Bookish Adventures in London

Earlier this summer me and my lovely friend over at elinhughesceramics decided that we wanted to go to London on a trip full of bookish and arty endeavours. That trip was carried out a few days ago and was amazing. I had such a good time so I thought I would share some of our adventures here!

First on the agenda was the Harry Potter shop on Platform 9 3/4. Excuse the pun but it really was magical stepping into the shop, seeing the wands lined up in their boxes against the back wall and hearing Hedwig’s Theme swelling to a climax. For a moment I really did feel like Harry stepping onto Diagon Alley for the first time! Priority number one was getting sew on house badges for me and my sisters (I’m Hufflepuff, my older sister is Slytherin and my little sister’s Ravenclaw). After getting my hands on them, we then explored the rest of the shop. I honestly could have bought everything in there but I had to restrain myself and we were soon on our way again.


Next was a tube ride to Leicester Square to hopefully buy tickets for a musical that night. We had no previous ideas about what we wanted to watch so pretty much picking and random (and based on price, we are both students!) we landed on Dreamgirls. I’m not going to lie, it was literally one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, but more on that later!

From Leicester Square we made our way to Charing Cross Road for the bookshops. Meandering along we popped in whichever struck our fancy until we arrived at the final destination; Foyles. Aah Foyles. The first thing you see when you walk in is a sign welcoming booklovers and I did very much feel welcome. Taking my time, I wandered around the different levels, picking up books at random based either on art work or titles and read the blurbs and took them in, just enjoying being surrounded by so many books. It truly did feel like nothing bad could happen between those shelves! After sending a cheeky snapchat of the large J.R.R.Tolkien section to my little sister (she could spend a whole day staring at one shelf of Tolkien books if you let her!), it was time to say goodbye, but hopefully I will be back sometime soon.IMG_1755

Following our Foyles adventure, we had an afternoon exploring Covent Garden, The National Gallery and St Jame’s park then, after dinner just off the Strand, it was time to go and see Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre. Pretty much all I can see about Dreamgirls is wow. It was literally one of the best things I have ever seen; it made me laugh, cry and whoop. It made me feel empowered and strong. It was amazing and Effie White (the main character) is now undoubtably one of my favourite fictional characters ever. I honestly loved it and would go again in a heartbeat!

The next day we visited the Victoria and Albert museum where I had a lovely hour wandering around the Performance and Theatre section. I especially enjoyed seeing costumes from The Lion King (another musical I love) and the hat worn by Idena Menzel in the original broadway run of Wicked. Too soon though, it was time to head to the train station and come home.


I truly had an amazing few days, and can’t wait to go back to London soon for more adventures!



Some thoughts on: One of Us is Lying

Note: This review contains spoilers regarding One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. 

So I just finished reading One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus (and by just I mean in the last hour) and I thought that I might just write down some thoughts on it right now and see where they take me.

First, the premise of the book. It is roughly a YA murder mystery where five kids go into detention, one of them dies and the police discover that it wasn’t an accident. I had a look at this novel in a bookshop a few weeks before I actually bought it and was completely hooked by the blurb so that was a good start!

The novel is narrated in parts by each of the four kids who made it out of detention, namely Bronwyn who is identified as a geek, Cooper, who is the classic jock, Addy who is the girl in school going out with the most popular guy and Nate who is on probation for dealing drugs. Something I really like about these characters is that they are set up as fitting into classic steretypical characters even on the cover of the book, but through the novel and their narration you learn that they’re much more than that, and subsequently that everything is not so black and white and easily categorised.

The four principle characters were also all very interesting and engaging and seemed very real and mostly very relatable. I genuinally believe that these four characters could have been sole protagonists in their own books. The single issue with this is that occasionally a situation wasn’t explored as much as I would have wanted. Take, for example, when Nate gets out of jail and briefly discusses feeling useless. Skip forward three months to the epilogue and he’s beginning to get over that and feels ready to be with Bronwyn again. I would have really liked more from his point of view regarding how he worked through those issues. The same with Cooper and his Dad and coming to terms with being openly gay, especially in a sporting context, following his coming out. Like I said though, all of this might have taken a novel each for the protagonists, so settling with this one novel, it was nice to have four such interesting characters narrating.

Aside from the four narrators there were cool characters everywhere, especially Bronwyn’s sister Mauve (who could also be the main character in her own book). Again, I would have liked to know more about some of the characters like Kris, Cooper’s boyfriend, who ends up being key to figuring out the cental mystery. However, this book must be pretty great when the only complaint I have is that I didn’t get to learn more about the characters!

In terms of the central mystery, it was really engaging trying to piece together snippets of what the characters told you, the reader, and trying to figure out what you knew about a character and if the other character’s knew the same information. It also had me asking questions of the characters even while they were narrating (confession: when Nate got arrested I questioned his innocence for a second, if only because it could be a double bluff i.e. the criminal actually commited the crime, but I quickly came to my senses). The eventual resolution was satisfying because it was a twist but didn’t take away from the rest of the novel up until that point.

So, basically, I really enjoyed this novel. The murder mystery was interesting enough but it was really the characters that hooked me. I loved finding out about them and seeing them really progress throughout the novel and break out of the stereotypes teenagers are so often forced into. I would have loved to hear more about them and some of the situations they were in but that was because I had come to care for them so much, which can surely only be a good thing!

Monthly Roundup – July 2017

July. Lovely July. Full of sun and books, two of my favourite things. As I did a lot of reading this month, I won’t waste any more time and just get into what all these books were!

I began the month by reading books two through six of The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore. As I have discussed the series in more detail in a previous blog post, I won’t mention much here, just that I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience. The plot was great, the characters were great (mainly) and I really enjoyed the immersion of reading all of the books back to back. As this was so fun, I am inspired to try this approach again i.e. taking a series that I started reading as the novels were released but lost track of and reading them, if not back to back, then at least close enough together to keep the storyline fresh in my mind. A series that I might try this with is the Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling. I read three of this series (I think there are six in total) as they were released and can’t remember much, only some vague recollection of humans turning into animals or being part animal or something! Mainly though, I remember really enjoying the books so hopefully I will get around to reading the whole series sometime soon.

After finishing the Lorien Legacies I decided to read Down Under by Bill Bryson that my Dad bought me, which is basically a travel book about Australia. I will admit that having been in the alien, sci-fi, YA world of the Lorien Legacies for six straight novels, I did struggle at the beginning to get into this book. Once I did get into it, though, I found it really funny and entertaining, much like the first Bill Bryson book I read a couple of months ago (The Road to Little Dribbling). This one was a little different though as The Road to Little Dribbling is about the UK so I found it much easier to visualise what Bryson was talking about, whereas Down Under took  some Googling and imagination! Despite this it was a good, fun read which has even made me want to visist Australia myself one day.

When I finished Down Under I went to the library for the first time in ages! I was actually looking for The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood because I have been meaning to read it for months but as they didn’t have it I chose a YA called We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen instead. This book was narrated by two teenagers who end up living together because the mum of one and dad of the other are in a relationship. It was another book that I struggled to get into at the beginning, I think perhaps because the main characters were quite a lot younger than me, in their early to mid teens, while I have hit twenty now. But, as the novel went on I found it a really sweet read that dealt with a lot of important and timely topics like bullying, homophobia and grief.

Having finished We are All Made of Molecules, I wanted quite a quick read because I had ordered The Handmaid’s Tale to the library and wanted to be able to start it as soon as it arrived. In this vein, then, I picked up Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote which follows Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn in the film), a whimsical socialite, around New York in the 1940’s. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really enjoy this read; I didn’t really like any of the characters, I wasn’t that bothered about the plot and the whole time I was reading it I just sort of felt like I was missing something. Maybe it was because this was the first novel I had read in quite a while that was just a bit meh, but this was not one of my favourite reads this month!

As Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a short book it actually only took me a couple of hours to read and so The Handmaid’s Tale was not ready for me yet. While I waited, then, I decided to get a headstart for University in September and read one of my module books, namely the Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe, which is for my Visions of Past and Future in Children’s Literature module. Historically, a group of Romans called the Ninth Legion disappeared, along with their standard, the titular Eagle, in Northern Britain. What happened to them is a mystery and this is Sutcliffe’s take on it. I had actually already read this book once before, a few years ago, just after watching the flm starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. When I read it that time I found it a little bit boring, I think because the film has a lot more action, or at least action sequences, which I had been expecting to encounter in the book too. This time, though, taking the book on it’s own, I really enjoyed it. One thing I especially enjoyed both times was the bromance between the two main characters, Marcus, a Roman and Esca, a Briton which is really sweet. Once I had finished The Eagle of the Ninth, I was pleased to hear that the Handmaid’s Tale was ready for me.

When I had ordered The Handmaid’s Tale at the library one of the librarians overheard and had told me that everyone had to read The Handmaid’s Tale at least once in their life. Having fulfilled my quota, I have to agree. Just to give a really basic summary, it is narrated by Offred, the titular handmaiden, negotiating the republic of Gilead (which was once the United States). The handmaidens are a group of women who each belong to a family (Offred literally means of Fred) for the sole purpose of having the male’s children. Not only is the novel completely timely despite having been written in 1985 (I’m not sure there will come a time when it isn’t timely), but the narrative voice is stunning, giving incredibly vivid descriptions of her world in Gilead, even while occasionally casting it’s own reliability into doubt. It is truly an amazing and important novel and I would urge anyone to give it a go.

My final read this month was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams which follows a man called Arthur Dent who survives the destruction of planet earth. I mainly read this novel because it was recommended to me and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. I have mentioned in a previous blog post that I am not the biggest sci-fi fan and, as the title suggests, this novel is quite sci-fi. It also struck me as a novel that I would perhaps like to read aloud or read with others because it’s actually a really clever, witty and funny book and because of this, at time, it felt strange to be reading it quietly to myself. Even so, I’m glad I read this novel as it is one I have heard a lot about and always thought about reading. To have done so feels like a nice accomplishment.

Moving into August, I am now reading Shakespeare by Bill Bryson and so far I have mixed feelings towards it. On the one hand, it feels like a lot of words basically saying that we know nothing for certain about Shakespeare. On the other hand, though, as well as discussing Shakespeare, there is a lot about London and England in the time of Shakespeare and I find these sections really interesting and enjoyable, especially when I drop on something I remember studying in my History A-Level.

Top Pick:

Even though I really enjoyed reading The Lorien Legacies, it has to be The Handmaid’s Tale, both an amazing and important novel.


So there we have it, July done and dusted. Going forward, I hope to finish Shakespeare soon,as it is only short, and then who knows what the Summer days of August will hold? Something good I hope!



Should Song Lyrics be Considered Poetry?

Recently I attended a discussion at a local folk festival looking at the question of whether song lyrics should be considered poetry.

There were two main positions presented. Firstly, that every songwriter is a poet and every song poetry, the question is whether that poetry is any good. The second argument was that not all song lyrics can be considered poetry (Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy for my Shirt’ was sighted here) but some song lyrics undoubtedly are. Notice that neither of these viewpoints suggest that no song lyrics should be considered poetry?

I have encountered this perception of song lyrics in my own experience. In my first year in University I purchased a poetry anthology, which among other poets, included lyrics by Bob Dylan. Take away the name and you would never have questioned that his words belonged with the words of other great poets.

Perhaps not all song lyrics can or should be considered poetry but surely we cannot look at some songs without classifying them as such. Take, for example, a personal favourite; the beautiful lyrics of Passenger in his song ‘The Last Unicorn’ about lost love and dealing with loneliness:

Though we’re walking home we know too well

We are both lost

Another interesting area touched on during the discussion was the division between music and literature.¬†It was suggested that we live in a time obsessed with boxing things, therefore music and literature must be considered separate entities. The question, then, is not whether there are people capable of bridging this divide, Dylan’s receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature surely proves that there are, the questions is whether we, as a consuming public, are ready to accept these artists.

I really hope that we are.


Should song lyrics be considered poetry? A discussion between Marged Tudur and the musician Gai Toms.  





Some Thoughts on The Lorien Legacies

Last month I started one of my summer TBR projects, namely finishing the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore that I started a few years ago. I had already read the first four in the series as they came out but decided that I wanted to reread these and then move onto the rest. A few weeks later I have finished the series and am really glad that I decided I wanted to do this. I have really enjoyed reading the series both in terms of plot and character but, additionally, I have enjoyed the experience of reading a whole series back to back; something I am pretty sure I have not done before! A few thoughts on all of that in a moment but first a short summary of the series:

  • It follows members of an alien race from a planet called Lorien
  • These aliens are part of a group called the Garde who were sent to Earth from Lorien when it was attacked by another alien race called Mogadorians
  • The Garde have powers (including invisibility and healing) called Legacies
  • As the series progressess they go from trying to protect themselves to trying to protect Earth from the Mogodorians and their leader Setrakus Ra

Of course there is a lot more to the series than this and I feel like I am not even doing the parts I have described justice, but it is a very interesting and exciting series with a lot of interesting developments and surprises!

So, I would definitely categorise this series as sci-fi which is interesting because sci-fi is not a genre I have ever been particularly interested in. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it and I like to think I will always give a book a go no matter the genre, sci-fi is just not one I am naturally drawn to. Despite this fact, I really enjoyed this series and I think there are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, the books build up gradually to the more sci-fi elements. Take, for example, the first novel in the series. We know from the beginning that the narrator is an alien being hunted by other aliens and he is experiencing gaining powers for the first time. But, in addition to that, he is dealing with the issues of normal teenagers such as living in a small town, fitting in at school and first love which does make it relatable. It is not until the fifth novel in the series that we get a glimpse of space and even then it is only momentary before we return to Earth. I was pleased with this development because I’m not sure I would have been as invested had the action shifted to another planet. Setting it on Earth made the stakes higher and made it seem more real and thus more exciting!

Secondly, I find the series to be very character driven. The narration of the novels actually demonstrates this quite well. The first novel in the series I Am Number Four is narrated entirely by the titular number four or John Smith as he is known. Then, in the second novel, narration is split between John and another member of the Garde, Marina. The following books contain narration from other characters too including John’s human best friend, Sam, and Six, another member of the Garde. This type of first person narration really gives an insight into lots of characters’ thoughts, feelings and motives and makes it easy for you to root for all of the protagonists.

In this vein, I would also say that I don’t think I have read a series where I genuinally liked so many of the characters! My favourite character was continuously changing from Sam to Nine (another one of the Garde) to Adam (a sympathetic Mogadorian) although ultimately I think my favourite character has to be Marina!

As well as helping you get to know the characters better, the switching narration also genuinally made the books unputdownable. Narration normally switches between chapters and excitingly (although sometimes infuriatingly!) most of these chapters end on mini cliff hangers. Of course, this could be annoying if you had to read through a boring chapter just to get to something interesting (I had this problem reading Game of Thrones) except I found all of the different character perspectives and situations they were in interesting, so it was actually a really enjoyable experience!

Of course I didn’t enjoy everything (across seven books I think that would be a minor miracle!). First, I was a bit disappointed with the character of Mark. In the first novel Mark is a stereotypical jock bully seen in many YA novels. Despite this, in subsequent novels he has a really cool character ark where he becomes a really interesting character and, based on this, without giving away any spoilers, I was really disappointed with how his story ended.

Secondly, I found the main couple in the series, John and Sarah, quite infuriating. I love them as individual characters but just felt that, for me personally, I was being told a lot why they were such a great couple but didn’t quite get it myself. Also (as I touched on in my June roundup) relationships got a bit complicated for a while. Take, for example a line from the second novel, The Power of Six where Six says:

‘You like me and Sarah. I like you and Sam.’

This is the kind of drama I am really not interested in. Luckily it sorted itself out pretty quickly so I was able to get back to enjoying the story.

Lastly, without spoiling any surprises, I was really upset about a particular character death. This, though, is not something I dislike about the series as it is actually quite refreshing to have such real stakes in this type of series, where there is the very real possibility of central characters dying and staying dead (which bizzarly has become quite a big issue in entertainment today!).

In terms of reading the majority of the books back to back, it was a really cool experience that left me hugely invested in the series (when I finished the last one I wasn’t massively sure what to do with myself to be honest!). On the topic of the last novel, I will just mention that I was very pleased with it. I love book endings anyway (especially last sentences) and I was very happy that the Lorien Legacies had a great ending after seven books worth of investment.

So there we have it, The Lorien Legacies done and dusted and all I will say now is that I thoroughly enjoyed them!


Monthly Roundup – June 2017

Like May before it, June has been a pretty weird month for me. Firstly, it was my first  full month without any uni commitments ala exams, coursework, lectures .etc. which was lovely, but did mean that all of my term time fatigue crashed down on me in the first few weeks. Then, just as I got over my tiredness I did a massively enjoyable but very tiring week of work experience in a local high school. June has therefore been a bit of a rollercoaster and has felt hugely long!

Despite this, I got a few books under my belt this month including some off my summer TBR pile which is fab!

Even though I started The Book Thief last month, the first book I finished this month was a book called Alice in Brexitland by Leavis Carroll. I should point out now that I don’t normally read two books at once but I was inspired by the UK general election to read this piece of political satire and I knew I could read it in a couple of hours at most. To be honest, I wasn’t hugly fond of this read. Although I’m pleased I tried a new genre I feel this one is just not for me. Additionally, I read this book in the days leading up to the election which made the calling of the EU referendum seem a little like old-news (I wouldn’t suggest reading political satire about one major event in the lead up to another!). Even so, it was interesting to see how literature can be used in different fields such as politics. ¬†My inner A-level History student also made an appearence while I read this book as I was thinking back to when we had to analyse sources such as political cartoons and imagining children in the future doing the same with this text which was an interesting way to look at it!

Next, I finished The Book Thief. I won’t say much about it here as I have already posted a more detailed discussion of it. All I will say is that I loved it as much, if not more, than I did the first time I read it.

After The Book Thief I decided to move on to another book from my summer TBR list in the form of I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. This novel is the first in a series about a group of aliens who flee from their home planet after it is destroyed by another alien race and come to earth. There are nine of these aliens and they are supposedly the saviours of their home planet but they are being hunted by the other race (I’m not sure I’m selling this wonderfully; it’s actually a really interesting concept and doesn’t come across as nearly half as complicated as I’m making it seem!). Anyway, I found this book a little difficult to get into at the beginning, firstly because I had just read The Book Thief where it feels as if practically every sentence means something and leaves you with something to consider, so it is strange going back to that not necessarily being the case. Secondly, this is the first fantasy book I have read in a good long while so that took a bit of getting used to too. Despite this, as I kept reading I got more and more into it and was flying through by the end. I also forgot since my first reading, how much I like the character of Sam who is the human best friend of one of the aliens (the titular number four). It seems like I have a thing for the human character in the middle of fantasy races (see Stiles in the TV programme Teen Wolf or Isobel in the Shiver series)!

After I am Number Four I came back to the real world with Tina Fey’s autobiography, Bosspants. I really enjoyed reading this book and it included many moments where I genuinally laughed out loud. I will say I think I might have enjoyed it a little bit more if I were a Saturday Night Live fan (I found the same thing with Amy Poehler’s autobiography) but that has more to do with me than the book itself. Even so, this was a really nice, easy-going read.

Currently then, I am reading The Power of Six, the second in the I Am Number Four series. I’m actually really enjoying it and despite having already read it, I feel excited and anxious while reading as I can only remember bits and pieces. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a love triangle situation going on, which also annoyed me the first time I read this book but I’m hoping it goes away soon as I didn’t actually remember it until I was reading about it again!

Top Pick:

The Book Thief. Without question or doubt!


So there we have it, another book filled month finished. Moving into July I will be finishing The Power of Six and based on how much I am enjoying it right now, I might even pick up the next in the series straight away…we’ll just have to see how that love triangle goes!

Some Thoughts on The Book Thief

I recently finished re-reading The Book Thief and was once again bowled over by the beauty of this novel. There are many reasons that I love this book as an avid reader, as an English Literature student and as an individual. I have tried to put some of them into words here. But first a short summary of the novel

  • It is narrated by Death
  • Liesel Meminger is the book thief
  • She goes to live with her adopted parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann
  • They hide¬†a Jew in their basement
  • Death visits the book thief three times


Not only is this novel narrated by Death, but the portrayal of death (with and without an upper case ‘d’) is, for me, a new and unique one. So often humans use death as a scapegoat when we¬†are at fault for killing each other, at¬†best through ineptitude, and at worst, through the evil humanity is capable of. In The Book Thief, though,¬†Death merely clears up the mess humanity has made. He is remorseful and caring of the souls he picks up, carrying them like babies and even has to pay close attention to the colours of the sky to distract himself.

‘I am haunted by humans’

Here, we come to the last lines of the novel,¬†where Death admits that he is ‘haunted by humans’.¬†I¬†should¬†point out that I love the last lines of novels. As I approach the end I get really excited wondering what¬†thought or revelation I am going to be left with.¬†On this count,¬†The Book Thief does not disappoint.¬†I just find this simple line so beautiful. For me, it epitomises all of the loneliness and despair of¬†Death. Just consider some of the meanings of ‘haunted’. It can mean tormented, and¬†Death is certainly¬†tormented by humans and humanity. It also, of course, refers to ghosts,¬†which perhaps suggests that even¬†as humans¬†live they are merely¬†ghosts to Death as even our natural life span is¬†hugely finite while¬†Death points out that he is eternal. This idea is¬†accentuated by the fact that Death sometimes¬†tells us chapters in advance¬†about deaths¬†that are going¬†to occur, so that we too have to hear about the experiences of characters¬†and in many cases fall in love with them, all the while knowing in the back of our¬†minds that they are soon going to die. Personally, I find this experience utterly heart-breaking, though it¬†gives only a slight¬†insight into how Death must feel and makes his confession at the end of the novel all the more affecting.

‘I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right’

One of the differences between my first and second readings of the novel was my recognition of the status of words in the novel. Upon first reading I knew that words were important but until rereading, I did not appreciate that words were a major, if not the main character of the novel. Words are constantly personified in the novel and given agency and power; Hitler starts a war using words, Liesel gives Max (the Jew hidden in her basement) the sky using words. Words are everywhere in this novel. Not only are we told of the importance of words, we are shown first hand through the poetic writing of the novel itself. It is a truly beautiful experience.


Using Death as an omniscient¬†narrator, this novel manages to give an insight into the lives of¬†many different characters, making us feel for, and with, all of them. There is¬†of¬†course Liesel,¬†the book thief herself, Hans Huberman with his living¬†accordion, Rosa Hubermann with her “Saumensch”, Max Vandenberg, stealing¬†the sky (I can’t help but feel that Death must feel a certain kinship with Max, as he too could be said to steal the sky as he collects souls) and Rudy, Liesel’s best friend to mention but a few.

The Book Thief

Despite all of the above, perhaps what I love most about the Book Thief is the range of different things different individuals can take away from it. Even on a second reading I have discovered new and exciting elements to the story so who knows what someone else may find?

Ultimately, The Book Thief is a beautiful novel that broke my heart, it made me feel, it made me cry and it made me fall in love with words over and over again.