DAY 20 – Book you have read the most number of times


I sort of have an idea but it’s not like I keep a tally or something. If I really like a book, I do have a tendency to read it again after some time has passed. Therefore there are quite a few books out there that I’ve read at least twice.

Except for the Deathly Hallows, I read all of the Harry Potter books at least twice (I’ve read Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Azkaban 3 times).
Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian only got boring for me after my third go.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sign of the Four and Study in Scarlet were both read twice although I think I also attempted Sign of the Four for the third time but eventually got bored with it half-way through.
Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers was also read twice though I’m not sure why I read it again-it’s not one of my favourites.

The book I have borrowed the most times from the library is the Complete Jack The Ripper by Donald Rumbelow, which is a non-fiction book. This might be due partly to the fact that at one time I was writing a Victorian murder story (I thought it was crap, so it lies unfinished) and was using this book as a reference. It’s still a great book anyway and I wouldn’t mind reading it again.

This leaves us with the two books that keep popping up in this Book Challenge.
I read Hound Of the Baskervilles either 3 or 4 times, I can’t remember. My Penguin Classic version of Dracula I read only once but I have read (as I mentioned in another post) a couple of other editions before and my Ladybird Childrens’ version I’ve gone through like a hundred times (although I know that one doesn’t count! ).

So who is the winner here? I’ll let Sherlock and the Count fight it out…

NM 🙂

DAY 19 – Book that turned you on


My biggest fear here is that I may come across as a prude. I have never read any Mills and Boon (a fact that I’m proud to admit), Danielle Steel or any other famous romance novel for that matter.

I once attempted to read one of those ‘penny-dreadful’ (my own term) erotic novels only to descend, 5 minutes later, into fits of laughter. Hardly a turn-on.
I’m of the firm belief that when it comes to sex in any art-form, less is more. The less graphic it is, the more exciting it tends to be. The power of suggestion and the power of the imagination are completely underrated, which is why gratuitous scenes in books, debase themselves to farcical proportions with its aim lost to the reader. Unless the reader has no brains or imagination off course.

Written in 1872, Carmilla predates Dracula by 25+ years and is described as the first lesbian vampire story.

Getting back to the topic…

My choice here is based on a memory going back more than 10 years. When I picked up Carmilla, I was very young and this choice is influenced by my initial reaction to reading this novella. I don’t remember the exact details of the story but I do know the gist of it and recollect these two very important facts:
1) I recall admiring Le Fanu’s style of writing and 2) I remember giggling like a virginal school girl who has yet to be given the ‘Birds and Bees’ talk.

As a juvenile-minded young teenager I found certain passages to be highly suggestive. Suggestively lesbian that is. Yes, Carmilla is a vampire whose only victims are young pretty girls. I’m sure Sappho would have loved this book.
Because I read this book so long ago, I wondered if my reaction now as an adult would be the same as back then. Would it still be so hot? Or would it be as erotic as a picture of a puppy?
Unfortunately because I had borrowed this book from the library, I don’t have a copy of my own. Thankfully we have the internet. Searching the net I found this passage:

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet over-powering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses…

I can hear a few men screaming “More! More!” Sorry boys that was it.

Okay, so not exactly PG18 material, but it’s still hot in its own way. Or is it? What do you think? Was I being young and naïve back then? Or is this enough to make a straight gal question her sexuality?
Hmmm I wonder……

NM 😀

DAY 17 – Shortest book you ever read


I found this topic to be quite bothersome to be honest. Because I’ve read so many short stories and Victorian novellas in my lifetime, it’s hard for me to distinguish them in terms of length.

Honestly I’m too lazy to search the internet for every book I had in mind just to check if they’re considered a short story or not. It’s all very confusing to me so I’m just going to go out on a limb here and wing it, as they say. If any of the books/stories I mention below are in fact short stories, please forgive me.

Collector's Library books. Penguin Classics and Wordsworth have nothing on these guys!

When thinking about this topic, I found myself pulling out a few Collectors’ Library books I have in my possession. Obviously due to their appearance, the books give the impression of being really short. They are quite small and cute with a very small font compared to ‘normal’ size books like a Wordsworths Classic for example.
So I wondered if it would be accurate of me to compare the number of pages in a Collectors’ Library book as suppose to a Wordsworth or Penguin.
Off course it could all just be an optical illusion and in font size they might be exactly the same (see, told you it was bothersome).

Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray (Wordsworths) has a respectable 256 pages; Hound of the Baskervilles (Collectors) has 200; and Jekyll and Hyde (Collectors) a paltry 96, actually 87 if you leave out all the title pages. Despite its size, the blurb to my copy of Jekyll And Hyde refers to it as a novel. Right….

Thinking back to all the other books I’ve read but don’t own: Le Fanu’s Carmilla, I remember as being quite short but don’t ask me how many pages it is for I read it a long time ago. And should I even consider Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? I always thought it was a short story but coming in at 128 pages (Penguin), that’s way more than Jekyll and Hyde!

Whether Christmas Carol is a shortie or not, it doesn’t matter. The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is still the shortest by a long shot (ha ha, see what I did there?) and therefore today’s winner.

I suppose you want me to tell you about the book? Truth is, there’s not much to tell. EVERYBODY knows this story even if they didn’t read it.
The term ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ has become synonymous with being two-faced, so while reading the story the suspense and mystery has already been killed due to this piece of general knowledge. I have no doubt that the book’s very first audience were probably thrilled out of their gaiters in finding out who Mr. Hyde really was, and obviously this initial reaction was the precedent that set in motion the success that the book was to have.

I could go into detail of how Stevenson based his story on a real Scottish nobleman named Deacon Brodie who lived in 18th century Edinburgh but do you really want a history lesson on a Friday? No I thought not.

A piece of Classic literature in under 100 pages. Quantity does not always mean quality, Mr. Dickens..

NM 🙂

DAY 16 of 30-day Book Challenge – Longest book you ever read


And this will be the shortest post you’ll ever read. I made a promise a few months ago, never to mention Charles Dickens’ Bleak House again but now its rearing it’s big, massive head once more. Definitely the longest book I’ve ever read.

You wanna read more? Knock yourself out:

Oh Dickens! Bleaky Bleak House and the opportunistic author

A review of Bleak House Part 1

Bleak House – A Review Part 2

DAY 14 – Book whose main character you want to marry


I really would like to pick Sherlock Holmes because I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a crush on him. But I won’t pick him, not because I’ve spoken about him to death in this Book Challenge, but also because we all know what an emotionally unavailable misanthrope he is, with not the highest regard for the ‘fairer’ sex. Basically he isn’t marriage material.

So here goes my search for the most suitable fictional suitor (can I declare myself a polygamist and marry all of them? Is that cheating?).

Here are the candidates:

Atticus Finch – A truly wonderful man who imparts excellent wisdom to his motherless children and is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. (Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird)

Robert Langdon – I have a thing for intellectually smart men, so give me a break. (Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code)

Mr. George Knightley – Personally I think he’s way better than Mr. Darcy, whom every girl seems to be in love with for some reason. Frankly they can all have Darcy, I’d be perfectly happy with Knightley thank you very much! (Jane Austen’s Emma)

Dr. Henry Jekyll – Okay I know this is a strange one but I did think he was quite nice, that is before he had a mid-life crisis, went a bit crazy on us, drank some poison and became a jerk and ruined in his life in the process. Idiot.
(Robert Louise Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

Owen Archer – A dishy medieval spy/sleuth (so what if he has only one eye?). (Candace Robb’s The Lady Chapel and other Owen Archer mysteries)

And finally…

John Thornton.
Even better than Mr. Knightley methinks, but I just had one problem here. I wasn’t sure if my choosing Thornton here was based on Richard Armitage’s portrayal of him in the BBC series of North and South in 2004.

Richard Armitage with Daniela Denby-Ashe in North And South

I will now admit that a couple of years ago I had no idea who Elizabeth Gaskell was and only became aware of her after watching this series which I absolutely loved. Armitage was so darn gorgeous as Thornton that I am now beginning to wonder if I would feel the same way about the character if I had not seen the series. Note that the same can be said about Knightley (Jeremy Northam might have influenced this one) but thankfully not about Langdon.
I think Tom Hanks is kind of goofy and not at all how I pictured the Harvard symbologist to be. It’s a miracle how Hanks’ face doesn’t even come into my head when I read Dan Brown!

So would I feel the same about Thornton from reading the book without the beautiful Armitage invading my brain?
I’m not entirely sure yet, but one thing is certain. I thought he was a perfect match for Margaret Hale, therefore he’s more than good enough for me.

So based on this, I say John Thornton is the winner! Yay!

NM 🙂

DAY 13 – Book whose main character is most like you


Precious Ramotswe, Sister Fidelma, Margaret Hale, Mina Harker, Hermione Granger, Sally Lockheart…

Listed above are the fictional women I admire or identify with. So who is most like me?

The trouble here is that how we see ourselves, compared to what others see or how we would like others to see us can be completely different things.

In a nutshell what I mean is:

I wish I was cool like Precious and Fidelma (both detectives, go figure) or smart like Hermione and even though I identify more strongly with Margaret Hale, who knows? I might come across like the annoying Madame Bovary or the disturbed Carrie White. Although I certainly hope not!

In the end it is Elizabeth Gaskell’s creation Margaret Hale who wins, for character-wise she is the one heroine I see most of myself in. Having just finished North And South, I can easily recall scenes where I found myself chuckling knowingly because of something she was thinking or doing, all because it reminded me of myself.

Daniela Denby-Ashe played Margaret in the BBC series North and South (2004)

Margaret is very opinionated and stubborn but has a heart of gold with the best of intentions. Unfortunately because of her strong opinions she sometimes puts her foot in it and I notice that she loves to argue about almost everything if given the chance! (Sounds a lot like someone I know).

Margaret also has an incredibly heavy conscience. For me, this was her most relatable trait. Even when she knows she has done nothing wrong but is falsely accused, her conscience eats away at her like a flesh-eating bug. She bears the burden of these accusations for the sake of family, proving her loyalty and selflessness. In fact, it hurt me to see how she always puts the feelings of others before her own. She’s always modifying her outward behavior just so others will not be burdened by the pain she feels.
I love her fiery temper. This is when you see her at her best. Her temper is not destructive but she gives as good as she gets, startling her opponent in the process. I found myself punching the air in triumph when she gave it to that old bat Mrs. Thornton.
There were other little idiosyncrasies I found in common with Margaret, like her preference for male company. At the Thorntons’ dinner party,

It was dull for Margaret after dinner. She was glad when the gentlemen came, not because she caught her father’s eye to brighten her sleepness up; but because she could listen to something larger and grander than the petty interests which the ladies had been talking about.

This reminds me of me as a teenager when, at any function, I would prefer sticking close to my Dad and the rest of the men who would discuss sport or other exciting topics with me as if I were a grown man. I hated being stuck with all the ladies, who did nothing but talk about their children or grandchildren. Eeurgh!!

So that’s Margaret Hale. And that’s me. 🙂

If some of the women I mentioned above seem foreign to you, I draw your attention to the following books:

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Set in rural Botswana, Precious Ramotswe is a woman ahead of her time. This has already been made into a TV series with the wonderful Jill Scott in the lead.

Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe


Whispers of the Dead by Peter Tremayne. If you love anything to do with Celtic Heritage you have to read the exploits of Fidelma of Cashel as she solves crimes in her capacity as a lawyer in 7th century Ireland.

Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman. YA Fiction. Pullman does well in recreating Victorian London and in creating an endearing character in Sally Lockheart.

Dracula by Bram Stoker. Mina Harker nee Murray is the only character in the book, apart from Van Helsing, who has any real balls. She makes her husband look like a peach trifle.

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. If you are ever up against big, bad Voldy, Hermione is one little witchy you would definitely want on your side!

NM 🙂

Day 10 and Day 11 of 30-day Book Challenge


Okay I’m breaking the rules here and including two days in one, for the simple reason that I don’t think a single post for each of the below is necessary.

Book that changed my life?

I thought long and hard about this and the truth is, there is no single book that has changed my life. Every book I have ever read has influenced me or my writing in some way or the other. Unless its absolute crap off course. But then, even The Ghosts of Sleath made an impact on me that was monumental.

Favourite Book from your favourite author?

My answer to this I have already covered in Day 1. Arthur Conan Doyle is my favourite author and it stands to reason that my favourite book of his would be Hound of the Baskervilles.

So its two for the price of one- sometimes a bargain means a compromise in quality. Sorry!

NM 🙂

Ps. for the full list of the 30-day Book Challenge click here.

DAY 08 of Book Challenge – Book that scares you


Now you would think I’d be in my element right now, being a horror addict and everything but initially I found this very difficult.

My first thought was to choose M.R James’ Collected Ghost Stories. There is a reason why he’s considered England’s King of the Ghost story. This collection contains some of the scariest short stories I’ve ever read. But I’m assuming however that this topic means I have to pick an actual novel per se.

After thinking a bit, I considered Karen Maitland’s Company Of Liars and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian but in retrospect, these were bland considerations.
I also nearly chose Poe’s The Pit And The Pendulum which I read when I was in school and which had a decidedly macabre effect on my young mind, only to be reminded that it was in fact a short story as well.
I ran through all the Stephen King, John Connelly, Peter Straub and Dean Koontz books I’ve read in my lifetime and I came to only one conclusion. Some books are called classics for a reason. Even while thinking about all these other great horror novels, Bram Stoker’s Dracula just did not want to leave me alone. I did not want to consider it initially for fear of appearing too mainstream and superficial but it kept invading my thoughts like how the Count kept intruding on Mina’s.
Throughout my life, I have read so many different editions of Dracula- a children’s’ version (yes it does exist), many abridged versions, all down to my very own full-length Penguin Classics copy.

Dracula by Bram Stoker, after fighting very valiantly in my mind, has officially taken its place as my No.1 scariest book.

So is it really scary? Or is this one of those cases where we have to make provisions for the conservative Victorian mindset and take the very first audience’s reaction into consideration rather than our own?
I might be bias here but flippin’ hell, you can bet your holy rose water it’s scary!
I will admit that there are some Dickensian instances where the prose goes on a little ramble (I wonder if those Victorians really did write that superfluously in their journals?).

Gary Oldman, my favourite Dracula


There are many singular moments that make up for it however. The scariest scene ever for me, from ANY book in fact, is the one where Jonathan Harker is waiting at the Borgo pass for the special carriage to take him to the Castle.
No movie version of Dracula has ever come close to the book in capturing the terror and fear of this scene in my opinion.

There are other notable passages but I could be here all day.

I hope everybody will start to understand my aversion to modern vampire fiction now. After reading Dracula, you really can’t take the likes of Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer seriously anymore. Well I can’t anyway.

DAY 07 of 30-day Book Challenge – Book you can quote or recite


There are many different lines that I can quote from many different books. No single book stands out.
If you had asked me this question 10 years ago, I would have stated without hesitation: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Obviously the only reason I knew it so well was because, as part of a Drama assignment in school, I chose Viola’s long monologue to re-enact. Twelfth Night is my favourite Shakespearean play and I really love that soliloquoy but for the life of me, I cannot remember a single word of it now!

I also impressed (or stunned) a friend once, while we both watched Hammer’s version of Dracula with Christopher Lee. Just to be a know-it-all, I recited, with precision timing, a few lines of dialogue seconds before the relevant characters said it themselves. I dare say, I think I scared her more than the movie did.
The one fictional character I love quoting the most however, is off course the Great Detective himself.
My favourite quote ever is on the mechanics of deduction:

Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

I don’t even have to look that up to check if I quoted it properly. It’s etched in my brain.
I’ll leave you with a few other gems from Mr. Sherlock Holmes: Continue reading

DAY 1 – Favourite Book


Day One of the 30-day Book Challenge and it’s an easy one.

My favourite book ever? This masterpiece:

I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan so this book does it for me. From Watson’s accurate but misinterpreted observations, down to the general helplessness of their client and off course the genius of Holmes himself, all the classic elements of the Arthur Conan Doyle short story seem to extend itself in this novella for our prolonged enjoyment.

There is one difference between the short stories and Hound of the Baskervilles however: and that is that one single mouth-watering scene.

We all know Sherlock has a thing for dramatics.
Apart from The Adventure Of the Empty House, never has there been a scene where the Great Detective makes an appearance (or should I say reappearance) that is more exciting, more riveting, more surprising and just downright more awesome than when Watson is hiding out in a stone hut on the Moor that he thinks is being inhabited by an escaped convict and on hearing footsteps, readies himself and his gun for the criminal, only to be greeted by that familiar voice that says,

“It is a lovely evening, my dear Watson, I really think that you will be more comfortable outside than in.”

Absolute magic.