National Trust: Literary Edition

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Days out with the National Trust are always good fun, especially when they help maintain lots of houses and estates where famous writers once lived! From my experience, they really maintain the authenticity and atmosphere of the times, which always makes it a really rewarding experience. Here is my list of National Trust places I want to visit.

1.

Bateman’s, Burwash

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I’ve actually already visited Bateman’s! This gorgeous Jacobean house was once home to Rudyard Kipling, the writer of The Jungle Books. At Bateman’s, Kipling wrote his first major work, Kim, and soon visitors will be able to see Park Mill after some extensive restoration. Also, Bateman’s has a collection of gardens which makes it a great place to visit in the summer. Bateman’s is open all year round from 11-5pm and costs £10.40 for a standard adult ticket.

2.

Monk’s House, Rodmell

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This 17th-century house was once home to Leonard and Virginia Woolf, before her death which occurred at River Ouse, not too far from the home. After her body was found, it was cremated and buried beneath an elm tree in the gardens of Monk’s House. I’ve just been to visit this house, recently, and it was amazing to see where Virginia lived and wrote. She even had a “room of her own”, her writing room, at the end of the garden. Monk’s House is open Wednesday through to Sunday, after lunch until 5 pm, until the last week of October. A standard adult ticket costs £5.75

3.

Greenway, Devon

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This grand estate was home to the famous crime writer Agatha Christie and was specifically the holiday home for her and her family. Like Bateman’s, there are lots of gardens that make it perfect for going on walks, and dogs are also welcome according to the website. Greenway is open from 10:30-5pm, every day until November when it only opens at weekends through to December. A standard adult ticket is £11.00

4.

Hill Top, Cumbria

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This 17th-century farmhouse was home to Beatrix Potter, and resides in the northern part of England, compared to the rest of my other picks. Ms Potter bought the Hill Top farmhouse with the proceeds from her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Those wanting to visit, be mindful that entry to the house is ticketed to prevent overcrowding. Tickets cannot be bought in advance and a sell-out of tickets is possible. Hill Top is open every day until November, from 10-4:30 pm and standard adult tickets are £10.40. Access to the gardens and shop is free during opening times.

5.

Hardy’s Cottage, Dorset

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Thomas Hardy, the writer of Far From the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, was born in this cottage in 1840. It was built by his grandfather and has been maintained ever since, and Hardy actually wrote Far From the Madding Crowd in this very house! Thorncombe Woods is nearby, providing a beautiful picturesque walk for all who visit. Hardy’s Cottage is open every day up until November, where it only opens Thursday-Sunday. Opening times are 11-5pm and a standard adult ticket is £6.30.

I’ve put all of these National Trust estates on my list of places to visit. Have I managed to sway you too? Let me know in the comments!

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Bookish Places to Visit in England

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I love travelling as it is, but what I love more than that is travelling to places of literary interest. London is a great place to begin, it being the capital and all, especially as there are so many blue plaques to find. But there are many more places outside of London that you can visit. Here are a few I hope to get to in the near future.

Oxford

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Oxford is probably one of the most literary places in England! The origins of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and even Lewis Carroll who attended Christ Church College. You might be aware of the famous Inklings who, together with Lewis and Tolkien, met often at the Eagle and Child pub to share their work. To top it off, even a few scenes of Harry Potter were filmed around the city.

Yorkshire

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Yorkshire is world-famous in particular for the Bronte family. Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three sisters who wrote some of the most prolific and well-loved classics, and they lived with the rest of their family in Haworth, a small town not too far from Leeds where their father was the priest there. Another noteworthy literary site is the burial place of Sylvia Plath in Heptonstall, which also resides not too far from Leeds.

Edinburgh

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I didn’t realise that Edinburgh was as literary as it is, but in fact, it is very literary! Arthur Conan Doyle was born and raised here, in 11 Picardy Place, where there is a Sherlock Holmes memorial statue and the Conan Doyle Pub to celebrate the writer’s life. JK Rowling also wrote the majority of the first few Harry Potter books in and around Edinburgh. The Elephant House Cafe boasts that it housed the writer as she was drafting the famous Potter books.

Dublin

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Dublin is home to many, many literary greats! Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and James Joyce to name a few! It’s picturesque and hygge aesthetic is enough to set any blogger’s and book lover’s hearts alight! Joyce even based a short story anthology around the city he loved so dearly, titled Dubliners. If you’re looking for a bit more information on Dublin Writers History, there’s even a Writer’s Museum to get you clued up.

Devon

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In particular for fans of Agatha Christie, whose holiday home Greenway is now owned and maintained by the National Trust and well worth a visit if you’re a hardcore fan. Devon was also home to Sylvia Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, and was also the setting and inspiration for the popular Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

These five places are on top of my literary bucket list, and hopefully after this post, they’ll be on yours too. Is there anywhere you’d like to go and visit? Literary or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Plays

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I love going to the theatre as much as possible, but when I can’t make it, just simply reading a play will do. Here are my top five favourites that I think are GREAT!

These plays are in no particular order.

1

The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

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A group of strangers is stranded in a boarding house during a snow storm, one of whom is a murderer. – from Goodreads.com

I first saw this play on tour when it came to Eastbourne and then I saw it in London where it is the longest running play ever, and has been running for 64 years! Also THAT PLOT TWIST THO

2

An Inspector Calls by JB Priestly

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The action of the play occurs in an English industrial city, where a young girl commits suicide and an eminently respectable British family is subject to a routine inquiry in connection with the death. An inspector calls to interrogate the family, and during the course of his questioning, all members of the group are implicated lightly or deeply in the girl’s undoing. The surprising revelation, however, is in the inspector… – from Goodreads.com

I studied this play at school, as one does, and was also completely blown away by the ending! I’ve not ever seen it live on stage but the BBC did a fantastic adaptation of it with David Thewlis as the Inspector, and it’s definitely worth a watch!

3

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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The enduring classic drama of the Salem witch trials was inspired by the political witch-hunting activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the ’50s. Though set in the 17th century, “The Crucible” presents issues still gnawing at modern society. – from Goodreads.com

Another that I’ve never seen live but the movie with Daniel Day-Lewis is outstanding! This was another play that I read and studied in school and I still love it even to this day.

4

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

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It is 1890’s England and two young gentlemen are being somewhat limited with the truth. To inject some excitement into their lives, Mr Worthing invents a brother, Earnest, as an excuse to leave his dull country life behind him to pursue the object of his desire, the ravishing Gwendolyn. While across town Algernon Montecrieff decides to take the name Earnest, when visiting Worthing’s young ward Cecily. The real fun and confusion begins when the two end up together and their deceptions are in danger of being revealed. – from Goodreads.com

Again, I’ve never seen the Importance of Being Earnest on the stage but I’ve read the play and seen the film starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth which is brilliant! A definitely must for fans of the play, or for someone looking to know the story better.

5

Blood Brothers by Willy Russell

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A Liverpudlian West Side Story: twin brothers are separated at birth because their mother cannot afford to keep them both. She gives one of them away to wealthy Mrs Lyons and they grow up as friends in ignorance of their fraternity until the inevitable quarrel unleashes a blood-bath. – from Goodreads.com

I first studied this play in GCSE Drama which ignited my love for it. Blood Brothers by Willy Russell was the basis for the musical of the same name, which I saw when I was in the US and cried my eyes out. It’s such an amazing piece of work and I would recommend it to anyone!

So those are my top five dramatic recommendations. Do you read plays a lot? Do you have any on your list you’d like to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Mystery

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The Crime/Mystery/Thriller genre is one of my absolute favourites! In my opinion, you can’t beat a good who-dun-it, or an exciting, fast paced thriller. So, with that in mind, here are my top five books I’d recommend to you that got the cogs in my brain turning!

These books are in no particular order.

1

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back. Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen party arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage – the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her best friend, to put the past behind her. But something goes wrong. Very wrong. And as secrets and lies unravel, out in the dark, dark wood the past will finally catch up with Nora. – from Goodreads.com

I wasn’t sure whether I would like this book at first, as I have been scorned by some contemporary mysteries in the past but boy was I wrong! I really loved it and it really is a twist-y, turn-y mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat till the very end.

2

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father. On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty. For McGrath, driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid. The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality. – from Goodreads.com

This book was one of my absolute favourites last year and I would recommend it to anyone who was looking for a thrilling mystery that will leave you confused in the best way. It’s also partially told in printed articles, webpages and photographs which I always find ups the reading experience.

3

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion. – from Goodreads.com

Agatha Christie is the QUEEN of who-dun-its and her most famous novel And Then There Were None is probably one of the most prestigious mystery novels ever written. I would agree that it is a) incredible and b) unique and is an absolute must read for any fans of the genre. Having said that, it will ruin other mystery novels for you because your standards will be incredibly high afterwards!

4

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

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The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other. – from Goodreads.com

This is another book I read last year and LOVED. I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and if you’re looking for something to fill the hole that Cumberbatch’s Sherlock has left then I would certainly recommend this book to you. It’s a great introduction to the mythology of the Holmes legacy as it makes many references to the original story.

5

Snow White Must Die by Nele Neahaus

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On a wet November day, Detectives Pia Kirchoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to the scene of a mysterious accident. A woman has fallen from a bridge onto the motorway below. It seems that she may have been pushed. The investigation leads them to a small town near Frankfurt, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer. On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls, Laura and Stefanie (also known as Snow White), vanished without trace from this same village. In a trial based entirely on circumstantial evidence, Stefanie’s boyfriend, handsome and talented, Tobias Sartorius, was sentenced to ten years in prison. He has now returned to his home in an attempt to clear his name. Rita Cramer is his mother. In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. But when another young girl goes missing, the events of the past repeat themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a dramatic race against time, because for the villagers, there is soon no doubt as to the identity of the perpetrator. And this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands. – from Goodreads.com

This synopsis speaks for itself, really. Firstly, it’s not set in England which is something very different, as most of the mystery novels I pick up happen to be set in the UK. Secondly, it is an expertly crafted novel with lots of different characters with thrilling twists and turns the whole way through. Its exciting and has a great pace, so I would definitely recommend it.

So these are my top five books that I would recommend to you in the mystery/thriller/crime genre. Are you excited to read any of these? Or do you have any recommendations for me to get stuck into? Let me know in the comments!

 

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 1

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What is this? I hear you ask. National Novel Writing Month NOT taking place in November? Yes, that’s exactly it. Camp NaNoWriMo is the Writing Challenge Summer Edition, perfectly timed for you to revise the manuscript you completed in November should you wish to. For me, I’m starting something completely new.

I was absolutely chuffed with the fact I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time last November, (you can see my progress here), but that particular project was something I had been working on for a few years. This time, I wanted to try a completely new fiction idea.

Losing Lola has been an idea that has been playing on my mind ever since the Pretty Little Liars Mid-Season Finale on August 11th 2015. Yes season 6 episode 10, the one where we found out who A was and all loose ends were “tied up”, and the frustration surrounding the revelation was what made me want to write a mystery, specifically a murder mystery. I, like many other PLL fans, had come up with fantastic and elaborate A theories, ones that would give Agatha Christie a run for her money, but those hopes and dreams of a surprising well thought out A reveal were dashed.

So my mind began to work, and a lot of the time and effort I put into grafting A theories, I put into making an outline for my own mystery instead, and thus Losing Lola was born.

Camp NaNoWriMo is slightly different to your usual monthly writing challenge, as you can set your own word count. I’m still being fairly ambitious and hoping to achieve a manuscript of 50,000 words by the end of the month.

So in my first week I managed to write a grand total of 13,052 words, and according to my stats, I’m on target.

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If I can achieve the same amount of words for next week as I did this week then I will be half way through the month and half way through the manuscript. Wish me luck!