Top Ten (uh, Eight) Sequels I Can’t Wait to Get

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I love these things from The Broke and Bookish, but always forget to do them…

…But I haven’t forgotten this time! I couldn’t think of ten sequels so instead this’ll be a top eight. Let’s jump in!

The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin
Okay, let’s just get the obvious one out of the way, shall we? I wasn’t too crazy about the previous two entries in the series, but if there’s one thing they did right it was build up to the events of this next book. It’ll either be a much needed return to form for the series or an impossibly large let-down. Either way… I’ll end up reading it.

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovich
While I found the fourth Peter Grant book, Broken Homes, underwhelming, I’m hoping it was just a fluke. Taking the series out of its usual London setting should be fun and will hopefully make for another entertaining read.

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
Like most of the novels on this list, Royal Assassin has been out for a long time but I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. While I enjoyed The Assassin’s Apprentice, it didn’t really pick up much till the end, focusing quite a lot on world-building. Hopefully it will pay-off in this entry.

Dracula the Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt
As I’ve pointed out, I really enjoyed Dracula, with it being an almost-perfect monster novel. The idea of Stoker’s great grand-nephew writing a sequel over a hundred years later is too fascinating/bizarre to pass up. I don’t know if it’ll be any good, but it’s at least worth a shot.

Closing Time by Joseph Heller
This one intrigues me for most of the same reasons. The fantastic satirical novel, Catch-22, has a sequel that nobody ever really talks about. Upon discovering it I thought it seemed a bit unnecessary, but the idea of spending some more time with Yossarian is not an unappealing one.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce
Speaking of unnecessary sequels… Given the strength of her first two books, I believe that Joyce wouldn’t produce a sequel (or spin-off?) to Harold Fry without good reasoning. I have no doubts that this will be another engaging read.

The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Here’s one that I’m pretty certain is going to be bad. I wasn’t crazy about the first one and the thought of Defoe trying to bring Crusoe back to the island sounds hilariously contrived. I don’t hate-read much, but old, unnecessary sequels to classics will always be worth checking out for me.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Am I grasping at straws? I’m grasping at straws. I read Tolkien’s The Hobbit quite a while ago, but haven’t gotten around the trilogy that follows it because of how dauntingly big it is. And there are too many books to read! Eh, maybe I’ll just watch the films instead…

Top Ten ‘Peep Show’ Episodes

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Coming from the UK, it pains me to say that there aren’t many good British sitcoms around at the moment. Peep Show – which has been running for more than ten years – is pretty fantastic though. Almost every episode of the show is great but here are my ten favourites.

 

10. Local Zero (Season Two, Episode Three)
Mark and Jeremy are two very uncomfortable characters to watch. This is mainly because they’re both awful people. Yet, at the same time, they’re very relatable. Both plotlines here are strong as well as cringe-worthy. Mark is spotted drinking in public, leading to people treating him like an alcoholic. This eventually leads to Johnson bringing him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where he confesses to eating frozen oven chips and throwing up on himself. Jeremy is particularly awful in this episode, fearing that Nancy is cheating on him with a homeless person. Let’s just say he isn’t very nice to the guy. It’s not the show’s best episode but it’s a great example of what makes it good.

  1. Seasonal Beatings (Season Seven, Episode Five)
    While the latter seasons of the show are still strong (six, seven and eight) they don’t really hit the same highs as the earlier ones – or at least not as often. Season Seven does feature a few stand-out episodes though, with ‘Seasonal Beatings’ being its strongest offering. It gives us not only our first glimpse of how these characters function around Christmas, but also an introduction to Mark’s parents. There’s classic moment after classic moment, from Mark’s turkey rant to his rebellion against his dad. Super Hans and Dobby are also thrown in for good measure. It’s very rare for a sitcom to have an episode this strong in its seventh season.
  1. Sophie’s Parents (Season Four, Episode One)
    I’m gonna say this right now; Season Four is the show’s best season. It might, perhaps, be one of my favourite TV seasons of any show. Mark and Sophie’s wedding gave it a strong story-arc, allowing for a multitude of great plots. The first of these is ‘Sophie’s Parents’. Both of her parents are just perfect for Mark and Jeremy to bounce off of. The stern father whose daughter Mark has to lie about loving, the care-free mother who Jeremy ends up sleeping with. Both of the plots would be fantastic by themselves, but the fact that they tie together perfectly at the end just makes the episode all the more great.
  1. Quantocking (Season Three, Episode Six)
    Mark and Sophie get engaged. For most sitcoms this would be a joyful moment, something to please the audience; for Peep Show it’s a chance to drive Mark into a more depressing situation than ever before. Just as he gets what he’s always wanted, he realises he doesn’t want it. Although this is the part of the episode that everyone remembers it for, there are plenty of other great moments too. Mark and Jeremy getting lost on the Quantocks, Jeremy getting Super Hans out of his room by tempting him with drugs… What’s not to love?
  1. Spin Wars (Season Five, Episode Two)
    Mark returns to work after jilting Sophie at their wedding… That’s such a delicious premise. Although Mark is generally horrible, episodes like this do kind of make you feel sorry for him. Even Dobby, a ray of hope in his generally miserable life, gets snatched away from him at the last second. Mark’s storyline would’ve made this a strong episode by itself, but Jeremy manages to match its greatness. Sophie’s cousin returns with the hope of joining Jeremy’s band. Super Hans tests how far he’ll go to be one of them and, well… Just watch the episode.

5. On the Pull (Season One, Episode Three)
Although the first season is still essentially Peep Show, it feels different and, perhaps, darker. (And not just because of the creepier opening theme) Though it does have some really fantastic episodes such as ‘Mark Makes a Friend’ and ‘Funeral’, with my favourite being ‘On the Pull’. Is there any moment that sums up Mark better than him taking his shopping to somebody else’s party? Okay, maybe the fact that he gives up his bed at the end of the episode. This episode demonstrates that, at its core, this show is really just about Mark and Jez trying to pass themselves off as normal people…. And failing badly.

  1. University Challenge (Season Two, Episode Four)
    Possibly the most cringe-worthy episode to watch. Mark becomes infatuated with a shop assistant and ends up following her to her University. Yep – Mark becomes a stalker (for the first of many times). The storyline seems to get more horrifying to watch as it goes along, all ending with Mark being told by her that, as their University students, they have ages to get to know each other. There’s a lot of nice, typically Peep Show moments in this episode. One of my favourites being Mark and Jeremy getting locked in the shopkeeper’s backroom. It emphasises that these characters really never did grow up.
  1. Jeremy Makes It (Season Two, Episode Two)
    While, out of the two, I think Mark is the funnier character, Jeremy seems to bring about many of the show’s greatest situations. Like the two of them and Super Hans trying to get money off Gog while pretending to play a friendly game of baseball. Super Hans’ pouring his Crunchy Nut on the floor is just one of my all-time favourite moments. The early parts of the storyline are a bit so-so, but they pay off tremendously. Mark also gets one of his strongest storylines, making friends with a racist. In concept it sounds a little bit goofy, but in practise it’s wonderful. The slow realisation that the guy is into WW2 re-enactments for a reason. Mark trying to be casually racist to Jeremy is great too.
  1. Holiday (Season Four, Episode Five)
    To say I had a hard time deciding which of these last two was the best is a massive understatement. The final two episodes of Season Four represent the series at the absolute top of its game. While it was still great after, it was never as good again. This episode is great mainly because of one moment; Jeremy eating the burnt corpse of a dog in front its owner while trying to pass it off as turkey. Jeremy takes Mark on the stag-do he’s always wanted; riding on a canal boat and playing chess. The first half of the episode is fairly slow, with there being a few good lines here and there. The ending pays off tremendously though, making the whole thing feel worthwhile.
  1. Wedding (Season Four, Episode Six)
    ‘Wedding’ offers some season-long pay-off in the form of Mark and Sophie’s wedding. And it’s more horrifying than we could ever have imagined. Not only does Mark jilt Sophie but Jez ends up, well, pissing himself. Oh, and Mark and Sophie pretty much cry all the way through the ceremony. There are also plenty of great moments early on in the episode, such as Super Hans being sick over all of Mark’s possessions and Mark trying to get himself ran over by calling a driver a ‘piss-kidney’. In some ways this would’ve worked perfectly as a series finale, ending with Mark and Jeremy taking the wedding car back to the flat.

 

Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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Back when I was studying for my GCSEs I had to read Frankenstein as part of the course. In short, I hated it. I found the olden language annoying and hard to follow. Back then I didn’t read much. Frankenstein was the first pre-twentieth century novel I’d read. Recently I decided to reread Frankenstein, having read many other books since my first encounter with it. It’s now become one of my favourite novels.

Frankenstein is another novel where everybody knows the plot. Victor Frankenstein, while at University, discovers how to create life. With this knowledge he creates a hideous creature which he despises almost immediately. The concept of the novel is such a delicious one and is executed almost perfectly. Frankenstein is a character that’s easy to sympathise with and yet loathe at the same time – growing less likable as the novel progresses. While it’s definitely hard to agree with some of his decisions, it’s easy to understand why he made them. Frankenstein’s “monster” is the real star of the show though, with the section being told from his point of view being the best part. The relationship between him and his creator is one of the most fascinating ones in literature, perfectly summed up by one of their first encounters:

‘His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs.’

What Frankenstein sees as a threat, we see as an attempt at making a connection. Every time the monster tries to connect with his creator or reach out to for help – fitting, given Frankenstein’s father-like role – he is shunned and insulted. When trying to make a connection with Felix and his family, the monster is only treated kindly by the blind-man, who judges him based on his personality. Everyone else – including the man who created him – judges the monster by his grotesque appearance, driving him to act in a way that his features suggest he should.

Frankenstein creates the monster for own curiosity, not thinking about the consequences. Examining the novel strictly from his point of view makes it look like a classic monster story. He creates a monster and the monster slowly takes away everything he cares about. His friends, his family and his wife. Eventually he himself dies while chasing the monster. Read from the monster’s point of view however, we can understand why he murdered those closest to Frankenstein. All he desires is companionship, something Frankenstein repeatedly deprives him of. By the end of the novel Frankenstein has no left except Walton and the creature he created. He has been sunk to the same level as the monster, causing him to focus on it. While their chase towards Antarctica is based around revenge, it is also the only time that Frankenstein is truly interested in his creature and the creature receives some attention from the man that created him. The monster is saddened when his creator dies not because they never received their final confrontation but because he truly has nobody left. At least when Frankenstein was chasing him, the one man that had the potential to understand him, there was a flicker of hope. When Walton finds him crying over Frankenstein’s corpse it’s because there is truly nothing left for him in the world.

There are so many aspects of this novel that it’s impossible to touch on all of them in this review. Walton, generally a framing device, doesn’t serve too much of purpose until the end where we get to see the monster’s reaction to his creator’s death. He also ties everything together thematically when he decides to turn back, siding with his men. Sure, he’s likely to be seen as a failure but Frankenstein’s story warns us that our ambition can quite easily be the death of us. If he hadn’t tried to replicate life – and spent time with his neglected family – he would be happily married. Frankenstein never truly seems to grasp his error, pushing Walton to follow his ambition despite what happened to himself. The framing devices used also raise a few more questions – especially in relation to how the monster is portrayed. Frankenstein represents the monster as ‘ghastly’ and ‘grotesque’, suggesting that it’s motives are negative. With everything being filtered through Frankenstein and Walton’s points of view, it’s hard to know if the monster is truly represented accurately.

There are very few negatives when it comes to this novel. The realm of believably is pushed a few times – such as when the monster learns how to read and write – but this is a novel about a scientist who creates a man. Frankenstein has an incredibly strong storyline, interesting characters and some great themes to tie everything together. I don’t think I could ask for much more, really.

Reading Round-Up

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I’m still struggling to keep a regular schedule on here thanks to University, but I promised I’d write-up about a few books on here a while ago. So here’s a round-up of what books I’ve been devouring recently.

Save the Cat (Blake Snyder)
I haven’t read many books on writing, but everyone seemed to blab on about this one so I thought I’d give it a go. Overall I found the advice a little bit mixed – partially because novels don’t always fit into the same mold as Hollywood blockbusters. Should I be trusting a guy whose biggest hits are Stop! My Mother Will Shoot and Blank Check? To me, the best bit of advice in here was the suggestion that you should be able to sum up your story in a line or two. While I didn’t find all of the book to be helpful, it did push me to go over the structure of my novel again and make some serious changes. That alone makes it a worthwhile read.

Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk)
One of the best books I’ve read so far this year – Cat’s Cradle might just edge it out. It feels so confident and yet so messy at the same time. It spends barely any time on exposition, and when it does its a joy to read. After reading so many 100,000 word classics over the summer, this book feels pretty refreshing. Fight Club clocks in at just under 50,000 words and packs in so much story and so many fantastic ideas. The plot may have lost a little bit of its magic, seeing as though I’ve already seen the film, but this is a novel everyone should read. It’s a shame that the film has overshadowed the book, when the latter is definitely superior.

In a Glass Darkly (Sheridan LeFanu)
I was planning on doing a classics-style review of this one but couldn’t think of enough things to say about it. So here’s some quick thoughts on each story… ‘Green Tea’: the strongest of the bunch, capturing the weirdness and eeriness that makes me love ghost stories. Not everyone is afraid of monkeys, but the one in this story is considerably scarier than most human ghosts in other stories. ‘The Familiar’: this one was a bit more so-so. While I still think it worked well as a ghost story, it didn’t really hit the highs of ‘Green Tea’, coming across as slightly more generic. ‘Mr. Justice Harbottle’: this one just reminded me of ‘A Christmas Carol’; a ghost themed cautionary tale. The darkness of the ending highlights how different an author LeFanu was from most of his contemporaries. ‘The Room in the Dragon Volant’: yeah, I’m not sure why this one is in the collection. Not only does it feel much too long, but it’s not even a ghost story. The story is your general romantic blah up until the last ten-or-so pages which are fantastic. Undercutting our expectations and weaving every little detail together to create a crushing ending. ‘Carmilla’: the most well-known story from the collection by quite a lot. For one thing it highlights how much of an influence Stoker went on to have in relation to the portrayal of vampires. I didn’t care for this one as much as I wanted to, but I appreciate its edginess for its time.

Top Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

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Various things have caused me to be pretty inactive lately, so I thought I’d do another Top Ten Tuesday. Here are my top ten authors I’ve read one book from but need to read more… (In alphabetical order).

Margaret Atwood
Book read: The Penelopiad. I wasn’t completely mad about this book, but it made enough of an impression for me to want to read some more of her stuff. A Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin in particular are very high on my reading list (I even have a copy of the former ready!) I guess The Penelopiad suffered slightly due to me not being too familiar with The Odyssey.

Samuel Beckett
Book read: Waiting for Godot (that counts as a book, right?) Really loved this play, even getting inspired enough to write my own take on it, and want to see what Beckett’s other stuff is like. I generally love stuff that goes against the mainstream. I have a copy of Endgame ready to read and am really eager to see some of his stuff on the actual stage too… If I get the chance.

Gillian Flynn
Book read: Gone Girl. Gone Girl was a great read, there’s no doubt about that. It wasn’t thought-provoking or anything, but it was a proper page-turner with interesting characters and witty dialogue. Sometimes it’s nice to read something you can just enjoy without having to think too much. As well as seeing Gone Girl’s film adaption next month, I’d really like to see if Flynn’s other books match up to the one that made her famous.

Joseph Heller
Book read: Catch-22. When it comes to old Heller, it seems like everyone only talks about Catch-22 (it is great) despite him having quite a few other published books. I’d like to give at least one of them ago to see if the author’s first novel was a one-off stroke of genius or just one part of a fantastic body of work. Closing Time in particular sounds great.

China Miéville
Book read: Embassytown. It’s been almost a year since I read Embassytown and I’m appalled with myself for not getting round to any of Miéville other books. I’ve got a copy of The City and The City now though, and I’m very excited to get stuck in!

Chuck Palahniuk
Book read: Fight Club. I didn’t expect to love Fight Club quite as much as I did and as a result I’m interested in seeing what other twisted stuff Palahniuk has to offer. If any of his books end up being half as enjoyable as Fight Club, then I’ll be very satisfied.

Sylvia Plath
Book read: Ariel. Okay, okay – I’m not too big a fan of poetry, most of it just goes swish over my head. Ariel is pretty damn fantastic. You can just feel the emotion pouring off the page. I’d love to delve into more of Plath’s poetry, maybe even her novel, The Bell Jar, or, heck, just read Ariel for a second time.

Thomas Pynchon
Book read: The Crying of Lot 49. Wasn’t too sure what to make of Lot 49 and it would probably do me well to read it through a second time. It was interesting enough for me to want to delve further into the world of Pynchon though – and get thoroughly confused all over again.

Samuel Richardson
Book read: Pamela. I started reading Pamela out of literary interest but a few hundred pages later it transformed into a bit of a hate-read. I wanted to see how Richardson could honestly stretch out so little plot for such a long time. It was crazy. Knowing that Richardson’s other famous novel, Clarissa, is heralded as one of the longest books ever, I can’t help but be curious to see whether he learned a thing or two from how poor Pamela was.

J.R.R. Tolkien
Book read: The Hobbit. I’m probably going to end up getting lynched for not reading Lord of the Rings, aren’t I? I found The Hobbit to be enjoyable – though the thought of three three hour-long movies is very frightening – but not enough for me to rush out and buy the famous trilogy that succeeds it. Of course, it’s on my reading list or I wouldn’t be mentioning it here… just not too high up.