01 – The Best Book You Read Last Year
Wild Swans: Three Daughters Of China by Jung Chang. We did a charity thing in work where you were given a book you'd (likely) enjoy in exchange for a donation. Wild Swans is easily one of the best books I've ever read.
02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh. Rag dolls which come to life - it might sound like the plot of Rosie and Jim but, trust me, this is one kids' book worth reading!
03 – Your Favourite Series
Jeeves & Wooster, the brainchild of P. G. Wodehouse. Nothing is ever mundane in the whimsical upper class world of Bertram Wooster, as his man Jeeves quickly learns to his peril.
04 – Favourite Book Of Your Favourite Series
The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend. Adrian Mole is one of the truly great characters of British literature. I love the whole series, but this one is my absolute favourite.
05 – A Book That Makes You Happy
Grasshopper Island by Joy Whitby. Based on the 1970s ITV kids' show about three brothers who run away in search of an uninhabited island, I read the old paperback (the label pasted in the front informs me it once belonged to one of the schools I'm now on the governing body of...) at my grandparents' house until it literally fell apart. After that I took it home and rebound it with sellotape. I've put it on Marianna's book case now - maybe one day she will enjoy it as much as I do.
06 – A Book That Makes You Sad
07 – Book Are You Reading Right Now
Today I'm reading Brief Encounters: Lesbians and Gays in British Cinema, 1930 - 1971 by Stephen Bourne.
08 – Most Overrated Book
Anything by Dickens. Reading Dickens is like wading through treacle in my opinion! Plus he is indirectly responsible for the 1984 made-for-TV film version of A Christmas Carol. My mum made us watch it every year. I still have nightmares...
09 – A Book You Thought You Wouldn’t Like
10 – Favourite Classic Book
Tess of the d'Urbervilles (A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented) by Thomas Hardy. One of the greatest books of all time, and a must on any recommended reading list.
11 – A Book You Hated
An Inspector Calls. There are no words for how much I hated that play. We're supposed to feel sorry for Eva / Daisy, I know, but by the time we had spent months dissecting the book in class all I could feel was that it was a shame she hadn't died sooner...
12 – A Book You Couldn't Put Down
The Absolutist by John Boyne. An exploration into how war can turn the best of us into monsters - you know it's going to be painful, but you have to keep reading and find out anyway...
13 – Your Favourite Writer
Jane Austen. From the moment I first picked up Pride and Prejudice I was hooked, so much so that I even chose Marianna's name as a spelling variant of Sense and Sensibility's Marianne Dashwood.
14 – The Scariest Book You've Read
The Dirty Old Teddy - Enid Blyton. Okay, so the book itself isn't scary, but the cover used to creep me out as a child. I had it facing spine inwards so I wouldn't accidentally come across it when rifling through my book shelf!
15 – Favourite Male Character
Dr John H. Watson. The first time I read a Holmes story I wrote Watson off as something of a sycophantic fanboy. But before the next book I watched an episode of the Granada adaptation and my opinion totally changed. Give Watson a sarcastic inflection and they become the quintessential married old couple.
16 – Favourite Female Character
Sara Crewe from Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 novel A Little Princess. No matter how bad things get she keeps going, and keeps her principles. Her strength is an inspiration to us all.
17 – Favourite Quote(s) From Your Favourite Book(s)
Jerome K. Jerome was a man before his time. Strip back that late Victorian prose and he was as great an observational comedian as any you'll find on late night Dave. In his Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow he has a brilliant piece on babies:
"There are various methods by which you may achieve ignominy and shame. By murdering a large and respected family in cold blood and afterward depositing their bodies in the water companies' reservoir, you will gain much unpopularity in the neighborhood of your crime, and even robbing a church will get you cordially disliked, especially by the vicar. But if you desire to drain to the dregs the fullest cup of scorn and hatred that a fellow human creature can pour out for you, let a young mother hear you call dear baby "it."
Your best plan is to address the article as "little angel." The noun "angel" being of common gender suits the case admirably, and the epithet is sure of being favourably received. "Pet" or "beauty" are useful for variety's sake, but "angel" is the term that brings you the greatest credit for sense and good-feeling. The word should be preceded by a short giggle and accompanied by as much smile as possible. And whatever you do, don't forget to say that the child has got its father's nose. This "fetches" the parents (if I may be allowed a vulgarism) more than anything. They will pretend to laugh at the idea at first and will say, "Oh, nonsense!" You must then get excited and insist that it is a fact. You need have no conscientious scruples on the subject, because the thing's nose really does resemble its father's—at all events quite as much as it does anything else in nature—being, as it is, a mere smudge.
Do not despise these hints, my friends. There may come a time when, with mamma on one side and grand mamma on the other, a group of admiring young ladies (not admiring you, though) behind, and a bald-headed dab of humanity in front, you will be extremely thankful for some idea of what to say. A man—an unmarried man, that is—is never seen to such disadvantage as when undergoing the ordeal of "seeing baby." A cold shudder runs down his back at the bare proposal, and the sickly smile with which he says how delighted he shall be ought surely to move even a mother's heart, unless, as I am inclined to believe, the whole proceeding is a mere device adopted by wives to discourage the visits of bachelor friends."
18 – A Book That Disappointed You
Lord of the Rings. I loved The Hobbit but could never get into its sequel. It was so long, so boring, so full of Tom Bombadil. I was 30 pages from the end when I just gave up. (That's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more.) I still haven't finished it to this day.
19 – Favourite Book Turned Into A Movie
20 – Favourite Romance Book
I don't read a lot of romance novels, outside of the 'classics'. I love those but the romance generally leaves a lot to be desired - Darcy is rude, Heathcliff's a brute, and Jane could have done so much better than Mr. Rochester. I did enjoy Bambi by Majorie Benton Cooke though. Forget the deer, this Bambi is a spirited New Woman determined to earn a living in her own right. It was even serialised for the radio in 1936.
21 – Favourite Book From Your Childhood
I have a particular soft spot for Five Little Kittens from the Ladybird Animal Rhymes series.
22 – Favourite Book You Own
A fancy looking old copy of Harriette Wilson's Memoirs. Harriette Wilson was one of the most famous regency courtesans; one of her protectors was the then Marquess of Worcester who was, by all accounts, completely obsessed with her. His father, the Duke of Beaufort, had him dragged off to war weeping and wailing to remove her influence. Harriette just moved onto her next conquest.
23 – A Book You Want To Read
Will the Real Mary Kelly...? by Chris Scott. Kelly is the most mysterious of Jack the Ripper's victims, but I hear this book goes some way to shedding light on her.
25 – A Book You've Read In Another Language
26 – A Book That Changed Your Opinion About Something
The Bank Holiday Murders by Tom Wescott. I consider myself something of an amateur Ripperologist and this book really changed my thinking towards to the early murders in the series. I could never understand why the police had ever felt Emma Smith belonged in the Ripper's tally when, by her own admission, she was the victim of a gang. Wescott's thesis offers a very believable answer.
27 – The Most Surprising Plot Twist Or Ending
Memory of Water: A Novel by Emmi Itaranta. I won a proof copy of the English translation of this dystopian YA story from Goodreads and couldn't stop thinking about the ending for days. Of all the books I acquired throughout last year - I'm guessing that figure was well over 100 - it's one of only a handful I haven't passed on. There's no higher praise considering my tightly packed bookcases!
28 – Favourite Title(s)
Krark: The Story of a Carrion Crow by Kenneth Richmond. It's a children's story about Krark, a carrion crow who pecks his brother's eye out and learns to do all the things crows do. It walks the tightrope between horrifying and strangely compelling...
29 – The Last Book You Read
Best Wishes, Sister B by Fran Smith. Written as a series of letters from a nun in East Anglia to a missionary sister in deepest South America it was so heart warming it felt like I was actually getting a hug. Highly recommended!
30 – Your Favourite Book Of All Time
I've already talked about a lot of my favourite books, but one which sprang to mind that hasn't been mentioned yet is Berlie Doherty's Children of Winter. It's about a time shift, and I blame it for my ongoing obsession with the phenomena. While googling for a picture I found out the BBC had made a short film of it. Off to YouTube we go...
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