Category Archives: Literature

Reading Challenge 2020: Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee



Hello Lovelies!

May is gifting us with some glorious sunshine right now so I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the book I read for the Reading Challenge: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. This book was perfect for the focus of this month: Read a book about hope and growth. Feel free to remind yourself of the different themes for each month here. Harper Lee was an exceptional writer. Like many others, To Kill A Mockingbird was a book I read for GCSE and it has stayed with me ever since. I’ve had the privilege of teaching this too which provides another way of looking at things. I remember when this book came out and the hype and media attention around it. You are probably aware that it was initially promoted as a sequel to TKAM but it is now being seen as a first draft. Regardless, being older now, obviously, I wanted to see whether my opinions changed on the characters and themes being presented. It’s left me thinking I need to read TKAM again really! Let’s see how it goes!


What’s it all about?

Told through the eyes of Jean Louise Finch, or “Scout” as we also know her, the novel opens with her arrival to her hometown Maycomb, Alabama from New York. This is her annual fortnight long visit to see her father Atticus her Uncle Jay and Aunt Alexandra, the latter replacing Calpurnia’s place following her retirement. We learn that Jem, her brother, died of a heart condition which also killed their mother. Jean Louise is met by her childhood sweetheart, Henry “Hank” Clinton who is working for her father.

“She was almost in love with him. No, that’s impossible, she thought: either you are or you aren’t. Love’s the only thing in this world that is unequivocal. There are different kinds of love, certainly, but it’s a you-do or you-don’t proposition with them all.”

When returning from Finch’s Landing, Jean Louise and Henry are overtaken by a car full of black men, travelling at a frantic speed. This example of dangerous driving leads Hank to tell Jean Louise that many black people now are driving around without insurance and licences. As a result, this leads to Jean Louise reflecting upon this and dealing with the minor scandal that it causes in the community.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are introduced as sources of great controversy in the community. Whilst at home, Jean Louise finds a leaflet entitled “The Black Plague” among her father’s papers. Naturally outraged, Jean Louise decides to follow her father to a Citizens’ Council meeting. Here, Atticus introduces a man who delivers an incredible racist speech. Horrified from the balcony, Jean Louise listens, outraged. She’s unable to forgive her father for betraying her and flees the hall.

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”

That night, Jean Louise dreams of Calpurnia, her family’s black maid and mother figure to her and Jem for most of their lives. Over breakfast with her father, Jean Louise learns that Calpurnia’s grandson killed a drunk pedestrian the previous night whilst speeding in his car. Atticus agrees to take the legal case to prevent the NAACP from getting involved. It is following this that Jean Louise decides to visit Calpurnia. Whilst retaining their manners, Calpurnia and her family are polite but cold. As a result, Jean Louise leaves utterly devastated.

Deep down this is eating away at Jean Louise. She has to know what her father was doing at that meeting. Uncle Jack tells her that that Atticus hasn’t become a racist but he is trying to slow down federal government interaction into state politics. Following this, Jean Louise receives a lengthy lecture about race, politics and the history of the South. His aim is to get her to reach a conclusion that she struggles to grasp.

Jean Louise then has a flashback to her teenage years and recalls an incident where Atticus plants the seed for an idea in Henry’s brain and left him to come to the right conclusion independently. Jean Louise exclaims that she doesn’t love Henry and won’t ever marry him. She’s incredibly vocal at her disgust at seeing him and her father at that council meeting. In reaction to this, Henry explains that sometimes people have to do things that they just don’t want to. This is a fact of life that we can all relate to!

“Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.”

Henry defends his case by saying that the reason he is part of the Citizens’ Council is because he wants to use his intelligence to make an impact and a difference on Maycomb, the hometown where he wants to make money and raise a family. Jean Louise screams that she could never live with a hypocrite, only to then notice her father standing behind her, smiling.

During a heated discussion with Jean Louise, Atticus argues that the blacks of the South are not ready for full civil rights and the Supreme Court’s decision was unconstitutional and irresponsible. Reluctantly, Jean Louise does agree that the South is not ready to be fully integrated, she believes that the court was pushed into a corner by the NAACP and had to act. Jean Louise is confused and still devastated by her father. He is behaving in a way that is contrasting to how she was brought up and what he has taught her growing up. She returns to the family home and furiously packs her things. Just as she was about to leave, her uncle comes home.

“The only thing I’m afraid of about this country is that its government will someday become so monstrous that the smallest person in it will be trampled underfoot, and then it wouldn’t be worth living in.”

Angrily, she complains to him and he slaps her around the face. He wants her to consider what has happened over the last two days and how she has processed them. Slowly, slowly, she decides that she can stand them. It is bearable because she is absolutely her own person. As a youngster, she fastened her conscience to her father’s, assuming that her answers would be his answers. Atticus wanted to break her idols so she could reduce him to the status of human being – a very difficult lesson to learn and experience.

Jean Louise then goes back to the office and makes a date with Henry. She reflects that Maycomb has taught him things she had never known. She goes to apologise to her father, but he tells her of his pride for her. As a father, he wants her to stand up for what she thinks is right. Jean Louise didn’t want her world disturbed but she tried to crush the man who was trying to preserve it for her. Telling him that she loves him, she silently welcomes him to the human race. For the first time ever, she sees him as literally, just a man. Not an idol.

 “You wouldn’t have listened to him. You couldn’t have listened. Our gods are remote from us, Jean Louise. They must never descend to human level.”

Final Thoughts

This book is exceptional in every sense of the word. I loved seeing an older Jean Louise and to watch the lessons she learns at her age. She is inevitably changed by the big city of New York but her lessons clearly are vital for her home background too. I do naturally want to call her Scout, but we must remember she is an adult here! It’s always jarring when reading about race because it’s naturally a difficult subject to discuss. However, it’s representation here is delicate. I said at the start that I think Harper Lee is an excellent writer! This didn’t disappoint but just remind yourself, this is not To Kill A Mockingbird. I found myself naturally trying to make links and connections which is very natural. I missed Jem, but the links Jean Louise made helped with this. Overall, a great book!

Big Love all xx




Filed under American Literature, Book review, Literature, Reading, Reading Challenge 2020

The Toy Makers – Robert Dinsdale

Hi Everyone!

Happy 1st March and World Book Day! Today I wanted to share with you a book I’ve just finished reading. I have to say, I absolutely loved it. I cannot emphasise that enough. It was just so magical, so gripping, so enchanting. It’s become one of my favourite books ever. Therefore, I absolutely had to share this with you. A bonus: the cover is absolutely beautiful too.

What’s it all about?

Set in the early 1900s in London, this book is told mainly through the eyes of 15 year old Cathy Wray. It centres around a magical Emporium, owned by Papa Jack, which opens at the first frost and closes on the appearance of snowdrops. The toys are magical and awe inspiring. It’s a place where children’s dreams are fulfilled.

‘Come, go in after him. You would not be the first. Children are already tugging on their parents’ hands; a pair of young lovers hurry to make secrets of their gifts to one another; an old man unwinds his scarf as he hobbled in, if only to feel like a boy again.’

However, Cathy has a problem. She’s 15, pregnant and her parents are none too pleased. They arrange for her baby to be given away once it’s born. Until then, Cathy is kept in hiding at home. Her sister, Lizzy, brings her a newspaper as something to read and entertain herself with. Little did she know that this would be where her adventure begins.

‘Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart? So are we.’

When Cathy reaches the Emporium, she meets Papa Jack. It becomes clear he has a different name, a past life much more tragic than his life now. Papa Jack set up his extraordinary toyshop after arriving from Eastern Europe and Tsarist Russia. He is the father of two young boys he had not seen for many years. Originally a carpenter, Papa Jack crafts exquisite toys out of a variety of materials, such as pine cones and twigs.

‘The most terrible things can happen to a man, but he’ll never lose himself if he remembers he was once a child.’

His two sons, Kaspar and Emil, are also incredible toymakers. Each are thoughtful regarding the sibling rivalry about who will inherit the Emporium in the future. Each make amazing and magical toys; soldiers who battle, night lights with changeable scenes, toy boxes which deal with space, paper trees and my favourite in the Emporium, a complete Wendy House.

‘When you are young, what you want from toys is to feel grown up… Yet, when you are grown, that changes: now, what you want out of toys is to feel young again. You want to be back there, in a place that did not harm or hurt you in a pocket of time built out of memory and love.’

Both Emil and Kaspar take a keen interest in Cathy. When the end of the season arrives and Cathy has to leave, a decision is made for her to live in the Wendy house on the shop floor. Each realise that she’s getting bigger! Both brothers visit her as well as the patchwork dog (desperately wanting one of these now!) Cathy has her baby, a girl named Martha. Time to come clean. Papa Jack allows her to stay at the Emporium. He shows her, using the crank of a toy, the story of Jekabs Godman, his role in a war and how he survived. The tragic tale coming to life.

‘I’d found a kind of… a magic, if you will. A way of reaching the soul of a man.’

The next part of the book jumps to 1914 where the threat of war is more than possible. Cathy and Kaspar are the perfect parents to little Martha. The Emporium acts as a safety blanket for most. And yet, war is fast approaching. Emil tries and fails to sign up to serve his country but Kaspar succeeds. As promised, he writes to Cathy every day. However, the narrative is too positive and Cathy is suspicious. She speaks Papa Jack who reveals a magic book in which father and son have been communicating in. The harsh reality of war is revealed. The narrative here is tear jerking, heartbreaking with every description.

‘For the boys I travel with, tomorrow will be their first taste of foreign air. They ask me about the world as if I know anything of it, when the truth is, that, to me, those years before the Emporium are a dream.’

Rather accurately, Kaspar returns from war a changed man. He’s a ghost of his former self, rarely speaking. However, it is the change in the Emporium that bothers him most. The toys have lost a little magic, the shoppers are different, the men are broken in search of a simpler time. It is Emil’s soldiers that cause the biggest reaction in him.

‘And then he was back there. Back where his fingers were grimed in scarlet and black. Back in his uniform, with pieces of his second lieutenant’s brain smeared across his face. His ears were full of the sounds, his nose was full of the smells. He screamed and screamed.’

It was from this moment that the toys needed to change. The death of Papa Jack meant that there was no number one in charge. The sibling rivalry continued. Kaspar was working on something, something different, something big. Martha knew it too. She wasn’t a little girl anymore. Yet, when her father disappeared, more was left unanswered. All that remained were Emil’s toy soldiers, changed.

‘But Papa Jack’s Emporium must endure where I cannot, and so must you my darling.’

The novel ends with an older Cathy living with Martha as a nanny for her two children; the next generation of children to be wowed by tales from the Emporium. It’s pure magic to the last page. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you. But I completely didn’t expect it!


Read it and love it. Experience your childhood again. Revel in the absolute joy of incredible toys. Worry and feel fear through the war years with the family. Feel like a child again. Dream in magic. I cannot praise or rate this book enough. I love it.

Big love all xx


Filed under Book review, Literature, Magic

Beatrix Potter – 150 Years Young

Today marks a special date in the literary world. It is the 150th birthday of the one and only Beatrix Potter. The legacy she leaves behind is remarkable. She was a keen writer, illustrator and sheep farmer. Her beautiful house is available to look around. It is as she left it, with her nick-nacks placed as she wished. The National Trust are looking after her property and grounds now. 

To celebrate, a few weeks ago I found this lovely looking book from a National Trust shop. I can’t wait to learn more about the books I loved growing up. There are some beautiful photos in this book too. 

There have already been special coins by Royal Mint released earlier this year to mark this occasion. I’ve been on the look out but I’m yet to find one! I’ll definitely keep trying though! (Images below from Google) 

Today, the Royal Mail have released new stamps as well to celebrate this amazing woman. They are so cute! I will have to get myself a set of these. (Image from Google) 

So, I’ve been thinking about how I can mark this birthday in my own way, in a way that’s special to me. I’d love to visit her house, but the chances of that are quite unlikely due to distance. Therefore, I’ve decided that this summer I am going to read my favourite Beatrix Potter stories, in the garden, in the sunshine. There’s no bigger tribute that I can give as one person. Without people reading her stories, her legacy would have died long ago. Let’s keep the magic alive. 

A hearty thanks to Beatrix. You’ve made many a childhood more exciting and adventurous. You’ve made children love the outdoors and animals. I have vast memories of reading these stories at my Grandma’s house as a youngster. 

Finally, it’s important to remember this:

Beatrix Potter lovers out there, what are you doing to mark such a special birthday? Have you been lucky enough to get one of the 50p coins yet? 

Big love all xx


Filed under Beatrix Potter, Birthday, Children's Literature, Literature, National Trust

The Top 20 Most Read School Books

Hey guys! 
I apologise for vanishing recently. Exam season is well underway, but, there’s only one English exam left. There’s nothing much else I can do on that front, but I am avoiding the fact that I have a 12 mile sponsored walk on Friday… So, whilst I had a spare five minutes I stumbled across this list of the Top 20 Most Read School Books. I saw this on the Independent website. (Top 20 Most Read School Books) This is a really interesting list. 

2000 adults were asked their favourite books from school. Thus, this list was created. 

As an English teacher, these sorts of lists really interest me. Also, there’s always a lot of talk about specific texts that all children should be reading and studying at school. In the UK everything has changed again recently regarding what should be studied for GCSE and A Level and there are new texts that we need to cover. I only wonder what this list will be like in 5 or 10 years time. 

I wanted to take this time to discuss these books and when I first experienced them. I’m really interested to see your relationships with these books too. 

The Top 20 Most Read School Books:

1. Animal Farm – George Orwell

I first read Animal Farm 3 years ago and wondered what it was really all about. I didn’t get it. I studied Russian history for A Level and that truly confused me. There were so many names to remember! But, on my next reading I saw what the fuss was really about. It’s a gripping and quite a challenging read. It’s a book that makes me feel so sad actually. 

2. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Oh boy I love this book. I love love love it. It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s also slightly heartbreaking. It contains some of the most prolific characters in fiction. I have no idea when I first read this, but I always recommend it for people to read. 

3. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Confession time… I’ve never read this book. It is on my TBR pile (along with 54298274657 others…) However, I have a feeling I’ll need to read this book this summer as its on our Year 7 schemes of work! I also have to confess I don’t know too much about it. *hangs head in shame*

4. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

This has to be one of my favourite books ever. I’ve loved teaching it earlier this year as well. It’s a huge shame that it’s been cut from all of the GCSE specifications. I genuinely believe that this is one of those books that everyone needs to read. You learn something from it each time you read it. I first read this as a fresh faced 15 year old at school. I can remember how I felt at the time. I can’t believe this book has been a part of my life for 10 years. 

5. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontè

Now I came to read this book as an A level student and my mind was blown. I found it really difficult to understand who was narrating when. I had to write it at the top of every chapter. Once you get past the complexity, you get carried away with the plot. I can never think of this book without thinking of Kate Bush…

6. Macbeth – William Shakespeare

I’m on a bit of a Macbeth overload at the minute because I’m teaching it to 3 classes! But, there is a reason as to why it is so popular. It’s just as popular today as it was in Shakespearean times. Lady Macbeth is one of my favourite all time female characters. She’s absolutely fascinating. 

7. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare 

Ahhh Rom & Jules. My year 11s had their exam on this today. Just like them, this was a text I studied for my GCSEs. Everyone wants to meet their great love in their lives. I certainly did when I first read this. The Leonardo Di Caprio film certainly helped! I’m not sure on this great love thing now. Hmmm. Anyway, another classic that will probably outlive us all. 

8. A Midsummer’s Night Dream – William Shakespeare

I’m loving the amount of Shakespeare here. I realise it’s not everyone’s cup of tea though. However, this play is a lot of fun. It’s one that I came to much later in life, probably around 3 years ago. I saw a production in Stratford and it was magical. It contains one of my favourite quotes too: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” 

9. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck 

Another amazing novel and also the second part to my lovely year 11s exam today. It’s utterly devastating. It’s exploration of hope and dreams, friendship and trials it’s so detailed for such a little novel. The ending always makes me cry. Emotional times right there…

10. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

I remember reading this as a little girl. I picked it up in a book shop because it had my name on it. However, I remember feeling ridiculously scared when the spider came along. Varied memories for this one really! I was young though and I’ve not read it since. I do think I’ll read this again someday. It’s an interesting one on the list I think! 

11. Dracula – Bram Stoker 

Oh dear. I’m really not so good with scary books and for me this was terrifying! I read it for the first time last year (avoided it at university) as I was teaching it! It was awful. Thankfully my class were amazing and listened to my nightmares based on this book. They seemed to enjoy it though which is the main thing. It just isn’t my kind of book. I really don’t want to teach or read this again! 

12. An Inspector Calls – J.B. Priestley

Oh wow this little play is absolutely cracking. I LOVE it. I really need to see it on stage. I only discovered this a few years ago and it just left me thinking “WHAT?!” So I read it again. I’ve loved teaching it as well. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. It will literally keep you on the edge of your seat. 

13. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Frankenstein was on one of my reading lists at university. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t even heard of it! But, what I find fascinating is that this is written by a woman during a very masculine era. Again, I would say this is quite scary because of what it stands for. I’ll be teaching this next year so I need to re-read this again! 

14. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy 

Now… Another confession. I’ve never completely read all of this book. I’ve tried a number of times but it’s always defeated me! I’m a huge Hardy fan. It takes me back to my A levels, but this one just may be a little out of my zone. I will get there one day. I just think you have to be in a particular mood to read this. Maybe I’m just not smart enough! Haha. 

15. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Another book I’ve started and not finished. I think I started this athe wrong time. Not got too much to say, but maybe I’ll read it? I could do with knowing more about it really! Let me know what it’s about if you know. 

16. The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald

Oh I love this book. It’s one of my all time favourites. It’s amazing. If I’m ever in a bit of a reading slump I always turn to this book. It’s a healer. It makes me feel a whole host of emotions from love to rage and everything in between. I love the closing lines too: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.” You just can’t beat it. 

17. Much Ado About Nothing – William Shakespeare 

I’m loving the amount of Shakespeare on this list I have to say. This isn’t one of the plays that stands out as being most popular to me really, but, it has its own merits of course. It’s not my favourite and it isn’t one I’d rush to see. I’ve read it but I can’t remember too much about it. I guess that says it all really…

18. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker 

Oh this upsets me so much. I’ve never been able to finish it. I’ve tried to read this so many time and I’ve always failed. I just find it so sad. It’s a really sensitive novel by a fantastic writer. I do feel like a bit of a failure for not finishing it. I genuinely will try to at some point in my life. 

19. Journey’s End – R.C. Sherrif 

Another book I’ve never read, but my best friend has. The other English group to mine when I was in school studied this book and my group studied TKAM. I remember her complaining…but all teenagers do! The war setting will probably make me very emotional, but I will give it a go one day. Again, anyone who knows anything about this, let me know! 

20. Others – miscellaneous. 

‘Others’ got 20.7% of the vote, yet it’s not exactly specified which book that is. I’ve no idea what this means! I wish we were told… There could be a number of options here. What about Hamlet? Or a more modern text: Holes? I guess this one is up to us! 

In summary:

  • I’ve read 14 out of the 20 
  • I’ve attempted 3 out of the 20
  • I plan to read the remaining 5

What about you? What did you love when you were at school? I feel so lucky that some of these books have been a part of my life for 10 or more years. It’s really unbelievable. Yet, I’ve learned there’s always something to be read. The TBR list really is never ending. 

Have a great evening all! 

Big love xx


Filed under Books, Literature

Penguin Little Black Classics – 46 New Titles


Hi everyone! 

Hope you’re all wonderful on this Thursday morning. 

I’ve kind of spoilt this post by the title – bit of a giveaway! Nevermind. But, Penguin have released 46 new titles to their Little Black Classic collection. Some of you may remember I bought all my year 11 students a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper from this collection last year. Therefore, I wanted investigate and to buy more of these to add to my original collection. I thought you’d all like to see too! (If you haven’t done so already of course.) 

I was very excited yesterday as I was able to pick up my latest titles from my local Waterstones. I’ve got one outstanding – Oscar Wilde’s Only Dull People Are Brilliant At Breakfast which I’m waiting patiently for. Oh Oscar. Anyway… 

I love the fact that they really are affordable fiction; small snapshots into a variety of literary worlds by a selection of fascinating writers. There’s a number of writers that I know nothing about, or have even heard of, and these little gems are a perfect way of reading new things you may be unsure of. 

The latest ones are a little more expensive than the original 80 at 80p (at £1-£2 each) but they are also a tad larger. Bonus: more reading material. 


I may set myself a challenge of reading them all, but this may be unrealistic. Some aren’t my cup of tea at all. Nevertheless, I may give it a bash. What do you think?

The complete collection of Little Black Classics are now as follows: 

  • Mrs Rosie and the Priest GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO
  • Bawdy tales of pimps, cuckolds, lovers and clever women from the fourteenth-century Florentine masterpiece The Decameron.
  • As kingfishers catch fire GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
  • The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
  • On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts THOMAS DE QUINCEY
  • Aphorisms on Love and Hate FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
  • Traffic JOHN RUSKIN
  • Wailing Ghosts PU SONGLING
  • A Modest Proposal JONATHAN SWIFT
  • Three Tang Dynasty Poets
  • On the Beach at Night Alone WALT WHITMAN
  • A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees KENKO
  • How to Use Your Enemies BALTASAR GRACIÁN
  • The Eve of St Agnes JOHN KEATS
  • Woman Much Missed THOMAS HARDY
  • Femme Fatale GUY DE MAUPASSANT
  • Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls MARCO POLO
  • Caligula SUETONIUS
  • Jason and Medea APOLLONIUS OF RHODES
  • The Communist Manifesto KARL MARX & FRIEDRICH ENGELS
  • Trimalchio’s Feast PETRONIUS
  • How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher’s Dog JOHANN PETER HEBEL
  • The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows RUDYARD KIPLING
  • Circles of Hell DANTE
  • Of Street Piemen HENRY MAYHEW
  • The nightingales are drunk HAFEZ
  • The Wife of Bath GEOFFREY CHAUCER
  • How We Weep and Laugh at the Same Thing MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE
  • The Terrors of the Night THOMAS NASHE
  • The Tell-Tale Heart EDGAR ALLAN POE
  • A Hippo Banquet MARY KINGSLEY
  • The Beautifull Cassandra JANE AUSTEN
  • Gooseberries ANTON CHEKHOV
  • Well, they are gone, and here must I remain SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
  • Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
  • The Great Winglebury Duel CHARLES DICKENS
  • The Maldive Shark HERMAN MELVILLE
  • The Old Nurse’s Story ELIZABETH GASKELL
  • The Steel Flea NIKOLAY LESKOV
  • The Atheist’s Mass HONORÉ DE BALZAC
  • Remember, Body… C.P. CAVAFY
  • The Great Fire of London SAMUEL PEPYS
  • The Reckoning EDITH WHARTON
  • The Figure in the Carpet HENRY JAMES
  • Anthem for Doomed Youth WILFRED OWEN
  • Socrates’ Defence PLATO
  • Sindbad the Sailor
  • Antigone SOPHOCLES
  • The Life of a Stupid Man RYŪNOSUKE AKUTAGAWA
  • How Much Land Does A Man Need? LEO TOLSTOY
  • Leonardo da Vinci GIORGIO VASARI
  • Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime OSCAR WILDE
  • The Old Man of the Moon SHEN FU
  • The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon AESOP
  • Lips too chilled MATSUO BASHŌ
  • The Night is Darkening Round Me EMILY BRONTË
  • To-morrow JOSEPH CONRAD
  • The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe RICHARD HAKLUYT
  • A Pair of Silk Stockings KATE CHOPIN
  • It was snowing butterflies CHARLES DARWIN
  • The Robber Bridegroom BROTHERS GRIMM
  • I Hate and I Love CATULLUS
  • Circe and the Cyclops HOMER
  • Il Duro D. H. LAWRENCE
  • The Fall of Icarus OVID
  • Come Close SAPPHO
  • Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands IVAN TURGENEV
  • O Cruel Alexis VIRGIL
  • A Slip under the Microscope H. G. WELLS
  • The Madness of Cambyses HERODOTUS
  • Speaking of Śiva
  • The Dhammapada
  • Lady Susan JANE AUSTEN
  • The World is Full of Foolish Men JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
  • The Sea Raiders H.G. WELLS
  • Hannibal LIVY
  • To Be Read at Dusk CHARLES DICKENS
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich LEO TOLSTOY
  • The Stolen White Elephant MARK TWAIN
  • Tyger, Tyger WILLIAM BLAKE
  • The Yellow Book
  • A Modern Detective EDGAR ALLAN POE
  • The Suffragettes
  • How To Be a Medieval Woman MARGERY KEMPE
  • The Nun of Murano GIACOMO CASANOVA
  • A terrible beauty is born W.B. YEATS
  • The Withered Arm THOMAS HARDY
  • Nonsense EDWARD LEAR
  • Letters to a Young Poet RAINER MARIA RILKE
  • Seven Hanged LEONID ANDREYEV
  • Oroonoko APHRA BEHN
  • O frabjous day! LEWIS CARROLL
  • Trivia: or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London JOHN GAY
  • The Sandman E. T. A. HOFFMANN
  • Love that moves the sun and other stars DANTE
  • The Queen of Spades ALEXANDER PUSHKIN
  • A Nervous Breakdown ANTON CHEKHOV
  • The Book of Tea KAKUZO OKAKURA
  • Is this a dagger which I see before me? WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
  • My life had stood a loaded gun EMILY DICKINSON
  • Daphnis and Chloe LONGUS
  • Matilda MARY SHELLEY
  • The Lifted Veil GEORGE ELIOT
  • Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast OSCAR WILDE
  • The Rule of Benedict
  • Anecdotes of the Cynics
  • Waterloo VICTOR HUGO
  • Stancliffe’s Hotel CHARLOTTE BRONTË

I’m off to enjoy my lovely little books. I may start with a little Nonsense from Edward Lear; perfect for a Thursday lunchtime. Thanks Penguin. 

Big love xx


Filed under Literature, Little Black Classics

Au Revoir 2015! My Bookish New Years Resolution

Hey everyone! 

Well we are getting ever closer to the end of this year and the start of 2016! Therefore, I thought it would be the perfect time to look back on my New Years resolution for 2015. I set myself a challenge of reading 100 books in a year and I’m really proud to report that I read 104

I was adamant I would continue to read for pleasure a variety of poetry, prose and drama and I’m thrilled that I managed to do it! I tried to read different genres too. You’ll see from my list there’s a mixed bag here. I’m sure others would have read many more than me, but considering how life and work sometimes takes over I’m really chuffed. 

The books I read in 2015: 


  • John Agard – Half-Caste and Other Poems
  • Cecelia Ahern – The Year I Met You
  • Cecelia Ahern – Love, Rosie (Where Rainbows End)
  • Mitch Albom – The First Phone Call From Heaven
  • Hans Christian Anderson – Stories from Hans Andersen
  • Hans Christian Anderson – The Tinder Box
  • Hans Christian Anderon – Andersen’s Fairy Tales
  • Daisy Ashford – Where Love Lies Deepest
  • Dani Atkins – Fractured
  • Jane Austen – The Beautifull Cassandra
  • Denis Avey – The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz



  • Fredrik Backman – A Man Called Ove
  • Alan Bennett – The Lady in the Van
  • Harold Brighouse – Hobson’s Choice
  • Emily Brightwell – Mrs Jeffries & the Missing Alibi
  • Emily Bronte – The Night is Darkening Round Me



  • Eric Carle – The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Rachael Chadwick – 60 Postcards
  • Stephen Chbosky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Jenny Colgan – The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris
  • Judith Cutler – The Keeper of Secrets



  • Roald Dahl – Rhyme Stew
  • Roald Dahl – Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life
  • Roald Dahl – Switch Bitch
  • Roald Dahl – The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
  • Roald Dahl – Esio Trot
  • Roald Dahl – Going Solo
  • Jill Dawson – The Great Lover
  • Len Deighton – An Expensive Place to Die
  • Charles Dickens – Christmas Books
  • Charles Dickens – Oliver Twist
  • Charles Dickens – The Great Winglebury Duel
  • Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol
  • Arthur Conan Doyle – The Narrative of John Smith
  • Jonny Duddle – A Pirate’s Guide to Landlubbing




  • Jasper Fforde – The Eyre Affair
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Penelope Fitzgerald – The Bookshop
  • Giovanna Fletcher – Dream A Little Christmas Dream
  • Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter – The Dinosaur That Pooped A Lot



  • Claire Gadsby – Perfect Assessment for Learning
  • Robert Galbraith – A Career in Evil
  • Nina George – The Little Paris Bookshop
  • Linda Grant – The Clothes on Their Backs
  • John Green – Looking For Alaska
  • John Green – Paper Towns
  • John Green & David Leuithan – Will Grayson, Will Grayson



  • Mark Haddon – A Spot of Bother
  • Daniel Handler – Why We Broke Up
  • Helene Hanff – 84 Charing Cross Street
  • Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train
  • Emma Healey – Elizabeth is Missing
  • Mary Hooper – At the Sign of the Sugar Plum
  • Nick Hornby – High Fidelity
  • Nick Hornby – How to be Good
  • Nick Hornby – Juliet, Naked
  • Nick Hornby – A Long Way Down
  • Kathryn Hughes – The Letter




  • Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen – The Rabbit Back Literature Society
  • Henry James – The Figure in the Carpet




  • Harper Lee – Go Set A Watchman
  • Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Nell Leyshon – The Colour of Milk
  • Mary Elizabeth Lucy – Mistress of Charlecote: The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy 1803-1889



  • Christopher Matthew – Now We Are Sixty
  • Guy de Maupassant – Femme Fatale
  • Bob McCabe – Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filming Journey
  • Horace McCoy – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  • David McKee – Elmer’s Parade
  • Kristina McMorris – Letters From Home
  • Tom Michell – The Penguin Lessons
  • Arthur Miller – A View From the Bridge
  • A. A. Milne – Now We Are Six
  • Clement C Moore – The Night Before Christmas
  • Richard C Morais – The Hundred-Foot Journey
  • JoJo Moyles – Paris for One
  • Kate Muir – Left Bank



  • Jandy Nelson – The Sky is Everywhere
  • Irene Nemirovsky – The Fires of Autumn
  • David Nicholls – Starter for Ten



  • Jenny Oliver – The Parisan Christmas Bake Off
  • France’s Osbourne – Park Lane
  • Wilfred Owen – Anthem for Doomed Youth



  • Raquel J Palacio – Wonder
  • Nicky Pellengino – The Food of Love Cookery School
  • Samuel Pepys – The Great Fire of London
  • Sarah Perry – After Me Comes The Flood
  • Edgar Allen Poe – The Tell-Tale Heart



  • Anthony Quinn – Curtain Call



  • Willy Russell – Blood Brothers



  • Annie Sanders – Busy Woman Seeks Wife
  • Claire Sandy – What Would Mary Berry Do?
  • Brian Sibley – Harry Potter: Film Wizardry
  • Julia Stoneham – Muddy Boots and Silk Stockings



  • Elizabeth Taylor – Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
  • James Thurber – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • J.R.R Tolkien – Letters From Father Christmas
  • Sue Townsend – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4




  • Delphine De Vigan – No and Me



  • David Walliams – Ratburger
  • David Walliams -Awful Auntie
  • Walt Whitman – On the Beach at Night Alone
  • Katherine Woodfine – The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow





  • Benjamin Zephaniah & Richard Conlon – Face: The Play


So, this leads me to this years resolution, again, to read 100 books including a variety of prose, poetry and drama from a range of genres. Wish me luck! 

Whilst I’m at it, I just want to wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year. Make sure 2016 is the best yet!! 

Big love xx


Filed under Literature, New Year

The 100 Greatest British Novels – BBC Culture Poll 2015


Good evening all! 

Whilst bimbling around the internet I came across the latest poll for the greatest British novels. The judging panel were based outside of the U.K. to give an outsiders view on our best novels. Naturally, my curiosity was ignited. 

I have to say I was really fascinated to see which novels came up! I’m ashamed to say there’s some I’ve never heard of, never read or some that I’ve even given up on. Oops! On the other hand, there’s some that I have read and LOVE. The ones I’ve read are in bold.

Out of 228 novels the critics named, the following are the top 100. Let’s take a look…

100. The Code of the Woosters (PG Wodehouse, 1938)

99. There but for the (Ali Smith, 2011)

98. Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry,1947)

97. The Chronicles of Narnia (CS Lewis, 1949-1954)

96. Memoirs of a Survivor (Doris Lessing, 1974)

95. The Buddha of Suburbia (Hanif Kureishi, 1990)

94. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (James Hogg, 1824)

93. Lord of the Flies (William Golding, 1954)

92. Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons, 1932) – I love this novel. It’s really just so good. 

91. The Forsyte Saga (John Galsworthy, 1922)

90. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins, 1859) – An introduction to the Sensation Writing period. I couldn’t put it down. 

89. The Horse’s Mouth (Joyce Cary, 1944)

88. The Death of the Heart (Elizabeth Bowen, 1938)

87. The Old Wives’ Tale (Arnold Bennett,1908)

86. A Legacy (Sybille Bedford, 1956)

85. Regeneration Trilogy (Pat Barker, 1991-1995)

84. Scoop (Evelyn Waugh, 1938) – My first experience of Evelyn Waugh. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read. 

83. Barchester Towers (Anthony Trollope, 1857)

82. The Patrick Melrose Novels (Edward St Aubyn, 1992-2012)

81. The Jewel in the Crown (Paul Scott, 1966)

80. Excellent Women (Barbara Pym, 1952)

79. His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman, 1995-2000)

78. A House for Mr Biswas (VS Naipaul, 1961)

77. Of Human Bondage (W Somerset Maugham, 1915)

76. Small Island (Andrea Levy, 2004)

75. Women in Love (DH Lawrence, 1920) – Such a prolific writer. His words just run off the page for me. I love all of his novels. 

74. The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy, 1886) – The Victorianist in me is beaming. 

73. The Blue Flower (Penelope Fitzgerald, 1995)

72. The Heart of the Matter (Graham Greene, 1948)

71. Old Filth (Jane Gardam, 2004)

70. Daniel Deronda (George Eliot, 1876)

69. Nostromo (Joseph Conrad, 1904)

68. A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess, 1962) – I started this but couldn’t get into it. Maybe I will be able to complete this one day…

67. Crash (JG Ballard 1973)

66. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)

65. Orlando (Virginia Woolf, 1928) – The strangest book I’ve ever read. Without a doubt. 

64. The Way We Live Now (Anthony Trollope, 1875)

63. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark, 1961) – A fellow teacher and educator. Need I say more. 

62. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945) – Utterley breaks my heart. Poor Boxer. 

61. The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch, 1978)

60. Sons and Lovers (DH Lawrence, 1913) – It’s good to see Lawrence as a big hit! I’ve noticed no Lady Chatterley’s Lover though! 

59. The Line of Beauty (Alan Hollinghurst, 2004)

58. Loving (Henry Green, 1945)

57. Parade’s End (Ford Madox Ford, 1924-1928)

56. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Jeanette Winterson, 1985) – Utterley fascinating. 

55. Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift, 1726)

54. NW (Zadie Smith, 2012)

53. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys, 1966) – One of my favourite writers of all time. She’s an unsung heroine. 

52. New Grub Street (George Gissing, 1891)

51. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy, 1891)

50. A Passage to India (EM Forster, 1924) – Something I probably would never of heard of if I didn’t have to read it for university. 

49. Possession (AS Byatt, 1990)

48. Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis, 1954)

47. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Laurence Sterne, 1759) – started this but it is HUGE. I gave up when nothing much happened. 

46. Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie, 1981)

45. The Little Stranger (Sarah Waters, 2009)

44. Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel, 2009)

43. The Swimming Pool Library (Alan Hollinghurst, 1988)

42. Brighton Rock (Graham Greene, 1938)

41. Dombey and Son (Charles Dickens, 1848)

40. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865) – Perfect escapism! 

39. The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes, 2011)

38. The Passion (Jeanette Winterson, 1987)

37. Decline and Fall (Evelyn Waugh, 1928)

36. A Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell, 1951-1975)

35. Remainder (Tom McCarthy, 2005)

34. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005) – Bizarre. It really freaked me out so couldn’t complete this. 

33. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame, 1908) – Magical. I so wanted this to be real. 

32. A Room with a View (EM Forster, 1908)

31. The End of the Affair (Graham Greene, 1951)

30. Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe, 1722)

29. Brick Lane (Monica Ali, 2003)

28. Villette (Charlotte Brontë, 1853) – Another one I was meant to read but failed. Maybe one day. 

27. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719) – Interesting, but not my cup of tea really. 

26. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien, 1954)

25. White Teeth (Zadie Smith, 2000)

24. The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing, 1962)

23. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy, 1895)

22. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (Henry Fielding, 1749) – Another one I was meant to read for university, but I saw the size of it, read the first page and decided to give it a miss. 

21. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899) – Completed it but I didn’t really like it. But too dark for me. 

20. Persuasion (Jane Austen, 1817)

19. Emma (Jane Austen, 1815) – Hilarious. The only Austen novel I’ve ever finished. 

18. Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989)

17. Howards End (EM Forster, 1910)

16. The Waves (Virginia Woolf, 1931)

15. Atonement (Ian McEwan, 2001) – The power of words. McEwan can be sometimes a bit much for me, but I did enjoy this novel. 

14. Clarissa (Samuel Richardson,1748) – Started but failed to finish… There’s something about big novels clearly. 

13. The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford, 1915)

12. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)

11. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)

10. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848)

9. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818) – Totally scary but another cracking piece of Victorian literature. 

8. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1850)

7. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë, 1847) – Amazing. 

6. Bleak House (Charles Dickens, 1853)

5. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)

4. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1861) – One of my favourite novels. Also, there’s some amazing adaptations around too. This should totally be number 1! 

3. Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925)

2. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf, 1927)

1. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1874)

Find out more here: 

So, 21 out of 100 is a little shocking! However, there’s some novels mentioned that I need to research and buy. More to be added to my TBR list clearly. 

How many have you read? Do you agree with the number 1 spot? Are there any missing that should have made it into the top 100? Let me know what you think! 

Big love x


Filed under Literature, Top 100, UK

Of Mice and Men – The National Theatre Live 


Hi everyone! 

So this week I (and a number of students) saw Of Mice and Men in my local cinema at a screening of a National Theatre Live production. I reviewed the book recently, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to review this stage version as well. I’ve never reviewed a stage production before, so fingers crossed that this goes well! 

I just want to say how amazing the National Theatre live actually are. This production was from Broadway, New York. There was no way I was ever going to get there to see this. By having it recorded live, audience and all, then streamed back to my local area meant that we have golden opportunities on our door step to see amazing productions from around the world. Thank you! 

Here goes! 

Casting and characters:

George and Lennie were played by James Franco and Chris O’Dowd respectively. I found this casting to be brilliant. What incredibly talented actors these men are. As a lover of Chris O’Dowd I was already expecting amazing things. He didn’t fail to deliver. His every move, the twitches, the way he spoke and reacted was perfect for Lennie. I found myself unable to take my eyes off his hands. He was very much the bear like character Steinbeck created and described him to be. 

James Franco as George was interesting for me. In the opening scene when they had ran from Weed to their next ranch I found George a little too angry. I had never read into his character as angry towards Lennie. Frustrated yes, angry no. At one point in this discussion Lennie was portrayed as being terrified, arms covering his head. It was uncomfortable to see – a sure sign of outstanding acting – getting an emotional response from your audience. However, when George was protecting Lennie I was completely sold. The emotions between them felt genuine and real. The looks between the two made me feel like no one else mattered. That protection was played to perfection. 

The only let down in terms of the portrayal of characters for me was from Curley and his wife, played by Alex Morf and Leighton Meester respectively. Whilst I have no right or qualifications to judge their acting, and please don’t think I am, I expected more from the representation of them. Curley needs to be masculine and aggressive, constantly looking for a fight. I didn’t get that from this Curley. He never raised his voice or appeared to pose a threat. In fact, George appeared to have more aggression than Curley. 

Curley’s Wife was every inch the character she portrayed: beautiful, lonely, awkward and talkative. Yet, something was missing. She failed to have that power behind her to stand up for herself. In Crook’s cabin, a crucial line I was sat waiting for never came. “Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” The one time Curley’s Wife has power, and in this production she is stripped of it. 

Nevertheless, I found casting generally brilliant. I had a view on each and every one of them. They brought the stage to life. 

Image from the Independent. 



Despite seeing this in a large cinema, I’ve probably never felt so claustrophobic in my life. I went hot and my palms started sweating. The setting was really rather incredible. The intense, cramped feel was brought to life with the corregated iron and prison camp beds. When all actors were on stage, I felt trapped with them. It was unnerving but excellently done. As well as this, the brush and the river brought Steinbeck’s description to life. It was probably one of the best stage settings I’ve ever seen. It embodied the dystopian feel of this period for men in America. 

Image from



If my memory serves me well, this adaptation stuck to Steinbeck’s original text well. I only missed a couple things. The first, as discussed above, the missing quote from Curley’s Wife. However, what was impressive, the main quotes we all know and remember were emphasised to show their significant meanings. When Lennie cries out “I don’t like this place, George. It ain’t no good place. I wanna get outa here” boy did I believe it. It’s true! I wanted to be out of that trapped, imprisoned setting too. 

Secondly, I missed the emotion from Candy when his dog was killed. Yes he lay in silence, but the quote “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog” was also missing. This quote draws parallels to the ending and it needs to be there. Whilst I felt awful for Candy, I knew that feeling came from me knowing the novel. 

Nevertheless, it stayed true to the text. They explored the themes in depth and the portrayal of the novel was accurate throughout. 

Image from



Overall, I found this to be an inspiring, excellent and uncomfortable production. I felt like the men must have done on the ranches – utterly trapped and alone. I had to hold back tears in the final scene between Lennie and George. The tears from James Franco didn’t help there, but again they felt real and genuine. 

Thank you National Theatre for bringing New York, and this incredible production to my door step. Magical! 

Image from Google


Big love all xx


Filed under Literature, Theatre Review

Daily Literature Quote 

 Hey everyone,

Reading offers solice and some well earnt ‘me time’ in my life. I’ve been trying to put into words my love of literature recently. It’s actually quite difficult to do! So, my thoughts this dark and damp Monday are neatly summed up by the one and only F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wanted to share this with my many book loving bloggers because I’m sure you’ll all agree. 


Thank you for making me feel like I belong. 

Big love to you all. X


Filed under Literature, Quotes

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Fall 2015

Hey guys! 

I’ve never taken part in anything like this before, so I thought I would give it a go because it looks like a lot of fun. 

The Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the Broke and the Bookish. I hope they don’t mind me taking part! 

So this weeks is about my TBR list for Autumn. I love this time of year. It’s getting colder, the leaves are changing and it’s just another excuse to stay in with a good book and a hot chocolate. Well, for me it is anyway! 

Here is my Top Ten TBR list. It will probably change! 

1. The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz – Denis Avey. 

This book was recommended to me by one of my students. I better read it next because I’m fairly certain they will ask me about it! 


2. I’m The King Of The Castle – Susan Hill.

Another recommendation, but this time from a co-worker. It’s quite a dark novel, so I’m expecting tears. 


3. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn. 

I’ve been meaning to read this for ages. I’m not too sure why I haven’t managed to get. I hope it’s not a sign!


4. The Old Curiosity Shop – Charles Dickens. 

I love Dickens, and we are approaching the perfect weather to be reading him! 


5. How To Be Both – Ali Smith. 

I heard about this book when it won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this summer, bought it, and it’s been waiting patiently to be read ever since. 


6. The Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith. 

Pre-ordered and waiting for release. I don’t think I could be more excited! 

7. A Song For Issy Bradley – Carys Bray. 

This book was a birthday present and (superficial I know) the cover is really quite pretty. 


8. The Rabbit Back Literature Society – Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen. 

I just spotted this in a bookshop and it sounded quite intriguing. It’s not my usual kind of book, but something to me to buy it. So I did. 

9. Decline and Fall – Evelyn Waugh. 

Another book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. It’s relatively short, but Waugh is notorious for packing a punch. I expect no less from this novel. 


10. The Illusionists – Rosie Thomas. 

This book has been on my shelf for a while, and I’d hate to think it will stay there, unread, for much longer. Fingers crossed!! 

Has anybody read any of these books? What are your thoughts? I’m looking forward to it, but I should do really! 

Have a great rest of the week everyone! 

Big love x


Filed under Literature, Top Ten