DISCUSSION: Killing Off Characters & Why It's Not ALWAYS a Bad Thing

[Each named character who died in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has their death marked]

Raise your hand if you've ever cried over a fictional character's death. Hmm, yep, I thought so. I have too. It's painful isn't it? But, here's a fact: I don't really mind characters dying. Or, at least, I understand why they have to. That's not to say that it's not heartbreaking (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hurt me more than the characters, and that's saying something) but it's necessary.
Why Killing Off Characters CAN Be Good

If an author is prone to killing off an excessive number of characters (e.g. GEORGE R.R. MARTIN) then at least there's an unpredictability to who dies, regardless of whether they're a major or minor character. Whilst with series like Harry Potter you know Harry, Ron or Hermione won't die, with ASoIaF anyone could die with a flick of the page. George R.R. Martin mentioned in an interview that he wants the "suspense to be real"…

"I want my readers, and I want viewers, to be afraid when my characters are in danger. I want them to be afraid to turn the next page because the next character may not survive it."

Often characters are killed off to make points. E.g. In Harry Potter, each death symbolises something different. Killing off a character (for the majority of authors) is not gratuitous, it's to make a statement about something or other.

Sometimes killing off a character can change EVERYTHING. Perhaps another character completely reevaluates what they're doing or reevaluates who they trust… everything can depend on the death of one individual.

E.g. If you've read Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Remember the ending? "They're dead, Karou. It's too late. They're all dead." That certainly changed things around… exciting right?

Okay this is the part where I begin to sound like a psychopath. BUT, hear me out. I mean, in an epic, action-filled series, killing off characters IS realistic and HAS to happen. Yes it's heartbreaking when a ton of characters on the 'good' side die, but one side can't win a battle without making huge sacrifices: not all the 'good' people can live on… it's unrealistic. And, to quote Moriarty (although, in the least heartless way possible, because I promise you I'm not evil):

So, where do you stand on authors killing off characters? Especially authors killing off A LOT of characters? Do you agree with me that it's (sometimes) good?

July Mini Reviews

The Girl With All the Gifts
Zombie novels are not dead, yet this is the preconception that, sometime across the past few years, I managed to come to. By the age of 12, I'd read all the zombie novels out there – each almost identical in its plot, the characters practically interchangeable. My interest in zombies was over: been there, done that. So, naturally, I was hesitant to begin The Girl With All the Gifts; yet, once again, I was proven wrong: M.R. Carey's latest release is a killer.

Author: M.R. Carey | Publisher: Orbit | Pages: 460 | Source: Bought | Publication date: 06.06.14 |

Not every gift is a blessing.

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

MY THOUGHTS: The Girl With All the Gifts is the opposite of Pandora's box; opening the covers of this novel does not unleash all evil, but every aspect of a good book. The characters (for instance, Melanie, the Pandora, if you will) were all distinctly written and riddled with complexity, the pacing was spot-on and this twist on your average zombie novel was pulled off with remarkable flare. M. R. Carey touches upon so many different themes, notably morality and education, within her exploration of a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested Britain – it's certainly a book that leaves you with something to mull over.

The book, although perhaps too dense at parts, builds up to a brilliant ending – it's all you could ask for. And, whether The Girl With All the Gifts leaves you feeling hopeful or at loss, you'll certainly be dying to read more.

My favourite quotation: "Growing up and growing old. Playing. Exploring. Like Pooh and Piglet. And then like the Famous Five. And then like Heidi and Anne of Green Gables. And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what's inside is good or bad. Because it's both. Everything is both."

Reasons She Goes to the Woods is a dark exploration into the mind of a sadistic young girl, entwined with Angela Carter-esque prose. In short: I loved it! Perhaps the ending was too clichéd for my liking (surely this is an all-too-common trend by a now?) but the experimental style made Deborah Kay Davies' latest release an interesting one.

Author: Deborah Kay Davies | Publisher: Oneworld | Pages: 256 | Source: Sent for review | Publication date: 06.02.14 |

Pearl can be very, very good. More often she is very, very bad. But she’s just a child, a mystery to all who know her. A little girl who has her own secret reasons for escaping to the nearby woods. What might those reasons be? And how can she feel so at home in the dark, sinister, sensual woods, a wonder of secrets and mystery?

Told in vignettes across Pearl’s childhood years, Reasons She Goes To The Woods is a nervy but lyrical novel about a normal girl growing up, doing the normal things little girls do.

MY THOUGHTS: Perhaps the most fascinating element of Reasons She Goes to the Woods is the portrayal of Pearl: a young girl, twisted in her morals, written with unflinching brutality. Across the pages, Pearl manifests into an extraordinary creation – one to both be marvelled at, but also terrified by. However, Pearl couldn't be brought to life in this way without Deborah Kay Davies' keen eye for magnificent prose; Davies is a storyteller who knows exactly where each word belongs, paying attention to each dash and dot: her writing is a pleasure to read.

Reasons She Goes to the Woods does not go without fault though. Perhaps I'm alone with this thought, but the ending of Davies' novel didn't have the same subtle originality as the rest of the book; in fact, to me, the revelation at the end seemed something of a cliché. This said, do not let that factor put you off reading Davies' latest release. Whilst Reasons She Goes to the Woods is a book to be devoured in one sitting, the aftertaste lingers, ensuring you do not forget this tale of one very, very bad young girl.

My favourite quotation: "As the lovely water laps her ears and throat, moves inside her shorts, slips across her fragile ribs, Pearl grins, thinking she hears laughter, and raises her arms to the just-glimpsed sky. These are some of the reasons she comes to the woods."

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains was not quite the tale I expected, but I still found myself gripped by both Neil Gaiman's enticing plot and Eddie Campbell's intriguing illustrations. For any Neil Gaiman fans out there who have yet to read this, you won't be disappointed. That said, is this my favourite Gaiman tale? Definitely not.

Author: Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell | Publisher: Headline | Pages: 74 | Source: Sent for review | Publication date: 17.06.14 |

You ask me if I can forgive myself?
I can forgive myself…

And so begins The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, a haunting story of family, the otherworld, and a search for hidden treasure. This gorgeous full-color illustrated book version was born of a unique collaboration between New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman and renowned artist Eddie Campbell, who brought to vivid life the characters and landscape of Gaiman's award-winning story. In this volume, the talents and vision of two great creative geniuses come together in a glorious explosion of color and shadow, memory and regret, vengeance and, ultimately, love.

… for many things. For where I left him.
For what I did.

MY THOUGHTS: For me, the illustrations felt incomplete at times – or perhaps this is just the illustrator's style. That said, for the majority of the book I did enjoy how the illustrations enhanced the tale, especially with the colours bringing out different moods and the detailed depictions of landscapes helping to set the tone.

The tale itself was a beautiful one, different to what I expected, but beautiful nonetheless. Neil Gaiman has the ability to make any tale endearing, his writing style so fitting and comfortable. This book isn't one I'll be rereading anytime in the future, but I'm sure I'll remember odd quotations and stray images. All in all, I would recommend The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, despite Campbell's illustrations not necessarily being 'my thing'.

My favourite quotation: "You are wrong. The truth is a cave in the black mountains. There is one way there, and one way only, and that way is treacherous and hard. And if you choose the wrong path you will die alone, in the mountainside."

Thank you to Oneworld Publications for my review copy of Reasons She Goes to the Woods and thank you to Headline/Bookbridgr for my review copy of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. 

Bookish Summer Bingo

Summer is the time I read ALL the books. I have a whole month with no work to do, so I dedicate most the time to catching up with all my reading – last summer I read something ridiculous like 35 books! So, inspired by Oh, the Books!, I decided to do a book bingo card for the summer! And because, like I said, I just read EVERYTHING in summer, the squares aren't summer-specific but instead I've tried to squish in a variety of different briefs.

Larger version can be seen HERE.

B/1 The second book in a series.
I/1 A non-fiction book
N/1 A prequel
G/1 A book with magic
O/1 Recommended by a friend

B/2 A fairy tale retelling
I/2 A book about books
N/2 A graphic novel
G/2 A prize winner
O/2 Recommended by a blogger

B/3 An author I've never read
I/3 5+ colours on the cover
G/3 A beautiful spine
O/3 Recommended by family

B/4 A classic
I/4 An author I love
N/4 A stunning cover
G/4 Final book in a series
O/4 Recommended by Goodreads

B/5 Set in another country
I/5 Reread a favourite
N/5 Genre I don't often read
G/5 A hyped book
O/5 Recommended by Twitter

Obviously the aim is to fill out an entire column/row, but I'm actually aiming to fill
out *almost* the entire thing – I'll post an update post towards the end of summer!
What books do you read during summer? Which books would you read for each square? Pick a random square and tell me a book from your summer TBR you'd pick!

Reread Worthy?

As a general rule, I rarely reread. Perhaps that's partly because I'm a blogger, with a massive to-be-read pile and stack of review copies to get through, or maybe it's because I'm worried I won't enjoy the book as much the second time round.

The ten books/series I've re-read the most (discounting books I've studied because I HAD to reread those)
However, that's not to say there aren't certain books that I have reread many times (see above). So, what makes a book reread worthy for me?

I. If it's part of a series
I've lost count of the number of times I've reread Harry Potter. And this is mainly because every time I reread one book in the series, I HAVE to reread the others. Plus, I reread the entire series countless times in the run up to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As for The Knife of Never Letting Go I read this back when it was first published and so ended up rereading it a couple of times (before each new book in the trilogy was released).

II. If it's a REALLY good fantasy novel
Escapism, as I mentioned in this post, is one of the main reasons I read fantasy. So, naturally, a really good fantasy book earns a reread if I just want to escape to the world in question (e.g. The Hobbit. Harry Potter and The Night Circus). Needless to say, I can see myself rereading The Final Empire many times in the future…

III. If it's a classic
Generally, I find myself rereading classics a couple of times. This is not because I think that ALL classics are perfect, but because on the first read I'm too wrapped up in the plot to notice the symbolism and different themes etc.

Do you reread books often? If so, why? And if not, why not? And which books are your most reread books? (I'm guessing Harry Potter for most).

June 2014 Wrap Up

A few of the books I started this month but had to put on hold because of exams – to be finished in July!

I take back everything I ever said about March, June is definitely the worst month of the year. I mean, June 2014 may as well be renamed 'the month of no reading'… that is, if it wasn't already referred to as exam season. Ew. At the beginning of June I finished my GCSE exams (well, for this year anyway) but the rest of the month has still been full of mock exams, controlled assessments and coursework – it has been awful.


This month I read 4 books which, like with last month, is an annoying low number (although, I know this will increase by A LOT across the Summer!):

That said, I absolutely adored the four books I read! Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell took me AGES to read but it was well worth it, Ready Player One was utterly brilliant, Brideshead Revisted was beautifully written and the characters were beyond fantastic & The Yellow Wallpaper was the best short story I have EVER read.

I did, however, start another five books which I'll be finishing July (fifth in photo below):

Okay, let me start by saying Reasons She Goes to the Woods is SO good so far; it's told through vignettes of the protagonist's childhood and it's just hauntingly beautiful. As for Rose Under Fire, I technically started this a few months back, but I KEEP having to put it down (against my will) because of my exams – in July I WILL finish it! The Cuckoo's Calling is brilliant so far, as you'd expect from JK Rowling, eh? Okay, the last one is a bit of a funny one because it's actually non-fiction. I though I'd include it though because, a few days back, I told my mum I really wanted to read some historical non-fiction about the French revolution and – by COMPLETE coincidence – she'd just ordered this particular book from Amazon. So far, it's fascinating!

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Eddie Campbell
The fifth book I started this month is actually a graphic novel… as you may know, I (surprisingly) don't really read graphic novels. I basically have trouble finding ones which have beautiful illustrations yet still have a substantial plot line (if you have any absolute favourite graphic novels, please recommend!). However, I'm really enjoying The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman. I was sent it for review by Headline, so I'll be posting a review soonish (as an added bonus, the illustration of the protagonist, sadly not on this page, looks a lot like Tyrion Lannister!)


Whilst I'm a bit frustrated I haven't had time to blog (I only wrote 4 posts in June) I do think I managed to keep the quality up (which I'm happy about):

This is always my favourite part of of my wrap-up posts because I LOVE other blog posts. Here are a few of my favourites (but there are always too many to include):

So, that's my June. I didn't have much time for reading or blogging which was a downer, and it was full of exams (again, a downer) but it did make me even more excited for Summer! I can't wait to put a Summer TBR pile together.