Top Five Books On My ‘To-Read’ List

So I’ve been a little bogged in work this week and haven’t finished my next book to review, BUT do not fear! For the wonderful @ellon_wheels did a Top Ten on her fab blog absobookinglutely.wordpress.com (which you should all go check out! Fab reviews) and now I’m shamelessly taking a leaf out of her book for this week’s post – but reducing it to five, because SO MANY BOOKS. 🙂

My to-read list, as anyone who has seen me tweet about it/tweet pictures of it/generally wailing about there not being enough hours in the day, is HUGE. I think at the last count it was at about sixty. So when I go to choose my next read, I’m a little overwhelmed. And as I like to subsection almost everything, the opportunity to super-organise this to-read list of epic-ness was one I simply couldn’t put off.

So, here, in no particular order, are my top five books I’m excited to read!

Winter crown

1. The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick
This is the second book in Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy. I LOVED the first book, The Summer Queen, and when I saw the cover the other day on twitter I wanted to cry at how pretty it was. Of course, that doesn’t seem a particularly good reason to be excited about it, BUT! I’ve read a few of Chadwick’s novels already and found her historical accuracy simply fantastic, her plot well thought out, and characters interesting. I’ve done a lot of research into this time period with my creative writing dissertation, and I recognised many things I’d looked up myself. Chadwick charts her research on her website and it’s clear that she knows this time period inside out. She tells Alienor’s story authentically, and get a real sense of her character. After all, this is a girl who lost her father, was swiftly married to the French Prince, and then had to try and negotiate her way around an unfamiliar court. The Winter Crown begins charting Alienor’s marriage with Henry, and towards the time where she helps lead her sons in rebellion against their father. Want authentically written historical fiction? Look no further than Chadwick’s work.

 

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2. Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan
I am an ardent Trudi Canavan fan, as I may have mentioned already in this blog post. It’s been interesting seeing Canavan tweet about the process of writing this novel, and I was excited to hear about her new trilogy. I adored her Magician’s Guild trilogy (and subsequent trilogy) but struggled with the Age of Five series. However, I do still own all of them, Age of Five included, and was keen to pick up her next novel. It’s another dual-storyline novel, which works well in the Traitor Spy trilogy, but confused the heck out of me in Last of the Wilds. So watch this space…! You can check out the blurb and read the first chapter on Trudi Canavan’s website .
ocean lane

3. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
My previous Gaiman experience came in the form of both The Graveyard Book and Coraline (which I reviewed here) and I thoroughly enjoyed both, especially the former. I read the first chapter of Ocean… in the bookshop when it was in hardback but couldn’t justify the spend, so waited until it was paperback. And also on buy one half price, so I also bought The Humans by Matt Haig, another book on my list. It seems to have the same slightly otherworldly vibes that I got from the other Gaimans I’ve read, and I wanted to try some of his adult books. The general reaction to it seems to be quite positive, so I’m looking forward to it as an intermission between swathes of YA writing I’m excited for.

 

maggot-moon

4. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
I was recommended this by a friend at work, who said that not only was it fab, but it was also really well designed and that the ebook came with a whole interactive element that makes it dyslexia-friendly. Frankly, I think this is an absolutely excellent thing, as it’s something that nobody really seems to cater for outside of specific ‘designed for x type of student’ books (in my experience). I’ve read and enjoyed Gardner’s work before, particularly I, Coriander, which I thought was magnificent. Maggot Moon seems a well-pitched young teen story, probably for students moving up to secondary school – much like Wonder by RJ Palacio. It also looks to be illustrated, and so far in my reading I’ve only ever seen illustrations done well: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, etc. I’m hoping this is another I can add to my list of great reads.

 

wintersmith

5. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
I ADORE Tiffany Aching. I think she really is the character I most wish I could be. I read The Wee Free Men, the first book in the series, after Witches Abroad (at uni I planned a devilishly awesome essay on fairytale mashing that I loved far more than my tutor did…) and I didn’t think I could get much better than Granny Weatherwax. But Tiffany is just so real and relateable and sensible, and makes the kind of observations that a young person of that age would. The way she deals with the hilarious Nac Mac Feegle is delightful, and now in Wintersmith we see her move on with her training.
As a mark of my adoration for Tiffany Aching books, I save them until I am in dire need of some Tiffany to make me feel better. I have had Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight on my shelf for months, and when I have finally reached the point where I just need a bit of Tiffany Aching to make the world better, she doesn’t disappoint. I was ecstatic to find out that Terry Pratchett is currently working on a fifth book in the sequence, and can’t wait to have it on my bookshelf. The more Tiffany, the better. She is, quite possibly, the YA character I feel akin to the most. (I couldn’t choose which ones I love the most. It’s like asking you to pick your favourite child!)

 

So, hopefully you’ll see reviews for these appearing on the blog over the new few months! If you’ve read any of these books already, do let me know your (spoiler-free!) thoughts in the comments. And let me know of any other books that you think I should add to my to-read list!

Check out my book reviews HERE

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A Little Bit Of Gaiman

coraline GraveyardBookBrit

I’ve always meant to read some Neil Gaiman – his style sounds right up my street and I’d enjoyed his Doctor Who episodes. I also watched Coraline with my housemates a year or so ago and really liked it. It was fantastical and scary and everything I’d been told Gaiman’s writing was like – even if the screenplay wasn’t his own work. And so I picked up a copy of Coraline, shortly followed by The Graveyard Book, both the editions with Chris Riddell’s illustrations.

When I started reading Coraline I imagined only the film adaptation, but the further I read and the more of Riddell’s accompanying illustrations I saw, the more independent it became in my mind. It became my own. I was able to re-experience the plot without being restricted by my experience of the film. Coraline herself is a wonderful character and one that appealed to my ten-year-old self; grown-ups are boring, and she wants to explore this house she has found herself in. She thinks herself older than her age – what child doesn’t? – and spends her time exploring the area around her house.

Gaiman imbues a sense of mysticism and otherworldliness in his setting, drawing you in and making the unusual seem perfectly normal. This is also true of The Graveyard Book, with Bod and his home in the graveyard. In Coraline, however, it is the inside which seems more curious. Coraline is fascinated by a passageway that was bricked up but now is clear, leading her to the realm of the Other Mother and Other Father who replicate her real parents, but with buttons for eyes: buttons they want to sew onto Coraline’s eyes. It is this kind of detail that I really liked. I can imagine reading this when I was much younger and being completely terrified, in the best kind of way. Coraline is determined and plucky and things I want a heroine to be. She will not be cowed by this chilling Other Mother who is hunting her down.

I followed Coraline with The Graveyard Book, about a boy called Bod Owens (short for Nobody) who is raised in a graveyard by ghosts. The setting is once again Gaiman’s forte: within the first few chapters I had gone from my spot on the sofa and I was in the graveyard with Bod, exploring its grounds, and talking to all the different ghosts. And the plot paces out excellently, too. We open with ‘the man Jack’, who has come to Bod’s house and killed his parents and sister. Luckily, Bod is a natural explorer and has escaped his crib and makes it safely into the graveyard. And then we meet the ghosts of the graveyard, all discussing what to do about Bod. As a reader you don’t even hesitate to think: ‘but they’re ghosts’. It is simply the obvious.

The story of Bod’s survival churns on as the book progresses, and meanwhile Gaiman uses the opportunity to show us through Bod’s everyday life. His education at the hands of various graveyard residents, meeting another child, and his relationship with Silas. Mr and Mrs Owens are his adopted, ghostly parents; Silas is his guardian. I loved the character of Silas. He is that dark, knowledgeable figure who comes and goes, never quite tells the whole story, and who is endlessly fascinating to a young child like Bod – or indeed, like any of us. It seems a fairly standard fantasy character, but somehow Silas doesn’t seem the stereotypical dark mysterious mentor. Gaiman manages to avoid that pitfall, and I’m still not sure how. He just sort of… does. It’s definitely a feature of his writing, as no other book comes to mind that is so very fantastical and other, yet is so straightforward to the reader.

My only regret with this first foray into Neil Gaiman’s works is that I was not younger when I first read them. I think there is a certain element to both of these books that needs you to be a child when you read them. But that hasn’t stopped me from ordering them both for my bookshelves – I’m pretty sure these are books I’m going to be re-reading in future, particularly The Graveyard Book.

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Coraline: 8/10

The Graveyard Book: 8.5/10

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