Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Happy Tag

I saw this on Hamlette's Soliloquy the other day and since it looked fairly quick and fun to do I thought I'd give it a go. All you have to do is to list a few things in each of the categories below that make you happy. Now as it happens I'm a pretty big supporter of the things that make me happy (gasp!) so I really enjoyed doing this tag :)

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


Star Wars
The Princess Bride
The Fall


Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf
L'eau for Her by Narciso Rodriguez
Love Story by Chloe
Dot by Marc Jacobs
Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel

Shadow Preachers by Zella Day
Shine by Years & Years
Skinny Love by Birdy (cover)
Metal and Dust by London Grammar
West Coast by Lana Del Rey

Lush bath bombs
Adam Driver (♥♥)

I'm not going to tag any specific people for this challenge. If you want to do it yourself then go ahead! :)

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

'Anne of Avonlea' by L.M. Montgomery (1909)

Synopsis: Anne of Avonlea is the second novel in the Anne of Green Gables series and follows the life of Anne Shirley from the ages of 16 to 18. In this book Anne starts a new teaching job at her old school in Avonlea, becomes a founding member of a village improvement society, and helps Marilla to raise two orphaned young twins called Davy and Dora who are the children of a distant cousin of Marilla's. Dora is a sweet, quiet and well-behaved young child but Davy turns out to be extremely naughty and is constantly getting into trouble. Meanwhile, Anne also meets a young American boy called Paul Irving when he becomes one of Anne's new pupils. Paul has come to live with his grandmother in Avonlea while his widowed father is doing work in the States. Paul's imaginative ways remind Anne very much of herself as a child and he soon becomes Anne's favourite pupil. Anne then finds herself becoming involved in a romantic subplot when she meets a sweet but lonely woman in her 40s called Miss Lavender Lewis who was once engaged to Paul's father 25 years before.

I have to say that I didn't enjoy Anne of Avonlea anywhere near as much as Anne of Green Gables despite there being some genuinely funny moments in the early chapters (e.g. the Jersey cow incident, Annetta Bell's letter to Anne, the Town Hall getting painted the wrong colour) and L.M. Montgomery's descriptions of Prince Edward Island being as beautiful as ever.

One of the major reasons why I was so disappointed with this book was because I was so annoyed at everyone's attitude towards the Keith twins. We're told that Dora is a quiet, nice, obedient, and respectful little girl and yet Anne, Marilla and Mrs Rachel Lynde all put her down several times; saying that she's monotonous and boring and too perfect and is somehow less loveable than her brother Davy who needs them more. Now I think that's a horrible attitude to have! Okay, yes, Dora is a boring character from the reader's POV since she's so underdeveloped but... still! It seems awfully cruel to have all of the characters prefer Davy over her especially when he's such a brat to her! Davy even locks Dora up in a neighbour's cold, dark tool-shed because he thinks it would be funny to make everyone worried (what?!) and then lets a very alarmed Anne and Marilla spend several hours frantically searching for her. They even ask their other neighbour Mr Barry to drag the well for her body! Then when Anne eventually finds Dora she learns that the poor girl has been sobbing for hours and was extremely hungry and frightened during that time. Gah! Davy is clearly supposed to be an adorable, funny, mischievous little scamp in this book when really he's a scary little psychopath!

Unfortunately even those parts in this book that didn't involve Davy and Dora's chaarcters were mostly a disappointment to me as well. Anne of Avonlea felt far more cloying and preachy to me than Anne of Green Gables ever did and I found Anne's interactions with Paul Irving in particular downright nauseating. Seriously, how can Anne think that Dora is too perfect and not Paul?! He is such an Oliver Twist/Tiny Tim type!

I did really like Anne of Green Gables and I am still planning to read the next book in this series which is Anne of the Island although that book will now need to be a huge improvement on this one if I'm going to continue with the rest of these books. So, erm, yeah, I didn't like this book very much at all I'm afraid. I hope I haven't ruined anyone's childhood! *runs away*

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

Today's Topic:  This week is all about music and books. We previously did books we'd give theme songs to so feel free to do that! Or 10 songs I wish that were books.

Such an interesting choice of topic this week! For my own spin on this topic I've gone with My Top 10 Literary Themed Songs :)

1. Paperback Writer by The Beatles
Apparently Paul McCartney wrote this song as a response to an aunt who complained that he only wrote love songs. It has a killer bassline!

2. Cemetry Gates by The Smiths
For me this song is one of The Smiths' most underrated and I think it really showcases Morrissey's brilliance as a lyricist. How many artists and bands would think to write a song about the joys of cemetery-visiting and debating favourite writers?! :)

3. All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan (Jimi Hendrix version)
Some critics have speculated that this song was inspired by Biblical scripture (the Book of Isaiah 21:5-9) while others think that the song references the scene in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein where the monster kills Victor Frankenstein's wife while he's in a watch tower. Either way it's a fantastic song! I've gone for the Jimi Hendrix cover rather than the original Bob Dylan version though because as much as I have the utmost respect for Dylan as a lyricist his, erm, "singing" tends to grate on my ears. As a result I usually prefer listening to cover versions of Dylan's songs, some of my other favourite Dylan cover versions are Adele's Make You Feel My Love and Sam Cooke's Blowing in the Wind.

4. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
This song is obviously about the Emily Bronte novel and features Kate Bush doing awesome dance moves on the moors like the goddess she is. I love it!

5. The Battle of Evermore by Led Zeppelin (featuring Sandy Denny)
Both Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and John Bonham are from Birmingham, England (my hometown!) and there are quite a few Led Zeppelin songs that reference famous Birmingham author J.R.R. Tolkien :) This song of theirs references the Ringwraiths and Sauron. There are other Led Zeppelin songs I could have picked for this post but I chose this particular one because of the gorgeous mandolin work from Jimmy Page and the lovely singing from Sandy Denny.

6. Oxford Comma by Vampire Weekend
I associate this song with a really happy time in my life so whenever I hear this song I get taken back to that :) This song might be a controversial pick though since its opening line is "Who gives a f*** about an oxford comma?" :D Now as it happens I don't really have any strong feelings about the oxford comma either way but I know for some people it's a sore subject!

7. Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey
I could have picked a few Lana del Rey songs for this topic (Ultraviolence, Body Electric) but in the end I had to pick the song she wrote for The Great Gatsby soundtrack. It's gorgeous and deserved an Oscar nomination!

8. Tales of Brave Ulysses by Cream
And now for some classic 60s' rock about the voyage of Ulysses (or Odysseus if you prefer the Greek) in Homer's The Odyssey.

9. Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
There are quite a lot of Mumford & Sons songs that reference Biblical scripture but in the end I chose this song because of its lines that reference Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Also one of my favourite moments in Nothing Much To Do (a modern-day web series adaptation of the play) was when one of the characters mentioned that he was a fan of this band. The meta!

10. Sweet Ophelia by Zella Day
The title of this song is an obvious reference to the character Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Zella Day is my most recent musical discovery on this list - I think her songs are fabulous. I especially love her song Shadow Preachers.

Are you a fan of any of these songs/artists? What are your favourite literary-themed songs? :)

Sunday, 7 February 2016

'Howl's Moving Castle' by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)

Synopsis: Howl's Moving Castle is the first book in a children's fantasy trilogy called The Howl Series. A young woman called Sophie Hatter lives in a small town called Market Chipping in the magical kingdom of Ingary and works in her family's hat shop. Sophie is the eldest of three sisters and has resigned herself to living a dull life and never finding her fortune. After all, everyone knows that it's always the youngest child in the family who is destined to have grand adventures and achieve great things. But then a misunderstanding occurs which leads to Sophie being turned into an old woman by the malevolent Witch of the Waste. Finding her old age surprisingly liberating, Sophie decides to go off and have an adventure of her own in order to break the spell. In the hills above the town she then ends up stumbling across a moving castle which belongs to a mysterious and reclusive wizard called Howl. The wizard is a rival of the Witch of the Waste and has a fearsome reputation in the town - he's rumoured to eat the hearts of beautiful young women and suck out their souls. However, Sophie then ends up becoming a cleaning lady for Howl and goes to live in his castle after striking a bargain with Howl's fire demon Calcifer. If Sophie can break the magical contract which forces Calcifer to work for Howl, Calcifer will restore Sophie's youth. Unfortunately, there's a stipulation in the contract which means that neither Howl nor Calcifer can talk about what the contract actually is. Meanwhile, as Sophie goes about assisting Howl and his teenage apprentice Michael, she discovers that Howl's wicked reputation has been grossly exaggerated. Howl doesn't eat hearts or suck out souls - he's just a terrible flirt who quickly ditches women as soon as they start to fall for him. He's also extremely vain and is quite the drama queen. And yet Howl is ultimately kind-hearted, generous, compassionate and charming and is an extremely powerful and talented wizard. But then Sophie discovers that Howl is under a horrifying curse himself - a curse which threatens his life.

This review has been a long time coming because I re-read this book sometime last year but didn't get around to reviewing it at the time. Howl's Moving Castle is another one of those children's books that I didn't actually get to read as a child and only discovered as an adult. I'd seen the 2004 Studio Ghibli adaptation, had really enjoyed it and, after finding out that it had been loosely based on a book, thought it would be interesting to read the source material. Because I'd very much enjoyed the film I thought I'd be pre-disposed to prefer the changes that were made but in the end I was completely wrong and I ended up loving the book far more! The film's actually been ruined for me a little bit because the book is just so much funnier than the film and its characters are more flawed and are therefore more interesting.

Howl's Moving Castle is an absolutely delightful book. The prose is lovely and is full of literary references and humour. The plot is engaging, imaginative and fun. The romance is subtle but is still very sweet, quirky and funny; and although there's a very British feel to the land of Ingary it's still a wonderfully interesting and magical place. I also really love how Diana Wynne Jones subverts one of the major fairytale tropes in this book - that it's always the youngest child in the family who is the beautiful, pure-hearted one who is destined for wonderful things (Beauty and the BeastCinderella, etc). As I'm an oldest child this was very much appreciated! :D And finally I just really love the characters in this book. At first Sophie's rather shy and insecure but once she gets turned into an old woman she uses it as an opportunity to break free from her unhappy life and becomes far more assertive and self-confident. As fond as I am of Sophie though it's Howl who's my favourite character. Okay so he's a vain, arrogant, shameless womaniser but he's absolutely hilarious and is incredibly endearing! :D And as for the other characters, Calcifer is grumpy but extremely funny, Michael is an adorable sweetheart, and the Witch of the Waste is a sinister and creepy villain.

This book has become a huge favourite of mine and I'd definitely recommend it. I think fans of J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman's children's books will especially love it since DWJ's writing reminds me of both of those authors :)

Rating: 5/5

P.S. Howl's Moving Castle has two sequels which I recently read for the first time - Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways - but I'm not going to write any in-depth reviews for those because... I can't be bothered! Lol! I guess I just don't have very much to say about them. Howl, Sophie and Calcifer all appear in those books and get important roles in them but the books are mainly focused on new characters who simply aren't as compelling and likeable. The sequels are still decent and enjoyable enough but I can't really see myself reading them again. I think I'll just keep going back to the original.