Posted in Books

2021 Reading Goals

Happy New Year! We made it to 2021, phew! I’m not one for resolutions but I do like setting some goals for the upcoming year and thinking of this time as the chance for a reset. One of the things I really want to do is to read more because, despite all the extra time at home that 2020 brought, I really didn’t read that many books last year. So, to help myself out, I’ve come up with a 2021 reading goal and a bingo card of some types of books I really want to give a go this year.

So, first thing’s first, I want to aim to read at least 25 books this year, that works out to a bit more than one every two weeks which I think should be manageable whilst still being an uplift on 2020.

Reading goals to get me out of my comfort zone:

  1. A book that’s less than 200 pages

I never usually read books less than 250 pages or more than 500 so I’m challenging myself to find a concise story I’ll enjoy.

2. A thriller

This is probably my least-read genre but I know thrillers are really popular so I want to give them a decent try this year.

3. A book with a film/TV adaptation (or upcoming adaptation) that I haven’t seen yet

If I see the film first, I won’t read the book so I’m going to force myself to get reading so I can watch any adaptations I want.

4. A book that has been recommended to me by someone else

I’m awful for neglecting recommendations. In fact, I’ve noticed I’m often less likely to read or watch something if it’s recommending to me somehow… clearly, I’m such a great friend!

5. A book that has been on my shelf for at least a year

Everyone buys books they end up not reading right away but I have quite a big backlog now that I need to get through.

6. A book I started but never finished

This is a callout post for my worst reading habit of abandoning books once I’ve started them.

7. A classic that is at least 100 years old

I read loads of classics when I studied English Literature at uni (and started quite a few I didn’t finish) but I haven’t read many since and that was three years ago – time to change that.

8. A book published in 2021

There are so many books already published that I’ve been meaning to read, I don’t want to lose sight of ones newly out this year.

9. A book set in a country I haven’t been to or read about before

I love reading books set in cultures I know nothing about so I want to have some fun with this one. Also, I wanted to set myself an extra task here of not just a country I haven’t yet visited but one I have never even read a book set in before.

Let me know your reading goals in the comments!

Posted in Books

Tag: The Outstanding Blogger Award (Kinda)

My lovely friend from The Last Book on the Left (a fabulous book and writing blogger, give her a follow if you don’t already) tagged me in The Outstanding Blogger Award tag and I’m excited to answer the questions she’s set me. As I only made my big ole blogging comeback this year, I’m not going to play by the rules because, to put it simply, I don’t really think I’m worthy of the award. Maybe some day I’ll feel more worthy but I need to up my blogging game first. So, if you want to check out the rules and how the tag really should be done, take a look at M.T.’s post.

So, without further ado, onto M.T.’s questions…

1. Do you like listening to music while you read?

If I’m at home or on my own then no but if I’m around other people e.g. on a train or in a coffee shop (thinking more of pre-Covid times here) then I do tend to. I’ve gotten quite good at zoning out of whatever is playing to focus on reading so if I am listening to music it’s more to mute out the world than to listen along as I read. I feel like fellow introverts will relate to me, right?

2. What is the best book you’ve read in 2020 so far?

I have to admit, despite lockdowns, I really haven’t read that much this year. I did read Little Women for the first time though and really loved it. I adored the film when I saw it way back at the start of the year and was so relieved I enjoyed the book just as much. Even though parts of it feel a bit dated (and even a bit preachy in places), it has a strangely modern feel and the focus on female family relationships is so heart-warming.

3. What is the best movie or TV show you’ve seen in 2020 so far?

Well, my personal favourite, if I can bring it up yet again was the new Little Women film which I saw way back on 11th January… what a different time that was! I also watched Schindler’s List this year and, although it was an incredibly hard watch in places, I thought it was a really important story which I feel richer for knowing.

4. Are there any sequels you liked more than the first book?

I’ve been reading more stand alone adult books recently but a couple that come to mind would be nearly all The Mortal Instruments sequels and Clockwork Princess in The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. I’m so out of the Shadowhunters loop these days but I really loved those books as a teenager. Also, I love an epic finale in a series so The High King from The Chronicles of Prydain (a severely underrated children’s high fantasy series!) is a great ending and probably my favourite of the five books. Plus, The Order of the Phoenix is my favourite Harry Potter book (even if I’m not such a J.K. fan these days).

5. Besides reading, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

Well, I think my blog makes it quite clear I love the theatre. I’m definitely not a performer but pre-Covid, I was going to a lot of shows and my most used playlists on Spotify are my musical theatre ones. I also enjoy making up stories and I would love to one day publish a book. There’s a children’s series idea I’ve been working on through the lockdowns which I might do blog post about at some point but it’s a very research-heavy project so it’s slow progress currently.

6. What book is underrated but you wish more people knew about?

Not to be repeating myself again but The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander deserves just as much hype as the likes of Narnia! Also, keeping on the children’s book theme, my favourite book growing up was The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner and I always felt that was underrated.

For an adult fiction pick, I’m surprised there aren’t more people reading My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. It was longlisted for the Booker Prize but I haven’t seen as much hype around it as I feel it deserves because it is so so good.

7. What is your most anticipated 2021 release?

Well, my most anticipated 2020 release was Troy by Stephen Fry which has only just come out! However, as for 2021, there is one book that comes to mind. I’m really looking forward to reading Reputation by Lex Croucher. I’ve been subscribed to Lex on YouTube for a long time because I really enjoy both her takes on the world and key social issues and her brilliant sense of humour. Reputation is a Regency comedy-drama which is being described as one for fans of Mean Girls and Jane Austen, both of which I love so I’m down.

Thanks so much M.T. for tagging me in this, it has been really fun answering these questions. This tag was started by Colton Beckwith and you can find the original post with the lowdown on how the tag is supposed to go here. Just to be clear again, I answered these questions because I was tagged but not to properly enter myself in for the award 😊.

Thanks for reading, bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober, Books, History

Blogtober Day 23: Did Horace Walpole Invent Horror?

If you type ‘Who invented horror?’ into Google, Horace Walpole’s name pops up at the top of the search results. This is due to his authorship of his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, a tale of ghosts and an old castle which features the subtitle ‘A Gothic Story’. Although Google seems sure, I wanted to explore whether there were any other people in history who could possibly lay claim to the title of ‘inventor of the horror genre’.

So, what exactly is horror?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines horror as ‘a type of book, movie, etc. that is designed to frighten people’. This is incredibly vague and somewhat subjective. Were there really no works of fiction created with the intention of frightening people until 1764?

The Ancient Candidates

Let’s go back, way way back to the time of gods and monsters. The ancient Greeks had all manner of frightening beasts in their mythology, from Cerberus to the Hydra to the Minotaur. The ancient Greeks are also known for their love of theatre and storytelling. Although horror wasn’t in the classic triad of ancient Greek theatre genres, there were some pretty brutal murders and disturbing taboos explored in the tragedy plays. However, there was rarely anything too graphic or scary on the stage, despite some of the nastiest-sounding murders in fiction stemming from these plays, they were usually described rather than shown. That doesn’t mean the dialogue didn’t conjure up pretty horrific images. There’s a famous speech delivered by a Messenger in Euripides’ Medea that describes a rather brutal poisoning: ‘Her eyes no longer kept their wonted form nor did her shapely face, and from the top of her head blood dripped, mingled with fire, and her flesh dropped from her bones like resin from a pine-torch, torn by the unseen jaws of the poison, a dreadful sight to behold.’

Even without showing these murders on stage, these scenes were likely intended to be frightening. But, if we fly ahead in history and take a look at some of the best-remembered plays of the English Renaissance I think we’ll find a few more examples of pre-Walpole horror seeping into literature. Shakespeare’s tragedies had characters dropping like flies, if they survived to the end, they were in the minority. But, it’s not the murders I want to focus on as much as the supernatural elements. Nowadays, there’s an understanding that good horror speaks to its contemporaneous audiences and plays on the specific fears of their time. One of the most talked about topics and sources of genuine fear for many in the Jacobean period was witchcraft. King James I was obsessed with witches, he even wrote a book about them called Daemonologie. Shakespeare was no fool, he knew that in order to stay in favour with the royals, he had to write about what interested them (hence why the Tudors are bigged up in the history plays) so the Weird Sisters are given full license to be creepy and spooky as Hell in his Scottish play.

However, much as we see with the ancient Greek theatre, true horror and frightening scenes weren’t always portrayed on stage and theatre is naturally a trickier art form to show horror due to the limitations of stagecraft. Maybe it was only a matter of time until someone like Walpole took these theatrical tremors of horror and put them into a book with the rise novel in the 1700s due to technological developments in printing presses. Walpole himself even drew similarities between his novel and Shakespeare’s works, suggesting he didn’t necessarily see what he was doing was particularly original.

Why does it matter?

It doesn’t really. It’s a fairly arbitrary issue. The definition of horror is so vague that pinpointing the first work of fiction to ever intentionally strike fear into its audience is basically impossible. I think Walpole did do something meaningful with his novel but I’m not sure if it’s fair to claim he invented horror.

As a genre, horror is often regarded as not being very high brow. It’s associated with base and popular but forgettable storytelling, from cheaply made movies to Victorian penny dreadfuls. Even Euripides is the often the most criticised of the ancient Greek tragedians.

I personally think there is real skill in being able to scare an audience or reader. It’s not an easy task. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating what’s popular because sometimes that’s what ends up making history. In fact, if it wasn’t for this line of thinking, Walpole might not have claim to the title at all. In the first edition of The Castle of Otranto, not only did Walpole use a pseudonym, but he put a note at the start of book stating that it was a translation by a William Marshal from a Medieval Italian manuscript. It was only when the book became so popular that Walpole identified himself as the real author and therefore the modern ‘inventor’ of horror.

Posted in Blogtober, Books

Blogtober Day 3: Books to Read This Halloween

Hey fellow book nerds! For Blogtober Day Three I thought I would share my favourite spooky reads with you and let you know what is currently sitting on my Halloween TBR.

The Classics

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula might not have been the first ever literary vampire but he’s certainly the most well-known. There’s no better time to sink your teeth into this classic and transport your mind to nineteenth century Transylvania (for the first few chapters anyway!).  

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

When it comes to Halloween classics, you can’t miss out one of the first ever works in the horror genre! The Creature is the original zombie and one with a heart, not that it will stop him from going on a rampage for vengeance. It’s creepy and a total must-read for any horror or Halloween fan.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Jane Austen might not be known as a spooky writer but she did indeed dabble in the Gothic. Inspired by the most popular creepy reads of her time, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey parodies classic Gothic stories. The book features heroine, Catherine, as she finds herself in a creepy old house with a few chilling secrets to reveal… unless, of course, Catherine has just been reading one too many Ann Radcliffes.

Recent Recommends

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

This is a work of historical fiction that I fell in love with last year. The story follows young Fleetwood Shuttleworth as she becomes determined to defy her doctor’s estimations and make both her and her unborn baby survive her latest pregnancy. She enlists the help of a mysterious midwife with unusual remedies but as the Pendle Witch Trials grip the county, Fleetwood realises her new friend might need saving too.

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

I’m not usually a thriller reader but something about the title of this book sucked me in and I am glad it did. When Korede gets a call from her sister, Ayoola, asking her to help clean up a murder Ayoola committed in self-defense, Korede runs to her sister’s side. That was the first time anyway. Now Ayoola is three murdered boyfriends down and Korede is getting suspicious. It’s when Ayoola starts dating Korede’s colleague that the bond of sisterhood is truly put to the test. If you like your thrillers with a slice of dark comedy, this is definitely the read for you this October.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This book is basically a masterless in how to write a modern Gothic story. After Daniel is taken to the Cemetery of Lost Books and told he may choose only one to cherish forever, he picks up a copy of The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. After finishing the book, he aims to discover what happened to the elusive author but nothing is as it seems and when a figure with a sinister resemblance to the villain of the book starts following him, Daniel realises he might be in too deep.

TBR

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

All I know about this book is that it’s a YA reimagining of the Weird Sisters or Brides of Dracula from Bram Stoker’s original novel. That’s all I need to know, I’m sold!

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

Ok, I know, it’s another Draucla-themed book but this one sounds great too! Dracul is a Gothic retelling of the life of Bram Stoker and if you clocked the authors’ names, you might be interested to know that Dacre Stoker is a descendent of Bram himself!

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

All I know about this is that the cover is beautiful and it’s about a haunted house. Quite frankly, I don’t need to know anything more, it’s secured its place on the list.

What are you reading this Halloween? Let me know in the comments.