Britain

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in England

the broke and the bookish

It’s Tuesday! Time for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the fab folks over at The Broke and The Bookish. The topic this week was pretty open-ended – Top Ten Favorite Books With X Setting. So we get to pick the setting! Except I read SUCH a crazy variety of books that it seemed hard to find a setting that I have at least 10 favorite books set in. And then after a while the answer seemed obvious – England! So here we go, my favorite books set in England.

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1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – Well of course. England kind of lurks in the background of the awesome magical world, but it’s there. It’s there.

2. Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde – I love Thursday Next! And these books are set a quirky, alternative reality kind of Britain. Double-awesome.

3. The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence – YES I just finished this book on Saturday. But it was SO awesome. Seriously, so much love. I love Alex’s little tiny town where he grows up.

4. All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness – Well the trilogy isn’t complete yet, and large chunks of the book occur in other countries as well, but the series starts off with the main character doing research at Oxford and the author did a fantastic job helping me picture England in my head. I WANT TO GO THERE.

5. Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon – Yeah, this one is a bit of a leap – the books take place in Scotland, England, and America. Still counts!

6. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson – This was such a great book, even if the character was that stereotypical uptight, super-polite English gentleman. He was such an adorable old guy.

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Austen, you saucy minx.

7. Jane Austen novels – Well I don’t even think this needs explaining.

8. Julia Quinn romances – Historical romances usually take place in old-timey England, with big estates that rich people live at and lots of balls and dances happening. It’s a good swoon-worthy environment.

9. Nightside series by Simon R. Green – This one is a bit of a stretch too, since most of the novel takes place in the Nightside, where it’s always 3 AM and any number of insane things are happening. But the Nightside is located underneath London, so there we have it.

The Tower.

The Tower.

10. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – This book put me in a total Tudor history phase back when I first read it. I would love to go see the Tower of London someday.

ALL OF THE BEST THINGS COME OUT OF ENGLAND. Well probably not all, but look how many! Not to mention how many of my favorite bloggers are over there…  😀

Alright guys, what are some books set in England that you think should be on this list? What are your favorite book settings? Share! Discuss!

~Sarah

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The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The Last Dragonslayer, Jasper Fforde

 

The Last Dragonslayer is the first in what will be a YA trilogy, and was just released in the U.S. I like Jasper Fforde and had my eye on this for a while, so when it came out I bought is right away.

I’m feeling particularly lazy this morning, so here’s the description from the back of the book, which is way better than the description I would be able to come up with…

In the good old days, magic was indispensable—it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading: drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic.

 

Seee, doesn’t it just sound awesome? And it was. It was all the weird quirkyness and Britishness of Jasper Fforde, but in YA form. The writing was easy and witty. The magical set-up is interesting – since magic is fading, the magicians try to conserve their energy down to the last shandar (unit of magic), and use their magic to earn money and pay the bills.

Like Fforde’s Thursday Next series, this book is set in an alternate-Britain – the characters live in the Ununited Kingdoms, magic exists but is strictly regulated, dragons are a fact of life, indentured servitude still exists, etc. Quarkbeasts exist, and they are awesome. I want one.

Jennifer Strange was a likeable girl – she’s young but also responsible, good, and a little sassy. She handles all that life gives her admirably, even when she doesn’t think she’s up for it.

Overall, this was a really fun read and while the plot was tied up pretty well, it also set the stage for the next books with unanswered questions like “Where did Mr. Zambini go?”. I’m very eagerly awaiting the U.S. release of the second book, The Song of the Quarkbeast. Sadly, there’s no release date yet.

 

Sarah Says: 4 stars

 

The Moonstone Readalong! The final section.

SPOILERS, FOR REAL PEOPLE. DON’T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T EXPERIENCED THE DELIGHT THAT IS THE MOONSTONE.

 

Holy crap it’s over! AND IT WAS GODFREY THE WHOLE TIME!! And despite his constant shady ways, I never saw it coming. I suck.

Also, who’s so much better than I thought he would be? Ezra Jennings. Cause I totally thought he was gonna be all creepy and malicious, but Wilkie sure proved me wrong on that one and instead made him so awesome. And way nicer than most people would be, cause people were straight-up assholes towards him. Except for Rachel, she was sweet to him so she gained major points in her favor with that. Also, Franklin Blake is THE MOST BORINGEST NARRATOR EVER. Dude his chapters sucked. The last section of the book was totally saved by Ezra and the reappearance of Cuff & Betteredge. And that little Gooseberry kid.

Betteredge, I love you forever. “You shall be obeyed. The maggots notwithstanding, sir, you shall be obeyed.” Even if you were a total douche to Ezra, you were hilarious while doing so and I can forgive almost anything if it makes me laugh.

Soooo… am I supposed to have deep thoughts? I have none. I’m more like:

1. Betteredge is the man. So if Cuff. And Ezra.

2. I totally thought Lady V died in a weird way. I wish Wilkie had down more with that.

3. YAY Wilkie for not loving only white people, and for returning the Diamond to India in the end. Cause it would have been kind of jerky if Rachel & Franklin had recovered it and got to keep it.

4. I need to work “There’s a tract for that.” into more day-to-day conversations.

5. I need to write down ALL the hilarious Betteredge quotes down somewhere.

6. Holy crap still surprised it was Godfrey. That sly bastard.

7. W. C. loves his opium. For reals.

And I could probably go on for ages, except it would probably get boring. So my first experience with Wilkie = major giant thumbs up. Maybe this fall I’ll finally get to read The Woman in White and join in on all this Marian-lovin. Cause you guys seem to really dig her.

 

Love that way that the fur matches your giant beard, dude. Really minimizes your gigantic forehead.

It’s been fun guys! Can’t wait for the next one 🙂

~Sarah

The Moonstone Readalong – Beginning Post

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Mine.

It’s HERE! I had to skip out on Alice’s The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins readalong and I am super jealous that I missed the epicness of it. Soooo here I can finally join in what is sure to be another awesome readalong and experience the Wilkie-ness of it all. Yay!

Oh right, supposed to introduce myself. Hi, I’m Sarah *WAVES* and I missed TWIW readalong in April because my poor grandma was sick and then she died and you know, I had stuff to do cause of that. I’m sure that my grandma very much regrets making me miss out on the fun. Hmmm… what else? I’m 25, I’m a homebody, obviously I like to read and……… I’m hungry.

Seeing as how this will be my first Wilkie Collins book, I don’t have a whole lot to say here. According to my awesome powers of looking stuff up on Wikipedia, The Moonstone is about some guy giving his niece a giant-ass diamond (AKA THE MOONSTONE) for her 18th birthday, but that diamond was stolen from a holy statue in India and there are dudes looking for it and it gets stolen and drama and mystery ensues. Just like The Woman in White, this book is considered to be among the first of the crime / mystery genre and introduces a number of the “classic” mystery novel icons, like “red herrings” and “an inside job” and so on and so forth.

I did read the introduction, which was a lot of “this character is regarded as this and this novel is so celebrated because of this” and explained some of the background of big popular diamonds. (And the intro did give a little background on the messed-up-ness that happened at Seringapatam.) There are also two prefaces by the author, in which he admits that while writing this he was in bed suffering massively from gout, but that he couldn’t stand the thought of his readers missing his weekly sections of the story so he dictated the book from bed. The intro points out that because of this, he was probably high off his ass on opium while writing some of this book.

So obviously this is going to be awesome.

~Sarah

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Recommend to Someone Who Doesn’t Read (Blank)

 

Hey ya’ll. So it’s Tuesday again, and I’m crazy busy as always. Still, time for my favorite meme, which is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’d Recommend To Someone Who Doesn’t Read X…

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m kind of sick of recommending the same books over and over and over in these lists… Obviously I’m going to recommend Outlander series if you like ANY kind of reading. Obviously I’m going to recommend Bet Me if you haven’t tried romance before. So, in an effort to mix it up a little bit, these categories are going to be somewhat unusual…

1. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read About Hell Very Often: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

I’m almost halfway through this book now, and it’s enjoyable. It’s dark and there’s bad-assery and dude, the guy survived ELEVEN YEARS in Hell, so he has some good Hell stories. Just sayin.

 

2. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Romance Featuring Dogs: Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

Gotta love Crusie, she’s awesome at writing romance. And this is a super cute (and short) book about a woman who gets a dog and falls in love. (Not with dog, pervert, it’s not THAT kind of romance.)

 

3. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Giant Historical Fiction: Helen of Troy by Margaret George

Dude, Margaret George is some SERIOUS historical fiction. She writes lengthy but super-awesome historical fiction novels. I particularly liked this one, about Helen of Troy. You know, in case the title wasn’t obvious enough.

 

4. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Mysteries With a Gay British Protagonist: Lord John series by Diana Gabaldon

Well, I had to put SOMETHING Outlander-related on this list! This is a little side-series featuring Lord John Grey, a particularly awesome character. These books usually revolve around him solving some sort of mystery, and the one featured above is the “first” one, as in written first but not necessarily chronological per the storylines. It doesn’t really matter, just read them.

 

5. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Books With a Bajillion Characters: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

It’s a testament to what a fantastic writer Martin is, that this book has like 20 “main” characters and I can vividly picture and remember them all. Love these books.

 

6. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read YA Books About Teens With Diseases: Don’t Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel

For some sick reason, I LOOOOOOVED McDaniel’s books about kids with various terminal illnesses. This was my favorite one, and I actually still own it. I kind of want to go re-read it, lol. It’s about a high school couple who are so perfect for each other, but the boyfriend gets some rare form of cancer. Depressing as all hell.

 

7. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read About African Boys Who Love Tennis: Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

So, this was actually a fantasic autobiography about this boy born in South Africa during apartheid, his life dealing with that, and how his love of learning and of tennis eventually got him out of it.

 

8. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read About the Future and People Living Forever: The Postmortal by Drew Magary

AWESOME novel, one of my favorites last year. A “cure” for death is found, and one guy’s experiences and blog entries chronicle how the world changes with the Cure, and shows the initial awesomeness and the inevitable horribleness of such a medicine.

 

9. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read About a Weird Britain in the 1980’s: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The first of the Thursday Next books. There’s characters jumping out of books, time-traveling, a police force just for literature, a villain who is evil just for the sake of being evil (those are the best kind of villains), what’s not to love?

 

10. … to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Books With Bright Orange Eye-Catching Covers: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Quick, interesting, good story… It was a good read. However I MAY like the cover even more, cause you know, just look at it.

 

So that’s what I got for today! Happy TTT!

~Sarah

 

>The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

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OK, my feelings about this book are a bit mixed up but overall positive. Let’s start with what it’s about.

The novel takes place in 1985-ish Britain, but a bit quirky – time travel just kind of happens, cloned pets are all the rage, and literature is a SERIOUS thing. Like, people will fight over who was the real Shakespeare, and there’s a whole SpecOps field for protecting the sanctity of the written word – Thursday Next is one such Literary Detective. When people start disappearing into books and characters in major classics start going missing, Thursday is the girl to call. But she’ll have to face a serious big-time baddie to save the day.

So, overall an awesome premise and I found the whole world created pretty fascinating. I loved reading about how different things were. And Thursday herself is a pretty cool gal. She’s tough, although a little damaged from her time as a soldier. And then there was my favorite character – Hades. Acheron Hades is the big bad guy, and I LOVED him. I know, I know – I’m generally not supposed to like the villain. But I loved his intellect, sharp humor, and just general psychopath-ness.

Now, I have two kind of small complaints. One is that this is all uber-British, which is fine. I like England. However, since I’m not British, I found that a whole lot of things just went right over my head. I didn’t get a lot of little jokes that I feel like I should have gotten. There’s an online reference guide somewhere for that stuff, but I wasn’t always near the computer while reading so I kind of had to just gloss over the wacky British things I didn’t get.

My other small complaint is that the title, and the blurb on the back of the book, lead most to think that majority of this book concerns the fact that Jane Eyre goes missing from that famous Charlotte Bronte novel. But it actually kind of took a long time to get to that, so I was mildly disappointed by that. I’d be more disappointed if I was actually a fan of Jane Eyre, but I’m not. That kind of worked in my favor here.

Anyhoo, this was a fun, different novel with equally fun and different characters. Also, some of these characters just have the BEST names. I won’t type them here, cause you should go read it and find out for yourself. So go give it a try. I’ll be picking up the sequels eventually.

Sarah Says: 4 stars

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Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

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Oh, oh, oh – what a delightful novel.

Major Pettigrew is a very conventional, retired widower now dealing with the loss of his younger brother Bertie. His uneasy relationship with his adult son, Roger, only serves to remind him how truly lonely he is in the world. While enduring the condolences of socialite community women, and trying to regain ownership of Bertie’s old gun that should rightfully go to him, he finds himself drawn into a wonderful friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali – the local Pakistani shopkeeper. They bond over a love of literature, propriety, and their family troubles and their love story is adorable and full of that sharp, British wit.

I admit that for myself, the story started a bit slow. It wasn’t long though until I was drawn in Pettigrew’s world – the Major is a very honorable, sensible man and it was just so refreshing to read about two level-headed people falling in love, despite the craziness going on around them. There were some truly irritating characters, but it was fun to see the Major’s sarcastic retorts, and Mrs. Ali snuck a few good comebacks in herself. Roger, his son, was probably the character I found most annoying. Actually this quote perfectly demonstrates the difference between Major Pettigrew and his son:

“Oh it’s simple pragmatism, Dad. It’s called the real world. If we refused to do business with the morally questionable, the deal volume would drop in half and the good guys like us would end up poor. Then where would we all be?”

“On a nice dry spit of land known as the moral high ground?” suggested the Major.

There were also several characters that started off annoying but gradually became much more likable, such as Abdul Wahid or Grace. It made me happy that there so many unique characters, and that some of them actually redeemed themselves before the story ended. It also just gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside to see so many people becoming friends, even though so many of them would be considered past the age for that. We all just kind of assume that past the middle-aged years of our lives, we’re pretty much done with bonding and new relationships.

On a more serious note, it was quite thought-provoking to see the tensions between the British and the Pakistani characters. Honestly, it’s not really a relationship I’d ever thought about before, and I thought this book did a good job of reflecting the tensions still present, despite the social niceties and that the setting is the modern world.

Overall, this was a perfectly quaint little book. I loved the story, the characters, the dialogue – I honestly can’t say a bad thing about it.

Sarah Says: 5 stars

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