WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (5)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (5)

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 currently reading Humble Pie, the autobiography of famous TV chef Gordon Ramsay, and Desperation, yet another Stephen King on my bookshelf I want to read. I haven’t got very far in Desperation yet because I only started it the other day.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

This lets me catch up with the last WWW post, in which I had a giant list of books I wanted to tackle as exam revision.

I gave up on Tess of the D’Urbervilles (by which I mean, I never re-read it at all and just watched the very good BBC adaptation instead). I finally finished Shooting History by Jon Snow, and it was such a tough autobiography to get through. Certain parts were incredibly dense and, dare I say it, dull.

I also read Devil In The Countryside and Being Simon Haines – both of which new books by new authors I was given to review, as well as Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde – the second in the Thursday Next series, following on from The Eyre Affair.

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

Lots of books, hopefully! I have the summer to read now and I have some classic novels on my list, as well as some more Stephen King novels.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith

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, 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

Themes in: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Themes in: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

‘Reader, I married him.’

Jane Eyre is a Victorian Gothic novel, telling the story, from a first-person perspective, of the protagonist Jane Eyre. She is left in the “care” of her aunt and cousins after the death of her parents, but is treated horribly and is eventually sent away to boarding school. She grows up to train and work as a governess for the aloof and proud Mr Rochester. Jane begins to develop romantic feelings for Rochester, but she doesn’t know he is hiding a terrible secret.

To me, the most noticeable theme in Jane Eyre is Bronte’s use of the Gothic. I studied Gothic literature at A Level – not Jane Eyre sadly – but that made it easy for me to spot Gothic conventions whilst reading it.

The Gothic

Jane is described metaphorically as an ‘elf’, ‘changeling’ and ‘fairy’, supernatural creatures which could have either good or bad connotations, depending on which myths or fairy-tales you read. Thornfield Hall, Rochester’s home, is an isolated mansion with many abandoned rooms and secret passages, the perfect place for scary and supernatural occurrences. There is also lots of powerful colour symbolism, using key Gothic colours: black, white and red. Most notably, the Red Room, in which Jane is imprisoned as a girl, has ‘crimson’ bedcovers, ‘red’ carpets and dark, mahogany furniture to haunt and remind Jane of her uncle, whose dead body was laid out in the Red Room. The room is symbolic of Jane’s suffering, entrapment and a strong reminder of the ever-presence of death.

Love

Another theme in Jane Eyre is love. I’ve heard many refer to Jane Eyre as one of the greatest love stories of all time. Whilst I disagree with this – I see Jane Eyre as primarily Gothic, not romantic – the theme of love is prevalent nonetheless. Jane desires to be genuinely loved and valued. This is perfectly justifiable, after being denied a true family, and the abuse she endured from her aunt and cousins. These desires are why she rejects St. John’s marriage proposal, because a marriage built around purpose or function would lack the love and value she longs for. Furthermore, this is why she rejects Rochester’s proposal to be his mistress: Jane is an independent and strong woman who will not let herself be devalued by being subject to a man’s whims and losing her integrity.

Slavery

The final theme I want to talk about in Jane Eyre, which I hadn’t considered before until a lecture, is slavery, in relation to the character of Bertha. Bertha is taken by Rochester from the Caribbean and kept physically imprisoned at Thornfield Hall, out of sight. This reflects how, slaves were presented during the time of the slave trade, in paintings, for example, “lurking” behind the aristocracy, ready to obey. In addition, Bertha is always described in supernatural and animalistic ways, such as ‘clothed hyena’, ‘maniac’, and ‘shaggy locks’. These descriptions are significant because she is a white creole, and so has mixed racial heritage. This imagery suggests Bertha is “other” and exotic – like a creature – simply because of her race. This parallels the racist approach white Britons had towards non-white individuals at the time.

***

Thank you for reading this blog post!

I find Jane Eyre such an enjoyable book – even if I don’t see it as a romance – and it was written by a Yorkshire woman, and it’s my Mum’s favourite book, so it has a special place in my heart, and it was a pleasure to be able to explore some of the significant aspects of the novel.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please click ‘Like’ and leave any responses you have in the comments below!

– 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

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #1: Christmas Cracker Book Tag

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #1: Christmas Cracker Book Tag

Happy Blogmas! This is Day 1 of my 12 Days of Blogmas.

I decided I didn’t want to blog every single day of December because I was worried I wouldn’t get posts written in time so instead, I’ve chosen to blog continuously in the 12 days running up to Christmas.

December is essentially the month of Christmas, so what better book tag to do than a festive themed one? I found the Christmas Cracker Book Tag on Pretty Book’s blog and thought it looked fun.

Let’s get cracking (see what I did there?)!

1. Pick a book with a wintry cover

Although I don’t own this copy, I saw this beautiful cover of A Christmas Carol in Waterstones. I don’t buy books just for their covers though – as much as the idea of having shelves full of stunning books appeals to me, I just don’t have the money for that. You can find A Christmas Carol in Waterstones here:

my-photo-a-christmas-carol

2. Pick a book you’re likely to buy as a present

This really depends on who I’d be buying for. I’d be more likely to buy someone a book I know they love but their own copy has seen better days and they’re in need of a new one, or perhaps they never had a copy anyway.  For my mum*, I’d probably get her a pretty copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847), which I know is one of her favourite books. For my dad*, I’d probably get him something The Phantom of the Opera themed (Gaston Leroux, 1910) because he really likes the musical.

* Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this, these answers are hypothetical only 😛

3. Pick a festive themed book

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843), obviously. If I had to choose more childhood classics, I’d pick A Nightmare Before Christmas (2007), a beautiful book by Tim Burton, based on the 1993 film of the same name.

4. Pick a book you can curl up with by the fireplace

I do this with almost every book! My favourite books to curl up with are lengthy novels I can savour for longest. For length, I’d say Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869) but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again! My next instinct is probably Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) because it’s sufficiently chunky, and is one of my favourite Harry Potter books.

5. Pick a book you want to read over the festive period

I have so many I want to read! I want to finish all the fiction books on my “currently reading” list – I measure this by how many books are on my bedside table – which are It by Stephen King (1986), The Rover by Aphra Behn (1677) and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890).

6. Pick a book so good it gives you chills

I feel like I’m repeating myself when it comes to talking about favourite books (!). I would say Sharp Objects (2006) by Gillian Flynn (I regularly cycle through her novels and love them every time) or anything written by Stephen King.

7. Pick a book going on your Christmas wishlist

I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to ask for any more books for Christmas, as I already have plenty I still haven’t got around to reading yet! However, I want to read more of C.S. Lewis’ books, and I want to collect and read more Stephen King (once I finish It, I plan on reading 11.22.63). I also want to read and watch some more Shakespeare. As you can see, I’ve made a lot of plans, but it’s finding time to carry out these plans that’s the issue!


Have you read any of the books on my list? If you enjoyed this post, please click ‘Like’ or leave a lovely comment below.

I haven’t tagged people to do book tags in ages, so I’m going to tag 5 bloggers to do the Christmas Cracker Book Tag too. They are:

  1. Cait @ bathtimereads.wordpress.com
  2. Vicki @ vickgoodwin.wordpress.com
  3. Sophie @ purrpale.wordpress.com
  4. Sasha @ downthereadingholeblog.wordpress.com
  5. Inspired Teen @ lifeofaninspiredteen.wordpress.com

Happy Blogmas!

– Judith

Monster Book Challenge Day #4: Ghosts

Monster Book Challenge Day #4: Ghosts

Hi! This is Day 4 of my Monster Book Challenge. If you’ve missed my first three posts (where have you been?) you can catch up on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 here. Today’s chosen monster is… Ghosts!

  • Title: Northanger Abbey
  • Author: Jane Austen
  • Published: 1817

Northanger Abbey is a satirical Gothic work. The protagonist Catherine, travels to Northanger Abbey and imagines her life as parallel to the plot of a Gothic novel, although her real life brings her back down to earth.

Although Northanger Abbey isn’t strictly a Gothic novel, or in fact wholly a ghost story, I wanted to talk about some more Jane Austen, and I didn’t feel like discussing Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was entirely appropriate in the run-up to Halloween!

I’m a huge fan of the Gothic genre, and so I went into reading Northanger Abbey with great excitement, eagerly waiting for Austen to satirise the genre as much as she could.

However, I was disappointed in how long it took Austen to start talking properly about the Gothic; I was halfway through the novel and Catherine hadn’t even arrived to Northanger Abbey yet! I did appreciate the references to some more Gothic classics though, such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The character of Henry was also really amusing – he painted fantastic Gothic images in Catherine’s mind, images which reminded me of Brontë’s Jane Eyre, of haunted rooms, and hints at mysterious family deaths, raising the question of ghosts.

It’s particularly ironic to read Northanger Abbey as a Gothic-loving English student, because it makes me even more aware of the stereotypical Gothic conventions. I can only imagine how Austen’s readers felt at the time, when the Gothic genre was so popular.

All in all, I did enjoy Northanger Abbey but it’s definitely not my favourite Austen novel.

Do you have a favourite ghost story? What book would you have chosen? Share some thoughts in the comments!

Stay tuned for the final day of my Monster Book Challenge tomorrow!

– Judith

This or That Tag

This or That Tag

Welcome to another Tag Tuesday! This is pretty much another Q&A style post.

This time, fellow blogger Hannah @ thebookllama.wordpress.com recommended I do this tag. I also read another This or That Tag post @ bookworm8921.blogspot.co.uk, and found that both posts had used a bunch of different questions! I’ve picked my favourite 25 from the two posts.

Let’s get started!

1. Audio book or physical book?
Physical book! I just love the feel of holding books. I might be a bit biased though, as I’ve never tried out an audio book. I just don’t think I’d have the concentration to continually listen to one.

2. Paperback or hardback?
Paperback! Hardback books are nice, but they’re very expensive just for a tougher cover. I find paperback books “comfier” to sit and read with – hardbacks are very rigid, especially if they’re a big book. If I order a book though, and it just so happens to arrive as a hardback, I won’t complain.

3. Fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction! Stories are so much more interesting and exciting. I’ve tried reading non-fiction books as part of my studies and it takes me so long to get through them. If any of you are avid non-fiction readers, please tell me how to “get into” them!

4. Fantasy or real life?
It depends. If I say I like the fantasy genre, I don’t want to be visualised as a fairy-loving, magical queen of darkness / hobbit wannabe! I have enjoyed some real life fiction, and I have enjoyed some fantasy fiction too. It very much depends on the subject and author.

5. Harry Potter or Twilight?
I’ve read both series, and definitely preferred the Harry Potter books! I’ve never reread the Twilight series, and I honestly can’t remember reading anything spectacular in Bella’s first-person narrative. If I wanted to relive the plot, I’d just watch the Twilight films instead.

6. Kindle, iPad, or other?

I don’t have a Kindle or an iPad, but I quite like the iBooks app available on the iPhone (and probably the iPad as well). I’m not a massive fan of E-readers, but it certainly helps me read giant novels (for free!) when I’m travelling around. My latest accomplishment was reading War and Peace every day on the train, which certainly wouldn’t be ideal if I had the physical book with me!

7. Borrow or buy?
I think I borrow more books than I buy. I’m not prepared to invest a lot of money in books which I have no idea if I will like or not, so I prefer to use libraries/friends/family to find some great reads! As I’m not really a “re-reader”, this works just fine for me. However, I do like to scout charity shops (I find Oxfam Books and Cancer Research UK always have a good selection) for any cheap novels I’m looking to read.

8. Bookstore or online?
I really love the atmosphere of bookshops, but there aren’t a great deal near to me without me having to pay for a lot of travel, and so I rarely make trips to bookstores. Because of this, I do find it a lot more exciting when I do get the chance to go! On the whole, I’m more likely to buy books from Amazon, as they have quite reasonable prices for second-hand books.

9. Trilogy or stand-alone series?
I like the idea of a trilogy, with a continuation of the story. However, few older novels adopt this because of how they were originally written (e.g. a chapter published a week in a newspaper). I have read Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, but haven’t got round to the rest of them yet (I’m not much of a “hobbit wannabe” after all then)! Modern novels really seem to “milk” the trilogy idea – especially Young Adult fiction – and it seems more like a money-making exercise than fulfilling a genuine need for 3 novels.

10. Monster read or short and sweet?
I like giant novels because I can work on them over time and it feels like an amazing challenge to complete when you finish reading it. Shorter books are okay, but I wouldn’t say they’re my favourite.

11. Romance or Action?
Neither! I prefer spooky/creepy/Gothic stuff, which can involve some action, but that’s not the primary focus.

12. Curl up nice and warm or sunbathing?
Curling up is the best! I love to read surrounded by blankets and be warm and cosy and relaxed, ready to read (unless I’m on the train of course, that would be odd!).

13. Hot chocolate or latte?
Neither! I’m a lover of tea (in the large quantities) and have a giant Sports Direct mug perfectly suited for that purpose

14. Read the review or decide your yourself?
I like to get a wide range of opinions of a book before reading. However, once I’ve finished the book I do like to think back to the reviews and opinions I’ve read/listened to and compare my own views with theirs.

15. Bookmarks or dog-ears?
Bookmarks! I have a little range of freebie bookmarks or home-made ones. I don’t like folding pages over it looks so scruffy and is a permanent fold in the book too.

16. Alphabetise by author, title or other?
I alphabetise my books by the last name of the author, because it makes the most sense to me, and it’s the practice that libraries adopt too.

17. Keep the dust jacket or toss the dust jacket?
I read the hardback version of Jane Eyre, which has a dust jacket, and I couldn’t stand the dust jacket! I always remove the dust jackets when reading because it’s just a fiddly piece of paper, although I put it back on once I’ve finished reading the book. I would never throw them away.

18. Read with the dust jacket, or remove it?
See above!

19. Short story or novel?
Novel! They take longer to work through, and I’m rather fussy when it comes to short stories. I don’t think I’m too bad at writing them however – check out my short story White Winter Mist here:

20. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
That’s a tough one! I like both series of books, and both have different writing styles and genres.

21. Stop reading when you’re tired or stop reading at chapter breaks?
Chapter breaks! It’s easiest for remembering exactly where you got to. If I’m nowhere near the end of a chapter (some books I’ve read have individual of chapters 100+ pages) I’ll stop at a page or paragraph break.

22. “It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
“It was a dark and stormy night”! I love connotations of spooky fiction and the Gothic genre.

23. Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
It depends. Cliffhangers only work if they’re well done. Sometimes I think a cliffhanger can be quite a lazy way to end the book – to create supposed “suspense” just because the writer couldn’t think of a decent and satisfying ending. On the whole, I’d say I prefer tidy endings.

24. Morning, afternoon, or evening reading?
I usually read in the morning (when commuting) and in the evening – both  when commuting and sat relaxing home.

And finally, (this isn’t a This or That question but it made me laugh when I saw it on Hannah’s blog):

25. Do you ever smell books?
I agree with Hannah – it isn’t weird!

Thank you for reading – if you have different interesting answers to these questions let me know in the comments. I tag:

  1. Drew @ thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com
  2. Orangutan Librarian @ theorangutanlibrarian.wordpress.com
  3. Shannon / Captivated By Fantasy @ shannonpaigewaters.com

If you want to do the This or That Tag yourself and I haven’t tagged you, feel free! Click ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ if you haven’t already to show lovely lovely support.

Until next time!

– Judith