Concluding… Jane Austen

In this (very exciting!) new series, I want to talk about the authors whose books I’ve finished reading. I’m done. I’ve finished reading all of their novels. No more.

Why? Because it’s a bizarre feeling. Save for diving into their short stories, articles and/or poetry, I’m never going to read a book by that author for the first time ever again. And let’s be real, if I’ve read all their novels, I’m probably going to miss that.

I’m going to start with an author’s whose novels I finished fairly recently: Jane Austen. An obvious staple of English Literature, I’m sure you’re all well familiar with her work. With only six full length novels, it was always inevitable that I’d end up reading them all. Of course, she has a number of short stories as well, some of which I’ve also read. But the novels! Let’s talk about the novels.

fullsizerender-11My adventures with Austen’s novels began in my final year of high school, when my high school English teacher set Sense and Sensibility as required reading. I fell madly in love. You all probably know this already. I raved about it on Valentine’s Day. I raved about it when discussing the books I read in high school. I feel like I rave about it all the damn time. And if I haven’t already convinced you to bump it up on your TBR, I don’t think I ever will. Seriously though. It’s really good.

The next year, I picked up Pride and Prejudice. Like most other people I know, I was well familiar with this story years before I read it. And maybe it was all the hype. Maybe it was the fact that I already enjoyed the characters and the plot. But yeah, I loved the novel too. I know, I know, it’s a little predictable of me. But seriously, who doesn’t love ol’ Lizzie and Mr. Darcy?

The favourite of my good friend, my next choice was Emma. I read this after having watched the webseries, Emma Approved. I loved the webseries. Truly and madly and deeply. The book impressed me just as much. In this novel, what most impressed me were the characterisations. Emma herself totally won me over. I loved her, I loved her story, I loved everything.

I picked up Persuasion a year later. Next? Northanger Abbey. These were both s0-so for me. I don’t really know what it was, to be honest. Maybe I just wasn’t as invested in these in the same way I was the others. After all, with the first three, I’d already been exposed to phenomenal adaptations – onscreen and off – and already loved the story. With these two? I just struggled. I didn’t love the characters or the plot, but I enjoyed them both enough to like the novels overall.

My last Austen novel, then, was Mansfield Park. Having experienced a bit of a lull in my Austen-love, Mansfield Park was a blessed breath of fresh air. All of a sudden, I was back to that good place of actually enjoying Austen. I don’t know what it was about it that made me like it so much, but it had that personal touch that I love so much about Austen.

I don’t know if I’m a better person or reader because I’ve made it through the books of England’s favourite female author. I don’t know if reading these have pushed me towards being one of those people who claim the title well read.

I am, however, incredibly pleased that I have made it. Completing her novels has given me a sense of achievement. And, more the point, I’ve actually enjoyed most of them. One of them is even a dear favourite of mine.

Have you read any (or all!) of Austen’s novels? If not, what’s held you back? If so, do you think she’s worth the hype? Or do you enjoy her writing just as much as I do?


On the Books I Read for High School: Year 13

My final year of high school was my best school reading year yet. I’ve talked about my lacklustre Years 9-11 and my mixed Year 12, so it’s nice to look back and know that I ended high school on a high note.

For English class, I read two novels and one play. Only two were compulsory reads. The first compulsory read was Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I fell for this book. Truly and madly. I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was romantic. I loved the simplicity of the premise and the complexity of its execution.

I also read my first Shakespeare. My teacher picked Othello and I have to admit… I was a wee bit disappointed. Of all his plays that actually intrigued me, Othello didn’t quite make the list. That being said, I didn’t hate Othello. I thought I would, but I didn’t. Although it didn’t really excite me, I did like the different themes and found it an interesting read.

An optional book (for all those opting for a feminist lens when writing comparative essays), was Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I absolutely devoured this book. Devoured it. I stayed up half the night so that I could finish it in one sitting, and even when I’d finished it I didn’t want to put it down. It made my heart feel heavy.

For Classics, I read three books. We started the year off with Homer’s The Odyssey. Most of the girls in my class weren’t a huge fan of this, but I actually really enjoyed it. I thought it was an epic tale. I thought it was exciting. And I’m so incredibly grateful that I got to read this in class, because I’m not entirely sure that I would’ve got to it otherwise.

We also read Virgil’s The Aeneid. The whole point of the assignment was to compare the two. And to be honest? I found The Aeneid really hard to read. It felt a lot more political (probably because it was) and the plot didn’t feel as fun. There were endless pages of killing and fighting, and while it certainly planned on mythology of the time, it didn’t have that fantastical element that The Odyssey did.

My teacher also recommended that we pick by Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a spin-off The Aeneid, focusing on Aeneas’ wife, Lavinia. Spin-offs in themselves are always interesting reads, but I do have to say that this one didn’t really grip me. To be fair, that probably has something to do with not particularly enjoying the original.

And there you have it! All the books that I had the great joy (…well, that’s probably pushing it) of reading in high school. My final year was infinitely more enjoyable than the others, and I’m forever grateful to both my English and my Classics teacher for setting texts that pushed me out of my comfort zone.

#BetterWorldBooks Challenge: ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë and ‘Panic’ by Lauren Oliver

A while ago, I posted about the first two books I read for the 2017 BetterWorldBooks challenge. And, surprise! It’s time for me to talk about another two challenges on the list that I’ve fulfilled recently.

The third challenge I opted to complete was to read a book that is more than 100 years old. I do actively try to read books written in various decades and centuries, so picking a book that was over 100 years old was as easy as going to my bookshelf and finding one that I’d maybe been putting off a bit.

In the end, I settled for Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Brontë. I feel like I would’ve enjoyed this a lot more had I not had preconceived notions and expectations for this novel. I wanted this to be my new favourite, you know? I wanted to love this as much as I’d loved Sense and Sensibility and Middlemarch (and we all know that I really loved them).

…I sort of hated it. Okay, okay. ‘Hate’ is putting it way too strongly. It’s a love story. A love story that goes very, very wrong. And even though that’s the sort of summary that usually piques my interest, I just couldn’t get into this. I didn’t connect with the characters, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the writing style, and the plot didn’t blow my mind.

So sure, it was all right. I know there are so many people out there who love this book. It just wasn’t for me.

img_4943It only seemed right to pick (what is, in my mind) the complete opposite of an ageing classic for the next challenge: to read a young adult novel. And yeah, I know that YA isn’t the newest genre on the planet, but no one can deny that its definitely picked up its pace in the past few years.

I decided to pick up Panic by Lauren Oliver. When this book came out, I was stupid excited. I don’t even know why I was excited. Anyway, I was super excited and so, unsurprisingly, I didn’t bother to read it.

The story follows a group of friends. All in their senior year, they have the opportunity to participate in a game: Panic. The game is essentially an extreme version of Dare, and the winning prize is over $60 000. As the game gets more and more dangerous, relationships become more strained, and each character begins to reveal their motives for participating.

It’s an interesting premise and I can see why there was so much hype when this book first came out. My issue was just that I didn’t buy it. The whole competition seemed bizarre to me. With the exception of the money (and to be honest, how the money was acquired also seemed strange), I couldn’t figure out why the hell anyone was bothering with it.

Besides that, I wasn’t invested in the characters at all. So while I appreciate that it was a quick and easy read, it wasn’t one that really thrilled me.

Let me know how your challenges are going! I hope you’re all being pushed out of your reading comfort zones and finding new treasures.

Reading Chinese Classics: ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’ by Cao Xueqin

In my first post of this series, I talked about reading Six Records of a Floating Life. My next pick was a recommendation from my father, The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. It’s what I (and no doubt, many others) would call the Chinese classic.

The copy that I decided to go for is translated by H. Bencraft Joly. It took me a while to realise that this version only has the first 56 chapters on this massive saga, and I had to pick up three volumes from Penguin to finish it off.


I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. This took me ages to get through. I was reading 100-150 pages a day and even though that’s not usually too much for me, I really struggled.

And so, I found myself breaking this book up a lot with graphic novels and comics. I guess I just needed a break. Seriously, no matter how much I read, for a while there it seriously felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.

this was just a hard read for me. I found it hard to get involved in the story, I found it hard to keep up with all of the characters (trust me, there are a lot)… And I’ll be honest. I found it hard to keep up with the story and may have opened a CliffNotes tab or two to make sure I was on the right track.

But I was dedicated. I wanted to read it. I wanted to make sure I was understanding the story. I made sure to pick it up at least once a day and to just give it a go.

By the time I’d made my way through Tuttle’s publication and picked up Penguin’s, I was well and truly exhausted by this story. But Penguin’s edition really surprised me. The translation was just so much better.

I just loved it. I loved the characters. After 900 pages of feeling… well, not a lot,  I was finally able to totally fall in love with the romance. I was able to appreciate the characters and what they were going through. I began to see just how far these incredible families were falling. How they were struggling with less cash than they were used to, but had no desire to give up on the high class customs they had grown up with.

Honestly, I just began to recognise it as a damn good story. Who doesn’t love the story of a fall from grace? Who doesn’t love a forbidden romance? Who doesn’t love reading about some poetry, drinking games, and a good old devious plot or two?

This book ended up surprising me in all the best ways. I only wish that I’d started with the Penguin translation!

Have you read this Chinese classic? How did you fare juggling all the characters? Let me know your thoughts!

Review: The Madness of Hallen (The Khalada Stone #1) by Russell Meek

A few years ago, I attended Armageddon in Dunedin. A small convention, there wasn’t a huge amount going on and I don’t recall spending more than a couple of hours there. I did, however, stop by Russell Meek’s booth, where is he was selling copies of his first novel, The Madness of Hallen. He was also taking pre-orders for the sequel.

Three years later, I’d still not picked them up. But after learning that the third volume of the series was soon being released, I finally began to read them.

But honestly? I don’t even want to talk about the book right now. Well, I do, but there’s something I want to talk about first. Russell Meek opted to go down the self-publishing route, but let me tell you, he pulled out all the stops. This book? It’s so incredibly well made. Like, this thing is heavy. And not just because of the book’s size. The pages feel expensive, man. It feels so polished. Honestly, I was just so impressed.



Anyway. Onto the contents. The Madness of Hallen is the first of the Khalada Stone series. It’s a fantasy novel. Not my expertise, but let’s not get too tied up in that fact.

The novel starts off a little slow. Fair enough. It’s fantasy. Fantasy always needs a little time to create a world, y’know? There’s building involved. But eventually things get underway. We get pulled into Orhl and Faerl’s world. There’s a bit of romance (which I totally loved), a bit more action (which was great), and a lot of magic (which was super exciting).

Orhl and Faerl have extraordinary powers, linked to ancient stones. Combined, these ancient stones are the mind of al-Din. But, of course, the mind of the Sword of the Faith is desired by many. It all makes for a pretty thrilling story.

I loved how Meek easily introduced a whole host of characters, carefully juggling perspectives. For me, the transitions were smooth and I found the story, though complex and filled to the brim, easy enough to follow.

The magical elements were, to begin with, a touch confusing. I didn’t always know how exactly it was working or why exactly it was necessary. But as the book progressed, things slowly began to make more sense. And as things made more sense, things became more interesting. While there wasn’t a lot of character development, the world building was really well done, and I feel like the series has a lot of potential.

I already have its sequel, A Brother’s Bond, sitting on my shelf. I’m excited to see how the series progresses! It’s always exciting to see self-published authors doing well, and I whole-heartedly hope that Meek gets the success he deserves.

Let me know if you’ve read this series! Do you make an effort to support self-published authors? Are there any recommendations out there?

Wrapping up February

Is this super late? Yes. So, I headed off to university at the start March, and a lot of my reading choices for February reflected that. It was all about the books that I desperately wanted to read as soon as possible, but weren’t quite going to make their way into my suitcase. Anyway, since I was moving into my new flat, I struggled a wee bit to get this up… but here it is!

And so, moving on to my favourites of the month…


In non-fiction, I really adored The Art of Rivalry by Sebastian Smee. This book talks about the artistic rivalries of Matisse and Picasso, Manet and Degas, Bacon and Freud, and de Kooning and Pollock. As a lover on modern art, I fell head over heels with this book. I loved how personal it was! I thought it was funny, interesting and a great perspective to some of the artworks these incredible artists have created. Although I don’t know if anyone who doesn’t have a vague recollection of these artists would enjoy this book, I know that I certainly did and would heartily recommend it to anyone who even thinks that they’re going to like it.

I also really want to talk about Notes from a Dead House by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I don’t have the best relationship with Dostoevsky. I’ve picked up a couple of his smaller novels in the past (I tell myself I’m prepping for his bigger ones…), and not been overly impressed. But there was just something about Notes from a Dead House. It was like nothing I’d ever read before, and I was completely captivated by it.

Book Haul: Taking a Break from Flat-Hunting…

I’ve recently been faced with the most arduous of tasks: hunting for a flat. I can’t even begin to tell you how stressed out this has made me. Anyway, I was pretty desperate to escape for a wee bit and ended up visiting my favourite book store.

And so, today I have a book haul to share you with you! I always love seeing what picks have snuck their way onto my friends’ shelves, so I hope you enjoy it too!

The packing boxes needed to be in the background to prove that I’m actually moving, obviously.

Ulysses by James Joyce
This is just one those books that I’ve always meant to read. That’s it. That’s the only reason why I picked it up. That’s the most boring reason ever (sorry!), but that’s really all there is to it.

It by Stephen King
I have read of Stephen King’s books. Two. And neither of them were horrors. I’m not really good with horrors, but Stephen King is my brother’s absolute favourite author. I figured I had to give it a shot.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
In a desperate attempt to hype myself up to the point of reading some of Dostoevsky’s larger novels, I picked up some of his smaller ones first. After making my way through The Gambler, Notes from the Underground and Notes from the Dead House, I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet.

Adam Bede by George Eliot
After reading Middlemarch, I knew I needed to read more from Eliot. There were a few of hers at the store, but this one’s synopsis drew me in the most. Having already read this, I can say that this was an excellent pick and I loved it.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu
I’m not gonna lie. I picked this up because of its aesthetic pull. This book is incredibly beautiful. The cover, the quality of the pages… I just couldn’t say no. I figured it would also be a nice addition to my Reading Chinese Classics series.

Habibi by Craig Thompson
The store I was in isn’t really known for stocking graphic novels or comics, so I was really surprised when I saw this there. I’ve heard so much about this and have had my eye on it for a while, but it’s always been way too expensive for me to justify buying. Fortunately, I had a reward available and managed to snag this for 50% off. It’s such an attractive-looking book, and I can’t wait to see what the fuss is about.

And there we go! The cure to stress is, apparently, buying a pile of books. Have you hauled any books recently? If so, let me know what you’ve picked up and why!