When people ask me what I like to read, I normally just say “just about anything, throw it at me!” And that’s not a lie – I genuinely will try absolutely any genre, from young adult to romance to horror to Western to crime to memoir.
It’s autumn for real now, and I’m so excited. Autumn is my favourite season, and I love nothing more than curling up with a book, a thick jumper, and a mug of coffee.
To get into the spirit, I thought I would share 5 books that you can cosy up with and get totally lost in this autumn.
If you fancy a bit of murder, read… Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – okay so this isn’t as autumnal as, say, Sleeping Murder, but it’s just so classic and easily the best Christie I’ve read so far! You will get completely sucked in, and the ending is by far the best bit. The perfect way to spend a few hours when it’s rainy and thundery outside. Continue reading “My Favourite Autumnal Books For All Kinds Of Readers”→
The Great War robbed a generation of friends, lovers and their gilded youth. In Freddie Watson’s case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. Haunted by his loss and fearing for his sanity, he still seeks some sort of resolution.
In the winter of 1928, Freddie is travelling through southern France – which has also seen too much bloodshed over the years – when his car spins off the road during a storm. Shaken, he stumbles into the woods and takes refuge in an isolated village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful young woman also mourning a lost generation.
Over the course of a single night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. And by the time dawn breaks, he finds himself holding the key to a heartbreaking mystery.
The book started slow. No; really slow. In fact, the first 20 or so pages weren’t actually needed. You could skip them and it wouldn’t make much difference. Moreover, the plot can leave you frustrated if you’re not reading it quickly, as it only ties up right at the end, doesn’t give you many – and then there is another loose end, but I won’t go into that too much.
The main character is all right, and the other characters are also quite interesting – once you get to the main plot. Don’t put this book down. Skip parts, if you will, but once you get to the main bit, don’t stop reading.
The plot is great. Like, pretty interesting. It reflects on historical events (which are rather gruesome, so only read if you’re willing to discover some yucky stuff) and the descriptions illustrate it vividly.
All I can say is, don’t get the copy I did – ie, the one pictured. It contains pictures. I wasn’t aware I couldn’t paint my own locations in my mind, but check through it first to see if it has pictures. I did my best to ignore them, but it’s quite hard. Just a heads up!
In summary: this book is great if you like the long-winded ones. It’s also great if you like historical fiction, but if you’re expecting a WWI novel, this is not it. I repeat: this is not a WWI novel. If you want one from WWI, try Valentine Joe. However, if you just want a book that gets to the point and only tells you the stuff that’s necessary, this isn’t it. Also, if you don’t like gruesome stuff (I didn’t realise quite how grim this would be until I read it) I wouldn’t recommend reading this. My rating? 3/5. I liked the plot and the idea, but I didn’t like the style and the amount of unnecessary information.
Raven Queen tells the tragic, true story of Lady Jane Grey, who’s life was cut short when she was just sixteen years old, from her beatings from her parents, to getting betrothed and married to Guildford, falling in love with her soul-mate, Ned, and eventually becoming Queen before Queen Mary took the throne after. Then, if follows her right up to her death, from Ned’s point of view.
I have always felt sorry for Jane – no one deserved to be beheaded, especially for not having committed a crime, and not for one so young. I liked Pauline Francis’ version of Jane – the spirited, witty girl, with a very devout love to her God. I am not a religious person myself too much – I do not know what I believe – but Jane’s love has showed me even more how and why religious people believe, and how much they will do for their love. Although the idea of loving a God that much scares me a bit, I think that it is divine to have someone whom people think they are looking out for them.
As the title suggests, ravens play a part in Raven Queen. At the start of the book, Jane saves a raven who is caught in a trap; ravens peck at the dead outside Traitor’s Gate; and, right at the end, not one raven comes to peck at Jane. Ravens are often thought of in bad luck and death, and I think that this book changed that – they are just birds, trying to survive, much like the rest of us.
Jane’s relationship with Ned was a heartfelt one – she loved him, but not his faith, as he was Catholic whereas she Protestant. But still, she loved him, and he her, more than his own faith. Their love was there until her death day, and I think that their love was a really astounding one.
The cruelty of Jane’s parents made me feel sorry for her – they were cruel, whipping her when she simply disagreed, and they gave her to Guildford when her greatest fear was being Queen. I do not know any parents who would do such a thing, and the idea of it scares me.
Jane knew – in the book, at least – that becoming Queen would ‘bring [her] to [her] knees’. Although she was young, she was not naïve, and I admired her for that. She was brilliant, really intelligent, and her teacher, Doctor Aylmer, was brilliant also, helping her with her studies and overcoming the shock of finding out Ned’s faith.
And the plot twist at the end – in which we discover that Ned is, in fact, the executioner for Lady Jane – nearly made me cry. Jane’s biggest fear of being executed was how many blows it would take for her head to be off – she was terrified of a botched death. And Ned knew that the final gift he could give her would be having a clean death, with one, simple swipe of the axe. Although it would be taking his one love’s life, it would also being saving her from a painful death, and I think that that is a great love – for, if you cannot be together in life, but one must die, you should live for the lost love.
Finally, I found the dual point of view very interesting – how Jane’s side of the story was told in past tense, whereas Ned’s in present. It brought even more feeling into the story, how Jane had written it down before she died she that she may be remembered as more than just a line, whereas Ned was still alive. However, I thought that, right at the end, when Jane says, “One day, I may just be sentence in a history book,” it was a bit much. I understand Pauline’s reasoning for writing this book, but I do not think that Jane would have said that, and it made it a bit cheesy, whereas the rest of the book had been brilliant. On the other hand, this is just a line, and I felt that the rest made up for it.
Overall, I really enjoyed Raven Queen. It has made me think, and I know that Lady Jane Grey and her fictional Ned will stay with me for a long time.
Historical fiction has always been around, since…well, since history began! For example, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, although a romance, is also historical fiction! But how do you write a good historical fictional story?
Well, like any story, you need a plot, interesting characters, and a setting. I’ll put up a basic idea to use for the purpose of this post – how about a story about a girl who finds out that she can make the worlds in her mind become real, but there are dark forces trying to stop her (aka the plot of The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin by Alan Shea. Hey, I never said it was my idea!). We’ll start with setting.
This is historical fiction, so you need to write about a historical time: in this case, it about ten year after WWII, so about the mid-1950s. Alice lives in London, so obviously it’s still pretty wrecked from the Blitz – in fact, one of the main settings is an old bomb shelter. Furthermore, the places are put together so well that you can create a map in your head!
But also with the setting, you need to have the ‘setting’ of the time. For example, the clothes of the time, or the slang – Alice and her friends use 50s slang when they talk.
For the setting, you have to do a shed load of research. Get yourself a notebook, and use a variety of sources. For other info on research, check out this post. Use a variety of sources for this one, though – perhaps even speak to a historian?
Next up: PLOT! Now, you can tell a real history story, or you can make up one on your own. Alice’s story is fictional, but it is so well put together it seems real. Whereas, there’s a story called Bucephalus that I read years ago, about Alexander the Great’s horse – it follows his story, so, although it is fictional, it is historically accurate.
If you’re making up your own plot, the same applies as that from setting – do your research. If you write about a real event, then you really have to do your research. You can’t afford to get things wrong with the plot if it’s about a real event. If it is a real event, then also make sure you keep with the settings as accurately as possible, otherwise, even if the plot is realistic, the entire story won’t seem realistic altogether.
Finally, characters! Like with plot, you can go two ways with this – one, you can make up your own main character, such as Alice. Or, you can use a character that really existed, such as Bucephalus. If you’re using a character from your own imagination, then yay for you – free will! Just make sure that they stick with the time. But, if you’re using a character from history’s mitts, then you have to make sure you know that person as well as possible. Research on the internet; look up myths surrounding them; read as many biographies – or autobiographies, if possible – as you can; make sure you know them inside out upside down.
If you want another source for info about history, then try CBBC’s Horrible Histories. If you don’t want to watch it, then you can always read the books!