Why Book Bans Hurt Me As A Reader

So lately, I've been trapped in a pretty dire reading slump.

I am reading a book at the moment - a publicist was kind enough to send me Kristen Simmon's Metaltown for review, and it's pretty darn good - but because my reading moods have been few and far between in the last few weeks, I'm moving almost agonisingly absolutely-and-totally-excrutiantingly slowly.
And literally today, I figured out why. It's because I've been on a book ban for the last month or so.
The thing is, for me at least, the speed at which I get something read isn't just related to how good the book itself is. It's also how excited I am about the next book I have waiting. And if I don't have a book waiting, my incentive is halved.

I think you see the problem, right?

The worst part is that I want to read. It's not fun being eleven books behind on your Goodreads goal, and I really do want to go hang out with some characters for a while. But as soon as I actually pick up whatever book I've got on the go, it feels as if I'm not actually taking it in properly. And then it feels as if I'm not going to give a fair review, which I always do my absolute utmost to avoid, and then I doubt myself as a book blogger because I don't read as much as a lot of others.

But do you know what?
I've decided that I need to give myself the freedom to enjoy my reading the way I want to. That means, if I have money and there's a book I want enough to know I'll get to it eventually? I'm probably just going to go ahead and buy it.

I'm not going to force myself to read in the name of a goal or trying to keep up with someone else, because then I won't enjoy it and that would just be sad. You people who manage to read 300 books a year are amazing and I salute your amazingness, but I just have to accept I'm probably never going to be one of you.

I'm going to read for the pure joy of it.
And that doesn't mean I'm abandoning my blog, or commitments I've already made or might want to make in the future. It just means I'm going to go easy on myself a little tiny bit.
And hey, I now know book bans don't work for me. I have an excuse to hoard books as much as I please.
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The Birthstone Tag

It's TAG TIME, you guys!

As usual, I haven't been tagged, because I'm a rebel blogger and no-one can tell me what to do. (I will of course credit. I'm a wild one, not a plagarising nincompoop.)

The Birthstone Tag was created by BookTuber Judy G,  who has one of the most interesting video editing styles on offer - I've never seen anything quite like it before. I actually found said tag through Samantha @ Spines and Covers, a blog with what is probably the prettiest design I've ever seen. Go marvel at its beauty after you've read this post, okay?

Anyway, I think I was supposed to be doing a tag. ONWARDS, FIENDS!

January (GARNET): Associated with warding off negative forces and dark energies - Name a book with the darkest/evilest character you can think of.

I think I'm just going to go ahead here and name the character we all hate more than any other. The character that might as well be the main villain of her series, because frankly she's almost as dangerous as the main man and a lot more hateful. The character that is at various points described as 'toadlike', 'judgemental' and even 'sadistic' by her author.

If your entire brain wasn't screaming DOLORES UMBRIDGE by the end of that paragraph (to be honest, a glance at the GIF should have been enough), then you clearly haven't read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

February (AMETHYST): Purple is associated with royalty - Name a book with regal qualities... You can base this off of characters or choose the King of all books.

I'm probably the worst Throne of Glass fan ever, because I only got to the third book and now I'm struggling to continue because I've forgotten pretty much everything that happened. But anyway. You say royalty, and I say Dorian Hallivaird.

(If his last name is spelled wrong, I'm sorry, but I refuse to Google it because I've heard the spoilers are pretty intense.)

He's got that arrogance that only royalty can get away with, because they somehow need it to be regal. And yet I must admit that he's pretty darn charming, no matter what team I was on when I read the books.

*cough* Chaol *cough*

March (AQUAMARINE): Washed out - Name a 'wishy washy' character, a character who is not strong or is a follower.

Urgh. You'll have seen from the Heroine Tag I did back when I was a baby blogger (I'm more of a toddler now. Brace yourself for the terrible twos, because my second birthday is next April) how much I just don't get along with Cassia from Ally Condie's Matched. The book was by no means bad, and I don't mean to trash it. (Really, really, I don't want to be mean. I know a lot of people love this book and I just generally hate the idea of upsetting people who've worked hard on a book by ripping it to shreds.)

She was bland and just a little bit whiny. It's been a while since I read the book, sure, but I don't think I remember her making many decisions that weren't based on her love interests. She was painted as revolutionary, but it never really felt as if she was cutting her own path. 

*backs away slowly from possibly controversial opinion*

April (DIAMOND): A diamond in the rough - Name a book that you loved but is not well known.

I've been going on about Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star for so long now I'm not even sure if it's unknown anymore. But, naturally, I'm going to talk about it all over again. I think it might be my favourite book of all time - and you guys know how hard it is for me to make that decision as a bookworm - so I just take every opportunity I get to scream about it from the rooftops.

Basically. Ghosts. In London. With an American protagonist who generally just has to get used to the weirdness that is Britain. Oh, and JACK THE RIPPER! AND A REALISTIC INTERPRETATION OF ENGLISH SCHOOL LIFE! AND-

*is dragged off by security*

May (EMERALD): Said to balance energy - Name two characters who balance each other well.

UM, Percabeth anyone? Percy Jackson is the wild, heroic soul who's brave almost to the point of stupidity and values those he loves above pretty much everything else including the survival of the human race; Annabeth is the worldly-wise tactician who has a strong sense of moral responsibility and whose biggest flaw is that she loses sight of things when she's proud of her own work. They are pretty much absolute opposites, but that's what makes them two sides of the same coin.

They also tend to make much more sensible decisions when they're together. The whole of Percy's behaviour in The Son of Neptune pretty much demonstrates that.

June (PEARL): Associated with loyalty - Name a character who is loyal to the end.

Hazel from the Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens puts up with a LOT from Daisy, her best friend. Being dragged into murder scenes seems like a good example, but there's also ... well.

I don't want to spoil anything for you. If you've read the book, you'll know that Daisy can be pretty snappy to her at times. Hazel's not exactly a pushover, but she's loyal almost to a fault, and the skill with which that balance is written is one of my favourite parts of her character.

July (RUBY): Blood red - Name a book that made your blood boil, one that made you angry.

The Normal Series by Holly Bourne always makes my blood boil in the best possible way. Watching Evie, Amber and Lottie fight through the world to try and survive as teenage feminists - managing to both make realistic mistakes and be completely kickass while doing so - is just one of the most inspiring things ever. I get angry at the sexism they face, and I usually come out wanting to destroy it.

Whatever way you look at it, that's kind of an awesome feeling.

August (PERIDOT): Pale green (it pales in comparison to other gems) - Name a supporting character who you like better than the main character.

Oooh, there are so many! I have this kind of affinity with supporting characters - and that doesn't mean I dislike their main character by any means, but ... sometimes awesome people come from unexpected places. I also talked about this on my Heroine Tag, I think, but Ivy from Alison Cherry's Red wore converse to enter a beauty pagaent. She's like my spirit animal.

As for stuff I've read more recently, Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue was just all-round brilliant, and it's another book that far more people need to know about. IT'S ONLY GOT EIGHT REVIEWS ON GOODREADS, PEOPLE. FIX THIS.

Anyway. It's this amazing MG novel that I picked up 100% because of cover love and, while the main character is awesome, she has this twin sister called Della. Della auditions for broadway musicals and is basically everything drama-queeny that I pretend not to be, but deep down know I am.

Only those of you who've sung in choirs will understand what I mean, but ... she's such a soprano. As am I.

September (SAPPHIRE): Blue like the ocean which is calming - Name a book that had a calming effect on you.

A book? Calming?! Excuse me, have you read a YA novel in the last - well, ever?

I'm really having to rack my brains here, but re-reading the Harry Potter books always gives me this lovely, calm squishy feeling of coming home. It's just such a familiar story, and knowing that I get to hang out in such a familiar world with such familiar characters ... there's no feeling quite like it.

October (OPAL): Iridescent - Name an iridescent book, this can be a book with a beautiful cover (Shiny? Lots of colour?) or you can base it off of a character (Quirky? Colourful?)

First of all, why is it that the October people get the best birthstone? I need my iridescent, shiny-amazing Opal over here in December, you guys!

Anyway. On to the actual point of the actual question. The picture doesn't do it justice, but Seed by Lisa Heathfield has this absolutely beautiful shiny cover that makes different words show up at different angles. It also broke my heart. You might need to read my review just to prepare yourself before you start.

Yes, that was self-promo done so shamelessly you are tutting. No, you do not need to comment. *hair flip*

November (TOPAZ): Associated with resilience - Name a book with a character who rises to the top in a time of adversity.

Anne Frank might not be a character, but if anyone tried to tell me she wasn't resilient I think I'd have to talk myself out of physical violence. She had times when she really struggled with her situation, sure, but resilience isn't about being totally okay with hardship every second of every day. It's about picking yourself out of those black holes and daring to keep your dreams alive.

Anne did that almost day in, day out through one of the most terrible times in human existence, and frankly I think we should celebrate that.

December (BLUE ZIRCON): Associated with friendship - Name a book with a friendship you want to be a part of.

Well technically it's a sisterhood, not a friendship, but Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before 
involves one of the most lovely platonic relationships I've ever read.


In the comments: What's your birthstone? Which book would you put in that category? And do you vehemently (I love that word) disagree with anything I've said? Let's discuss!
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Here's Why YOU Are Awesome

So here's the thing.

Chances are, your day today wasn't the worst you've ever had. Maybe it has been utterly terrible, so bad that I can barely even comprehend what's happening in your head right now, and if that's the case I don't want to trivialise what's happened. But the fact is that, if it is the worst day ever, tomorrow has to be at least a tiny bit better, right?

It's okay to be sad, or angry, or stressed, or scared, no matter what about. It's okay to cry easily. It doesn't make you pathetic, or immature, or over-dramatic.

It's okay not to cry, too. It's okay to feel numb when you go through tough times. It doesn't make you selfish, or cold, or weird.

All of it. It's all okay.

You've made mistakes, sure ... but that's what makes you human? There's this amazing quote from J.K. Rowling:
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.                      ~ J.K. Rowling
Maybe you've heard it before, maybe you haven't. But I guess this is what I think it means.

It means that when you fail, you just have to take a second to dust yourself off - then go out there and fail all over again. It means that if you're scared of doing something in case you fail, you're just being scared of the next step in your life. 

So go ahead. Sign up for that class you think you might crash and burn in. Try out for a play or sports team just because you can. Ask that cute human out, just so you can see what happens.
(By the way, I'm probably a hypocrite to tell you this. I've teetered on the edge of doing stuff because I was terrified of it going wrong. But when I did? Most of the time, it was pretty awesome.)

And hey, if you fail to even try those things? Just pick yourself up and try trying again tomorrow.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that you - no, really, YOU - are awesome. Maybe the stuff you've done in the past wasn't that awesome, but back then, even fifteen minutes ago, you weren't the same person you are right now. Because I'm also guessing that if you're reading this, you want the confidence to make a change, right?

And if you just need the confidence to stay who you are, and to keep living your life, you're still awesome. Just because.

You're awesome because someone out there loves you for who you are, and really, someone does. If you don't think you know them right now, you probably just need to think harder and be a little nicer to yourself.

You're awesome because you have talent. Everyone has talent at something, be it ... art. Or ... science. Or looking after babies, or drawing manga or looking after your friends or ... I don't know. Writing pep talks. Again, if you can't see that talent? Be a little nicer to yourself!

Mostly, you're awesome because you're YOU. You're utterly unique and there's no denying that fact. There's no use you trying to be something you're not, because then the world will be missing the influence of an amazing person who's trying to do a job someone else has already got covered. Oscar Wilde probably said it better:
Be yourself; everybody else is taken. ~ Oscar Wilde
So here's the thing. I could go on for hundreds and hundreds of words about how you, personally, are awesome, and then do that again six billion times. But you know I'm not that patient, and because I don't know you nearly as well as the people who truly love you, I wouldn't even scratch the surface of said awesomeness. You're just going to have to trust me that just because you're not flawless - and remember that I consider that a compliment because flawless is the highest level of boring - doesn't mean you're not absolutely, irrefutably awesome.
Now go out there and fail, you awesome soul.

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My Summer Reads: 10 Words or Less

As you guys may or may not know, I was not a very productive reader this summer. I'm not a very productive reader in general, to be honest, but ten books in six weeks? When I've got to read two a week to keep up with the Goodreads goal I'm already behind on?

Ah well. I read stuff - and, luckily for you guys, I consider ten books is the perfect number to feature in a blog post. If you would ever-so-kindly remember the fact that I'm only using ten words to describe each book, I think the whole thing becomes rather cutsey and well co-ordinated.

Wait. It's just occurred to me that with only ten words per book, I won't be able to ramble on at you guys.

Enjoy it while it lasts. Normal, waffley service will be resumed on Friday.

The Manifesto on How To Be Interesting - Unique character voice, addictively written, not too tropey.

Maresi - Thought-provoking and vivid worldbuilding. Gets better as it goes on.

Seed - A summery ball of creepy awesomeness - except the rushed ending.

Cuckoo - Gritty. Well researched. Interesting format. Characters not explored enough?

Shades of London (series of 3) - British and American culture crash together hilariously. With ghosts.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Guys. This is Harry Potter. Why are you even asking?

The Sellout - First adult book in a while. Heavily political satire. Nope.

Everything, Everything - Pure, messed up and beautiful all at once.
Um ... so ... I'm ... done? This feels so weird. I haven't torn nearly enough words out of my soul and plastered them on the page.

Or maybe I'm just accustomed to using too many.

In the comments: What did you guys read this summer? Can you summarise any of the books in ten words or less (it takes a bit of thinking!)? Would you say different things about the ones I've listed here?
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How to Manage Your Blogging Time

Being a blogger is easy ... until life gets busy.
If we all had a couple of extra hours in the day when we weren't allowed to do anything except stay in, glued to our computer, and pound out a post, it would probably be easier. But the fact of the matter is that, even if we had those extra hours, they'd probably get taken over with all those busy life things if we were lazy about it - the trick is to manage all the time you have.

Yes. This is easier said than done. But never fear, for I AM THE MASTER OF ALL THESE THINGS AND SHALL TEACH YOU.

*everyone bursts into uncontrollable laughter so acute that they struggle to breathe*
Okay, fine. I am not exactly the master of blog organisation. I'm the un-master, if that's a thing. What that does mean, however, is that the tricks I use must be mind-numbingly easy to use, or I just wouldn't be able to follow them. So ... you have guaranteed success, right?

That has to be a good thing.

Now, I have experience balancing blogging with school, homework and choral singing, so some of my examples might be a little specific, but this advice should be general enough to blog while keeping up a job, looking after kids or guarding your secret ninja identity.

Tip #1 ~ Make the most of all your time.

Some days, that convenient half an hour you can use to blog isn't going to involve you sitting at home with all the supplies you could possibly need. It might be while someone else drives you to school, or while you wait at the bus stop, or in your lunch break at work. It might even be divided into 5 minute chunks.

But that doesn't mean you can't use them.

Both WordPress and Blogger have apps that you can use to write up posts on the go. They don't have as many features as the desktop platform, obviously, but what I love about the Blogger one in particular (I've only ever used that because frankly I'm scared of change and WordPress seems a little scary) is that it works without WiFi as long as you've 'synced' your posts before you start. So you can literally blog anywhere in the world.

If you do happen to have WiFi, you can catch up on emails and blog comments too. Doing anything that would otherwise eat into the little in-front-of-the-computer time you have will help so much, I promise.

Tip #2 ~ Keep track of ideas.

There is nothing more annoying IN EXISTENCE than having all the time you need to blog ... and then not being able to think of a single thing to type. Except maybe getting food stuck between your teeth. I'm sure you'll recognise that horrible sensation of time slipping away - any clocks in the room usually end up sounding ten times louder at this point - and knowing you're just wasting it, but not knowing how to stop.

The thing is you'll also have times when you have a brilliant idea, but no time or space in your schedule to write it. Or maybe, while you know it's good, it just isn't inspiring you right this minute.

Please, please, please write it down somewhere. In a list. As a draft blog post. Just have a place where you put all of those unused ideas (plus tags you've been tagged in - I always seem to forget about these), and then they'll be ready and waiting when you have a spare moment but nothing to fill it with.

Tip #3 ~ Break it up

No, not that kind of break up.
So, you have to write a blog post.

At a first glance, that sounds like a basic task that can't be split up much more. It can be difficult, but isn't the kind of thing you can take in stages, right?

Wrong. Off the top of my head, these are some of the stages you have to go through to get a blog post from a blank screen to the archives. I'm sure there must be more that my over-busy, slightly exhausted brain can't come up with.
  • Come up with an idea.
  • Plan the structure of the post.
  • Write an introduction.
  • Write your main body.
  • Find / take photos.
  • Make a title graphic.
  • Proofread final post.
  • Add labels, or tags, or whatever you want to call it.
  • Publicise
Recognising each of these stages as seperate tasks is something I find really helpful. First of all, the psychological joy of having ticked nine things off my list instead of one is ridiculously motivating, and secondly it makes things a lot more productive when I have to blog in short bursts. Ten minutes? Okay, get your introduction done. Five? I can make a title graphic in that time. Two? Oh, I can write a tweet. Even thirty seconds is enough time to add my post labels. 

And all this from properly splitting up your tasks.

Tip #4 ~ Look into co-blogging

I don't know very much about co-blogging, to be honest. I have always been and will always be (for risk of sounding too scary and dramatic) someone who works better alone. But I can't possibly write a post for busy bloggers without mentioning sharing a blog with someone else an option. The way I understand it, there's less work if two or more people can split it up between them, bouncing off of each other is both fun and great for when you're blocked, and ... sometimes it's just generally a lot of fun?

Clearly, I am not an expert on this subject, but luckily I can link to some people who are. Shar from Virtually Read wrote this lovely post on The Benefits of Co-Blogging, YA Midnight Reads' Melanie can tell you All About Co-Blogging, and Pages Unbound has some more specific advice on How to Find a Great Co-Blogger. They're all awesome enough to tell you more than you need to know.

Tip #5 ~ Let go of perfect. Strive for better.

Sometimes, you just have to admit that nobody's perfect, and things you hadn't planned on are going to happen. You might miss a post one week, but hey! You still wrote the rest! Not having the time to take your own photos for a day or two doesn't undo all the amazing photography you've done in the past, just the same as it's okay to take a week off for exams or a family holiday or to look after your mental health for a while. Blogging is amazing, but only if you give yourself the freedom to truly enjoy it, and you can do that in any way you want.

Don't compare yourself to everyone else. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

In the comments: What tricks do you use to manage your blogging time? Are they the same as what you've seen work for other people? And do you have anything motivational to say to other busy bloggers?
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Beautiful People #21 (More Rambling About My WIP)

I tried to publish this post on Friday, as I was supposed to, but we had a slight GIF issue ... in that there weren't any. And that just wouldn't do.

So ... it's the beginning of September. The beginning of a month. BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE TIME, YOU BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE!
*ahem* Sorry. I'm just really excited.

Beautiful People is a meme created by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In that allows writers to get to know their characters better by asking them questions every single month (or less, if you fancy skipping I guess - but why?). I'm such a fan of the whole thing that I'd give up chocolate to do it.

Maybe not marzipan. But I'd definitely give up chocolate ... for a bit. Click on my fancy little hyperlinked picture for more information.

This month, it's all about Grace from the horribly (and thankfully temporarily) titled Harrow, which is a goofy romance involving posh boys and poker (more info here). You're probably getting a bit bored of her now, but she's still being a bit tricksy, so I need all the help getting to know her I can

How did you come up with this character?

Well ... she just kind of popped into my head, to be honest. I'd been watching this TV show called Harrow: A Very British School, and I'd been wondering what happens when a housemaster (who lives with his family along with the seventy or so boys he looks after) has a daughter. Does she get sent away to boarding school or something? What happens if she doesn't want to go?

Grace kind of rose from those questions (but if I compared her to a phoenix, she'd look at me really funny) - a snarky teen who has absolutely no idea what to do about romance, so she just kind of beats the boys at poker until they go away. This can lead to some pretty hilarious happenings when she takes advice from her best friend Lorna, who means well, but doesn't exactly know much more.

Have they ever been starving? Why? And what did they eat to break the fast?

Starving? Grace? She grew up in a pretty rough area in London, but only because her Dad refused to move: they always had the money for food, and she knew how lucky she was. She's always just thought it was kind of illogical to let yourself - and then everyone around you - go hungry when you had the resources to eat. 

Or maybe she just likes food.

Do they have a talent or skill that they’re proud of?

Grace is a poker player. She is infinitely proud of this because it allows her to beat people at things. Her only other skill (that she admits to, anyway) is a knack for French.

List 3 things that would make them lose their temper.

Oooh, Grace loses her temper a lot. At least, inwardly. It's kind of pointless to yell and strop when your Dad either sort of tries to use the awkward Sheldon Cooper 'there there' technique (see above) or starts to panic because you're mad at him. Lorna ends up placating her a lot.

And I really mean a lot. Give me a couple of hours, and I could probably list thirty things.
  1. Her Dad taking on a big responsibility, assuring her he won't end up panicking about it, and then panicking. (I know this sounds weirdly specific, but it happens a lot.)
  2. People assuming that since she's a girl, she mustn't be any good at poker. This can be a problem, because if she gets too mad the emotion clouds her judgement, and she basically proves them right.
  3. Anyone who picks on Lorna. Only Grace can pick on Lorna.

What is their favourite type of weather? Least favourite?

This is a lovely GIF - and it does have snow in it.
Snow! Grace loves snow even more than she loves food - and that's almost impossible to do without exploding from the excitement. She plays in it like a little kid, and has now created an admittedly very dangerous technique for moving Lorna's wheelchair through it. If a medical professional ever saw, they'd probably have a heart attack. 

No, I'm not even using hyperbole here. No-one's been significantly injured yet, so I guess that's a good thing.

Her least favourite type of weather is rain bad enough to stop outdoor sports at Harrow. Cooped up schoolboys are unpredictable schoolboys, and it's all Grace can do to hide in her room until it's over sometimes.

What is their Hogwarts house and/or MBTI personality?

Hmm ... she'd tell you she was a Gryffindor, probably. But honestly? I think she's a tiny little Slytherin snake. And I really, really don't mean that in a bad way - it's just that she is cunning, she is tactical, and she would use any means to achieve her gains. That's just what Grace is like.

Are they more likely to worry about present problems, or freak out about the unknown future?

Definitely present problems, because the future is kind of an escape for her. However rubbish stuff can get at Harrow, there's always the day when she can leave home, run away to Monaco, and make her fortune in the poker World Series. She doesn't worry about where she's going to find the entry fee. She just dreams.

Present problems are also pretty problematic in the world of Grace Hawke. What with a super-strict Dad, GCSEs and the amount of stuff that goes on in the book (no, you can't know what. Spoilers, people) she'd be stupid not to worry.

I do like to torture her, you see.

What is their favourite thing to drink?

Lemonade. There's this whole scene in the book that involves Grace trying to find lemonade at her first real house party. The whole thing just goes very very wrong.

What is their favourite colour? Least favourite?

Grace doesn't know why she doesn't like blue. I don't really know either, to be honest - but it can't be a coincidence that blue is a Harrow colour, can it? Her favourite colour's red, like hearts and diamonds.


What is a book that changed their life?

I'm utterly ashamed to say it, but I've written a main character who doesn't really read anything other than poker theory books. Soz guys.

In the comments: Who did Beautiful People this month? GIVE ME ALL YOUR LINKS! What do you think of Grace?
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5 Bearable Classics to Impress Your English Teacher With

So, by the time you guys read this, I will be back at school for the first time in six weeks. You've probably already started. For some people, this is kind a bummer, but personally ... well, you know me. Do you think I'm Hermione Granger or Ron Weasley in this situation?
Yeah. September is basically my favourite month (well, second favourite - it doesn't have Christmas).

Last year, I wrote a post on books to read when you get back to school, and today I wanted to do something a little similar without self-plagiarising. Therefore, I've come up with a list of classics you can use to impress your new English teacher without finding the language too difficult. I'm sure Bronte and Austen are just as brilliant as everyone says, but I find slogging through their prose difficult enough when I'm not busy re-adjusting to school life.

#1 - Animal Farm by George Orwell

Oh, Animal Farm, thou art ridiculously brilliant. I've listed it first because ... well ... I'm allowed to have favourites, right? And I'm pretty sure this is my favourite classic. Sure, it sounds like a pretty juvinile story when you think about it - talking animals taking over their farm to form a state where everyone gets what they need. But trust me, it gets darker and better and generally more interesting when you realise it's a comparison to Communist Russia (seriously, every single part of it is a symbol for something in real life. Look it up on Wikipedia, but only when you finished reading because otherwise the spoilers would be atrocious.) The characters might be farm animals, but they have the vivid emotions of humans. There's this one particular carthorse, Boxer, who I just want to cuddle to pieces because he's such a hardworking, beautiful creature.

I guess it was him, and a few other lovely characters in Animal Farm, who proved to me that you could get emotionally attached to classics, not just be forced to study them and bring them to English lessons to look clever.

#2 - Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Ballet Shoes is one of the sweetest, easiest-to-read classics I've ever laid my sticky little paws on. It really is a born and bred kiddies book, but that doesn't mean there's no plot or the characters are made of cardboard. It just means that reading it makes me feel all innocent again, as if Pauline, Petrova and Posy are my friends and I too live on a time when this blog would have been a diary. 

(Sorry, that metaphor made a lot more sense in my head. I mean I quite like the idea of living in the Ballet Shoes era other than the fact that I wouldn't be a blogger or know all of you guys.)

There's also an amazing film version with a young Emma Watson as Pauline, which I highly recommend you track down. You might have to save it for after school though.

#3 - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

If Animal Farm is my favourite classic, then To Kill A Mockingbird runs a second so close I can barely call it. Maybe I have a soft spot for novels with deeper themes. Maybe it isn't a coincidence that my two favourite classics were introduced to me by two of the best English teachers I've ever had. But there's something about one of the most terrible, violent cess-pits of the human condition - and by that I mean Alabama in the racist 1930s - seen through the eyes of a child who barely even understood what being a good person really means, let alone why what she sees is evil.

By the way, if anyone who's recently read (and is therefore recovering from) To Kill A Mockingbird wants to discuss whether Scout's innocence makes her a reliable or unreliable narrator, just say the word. I still have the essay somewhere.

#4 - The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I've never seen character development quite as amazing as Mary Lennox's in The Secret Garden. I don't want to give too much away, but she changes pretty much completely from beginning to end, and somehow that's not jarring. Like, at all. The setting is beautiful and bleak and expansive all at once (I do love the Yorkshire moors) and I can't really say much about any of the other characters - their very existence is kind of a spoiler. You'll just have to trust me that they're interesting enough anyway. Apparently, The Secret Garden's main theme is rejuvenation ... so I guess you'll finish and feel rejuvenated?

There is one slight issue I have with this book. It's a disability portrayal thing. But since it was written in the very early 1900s, I have to be honest and say that I'm really glad disability was portrayed at all.

#5 - The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Wait, no! I cheated by accident. It turns out The Help was released in 2009 ... so I guess I'd be kind of stretching the rules to call it a classic. (Literature buffs, would you be so kind as to help me on this in the comments? A quick Google search is presumably nothing compared to your extensive knowledge on the subject.)

Anyway, it's not technically a classic, but The Help did impress my English teacher when I brought it into school - and the historical fiction was so immersive that I assumed it really had been written in 1960s Mississippi, where it was set. (I know, it's full of progressive feminism and all about the voices of the black community. I'm not exactly sure how I ended up being so naive that I thought super-modern ideas like that could come from the height of segregation, but never mind.) You should read it because, while you'd think it was terribly, terribly serious ... most of the characters and situation are downright hilarious.

In the comments: Do you have a favourite classic you'd like to force onto the end of this list? Have you read any of these five? And is The Help a classic or not?
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