Best of 2021


Well, we’re at the end of another year so the round up begins. Let’s begin with the positives and end the year on the negatives.

As with every year, I’m only counting books I read for the first time, so no re-reads.

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2018 Review 4: Favourite Fiction


2018 was a great reading year for me.  I read so many books that I absolutely loved, more than ever before and I think it’s because I actually started to engage more with other readers this year and taking their recommendations into consideration rather than just buying a book and hoping for the best.  Here is my list of favourite books in 2018, again like my other lists, not really in any order of preference. This year I’ve sorted it into books and authors I read multiple books by and books and authors I only read one of.

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Classics I Love


I wrote a post last week about classics that I did not finish because I really disliked them but, as I was writing that, I saw a post from Bookish Luna about favourite classics and that inspired me to post my own list.  Let me switch my negative Nancy hat for a positive Percy one and talk about classics that I love.  Just a disclaimer, most of these will be French since that’s my favourite country to read classics from.

  1. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Is this one really going to be a surprise?  I wrote an entire post about it the other week gushing about how much I loved it.  It’s epic, it’s sad, it is a grand œuvre of the highest order.  Yes, it does have some boring parts *cough*Waterloo*cough* and Hugo doesn’t so much rely on coincidence to further his plot as to blatantly state it outright like he just didn’t care but I love it.  The characters are interesting and well written for the most part and Hugo’s opinions on the treatment of the poor and social justice are very interesting to read.

  1. Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

If you’re going to read a Victor Hugo novel, this would probably be the one to start with.  It’s a very famous novel with a Disney adaptation to its name (not that I’ve ever seen the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I won’t watch it because I don’t think a Disney film can ever truly capture the spirit of a novel where most of the characters die.  I also highly disagree with the beginning where *spoiler* Frollo kills Quasimodo’s family when the book has a more disturbing way of having Quasimodo in Frollo’s care).  It’s a dark and depressing novel, as Hugo novels tend to be, but it’s descriptions of fifteenth century Paris and of Notre Dame Cathedral are amazing.  The English title may be The Hunchback of Notre Dame but the true main character of the novel is Notre Dame itself.  Also, Esmerelda is an idiot and she totally deserved to die for being so stupid.  Just saying.

  1. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Another one that won’t be much of a surprise since I’ve mentioned it many times on here but I adore the Three Musketeers.  I like all of the novels in the d’Artagnan Romances (Twenty Years After mentions Durham, where I’m from so that’s a reason to love it) but it is the first one which really captures the imagination.  It’s an adventure story at heart with intrigue, friendships and even a siege.  What more could you want out of a novel?  I will admit that in the other two novels (Twenty Years After and Ten Years Later) Dumas’ knowledge of English geography is highly suspect but that doesn’t detract from an overall excellent story.  Fun Fact: my brother didn’t know Cardinal Richelieu was a real person.  He also didn’t know that Lord Nelson didn’t fight at the Battle of Waterloo.  For a History graduate that’s rather embarrassing.

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Sticking with Dumas for a moment longer, let’s talk about The Count of Monte Cristo; an excellent tale of revenge.  The story follows Edmond Dantès in his quest for revenge against the men who wronged him.  I won’t say any more than that but the revenge is brutal and unforgiving.  It’s a long novel but it has so many twists and turns I found it to be one of the easiest classics to read.

  1. Germinal by Émile Zola

The thirteenth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series follows Étienne Macquart in a small coal mining village in the north of France.  There’s so much in this novel to like (in my opinion), an insight into how miner’s lived, their working conditions.  There is a strike, there is death and there is disaster and it is so well written that I immediately fell in love with it.  I think that Étienne is one of the more likeable members of the family so it was a joy to read.  Then again, I’m obsessed with English mining history so this one was always going to be right up my alley.

  1. Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola
  2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I’m putting these two together because they have very similar themes but they are also quite different.  Both novels deal with bored housewives indulging in affairs but Thérèse Raquin goes slightly further than Madam Bovary in that it involves murder.  Both novels are very compelling reads as the heroines of both novels make spectacularly huge errors and both have very tragic endings.  Emma is slightly more sympathetic than Thérèse.  Yes, I did spend quiet a lot of the novel screaming “oh, Emma, why are you doing that?” but her stupidity was mostly on herself.  Both books have a very detailed and chilling look into two women who descend into madness and they are both highly compelling.

  1. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Oh, this is such a wonderful adventure novel.  It’s fun with nice characters and was just a joy to read.  It is a little annoying that Jules Verne is often considered a children’s author in England when his novels are, more often than not, excellent works of nineteenth century speculative fiction on a par with H.G. Wells and should be considered so.  Verne isn’t known as the father of French Science Fiction for no reason.  As with Wells, it is interesting to see a nineteenth century perspective of the future and how it might look and Around the World in Eighty Days merges speculative fiction with adventure excellently.

  1. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

Having escaped Florence in order to avoid the plague, ten friends spend ten nights telling stories to each other.  What follows is a series of stories, separated day by day with a theme, that range from dull (not everything can be perfect), intriguing, thoughtful and downright hilarious.  My personal favourite involves a head and a plant pot.  It’s hilarious in its absurdity.

  1. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Who would have thought that a fourteenth century poem mostly created so that Dante could slag off people and institutions he disliked or had wronged him could be so good?  Well, it is; especially Inferno, which deals with the narrator’s visit to the nine circles of Hell.  Paradiso gets just a little bit tedious with Dante’s constant wittering about Beatrice (the one who got away) but it is a very inventive and interesting work and well worth a read.



Favourite Childhood Authors

My favourite children’s authors


While re-reading the Famous Five, I started to think about all the books I loved as a child (way back in the depths of time).  I must have read the same authors hundreds of times, over and over again so here’s a list of some of my favourite authors when I was a child.

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Five Favourite (completed) Trilogies

Five Favourite Trilogies

Ah, the trilogy.  The book staple.  So many trilogies out there, so little time to read them.  Since I started reading a fuck load of fantasy novels I’ve managed to read a few so here are five of my favourite trilogies.  The only criteria is that the trilogy has to be complete and I have had to have read all of them.  I’ve also got a list of my favourite series with more than three books but that’s a post for another day.  These aren’t in order of favourites, I can’t decide, so they’re in order in which I read them.


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The Book Which Changed My Life

Books are wonderful.  They have the ability to transport you to hundreds of different worlds, to fall in love with hundreds of characters and, for a short time, you can lose yourself in their pages.  There are books you love, books you hate and, most importantly, books that change your life.

The book which changed my life isn’t a great classic.  It isn’t long but it has had a profound impact on my life.  Seven years ago, when I started my MA in British History a lecturer asked us to think about why we chose to start an MA and for me the answer was simple.  I love history.  I love history because of this book:

The Awesome Egyptians by Terry Deary


I was seven when this book was released and until then I didn’t really think that much about history.  Sure, it was a subject at school but it wasn’t one that I put much thought into or really loved.  Then I was introduced to the Awesome Egyptians.

Love at first read is a phrase that adequately describes how I felt about this book.  I was in year 3 at school at the time and we had just started studying the Ancient Egyptians and this book transformed the way I looked at history.

It was the gruesomeness that sucked me in.  A few months ago I was watching TV and there was a discussion about how some schools and universities are changing their syllabuses to remove some of the more what some would call “unseemly” elements, such as sex and violence (my own opinion on that is you shouldn’t censor your courses just because some people might find it “triggering”.  If you can’t deal with that sort of thing then you shouldn’t take the course in the first place), and I realised that it was the gory elements of life (and death) in Ancient Egypt that made me so interested.  The tagline of the Horrible Histories books is “History with the gory bits left in” and, as a child, that is a great thing to hear.  Kids are fascinated by blood and guts, so to market an entire series of children’s books on that premise is genius.

It was a series that set out to make history interesting to children and it succeeded in that completely.  The books are everything a child could want: they are funny, they are gross and they don’t patronise.

Fast forward to eleven years later and I was choosing to complete a history degree and it is thanks to that book.  I loved it, still do and I loved all the ones I read after that.  The Vicious Vikings made me interested in Viking history, The Vile Victorians made me enjoy the nineteenth century and, although my interest in Tudor and Roman history has waned over the years, The Terrible Tudors and The Rotten Romans gave me so much pleasure as a child.

One book, and then one series, has given me a lifelong interest in History.  After fantasy, history is my favourite genre of books to read.  The past fascinates me, Beamish and Durham Cathedral are my two favourite places to visit, and it is all because of a children’s book so thank you Terry Deary and your wonderful series.

The TV series is also fabulous.

What book changed your life?  And why?