Top 5 Wednesday – Future Classics

As most will be aware, this feature is hosted weekly by Thoughts on Tomes.

So this weeks theme is a rather interesting one. Classics can mean different things to different people, as well as different things to yourself. You could consider something classic because it was, in your view, a storytelling masterpiece, a literary gymnast full of technique or perhaps it simply had a profound effect on readership as a whole that warrants a ‘classic’ accolade.

The brilliant thing about this particular Top 5 is that they can be a mix of books you love, hate or are indifferent towards. Classics are a genre that umbrellas all genres and are merely linked by their impact and contribution to the literary world over time. From the few T5W posts I have seen already today, there is clear agreement in some titles, and I will be equally suggesting some of these, but I hope also to explore some new considerations.

One. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is the third blog post in a row where I have featured this particular title. If that doesn’t scream classic to you then I am not certain what will. This is also one of the titles I have seen on every single T5W list so far. If you want my thoughts on this in more detail, I would refer you to my Weekly Big Three on Children’s Books.

Two. Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling

Another one unlikely to shock and one featured on many lists already. The Harry Potter series for me was definitely a turning point in readership, particularly young readership. It single-handedly (arguably alongside the Twilight series) combated the modern world and young readers obsession with technology and online, and got them back to books. The Harry Potter fandom is unlike any other and these books have such significant place in my heart, as I am sure it will in many of yours.

Three. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This book truly is special. Stories with protagonists on the autism spectrum are not uncommon, but there is just something about the way Haddon tackles this topic that is so truly beautiful. The book itself puts the ‘murder mystery’ element to the front, and the fact that the character is autistic to the back. It gives us unique insight into the mind of someone on the autism spectrum that it allows the character to either be relatable, or at the very least, allows us the ability to sympathise. The play-version of this is touring the UK again this year, and I hope to catch it in Glasgow when it comes as I have heard rave reviews of that also.

Four. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I have decided to add this one to my list, simply because of the way it made me feel when I had first finished it. A story of woman who has the opportunity to live her life time and time again through the 20th century. It’s a unique interpretation of the Butterfly Effect theory as well as the idea that our paths are laid out for us. I am a major sucker for most things period, particularly early 20th-century, and this book was just simply beautiful. You get so attached to one ‘life’ of the character, only to feel such heartache when that particular path is stopped and life is once again reset. I implore anyone who has not read this to do so. I have doubts this would be considered a classic to most, but I have purposefully put it here simply because of the way it impacted on me.

Five. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Did anyone else equally squeal with joy earlier this year when it was announced Pullman planned on revisiting this world? What a delight! This is the first series I remember tackling and truly loving next to Harry Potter. Such a unique world with all the home comforts of our own to keep us familiar. Adventure, philosophy, fantasy mixed with a hint of tragedy definitely makes this particular series a future classic in my eyes!

 

Well that concludes my particular top 5. Did I have similar ones to you? If you have done a blog post on this, please link me in the comments so I can go have a nosey!

-Lee

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Weekly Big Three: Children’s Books

The Weekly Big Three is a feature created by Fire and Rain Books, and this weeks theme is children’s books. I used to run a children’s department when I worked in a bookstore, so I knew this was something I just HAD to post about. Before I begin, I would just like to give Harry Potter an honourable mention as it is obvious it would belong on this list, but I wanted to explore some other titles! I am also going to try and do one for each age group (toddler, middle-grade and teen!)

So, let us get started!

One.

This one is a slight cheat, as it is basically ANY picture book by Oliver Jeffers… EVER. I know you probably weren’t anticipating me mentioning any picture books here, particularly as there is so many classic children’s book to choose from, but there is something about the beauty of Jeffers’ artwork and storytelling that is so utterly captivating that truly anyone can enjoy. When I used to recommend picture books, I would always try and recommend titles that both the child would enjoy as well as the parent reading to them.

 

Two.

This one will always stick with me. This was the book that my Primary Six teacher chose to read to us, and probably was my first introduction into the horror genre. About a young boy sent to a boarding school that is out of the ordinary, is not a concept we are unfamiliar with, but this does set itself apart somewhat and keeps its originality. I remember being so engrossed during storytime with this book, that I then decided to devour Horowitz’s other stuff like The Falcon’s Malteaser (again, another highly recommended mystery middle-grade book!)

 

Three.

When I first read the book thief it had just been released and was being sold as an adult book. But in recent years I have slowly seen this move into YA shelves as well, which I think is incredibly important as everyone should read this book at least once in their life. This is the first book I remember ever reading and thinking to myself ‘the writing in this is beautiful’. It truly is haunting, as one might expect given Death is our narrator, and educational in a most artful way. Strangely this book is a winter read for me and I enjoy it most close to Christmas time, wrapped in a blanket to beat off the cold, and has remained in my Top 5 books of all time since I first read it.

 

I hope this was insightful! I would love to know yours, so either comment below or link me to your posts. If you do decide to do a post on this, make sure to link back to the original page so that your options can be featured (and to give the creator their due credit as well).

-Lee

This or That Challenge 83: Online vs. Bookshops

I discovered these particular challenges via paradisbooks and if you want to get involved in future This or That challenges you should go follow bookmarkchronicles who posts them.

This particular question is likely to create an internal struggle for anyone who is a book lover who wants to support authors and bookshops, whilst also considering the cost implications of perhaps doing so.

The original challenge stipulates that you have to pick one source where you buy the majority of your books, and for me this currently is online. However, I feel like I need to explain this a bit further.

I used to be a bookseller at Waterstones and at that time all of my books were bought from there. Not only did I get a really awesome discount on my regular impulse purchases, but I was always in the bookshop and therefore it was an extremely accessible source of new material.

Now that I have moved from the bookshop, I tend to find myself online a lot more. Payday comes around, and I will set up my list for the next month and purchase them all in a one-er and await delivery, not having to leave the comfort of my own house/office/whatever. For these kind of purchases, it very rarely is a result of browsing and moreso me ticking off my wishlist. I abhor browsing online and that truly is where bookshops excel.

Therefore, when I am in close vicinity to a bookshop or second hand shops, I will always make the effort to go in for a browse and purchase at least one new and unfamiliar title that manages to grab my attention. These particular purchases are the most exciting because usually they are unexpected and the impulsiveness of it all usually leaves me wanting to delve right in straight away!

So, in short, I buy my books from a variety of places. For those books which I know that I already want: online; and for those books where I want to discover something new: bookshops.

I haven’t really touched on the financial implications between the two, but it is well known you can get things far cheaper online. However, I think this is down to people’s personal finances and what they can afford. At the end of the day, I will promote anything that gets books in peoples hands.

-Lee

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Follow the author: Samantha Shannon

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I learned that humans have a mechanism inside them: a mechanism called hatred, which can be activated with the slightest pull of a string.

I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on a limited edition signed copy of The Song Rising, despite being unable to attend any of the Scottish tour dates. In particular, I love that the limited edition dust jacket is similar to that of the first two novels (I have consistency OCD).

Onto the actual book itself, I was admittedly nervous going into The Song Rising, only because I loved The Mime Order SO MUCH! Thankfully, Samantha Shannon did not disappoint.

From the offset, I did find the tone to be extremely different in this book and it did take a while for me to get into it. Paige seemed to have matured quite drastically within a short space of time, and a lot of change had occurred to our familiar structure of the Syndicate which we aren’t privy to being implemented within the series itself. However, one can assume (having never been involved in a revolution myself), that fast-paced change is an unavoidable necessity when trying to overturn a corrupt governing force.

One of the things that I absolutely adored about this installment was the different locations Shannon took us to explore in this alternate world she has created. Whilst I adore following Paige through the London streets I have visited many a time, it doesn’t quite beat the feeling of reading chapters set in a city that I find myself in once a week. The description of the derelict Edinburgh Castle, to the thought of voyants hiding in the Edinburgh Vaults which used to be home to grave robbers and their like exemplified chills within me that made the story feel more real than it probably should. In particular, the final scenes within Edinburgh were extremely disturbing for me as I was able to visualise with great clarity, the riotous terror Vance was creating within one of MY cities.

Another undeniable strength within Samantha’s series are her characters. Not only are each and every one of them unique in their own way, she makes sure to explore both the good and the bad and none of them are infallible. Paige is often at the mercy of the limitations of her gift, and indeed, she fell multiple times for Vance’s tricks. She gives us enough insight to the supporting cast for us to care for them, whilst at the same time showing no loyalty to their existence within the story. This latter point is something extremely crucial for me when reading a series as I don’t want to feel safety for any of them. Shannon has admitted, at least, that Paige will always be the lead character, so in moments where death may seem inevitable, I find myself questioning how the heck she is going to get out of this one instead of whether or not she will survive, which in a way is more fun.

I want to briefly touch on Jaxon Hall, who was our twist at the end of The Mime Order. He doesn’t come back into the story until nearer the end and he truly is testament to Shannon’s brilliance as he is probably the biggest mystery of this entire series. Is he a goody? A baddy? Is he with the Sargas? Is he double bluffing? Within a piece of dialogue he can have both the reader and Paige utterly confused of his intentions and questioning any theories they may have developed. The only one true thing we can say about Jaxon is that he is self-serving and that is about it. WHAT ARE YOU UP TO JAXON!?

I think my most thought-provoking and impactful part of the entire book was when Nashira and Paige were alone in the Archon and Nashira is discussing the brutality of humankind. Most jarring, I think, due to the fact that she technically isn’t wrong. This whole scene was so well placed too as Paige had a decision to make: fight for survival, or sacrifice for the many.  And in ALL honesty I couldn’t say with certainty what Paige’s move was going to be, and again, this merely highlight’s Samantha’s genius in creating truly human characters.

Other small highlights I feel worth mentioning include:-

  • I appreciate romance very much being a sub-plot within this series and not a driver
  • We get introduced to a transgender character so nonchalantly that it made me smile
  • Lots. Of. Women. Kicking. Ass (for good or bad).
  • Plenty of twist-a-roos to make us gawp and question

Finally, there truly was only one thing I disliked about this installment: NO ZEKE AND NICK (I’m not sure if a ship name exists for these two). This Swedish-Mexican love affair truly is one of my favourite couples in a series and I need more of them in book 4! Although, with the way it ended I might be in for a disappointment here!

Overall, this was a spectacular addition to the series and whilst answered some questions, probably left us with more which makes the anticipation of Book 4 ever more unbearable! The way Samantha tweets about Book 4 would make us believe it could be the best one yet! Gimmie!!!

Happy reading 🙂

Welcome!

The book world has always been a place that I call home. From a young age, force fed The Magic Faraway Tree by my Mum to exploring my own independent escapism through the Harry Potter Series. My journey through this universe further expanded as I became a Bookseller, a job I dearly loved, which led me to eventually running Children’s Books where I probably read more picture books as a twenty-something than when I was an infant.

I have since left the bookselling world for pastures related to my ‘degree’ – eugh! I know! A literary haven replaced for days analysing health statistics – the horror! Although, I own up to the fact I do love my job and the impact it can have on the country, however, I can’t help but suffer from ‘The Itch’. ‘The Itch’ is what I describe as an incessant need to divulge, whether welcomed or not, my opinions on books to others so that I may spread the word as far and wide as possible!

In bookselling, ‘The Itch’ lay mostly dormant as it was constantly fed in my day to day work, but not so much within the health service. So, this leads to the creation of this blog! A place for me to do bookselling virtually and a treatment facility for my ‘Itch’.

Welcome!