Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

So here we are again with another Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish,

Today's list, as you can see from the title, features places that books have made me want to visit, be they fictional or real. So without further ado, let's get on with the list!

1. Hogwarts

Yup, I'm starting with the big one... Basically, this place is pretty much my dream. A magic school in a castle with moving pictures and secret passageways and four-poster beds and fires and an awesome library and feasts and towers and a creepy forest and WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE???

2. Vienna

This is the first place I ever remember wanting to visit from a book. When I was in primary school, I was part of a group chosen to read the shortlisted books for the Smarties book prize (I think!) and say what we thought of them. One of the books was The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson, part of which is set in Vienna, and I was absolutely enchanted by the descriptions of the place. I remember there were some especially brilliant descriptions of cakes...

3. Yorkshire

This is another place inspired by a children's book! This time it's The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I actually love the descriptions of the Yorkshire moor in this book so so much!

4. Bath

The city of Bath features in a lot of Jane Austen's novels, and though the city itself is never described in much detail, I was still inspired to go there by her writing. I've now been to Bath many times, and it definitely lived up to my high expectations.

5. Macondo

This is the fictional* South American village/town in Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Despite the fact that a lot of pretty awful things happen in this place, it still has a certain magic about it that I found irresistible when reading the book. There is also something so intriguing about a newly founded place where all its inhabitants are making a completely fresh start.

6. Greenery Street

I think I've mentioned this book a couple of times before in other posts, but I love the book Greenery Street by Denis Mackail. It's basically the story of a young couple who buy their first home in the idyllic Greenery Street, and is just a humorous portrayal of their daily lives. But there is something so beautiful and charming about the setting in that book that I really wish it was real. (Who knows, maybe it is..!)

I think that's about all I can think of. Sorry that's not ten places! If I come up with any more I'll let you know! Until next time, friends!

What do you think of my top ten (well, top six)? What would your top ten bookish places be? Let me know in the comments!

*Wait... Is it actually fictional?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Looking for Alaska

So this book was originally in my Norfolk holiday TBR post, but I didn't end up reading it then. But my sister was the one who originally suggested I read it, and since she kept bringing it up and asking if I'd read it yet, I thought I'd better just get on with it!

Looking for Alaska


John Green


YA, contemporary

One-sentence summary:

When Miles (Pudge) Halter heads off to boarding school he makes a bunch of new friends, including the enchanting and unpredictable Alaska Young, who profoundly changes his life.


Having not particularly loved The Fault in Our Stars, I did not hold particularly high hopes for this book. I wasn't expecting to hate it, but wasn't expecting to love it either. 

And I was right. I didn't love it. But I was pleasantly surprised by some parts of it. I thought the way the characters dealt with the main event of the story (I don't want to spoil it, but if you've read it you'll know the one I mean) felt quite real. The conversations felt a lot more real than those in The Fault in Our Stars, though they still had that slight self-aware, trying-to-be-clever, no-one-really-talks-like-this side to them.

One thing that my sister and I completely agreed on was that the story really should have been told from another person's point of view. Literally any of the other characters' perspectives would have been more interesting! But, though all the characters were interesting and different on a surface level, they all shared many similar characteristics, which Gus and Hazel Grace from TFiOS also shared: socially awkward, overly witty, quirky and 'edgy' habits...

Final thoughts:

I enjoyed the story and whizzed through it in record time, but it wasn't anything special. The writing style didn't annoy me anywhere near as much as in TFiOS though, which was a huge plus. And the characters were OK and had some positives, as did their general interactions. I found them quite bland and samey sometimes, but ultimately I cared what happened to them, and this book was brought up in my estimations for that reason.

What did you think of Looking for Alaska? Do you agree with my review? Do you like John Green's books? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Beautiful Book Spines

Hi everyone! Today I'm going to be looking at some truly beautiful book spines! I absolutely love when a book has a beautiful cover (as you might have guessed from my constantly choosing books based on their covers...). But a beautiful book spine is such a bonus, because that's what shows on your shelf after all. A beautiful spine can more than make up for an ugly cover as far as I'm concerned... So let's get started, shall we?

This is a very cool copy of Ann Veronica by H.G. Wells, which I got a couple of years ago in HMV (a British music chain-store, for those who are unfamiliar). Back then, I don't think I knew anything about the author (beyond having vaguely heard his name in passing), and I certainly hadn't heard of the book, but I couldn't resist it, just because of the amazing cover. And this spine looks so so cool on my bookshelf:

What a beaut

The next one is a book I bought at an Oxfam bookshop (I seem to go to those rather a lot) several years ago. It's called Death in August by Marco Vichi. I have never heard of the author or the book, and to this day don't know what it's about beyond the fact that it's a murder mystery set in Italy. But look!

You may not be able to make out in that picture, so let's get a close-up of that detailing...

Isn't that just gorgeous? I'm a huge fan of Italy and loved Florence when I went (that's the cityscape in the picture). So how could I resist?

The next one is another one I bought in Oxford, and is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I did actually read it this summer, but for some reason had a major block when it came to writing the review, so I haven't posted that yet. It might still happen though, so watch this space! Don't you just love the fonts and patterns on this spine though?

Next up we've got Death on the Nile, a classic Agatha Christie novel. I'm a huge Christie fan, and I love these editions of her books with the beautiful signatures and the lino-cut-style cover art. This is probably one of my favourites, and I'm a huge fan of the story too. Bonus!

This next book is Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. This edition is really striking with the metallic gold up against the black. LOVE the font as well.

And finally, the last book on this list is East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. I just find the colours on this book cover absolutely magical. It really stands out on my shelves with the turquoise and pink spine and the gold writing.

These two last books have the most wonderful detailing!

I hope you enjoyed looking at some of my most beautiful book spines! I got the idea for this post from a video on BookTube by Sanne at Books and Quills, so you should definitely check her out too.

Which one of these is your favourite? What do you look for in a beautiful book spine? Which one of your books has the best spine art? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A Back-to-Bristol Book Haul

As I indicated in a recent post, autumn has well and truly arrived, which means I'm now back in beautiful Bristol! This is the city where I study (though not last year as I went abroad), and I have to say, I've really really missed it here!

I love this city so much; it's such a great mix of art, culture, student life, shopping, history, and so much more!

I've moved to a new area this year, so I'm still discovering new things every day. But of course I still go back to my favourite old haunts, and one of these is definitely the brilliant Oxfam bookshop at the top of Park Street. I love this place. It's such a gem! You can often find second-hand course books here too, since it's so near the uni. But of course I mostly just go there for fun!

Not only do they sell books (and music) very cheaply, but they also have a selection of DVDs and games, as well as some fairtrade products (chocolate, honey and coffee are my faves).

Of course, since the books are so cheap, you can buy twice as many! (Let's just not look too closely at my bank statements from now on...)

After popping into this Oxfam bookshop on my lunch break at uni, I then discovered ANOTHER ONE on my way home! Isn't this one so stylish?

So, of course, I had to pop in there too. (Don't judge me...)

Now I should probably seriously re-evaluate my spending habits, but in the meantime, let's look at the fabulous books I bought!

In the first bookshop, I went for old classics. 

These are:

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon by Jane Austen (so excited to read this!!!)
and The Newcomes by William Makepeace Thackeray

This beautiful old copy of The Newcomes is probably the best looking of these books. I especially love the spine on this! And I'm definitely excited to read a lesser known book by the writer famous for Vanity Fair.

So pretty!

As you can see, I went a bit more modern in the next bookshop...

These are:

A Mere Interlude by Thomas Hardy
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe
A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
and White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

Not gonna lie, I definitely chose some of these purely on the cover...

But I've heard great things about every one of these authors (though I've never read any of their work before, apart from Edgar Allen Poe).

This cover is probably my favourite:

Isn't it glorious???
But the other covers are great too!

So there you have it, my back-to-bristol book haul! And the money went to a good cause!

What do you think of my choice of books? Have you done a book haul recently? Do you have a book-buying problem? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Happy (belated) Poetry Day!

I actually wrote the majority of this post yesterday, but technology decided it was not to be, and refused to let me finish it. But never mind! It's here now!

In case you didn't know (and I didn't until I was kindly informed by Twitter!) yesterday was National Poetry Day!

Thanks Twitter! You're the best!
(I'm especially loving that Ogden Nash poem in the middle there)

Though the whole 'national' part of that is probably referring to the USA rather than the humble old UK, there's no reason why I shouldn't jump on the proverbial bandwagon and join in the celebration of poetry.

My mum is a huge fan of poetry and is even a moderator on some poetry site somewhere on the interwebs (sorry, I can't remember what the site is called!). So she's read loads of poetry, but I feel like I lag feebly behind in this department. I remember quite liking some of the poems I studied at GCSE (yonks ago now!), but since then I haven't really picked up any poetry. At all.

I know. Shameful, right?

But I have actually read a couple of poems since my school days, namely these ones: 

"So bored right now"

Well, actually I haven't read anything from this book yet (oops...), but it is a collection of poems by a German author that I'm studying this term as part of my uni course. I read some of them in my first year (such a long time ago now *sob*) as part of my German romantic poetry class and I really loved them so I'm hoping I'll find some that I like in this collection.

Here's a random page...

The next poem is one that I actually heard of from The Simpsons (shows how cultured I am...), and it's The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. This poem is really well known but I honestly think it's a great place to start with poetry (not that I'm any sort of expert!). The imagery is really powerful and the emotions are really vivid, plus it's super creepy. What's not to love?

The end of the poem has especially stuck with me. It's just so brilliant!

These next two are ones that I don't own copies of but that can be found easily online. They are Not Waving but Drowning, by Stevie Smith (found on the Poetry Foundation website)...

I studied this briefly in secondary school and it's stuck with me ever since.

...and Howl, by Allen Ginsberg (found at poets.org).

Thanks to Black, White & Read Books for inspiring me to read this one (and, of course, the ever-lovely Gilmore Girls!)

And finally, here is video to illustrate this last poem. The poem is This is the Night Mail by W.H. Auden, and it definitely benefits from being heard rather than read. The rhythm fits perfectly with the chugging and clattering of the train. In fact, it was written for the purpose of being read along to this video montage (I think it was the opening of a documentary...?). My mum introduced this to my younger brother when he was little, and he LOVED it! To be honest, it's easy to see why. Definitely a great way to get children into poetry!

So that's it! That's my contribution to the appreciation of the beautiful art form that is poetry. Sorry this is a day late! (Not my fault, I promise!) 

I'll leave you with this lovely shot of people's contributions on Twitter. I think the 4th one down is my fave. What's yours?

Happy poetry day! Had you heard of any of the poems on my list? Do you have any suggestions of ways to get more into poetry? What's your favourite poem? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Last Days of Summer - Village Fair & Book Haul

Well, the month of September is well and truly over, which means autumn is practically upon us, and that means back to university for me! But I'm not going to write about that just yet, I'm still clinging to one last vestige of summer... this post about my local village fête! Hurrah!

To be honest, this fair is nothing particularly special, just your bog standard village affair with a few stalls, games and food stands. But I go every year, and it has a certain nostalgia for me. 

So here are just a couple of snaps in case you want to enjoy it with me! (Spoiler: There are books at the end...)

Remote-control boat racing on a miniature 'lake'. Fun times all round. 

What's a fête without a tombola? I for one don't want to find out...

Random crêpe stand with some lovely British flags. What would our flag have been without the Scottish bit, eh?

Marching band performance from the local regiment. Quick march lads!

And, of course, the bane of my life that is The Second Hand Bookstall...


But, of course, I did not resist. With so many great books on offer and an amazing 5 for £7 deal (yes please!), how could I refuse!?

That's right, I couldn't.

I haven't read any Evelyn Waugh yet, but Brideshead Revisited is on my Autumn TBR list, so hopefully I'll like his writing.

Heard this mentioned many times before and thought I'd finally pick it up!

Rather enjoyed the first one so thought I'd give the second one a go. Wasn't such a fan of this film, so we'll see.

My mum mentioned this to me years ago, and I think there's been a film. So yeah, about time I read it I think!

And I also bought Never Let Me Go (you can tell how organised I am with my blog posts... or not...) but I left it back at home.

So there you go, I hope you enjoyed this last little snippet of summer! The weather where I am is still pretty warm so I'm also clinging to that, but soon I'll just have to accept that it's time to break out the knitwear (which is actually no bad thing).

Have you ever been to a village fair like mine? Are you still clinging to summer or are you already keen to break out the woolly socks? Let me know in the comments!
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