Beckster got me tagged!


Becky tagged me last month for some awesome questions, and I was more than happy to answer them. I won’t be setting new questions or tagging anyone but feel free to answer the ones below if you wish. If you’re a bibliophile like Beckster I’m sure you’d want to and I would love to see your responses…

1.) Which book do you think should be adapted into a film that hasn’t been already?
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (the last time I checked Sony bought the rights to the movie but it’s still in production). If this doesn’t count, then I choose Company of Liars by Karen Maitland.

2.) Which classic are you too scared to read/keep putting off? (E.g. War and Peace.)
Alexandre Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo(scared) and a few Dickens books(putting off for no real reason, really)

3.) Sam or Dean Winchester? (Supernatural)
Dean (He’s Jensen Ackles right?).

4.) Do you think the paperback will become extinct and be fully replaced with the Kindle?
I certainly hope not.

5.) Have you ever had an experience with the paranormal? E.g Ghosts, aliens etc.
Nope. Despite my former active efforts to look for them 😉

6.) Your least favourite genre to read?
Sci-fi or Romance

7.) Who’s biography would you consider reading?
Really want to read Portia de Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness

8.) The best birthday present you’ve ever had?
My brother took me to see Oasis live in Manchester for my 20th birthday(eons ago)

9.) Your opinion on 50 Shades of Grey? (Whether you have read it or not.)
Haven’t read it yet, but I want to. I don’t like giving opinions on books I haven’t attempted to read.

10.) Your favourite place to read? In bed.

11.) Which books from present day do you think has the potential to become a classic 50/100 years down the line?
I think it depends on what the socio-political scene would be like in 50-100 years time. If there are any books written now that reflect that scene or are considered relevant, then they will definitely be earmarked as ‘classics.’

NM 🙂

Why I shall be avoiding every author’s swansong from now on.


Reading-wise this hasn’t been a very good year for me. Even though my To-Be-Read List is considerably lighter than it was six months ago, 3 books especially, stand out for having proved big disappointments.

One was legitimately awful while the other two were not bad, but only proved dissatisfying because my expectations of them were so high. I think the disappointments were harder to take considering that all those three books were written by some of my favourite authors. (I had made my choices based on this fact)

One of them being Bram Stoker. As creator of one of the most famous horror novels ever, I thought it worth my while to give another one of his books my attention.

When I say that Lair Of The White Worm was ‘legitimately awful’, I say it with confidence only because I know I’m not being critical. While reading it, I came across far too many WTF moments. Apart from the errors and numerous inconsistencies, some of the scenes, imagery and subplots were so crazy and surreal that the story started to take on farcical proportions. I was left scratching my head as I read of supernatural kite-flying and weird hypnotic mind battles. Not what I expected from the author of Dracula. Even literary scholars have commented negatively on it, so I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about this novel.

However, I will admit, the same cannot be said for the OTHER two books that I read. Both works were critically acclaimed and one of them was highly recommended by people, whose opinions I rate very highly. Therefore I will not mention those two books and conclude that my disappointment with them stem from my own personal tastes rather than any flaws in the works themselves.

However, a strange coincidence revealed itself to me later on.

I’ll point out that all three books are very different in terms of genre, writing style and storylines etc. but they all happened to have one major thing in common: they were the last books these three authors had written before their deaths.  (Mindblown? No? Oh alright…)

On further investigation, I found out some pretty interesting information.

  •  The one unmentionable novel was not yet finished when the author suddenly passed away. The last few chapters were completed by another writer.
  • It is said that Bram Stoker died of syphilis in 1912. By the time he had finished Lair Of The White Worm in 1911, the disease had already reached the advanced stages. Mentally, Syphilis can be characterized by symptoms such as confusion, dementia, delirium and severe depression.

Well this certainly explains all the craziness in the novel!

In view of this new information, my sympathetic side was quick to pardon Mr. Stoker for this literary disaster. But this got me thinking. Should the background knowledge we have about an author affect the way we view their works? Should we allow sympathy to affect our judgement and objectivity? I know of people who refuse to even look at the book sleeve with the author’s bio when they purchase books, choosing to let the work stand on its own.

I’m the opposite however. I like reading up on the backgrounds and interests of the various writers whose works I read. It’s natural curiosity on my part to do so. But what do you think? If you read a book you thought was really bad but realised that the author was seriously ill when he/she wrote it, would you still be critical of it? Or do you think this information would help you to understand the story better?

Also have you ever thought about your WIP and wondered what would become of it if you ever passed away prematurely? A terribly morbid thought I know, but I mean, our stories are like our babies in a way. I assume you would not want it to be forgotten? Would you wish for someone to complete it and attempt to get it published?

And as for my reading luck, as sympathetic as I am towards authors and their personal sufferings, I am now dying to read a novel I know I will enjoy and these three books have now made me very superstitious. As a result I have since struck Dickens’ Mystery of Edwin Drood of my TBR list. No more literary swansongs for me, thank you very much.

NM 🙂

The ‘R’ word in Classic Literature


This post is a short one, posed more as a question to you, and which concerns a somewhat sensitive topic…

Now you’ve probably gathered how much I love the Classics. Anything pre-20th century is most likely to end up on my reading list.
However there is a trend I noticed amongst most Classic books that initially used to horrify me but which I now seem to take for granted because of its prevalence.
I’m talking about racism. Racial supremacy is all too inherent in the writings of Classic Literature. In some cases it’s blatant but mostly, it’s subtle. But it’s still noticeable.

What I want to know is, especially if you love the Classics: how do YOU react when you read, say a piece of fiction by a Victorian writer with clear racist undertones in the text? Does it upset you? Or do you take it with a pinch of salt?
As a person of colour myself, I used to be angry but now I find it quite amusing(in a disturbing sort of way). I always remind myself that writers are only human beings. And human beings are to a greater extent products of their environment. And any piece of fiction is a reflection of a writer’s thoughts and feelings. Therefore those feelings are reflective of the prevailing attitudes of the era in which the book was written. Since the Classics were written in times where racial supremacy was not only the norm but also accepted thinking, I tend to consider this when reading an old book.

I did wonder though, how others reacted to this. So, over to you, tell me your thoughts…

NM 🙂

Reflections on the 30-day Book Challenge


After embarking on any sort of endeavour, no matter how great or small, it’s good to reflect on what we have learnt afterwards. If we learnt anything at all.

So what did I learn from the 30-day Book challenge?
That I have a sucky memory when put on the spot (God forbid I ever end up in an interrogation room), that I seriously need to read more books and that it really is a schlep to blog every day. I also learnt that I’m not too skilled when it comes to book reviews. I never know how much to reveal lest someone wants to read the book. This issue was a constant thorn in my side during the entire Book Challenge.

On the positive side of things, I did manage to finish the challenge. I skipped a total of 6 days which is not bad given my lack of discipline. I found writing about some of the topics quite enjoyable- it’s good to reminisce although I did tend to repeat myself a lot.

Given my love for short stories, I did wish there was more emphasis on them (some of my favourite books happen to be short story collections). But the whole Book Challenge was good fun nevertheless and it did drive away idle moments and save me the trouble of looking for something to write about.

For the past two months I put many of my own personal ideas for blog posts on hold as well as the Versatile Blogger Award I received last month. Can’t believe it’s been two months! Where did the time go?

There is indeed life after any challenge, so let’s get cracking!
Wait, let me enjoy my weekend first, see you next week!

NM 🙂

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 25 – Favourite book you read in school


The one book that definitely made the biggest impression on me in school was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
It has the distinction of being the first book ever to have such an emotional impact on me. I was fuming at the incidences of racism; I felt genuine sympathy for Atticus Finch; I think I cried a little when he shot that dog and I wanted to scream in protest at Mayella Ewell and beat her with a crowbar!

As a South African teenager the issues of racism really hit home and I marveled at the irony of reading an American setbook in school, whose major themes mirrored the very issues we were dealing with in our then fledgling democracy.
To Sir, With Love was another great setbook that also dealt with racism in society and in relationships yet Mockingbird seemed all the more impressive in terms of its messages and its characters.

Set in the American South in 1930’s, Atticus is a literary hero who cannot be easily forgotten. The decision to tell the story from his daughter Scout’s point of view was an excellent one on Lee’s part. She’s such an endearing character, and her innocent but blunt point of view made all the injustices in the book seem greater.

Even the most cynical and stony-hearted person will be moved by this story. I recently picked up Mockingbird to read it for a second time. Being the sensitive little softie that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not because I would find it boring the second time around, but because I could still remember the storyline very clearly and all the emotions it stirred up within me the first time I read it. Only a true classic can accomplish this.

I feel every person on the planet should read To Kill a Mockingbird at least once in their life, so if you haven’t yet, do yourself a favour and get a copy of this book.

DAY 23 – Book you tell people you’ve read but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)


Now I don’t usually go around claiming to read books I haven’t even touched. But there is one book I’m not exactly forthcoming about not reading: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus

There was this one time when, while discussing the Gothic classics with someone, I casually threw the famous novel into the conversation. In case you didn’t know, I like to read non-fiction books concerning the horror genre too, so I know enough about Frankenstein (like the fact that it’s not the name of the monster (who’s nameless), but the name of the Doctor/creator) to come across as having read the book.

I do have my reasons however for not reading it as yet.

I was always under the impression that Frankenstein is science fiction, a genre I’m not too keen on. It was mainly due to this fact that I tended to ignore it whenever I came across it in the library or the bookstore.
In an ironic twist, my brother bought me a book a long time ago called the Frankenstein Omnibus, compiled by that king of Horror Anthologies-Peter Haining. My brother no doubt assumed I read Shelley’s novel (I didn’t bother to inform him otherwise!) when buying this book for me. It is a collection of short stories based on or influenced by Frankenstein in some way. I read a few of the stories and to be honest, it was not my cup of tea. Maybe I need to read Frankenstein to appreciate these stories more, I’m not sure. Anyways, this book also contributed to my lack of interest in the famous novel.

Recently however, I’ve met many people (bloggers included) who claim that Frankenstein is a brilliant book. Some of them are not even fans of horror or sci-fi but enjoyed it nevertheless. So I made up my mind to add this to my reading list. Finally!

The days of reading about Frankenstein are over. It’s time to read the classic itself.

NM 🙂

DAY 21 – Favourite picture book from childhood


When they say “Picture Book”, do they mean those books you picked up when you first started reading-the ones with only one or two lines of writing on each page? If that’s the case, I don’t think I have a favourite. Instead I’ll talk about two books both of which, although have plenty of words, are not short on pictures either.

I am very disappointed with myself. I searched everywhere for my Ladybird copy of Dracula but can’t seem to find it. I know its somewhere in my house but knowing Murphy’s Law I’ll probably only find it when I don’t need it or least expect it. I really wanted to show off the little book that made such an impression on me when I was a child. The illustrations especially are beautiful and very vivid.
Luckily, while searching the net, I found an image of the cover (exactly the same as mine)-you can see it on the side.
The story itself is off course, a much shorter version and told in the 3rd person. It’s beautifully written however and still manages to capture the eerie mood of the novel.

I talk about Dracula so much I thought I’d mention another children’s book I absolutely loved (and still do). Witch Stories for Bedtime by various authors is a collection of 7 stories about, yes you guessed it, witches. I read these stories over and over again when I was a kid and I’m not embarrassed to say it, but I think read them well into my teens too!

Along with the gorgeous illustrations by Jane Launchbury these stories are just awesome, and while perusing them now, I can still remember each one.
There is one story (written by Elizabeth Waugh) about the good and kindly Thomasina and her magical island where everything is made of some type of confectionary- from seashells made of bubblegum, to toffee trees and streams of lemonade.
Another tale called “Rachel and the Magic stone” (by Deborah Tyler) is about two witch sisters who keep quarreling over a magic stone given to them.
Then there was a funny one (by Sue Seddon) about a witch who hates cats and is forced to keep one by the Chief Witch. She tries to get rid of the cat but the little feline seems more powerful than her!
There were also some scary and unsettling tales too. Two of the stories seemed to be Hansel and Gretel-inspired while one called “Grumblog” (by Jane Garrett) is about a witch who messes with Mother Nature and then gets her comeuppance in the end.

The Magic Island by Elizabeth Waugh

My favourite story however was entitled “The Witches who Came To Stay” (written by Philip Steele), about 3 sisters who are shipwrecked on an island and impose themselves on a solitary fisherman-the only inhabitant on the island. He’s pissed off, off course, but he’s attracted to the youngest sister who’s quite feisty and verbally abuses him. The women make themselves at home (and a nuisance) and demand that the fisherman have their breakfast ready on time the following morning. They threaten to turn him into all sorts of creatures if he disobeys any of their requests. From this one story I learnt what a porpoise and an archaeopteryx (it’s a type of dinosaur) are. The plucky fisherman steals one of their spellbooks while they’re asleep and starts preparing pies for breakfasts. He adds a special potion to each pie. One sister turns into a fish and he throws her out to sea; the other turns into a seagull and then flies away. The youngest consumes a love potion prepared by the fisherman. She falls in love with him and they live happily ever after. You gotta love it!!

Here are a couple more pics from the book…

The Witch Who Didn't Have A Cat by Sue Seddon

The Witches Who Came To Stay by Philip Steele

With my brain filled with witches and vampires, I must have been one strange kid…

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 05 – Book you wish you could live in


I didn’t have to think much for this one either. I really wish I could live in Harry Potter’s world, even with Death Eaters, Dementors and Dark wizards considered (hey cool, alliteration, right there, look!).
And if I had to be transported to the wizarding world right now, I would save my parallel self a whole lot of trouble for, I have everything all figured out.

At Hogwarts I would probably be a Ravenclaw; I would suck at Transfiguration and Potions but be really good at Runes and History Of Magic. Given my predisposition towards bad balance and co-ordination, and motion-sickness, I definitely would NOT be playing Quidditch; although I might be a Weird Sister groupie and possibly a regular contributor to their monthly fanzine.
My pet of choice would be a cat, or two in fact (I could not stand to be parted from either Deucalion or Sir Garfield for too long. I have no doubt they both would fit in quite nicely in the wizarding world. My only worry is that together they might tear the Ravenclaw common room apart).
I hate to admit this but I would definitely take up Divination and maybe Care of Magical Creatures. That last one is a bit naïve of me- taking care of dogs and cats is a completely different ballgame as suppose to unicorns and Hippogriffs, I know.

Generally speaking, my wand would be made of Willow and Harpy’s hair; my Patronus would either be an owl or one of the big cats (maybe a panther or ocelot or something).

As an adult, it’s where I hit a slump. I’d like to think I’d be an Auror but that would be highly pretentious of me. The mere thought that a Dementor might be in the same vicinity as me would be enough to bring me to tears and have me screaming like a banshee. So no, I don’t think an Auror’s life is for me.
I think a more realistic vocation would be a wizarding historian or the like. Me, the successor to Bathilda Bagshot maybe? Equally pretentious but way more realistic methinks.

And knowing me, I wouldn’t be surprised if I married a Muggle or Death Eater, or half-giant-half vampire, just to piss my parents off. I am strange that way.

Okay I lied. Maybe I did think about this too much…

NM 🙂