Recommendations from the Piano: Creepy Classics!

Hello lovely people! It’s been a while since I did my very first recommendations post but I want to thank you for responding to it so positively! It gave me a lovely confidence boost 😀

So I’m back with another one today! I wasn’t sure what to recommend first for the spooky season as there are honestly SO many books I love that are just perfect for this time of year. But I’ve seen bloggers such as The Orangutan Librarian and Pages Unbound talking so eloquently about classics so I thought I’d link up with them and recommend some of my favourite creepy classics that are perfect to read in Autumn!

recommendations - creepy classics


wuthering heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

This book is fairly divisive but I think a lot of the people who hate it tend to be the ones who go in thinking it’s a love story. It’s not! This is a story of two haunted young people, revenge plots, corruption, and the stormy Yorkshire moors. It’s one of my all-time favourites and I could read it at any time of year, but I think the rain and gloom of Autumn add particularly to its atmosphere.

 

jane eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I can’t mention Emily BrontĂ« without giving a nod to her sister. Jane Eyre has so many great Gothic elements, including the absolutely fabulous setting and of course the legendary Bertha Mason. The time is definitely right to light a candle and read this one under a blanket.

 

rebecca du maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

And I can’t talk about Jane Eyre without then mentioning a book heavily inspired by it! I’m fairly new to du Maurier having only read this one last year. But it’s easy to see why this is a classic. The symbolism alone makes this novel an absolute masterpiece but then you’ve got the characters, the house… everything is just fabulous. If you call yourself a fan of the Gothic, you need to read this one.

 

frankenstein penguin horror

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I studied this one in school alongside Wuthering Heights and I’ll be totally honest: I wasn’t immediately enamoured with it. But the more I learned about it, the more I began to appreciate it. And I have since read it multiple times. Autumn is the perfect time to read this one as the titular character Victor embarks on his university education but decides to go down a rather unconventional path with disastrous consequences…

 

picture of dorian gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

First entry on the list written by a man! I have rather a love for Gothic queens. But this one is deserving of a place on a creepy classics recommendation list! A portrait that absorbs a persons sins and ages in their place? It doesn’t get much creepier than that!

 

turn of the screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This is one of the original ghost stories! The ambiguity of this one makes it perfect for those of you who enjoy a good mystery in the darker months. I will say no more… 😉

 

haunting of hill house

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Another Autumn/Halloween queen! This book is brimming with a deliciously creepy atmosphere. I wasn’t sure whether to recommend this one or We Have Always Lived in the Castle – but I guess I’ve just mentioned both so 😉

 

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Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Yes, I’m recommending a play! It’s not very often I shout about Shakespeare here on the blog but he really is one of my first loves. This is one of his spookiest plays, being set in a Scottish castle and featuring plenty of witches and ghosties!

 

woman in black

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

This is definitely one of the creepiest classics on this list. There were some moments in this that genuinely freaked me out and I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading it in the dark before bed! This book also has one of the most memorable endings in all of literature. A must-read, for sure.

 

hound of the baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sherlock Holmes

I’m sensing a lot of similarities between the settings of these books – old Gothic houses in isolated locations? I’m here for them all. This one is a cracking little murder mystery story about a hellhound roaming the moors; it’s perfect to read on a dark night while the rain lashes against the windows.

 

sleepy hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

This one practically demands to be read near Halloween. While the prose is a little slow in pace, this story of the Headless Horseman is a good one. And it’s been adapted into graphic novel format if that’s your thing!

 

the raven

The Raven and Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe

While you’re at it with the short stories, make sure you pick up some Poe! I can think of no better time to discover The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and my personal favourite The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s all so deliciously macabre.

 

something wicked this way comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Finally (because you have to have 13 recommendations on a creepy classics list 😉 ) is a slightly more modern classic. While I love my Gothic queens, Bradbury is the king of Autumn. Something Wicked This Way Comes is about so much more than a Halloween carnival (though that alone would make me love it). It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story and features some absolutely stunning imagery. If you read any book on this list, make it this one ❀


So those are my recommendations for creepy classics to read this Autumn! How many have you read? Any that are on your list to read? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

5 reasons to read Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’

Hey lovelies! I’m back with another instalment of my ‘5 reasons to read’ series, this time with the seasonally appropriate Frankenstein! I have read this book multiple times; it is one of my favourite classics and its Gothic nature makes it a perfect Autumn read.

[If anyone is interested, the lovely Johann is actually hosting a Frankenstein readalong this month – maybe my 5 reasons can convince you to join in!]

 

It gave rise to science fiction as we know it

Many people argue that this is the first true science fiction novel. And I am more than happy for it to hold that title. Mary Shelley incorporated the real life development of electricity into her story and lent a factual edge to her nightmare concept. The idea of reanimating a corpse is terrifyingly plausible and makes Frankenstein truly haunting. And if you call yourself any kind of sci-fi fan, then this one is a must-read.

 

It has aged incredibly well

Mary Shelley was so ahead of her time and managed to write a compelling story that also commented on social changes that were occurring. Yet even though we have moved on a lot from those times, the themes Shelley presented still resonate today. The idea of ‘outsiders’, people who look different from ourselves or who cannot speak English, is unfortunately still an issue in many places in contemporary society, and, sadly, it is all too possible to see links between the monster’s experience and that of immigrants today.

 

It presents us with morally grey characters

Nobody in this book is purely good or evil. I love that. Victor Frankenstein, the supposedly good son and brother studying at a prestigious university makes some seriously questionable moral decisions. And the monster himself is the perfect vessel for exploring the nature/nurture debate. I, personally, believe he is not ‘born’ inherently evil; his actions result from the treatment he receives from others. Not that I am condoning his behaviour, obviously, but it makes me genuinely sad that he is treated so abhorrently based on his outward appearance. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that these complex characters are the type that I love reading about.

 

The writing is incredible

Many classics can feel very dry and difficult to get through but Frankenstein is not one of them, in my opinion. I love the flow of Mary Shelley’s writing and I have so many wonderful quotes flagged. And the fact that she wrote it when she was just a teenager fills me with awe.

 

It’s so much better than any of its movie adaptations

I am one of those bookworms who will almost never enjoy an adaptation as much as the book itself. It’s impossible to get all the detail of a book into a movie or even a tv series and, in this way, subtle nuances are lost. I believe the phrase “the book is better” can never be more applicable than it is here. There have been countless adaptations of Frankenstein and they always seem to be so dodgy and melodramatic, never capturing the intelligence or beauty of Shelley’s novel. Do yourself a favour and just read the book instead.

 

5 reasons to read mary shelleys frankenstein

I know Frankenstein is quite a divisive book so I want to chat with you about it! Do you love it or loathe it? Do you see the creature as inherently evil? Leave me a comment and let’s discuss! x

5 reasons to read ‘The Color Purple’

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

 

Hello everyone! I’m back with another instalment of my ‘5 reasons to read’ series. I recently reread The Color Purple by Alice Walker, which I first read a few years ago in sixth form. It was nice to go back and reread without over-analysing everything, and it made me realise just what an incredible book it actually is!

 

Explores LGBTQ+ themes without making a big song and dance about it

There was something so nice about reading a book that doesn’t shout “hey, look at me, I have LGBTQ+ themes!” Yes, I love that books are becoming far more diverse these days and that sexuality is a much less taboo subject. But sometimes it’s nice to be surprised. I had honestly forgotten that this book looks at the theme of homosexuality/bisexuality because it does so in such a gentle, quiet way. Celie talks about how she is not interested in men. The book features a f/f relationship but doesn’t make it into this huge thing. It was nice to read something that just felt real and honest.

 

Female empowerment/love of the female body

Further to the previous point, this book contains so much feminism but I feel like it’s never talked about in that respect?! Shug educates Celie on the joy of sex and teaches her not to be ashamed of her body, and I think that’s such an important topic that is not given enough attention. It also raises the issue of a woman’s body being a possession, and the right to say no. Girls everywhere should read this.

 

Cultural representation

Obviously, I can’t speak from experience but I feel like Alice Walker is accurate in her representation of African-Americans and native African people. It is nice to see a contrast between how black people live in the United States and how they live in the missionary colonies. There is a lot to consider, from religious beliefs to marriage to the practice of scarification.

 

Epistolary form

For those readers who like their books written as a series of letters, this one is perfect. Celie’s letters read like a diary and make you feel closer to her as a character and more invested in her story (especially considering how the novel opens). It also really helps to move the pace along, as most of the letters are fairly short.

 

Love and Family

None of the family units in The Color Purple are very conventional but that is what makes it so beautiful. These people band together through love, not obligation, and create their own group where everyone belongs and has a place. Celie appears to be the person to whom everyone is connected and it’s lovely to see.

 

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This is one of the books I’ve read this month for the BookBum book club! The theme this month is ‘back to school’ and I’m hoping to read two books – one that I studied in school (this one) and one that is (or should be) required reading in schools that I haven’t read yet (The Handmaid’s Tale).

Have you read The Color Purple? Did you study it in school like me? What was your favourite required reading in school?

 

June Wrap-Up! (In which I devour the most books I’ve ever read in a single month)

Hi lovely friends! Brace yourselves because this is the most insane wrap-up I’ve ever written. I managed to read 22 books in June! I’ll try to keep my thoughts on each book short so that I’m not keeping you here all day haha.

 

 

Classics

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

I’ve been loving the classic sci-fi lately. This one wasn’t a new favourite, feeling a bit more farcical, but I am still determined to make my way through Wells’ catalogue as I enjoy his style.

 

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Definitely not a book for dog lovers! I’m sure there are some valid themes in here but the degree of animal abuse was just too much for me to overlook.

 

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

As a huge fan of all things Gothic, I’m glad to say I’ve read this, the first of its kind. However, I can’t say it was an enjoyable read. It really hasn’t aged well. The dialogue felt completely ridiculous and I really had to force myself to get through this one.

 

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

A charming story reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables, with one of the best catalysts for action I’ve found in a children’s classic. A bit too sweet to become a new favourite but a lovely read with a valuable message at its heart.

 

 

Review Books/Books I was sent

The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese

A really interesting read with some fantastic historical detail. Though it felt a little slow at times, the quality of this debut was excellent. My full spoiler-free review is here.

 

Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen

There was a good story here but the execution disappointed me. The pacing felt off and I found the book very tame compared to other Scandinavian thrillers I’ve read. You can find my full thoughts here.

 

Song by Michelle Jana Chan

I was honoured to be part of the blog tour for this book. The writing was superb and I loved the characters. The book tackled a lot of heavy topics but, overall, had an inspiring message at its heart.

 

Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan

This was a crazy twisty read that had me flying through the pages to figure out what was going on! I’ll be reviewing it in full within the next couple of days.

 

 

Books from my TBR

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

I read this as part of #translatedjune which was hosted by Abbie on Instagram. I’m glad she hosted this, as this book could have sat on my shelf for years otherwise. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did; it was hilariously clever and one of the most ‘meta’ things I’ve ever read!

 

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

This book really seems to be dividing people and, unfortunately, I landed on the negative side of things. I really didn’t like how sensitive topics were handled. In case you managed to miss my scathing review, you can find it here.

 

Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Another fun read from one of my favourite contemporary series. It made me giggle on numerous occasions.

 

Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

I spent a few days in June visiting family, and my young cousin (who knows I’m a huge Gaiman fan) left his copy of this book on my bed the night I arrived. Too sweet. I managed to read the whole thing in less than an hour and definitely found it to be one of the more childish of Gaiman’s works but it was fun and I loved Chris Riddell’s artwork.

 

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

This was my second read from Sarah Addison Allen but, sadly, I didn’t enjoy it as much as Garden Spells. I didn’t really feel a connection with any of the characters, it was very slow to get going, and it felt much more twee. ‘Nice’ is the strongest word I have for this one.

 

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

This was perfection. A new all-time favourite! I loved everything about it. For more details, check out my gushing spoiler-free review here.

 

Boy Underwater by Adam Baron

This was a sweet middle-grade with a very strong narrative voice. It was incredibly fast-paced and I read it in one sitting! I’ll have a review of this one coming your way soon.

 

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read this one! This is how you write feminist fairytales (side eye for The Surface Breaks haha). The writing was seriously gorgeous and I loved how Bardugo subverted all the usual fairytale clichĂ©s.

 

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Another sweet middle grade, this one was an interesting and original take on Baba Yaga. I found it a little repetitive at times but enjoyable overall. Like Boy Underwater, I plan to review this one properly soon.

 

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

I love stories about creepy old houses and this Southern Gothic mystery was so atmospheric! The author created a constant sense of tension and made good use of red herrings to keep me guessing. And this was perfect to read during the heatwave we’ve been having!

 

 

Rereads

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I reread this one in preparation for the sequel, Legendary, as I couldn’t remember very much about it. It was nice to come back to it when the hype wasn’t at its peak and I felt I was able to be more objective about it this time around. I still loved the magical world that Garber has created but I could see this time why it might not work for everyone.

 

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This was my choice for the BookBum bookclub theme, ‘Movie Nights’. Rereading this one reminded me of what I love about classic Gaiman. You can find out for yourself here 😉

 

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Having struggled a lot this month with my mental health, I reread this one to get a little perspective. It was a more difficult read this time round due to the headspace I was in but I still think it’s a hugely valuable book and I think everyone should read it.

 

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

A pure comfort read, this is one of my favourite books of all time. I can’t even put into words how much I love it.

 

 

Stats

Total pages: 6288

Average pages per day: 209.6

Longest book: Song (464 pages)

Shortest book: The Castle of Otranto (125 pages)

Favourite read of the month: Bone Gap

Biggest disappointment of the month: The Surface Breaks

Male authors: 9 (2 books by Gaiman)

Female authors: 12

Books read towards Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: 7

 

june wrap up

Well done you if you made it all the way to the end! This was definitely not an average month for me but I’m delighted to have ticked so many books off my TBR. While I had a few disappointing reads, I also found some new favourites. I can’t wait to see what July brings! 

‘Ill Will’ spoiler-free review!

My final read of May was Michael Stewart’s new novel, Ill Will, which chronicles the three-year period when Heathcliff is absent from Wuthering Heights in the classic novel of the same name. I specifically requested this book after hearing about it because Wuthering Heights is one of my all-time favourites; unfortunately, this didn’t live up to my expectations.

 

What the book was about

I am William Lee: brute; liar, and graveside thief. But you will know me by another name.

Heathcliff has left Wuthering Heights, and is travelling across the moors to Liverpool in search of his past. Along the way, he saves Emily, the foul-mouthed daughter of a Highwayman, from a whipping, and the pair journey on together. Roaming from graveyard to graveyard, making a living from Emily’s apparent ability to commune with the dead, the pair lie, cheat and scheme their way across the North of England. And towards the terrible misdeeds – and untold riches – that will one day send Heathcliff home to Wuthering Heights.

 

What I thought of it

This was a tricky one for me. I absolutely ADORE Wuthering Heights so the idea of a story centring around Heathcliff’s disappearance of three years immediately intrigued me. I should have known it couldn’t possibly live up to the wonderful classic.

I found the tone of the book very inconsistent; one minute it was coarse and full of swearing, the next it was almost lyrical. The coarseness did work more because it fit with Heathcliff’s despicable character, and yet I struggled to picture him in the same way as I do when reading the original story.

I did like the use of short sentences; I felt that this was perfect for conveying the harsh, snappy tone of the character. However, I must say that the use of the ‘c’ word was a little too much for me. I understand that Heathcliff would obviously use swear-words but I would have preferred that they weren’t constantly rammed down my throat. (And that’s another issue altogether; there was some awful imagery in this book that actually turned my stomach.)

The book gave me really weird Steinbeck vibes, with two lonely souls finding each other and journeying together through the countryside trying to make a living. But I kinda liked it? The nature talk was great and I thought the descriptions were beautifully stark. I also liked the hint of a supernatural element and thought that was an interesting addition to the story.

It also gave me a little giggle that all of the supporting characters had names linking to Wuthering Heights or the BrontĂ« sisters – the female lead was named Emily; the two protagonists take on the surname Bell at one point (the pen name used by the BrontĂ«s); there was a dead guy named Tom Hardy (yes THAT Tom Hardy, the actor who played Heathcliff in the BBC adaptation of WH); there was even a dragoon named the Lord Rochester (the romantic interest from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre).

Unfortunately, the small moments I liked weren’t enough to make me love the book or to ignore the things I didn’t like about it. I should have set my expectations much lower.

I’d probably suggest that die-hard fans of Wuthering Heights such as myself avoid this one.

ill will book review wuthering heights

Is anyone else a Wuthering Heights fan? Have you read any retellings of classic novels that you would recommend? 

 

 

‘The War of the Worlds’ spoiler-free review!

Hi everyone! Today, I’m reviewing The War of the Worlds, the classic sci-fi novel by H. G. Wells. I’ve been intrigued by this book for a long time and finally decided to read it this month through the medium of audio! I’m delighted that it qualifies for this month’s BookBum book club theme which is ‘short and sweet’ (a book under 200 pages). The book club is hosted by Zuky and it’s unique in that, rather than everyone reading one book together, everyone reads what they want to fit in with the monthly theme!

 

What the book is about…

‘No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s…’

So begins H. G. Wells’ classic novel in which Martian lifeforms take over planet Earth. As the Martians emerge, they construct giant killing machines – armed with heatrays – that are impervious to attack. Advancing upon London, they destroy everything in their path. Everything except the few humans they collect in metal traps.

Victorian England is a place in which the steam engine is state-of-the-art technology and powered flight is just a dream. Mankind is helpless against the killing machines from Mars, and soon the survivors are left living in a new stone age.

 

What I thought of it…

Obviously, I already had a vague idea of what this book was about (who doesn’t?) But I was interested to see how Wells executed it. This is the third book I’ve read by him and I’m yet to be disappointed. I love the quality and tone of his writing.

I’ve long been apprehensive about reading this book as it is SO famous, but it was always one that I knew I wanted to tick off my list. I haven’t seen the movie adaptations but thought that the story would probably have been highly dramatized for the cinema – and I was right. It’s not really an action-packed story. But what I’ve come to expect from Wells is the ability to keep me gripped even when not much is happening. There is a creeping sense of dread that pervades every page of this book, and some genuinely scary moments. It was fantastic.

In my mind, ‘sci-fi’ sometimes becomes synonymous with ‘space’ and books in this genre are diminished to their setting. So I love that Wells turns my warped perceptions on their head and actually includes some science in his books! It is real science fiction, not just a book about space. (Does this make sense to anyone other than me?! I feel like it won’t lol). Obviously, I can’t say too much about the details of what he included- but they were wonderful to see. I’m sure those of you who’ve read this know what I’m talking about.

I also have to say that I listened to the audiobook of this on the Librivox app and Cori Samuels did a brilliant job of narrating.

 

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Is anyone else a fan of H. G. Wells? Which books of his have you read? Have you seen the movie(s) of The War of the Worlds? And does anyone else appreciate seeing actual science in their sci-fi?!

Alex’s Alphabeticals! ‘C’

It’s time for the third instalment of my blog series ‘Alex’s Alphabeticals’! For those of you who are new to this, I’m doing a series of posts where I list my favourite authors, books and characters (ABCs!) for each letter of the alphabet! If you missed the first two instalments, you can read them here and here.

Authors beginning with ‘C’

John Connolly

I feel a little weird including John Connolly on this list when I’ve only read one of his books – but it was such an amazing book! (Plus I forgot to include the book itself on my ‘B’ list, ahem). After the magic of The Book of Lost Things, which is a bit of a mashup of a number of fairytales, I’m always on the lookout for more of Connolly’s books when I can get them cheap; I’m sure they are just as fantastic.

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Angela Carter

Another author who does fairytales REALLY well is Angela Carter. Last year, I read The Bloody Chamber and other stories, and I loved Carter’s darker spin on the classic tales of Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast. I have another book by Carter on my shelf, Nights at the Circus, and I’m really looking forward to it (I mean, c’mon, it’s set in a circus, I’m guaranteed to love it).

Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger represents my introduction to the world of steampunk. Her Parasol Protectorate series is humorous and original, and features some of my favourite supernatural characters ever. I’ve still to read her Finishing School series but definitely plan to dive back into her steampunk world at some point.

Agatha Christie

I read my first Agatha Christie in December (and then went on to read a second one soon after!) and I loved it. Murder on the Orient Express was fabulous and I was completely swept up in the mystery and the opulent setting. I then read They Came to Baghdad which I didn’t love as much due to its espionage subject matter but still enjoyed. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey through Christie’s works and I’m sure she will become a firm favourite.

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Books beginning with ‘C’

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

One of the biggest books of 2017, I loved the magical world of Caraval. Every word was captivating and I adored the carnival-esque setting (no surprises there). I was even able to forgive that the protagonist was a little annoying and silly because everything else was just so fantastic. The hype was well-deserved. I can’t wait for the sequel!

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

One of my favourites since childhood, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the most imaginative books of all time. Who doesn’t love all those descriptions of sweeties?! Incidentally, I wrote a blog post about similarly yummy books – you can check it out here. Shameless self-promotion there, hope you all caught that 😉

 

Characters beginning with ‘C’

Celia Bowen (The Night Circus)

I’m going to be completely honest: I want to BE Celia. She wears beautiful dresses and does magic, and I just love her, ok? That is all.

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Cathy (Wuthering Heights)

Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite classics and I loved its flawed characters. Some people hate it for exactly the same reason but not me. Cathy is wild and tempestuous, and passionately emotional, which makes for a great read.

Charlie (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

Charlie is one of the most precious cinnamon rolls in all of literature. I adore him. He reads books and is a loyal friend, and I just want to protect him from the evils of life. I have a full review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower here (spoiler: I flail).

Cath (Fangirl)

I feel such an affinity with Cath. She starts university and spends weeks living off snack bars because she is too anxious to go and find the cafeteria. RELATABLE. University was a horrible time for me so I really feel for Cath and don’t judge her at all for wanting to lose herself in her fan-fiction.

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So that’s it for the third instalment of ‘Alex’s Alphabeticals’! Do we share any favourites this time around? Which Agatha Christie do you recommend I read next? Let me know in the comments!

Spooky October Wrap-Up!

I managed to read 15 books in October. I’m really happy with this number as October is often a stressful month for me!

I like to read books with darker themes in October in the run-up to Halloween as I wouldn’t usually read much of the horror/thriller genre any other time. So I’m surprised that I found so many new favourites this month! Maybe my reading tastes are darker than I thought.

Classics

The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

This was my first experience of Sherlock Holmes and I really liked it! The supernatural/Gothic elements mixed in with the traditional detective story made for a really interesting read. Holmes wasn’t exactly endearing but I loved Watson and it was nice to hear things from his perspective.

The Thing on the Doorstep and other weird tales by H. P. Lovecraft

There wasn’t a single story in this collection that I didn’t like! Obviously, some were better than others but I enjoyed the recurring themes; Lovecraft certainly knows how to write a monster! My favourite stories were The Dunwich Horror and Under the Pyramids – both were awesomely weird and the plot development was perfect.

The Raven: Tales and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe

It breaks my heart to say it but I didn’t love this as much as I’d hoped I would! I really liked Poe’s poetry but I struggled with some of his stories; the language was quite difficult and a lot went way over my head at times. I think trying to read so much of Poe’s work in one go was the wrong approach and that a better way to go about it would be to try it in small chunks at a time. However, there were some gems in there; I loved Hopfrog and obviously the titular poem is fabulous.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Another triumph from Queen Shirley! Last year, I read The Haunting of Hill House and loved it; this year, I picked her final work. I can see why this book is so famous and it is a fantastic exploration of the psyche.

 

Authors of Instagram

Hell’s Teeth and Crescent Moon by James Fahy

I finally got round to reading some of James Fahy’s work this month and I hate myself for waiting so long! This series is fantastic and contains loads of elements I love – I’m now desperate for the third instalment! You can read my double review of the first two books here.

Daughters of the Oak by Becky Wright

Becky’s spooky offering was perfect for this time of year and I really loved her take on the Manningtree witch trials and witchfinder Matthew Hopkins. My full review of her extended short story is here.

 

Recent Releases

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and I’m so glad because I had been really wanting to read it! And I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. It was my first read of the month and a great start to October. It reads like a traditional fairytale and has a great sinister atmosphere that had me hooked. You can read my full spoiler-free review here.

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

This was my book club’s pick for the month and it was an enjoyable middle-grade read. There were both comic and more poignant moments that I hadn’t expected, and I need the next book after that cliffhanger! My full spoiler-free review can be found here.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

This was my last read of the month and one of my favourites. After reading The Lie Tree with my book club last year and loving it, I had to get my hands on Hardinge’s newest book when it was released at the end of September. I’ll be reviewing this one in full soon!

 

Other Books I Read

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

It’s no secret that I love circus books and while this one is a bit darker than I would normally read, I still really enjoyed it! There were some really creepy moments but overall this was an endearing coming-of-age story. And (shock horror) I preferred this one to Fahrenheit 451!

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

This one really surprised me! I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much but it had some surprisingly creepy moments and I absolutely raced through it. I’d definitely be interested in reading the prequel Charlotte Says which came out earlier this year.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Having seen the movie of the same name a few years ago, I had some idea of what this book was about – but it still managed to surprise me! It’s a short read but it packs a punch (even if I was picturing the protagonist as Will Smith the entire time..) The blending of horror and science fiction was fantastic.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Another instance where I had seen the movie before reading the book (what is happening to me, normally I hate that!?) This was a fast and creepy read with a very unsettling ending and I’m looking forward to reading more Susan Hill in future.

Poems Dead and Undead from the Everyman’s Library collection

I collect the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets and last year I read Poems Bewitched and Haunted. Poems Dead and Undead was the obvious choice this year. Who knew there were so many poems about zombies, vampires and ghosts?! A great little collection with some real gems.

 

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So tell me: what was your favourite read of October? Did you read any spookier books to get in the Halloween mood? What was your total? Link me to your wrap-up posts and I’ll check them out! 

 

Alex’s Alphabeticals! ‘B’

It’s time for the second instalment of Alex’s Alphabeticals! I loved chatting with you all last month about my favourite authors, books and characters beginning with ‘A’ so be sure to leave me a comment this time with your favourites beginning with ‘B’!

Authors beginning with ‘B’

The Brontë sisters

Who else could I start with than the BrontĂ«s? My first introduction to these sisters was in sixth form when I studied Wuthering Heights during my Gothic literature module; straightaway, it became one of my all-time favourite books. I then read Jane Eyre the following year and loved it too (though not quite as much as Emily’s masterpiece, first loves and all that). I only recently read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Anne is seriously underrated – she can totally hold her own against her sisters! I still need to read the lesser-known novels but I’m also reluctant to do so anytime soon because I don’t want to run out of material from these three fantastic ladies.

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Leigh Bardugo

A more modern example of girl power is the inimitable Ms. Bardugo. Swiftly becoming one of my auto-buy authors, I absolutely love her style and sense of humour. I’m still to read the Six of Crows duology (I know, I know, I’m behind the times) but I love the Grisha trilogy and her recent take on Wonder Woman is phenomenal. And as for the news about the Nikolai duology – I am BESIDE MYSELF.

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Enid Blyton

Had to mention a childhood favourite! Some of the first chapter books I ever read were The Magic Faraway Tree and The Runaway Clock, and I loved them so much. I wish I still had the hardbacks because they were absolutely gorgeous and fully illustrated; the book collector in me hates that I ever had to get rid of any books. However, my future children will definitely be owning a set of Enid Blyton’s stories whether they want to or not; she is an absolute staple of any child’s library.

 

Books beginning with ‘B’

The Book Thief

Wow, already two of my all-time favourites have made the ‘B’ list! I have read The Book Thief countless times and think it has some of the most beautiful images in all of literature. I love how original it is, with Death as the narrator, and Liesel is so incredibly endearing. Seriously, go read it if you haven’t already.

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The Bear and the Nightingale

Katherine Arden already received a mention on my ‘A’ list but I want to specifically mention my love for her debut novel The Bear and the Nightingale. It came out at the start of this year and since then has steadfastly remained as one of my top reads of the year. It’s wintery and magical and Russian-inspired, and I am dying for the sequel over here.

Before the Rains

I’ve been trying to read more historical fiction this year because I always seem to really enjoy it but never actively seek it out, if that makes sense? After reading The Tea Planter’s Wife and loving it, I just had to get my hands on Dinah Jefferies’ newest book offering this summer. Before the Rains is a story of forbidden romance in a gorgeous Indian setting; I felt totally transported!

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Characters beginning with ‘B’

Beatrice and Benedick

I don’t often shout about it but I’m a big fan of Shakespeare! While you can’t beat a good tragedy, Shakey can also be hilariously sarcastic at times. His comedy Much Ado About Nothing is fantastic and the two main players Beatrice and Benedick are comedy gold.

Mrs Bennett

More comedy gold comes in the form of one of Jane Austen’s most beloved characters. Elizabeth Bennett’s mother is wonderful and cracks me up with her ‘nerves’. I giggle every time I picture Mr Bennett rolling his eyes at his wife’s antics.

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Bilbo Baggins

Bilbo is another absolutely beloved character who just had to feature on this list. I feel a definite affinity with him and his armchair-loving ways. He values food and home comforts but is also a loyal friend, and that makes him pretty special in my opinion.

Bellatrix Lestrange

This might seem like a strange choice and maybe calling her a favourite is too strong a phrase, but I find Bellatrix such an interesting character! Not excusing all the horrible deeds she commits (I’ll never ever forgive her for those), it’s undeniable that she’s fun to read about! Plus, she has pretty cool hair. She’d be a great choice for a Halloween costume.

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Belle

Ok, I’m cheating a little because I’ve only ever seen movie adaptations but how could I justify a list of favourite characters beginning with ‘B’ that didn’t include Belle?! I’m sure she’s just as great in the original story of Beauty and the Beast, and I will read it at some point to confirm that fact. I WILL. Someday.

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And that brings us to the end of the second instalment of Alex’s Alphabeticals! What do you think of my choices for the letter ‘B’? Which authors/books/characters would feature on your ‘B’ list?

 

 

Mini reviews: Classics I’ve read recently!

Since getting my new job, I’ve been getting through a lot more classics – the reason being, I listen to audiobooks as I’m driving to and from work! I wanted to use my commuting time better so I went looking for audiobook apps and discovered that there are quite a few free ones with classic books read by volunteers. Depending on the book, I’m able to get in one or two chapters on my commute which has been adding up to an extra three or four books each month! Finally, I’m getting through some of those classics on my shelves that I really ‘should’ have read by now. Here are my thoughts on some of my recent audiobook adventures!

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Unfortunately, this one didn’t really do anything for me. Despite the vivid world-building, I found the whole thing to be a bit juvenile. Obstacles were overcome far too easily; the second there was a hint of danger, the author would write one sentence and it would be dealt with. There was literally no peril and it didn’t make me very invested.

While it was nice to get a bit of backstory on the characters, it was also a little ridiculous. I really struggled to suspend my disbelief. And can I just say, Dorothy is completely dull and does absolutely nothing for the entire book. The scarecrow, lion and tin man were far more interesting characters.

It was also really violent? I found this strange considering what Baum said in his introduction about wanting to remove the nightmares from his fairytale – I wouldn’t exactly call it a success given the first thing Dorothy does in Oz is kill someone (albeit accidentally) and then sets out to kill again!

Overall, I’m glad to be able to say I’ve read this but it’s definitely not a new favourite. 3/5 stars.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This one was epically ambiguous and I liked it!

I love a good ghost story and when you add in the question of whether the ghosts are actually there or your narrator is just psychotic, it certainly makes for interesting reading! Apart from the sometimes labyrinthine sentences, I really enjoyed James’ style. And it’s impossible to discuss the ending without spoilers so all I will say is WOW. Didn’t see it coming.

A great read that raises some very interesting questions and which I will possibly return to in the future. 4/5 stars.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

This is the third Jane Austen book I have read and (dare I say it?) it might be my favourite one yet! I really enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humour and loved that it didn’t take itself too seriously.

Austen’s work transcends time and the friendships/rivalries especially are very realistic. I could totally imagine modern-day teenagers behaving in exactly the same way as Catherine and Isabella! This is 19th century young adult literature at its finest.

I also loved discovering that this book is the source of one of my favourite quotes! The assertion that “the person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid” has cemented Henry Tilney firmly in my list of favourite fictional males.

My only slight complaint is that the abbey itself wasn’t even mentioned until over halfway through, so don’t go in expecting it to be all action from the word go! However, I found the writing and the opening plot enjoyable enough that I wasn’t too bothered. It just got even better when the abbey was finally introduced! 4/5 stars.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Sorry Alice fans but this one just didn’t work for me at all. Don’t get me wrong, I like weird – but there was no point to it?! There was literally zero plot so the weirdness was just kind of THERE and I just wanted it to be over. The whole thing was just super dull. Plus, the ending was downright lazy. I can’t even.

Also, Alice is not likeable at all! She has to be one of the most arrogant little girls in all of literature and I felt no connection with her whatsoever.

Maybe if I’d read this as a child, I might have enjoyed it more but as it stands, I’m really disappointed by this ‘classic’. 2/5 stars.

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

I’ve always had a soft spot for the magic of Peter Pan and was pleased to see that a lot of the movie adaptations have stayed fairly true to the book. The characters were just as I’d imagined them/seen them on TV – except Tinkerbell whose catchphrase in this book was not one I particularly liked! Foul-mouthed little fairy. (Upon reflection, I get that she was using the term ‘ass’ as in ‘donkey’, but I still didn’t find it particularly becoming and it was repeated far too often!)

I liked the writing style, the way the author spoke directly to the reader, and I found the ending surprisingly sad! A sweet read that I’m glad I finally made time for. 3.75/5 stars.

Silas Marner by George Eliot

There’s a sweet story here. Somewhere. It’s just buried under a lot of waffle and useless information I wasn’t interested in! I was 100% here for Silas.

I will admit that a lot of the character back-stories tied together more towards the end. However, at the start, I couldn’t understand why I was being told so much about these minor people! There were times when I found my concentration wandering and had to go back to check who was being talked about and for what reason (though in some cases, I’m still a little bewildered!)

I did like the story of Silas’ redemption and his growing relationship with Eppie, and the ending made my heart really happy (though obviously I can’t say what happened!) 3.5/5 stars.

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Can anyone spot what’s wrong with this picture?! 

Does anyone else listen to audiobooks? Or have you read any of these classics? What do you recommend I read/listen to next?!