Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Read at School

Blog - Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Back To School Freebie

Which means we can do anything “back to school” related – I have decided to share with you a selection of 10 books, plays and poems I was required to read back when I was at school (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

A children’s novel which was first published in 1962 and features an alternative history of England, where rural areas are terrorised by packs of wolves. I read this early on in secondary school but other than I enjoyed it I don’t remember a great deal about it.

~ 2 ~

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

A nonsense poem included in the children’s novel Through the Looking Glass; Alice’s second adventure in Wonderland. I also read this early on in secondary school and thought it was so much fun!

~ 3 ~

The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy

A short story which was first published in 1888. I read this later in secondary school, as I was getting ready to take my GCSEs. I found it really depressing and it put me off reading anything else by Hardy for years.

~ 4 ~

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A Pulitzer Prize winning, American novel which was first published in 1960, that tackles the issues of race, class, courage, compassion and gender in the American ‘Deep South’. This was one of my set GCSE texts in secondary school – I thought it was a powerful and touching read.

~ 5 ~

A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller

An American play that, after revision, premiered in 1956 and chronicles life in the Italian American neighbourhood in New York, which sits in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. I read this in secondary school but I sadly don’t remember a great deal about it.

~ 6 ~

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

A narrative poem that follows the exploits of the highwayman and his one true love, set in 18th century England and first published in 1906. A beautiful, tragic tale that I first read in primary school and it has stayed with me all these years.

~ 7 ~

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

A Carnegie Medal winning, children’s time-slip novel that was first published in 1958. A charming tale of Tom’s adventures in the past – I have very fond memories of Mr Lord, in primary school, reading this to the class at the end of long, cold school day.

~ 8 ~

An Inspector Calls by J B Priestley

Priestley’s best known play that critiques Edwardian society in England, when out of the blue an inspector comes to call on a prosperous upper middle-class family, which had it’s UK premiere in 1946. Another one of my set GCSE texts in secondary school which is still one of my favourite plays!

~ 9 ~

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Elizabethan tragedy that follows the fate of two young star-crossed lovers – a play known, read and performed all over the world! Another one of my set GCSE texts in secondary school, however school almost put me off it for life as we read it 4 out of our 5 years there! Fortunately I came to appreciate it again in college.

~ 10 ~

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

An American novella that follows two ranch hands struggling through the Great Depression in the USA. My final set GCSE text in secondary school which was another touching, tragic and powerful read.

What books did you read at school? Also, please let me know and link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic.

The Classics Club: Monthly Meme #44

The Classics Club Meme

Each month The Classics Club releases a question to get club members thinking, discussing and sharing; either on the official site or on their own sites. This month’s question is a rewind from November 2012:

What classic piece of literature most intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)

The classic piece of literature that intimidates me the most is an easy one, it has to be the epic, Russian classic War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy! I love the idea of the Russian setting but I am totally intimated by the fact it is a translation, it is a whopping 1,200+ pages and I’ve heard that there are whole swaths of philosophical discussion rather than narrative and an overwhelming amount of names, many of which are very similar, and titles to pick your way through. Overall the cons are out-weighing the pros for me.

Since joining The Classics Club I have managed to read these translated works: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne; all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. So the fact it is a translation is not so much of an issue anymore, as I know I can read and enjoy them. However this hasn’t really changed my mind about reading this book, especially when there are so many other books I would prefer to try first – at the end of the day, for me, reading is to be a pleasure not a chore.

With that in mind, I decided to watch the BBC’s sumptuous TV adaptation earlier this year – slightly cheating, I know, but as I said I feel it is very unlikely I will ever read this book. It was a beautiful production with a stellar ensemble cast but I didn’t love it enough to run out and get the book!

What classic piece of literature most intimidates you? Also, please let me know and link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s Classic Club meme too.

New Read: The Secret Poisoner

The Secret Poisoner

After loving the non-fiction A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley, which looked into the British obsession with murder mysteries, I was interested to read more from this area. So when I spotted non-fiction The Secret Poisoner: A Century of Murder by Linda Stratmann I thought it could be what I was looking for.

I found The Secret Poisoner a great read to lead on from A Very British Murder , as Linda Stratmann went deeper into the Victorians’ fascination with gruesome murders and the subsequent trials and executions. Highlighting in particular the enthralling fear the public had about murder by poison; which was viewed as a secretive, cold and calculating way to kill. I was really impressed with the wide range of poisoning cases Stratmann evidenced from England, Scotland, across Europe and the USA. As well as looking at the victims and suspected poisoners, Stratmann also discusses in-depth the investigations, evidence, poisons, the scientific developments in detecting poisons and the legislation changes that they affected.

I was particularly interested in the reasons for the poisonings. There certainly were many poisoners who used it in a cold and calculating way to remove unwanted spouses, lovers, children or siblings; or to claim life insurance or inheritance, but it wasn’t always that clear cut. Stratmann also discussed the situations of abuse and poverty that could also lead to desperate acts. Such as the removal of the rights of unmarried mothers to claim maintenance from the absent fathers, which sadly led to an increase in laudanum poisonings of babies. On the other hand the most chilling cases were when it was the person the victim looked to care for them that was actually poisoning them; as in the case of the infamous Dr Palmer.

I took my time over reading The Secret Poisoner, dipping in and out over several months – I even put it down for another book at one point but then I was in just the right mood and just flew through the second half of the book! Overall, Stratmann has delivered a comprehensive, in-depth and detailed history of the famous poison cases and the repercussions of them during the Victorian period. While sometimes the detail of the scientific investigations and the intricacies of the law system went over my head somewhat – I thought Stratmann managed to keep what could have been a dry topic interesting and balanced out the academic detail with the human story of the cases.

I found The Secret Poisoner to be an interesting and comprehensive study of the murders, poisons and poisoners that shook the Victorian world. I would definitely be interested in reading more by Linda Stratmann. Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Any recommendations on what I should read next?

Cookbooks: July – August 2016

Cookbooks Update

My fellow bookworms, there is one other thing I love as much as books and adaptations, and that is food! I am lucky enough to have all four of The Hairy Dieters cookbooks, from the nation’s beloved ‘Hairy Biker’ chefs, and I have not long finished reading through Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie.

Hairy Dieters #1

With the mixed weather, we invariably get here in the UK, this summer I have been eating salads but I have also tried these more hearty recipes from The Hairy Dieters:

Spicy Bean and Vegetable Stew
Book 1 – Stews – Page 97

My best friend has recently become a vegetarian, so when she came round recently I cooked this really hearty and comforting stew which is substantial enough to please veggies and meat eaters alike. I served it with a good lump of carrot, potato and cauliflower mash. Yum!


Paprika Chicken
Book 1 – Stews – Page 101

Looking to use some chicken thighs I had in the freezer I decided to try this low-calorie version of the popular Romanian dish of Paprikash. I’ve never tried it before, but I love paprika and I already had most of the ingredients in so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Tasty and easy to make – I will definitely be making this again.


Rich and Meaty Bolognese
Book 1 – Pasta & Rice – Page 164

A hearty, classic dish of mince beef and veggies slow-cooked in a rich herby, tomato sauce – if you are dieting they suggest serving this on a bed of lightly cooked cabbage or a small portion of pasta. I am no stranger to cooking bolognese, however I liked the addition of chilli flakes and courgette in this recipe and I will be making it this way again.


Save With Jamie

My family, friends and I love a curry – we often treat ourselves to a takeaway on a Friday night but they can often be unhealthy and rather expensive. As a replacement here is the latest recipe I have tried, this time from Jamie Oliver:

My Sag Aloo
Save with Jamie – Veg Recipes – Page 36

A classic Indian dish of spicy potato and spinach that could be served as a side to a curry or as a meal in it’s on right. As Jamie recommends, I served it wrapped in lettuce leaves with a good dollop of raita (mint and cucumber yoghurt) on top. Simple to make, cheap, well balanced and delicious.


Hairy Dieters #4

I also recently got my hands on Hairy Dieters: Fast Food, which is the 4th cookbook, which I still need to read through. So keep your eyes peeled for upcoming recipes from that as well as the other cookbooks.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

What cookbooks are you reading? Have you tried any new recipes?

New Books: August 2016

New Books - Aug #3

Hello my fellow bookworms, after being so good in July I am now bringing you my second new books post in August, oops! Here are more goodies I have added to my bookshelf:

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

On a recent trip to my hair dressers I had the chance to browse in some of my favourite bookshops. First, in the St. Giles hospice books shop I was pleased to find these two books. I am always looking to add to my Pratchett collection and this is a new-to-me story. And, after enjoying Ibbotson’s lovely young adults novel I have been keeping my eyes peeled for her children’s novels to try.

New Books - Aug #4

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

The Adventures & Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Next, on the same trip I went in the Oxfam bookshop and found another two books. First, I found a nice compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories – I have previously read and loved these but that was on my Kindle; I am now pleased to have a physical copy for my bookshelf. Then, I was thrilled to find Moon Over Soho the second book in Ben Aaronovitch’s fantasy, crime series, because I already have book one and five on my TBR pile.

New Books - Aug #5

Surprised by Hope by Hope by Tom Wright

Finally, in the post arrived a second-hand copy of this Christian non-fiction which is the October required book for my church’s new book club. I am currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson for our first meeting in September.

Do you fancy any of these? What new book purchases have you made recently?

The Classics Club: Mr Harrison’s Confessions

Mr Harrisons Confession

Having long wanted to read something by Elizabeth Gaskell, I finally got the push I needed when I picked up The Cranford Chronicles. After loving the eponymous Cranford I decided to continue the chronicles with Mr Harrison’s Confessions.

We join Mr Harrison by the fireside in his comfortable, well-kept home as his bachelor friend, Charles, presses him to tell how he wooed such a fine wife. And so Mr Harrison takes us back to when he first came to the small, rural town of Duncombe as a young, worldly but naïve man. Newly qualified as a doctor, Harrison has been promised a partnership in an easy, country practice by a family friend. It is to be anything but easy in this insular, provincial town, where everybody knows everybody’s business and which is ruled over by gossiping middle-aged women. Before long, the poor, young doctor after several misunderstandings and misplaced comments finds himself accused of being engaged to three women! None of which are the Vicar’s angelic daughter, Sophy, whom he really loves.

I must admit to be rather disappointed this wasn’t set in Cranford! (Especially as the BBC’s 2007 TV adaptation merged the novellas into the one setting) However I can see how this story has been placed in this chronicles because of the small town setting and the predominantly female residents. Here, unlike Cranford though, men are not feared or believed to be nuisances but instead quite the opposite. Poor, young doctor Harrison is coveted, pulled from pillar to post and practically fought over! Mothers try to set him with their daughters and every spinster seems to have their eye on him; all stirred up by the town gossips! So while I didn’t always ‘like’ the characters they were very amusing to read about.

While Cranford was a steady, touching and meticulous tale of women’s’ lives in genteel poverty, this is much more a chaotic and farcical tale of a young man not at all prepared for the furore his presence will cause in a small community of women. There was still Gaskell’s detailed and personable style which made me feel I was really there by the fire hearing the older and (hopefully) wiser Harrison’s confessions of his youthful blunders. I was slightly less endeared with the characters in this novella however it was comforting to travel back in time with Gaskell again and there were still some very poignant moments, in relation to Harrison’s treatment of genuine patients.

Mr Harrison’s Confessions is a charming, comedy of errors set in a small, provincial town. I look forward to completing The Cranford Chronicles with the final tale of My Lady Ludlow. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Elizabeth Gaskell?

The Classics Club – 46/50
The Women’s Classic Literature Event – #7

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books with a Fantasy Setting

Blog - Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books With X Setting

This week’s topic is one we can personalise – we could go with books set near the beach, books set in boarding school, books set in England, etc. I am a big fan of fantasy books and fairy tales, so I have decided to share my top ten books set in a fantasy world (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum

Set in the merry old land of Oz, where we travel the yellow brick road to the shining Emerald City.

~ 2 ~

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Set in Wonderland – a surreal, dream like place reached through a rabbit hole.

~ 3 ~

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Set in the brutal, dystopian state of Panem where people are separated into strict districts.

~ 4 ~

The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Set across All-World – a collection of parallel worlds which have started to bleed into each other as the old magic dies.

~ 5 ~

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

Set in the magical, winter-bound land of Narnia; discovered at the back of an old wardrobe.

~ 6 ~

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

Set across the epic Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

~ 7 ~

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Set on the magical Discworld which rides on the backs of four elephants, who in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle.

~ 8 ~

Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Set in Camp Half-Blood – a secret refuse for the children of the Ancient Greek Gods from us mundane mortals.

~ 9 ~

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

Set in the Wizarding World which secretly coincides alongside us muggles (non-magical folk).

~ 10 ~

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Set across the epic, diverse and old Middle-Earth.

What are your favourite books with a fantasy setting? Also, please let me know and link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday rewind.