Monday, 29 August 2016

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they've encountered during the week, etc).

1. Hello again, everyone! I hope everyone reading this is well. It's also August Bank Holiday here in the UK today so I'd like to wish all of my fellow Brits a very happy day :) Hmm, I seem to be making a habit out of writing these posts on a Bank Holiday...

2. The books that I'm reading at the moment are an edition of Jane Austen's juvenilia, a collection of Pablo Neruda's poetry (I've been slowly making my way through this book since May), and the audiobook version of As You Wish which is Cary Elwes' memoir about the making of The Princess Bride :)

3. I've signed up to participate in a blog event called Sci-Fi Month this November and I'm really looking forward to it! The event's being co-hosted by two bloggers called Rinn and Lisa and it's still not too late to sign up if anyone else is interested (just click on the above link). I'm planning on starting off the event with a short little introduction post and then going on to read and review some SF books: the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline :)

4. One of the reasons why I'm so interested in reading Ready Player One is because an adaptation of it is currently being made with Steven Spielberg directing, John Williams composing, and Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg and Ben Mendolsohn all starring. And where is this film being made? Er, WHERE I'M FROM!

5. Regular readers of this blog will know that I started watching the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender earlier in the year, completely fell in love with it, and then started to go through its sequel show The Legend of Korra. I'm about halfway through that show now but I've taken a short break from it, as I wanted to catch up on the first series of Poldark before its second series gets shown on the BBC later this week :)

6. I've joined yet another social media app: this time Snapchat. I haven't been posting anything on it though. I just really like some of its filters and have been putting them up on my Instagram instead.

7. I went to Cardiff last Friday and had a great day! We got there by train and went to its castle first. After that we then had lunch and did some clothes shopping in the city centre and then after that we got another train out to its bay area and had a look around there before heading home. Quite by accident we stumbled across an adorable independent bookshop/cafe/wine bar in the bay area called Octavos which I would completely recommend! The staff were so friendly, the wine was delicious, and the shop itself was so cute and lovely :) I bought two poetry collections from this place: one of Rumi's and one of John Donne's.

8. Apart from that I haven't really gone out very much over the past few months (which is usually pretty typical for me, lol!) and I haven't even been to the cinema much lately. I still haven't got round to seeing Star Trek Beyond yet and I missed out on seeing Love and Friendship sadly. I had planned on seeing it but I really wasn't feeling too well on the day that I'd decided to go so I gave it a miss. But then after that I struggled to find another time when I could see it so I'm now having to wait for the DVD release. Another DVD that I'm waiting for is Disney's Zootopia which I bought online last night. I've heard great things about it so I'm really looking forward to it! The film's called Zootropolis over here in the UK for some reason though :S

9. Has anyone seen the trailer for Guy Ritchie's upcoming King Arthur film? And am I the only one who thinks it looks AWFUL?! I'd been mildly curious about this one as it's been quite a long time since an Arthurian film came out (I think the last one was that film with Keira Knightley way back in 2004) and because I'd read that Katie McGrath (Morgana from the BBC's Merlin) would be having a minor role in it. But any interest that I had has been killed stone-dead now that I've seen its terrible-looking trailer and official synopsis! I mean, "a streetwise young Arthur who runs the back alleys of Londinium with his gang"?! I enjoyed certain aspects of Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films but turning King Arthur into a thuggish gangster is going much too far!

On a happier note, films that I am looking forward to seeing are:

Rogue One

A Monster Calls (I can't believe that we have to wait until January to see this in the UK though!)

A United Kingdom

10. And that's almost that for today. The only other thing that I want to mention are my travel plans. As some of you will know, I'm going to New York this November for five days (I'm planning on starting my chosen books for SF month in mid-October so I can get them all reviewed in time) but I'm also planning for a trip in April as well now. I can't say much about it at present but it's something that I'm extremely excited about! :D

Saturday, 20 August 2016

'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness (2011)

Synopsis: A Monster Calls is a low-fantasy middle-grade children's novel. The story was conceived by the author Siobhan Dowd but because of her terminal cancer she arranged for the book to be written by Patrick Ness. Connor O'Malley is a 13 year old boy living in modern-day England whose single mother is seriously ill from cancer. As if that wasn't upsetting enough, Connor's father has moved to America, he has a strained relationship with his grandmother, he's being bullied at school, and he's having a terrible recurring nightmare. Then one night, at exactly 12.07 am, an ancient monster turns up outside Connor's house. Connor isn't the least bit afraid of the monster (as the thing that he sees in his nightmares is far more terrifying) although the monster is certainly menacing-looking. The monster then makes a deal with Connor. The monster will tell Connor three stories that will be of help to him and in return Connor must then tell the monster a story - a story with a deadly truth that upsets Connor more than anything.

A Monster Calls is my first Patrick Ness novel. I'm not really a huge reader of middle-grade and YA fiction so that's probably the reason why I only found out about this hugely popular author a year ago! That was back when it was announced that Ness would be the show-runner of the new Doctor Who spin-off show Class. But when I then saw the stunning trailer for this book's film adaptation I was suddenly no longer content with Class being my first experience of Ness's work and knew that I would have to read this book sooner rather than later! :D

A Monster Calls has won many awards and it completely deserves them as it's an absolutely brilliant fable and is such an absorbing and compelling read. The book is quite short with a story that is superficially simple and yet it is so beautiful, moving and poignant. Obviously given that this book deals with grief, death and loss it's a very sad read in places - but then it's also a book with powerful themes of courage, love, hope and forgiveness. I can understand why some might be hesitant to read this book but it is a more uplifting read than one might think.

This book is so nuanced, compassionate and intelligently written as well. Connor does do some pretty bad things in this book but, because of his situation and his emotions being so vividly portrayed, as the reader you're able to understand exactly why he's behaving in the way that he does. This, combined with his spirit and his flashes of sarcasm, makes him hugely endearing and sympathetic. Also the stories that the monster tells go to some surprising places with its characters all being complex and morally ambiguous. This book isn't at all sanctimonious or condescending to its younger audience.

A Monster Calls may well have been written for a middle-grade child audience but it's an astounding novel with huge depth that teenagers and adults will also be able to love. I'm so excited to see this book's film adaptation and to experience more of Ness's work now, especially his dystopian sci-fi series Chaos Walking which is also getting a big-screen adaptation. I'd really like to read some of Siobhan Dowd's work as well.

Oh, and before I wrap this thing up I absolutely must recommend getting the illustrated version of this book rather than the non-illustrated paperback or the e-book version! I have nothing against e-readers at all (I myself own a Kindle) but Jim Kay's pictures in the illustrated version are so atmospheric, spooky and stunning! They not only complement the text beautifully, they enhance it. I mean, just look at them!

Rating: 5/5

Friday, 12 August 2016

'The Well of Ascension' by Brandon Sanderson (2007)

Synopsis: The Well of Ascension is the second novel in the Mistborn series and is set a year after the events of Mistborn: The Final Empire. Although the tyrannical Lord Ruler is now dead, the Final Empire is now in turmoil with various outlying regions having disintegrated into anarchy due to the collapse of the former government. Elend Venture has been crowned the King of Luthadel and is attempting to restore order but is facing numerous threats: including assassins, his council not trusting his decisions, a hidden kandra imposter in his court, and the three separate armies which are intent on conquering the city. Elend's lover and personal bodyguard Vin is also mourning the loss of her brilliant, charismatic mentor and father-figure Kelsier and is still continuing to struggle with her insecurities. Not only that, the mysterious mists which used to only appear at night have now begun to appear during the day and seem to be the cause of several deaths. The ancient legend of the well of ascension seems to be the only hope for their world but no-one is entirely sure where it is or what it can even do...

I read the first book in the Mistborn series, Mistborn: The Final Empire, about six months ago and I found it to be a brilliant read. The Well of Ascension is quite a different book to The Final Empire in some respects - the pacing is slower for the most part and it's more focused on the character development and political intrigue - but it's an enthralling sequel to that book and is probably one of the best sequels that I've ever read! All of the characters from the previous novel that are in this book get huge development (especially Elend, Vin, Sazed and Breeze), we're introduced to some highly intriguing new characters (Zane, Tindwyl, Allriane and OreSeur), and we get to learn a lot of fascinating new information about the kandra and the koloss. There were also three or four separate plot twists that were so clever and unexpected that they literally made my jaw drop! :D

One of the other things that I'm especially loving about this series right now is seeing how Sanderson is able to take these certain typical fantasy tropes and then be able to subvert them in creative and imaginative ways. For example one of the most interesting aspects of The Final Empire was that we were kind of able to get a sense of what Tolkien's Middle-Earth might have become if Sauron had actually won the War of the Ring, whereas in this book we now get to see what the consequences of overthrowing an evil despot are. In fact it's only now after reading this book that I realise just how shockingly under-explored it is in fiction! Usually we don't get to see very much of the consequences of a revolution at all in fiction apart from the immediate happy celebrations but that isn't the case with this book at all. Because even with the Lord Ruler gone things are still pretty awful in this world and in some ways the world is an even worse place.

I'm not planning on reading the next book in this series immediately but I certainly don't intend to hold off on reading that book for as long as it took me to get around to reading this one. The Well of Ascension was a fantastic read and it's hard for me to say which of the two Mistborn books that I've read so far is better. I did really miss Kelsier in this one of course so I think the first book may have the slight edge but there's really very little to separate them in my mind. If the third book is able to match their quality then it will easily go down as one of my favourite fantasy series.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, 9 August 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: Top Ten Tuesday REWIND -- go back and do a topic you missed over the years or recently or a topic you really want to revisit

For today I've chosen to do a topic that I believe came up sometime last year which was... Top Ten Characters You'd Like To Check In With (meaning, the book or series is over and you so just wish you could peek in on the “life” you imagine they are leading years down the line after the story ends). 

It was a lot of fun to think about the book characters that I would most like to read sequels about and in one instance a prequel about! Follow-up works can sometimes be horribly disappointing in real life of course but, when they're done well, it's a truly joyful experience to spend more time with the worlds and characters that we've come to love :)


1. James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
At this current moment in time, the script for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play has only just been published (I'm planning on writing a little bit more about that in a future post but for now I'll only say that I found it flawed but enjoyable) and we're still waiting on that first Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them film. However the depth of world-building and characterisation in the Harry Potter series is so brilliant that there are a myriad of potential spin-off stories that J.K. Rowling could still tell and the one that I would most want is a Marauders prequel. I had huge crushes on both Sirius and Lupin when I was a teenage girl and it would be so amazing to read about all of the Marauders' crazy antics and adventures when they were at Hogwarts! :D We'd presumably get to see the younger versions of Snape, Lily Evans, Regulus Black, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Frank and Alice Longbottom, Lucius Malfoy, etc. at the school as well and we could also get to learn more about the Marauders' work for the Order of the Phoenix.

2. Howl and Sophie Pendragon from Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle. Now of course Diana Wynne Jones did in fact write two sequels to this book (Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways) in which Howl and Sophie make appearances and in which we get to learn a little bit about their lives as a married couple but, as nice as this was, it wasn't really enough for me. I can't help but wish that Jones could have written a fourth novel in the series, with a story that was once again completely devoted to Howl and Sophie's lives and adventures.

3. Richard Mayhew from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Not only is London Below one of the most vivid and fascinating fantasy worlds that I've ever read, I'm extremely curious to know how Richard has settled down in this place and whether he's now in a relationship with Door?!

4. Nobody "Bod" Owens from Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Yet another character from a Gaiman novel! As beautiful and perfect as The Graveyard Book's ending is - this book is my favourite of Gaiman's works - I'd be thrilled to get some closure about what happened to Bod after he left the graveyard. I desperately hope that Bod is happy and has found a home and made friends. *sniffs*

5. Shasta/Cor, Aravis, Bree and Hwin from C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. The Horse and His Boy is such a brilliantly exciting adventure story in the Chronicles of Narnia. Its characters are wonderful as well and I really wish that C.S. Lewis could have written an extra novel in the series that focused on them more. We could have also learnt more about Archenland and the romance between Cor and Aravis in that book.

6. Margaret Hale and John Thornton from Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. I have no doubt that the two of them are happy but it would certainly be interesting to find out how Margaret has adjusted to her new role as the mistress of Marlborough Mills and to see whether her relationship with John's mother eventually improved! I also have a headcanon that Thornton took Margaret to Spain on their honeymoon so that she could visit her brother Frederick and his wife :)

7. Jonathan Strange, Mr Norrell, and pretty much everyone from Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
I adore the incredible Regency AU that Susanna Clarke created in this book and I would love to spend more time in this world again and to find out what happened to its characters! Did Jonathan and Norrell ever manage to escape from the tower of darkness? Are they getting on better these days or are they still quarrelling as much as ever? I bet they're having tons of adventures on their travels. And what's it like in England now that magic has returned? What are Childermass and Vinculus getting up to these days? How is Stephen finding life as a king in Faerie? Is Arabella okay? And what about the Raven King? What's going on with him?

8. Matilda Wormwood from Roald Dahl's Matilda. With her genius-level intellect, I'm sure that Matilda went on to have a top career. But what did Matilda go on to do? Did she ever meet her parents again? I can easily imagine them trying to contact her again if she ever became rich and famous. Did Matilda's telekinesis ever come back? And what about Miss Honey and Lavender? What are they up to these days? Argh, so many unanswered questions! :D

9. Margaret Dashwood from Jane Austen's Sense and SensibilityI would love to know what happened to Elinor and Marianne's younger sister Margaret after they got married and left home! Margaret is of course a very minor and underdeveloped character in Austen's novel but I love the fact that Emma Thompson greatly expanded Margaret's role in the 1995 film adaptation and Emilie Francois' funny and adorable performance in that film. I think a love story involving a grown-up Margaret could be tons of fun! There's even a line from the final page of the book in which Austen implies that Sir John Middleton and Mrs Jennings began to switch their matchmaking attentions over to her after Marianne got engaged ('fortunately for Sir John and Mrs Jennings, when Marianne was taken from them, Margaret had reached an age highly suitable for dancing, and not very ineligible for being supposed to have a lover'). I strongly suspect that Margaret, being rather overlooked in Sense and Sensibility, wouldn't have minded these attentions towards her as much as it bothered her sisters and I really wish that Austen could have given Margaret her own story.

10. Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicle. This is a bit of a cheat since The Kingkiller Chronicle isn't over yet and is still an ongoing series but - argh! - I need to read The Doors of Stone so badly! What turned the younger Kvothe into the world-weary, haunted man that we see at The Waystone Inn? Why is Bast so devoted to him? What's up with those giant spiders? I MUST KNOW!

And now, if you want, a bunch of questions that you might want to answer! Have you read any of the books that I've talked about today? Do you agree with my choices? What characters would you most like to check in with? What are your favourite sequels/prequels? What topics have you chosen for today? :)