Wordless Wednesday – Ainsdale Pine Woods

Some photos from my trip to the pine woods on Sunday!

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Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Authors I’d Put On My Auto-Buy List

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme held over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s subject is the top ten authors that I’d put on my auto-buy list. This means the authors that I love so much that I’d buy their next book no matter what it was about. Although I am a creature of habit and am always reading the same authors I couldn’t think of ten for this list!

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1) Stephen King

I don’t think I’ve ever read a Stephen King book and not liked it (apart from The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon which I found a little bit boring). I love Stephen King novels and would try anything he wrote. I’ve yet to try any of his fantasy novels but they’re on my list!

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2) Terry Pratchett

I definitely have never read a Terry Pratchett book and not liked it. I love his Discworld novels and his children’s books. I’m still not sure where I’m up to in the Discworld series and I do keep buying novels even though I’ve not read enough of the series to get to them!

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3) JK Rowling

If you read my review of The Casual Vacancy (find it here) then you’ll know that I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Why then did I struggle through it and why do I still think that if she released another novel I would buy it straight away? I think it’s partly nostalgia because I’m such a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve always thought of her as one of my writing hero’s as her target audience with the Potter series is similar to my target audience. Her next novel may be more my cup of tea… who knows!

 

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4) Richard Dawkins

Ahh Dawkins, enemy of religious folk all over the country! I love his books (Magic of Reality was particularly good) and would probably buy anything he wrote.

 

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5) David Attenborough

My love of David Attenborough TV shows and books is left over from my Zoology degree at university. I love his books!

 

Who’s on your auto-buy list?

Review – Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast

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The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird’s world, vampyres have always existed.  In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire — that is, if she makes it through the Change.  Not all of those who are chosen do.  It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling.  She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx.  But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers.  When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny–with a little help from her new vampyre friends

This is one of those books that I wanted to read for ages then found a copy and left it unread for months. When I finally got round to reading it I loved it though! It reminded me of Hogwarts but with vampyres!

Zoey was not a character that I immediately liked. She was one of the stereotypical “popular” kids which immediately put me off her. Once she was marked though it made for a much more interesting story as she had to change her whole outlook. Once she started at the House of Night I fell in love with the vampyre school with amazing history lessons, fencing and equestrian studies. I don’t want to give too much away but the ending was really gripping and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Off to find the next installment now!

Have you read the House of Night novels? What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday – My Top Ten Favourite Characters in the Vampire Genre

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme held over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week they are looking at your top ten characters in whichever genre you choose! This has prompted a lot more variety as each blogger has chosen the genre they like best. I spent ages trying to decide which genre to choose and have decided on a quite specific one of Vampire novels. Now I know this probably comes under the fantasy genre but I wanted to be a bit more specific as I read a lot of fantasy. So here goes, my top ten favourite characters in the vampire genre (in no particular order)!

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1) Eric Northman – The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

Now this is the kind of vampire I like. Although I have included some Twilight characters on this list they don’t scream vampire to me. Eric is my favourite character in this series (I can’t stand Bill!). He is confident to the point of arrogance but man does he deserve to be! He’s also the only character who has ever been true to Sookie.

 

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2) Alice Cullen – Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

Although not the typical vampire type I love Alice. She’s so petite and fragile looking but is amazingly strong (physically and emotionally). I love the bond she has with Bella too, she is pretty much the total opposite to her and yet embraces her easily as a sister. Alice is without a doubt my favourite character in the Twilight series.

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3) Damon Salvatore – The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

I love Damon for a similar reason as I love Eric. His brother (Stefan) is one of the most boring vampires I have ever come across. Damon is more like a traditional vampire, he embraces the evil parts of himself. This makes him a much stronger character in my opinion because he lives a similar life to Stefan but doesn’t ignore who he is. I’ve only read the first book in The Vampire Diaries series but I really hope Damon and Elena get together!

 

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4) Count Dracula – Dracula by Bram Stoker

Of course Dracula had to be on this list. He has such pride in what he is and where he’s come from and is so charming. There is an anger there though which many vampires are missing in modern stories. He also inspired so many novels, tv programmes and films about vampires and he is the archetypal vampire character.

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5) Erik Night – House of Night Series by P.C. and Kristin Cast

I have just finished the first novel in this series (Marked) and already really like this character. He’s only a developing vampire but I think there’s huge potential. He is attracted to the main character in the novel (Zoey) and is really sweet and kind about the characteristics that are making the “popular kids” hate her. I’m looking forward to seeing how his character develops throughout the series.

6) Neferet  – House of Night Series by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Again, my opinion on Neferet is only based on the first novel in this series. I love her character because she has such power about her. She’s really nice to Zoey as well and makes her feel welcome.

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7) Diana Bishop – Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I found Diana immediately like-able and related a lot to her. What I loved most about her is that unlike most female characters who fall in love with vampires (Bella Swann I’m looking at you!) she is a strong and powerful woman. She doesn’t come across as helplessly in love and she doesn’t let her vampire fight her battles.

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8) Jasper Hale – Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

It is probably no coincidence that the other vampire I love from the Twilight series is Alice’s partner, Jasper. There is a vulnerability in Jasper as he tries his best to lead a “vegetarian” lifestyle. I like that about him because it shows amazing self control and belief. His troubled past is also much more interesting than that of his other glittering siblings.

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9) Pam Ravenscroft – The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

If you’ve only ever seen the TV programme of True Blood then you need to read the books ASAP! Pam is just one of the characters that is a lot different on TV than she is portrayed in the books. What I love about her is loyalty and her sense of humour. She’s also the person who kept Eric grounded for 160 years.

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10) R.M. Renfield – Dracula by Bram Stoker

Renfield is held in a lunatic asylum in this novel as he is under the influence of Count Dracula. I’ve always found him deeply interesting and remember reading the novel waiting for him to come up again. Towards the end of the story he manages to fight against the mind control that Dracula is using on him and helps to save Mina’s life, giving up his own in the process. An extremely strong character who helps to drive the story along.

Did you take part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? Leave your link in the comments!

Review – Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

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“I simply wanted to know – for myself and mu family – what meat is. Where does it come from? How is it produced? What are the economic, social and environmental effects? Are there animals that it is straightforwardly right to eat? Are there situations in which not eating animals is wrong? If this began as a personal quest, it didn’t stay that way for long…”

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals is the most original book on the subject of food written in this century. It will change the way you think, and change the way you eat. For good.

This book was not written for vegetarians or vegans. Part of it’s brilliance is that it is unbiased. The author was not a vegetarian to start with and set out on a quest lasting three years to find out what actually happens before meat is served up on your roast dinner. He looks at factory farming of different types of animals from pigs to chickens, cows and even fish. He then looks at the way free range animals are treated and speaks to a variety of people from factory farm workers to vegans and everything in between. This book goes in depth and as you would expect is truly shocking and disturbing.

Once the cruelty of animal farming has been discussed the author goes onto wondering how to solve this major problem. He looks at whether veganism and vegetarianism is the best way or whether we should be working on destroying factory farming and going back to basics.This brings him to talk to many interesting people including a vegetarian rancher and a vegan who owns a slaughter house. It is a thought provoking issue and he does not judge people for their decisions.

This is definitely a book that needs to be read by anyone who eats meat (and even those who don’t). It’s not a case of trying to make people feel guilty for enjoying their cheeseburger, it’s a case of making them aware where that burger has come from. If you do want to eat meat it’s important to know how that meat ended up on your plate. If you decide to carry on eating it that’s up to you but people should not be living in ignorance. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from this shocking but brilliant book.

“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?”

Old Poetry – Thumper

I’ve realised that I have a lot of poetry that never made it onto this blog because it was written so long ago. I’ve been writing since I was around 11 years old so many of my poems I don’t think are good enough to be put up on here. A lot of it is related to animal welfare and vegetarianism. This one was written in around 2007.

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Thumper was born in a lab.

Thumper was kept in a cage.

Thumper was used for experiments,

When Thumper grew to the right age.

Thumper’s eyes were held open.

Thumper’s eyes had shampoo put in.

Thumper was in a lot of pain.

Thumper made a din.

Thumper was left for seven days.

Thumper was observed by men.

Thumper’s eyes became swollen,

And the men recorded when.

Katie had a shower.

Katie used her new shampoo.

Katie knew she would be safe.

Thumper never knew.

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Romances

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme held over at The Broke and the Bookish.   This week’s theme is top ten romances. As a huge fan of romance in novels this was a great one for me!

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1) Cathy and Heathcliff – Wuthering Heights

I apologise for the obvious choice but it’s obvious for a reason! Cathy and Heathcliff are the first couple that come into my head when I think of top romances. It is a love and passion that overpowers all and some of the best quotes come from this novel.

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

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2) Severus Snape and Lily Potter – Harry Potter Series

The ultimate romance of the Harry Potter series. Everyone had an opinion on whether Severus Snape was “evil” or not and it turned out to be a love story all along. Another example of how love can overcome anything.

“After all this time?” – Dumbledore

“Always” – Snape

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3) Sookie and Eric – True Blood Series

I’ve wanted these two to be together since the very beginning. It’s no secret how much I hate Bill and Quinn! Eric was always true to Sookie and they are perfect together.

“We could go back to your house. I can stay with you always. We can know each other’s bodies in every way, night after night. I could love you. I could work. You would not be poor. I would help you.”

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4) Ron and Hermione – Harry Potter Series

We all rooted for them from the beginning. Did anybody every truly believe that Hermione would end up with Harry?

“There was a clatter as the basilisk fangs cascaded out of Hermione’s arms. Running at Ron, she flung them around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. Ron threw away the fangs and broomstick he was holding and responded with such enthusiasm that he lifted Hermione off her feet.”

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5) Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester

Another love conquers all example. Jane and Mr Rochester are also an example of how much can be forgiven for the person that you love. Jane deserves somebody who treats her like the truly beautiful woman she is and Mr Rochester needs a second chance at love. Another beautiful love story from the Bronte sisters.

““I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.””

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6) Yul and Sylvie – Stonewylde series

This was one of the best books I read last year and I love the relationship between Sylvie and Yul.

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7) Celia and Marco – The Night Circus

A couple that show that trying to make two people fight will not overcome their love for each other. A beautiful relationship that overcomes the worst hardships.

“I have tried to let you go and I cannot. I cannot stop thinking of you. I cannot stop dreaming about you.”

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8) Henry and Clare – The Time Traveller’s Wife

These two have an amazing relationship that survives the fact that Henry keeps disappearing and then appearing again in different parts of Clare’s life. An enchanting love story.

“I place my hands over her ears and tip her head back, and kiss her, and try to put my heart into hers, for safekeeping, in case I lose it again.”

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9) Grace and Sam – Shiver

This was the book I gripped on to when I wanted more Twilight style stories. It’s much better though. Grace and Sam have to overcome the winters where Sam becomes a wolf for the season. That’s hard enough but then there is the threat that he’ll never turn back to human again. They’re such a sweet couple.

“His lips tasted cool and sharp, peppermint, winter, but his hands, soft on the back of my neck, promised long days and summer and forever.”

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10) Jacob and Marlena – Water for Elephants

I think circuses are excellent locations for a romance story. This one is extra special because we find out what happened after the story ended.

“When two people are meant to be together, they will be together. It’s fate.”

 

Which are your favourite romances?

Review – Beauty by Robin McKinley

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“Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Beauty, believing herself plain and awkward, loves roses. But when her father goes travelling and plucks just one magnificent, crimson rosebud from the garden of a magical castle, a fearsome Beast demands revenge. Either Beauty’s father must forfeit his life – or his daughter must promise to live with the Beast for ever.

A captivating retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast from a Newbery Medal-winning author.

Hunting through my shelves for the next book to read I came across a novel that has been on there for a year (or more). I actually remember starting this novel and then putting it down and starting something else. I now have no idea why I did such a thing! My mum gave me this book to read because I’m such a huge fan of Wicked and Gregory Maguire and a fan of fairy tales in general. Beauty and the Beast is also one of my all-time favourite Disney films (after the Lion King of course!).

The story starts off with not a lot in common with the original tale at all (which might be where I went wrong the first time I read it). Beauty lives with quite a well off family in the city and has a wonderful life. It’s when the family lose everything they own that they have to sell the house and move to a little village in the middle of nowhere that is on the outskirts of a magical forest. Here she lives a good life too but has to put up with certain changes such as working harder and losing her beloved library of books. Unlike in the original story, Beauty has some lovely sisters and a wholesome family. This makes it ultimately harder to choose to go to the Beast. Once the Beast appears the story is very similar to the original and just as captivating.

Once I’d got through the first few chapters I sped through this book. It’s a lot more realistic than the original story and Beauty is a character who is easy to relate to. Her growing up throughout the novel is something that is not as prominent in the original story or the Disney adaptation. This is what would make this book so popular to the young teenage girl audience and I wish I’d discovered it while I was still at high school. As it was though I adored this book and would recommend it to anybody else who loves their fairy tales.

After looking at the Robin McKinley website (here) I really want to read Sunshine and Pegasus so I will be hunting those two down!

Have you ever read a Robin McKinley novel? How do you feel about retellings of fairy tales? 

Gay Marriage – A success!

I was very pleased this week to find out that the plans to legalise gay marriage had been approved. All I can say is about time!

Now I expected many Tories to oppose the bill but I was extremely shocked to find out that many Labour and Liberal Democrat MP’s also opposed it and that the list included both my MP (Joe Benton) and the MP in Southport (John Pugh).

I just want to say how angry I am that both of these opposed the bill. I am going to be writing to both of them just to tell them how disappointed I am.

To find out who else voted no or abstained have a look at this link – http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/02/labour-and-lib-dem-mps-who-voted-against-gay-marriage-full-list

All in all though we have a cause for celebration! Let’s hope for rainbow themed weddings up and down the country!