DAY 29 – Book you are currently reading


The two books I’m currently reading are Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford and O. Henry’s 100 Selected Stories.

I have to confess that I haven’t done much reading in the past couple of weeks, so even though Cranford is a tiny book, I’m taking longer than is necessary to finish it.

This should not be a reflection on the book however. It’s a delightful little novel and surprisingly modern for a book written in 1851. Well it’s not exactly a typical novel. Instead of a linear storyline centered on one main plot, the book is actually a collection of anecdotes about the English town of Cranford and its inhabitants.
I love Gaskell’s quirky sense of humour and her subtle dig at the attitudes and snobbery of the Cranford elite. I’m also very fascinated by the narrator-who remains unnamed, and who provides an objective and refreshing viewpoint on the events that take place in Cranford. Her viewpoints would not seem out of place in the 21st century. Given the nature of how this book is written, I’m interested to see how it ends and if there is actually a hidden storyline waiting to unfold.

There is no doubt that O. Henry (real name William Sydney Porter) is a very gifted short story writer. The stories in this collection are set in the United States with particular focus on the American family and its domicile. O. Henry lived during the turn of the 20th century so his stories are reflective of that period.

I must admit that I find it strange to read this book. I’m so used to reading M.R James, Saki, Edgar Allan Poe and Guy de Maupassant that to read a collection of tales that contains absolutely NO supernatural elements is unfamiliar territory to me.
I am enjoying it however and it’s giving me plenty of food for thought. I feel tempted now to write a non-horror short story just for the sake of it. I don’t hold much hope for it though, only because I don’t trust myself. I might just sneak a succubus into the story when no-one’s looking!

DAY 22 – Book you plan to read next


There are so many books I want to read at the moment but I haven’t a clue where to begin once I finish the ones I’m currently busy with. I compiled a list although I’m not sure which of the following I should read first.

How about this? Take a lookie at the list below and YOU decide which book I should read next, that way you provide the answer for today’s topic. I can read up to three books at a time but unfortunately not eight!
Let me know in the comments below…

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – I heard this is really funny and set during one of the World Wars.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – watched 2 movie versions (one with Winona Ryder and the other Katharine Hepburn) of this book and absolutely loved the story.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Look out for my next post.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell – I seem to be on a Gaskell high at the moment. Having loved North And South and currently reading Cranford, she has definitely won me over. Fellow blogger Louise highly recommends W&D but my local book store doesn’t have it which means I have to order it. Arghh!

Spud – Learning to fly by John van de Ruit – The last in the series. How can I resist this?

Salaambo by Gustave Flaubert – I have no idea what this story is about but apparently it’s set in Carthage-the ancient city I happen to have a certain obsession with. It’s enough to make me want to hunt down this book.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – I already have this book in my possession. I started reading it a long time ago but then I got bored and threw it aside. Then I found out that there was a ghost or vampire in it and now I’m eager to read it again.

??? by Charles Dickens – I’m in the mood for Dickens again. It’s been a long time since I read anything by him. Except for Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Two Cities, Great Expectations and Bleak House, what other book would you recommend?

🙂

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 🙂