Thematic Recs: Boarding School

Boarding schools make great settings for stories; familiar enough to the average reader, but enclosed in their own social bubbles, allowing for some really interesting situations – of all kinds! So, from a few different genres, here are a few of my favourite boarding school books:

1) Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick. A short story set in a girls’ boarding school and told from several perspectives, which circles around the mystery of the death of a student the previous year. For a book this short, it manages to pack quite a punch, and is wonderfully atmospheric. I believe it also has some connection to Sedgwick’s previous book, The Ghosts of Heaven, but you certainly don’t need to have read that in order to enjoy this one, as I can attest! 😊

2) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockheart. Annoyed at being excluded, Frankie decides to infiltrate her school’s secret boys’ club, sparking a hilarious and meticulously-plotted prank war. Fantastically written, with an amazing lead, and a great feminist angle that really snuck up on me… just like my love for this book, which I now consider among my all-time favourites.

3) Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson. Ruby and Garnet are identical twins, and love to play a matching pair, but beneath the surface they’re actually very different – and when they’re forced to move away from home and live with their dad’s new girlfriend, their relationship is put to the test. I read quite a lot of Jaqueline Wilson books as a child, but this one is hands-down my favourite; it’s a riot for younger readers, but still interesting for anyone older, and beautifully illustrated, too! Unlike the other books I’m recommending here, Double Act isn’t set at a boarding school, but the school does play an important part in Ruby and Garnet’s changing relationship towards the end of the book.

4) The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. And, of course, no list of boarding school books would be complete without an appearance from the school that we all wish we could’ve gone to: Hogwarts! Of course, there’s little point in my recommending these books, as they’ve already got the attention of anyone who’s even slightly interested, but I would like to give an honourable mention to a couple of other magical-boarding-school books: The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, both of which were undoubtedly influenced by Harry Potter, but have put their own unique spin on the genre. (Carry On, in particular, is a favourite of mine.)

Advertisements

May Wrap-Up

May was a slightly quieter month for me in terms of books, since I’ve been pretty busy with work, and I also (finally! XD ) received my pre-order of Fire Emblem: Fates, so I’ve been playing that every spare second. 😛 That said, I did manage to finish five books, and get through a good portion of a sixth (which I’m really enjoying, by the way), so I am content. 🙂

Libba Bray//A Great & Terrible BeautyA Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. A gothic novel set in a London boarding school for girls in the late 1800s, and follows a teenage girl called Gemma Doyle, who – along with a small group of friends – gets involved with an alluring, but incredibly dangerous form of witchcraft, and a mysterious organisation only known as The Order. I can definitely see from reading this why Libba Bray is such a popular author; she writes really beautifully, and I could really feel the sinister atmosphere of Spence Academy and the mysteries that Gemma was trying to unravel. However, I wasn’t able to get particularly attached to the characters, and the story never really managed to grab me until near the end of the book – which is why took me quite a while to finish… It did improve a lot as it went on, however, and the ending was very tense and dramatic.3 stars

Libba Bray//Rebel AngelsRebel Angels by Libba Bray. The sequel to A Great & Terrible Beauty, which follows Gemma and her friends over the Christmas holiday. Obviously I can’t say too much about the plot, but I enjoyed seeing more of their lives outside Spence. There was one chapter from Kartik’s perspective, which was interesting, though I really want to know more about the Rakshana. I’m still not a huge fan of either Ann or Felicity, but they were both much more sympathetic characters in this book… Lastly, the plot itself had a slow start, but got really exciting towards the end of the book, with twists flying in every direction (though not all of them were entirely unexpected).4 starsDavid Gaider//The Stolen ThroneThe Stolen Throne by David Gaider. A prequel to the video game Dragon Age: Origins, which tells the story of the exiled King Maric’s first meeting with Loghain, the man who would become his most trusted friend and advisor, and the war they fought to return him to the throne of Ferelden. This is a great read for any fan of the Dragon Age series of games, so naturally I really enjoyed it. The narration wasn’t always fantastic, but that’s somewhat to be expected coming from an author who usually writes scripts rather than novels, but it was more than made up for by the wonderful plot and dialogue. I was also a bit disappointed that my hopes of seeing a more sympathetic side of Loghain (who was quite thoroughly villainised in the games) never really came to fruition, despite half the story being told from his perspective… even his friendship with Maric seemed to be something that he resented more than anything else… I did really like Maric himself, though, as well as both Rowan and Katriel, two characters who were only ever mentioned in the games.3 stars

Eleanor Updale//The Last MinuteThe Last Minute by Eleanor Updale. The story of a busy street in a normal English town during the lead-up to Christmas, which counts down the seconds to a horrific explosion. This book was excellently written, and really interesting – and it was also my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for May, so you can read all my thoughts on it here! 😉4 starsTheresa Tomlinson//The Tribute BrideThe Tribute Bride by Theresa Tomlinson. A historical novel set in the Anglo-Saxon period, during the founding of Northumbria. The book follows a Deiran princess called Acha, who’s sent away to the neighbouring kingdom of Bernicia as a peace-weaver bride to the fearsome King Athelfrid, when a flood ruins her father’s crops, leaving him unable to pay the tribute that Athelfrid demands. This was another interesting book, though I had some mixed feelings about it in terms of characterisation and writing style… But, again, I’ve written a full review, in which I’ve discussed all the details.3 stars

July Haul

I managed to behave myself in July! Which was an incredible feat, since I have a July birthday, and I usually use that as an excuse to splurge. 😳 I bought a grand total of  seven books, three of which were replacements for books that I had in editions that I didn’t like (but have already read), and two more of which are mythology books, which I like to dip into now and then, but don’t stress out over not having read yet~ 😛 Anyway, here they all are, artfully displayed:

July Haul

1) Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. I have, of course, read this several times already, and I used to own this exact edition… but it fell apart from too many re-reads, and I’ve been looking for a replacement ever since. It’s easy enough to find copies with this cover, but the first few books printed had an error in the graveyard scene, and I’ve never known an online seller to specify whether they’re selling a corrected or uncorrected copy. I accidentally bought a corrected edition on ebay a while ago, but I kept searching for an uncorrected one regardless (since I wanted a copy that was as close as possible to the one I originally owned) – so when one arrived at the second-hand bookshop where I work, I couldn’t let it slip away! Long story short: I bought it. 😉

2) Scottish Traditional Tales. This is a collection of Scottish stories, from (I assume, since they’re traditional) mostly anonymous authors. I picked it up while I was in Skye, since I’ve always loved folklore.

3) Land of the Seal People by Duncan Williamson. Another book I picked up in Skye, for much the same reason as the other. The stories in this one are mainly about Selkies, so far as I can tell.

4) Rebel Angels by Libba Bray. The second book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy, which I still haven’t started, but which I’ve heard amazing things about. But even if I end up hating it, I don’t feel bad because this was second-hand and therefore super-cheap. 😀

5) The Initiate by Louise Cooper. The first book in the amazing epic fantasy Time Master trilogy, which I read years ago. I actually already owned a copy of this book, but it was incredibly ugly, and in any case, it didn’t match the rest of the series, so I decided to finally buy myself a replacement as a birthday treat.

6) Eric and The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett. Two more Discworld books. I’m trying to collect the whole set of Rincewind books in these small-size editions (which are pretty hard to find nowadays), so I picked up The Light Fantastic second-hand, to replace my old, non-matching edition. Eric I bought new, as it’s pretty much the only Discworld book that you can still buy new in this edition… Another little birthday treat~ 😉

April Haul

I’m not feeling too bad about the books I bought in April, since most of them were second hand and therefore incredibly cheap, but I am absolutely on a book-buying ban from now on! 👿

April Haul

I also bought Half Wild, but it’s not in the photo ’cause I lent it to a friend…

1) All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully by Carrie Hope Fletcher. A book of advice on dealing with difficult issues that often come up during “the Teen Age”. I’ve already read this, so you can see what I thought about it in my April wrap-up.

2) Reaper ManGuards! Guards!, Pyramids, Wyrd Sisters, The Last Continentand Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett. These showed up in the charity shop where I volunteer, so I decided to buy them – I’ve been collecting these editions of the Discworld series for a while now, but I don’t know specifically what these ones are about…

3) Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett. A collection of short stories that Terry Pratchett wrote as a child, I believe. This is the collector’s edition, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

4) Hildafolk by Luke Pearson. A really short graphic novel about a little girl who goes on a mini adventure. I’ve read this already, too, and I’ve talked about it in my last wrap-up.

5) Roald Dahl Audiobooks: 10 Dahl Puffin Classics on 27 CDs, which consists of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Danny the Champion of the World, Esio Trot, Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The BFG, The Enormous Crocodile, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, The Twits and The Witches. I read a couple of these when I was little, but I’m really excited to listen to the rest. 😀

6) Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense by Lewis Carroll. A collection of Lewis Carroll’s poetry, in the beautiful Penguin clothbound edition.

7) Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman. A re-telling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale, illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. I really loved The Sleeper and the Spindle, so I have high hopes for this, too. 🙂

8) Zombie-Loan Volume 13 by Peach-Pit. This is the final volume of the Zombie-Loan series, which I picked out of the clearance bin at Waterstones for just £3, though there wasn’t anything wrong with it that I could see (unlike most of the other books in there). I probably won’t be reading this anytime soon, since I don’t have volumes 7-12 yet…

9) Half Bad and Half Wild by Sally Green. I got these at the Cambridge Literary Festival so I could get them signed, even though I own both of them as ebooks already. I love these so much~! ❤

10) A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. The first book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy, which I’ve been meaning to read for a while. This showed up by chance at work, too, and I decided to buy it, since it was pretty cheap. As far as I can tell, it’s a historical gothic fantasy series, which sounds fun.

(A brief aside: ChapterStackss posted a really interesting video a little while ago – In Defense of Libraries – where she discussed, amongst other things, book-buying habits, and you should definitely check that out if you’re at all interested. 🙂 )