific memories spring to mind. He probably told me a lot of the Harry Potter storylines before I’d been able to read them for myself…

7. Everything Has Changed: Pick a book character who goes through extensive character development

My knee-jerk reaction is Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (1813). At the start of the book, Elizabeth is headstrong, but shows she can be sassy, judgmental and prejudiced (all three of which towards Darcy). In the same way, Darcy is proud, arrogant and reluctant to show his true feelings. Both characters learn to open up to each other, as well as other people, and they round out as characters towards the end of the book.

8. You Belong With Me: Pick your most anticipated book release

At the minute, I’ve heard Crystin Goodwin is working on a fourth book in her Blessings of Myrillia series. I’ve read all three and reviewed them (UnBlessed, Fire Blessed, Ice Blessed) and I really like the fantasy / young adult path Goodwin has taken the books down, and I can’t wait to read the next one!

9. Forever and Always: Pick your favourite book couple

I would either say Mr and Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (1813) because they’re such hilarious characters, or Henry and Clare from The Time Traveller’s Wife (2003) because they have such a wonderful, loving relationship.

10. Teardrops On My Guitar: Pick a book that made you cry

I don’t cry at books! I don’t cry at films either. I guess I’m just a cold-hearted, meanie of a blogger…

Those are my answers! Would you have picked different books?

That’s all for now!

– Judith