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

The Bookshelf Tag

The Bookshelf Tag

I saw this over on Paper Fury’s website (you can find it at paperfury.com) and I am really excited to give it a go.

As forewarning, I’m writing this post in advance, so this particular shelf (and my subsequent answers) may have altered a little by the time you are actually reading this post. But not to worry!

1. Describe your bookshelf. Where did you get it from? 

My bookshelf is  a tall, grey, wooden shelving unit with adjustable shelves from IKEA. I bought it secondhand from a friend of a friend, and I have no idea if this particular model is still produced and sold. My favourite thing about it is the adjustable shelves, to allow for different sized books. It’s super tall and it’s impossible to get a photo of the entire thing, so I’ve compiled a collage of each shelf, using some pretty Instagram filters!

My Photo [Bookshelf Tag].JPG

2. How do you organise your books?

I organise my books based on their genre or their publisher, if I’ve got quite a few from a particular “set”. If I’ve got a couple from the same publishing company, then I  alphabetise in order of the author’s surname. 

3. What’s the biggest book on your bookshelf?

I’m not concerned enough to individually measure each book to see which is precisely the biggest, but I would say my Hetty Feather series by Jacqueline Wilson are pretty big books. They include: Hetty Feather, Emerald Star, Sapphire Battersea and the “spin-off” book, Diamond.

4. What’s the smallest book on your bookshelf?

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn or Utopia by Thomas More – they’re slim reads, but not necessarily quick reads, given the complexity of the language used!

5. Is there a book you received as birthday gift?

Both my Anne of Green Gables series and my Hetty Feather series were collected over a number of childhood birthdays.

6. Is there a book you received from a friend?

No – I’m not really a book swapper and my friends don’t really do presents.

7. What’s the most expensive book on your bookshelf?

I really dislike spending vast amounts of money on anything – charity shops and secondh-hand sites are havens for me! The most expensive book was The Monk by Matthew Lewis (pst – I posted a review of it, read it here!) which I bought from Waterstones for £8.99. However, I had a £10 Love2Shop Voucher and so it didn’t cost me a penny!

8. What’s the last book you read on your bookshelf?

At the minute, the most recent reads on this bookshelf are Oroonoko by Aphra Behn, and before that, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. 

9. Do you have more than one copy of a book?

No – I never buy a book if someone I know already has a copy I can borrow or I can easily grab one at a library. What’s the point in duplicates?

10. Do you have any complete series’ of books?

Yes, the Anne of Green Gables series, the Hetty Feather series, the Harry Potter series, the Famous Five series, the Chronicles of Narnia series and A Series of Unfortunate Events (but these last 4 do not live on this particular shelf).

11. What’s the newest addition to your bookshelf?

I’m constantly moving books around but currently, it is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I’m intrigued to read the novel after watching Easy A numerous times on TV.

12. What’s the most recently published book on your bookshelf?

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, which was published in 2013. I quite liked the concept of the book – although I’m yet to see the film!

13. What’s the oldest book on your bookshelf?

Any of the Penguin Popular Classics – they are a few decades old – but nothing older, crumblier or aged than that I’m afraid!

14. Do you have a book you won?

I am yet to win a book 😦

15. Is there a book you’d hate to let out of your sight?

I wouldn’t say I’m sentimentally attached to any of my books to a huge extent, but one of my favourite stories is Forrest Gump – another birthday gift coincidentally! I read it in 1 day and absolutely LOVE it (the film as well!). So if I had to pick, I’d probably say I would hate to let Forrest Gump out of my sight. (I forgot to include Forrest Gump in the photo as I am re-reading it… woops!)

16. What’s the most beaten up book on your bookshelf?

I’m not a book snob , but I don’t like really majorly beaten, weathered books because I’m scared of them falling apart. My copy of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is pretty worn however, because I studied at high school and so it got bashed about a from a life in my school bag! 

17. What’s the most pristine book on your bookshelf?

I’d either say Forrest Gump because its white cover is still so glossy or any of my black Penguin Classics, which are all printed with a glossy black finish and so still look quite pristine even after a good read! 

18. Is there a book from your childhood?

I feel like I’m repeating myself! Hetty Feather and Anne of Green Gables! For the last time! Argh! I also have a bunch of children’s classics and inspiring stories of Christian missionaries I collected as a child.

19. Is there a book that doesn’t belong to you?

I have so many books on my shelf I’ve “borrowed” from my parents – I’ve swiped them with the good intention of reading them, but haven’t got round to it yet!

20. Is there a book with a particularly special cover?

I really like the sparkly Hetty Feather covers – it was what attracted me to the first book all those years ago in WHSmiths…

21. Is there a book with a cover in your favourite colour?

I don’t really think I have a specific favourite colour, but I quite like black on a book cover, which, as you can see, applies to quite a lot of books on this shelf!

22. Is there a book which has been on your bookshelf the longest and you STILL haven’t read it?

No – I’ve read all the books that have been sitting there a while. The newest additions still remain unread though.

23. Do you have any signed books?

I only have one signed book (to my recollection) and it is not housed on this shelf. I have a signed copy of Mokee Joe by Peter J. Murray, although I’m still to obtain and read the final book of the trilogy!

24. Finally, who do you TAG to take part?

 Anyone who wishes to take part! However, I encourage:

  1. Sasha @ downthereadingholeblog.wordpress.com
  2. QuirkyVictorian @ overanalysingliterature.wordpress.com
  3. Rachel @ rachelpoli.com

That’s all for now – happy reading!

– Judith

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Director: Chris Columbus
  • Released: 2001

As some of you may know, I’ve been working my way through re-reading the Harry Potter books. I thought: Why not re-watch the Harry Potter films too?

In case you have been oblivious to one of the most famous children’s stories of all time, Harry Potter is the story of a gifted child who discovers he is a wizard and is taken to Hogwarts, the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Whilst there, he develops his skills, makes new friends, and embarks on all sorts of magical adventures whilst avoiding the dangerous clutches of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

Even if you’ve watched this film multiple times, like I have, I still find it amazing how I am captivated by all of the magic (the literal and the metaphorical).  The actors, costumes, colours, setting, score are all fantastic and I can’t imagine the film being made in a better way.

The late, great Alan Rickman is superb as Snape – it is impossible to re-read the books without visualising his performance and hearing his voice – and it is a way for all of his fans to remember him and hold on to him. I really liked Richard Harris’ portrayal of the character and appearance-wise, seemed to fit more with the books than Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, who took up the role after Harris passed away in 2002.

I think this film is a brilliant, accurate adaptation of the book and hardly anything was altered or omitted – although it is a shame that Peeves, the mischievous poltergeist, doesn’t make an appearance.

I also thought some sequences in the book, such as the Wizard’s Chess scene and the final confrontation with Professor Quirrell (Ian Hart) were less dramatic than they were in the film, which I suppose is to be expected, so as to keep the tension levels high enough for a film production.

I thought it was interesting how in the book, the relationships between Neville (Matthew Lewis), Dean (Alfred Enoch), Seamus (Devon Murray), Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and the Weasley Twins (James Phelps and Oliver Phelps) were a lot more close-knit. They seemed like a well-connected group of friends from the start, whereas the film focuses more on the core three characters (Harry, Ron and Hermione), and we don’t really see a united friendship group until Goblet of Fire and Order of The Phoenix.

All I have left to say is that this film is simply amazing, and I look forward to reading the rest of the books and watching the rest of the films again!

How many of you reading this post are serious Potterheads? Let me know which of the Harry Potter books or films is your favourite!

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

Read and Review: The Monk

Read and Review: The Monk
  • Title: The Monk
  • Author: Matthew Lewis
  • First Published: 1796

The Monk is an extremely Gothic novel and was extremely scandalous when it was first published too. It is about a monk Ambrosio, who is tempted by lustful desires before eventually giving in to his urges, and embarking on a path of further transgression and self-destruction.

I approached The Monk with caution; I don’t read books with vulgar language or sexual content, and so I was very wary of walking into a 18th century version of “Fifty Shades”. Thankfully, what was considered rather scandalous and explicit in 1796 is actually incredibly tame by today’s standards.

The Gothic concepts included on almost every page made this book incredibly enjoyable, such as violence, religion, taboo behaviour and the supernatural.

However, it was difficult to remember who all the main characters were, and what their roles were, because of their similarly spelt Spanish names. I also didn’t enjoy the lengthy passages of poetry Lewis included, because I prefer prose as a form.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book and was pleasantly surprised by this, given the “horror stories” I’d heard about it.

-Judith