My Literary Trip to Scotland

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Ever since I wrote about my top literary places to visit, I have been chomping at the bit to get exploring! I’m always drawn to places where people lived/live that I admire. For example, in August, I visited Oxford, home of CS Lewis, Tolkien, and various Harry Potter filming locations, and this October just passed I visited Scotland! I was drawn to Edinburgh in particular because of its literary links but also for its historical element, as it was the home of Mary Queen of Scots. (Blog post about her coming soon!)

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Above: On the train journey to Scotland.

Scotland is home to one of my favourite series, Harry Potter, as JK Rowling lived (and still lives) in Edinburgh whilst she was writing the stories. We went to various locations around the city that held history for Harry. The first stop we went to was the Greyfriars Kirkyard filled with graves which Rowling stole names from for characters for the series. We managed to find Tom Riddle, a McGonagall and a Scrimgeour! Victoria Street, just around the corner from the graveyard, also claims to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Above: McGonagall, Riddell and Scrymgeour graves and Victoria Street.

We also visited The Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote a lot of Philosopher’s Stone and also another cafe named Spoon. But Rowling isn’t the old city’s claim to fame. Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of Sherlock Holmes, was born in Edinburgh, in the home of 11 Picardy Place. To commemorate, there is a statue of Sherlock outside the home which has now become a restaurant. Across the road, there is also a pub, named the Conan Doyle, after the author.

Above: The Elephant House cafe, the Sherlock Holmes statue, and the Conan Doyle pub.

We also visited the Writer’s Museum (which is also free to enter!) which chronicled the lives of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Having only read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he was the only author that I knew a little bit about but still didn’t know his full story. The museum was also doing an installation on Ian Rankin, another Scottish novelist.

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Above: The bust of Robert Louis Stevenson inside the Writer’s Museum.

There was so much to see and do in Edinburgh when it came to literary themes, not just history. There were even historical walks that lead you through the lives of writer’s, but we didn’t get a chance to go on that, and it’s something that I would really recommend any literary fiend doing.

As I said in my blog post on literary places, I’m hoping to work my way through them and so next on the list is hopefully Haworth where the Bronte’s lived!

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? Or have I made you want to take on your own literary pilgrimage? Let me know in the comments!

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Great Reads: Graphic Novels

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In the last couple of years, I’ve really gotten into reading graphic novels. They’re the perfect hybrid between watching a film or an episode of a TV show and reading a book, and sometimes the illustrations are just gorgeous! Anyway, here are the graphic novels I think are great!

1.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer

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When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. – from Goodreads.com

This is a recent read for me, as I was bought Wires and Nerve Volume 1 for my birthday this year. I absolutely loved all of the books in the Lunar Chronicles series, including the companions, Fairest and Stars Above. Although Wires and Nerve is not integral to the Lunar Chronicles timeline, it’s certainly a wonderfully entertaining addition.

2.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

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Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith. – from Goodreads.com

Blankets was one of the first graphic novels I read and I really loved how big it was. A lot of graphic novels are very short but this one really felt like a novel. It’s also autobiographical so it really tugged at my heartstrings.

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Manga Classics: Les Miserables

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Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo’s classic novel of love & tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this fantastic new manga edition! The gorgeous art of TseMei Lee brings to life the tragic stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the beautiful Fantine, in this epic adaptation of Les Miserables! – from Goodreads.com

Les Miserables is one of my favourite books, but to say it’s long is an understatement! In this version, Manga Classics, Stacy King has taken the best bits of Victor Hugo’s novel and strung them together, illustrated by the wonderful TseMei Lee, making this one of the best adaptations to read if you want to get to know the story of Les Miserables.

4.

Sherlock: A Study in Pink

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Sherlock Manga – printed in English in the US for the first time! Adapting the episodes of the smash-hit TV series starring worldwide superstars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Holmes and Watson tackle brain-teasing crimes in modern-day London in this stunning Manga, presented in its original right-to-left reading order, and in the full chapters as originally serialized! Meet Holmes and Watson for the first time… all over again! – from Goodreads.com

This edition of Sherlock Manga is adapted from the TV series Sherlock, not the original stories from Arthur Conan Doyle. The characters, brought to life by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, have been perfectly memorialised in this Manga collection. It also adapts the first episode, A Study in Pink, really well and keeps all the elements of the episode that we love.

5.

Murder on the Orient Express: Agatha Christie Graphic Novels

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A snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is full at this time of the year, but by the morning, is one passenger fewer. An American lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she strikes again. – from Goodreads.com

One of the problems with classics is that they can be quiet dense, so to have them in a bite-size graphic novel form can make them much easier to consume. This is the case for Murder on the Orient Express and other crime classics, as there are usually lots of threads that make up the final mystery. Having classics as graphic novels also brings the stories to a wider audience.

So these are my top five classics that I think are great. Have you read any of these? Or are there some you’d like to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!

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!

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!

Top 5 Shows to Watch on Netflix (UK)

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Despite the controversy of geo-pirate-gate, I’m going to be listening the top five TV shows on Netflix UK that I love watching. So regardless of where you live in the world, take note. Your next favourite show could be on this list.

These TV shows are in no particular order.

1

Bates Motel

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Bates Motel is a contemporary prequel to the genre-defining film “Psycho,” and gives a portrayal of how Norman Bates’ psyche unravels through his teenage years. Fans discover the dark, twisted backstory of Norman Bates and how deeply intricate his relationship with his mother, Norma, truly is. – from IMDb

Bates Motel’s fourth season is currently airing in the US, and all three previous seasons are up on Netflix, so you can make sure you’re up to date for when the show is reported to finish at the end of it’s fifth series.

2

House of Anubis

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When one of their number disappears on the same day that an American girl joins their ranks, a group of English boarding school students embarks on solving a mystery. – from IMDb

Man, looking for an appropriate picture gave me all of the ~feels. I know this show is technically for kids, but so is Pokemon and we all watch that, right? A group of school kids board in a creepy old house with tonnes of Egyptian mythology and go on tonnes of adventures, whilst dealing with raging hormones? All three seasons of the show are on Netflix, and season two is by far the strongest.

3

The Tudors

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A dramatic series about the reign and marriages of King Henry VIII. – from IMDb

For history fans, the most (in my opinion) scandalous time in British history is adapted to screen. All four seasons of the show are on Netflix and chronicle all six of Henry’s wives. Particular highlights are Henry’s marriages to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, as both of these ladies were beheaded for their treasonous behaviour against the king.

4

Sherlock

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A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London. – from IMDb

I absolutely adore this intervention on Conan Doyle’s classic story, and Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are the perfect duo. Set in a modern day, England, Sherlock and John still go on adventures solving crimes. All three seasons are on Netflix, including the New Year special The Abominable Bride. Particularly great episodes are the pilot A Study in Pink and the Hound of the Baskervilles.

5

Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments

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After her mother is kidnapped, Clary must venture into the dark world of demon hunting in order to find clues that can help her find her mother. – from IMDb

Despite the controversies when the pilot aired, Shadowhunters seems like great fun. Set in New York, this urban fantasy chronicles the underworld beneath the city, where Shadowhunters fight demons and protect the mortal world. Although I haven’t read the Mortal Instruments series, it’s definitely a book that sounds up my ally. Shadowhunters is contracted for thirteen episodes, and debuts weekly on Netflix.

Are any of these shows your favourite? Or is there a TV show you think I’ll love and have missed? Let me know down in the comments which TV shows are in your Top 5.