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

Monster Book Challenge Day #3: Witches

Monster Book Challenge Day #3: Witches

Welcome back my Monster Book Challenge! We’re on the third blog post in a series of book reviews, each one of a book based on a different monster! Today’s chosen monster is… Witches!

  • Title: Macbeth
  • Author: William Shakespeare
  • First Performed: 1611

Naturally, my favourite literary witches are the ones from Macbeth, but it seemed silly to write a “book review” of a play meant to be performed, and I have talked about Macbeth before on ReadandReview2016. Instead, I thought I’d share some thoughts on Shakespeare’s Witches, and why they are so iconic.

1. Are The Witches male or female?

At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, the fear of witchcraft was rife, and this perpetuated many stereotypes that we still have today. Mainly, it continued the belief that witches are old women, with a warty complexion and a companion of some kind, usually a black cat or a toad.

Interestingly, we can’t assume that Shakespeare intended his Witches to be female. Although certain pronouns and descriptions could suggest they were female, plays were performed by all-male casts, making it more difficult to work out the intended gender of certain characters. Furthermore, Banquo himself says in in Act 1 Scene 3, “You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so.”, emphasising how difficult it was to pin down gender.

Personally, I don’t believe it matters whether The Witches were meant to be male or female. However, it is really fascinating to watch various adaptations of Macbeth, and see how different directors choose to portray the appearance of The Witches, so if you’re interested, I encourage you to compare different versions for yourself.

2. How powerful are The Witches?

After reading the play, it is clear The Witches have a lot of different powers: they can control the weather, they can see the future, they can create potions and spells, they can cause sleep deprivation and madness, and communicate with animal familiars.

There are numerous interesting theories that it was The Witches who granted Lady Macbeth her lack of remorse, and sent Macbeth visions of the dagger, to indirectly influence both characters and lead them to their downfall. Indeed, there are even theories that The Witches are not even real, but merely hallucinations and symbolic of the evil and sin in the world, which would have resonated with Shakespeare’s Jacobean, strongly Christian audience.

3. Who is Hecate?

We only meet Hecate once in the play, in Act 3 Scene 5.

She is essentially the Goddess of Witchcraft, and she can be seen as the leader of The Witches. However, I take issue with this: if Hecate is such a powerful character, why does she only really appear once? Why is it the 3 (lesser) Witches who cause Macbeth’s downfall, rather than Hecate?

Furthermore, we don’t really experience any of her powers, making it curious as to what her significance is. In addition, there is a theory that Hecate is not even Shakespeare’s creation, due to the rhyme and rhythm of her lines, so it is believed Hecate was added afterwards by another playwright. Again, this is just another theory and I don’t believe it adds or detracts from the play either way.


Those are my 3 key thoughts about The Witches in Macbeth – I hope you enjoyed this slightly different style of book post! These are not meant to be comprehensive, hard and fast answers, but just some initial thoughts and ideas.

If you have any other questions, ideas or suggestions, leave them in the comments below!

That’s all for now!

– Judith

My Life In Books Challenge Day #5

My Life In Books Challenge Day #5

It’s the final day of the My Life In Books Challenge. Yesterday I went through my top 5 texts I studied at AS Level as a Teenager. Today is Part 2, if you will, as I’m going through my top 5 texts that I studied at A Level!

In 5th place is: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Unlike my AS Level year, I actually enjoyed the majority of texts I studied, and so ranking them in order of preference was quite a difficult decision-making process.

Wuthering Heights is about two passionate lovers separated by the cruel expectations of Victorian society, forcing them into prosperous marriages and suffering eternally.

Or, Wuthering Heights is about a darkly mysterious child who is treated like a monster and grows up to fulfil this expectation, pitiless revenge on all those who ever wronged him and perpetuating misery.

Personally, I favour the latter interpretation.

I’ve read Wuthering Heights quite a few times, and I even referenced it during my 3 Day Quote Challenge. I like the story, although it does get very confusing with the various characters and children who all have annoyingly similar names and spend their time travelling to and from Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. It’s a Gothic text, but at the same time, it is so unconventionally Victorian – curse words, references to the Devil and the Supernatural, and the clever, vengeful actions of Heathcliff. The reason I ranked it in 5th place is because I simply do not enjoy the lengthy outpourings of emotions and the awkward love triangle between Cathy, Heathcliff and Edgar.

My Photo [My Life In Books 21]


In 4th place is: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Feminism!

I’m really not a fan of feminist literature, especially anything written around the time of second-wave (man-hating) feminism. Everything in every story can be blamed on the patriarchy. Because reasons.

The Bloody Chamber is a collection of mostly Gothic short stories – I’ve mentioned the book before, as one of its stories, The Snow Child, inspired me to write my own short story based on a fairytale. You can read it here: https://readandreview2016.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/short-story-white-winter-mist/

All of the stories are filled with violence or explicit sex references – in a similar way to The Monk by Matthew Lewis (another book I’ve reviewed!), although Carter describes it in a much more modern way (naturally). However, despite these negatives, I enjoyed how Carter subverted conventional fairytales and make them seem twisted or scary, or just skilfully adapted them for a more adult audience.

My Photo [My Life In Books 22]


In 3rd place is: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Feminism! (again!)

The Handmaid’s Tale is a feminist dystopian novel about Offred, a woman living her life in the new society of Gilead, part of America which is now ruled by a totalitarian state. Gilead’s rule is based on a twisted form of Christianity, but it also has some parallels with Nazism.

I really enjoyed reading The Handmaid’s Tale – I thought the feminist overtones were really laboured though (we get it Offred, you are literally trapped in subservience to man, you don’t have to tell us every 5 minutes). However, I liked Atwood’s interpretation of a subverted Christianity – the place names, the sayings, the focus on reproduction – there were so many intertextual references; she’d obviously done her homework. The use of religion reminded me of some paranormal horror films and novels, which experiment with just how extreme and dangerous religious fanaticism can get.

I am critical of the ending however – it doesn’t tie up the loose ends nicely, which I prefer, but it didn’t really leave enough of a cliff-hanger for me. It seemed an almost lazy way of finishing the plot, under the guise of creating “suspense”.

Wikipedia Image [My Life In Books 23]


In 2nd place is: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

I’ve talked about Macbeth before on my blog – I listed my 10 favourite quotes from Macbeth, my favourite play, in recognition of Shakespeare Day. Call me old-fashioned, but I passionately believe we should still study Shakespeare.

Macbeth is a tale of ambition, witchcraft and tyranny. It’s bloody and creepy and I like it. It makes you feel things. I feel anger towards Macbeth’s actions, I feel no sympathy for Lady Macbeth and think she is a wretched woman, I feel as if I gravitate towards Banquo and his concerns about God and morality. I feel satisfaction as the play draws to a close, as Shakespeare fulfils the traditional tragic structure

My A Level exam was closed-book as well, which means I could not take my texts into the exam and so I had to remember quotes by heart. For me, Macbeth was the easiest to learn. I’ve read and studied it before, and the quotes are easy to remember thanks to the rhythm and rhyme of each line.

My Photo [My Life In Books 24]


In 1st place is: 1984 by George Orwell

Similarly to The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 is a Dystopian novel set in a totalitarian state, following ordinary citizen Winston who secretly opposes Big Brother, a not-so well-hidden depiction of Stalin and his communist regime.

I really loved this book. Politics isn’t really my thing, but the representations of infamous political regimes, like Stalin’s communism or Hitler’s Nazism, included in dystopian novels is fascinating! I really wanted Winston to succeed in his secret plans to bring down the regime, and I felt genuine shock at the plot twists that Orwell included, and where he placed them. However, I found the extracts of the fictional book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, boring to read because it was written in a non-fiction style of the era Orwell was writing in, and I couldn’t get my head around most of it.

If I had to pin down a specific element of the book I enjoyed the most, I would have to say the motif of the popular nursery rhyme, Oranges and Lemons, to create a build-up and suspense for Winston’s imminent discovery and capture.

My Photo [My Life In Books 25]


And there we have it! I really enjoyed creating this series; it was a great chance to look back on books I haven’t read for quite a while and recollect my opinions about them.

Have you read the books on my list? What was your favourite? Share your thoughts below!

Until next time!

– Judith

Happy Birthday: Her Majesty the Queen Turns 90

Happy Birthday: Her Majesty the Queen Turns 90

If you’re British like me, or have a particular regard for the United Kingdom, you may well feel a wave of patriotism today as we celebrate the 90th (official) birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, Queen Elizabeth II.

Street parties and all other sorts of festivities have been taking place to mark this special day. As ReadandReview2016 is a book-themed blog that promotes reading, I decided to mark this day in a book-themed way.

So, to celebrate all the excitement around the Royal Family today, I thought I would discuss my 5 favourite fictional queens in literature. If you have different thoughts to me, please share them below – I welcome fresh opinions!

  1. The Evil Queen from Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm

‘She was beautiful woman, but proud and haughty, and she could not bear that anyone else should surpass her beauty.’

Snow White is one of my favourite fairy-tales (pst it inspired me to write my short story: White Winter Mist) and I really like the character of the beautiful, but evil, Queen. The lengths she goes to in order to secure her own position by Snow White’s death are truly gruesome. In literature, I think I much prefer evil queens to nice ones.

  1. Lady Macbeth from Macbeth by William Shakespeare

‘the cruel ministers of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen’

Although Lady Macbeth is rarely referred to as Queen, when her husband Macbeth is crowned King of Scotland, she inherits royal status. Despite her murderous ideas, and she calls on evil spirits to assist her plans, I like the powerful role of Lady Macbeth. She supports her husband throughout the play and takes charge, when he falters, and is another fabulous example of an evil queen.

  1. Queen Medusa from Greek Mythology

Medusa was the Queen of the Gorgons who was hideously ugly and had hundreds of hissing snakes for hair. She was dangerous to encounter because she could turn mere mortals into stone with just one look. I remember hearing this story when I was younger, and finding it so frightening! You can read the story of Medusa here: http://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Medusa/medusa.html

  1. The Queen of Hearts from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

‘Off with their heads!’  

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a much more child-friendly children’s story than Snow White and so the antagonist here is much tamer. I always found the Queen of Hearts quite ridiculous, due to her shrieks and demands for beheading whenever she feels it necessary, and I particularly enjoyed Miranda Richardson’s interpretation of this in the NBC TV adaptation, Alice in Wonderland.

  1. The White Witch / Queen Jadis from The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis

‘Her teeth were bared, her eyes shone like fire, and her long hair streamed out behind her like a comet’s tail.’

Another evil queen! Queen Jadis or, as she is more commonly known as, The White Witch is an abominable lady who curses Narnia to an eternal winter and seeks to cause cruelty and misery wherever she goes. In a similar way to the Queen of Hearts, I found her somewhat ridiculous in the first book, The Magician’s Nephew, but I like her recurring presence in the other stories.

Thankfully, Queen Elizabeth is nothing like these atrocious queens, but I hope you enjoyed reading this post nonetheless.

That’s all for now!

– Judith

Shakespeare Day: 400th Anniversary

Shakespeare Day: 400th Anniversary

Happy Shakespeare Day!

Today is the day literary boffins around the world honour William Shakespeare‘s death, which was exactly 400 years ago today.

Fun Fact: Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets

I thought I would celebrate Shakespeare Day here at ReadandReview by listing my Top 10 Quotes, from my favourite Shakespeare play, Macbeth. It was first performed in April 1611, and there was a brand new film adaptation of Macbeth released in October 2015, starring Michael Fassbender.

So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Quotes:

  1. ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair
    Hover through the fog and filthy air’ (Witches, Act 1, Scene 1)
  2. ‘Stars, hide your fires
    Let not light see my black and deep desires’ (Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 4)
  3. ‘Come, your spirits
    That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here’ (Lady Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 5)
  4. ‘False face must hide what the false heart doth know’ (Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 7)
  5. ‘I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more:
    Macbeth does murder sleep”‘ (Macbeth, Act 2 Scene 2)
  6. ‘O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!’ (Macbeth, Act 3 Scene 2)
  7. ‘This is the very painting of your fear;
    This is the air-drawn dagger which you said
    Led you to Duncan’ (Lady Macbeth, Act 3 Scene 4)
  8. ‘I grant him bloody,
    Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, 
    Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin
    That has a name’ (Malcolm, Act 4 Scene 3)
  9. ‘Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?’ (Lady Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 1)
  10. ‘this dead butcher, and his fiend-like queen’ (Malcolm, Act 5 Scene 9)

– Judith