My Life in Books

I can’t seem to find (and therefore credit) the person who created this tag, but I was tagged by The Quirky Book Nerd (who has a wonderful blog that you should all check out) – much to my delight! 😀 I’ve had my eye on this tag for a while now (it seemed super-fun), and had actually been planning on doing it soon whether I was tagged or not. It is, however, always nice to be tagged~ 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!

1) Find a book for each of your initials.

K.M. Peyton//Flambards Philip Reeve//Mortal Engines Garth Nix//Sabriel Rick Riordan//The Son of Neptune Tamora Pierce//The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Flambards by K.M. Peyton
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Sabriel by Garth Nix
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

Frances Hodgson Burnett//A Little Princess2) Count your age along your bookshelf – what book did you get?

I’m 26, which (discounting my shelves for study guides, comics and manga, which I usually try not to use for tags) lands me right in the middle of my miniature section of Children’s Classics, where I ended up with A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Anthony Horowitz//The Devil & His Boy3) Pick a book set in your city/county/country.

I don’t think I’ve read any books that are set in Cambridge itself, so instead I’ll go with The Devil & His Boy by Anthony Horowitz, which is at least set in England (and is also a really great book that I don’t mention much!).

Marissa Meyer//Fairest4) Pick a book to represent a place you’d like to travel to.

Can I pick the moon? I’d love to go to the moon. Fairest by Marissa Meyer. 😉

Fredrik Backman//My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises5) Pick a book that’s your favourite colour.

My favourite colour is orange, which isn’t the most common colour for books… I do own a couple, though, and one of them is My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises by Fredrick Backman, which has a lovely shade of orange on the spine, in particular. 🙂

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit6) What book do you have the fondest memories of?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. My love of fantasy was seeded in me early on in life – my dad used to read this book to me and my sister before bed when we were both little.

7) Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

George R.R. Martin//A Dance with DragonsProbably A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin, which I carried around in my purse for several months before I finally managed to finish it (I remember it clearly: I constantly had a very sore shoulder from the weight of the book, and I also ended up mangling the dust jacket… :/ ). It wasn’t just that the book was long – I made it through the rest of the series easily enough, and they’re all super-long, too – but most of the book was taken up with either Daenerys or Jon Snow chapters, and they’re my least-favourite POV characters in the series.

David Mitchell//Cloud AtlasDavid Mitchell//The Bone Clocks8) Which book on your TBR will give you the biggest sense of accomplishment to have finished?

Either Cloud Atlas or The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. These two have been sitting on my TBR shelf for a while now, because although I like David Mitchell’s writing, I also find it quite tough to get through. So, yeah, I’ll be pretty proud when I finally manage to finish these. 🙂

9) I tag:

Thematic Recs: Horses

Thematic Recs is back! It’s certainly been a while… 😳 I’m actually going pony trekking in Iceland tomorrow, which is super-exciting, but also means I’m not going to be able to reply to comments/etc. for a while (this, and the next couple of posts are all written in advance and scheduled). Anyway, since I’m getting back into horse-riding again, I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite horse-y books! 😀

K.M. Peyton//Flambards1) The Flambards series by K.M. Peyton. The story of a girl called Christina, who goes to live with her cousins in the countryside, because her uncle is hoping to use her inheritance to end their financial troubles. I read the first book, Flambards, as a set text in school, when I was 11, and I really loved it. The second book in the series (The Edge of the Cloud) isn’t really a horse book, but Christina does a lot of riding in the other three! (A lot of the people I’ve talked to aren’t too keen on this series, because it contains fox hunting, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a major theme – especially after the first book.)

Elizabeth Goudge//The Little White Horse2) The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Another story about a young orphaned girl going to live in the country with her cousin – this time the protagonist is thirteen-year-old Maria Merryweather – but that’s really where the similarities to Flambards end… When she gets to her cousin’s house, she finds out that there’s a curse on her family, which has caused significant damage to their relationships with one another. Throughout the story, Maria catches glimpses of an apparition of the little white horse from the title, and it plays an important role in her uncovering the secrets of Moonacre Manor. This book was made into a film in 2008, with the title The Secret of Moonacre, and the adaptation is also worth watching, though it’s quite different from the book.

Tamora Pierce//Wild Magic3) The Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce. A four-book series that follows a girl called Daine, who has wild magic (which lets her talk to, transform into, and heal animals, as well as some other things that I’m probably forgetting…). When we first meet Daine, she’s travelling alone, except for her pony Cloud, who she introduces as both her best friend and her only remaining family. In general, Tamora Pierce writes her animal characters really well (and the Protector of the Small quartet in particular has some great horse characters), but of all of them, I think The Immortals is the most “horse-hearted”~ 😉

C.S. Lewis//The Horse and His Boy4) The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. The third Chronicles of Narnia book, though it’s actually more of a companion novel, as the series’ main protagonists only make brief appearances. Instead, this book follows Shasta, an orphan who teams up with the talking Narnian horse, Bree, in order to escape from the land of Calormen. It’s set during the time-skip at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, while the Pevensie siblings are all ruling Narnia as grown ups, and before they find their way back through the wardrobe to England.

March Haul

A worrying thing happened a couple of weeks ago: My Dad came into my room to wake me up, sat down on the bed, looked around for a moment, and then said, “Frances, I think you shouldn’t buy any more books.” This was, I suppose, an intervention (of sorts), but my my excuse this time is that I bought most of these books at the Oxford Literary Festival – and so clearly should not count towards book-buying bans! The Cambridge Literary Festival also happened just last weekend, and I went, but I think that now I really should cut back…

In other news, I thought I’d do something a little different for my haul photo this month, since so many of the books I bought in March were both beautiful and rather oddly-shaped! What do you think?

March Haul

1) Jane, the Fox and Me by Isabelle Arsenault & Fanny Britt. A beautifully-drawn graphic novel about a girl who’s being bullied at school. I read this towards the beginning of March, so all my thoughts on it are in my March wrap-up.

2) The River of Lost Souls by Isabel Greenberg. A short comic about Charon, the ferryman in Greek mythology. I’ve also read this already, so, again, there’s more about it in my last wrap-up.

3) The Snow Queen and Other Stories by Isabel Greenberg. Another comic, this one based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. This book, along with The River of Lost Souls, seems to only be available from Isabel Greenberg’s Etsy store.

4) The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman. A re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, with elements mixed in from Snow White, and beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. I’d been on the edge about buying this for a while, but I finally decided to pick it up while I was in Oxford, ’cause I was really in the mood for fairytales… 🙂

5) Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick. A short story that was published for World Book Day. I really don’t know anything else about it, except that I’ve really liked what I’ve read of Marcus Sedgwick’s writing so far.

6) Nowhere People by Paulo Scott. These next three books on the list were something of an impulse buy, which I picked up mainly because I really want to read more culturally diverse books this year… Paolo Scott is a Brazilian author, and this book was originally written in Brazilian (naturally).

7) By Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. See (6) for reasoning. This book was originally written in Spanish, and is, I believe, set in West Africa.

8) The Alphabet of Birds by SJ Naudé. Again, see above. This was translated from Afrikaans, and Naudé is a South African author.

9) Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp by Philip Pullman. Another impulse buy from Oxford, but I’ve always loved Philip Pullman’s writing, and the illustrations in this book were absolutely beautiful!

10) Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain by David Crystal & Hilary Crystal. A book about the history of various different English words (presumably, most of them particular to Britain). I’ve read a couple of David Crystal’s other books, and enjoyed them, and I’m looking forward to reading this, too. 🙂

11) 100 Ghosts by Doogie Horner. A collection of cartoon ghosts, with various different cute and quirky themes.

12) Flambards in Summer and Flambards Divided by K.M. Peyton. The new Oxford University Press editions of the last two Flambards books, which I read years ago. I bought the first two at the beginning of the year, and have been eagerly waiting for these to be released, so that I could finally have a matching set!

13) Sorry, I’m British! An Insider’s Romp Through Britain from A to Z by Ben Crystal. Another book about Britishisms, though this one looks to have a more humourous approach…

14) The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. A novel inspired by (or possibly a re-telling of) the stories about Loki in Norse mythology. I’ve always been interested in Norse myths, but even more so now than I have been previously, because I’m so excited about Rick Riordan’s new Asgard series. 😀

15) The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. A biography of Lewis Carroll which I bought in Oxford (which was quite fitting, since that’s where he lived). I’ve only read the introduction so far, but since I’m going to go to a talk by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst later this month, I’m hoping I’ll have a chance to read some more of it soon (& maybe get it signed!).

The Classics Book Tag!

This tag was created by Vienna at It’s a Book World, and you can find the original post here. I wasn’t tagged by anyone (I just wanted to do this for fun~ 🙂 ), but I first came across it on the youtube channel perpetualpages. Now onto the tag!

1) What’s an over-hyped classic that you didn’t like?

George Orwell//1984Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. I wouldn’t say that it was over-hyped, exactly, so much as just not really to my taste. It made its point very well, and it was certainly interesting, I just didn’t enjoy it all that much.

2) What’s your favourite time period to read about?

Probably Regency England, as that was the time period Jane Austen wrote about, but to be honest I don’t really have a favourite time period. With me, it’s always more about the story than the setting.

3) What’s your favourite fairytale?

Growing up, I was particularly attached to the The Swan Princess (a cartoon adaptation of Swan Lake, which was itself adapted from a Russian folk-tale, though it seems uncertain which one or ones), as well as the Disney version of Robin Hood (I didn’t read all that much when I was little). These days, I’m probably most fond of The Goose Girl and Beauty and the Beast

4) What classic are you most embarrassed not to have read yet?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, without a doubt. I’ve been meaning to read it for such a long time, and so many people have told me that it’s their favourite classic…

5) What are the top five classics that you would like to read soon?

Jane Austen//Persuasion Thomas Hardy//Tess of the D'Urbervilles Charlotte Brontë//Jane Eyre Bram Stoker//Dracula Sarah Grand//The Heavenly Twins

6) What’s your favourite modern book (or series) that’s based on a classic?

Marissa Meyer//Cinder(Having not read very many of these, I’ll be going back to fairytales for this question!) Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles are the first thing to come to mind, since they’re fantastic. The first three books in the series are based on, respectively, CinderellaLittle Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel.

Shannon Hale//The Goose GirlPhilip Pullman’s I was a Rat! is another great take on Cinderella, as is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levigne, and Shannon Hale has also written a great series called The Books of Bayern, the first of which is based on the Brothers Grimm tale, The Goose Girl.

7) What’s your favourite film or TV adaptation of a classic?

Pride & Prejudice

Ehle & Firth as Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy.

There a several that I really love, but the one I always come back to is the 1995 BBC mini-series of Pride & Prejudice, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

A couple of honourable mentions: The 2004 adaptation of North & South, with Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage, and the 1979 take on the Flambards series, with Christine McKenna.

8) What’s your least favourite film or TV adaptation?

Usually if I don’t like an adaptation, then I’ll stop watching it, so there aren’t really any that I can really say I hated, but what I saw of the 1975 version of North & South  (with Patrick Stewart) was so bad it was funny, and I also wasn’t a huge fan of the 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice (with Keira Knightly & Matthew Macfadyen) – the imagery was beautiful, but the story was far too rushed…

9) What editions do you/would you like to collect?

The Folio Society publishes beautiful editions of most classics, but they tend to be rather pricey, so...

The Folio Society publishes beautiful editions of most classics, but they tend to be rather pricey, so…

... I will often pick the Vintage Classics editions instead.

… I usually buy the (also very lovely) Vintage Classics editions instead.

10) What’s an under-hyped classic that you’d recommend to everyone?

Alison Uttley//A Traveller in TimeMost of my all-time favourites are very well-known (Pride & PrejudiceEmmaNorth & South, etc.), but one that I don’t often hear people talking about is Alison Uttley’s A Traveller in Time, which tells the story of a girl called Penelope who finds herself slipping back and forth between 1934 and the 16th century, where Mary, Queen of Scots is imprisoned in Chartley Castle. It’s a really wonderful book, and its a shame that not that many people seem to have read it…

January Haul

I’m trying to cut back on book buying at the moment, which is why my January stack is considerably smaller than some of the others that you’ve seen. But my self-control is far from flawless, so I’ve still managed to accumulate a few new books to tell you about. A few of these I bought with leftover Christmas money; the rest I just couldn’t hold myself back from… 😉February Haul

1) Flambards and The Edge of the Cloud by K.M. Peyton. These are the pretty new editions of the first two books in the Flambards series, which follow an orphaned girl named Christina who moves to the countryside to live with her uncle and two cousins. I’ve already read (& own) the whole series, but I’ve been wanting to replace my ugly old copies for a while. The last two books (Flambards in Summer and Flambards Divided) will hopefully be released in this edition later this year.

2) The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley. A book I know basically nothing about, but it looked interesting. Presumably it has something to do with folk-tales (which I’ve been rather in the mood for recently).

3) A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall. A romance novel told from several different outsider perspectives. I’ve been wanting to read this since I found out that one of the narrators is a squirrel, but, again, I don’t know too much else about it.

4) The Girl of Fire & Thorns Stories by Rae Carson. This is a bind-up of three novellas set in the Fire & Thorns universe. I read the whole Fire & Thorns trilogy late last year, and loved it, so I’m looking forward to reading these. The three stories are called The Shadow CatsThe Shattered Mountain and The King’s Guard.

5) Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. An apparently brilliant story about an unexpected friendship between two boys. I stumbled across this quite by accident at the Oxfam bookshop, and decided to pick it up because (it was incredibly cheap, and) it’s the Little Book Club pick for January and February.

6) 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. This is basically a creative writing exercise book, with 642 different prompts. I decided to get this in hopes that it would get me back into the habit of writing again. It hasn’t worked yet, but I do keep picking the book up and flipping through it to look at all the different prompts, and they look pretty fun, so hopefully I’ll get there in time. 🙂

Books that Changed Me

There are a lot of books that have influenced me over the years, and they’ve done so in various ways: Books that have changed my way of looking at the world; books that have been instrumental in creating lasting friendships; books that made me think about issues that I’d never considered before…

I thought that today I’d let you know about a few of the books that have influenced me the most over the years (for better or for worse), & tell you a little bit about how. I’ve picked out ten (though there are, of course, a lot more out there), and I’d love to hear about how you think you’ve been shaped by books, so be sure to leave a comment to let me know!

In the order in which I first read them:

The Magic Key1) Biff, Chip & Kipper series. I don’t know what this series is actually called, but oh well. There are probably hundreds of these books, & I’m pretty sure that my primary school had the lot. During my first few years at school, we would have time every week to sit down & read these books, to develop our reading ability, but I absolutely hated them! I guess that pretty much everyone hates the books that they were made to read at school, but I got started pretty early: I must have been about five when these books led me to the conclusion that reading was a chore. I don’t remember ever finding them difficult to read – just annoying. :/

[Edit (9/9/2014): Literally a few seconds after posting this, I checked my email and found a Nintendo Newsletter announcing a Biff, Chip & Kipper game series, so apparently that’s a thing. 😐 ]

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit2) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. An exception to my no-books rule, since I never technically read this book myself. When my sister and I behaved ourselves, our Dad would sometimes come upstairs and read a chapter of The Hobbit to us before we went to bed. I was completely obsessed with it, and I even called my fish-shaped lunchbox Bilbo, after the main character (or possibly Gandalf. My sister & I had matching lunchboxes…). When Dad had finished the book, I wanted so badly for him to start again from the beginning, that he went out and bought me the tapes of the BBC audio drama, which was the first audiobook (kind of) that I ever listened to.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone3) Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I think that pretty much everyone in my generation has been influenced in some way by the Harry Potter series. In my case, this was the book that made me love reading. My sister was badgering me to read this series pretty much as soon as it came out, but I was stubborn, and ended up not picking it up until a little before Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire was released, when my best friend Jen started pressing me to read it, too. I went home, read the first couple of chapters, got frustrated that it wasn’t moving quickly enough, and then, at school the next day, I told Jen something along the lines of, “This is boring. I though you said it was about a magic school.” Her response was to tell me to start from chapter 5 (I think), so I ended up skipping over most of the stuff with the Dursleys the first time (though nowadays that’s actually one of my favourite parts of the book).

Anyway, needless to say, I loved it, and when I’d finished, my parents were so overjoyed that I was reading for fun that they went straight out and bought me the next two books in the series (something that my sister thought was incredibly unfair, since, having been an avid reader pretty much her whole life, she had to save up all her pocket money if she wanted new books to read), and I read them both in a day, and then went and re-read all three over and over until Goblet of Fire came out…

K.M. Peyton//Flambards4) Flambards by K.M. Peyton. I first read this book in year 7 at school (when I was 11), and it was the book that made me realise that school books didn’t always have to be boring. I ended up finishing it way ahead of time, and when I did, the first question I asked my English teacher was, “Does this have a sequel?” It did, and I raced through the other three books in the series, as well. I eventually also discovered an old TV adaptation, which was amazingly done and I recommend to anyone who likes World War I-era period dramas, or horses, or aeroplanes.

Tamora Pierce//First Test5) The Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce. It’s complete luck that I ever actually read this series, since the first book (First Test) was a Christmas present from my parents, who have notoriously bad luck picking out books for me. I probably only read it because I was stuck for the whole holiday at my Granny’s house, where the only other books available were things that I felt even less like reading. This series was what got me started on fanfiction – the first fanfic I ever read was a Kel/Merric story set a few years after the end of Lady Knight – which is still a surprisingly big part of my life.

Louise Cooper//Daughter of Storms6) Daughter of Storms by Louise Cooper. I probably first picked this up when I was about 12, just by chance in Waterstones one day – my attention was drawn to the book next to it on the shelf (The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper), and I only looked at this one because I thought the cover was pretty, and the title was kind of interesting. I actually really love this whole trilogy, but the main reason it’s on this list is because this was the first book I read that made me really want to write my own stories. I remember that after I finished the last book in the series (Keepers of Light), I started planning out my own series of fantasy novels (with a main character who suspiciously resembled the girl on the cover of Daughter of Storms), and I spent almost my entire summer holiday writing about her adventures.

Tamora Pierce//Alanna: The First Adventure7) The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. This series is what really sparked my love affair with high fantasy (which is my favourite genre), and also with Tamora Pierce (who is probably my all-time favourite author). It’s definitely not the best of her series’ (nor the first one I read), but it was the one that best managed to capture my attention, and – more surprisingly – to keep it.

Susan Cooper//The Grey King8) The Grey King by Susan Cooper. This is the fourth book in the Dark is Rising sequence, which I briefly mentioned when I was talking about Daughter of Storms. I initially picked up The Dark is Rising on a whim, and I really didn’t like it (or rather, I could barely follow it), but a couple of years later, I came across a bind-up of the whole series, and discovered that I had actually tried to start the series from the second book. Needless to say, this has made me a little more cautious about starting books that I don’t know anything about, and now I will usually look up books that sound interesting and make sure there’s not another book that I should read first…

But anyway, The Grey King is the fourth book in the series, and my favourite. It takes place in Snowdonia, in Wales, and a large part of the story is tied up in local Arthurian legends. This was the book that really got me interesting in mythology (particularly Arthurian myths and Celtic myths), and was a big part of the reason why I decided to go to Wales for University. It’s also a book that my cousins and I bonded over (we spent a couple of weeks one summer visiting all the places that Will and Brân went to in the book), so it’s also very special to me for that reason. 🙂

Meg Cabot//The Princess Diaries9) The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. This series made me fall in love with love stories. It was so funny and Mia was such a realistic character that reading these books made me feel like she was actually speaking to me. And Michael, I swoon for thee. Michael was probably one of my very first book boyfriends, and Michael/Mia was definitely my first OTP (One True Pairing). I remember watching the two films with my cousins (who were very young at the time), and rejoicing at the end of the second film, when my cousin Zou turned around and said to me sadly, “Why couldn’t she have married Michael?” This series is basically on this list because it turned me into a massive shipper. ~♥

Philip Reeve//Mortal Engines10) The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve. Also known as the Predator Cities series; also known as the Mortal Engines series. Whatever you call it, this series is awesome, and it made this list because it was the first series I ever read that really made me think about the future, and not just in an ecological, the-world-is-going-to-die sense (though there is that, too). Shrike is my favourite character from this series, and also one of my favourite characters of all time, and the journey of self-discovery that he goes on in the series incorporates a lot of thought/discussion about the way that the civilisations of the future will look back on the events of today. I first picked up Mortal Engines, the first book in the series, when I was about 15 at the insistence of my friend Clare, and it’ll probably (hopefully) stick with me for the rest of my life.

What are your most influential books? Let me know in the comments!