Victober 2018 TBR

I’m so excited for the start of October, as it means the beginning of Victober, which is my absolute favourite readathon to participate in!

What is Victober?

Victoberis a month-long Victorian literature readathon run by hosts Katie (Books and Things), Kate (Kate Howe), Ange (Beyond the Pages) and Lucy (lucythereader).

Last year was my first time participating, and it led to the discovery of a new all-time favourite book for me in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – so naturally I have pretty high hopes for this year!

Each of the hosts sets a different challenge, and this year I think all four hosts have done an amazing job at coming up with a really diverse range which offer lots of scope when picking a TBR.

The Challenges

Taken from the Victober 2018 Goodreads group.

1. Ange’s challenge: Read a book by one of the hosts’ favourite Victorian authors (Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell or Thomas Hardy).

2. Kate’s challenge: Read a Victorian book with a proper noun (i.e., a place name or person’s name) in the title.

3. Katie’s challenge: Read a book from the first ten years of the Victorian period and/or a book from the last ten years of the Victorian period (i.e., 1837-1847 or 1891-1901).

4. Lucy’s challenge: Read a Victorian book written by a woman anonymously or under a pseudonym.

5. General challenge: Read a Victorian book and watch a screen adaptation of it.

Now I’m not typically a huge classics reader, so I’m not going to push myself too hard to the point that Victober becomes a chore rather than fun! Last year I managed two books (Wuthering Heights and Vanity Fair), and this year I’m going to try and complete three.

So without further ado, here’s my Victober TBR for 2018!

My TBR

1. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (challenges 2&3)Agnes Grey

After falling in love with Wuthering Heights last Victober, I recently read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and loved that too. Anne is now the only Bronte sister I haven’t read anything by – and since Agnes Grey was published in 1847, just within the first 10 years of the Victorian period, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to give it a go!

 

 

2. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (challenge 4)The Mill on the Floss

I’ve wanted to read some George Eliot (real name Mary Anne Evans) for ages, and I’m so glad to have a reason to do so! Plus, my mum recommended this to me, and she always gives the best book recommendations so I’m definitely excited for this one!

 

 

 

North and South

3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (challenges 1&5)

I’ve been tempted to watch this on Netflix so many times, but I’m someone who always likes to read the book first – and now I have an excuse to do so! I’m also drawn to North and South because its setting is based on Manchester, which is pretty close to where I grew up, so I’m expecting some good old northern grit, Victorian style.

 

 

So there we have my Victober 2018 TBR! I’m really pleased with the books I’ve chosen – I think they will challenge me without feeling too overwhelming!

If you’re taking part in Victober this year, let me know in the comments what you’re thinking of reading 🙂

And if you’re not yet taking part but think it might sound like fun, check out the Goodreads group. There’s still a week left to choose a TBR, or you can even just wing it like I did last year and potentially end up discovering a new favourite book!

Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko

 

Title: Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Publisher: Apollo
Publication Date: 7th February 2017
Pages: 537

 

 

This is a difficult book for me to review, because it’s so different to anything I’ve ever read before. From the first couple of chapters I was a little worried it wasn’t for me – it has an unusual style of switching point of view mid-scene, which at first I found really strange – but I soon found myself swept up in the story, and felt that on the whole this style suited the story being told.

To me, Pachinko is everything that defines a historical saga. Spanning most of the 20th century and moving through four generations of a Korean family, I felt as though I had been on an epic journey by the time I turned the last page. In that vein it’s quite similar to Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, but in Pachinko we spend significantly more time with each character, which means there’s plenty of opportunity to get thoroughly invested in their lives.

I really didn’t know much about the history of Korea and Japan in the 20th century, but this wasn’t at all an issue – Min Jin Lee guides the reader effortlessly through the historical detail, never losing the character-driven focus at the centre of her tale.

The characters felt very real to me, so I occasionally wanted to scream and sob at the author for the terrible situations they sometimes ended up in. Min Jin Lee’s strength is in her ability to bring colour and beauty to the everyday lives of ordinary people, which serves to endear her characters to the reader.

Caught between patriotic bind to their homeland and desire to fit in amongst Japanese society, the characters sometimes made some less-than-ideal choices which made them all the more rounded and believable. This is definitely one of those novels which explores how people will react when placed in extremely difficult and unfair situations – one of the aspects I find most interesting about historical fiction.

There were only a minute couple of details which made this a 4* rather than a 5* read for me, including the fact that due to Min Jin Lee’s technique of switching points of view mid-scene, there were some characters whose points of view we heard briefly once or twice, only for them never to be mentioned again. I appreciate that the novel is already quite long and so there perhaps wasn’t time to explore every character in depth, but to be honest I would have been perfectly happy if the novel was longer!

All in all, this was a fascinating read which really opened my eyes to a piece of history I knew very little about. If you love character-driven historical sagas, I would definitely recommend giving this a try!

Hamilton: A history-obsessed-musical-lover’s dream

I’ll be honest: I pretty much booked tickets for Hamilton because of the hype. I usually really enjoy musicals, and it seemed to be getting rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, so I figured I might as well see what all the fuss was about.

At this point I didn’t really know anything about it – but as the time went on, I learnt that it was a) about Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers, and b) a hip-hop musical told through rap.

I was more than a little concerned by now – especially since I’d been to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the previous month and found it majorly disappointing (please don’t hate me!). Because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had, once again, been blindly swept up in the hype. How on earth, I asked myself, can hip-hop and 18th-century history work?

Well let me tell you, reader: it works. As soon as the opening number reached its conclusion to rapturous applause, I knew this was going to be something special.

It did take a couple of songs for me to fully get used to the rapping – it’s not a genre I listen to often, so at first I found myself concentrating really hard in case I missed something important – but by the interval I was so completely enthralled that it felt oddly jarring to hear the audience members around me not speaking in verse.

Even with composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical and lyrical genius, the show would not succeed in being so utterly spellbinding without the phenomenal cast. Each and every member of the cast was incredible, pulling you in to the life story of a fascinating and flawed man.

I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this on Sepia Tinted Window, but I’m a huge American politics nerd. I studied some American politics at A-Level, including the formation of the constitution, so imagine the joy it gave my inner 17-year-old self to hear Hamilton and Jefferson locked in an epic rap battle over the pros and cons of a more centralised government!

The historical costumes, too, are definitely worth a mention. Hamilton covers the period from 1776-1804, and the style of dress changed with the decades, from the robe a la Francaise in the 1770s and 1780s to the Empire waistline of the early 19th century. These are tiny details, but details I very much appreciated.

By the end of the production I was moved to tears, through a combination of the emotion of the music, the sheer power of the story, and not wanting the experience to end! Needless to say, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack non-stop ever since, and will continue to do so ad nauseum (hahaha just kidding, like I’d ever get sick of listening to it!).

So that concludes one blog post’s worth of obsessive fangirling about the BEST MUSICAL I HAVE EVER SEEN. If you haven’t seen the work of genius that is Hamilton yet, what are you waiting for?! I know I certainly won’t be “throwing away my shot” at another chance to experience it!

Photo credits: All from the Hamilton West End Twitter page

 

 

 

 

This is my Genre Book Tag

thisismtgenrenrwlogo.jpg

I first saw this tag done by Shaz over at Shaz Reads and it seemed like a really fun one, so I thought I’d give it a go!

The Rules:

1. What is your favourite genre?
It will come as no surprise that my favourite genre is historical fiction! I especially love historical fiction set in WWII, and historical romance set in the Regency and Victorian periods.

2. Who is your favourite author from that genre?
My favourite historical fiction author at the moment is Ken Follett. I am just in awe of his skill; his books are actual masterpieces. What I love so much about his Century trilogy is that he draws in so many different narrators from across the globe, weaving their stories together into a beautiful, intricate tapestry.

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, #1)

3. What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?
I really feel that the more historical fiction you read, the more you want to read. The thing about historical fiction is that it’s based on something that actually took place, so everyone has a different slant on it. Once I find a period or event I’m interested in, I love to read multiple books on it because it’s so interesting to read different authors’ interpretations, especially when their books are based on real people.

4. What is the book that started your love for that genre?
As I’ve mentioned before in my Children’s Historical Fiction: My Childhood Favourites blog post, the first historical fiction novel I read – Back Home by Michelle Magorian – is still an all-time favourite of mine. Set in 1945, it follows Rusty, a 12-year-old evacuee returning to England after five years spent with her relatives in Connecticut. With an awesome main character, an emotional plot and great historical detail, this book is everything I love about the genre.

Back Home

5. If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?
I recently read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and I think it would be a great introduction to the historical fiction genre. It’s such an accessible historical fiction novel –  the characters and emotion draw you into the story so completely that there’s no fear of it reading like a history textbook.

The Nightingale

6. Why do you read?
So for this answer I’m going to concentrate on why I read historical fiction. The main reason is that I love imagining how people lived in different time periods. Historical fiction novels allow me to do just that, offering a little window into a specific time period or event. It’s such a fun way to learn about history – I love having the people and places brought to life on the page before me.

 

This tag was basically a chance for me to fangirl about my favourite genre, and of course I’m never going to pass up an opportunity like that!

If you’d like to take part and share what you love about your favourite genre, consider yourself tagged 🙂

 

On the Box #2 |Anne with an E

Last month I started a new feature on my blog to discuss period films and dramas I’ve been enjoying recently. For my first post I talked about Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in his early days as Prime Minister.

Today’s blog post is all about Anne with an E, Netflix’s show based on beloved children’s classic Anne of Green Gables.

Credit: Netflix


Title: 
Anne With an E
Format: Netflix Original TV Show
Released (UK): S1 May 2017, S2 July 2018
Starring: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, R. H. Thomson

 

What’s it about?

As mentioned above, this Netflix show is based on the beloved children’s classic Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Set on Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1908, it tells the story of Anne Shirley, the lovable, chatterbox orphan who is mistakenly sent to live with brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.

It’s worth pointing out that the TV show doesn’t directly follow the novel’s plot – but for me this doesn’t detract from my enjoyment, as I tend to think of them as separate things. The show definitely features some elements I love from the novel, though – such as Rachel Lynde’s penchant for gossip, and the lovely friendship between Anne and Diana Barry.

Dalila Bela and Amybeth McNulty in Anne (2017)

Credit: Ken Woroner, CBC

 

Why I love it

I think my absolute favourite thing about this show (other than the fabulous acting, especially by Amybeth Mcnulty as Anne) is the incredible soundtrack. The music has quite a modern feel, but is also very folksy and lilting which I think suits the setting perfectly.

Although there’s plenty of lighthearted humour (mostly thanks to Anne’s to dive headlong into one scrape after another), the show also touches on some important issues. The topic of bullying is handled in both seasons, with racism and female education covered in season 2 along with some great LGBT rep.

Geraldine James, R.H. Thomson, and Amybeth McNulty in Anne (2017)

Credit: CBC, Netflix

 


Recommended if you like:

Children’s classics, female friendships, spunky heroines

 

Have you been binging S2 of Anne over the past couple of months? Did you love Anne of Green Gables as a child? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

 

 

 

 

ARC Review: The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews

The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon #1)

 


Title
: The Matrimonial Advertisement
Author: Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Publication Date: 4th September 2018
Pages: 317

 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have such conflicting thoughts about this book. It had so many elements I usually love: meticulously researched historical detail; good use of period language; and a cute romance. And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy those elements – because I did, very much so – but I had such strong opposition to one particular aspect of the plot that I found my enjoyment sadly overshadowed by frustration.

The first few chapters of the novel created a fabulously Gothic vibe. Accompanied by atmospheric descriptions of the North Devon coastal scenery, Mimi Matthews introduces us to Helena Reynolds, who has responded to Captain Justin Thornhill’s matrimonial advertisement in the papers.

From the outset I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Helena and Justin; it was of a slow-burning nature, as each slowly began to chip away at the other’s defences. With Mimi Matthews’ flawless use of period language, I found both characters to be very believable in their dialogue and behaviour, and I was rooting for them all the way.

Unfortunately, at about a third of the way through the plot took a turn which just didn’t sit well with me. It’s difficult for me to state exactly what I didn’t like without spoiling the rest of the book, but I will just say that it had to do with the representation of a topic about which people generally held extremely damaging views back in the Victorian period.

I can’t fault Mimi Matthews’ representation of the topic as it would have been viewed in the period – but understanding of this topic has improved immeasurably since the 19th century, for good reason. This is a historical fiction, yes – but personally I feel there is no excuse in this day and age for publishing a novel with a message which bluntly and unfeelingly deals with what is such a triggering topic for so many people, including myself.

The last third of the book lost momentum for me. I’d been expected a bit more of a dramatic climax, but everything resolved itself too easily. I’m aware that this is the first in a trilogy, which might explain why the ending wasn’t as exciting and gripping as I’d hoped – but I think I’d also lost heart a bit by the end, since there were further unfeeling portrayals of the aforementioned topic which only increased my frustration.

I can’t fault Mimi Matthews’ portrayal of the time period, and I did very much enjoy her writing style. It’s a shame that I didn’t enjoy this book more, but I just couldn’t get past the potentially damaging messages it sent out about a topic which should always be dealt with sensitively and considerately.

 

 

Review: Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

Dear Mrs Bird

 

Title: Dear Mrs Bird
Author: A J Pearce
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: 5th April 2018
Pages: 320

 

 

This book was like a large helping of jam tart and custard: warm, sweet and straight out of 1940s Britain. I’m going to open boldly by saying that this is one of my absolute favourite books I’ve read this year – so be prepared for lots of gushing in this review!

Dear Mrs Bird introduces us to Emmy Lake, a twenty-something living in London in the early 1940s who aspires to become a journalist (namely a War Correspondent). When she spots an advert in the paper for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, she’s certain this could be the first step towards a glittering journalism career – but, neglecting to ask about the finer details, she instead finds herself typing up responses to letters for the formidable Mrs Henrietta Bird, long-standing agony aunt at Women’s Friend magazine.

The novel is written in first person, which made me a little apprehensive at first – but by a few pages in, I could tell this was the perfect format for Emmy’s story. A.J. Pearce’s use of 1940s British slang is faultless, allowing Emmy’s colourful character to come to life on the page.

I loved Emmy’s energy and determination – but I also loved the more flawed aspects of her character, making her a very rounded protagonist. Her tendency to dive headfirst into making decisions without stopping to think things through lands her in all sorts of trouble, often with hilarious consequences.

It’s worth noting that Dear Mrs Bird isn’t particularly an action-packed novel – its merit lies in the colourful cast of characters and lovely pieces of historical detail woven in throughout. We accompany Emmy along to her nightly volunteer work at the fire station, and on evenings out to the cinema despite the ever-present risk of an air raid. I really felt like I’d stepped back in time to London in 1941, finding myself living and breathing each moment along with the characters.

Emmy’s upbeat personality gives this novel a lighthearted, humorous feel, but it is not without its darker moments. The harsh reality of the Blitz is explored with heartbreaking consequences, demonstrating A.J. Pearce’s ability to move the reader as well as inducing laughter. At certain points I wanted nothing more than to dive into the book and give the characters a great big hug!

Dear Mrs Bird is a warm, touching novel which completely captured its setting and brought it to life. I’m so impressed that this is a debut novel, and am very excited to see what A.J. Pearce writes next!