Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

A Cover Is Not The Book

Recently, I went to see Mary Poppins Returns in the cinema and I absolutely loved every single second of it. But among all the familiarity, the contrast of colours and the pure magic weaved into its story, one song in particular stuck out to me.

The song is called “A Cover Is Not The Book” and tackles the topic of how really you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because then you’ll be surprised and find that your preconceptions were actually quite wrong. It got me thinking about some books I’ve come across where I wasn’t that enamored with the cover but, whether through knowledge of the author or hearing many good things, I decided to continue on and see what happens.

So here’s a list, in no particular order, of books where I hated the covers, but really loved the story:

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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Did you really think this would be the year where I didn’t mention The Great Gatsby at any given opportunity? One of my favourite books of all time but has a truly appalling original cover. Of course, like with many classics, there are many different editions out there but I chose to stick with the original as this was the cover of the copy I read. It was purely because of the 2013 adaption that I picked this book up so that I could experience the story for myself. Little did I know that the glitz and glamour of 1920’s parties, luscious prose and complex, intoxicating characters would have me coming back for many a reread.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 

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I promise that this list isn’t going to include all my favourite books! Another book that I picked up because of an upcoming film adaptation, City of Bones was a game changer for me.  After devouring this book and its subsequent partners, I took a shift in my reading life to YA fantasy and also realised it was the kind of stuff that I wanted to write more of. A tale packed full of half angel- half human individuals battling demons in a world of warlocks, vampires and werewolves. There sure is something for everyone.

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi 

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea made it onto my list of favourite books for last year. It follows a Muslim teenager called Shirin as she tackles school and wider society a year on from the events of 9/11. She is an incredible well-rounded character with so many layers to her than what those see around her, and I actually really liked the romance in it. The cover itself, however, I just found a bit bland. I get the effect of showing the reflection in water but I feel that it’s just too simplistic.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab 

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Victoria Schwab is an auto-buy author for me so most of the time I pick up her books not really knowing that much about them. City of Ghosts is a prime example of the US cover being infinitely better than the UK cover. I just really don’t like the way the red and black blend together and it makes it actually hurt my eyes to look at. The story, however, is fantastic. It’s about a girl who can see ghosts and sometimes step into the veil to the other side. It will appeal greatly to fans of Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

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Again, another one where I feel that the cover is a bit too simple. But the story is outstanding, and turned into an equally amazing film adaptation. It’s about a boy called August with a facial disfigurement who starts his first year in public school after being home schooled. It’s multiple perspective which works really well to see into the minds of other characters and how they view August. It’s a tearjerker, so make sure you have tissues handy.

So that’s my list! What are some books that you loved but didn’t like the cover?

Alternatively, what are some of your favourite book covers?

 

 

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 adult fiction, review

The Beautiful And The Damned – F.Scott Fitzgerald

“In this state he considered that he would one day accomplish some quiet subtle thing that the elect would deem worthy, and, passing on, would join the dimmer stars in a nebulous, indeterminate heaven half-way between and immortality.”

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Blurb: “Anthony and Gloria are the essence of Jazz Age glamour. A brilliant and magnetic couple, they fling themselves at life with an energy that is thrilling. New York is a playground where they dance and drink for days on end. Their marriage is a passionate theatrical performance; they are young, rich, alive and lovely and they intend to inherit the earth. But as money becomes tight, their marriage becomes impossible. And with their inheritance still distant, Anthony and Gloria must grow up and face reality; they may be beautiful but they are also damned.”

The Beautiful And The Damned is the second book that F.Scott Fitzgerald released and has been labelled “too pessimistic” due to its themes of love, money and social commentary. Many critics believe that Fitzgerald drew from his own marriage with his wife, Zelda, to populate the story.

Readers are first introduced to Anthony. A typical New York socialite biding his time until he can finally claim his inheritance. We are guided through his back story and told of his hopes and worries before he finally sets his eyes on Gloria and he is instantly besotted. From the outset, it feels like we are supposed to root for Anthony: he’s very likeable and often engages in deep discussions, showing his vulnerability.

Gloria, on the other hand, is not pleasant to endure. From the initial introduction, it is clear that she is the type of woman who wants to rebel against what is expected of her in the time period: She is young and beautiful and wishes to stay that way forever. She doesn’t want to marry and gains much enjoyment from having several men vying for her attention. While Anthony works on ideas about how to win her heart, she is very much open to whoever she can get her hands on; much to Anthony’s dismay.

This is very much a character driven story. It’s a quiet story about two people who fall in love, get married and then start to really see the other person. It’s a deep insight into how well we really know the people around us. Once he gets the girl, Anthony’s anxious side suddenly arises and he often mistreats Gloria when she is in one of her moods. Gloria is insufferable: complaining constantly about Anthony’s failures to get a job, how she is going to age, how having children will ruin her body. Her interactions with Anthony seem to read as her deciding to marry him in order to shut up everyone else in her life.

While The Great Gatsby precedes this novel (it was published three years after The beautiful  And The Damned), I feel that a lot of my enjoyment from this book is down to the comparisons I could make between Anthony and Jay Gatsby, and Gloria and Daisy. I can only assume that their relationship is what lit the spark for Fitzgerald to pursue a new story that would become one of the most successful books he ever wrote.

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Posted in discussion

The Failure of The Great Gatsby

“I know Gatsby better than I know my own child. My first instinct was to let him go and have Tom Buchanan dominate the book but Gatsby sticks in my heart. I had him for a while, then lost him, and now I know I have him again.”

– Fitzgerald in a letter to Maxwell Perkins (December 1924)

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Originally titled Trimalchio In The West Egg, F.Scott Fitzgerald began work on The Great Gatsby in June 1922. After the success of his first two novels, Fitzgerald was sure that his new working progress would be the one to cement him as a literary writer.

Many critics and historians have tried to find the links between Fitzgerald’s situations and those his characters find themselves in, of which there are quite a few. But what I find most interesting is how fascinated Fitzgerald seemed to be with the period of time he lived in himself. In October 1922, Fitzgerald, his wife, and new-born moved to Long Island which would become the geographical base of his next novel. The house they lived in was small compared the homes of the wealthy New-Yorkers around them and money caused Fitzgerald no end of stress throughout his life. So it’s no surprise to see these themes make their way into The Great Gatsby; Especially during a time when technology was on the rise in the form of photographs and cars and the rise of consumerism.

The Great Gatsby was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons on April 10th 1925. On the same day, Fitzgerald contacted his editor, Maxwell Perkins, to ask if there had been any news, to which Perkins responded “sales situation doubtful, but excellent reviews.” As I mentioned earlier, Fitzgerald was sure his latest publication would be a commercial success, and hope he would sell as many as 75,000 copies. By October of the same year, The Great Gatsby had sold 20,000 copies. Critic response was incredibly mixed; and what many believe led to the period of self-doubt which Fitzgerald carried until the day he died. As to be expected, the negative reactions to the book were notable: One of the most memorable being from Harvey Eagleton for The Dallas Morning News who wrote “one finishes Great Gatsby with a feeling of regret, not for the fate of the people in the book, but for Mr. Fitzgerald.”

Fitzgerald felt that everyone, both with good and bad things to say, had missed the point he was trying to make with the book and (sorry to any ladies who swoon over him like I do) he blamed the bad reception, in part, on women being the main readers of literature at the time, and that they were put off by the lack of “admirable women” in the story.

Despite all of this, Scribner’s kept the book in print and the first edition remained on their trade list until 1946, by which time The Great Gatsby was available in three other print forms. In total, Fitzgerald earned only $8,397 from the book in his lifetime.

As critics continued to beat down his other books and with a stream of endless rejections, his wife’s illness led to him writing only short stories as a means to gain money quicker to pay for her care. F.Scott Fitzgerald died December 21st 1940 believing he was a failure.

However, this tale has a slightly happier ending. During World War II, publishing executives, under the “Council on Books in Wartime”, distributed paperback books to the fighting soldiers overseas. 155,000 copies of The Great Gatsby were among them. This led to streams of articles being written about Fitzgerald’s works in 1944. The book began to sell 50.000 copies a year and editor Arthur Mizener (The New York Times) labelling it “a classic of twentieth-century American fiction” certainly did a lot to help. As of 2013, The Great Gatsby had sold over 25 million copies worldwide. With the glitzy Baz Lurhman adaptation in 2013 and many educational institutions adding the book to reading lists, Fitzgerald is finding his way into new hearts every day.

F.Scott Fitzgerald died believing that he had failed as a writer. But that was not right. He just hadn’t found his audience yet.

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“America’s greatest promise is that something is going to happen, and after a while you get tired of waiting because nothing happens to American art because America is the story of the moon that never rose.”

-Fitzgeraald in a letter to Marya Mannes (October 1925

Posted in discussion

Books I Want To Reread

The biggest piece of advice I give anyone who finds themselves stuck in a bit of a reading slump is read your favourite books again or reread books you once loved deeply. Dear reader, I am finally taking some of my own advice.

I wrote a list of fifteen books in total that I would like to revisit; for obvious reasons this list did not include works such as Harry Potter. I write the names down onto individual slips of paper, folded them up and commandeered my TBR jar for the purposes of this experiment. After I’d given the jar a good shake, I decided to pick out four books to start off with.

I plan on making my thoughts on rereads into a series here on my blog. But this will not be a fixed segment which means that I will post an update as and when I read them; though it will be made clear in the title if it’s part of this new series or not.

So let’s get into the books:

Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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The story follows a boy called Simon has been emailing another boy at his school. But when the emails get leaked and Simon’s sexuality is at risk of being made public, Simon quickly finds himself in an uncomfortable positon.

I know what you’re thinking: will Charlotte ever stop talking about Becky Albertalli? The answer is no. This made my list of favourite books in 2015 and admittedly I haven’t picked it up again since then. But this a rather promising-looking adaptation due to hit the big screen this year, it seems like the perfect time to give this another read.

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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The story follows a man called Nick who moved next door to a big mansion in Long Island during the Jazz Age. After receiving an invitation to one of the many lavish parties held by his neighbour – Jay Gatsby- Nick soon learns that no one has seen or met the man. He is quite simply a mystery to everyone.

I know you’re all probably sick of hearing me talk about this book but it’s one of my all-time favourites for a reason. This is such a beautifully written, poetic tale with so many complex characters. This Penguin’s Modern Classics cover is also my favourite of the many redesigns The Great Gatsby has received. I won’t be doing another review on here for it in terms of reread thoughts because I’ve actually already done one which can be found here.
Eleanor And Park by Rainbow Rowell

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If you’re looking for a cute, all-consuming YA Contemporary love story, then Eleanor and Park is the book for you. I find it so hard to talk about YA romance without giving anyway any important details. But just know it’s beautiful.

The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly 

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This is another book that’s difficult to describe without giving away the main points of the plot. But at its core, The Book Of Lost Things is about a boy coming to terms with the death of his mother and his reality and imagination sort of merge together with a  fairytale twist.

And that’s what I’m planning on rereading! Do you have any plans to revisit some old favourites?

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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 

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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 

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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

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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

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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

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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 

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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

 

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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, romance

The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald

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Blurb: “Generally considered to be F.Scott Fitzgerald’s finest novel, The Great Gatsby is a consummate summary of the ‘roaring twenties’ and a devastating expose of the ‘jazz age.’ Through the narration of Nick Carraway, the reader is taken into the superficially glittering world of the mansions which lined the Long Island shore of the American seaboard in the 1920s, to encounter Nick’s cousin Daisy, Jay Gatsby and the dark mystery which surrounds him.”

 

If anyone was to ask me which books are my absolute favourites of all time, I would tell them that The Great Gatsby has sat very comfortably in my top three from the moment I finished reading it. I have read it many times, and the great joy about this book is that I learn something new/gain a new perspective almost every time I re-read it.

Although I have to admit, I first read it for slightly selfish reasons: Leonardo DiCaprio had just been cast for the Upcoming 2013 adaptation. So I picked up a copy to read it in preparation for that. If that wasn’t the case, this book would probably have sailed by me without notice. Alas, I didn’t expect to come out of the initial reading experience of this book feeling quite changed, or that it would bring on a book hangover that would last me four months.

The story follows Nick Carraway who moves to the West Egg district of Long Island where he intends to become a part of the Bond business in New York. He is a man of small money and subscribes to the idea of the American Dream (“life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth). He lives across the bay from his cousin Daisy who is married to the rich Tom Buchanan who believes very firmly that white people are the superior race and it should stay that way.  But these are not the focus of Nick’s curiosity, that role is taken by the mysterious Jay Gatsby who lives in the mansion next to him, and occasionally throws lavish parties which are attended by thousands. One day Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. Upon his arrival, Nick discovers that he is the only person to be given an invitation – the other guests have simply turned up. Not only that, but no one has actually seen Gatsby in person.

 

What initially looks like a short (115 pages in the Wordsworth edition) story about elitist, rich folks in the roaring twenties has many cracks forming under the surface. While Daisy seems to be naive, selfish and stupid, one line she utters about her daughter in the book gave me chills, and this one simple line changed my perception of her: “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” Albeit it only a tiny bit.

Nick is the perfect example of a person getting wrapped up too much in other people’s problems and failing to see the monumental flaws they have. He seems unable to see someone outside of the pedestal he so highly places them on.

And Gatsby?
Well, you’ll have to pick up this truly phenomenal book to find out more about him.

The writing is utterly gorgeous and I can only hope that the rest of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s work lives up to this wonder.  Honestly, I could talk non-stop for hours about how much I love this book.

Also the 2013 adaptation conveys everything I love about this novel, despite apparently being very controversial. But who knows, maybe I’ll do a blog post on that another day.

 

 

 

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