Quick Reads: Under 200 Pages

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I love big books and I cannot lie. But sometimes there’s nothing better than a quick read, a fast-paced story to keep you going. Whether you want something to take away with you on holiday or you’re looking to keep up that Goodreads goal, quick reads work for everyone. Here are a few of my favourites.

Please be aware that the number of pages listed is subject to the edition. 

1.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

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Number of Pages: 188

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. – from Goodreads.com

One of my favourite classics, and a rich and beautiful story too.

2.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

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Number of Pages: 194

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. – from Goodreads.com

The YA pick of the bunch. Rosoff manages to create such a layered world in such a small amount of pages.

3.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

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Number of Pages: 102

Orwell wrote the novel at the end of 1943, but it almost remained unpublished. Its savage attack on Stalin, at that time Britain’s ally, led to the book being refused by publisher after publisher. Orwell’s simple, tragic fable, telling what happens when the animals drive out Mr Jones and attempt to run the farm themselves, has since become a world-famous classic. – from Goodreads.com

Only just coming up to 100 pages, this novella is simple and easy to read, whilst also having political undertones to make you think.

 4.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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Number of Pages: 106

As drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other – and a dream that they will one day have some land of their own. Eventually, they find work on a ranch, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie becomes a victim of his own strength. – from Goodreads.com

Another entry that only just graces 100 pages. Arguably, Steinbeck’s most famous work and the gentle, yet heartbreaking tale of the lengths one goes to for friendship.

5.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

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Number of Pages: 174

The terrible spectacle of the beast, the fog of the moor, the discovery of a body, this classic horror story pits detective against dog. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on the wild Devon moorland with the footprints of a giant hound nearby, the blame is placed on a family curse. It is left to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to solve the mystery of the legend of the phantom hound before Sir Charles’ heir comes to an equally gruesome end. – from Goodreads.com

One of four Sherlock Holmes novels, but by no means the shortest. In some editions, A Study in Scarlet is only 108 pages!

So this concludes my top five list of quick reads under 200 pages! Are any of these in your favourites list? Or do you have a few recommendations for me to read in time for my next quick reads post? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Grief

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As a person who has been, and continues to be, bereaved, reading books that represent the emotions I’m going through is really important to me. Finding works of literature, songs or even films that put into words exactly how you’re feeling are just priceless, and so these are my top five favourites that deal with the subject of grief.

Please note that these books and further content of this post may contain triggers for grief and bereavement. 

1.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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Loss: Best Friend / Love Interest 

Miles “Pudge” Halter is abandoning his safe-okay, boring-life. Fascinated by the last words of famous people, Pudge leaves for boarding school to seek what a dying Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Pudge becomes encircled by friends whose lives are everything but safe and boring. Their nucleus is razor-sharp, sexy, and self-destructive Alaska, who has perfected the arts of pranking and evading school rules. Pudge falls impossibly in love. When tragedy strikes the close-knit group, it is only in coming face-to-face with death that Pudge discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally. – from Goodreads.com

This was the first grief related book I ever read and was struck about how honest and raw Pudge’s account of bereavement was. It makes a point of addressing the fact that although Pudge didn’t know Alaska for very long, she still made a huge impact on his life, which really validates those grieving for friends.

2.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Loss: Sister

Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, with a nearly magical grin. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But the two can’t collide without Lennie’s world exploding. – from Goodreads.com

Although there is a lot more to this book than just the death of Bailey, Lennie has a lot that she must accept which is the biggest struggle for her. Lennie must continue with her life without her sister, and paints a very real picture of life after someone passes.

3.

Far From You by Lisa Schroeder

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Loss: Mother

Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn’t quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can by writing her music, losing herself in her love for her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife. But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she’ll face issues she’s been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful. Perhaps she’s not so alone after all. – from Goodreads.com

Not only is this a book on grief, it’s also written in verse! It also tackles the topic of the afterlife which is something I haven’t really seen done in many novels about grief. It truly is one of a kind. This book also means a lot to me because I lost a parent, just as Alice did, and so it paints a very real picture of life without a parent and having a step-family.

4.

PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

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Loss: Husband

Holly couldn’t live without her husband Gerry, until the day she had to. They were the kind of young couple who could finish each other’s sentences. When Gerry succumbs to a terminal illness and dies, 30-year-old Holly is set adrift, unable to pick up the pieces. But with the help of a series of letters her husband left her before he died and a little nudging from an eccentric assortment of family and friends, she learns to laugh, overcome her fears, and discover a world she never knew existed. – from Goodreads.com

 Like some of the previous books in this list, PS I Love You deals with letting go, moving on and accepting the loss. Holly is eased back into life with the help of her husband Gerry who leaves letters for her posthumously.

5.

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

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Loss: Girlfriend

Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one? Not even Julia’s boyfriend knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place? – from Goodreads.com

This novel is similar to Looking for Alaska but presents the story of grieving for a girlfriend/boyfriend in a different way. It tackles the similar themes of Green’s piece too, as well as presenting a death due to accident rather than illness, and puts some mystery around the death too, which makes it even harder for Colt to deal with.

These are my choice picks for books with themes of grief. I hope that people looking to read books that deal with bereavement will find this list helpful. Do you have any to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

My Unpopular Bookish Opinions

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When you read as much as I do, you’re bound to develop some opinions that others might not agree with. In fact, it happens quite a lot, so I’ve rounded up some of the most unpopular opinions I have on books. Quick disclaimer, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you disagree with me, that’s great, but please respect my opinion just as I vow to respect yours. Now, let’s get under way!

Please beware, this post may contain spoilers.

  • I did not like the Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare.

I’d heard so much about the Mortal Instruments Series before I had even read it. It was an equal amount of good and bad feedback, so I can’t say that it swayed my mind either way before I picked it up, but it was definitely a series that people were talking about. I was apprehensive at first, because books with a crazy amount of hype can sometimes end up being disappointing, but after I saw the movie, I thought I’d give it a go. Never the less, I read the first two books and ultimately felt as though the series wasn’t for me. At the grand old age of 25, I can’t help but think I’m not exactly the target audience anyway.

  • I liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I would like to lay a foundation before I go into my explanation of this. The Cursed Child is a play, not a novel, and therefore should not be compared to Rowling’s original works, as it is a completely different medium to the Potter books. Not only is it a different medium, scripts are supposed to be bare and factual, because the play comes to life when you see it performed, with costumes, lighting, staging and props etc. You’re really only getting a fifth of the experience when you read a play. I have been fortunate enough to see The Cursed Child performed live and enjoyed it much more than I did when I read it, because I was getting the whole experience, the whole vision that Rowling has co-created. Finally, the point I would like to finish on, is that the any spin offs from the Harry Potter series will be destined to be unpopular. We’ve spent ten years theorising what happened after Harry said goodbye to his children at King’s Cross, and the result of whatever JK Rowling created next would not please everyone. I’m just thankful we have more produce from the Potter-verse to get excited about.

  • I liked that Tris died at the end of the Divergent Series. 

Everyone I have spoken to about the ending of Allegiant has been up in arms about Roth’s decision to kill off Tris Prior, rather than go for a happily ever after ending that we craved for her and Four. With the Divergent series, Roth has never been about sticking to the status quo when it comes to the Young Adult genre, for example, her books don’t include a love triangle for the main character, which has been one of the most overused tropes in the genre. Tris dying at the end of Allegiant fits with the character arc that Roth set up for Tris since the start of Divergent. Tris had been searching since the day of the Aptitude Test what it meant to be “selfless”, something which she struggled with on a daily basis being born and raised in the Abnegation faction. Ultimately, Tris released that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different. So Tris sacrificing herself for the good of Chicago, so that others may live free from the Bureau, is the perfect send off for the character, and brings Tris’s arc, quite literally, to a close.

  •  I thought The Maze Runner films were better than the books.

I read all three of The Maze Runner books and have seen the two films that have currently been released, and it’s safe to say, I prefer the films. I know that sentiment is practically book-lover blasphemy but it’s the truth. I think a lot of what was weak about the original books was erased or changed in the films, and I think that Wes Ball, who directed both The Maze Runner film and The Scorch Trials film, made, not only great adaptations, but also great science fiction and dystopian films.

  •   I like John Green’s books and style of writing.

John Green was the first author I read before heavily getting into the YA genre. I read Looking for Alaska back in 2011, and then read The Fault in Our Stars in 2012 along with Paper Towns, and Abundance of Katherines and Will Grayson, Will Grayson in quick succession. I found his writing, although at times repetitive in themes and structure, to be very poetic, lyrical and philosophical, which is just my taste. I’ve noticed in reviews that a few readers have found him to be pretentious, which I can understand, but for me, his writing really speaks to a part of my soul, and I’ll always treasure his books as they opened the door to the YA genre, and widened my reading tastes.

So these are my unpopular bookish opinions! Do you agree with me on any of these points? Or do you disagree? I’m happy to start a judgement free civil conversation in the comments!

Great Reads: Poets

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I absolutely love reading poetry, and being a poet myself it would be silly not to love them. For me, poetry is as good as reading a short story, as whatever you’re doing, whether you’re snuggled in bed or on the tube to work, there is always time for a poem. Poems are bite sized chunks of emotions, with the ability to make you feel grounded at any time during the day. Below, I’ve listed some of the poets I think are great!

Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath is not only the most famous female poet on the planet, she’s also the most famous poet, period. Born in Boston, MA, she was diagnosed and sort treatment for depression, which inspired her to write her only novel The Bell Jar as well as many poems that were published in the eight anthologies she penned. Her most famous is Ariel that was published after her death by suicide. One of my absolute favourites from her collection is a poem titled Mrs Drake Proceeds to Supper, which you can find in her Selected Poems anthology, edited by her husband Ted Hughes.

Charles Bukowski

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Another poet that struggled with mental health, and alcohol addiction, was Charles Bukowski, who’s dirty realism of life in Los Angeles was captured perfectly in his poems and novels. In 1986, Time Magazine called Bukowski the “laureate of American lowlife”, which seems to perfectly resemble not only Bukowski’s outlook on life but also the tone in which he wrote. In 1962, the love of his life, Jane, died, which resulted in a lot of poetry as a way for Bukowski to cope with the bereavement. Like Plath, Bukowski also wrote an autobiographical novel about his life in the American Postal Service, aptly titled Post Office. One of my favourite poems that Bukowski wrote is a short and simple one titled Dark Night Poem. They say nothing is wasted / either that / or it all is.

ee cummings

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Another Massachusetts born poet is Edward Estlin Cummings, who was better known by his pen name ee cummings, and styled as such in most of his publications. Cummings is known for his unique style, abandoning any structure through favour of fluidity. He also wrote an autobiographical novel in 1922 titled The Enormous Room about his experience of being imprisoned in France during World War I. Throughout his life time, Cummings wrote approximately 3,000 poems most of which were chronicled in anthologies. One of my personal favourites from his collection comes from the selected poems of 1923-1958 anthology which begins “if there are any heavens…”

Carol Ann Duffy

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Moving onto one of the more contemporary poets on the list, we have the current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. I first was exposed to Duffy’s writing at school when studying for my GCSEs where I read and loved her poems on Anne Hathaway and Miss Havisham, but many years later I found a second-hand anthology called The Kingfisher Book of Poems about Love where I was blown away by her poem titled Words, Wide Night. Lets just say, there is a reason Duffy is the Laureate of Poetry.

Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl is the pioneer of children’s literature, having written seventeen books over his lifetime. He also wrote two poetry anthologies for children, one titled Revolting Rhymes, which gave a new spin on original fairy tales like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood. The other anthology was called Dirty Beasts, and in true Dahl fashion, made us feel sick to our stomaches in a way only Roald Dahl could achieve.

So there we have it. Here is the top five list of poets I think really are worth reading. Are any of these poets in your favourites list? Or do you have a recommendation for me to get my teeth into? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I did it! I managed to write 50,000 words in 30 days! AGAIN!

This last week has been a real uphill struggle for me, as I really felt like I was burning out, but I managed it none the less. At the end of week three, I managed to stretch ahead and get back on target as I was a day or so behind on my word count. It’s funny how just skipping out on one day can sometimes really make you struggle to get on target again, but I did it, and in the final week four, all I had to write was a further ten thousand.

Most of that ten thousand went on back story, filling in the gaps and structure. In my story, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes that the main protagonists don’t know about, that it’s important for me to get straight in my head what’s happening so I can correctly convey the story and how much information to reveal to the characters and when. Some of this information I translated into the story in different ways, some I left as “extras” for myself to refer to. I did consider a multiple POV at one stage, but firstly, I would have had to go back and interject the other points of view which seemed like a lot of work, and secondly, it really felt much more powerful and harrowing if we kept the characters, and to the same extent the readers, in the dark about the true nature of what’s going on outside of their circle.

My plan moving forward with this story is to be more ruthless with the structure, as I really just let the words flow without worrying too much about what was going in which chapter. I don’t know when I’ll be revising the piece, as right now I’m going to be taking a well-earned rest from writing, but hopefully soon. I also want to write in, and incorporate, lots of other short stories and creative works that really formed the foundations of this book. I had the initial idea in my first year of university which was almost six years ago now, and there’s a lot in what I wrote then that I want to rework into the form it is now. I’m really, really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve with this story, and it’s true what they say about never throwing anything away. You don’t know when it’s going to crop back up into your mind again, in different clothing or fully formed.

How did your April #CampNaNoWriMo go? Did you manage to complete your word count? Or did you find it as difficult as I did? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 3

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This blog post comes a day late due to technical difficulties with my WiFi and also with my laptop. I’ve managed to push through and so here we are! These are the stats for my week three stint of CampNaNoWriMo.

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As you can see I’ve been lagging about a day behind with my writing due to the day I missed. It was a simple case of life getting in the way and so my creative project suffered for it. I know lots of writers have a similar problem balancing those areas of their lives, and I definitely struggled with balancing mine last week. Having said that, I only missed one day of writing, and have continued on never the less.

Last night was actually the night where I had a break through with my piece. I was in the shower, which is one of the many places I find I have good ideas, and it felt like a light bulb had been switched on over my head. At risk of giving too much of the plot away, it concerned something that I had been struggling with for a few days. I knew what I wanted my characters to get, or achieve, but I didn’t know how to get them there, or really what “there” looked like. I got there in the end, and it gives me hope that eventually I’ll be able to work all the kinks out and have a really strong arc if I just give myself the time.

I’ve also been considering the structure of the novel this week. I had originally split the piece into three parts as I usually do to help with structure, but it the plot has presented itself in very straightforward “before” and “after” pieces. The “after” section that I’ve been working on has, for the majority, been made up of the part three section of the story, and so I’m thinking it’s going to be a much more fluid, and full of pace, if I move with where the story takes me and leave figuring out the structure to a later draft. At the moment, I’m only concerned with getting my characters from A to B, and getting the words down.

With my writing epiphany yesterday, I happily only have ten thousand words left to write of my piece, which is going to lift a lot of pressure from this final week. I feel like I’ve asked and answered a lot of questions, and I’ve really been smoothing out areas of the plot that were very grey, and almost invisible to me at the start.

I hope your third week of CampNaNoWriMo has been going well. Have you had a similar journey to me this April? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 2

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This week’s blog post comes a little later than usual, as in the past twenty four hours I haven’t been doing as much writing as I should have. As is the usual with most of my NaNoWriMo attempts, the second week has been incredibly difficult compared to the first. I have frequently lost my writing thread, and due to a combination of reality and emotional stamina, and because of this I haven’t arrived at the place I wished I had by now. Having said that, after I complete today’s word count, I’ll be halfway through my manuscript. My goals are still within reach. And I know that I’m being incredibly hard on myself because I’m a perfectionist.

My writing this week has had me jumping all over the place. I wrote sections of the last third of the novel, the epilogue and of course more of the beginning. I like to know where my characters are going to end up. It gives me a much clearer goal for them, and me, to strive for. However, trying to piece all of these bits together has proved challenging. Having said that, if I’d had to write in a linear fashion, I would have been stuck by the various ideas I’ve had along the way. It’s swings and roundabouts.

Coming into the third week, I’m hoping to pick up the pace and get on target with my daily word count again. I’m also back to work after having two weeks off which will help me establish a routine. I just need to make sure that I’m striving every day to get the words down on paper, and not let the weight of the struggle keep me from achieving. I’m going to try and get some of the middle section of the novel done so that I can string together the beginning of the last third I wrote in the first week. Being able to do that will make me much more confident and give me a direction.

It’s so important to get words down on paper during this time and worry about them after wards! I hope everyone is still doing well with their CampNaNoWriMo challenges? Let me know in the comments!