Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Visting Charles Dickens


Despite holding an English Literature degree, I’ve never really connected with any classic literature. The exception to that rule is Charles Dickens. I can’t quite explain what it is about his writing that whisks me off to another world, or why I find myself so fascinated with his life outside of writing, but it’s the way I’ve been wired ever since I studied Great Expectations in High School for exams.

Recently I took a visit to London for some theatre shows and, of course, I had to take a stop by the Charles Dickens museum at 48 Doughty Street. In 1837-1839, Charles Dickens used this house as a base as his popularity with his writing began to soar. During his time there, he wrote well-known works such as Oliver Twist.


For £9.50, guests get to explore the various rooms that Dickens, his family, and his servants occupied. While likely biased, I found it well worth the money as you’re given a free guide that gives information and there are plenty of plaques around giving out a plethora of knowledge, a lot of which I didn’t have prior.  I was able to see the reading table Dickens used in his public performances, the desk he wrote some of his books at, the copyright contracts with his authors, what his books looked like in serial form, and some of the belongings from his main residence in Kent.

It was overwhelming to climb the stairs knowing that one of my favourite authors once lived and breathed here and I felt incredibly close to him. It was as if the years were rolling away and I was alongside him in the 1800s, in the hustle and bustle of a middle-class home.

I find these aspects of history so mind-blowing: that we have record, to an extent, of people who lived hundreds of years before we were born and these traces in the present day showed that they once existed. That, even though they have long since left the world, their memories and stories can live on forever; as long as people keep sharing them.


Posted in discussion

Tag | To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

With a whole new wave of people – myself included – falling head over heels for To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, it was only a matter of time before someone created a tag. (And that lovely person was Frankinesce) but the wonderful Jemma of Fantastic Books was kind enough to tag me! Who knew I had bookish friends?!

I’ve also decided to do the same as Jemma and write letters to the books I’ve chosen!

Kenny From Camp AKA your first book love

Dear Great Expectations by Charles Dickens,

While you are by no means the first book I ever fell in love with, you were the first classic to capture my heart. When I sat in that English class and heard we’d be studying another lengthy classic I’d probably hate (ironic as I went on to do an English Degree) we read chapter one and eight of your story for analysis and I was hooked. The following weekend I convinced my mum to buy me the book and you’ve been a firm favourite ever since.

And yet, it’s hard to place why. The cast of characters are so diverse, as always with your creator’s works, but there’s no one I really relate to or see myself as. But I think the themes of feeling like you have to prove your worth to others constantly and the endless comparisons to those in better positions is still all to prevalent in daily life.

Also, I think Pip should have stopped chasing Estella.

John Ambrose McClaren AKA the book that got away (a book that may not be your all-time favourite now, but you’ll always love it)

Dear The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis

Hi, it’s me again. Sadly I admit it’s been quite a while and we didn’t get on the last time I paid you a visit, but I felt I needed to check in.

Obviously there are many books that came before you, but you are the first series I remember reading before Harry Potter came along and swept you under the bed like Woody in Toy Story when Andy brings home Buzz Lightyear.

You gave me my first thirst for not just fictional worlds, but magical ones. From talking animals, to princes and evil witches and doors at the back of wardrobes. I remember exactly how it felt to read you that very first time: the way it made my heart pound as I thumbed the pages. It’s like a permanent time stamp in my memory.

Sadly, as you remember from our last meeting, it seems I have outgrown you. And I’m not really sure what to do or say about it. But just know that the younger version of me loved you very much, and that will never change.


Lucas from Homecoming AKA your GBF (your favourite LGBTQ+ character or book)

Dear Magnus Bane from the Shadowhunter world,

You are the first time I saw my sexuality in fiction and it was a big moment for me. That simple line where you made your declaration without caring about what anyone else thought has given me the courage to start doing the same. I found comfort in you and the stories you littered and you’ve given me the self-love and bravery in terms of my sexuality that I hadn’t possessed before. The fact that you also play an important part of the series shows that you can stand at the forefront and you can be loved.

Josh Sanderson AKA the book next door ( a book that you’ll love no matter how many times you read it)

Dear The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald,

Admittedly, I only read you because of the news of a movie adaptation, but I could never have prepared myself for how much of a place you’d take up in my heart. I relate a lot to Nick and how he always assumes the best in people only to get burned later on, and how he has this innocence and wonder for the big city.

I love the theme of not being able to let go of the past and how Gatsby is so eager to replicate everything when he gets a chance to meet his lost love again. But the fact he wants them to be the old versions of themselves leads to his inevitable downfall. There’s so much to think about in such a short book.

Peter Kavinsky AKA your one true book love

Dear Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K.Rowling,

The reasons I love you are seemingly endless, as you well know. Whenever I need to take some time away from the real world and return to my familiar friends in th wizarding world, you’re always the one I turn to.

I think this is because you’re the real game changer in the series. As history seems destined to repeat itself, that sense of hopelessness creeps in but you provide that flicker of light; the way to win. We have to be careful who we trust and start to learn the importance of having a support network. I also really value the Septumsempera chapter because it shows that Harry and Malfoy are parallels: they’re both two boys forced onto paths they never wanted or expected, caught up in something so much bigger than themselves.

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Favourite Opening Lines

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of opening lines. After all, once you get past the blurb and the cover, it’s those precious first few sentences that can captive your attention and encourage you to delve further into the story. So I’ve decided to share some of my favourite opening lines with no summaries of what the stories are about. Quite simply just the opening lines.


Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 


My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 


First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things. 
Or at least, how I try. 

Here is a small fact: you are going to die. 
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald


In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie


All Children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful,  for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. 

I Capture A Castle by Dodie Smith


I write this sitting in the kitchen ink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.

Twilight  by Stephenie Meyer 


I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly pleasantly back at me. Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs



I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman. 


What are some of your favourite opening lines?



Posted in review

The Signalman – Charles Dickens

“There is danger overhanging, somewhere on the Line. Some dreadful calamity will happen.”



Blurb: “When the narrator of Charles Dickens’ masterful ghost story The Signalman climbs down into lonely railway siding on a whim, he finds himself in ‘as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw… it struck chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.’ His misgivings turn out to be justified, for the signalman who lives there has a secret, a ghostly visitor who has twice warned him of impending disaster, and now appears again, foretelling a coming catastrophe that neither man can predict or understand.”

Anyone who know me, will know how much I adore Charles Dickens. When I discovered this short story and that it was the last of his works to be written to completion, how could I resist?

In real life, Charles Dickens had a mistress named Ellen Ternan. One day the duo were on board a train when it derailed, leading to the death of ten people. Dickens was greatly affected by the events and experienced symptoms we would recognise in modern day as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He wrote The Signalman a year after the incident and then went on to write The Mystery Of Edwin Drood but died before its completion.

The Signalman is a ghost story about an unnamed narrator who goes down to the tracks one day to see the lonely man who works by the tunnel. Through their conversation, the signalman reveals the strange happenings at his outpost which he believes are a prelude to a fatal accident.

Dickens had a fantastic way of writing gothic and setting up scenes that can’t help but make you feel uncomfortable. It’s just so well thought out (even with the short length) and just a testament to the wonderfully talented writer I know Dickens to be.
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Posted in children's fiction, contemporary, review

The Last Of The Spirits – Chris Priestley



Blurb: “On the bleak streets of London, Sam is freezing and hungry. When he is rudely refused help by Ebenezer Scrooge, Sam vows to kill the selfish man. But later, while Sam is huddled in a graveyard, a ghost warns him of the terrible fate that awaits if he chooses the path of murder. And so Sam begins  journey led by terrifying spirits through past, present and future. After which he must decide his own destiny.”

I found this book when I was browsing through the Christmas sales on Bloomsbury’s website. The second I saw this utterly gorgeous cover I was intrigued. When I discovered that is is a re-imagining of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, I had to get it.

Before I delve into the initial plot and my overall thoughts, I just want to point out something that really annoyed me about this book. From the blurb you can see that a boy called Sam is an important, central character to the book. However, on the cover you can see two children, and in the story Sam has a sister who, for some reason, is not mentioned on the blurb. It kind of threw me off a bit, I will admit.

So this story follows homeless orphans Sam and Lizzie who wander the streets of London looking for someone to give them a little bit of hope during this Christmas time. They fall into the path of the notorious Scrooge and when he rather impolitely refuses to help, Sam is overcome with a desire to kill this foul man. They seek refuge for the night in a graveyard where the spirit of a ghost – Scrooge’s old partner Marely – appears and warns Sam of what will happen if he continues down the dark path he is contemplating. Marely says that he will give Scrooge the chance to change and will send three ghosts (the ghosts of past, present, and future) to help him see the error of his ways. Through certain circumstances Sam and Lizzie try to catch the spirits in the act and Sam ends up seeing some of what the ghosts show Scrooge. The ghost of the future then turns on Sam and shows him what the future will be for him and his sister if he does kill Scrooge.

As you can see, it’s quite a dark, festive read but also very short (166 pages).

Sam and Lizzie are very different children. Lizzie, despite their situation, is quite accepting of the injustice they have, and continue to, receive, lucky that simply she is alive. On the other hand, Sam has grown to be a bitter young boy, believing that he deserves a lot more than what has been handed to him and is determined to change his life. It made for more of an interesting narrative with the focus being on him, but I did feel like Lizzie was a very swept-under-the-rug minor character despite being involved in quite a big portion of the story (And being part of the reason Sam inevitably changes).

I understood the hatred Sam possessed but it felt a bit too much at times for me and Lizzie just seeming to miss some of the important plot moments was disappointing. It would have been nice to see some of her thoughts and be more of a part of the moral journey her brother took rather than becoming essentially an after-thought.

One thing I love about adaptations of a novel that already exists is links to the original and there are quite a few such as the focus on the Cratchit family who still play that ever vital part in this book.

And of course, the overall moral of the story is still there.
Now I’m going to put on my over-sized hoodie, sit by the fire and read another book!


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Posted in review

Manga Classics: Great Expectations – Nokman Poon, Crystal S Chan and Stacy King


Blurb: “Great Expectations has it all: romance, mystery, comedy, and unforgettable characters woven through a gripping rags-to-riches tale. Naive Pip, creepy Miss Haversham, beautifully cold Estella, terrifying Abel Magwitch, and the rest of Dicken’s fantastic cast are perfectly envisioned in this new adaptation in this 300-plus page volume featuring artwork by artist Nokman Poon. Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

Without a doubt Great Expectations is one of my favourite books. I was introduced to this book (and Charles Dickens) in High School when we were studying Chapters 1 and 8 in my English class. I instantly fell in love and brought the book as soon as I could. There’s just something about the characters, story and writing that ha stayed with me over the years. So when Undon Entertainment sent me a manga edition of it to review, I was overjoyed.

If you want to read Great Expectations but the idea of tackling Charles Dickens’ wordiness makes you want to run away, then this is the edition for you: a lot of the story is condensed, leaving behind the important plot points to focus on.

The art is utterly beautiful, the design of the characters is so distinctive and just so elegant. Not to mention the scenery images are gorgeous.The only issue I have is that Pip is from a low class background and can’t read or write well, let alone speak at an “acceptable standard” but in this edition, he speaks like someone educated from the very start. I felt like this was out of character.

I’m happy that a manga classics series is allowing more people access to Dickens. And if you’re a manga fan, I highly recommend this!

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