Magazine Review? The Happy Reader

The Happy Reader is a seasonal literary magazine produced by Penguin. Each edition is split into two parts. In the first part, there is an interview with a famous individual who you wouldn’t necessarily affiliate with literature. They talk about their life, their career and of course, books. In the second part, the magazine focuses on a specific book: giving a synopsis of the book, why it was chosen for that season along with loads of short segments and features that are associated with the book in one way or another.

One thing I must address first is the way the magazine looks. Ranging between about 60-70 pages an issue, they encompass a vast range of interesting topics that are, altogether, presented beautifully. During the interview section of the magazine, the editors isolate certain quotes from the celebrity and draw your attention to them on a monochromatic page. There are professional images combined with wonderful typography which help to bring together an fantastic aesthetically-pleasing collection. I personally have a little stack of them on my bookshelf with a dainty tea cup on top and I can’t wait to keep adding to it.

The first section is laid out more like a chatty conversation where the celebrity and interviewer discuss all matter of life and culture in a relaxed, unassuming manner which makes it for a very easy read. That said, these parts don’t tend to be my favourite parts because, as a 16 year old, I find that I miss a lot of the cultural references they mention due to merely not being born or too young to remember but I suppose that’s because I’m probably not their target audience so that’s really only a minor criticism that cannot be helped. They do frequently underline specific references and explain them more on the side of the interview but I can rarely fully understand it in the context in which it is spoken of. Nevertheless, it is always interesting learning about other people that I’ve never heard of or I’ve never thought to give more attention to. I think we’re all quite a nosy generation so I love to hear about the little tales and interests they have which encourages me to support them on their chosen platform, be that listening to Sonic Youth for half an hour or joining my mum as she watches re-runs of Downton Abbey. It’s definitely the most interactive part to the magazine so it’s a shame that I cannot experience to the extent others may be able to but that’s not to say I don’t get anything out of it!

The second section is the best bit for me. The brief yet somehow detailed articles are always interesting and out of the ordinary. I think it’s a great way of introducing you to a new book that isn’t just a book review but a handful of items that take you in various directions while all coming together at the end to provide a unique first impression of the novel. In each edition of the magazine, they exclusively look at one book. Now these books aren’t ever going to be the newest YA release nor the biggest best-seller classics, no, rather they are ‘forgotten literature’, the stories that were written years ago but have a newly reinstated relevancy to today or the books by those familiar authors that are, for whatever reason, never mentioned next to their world famous counter-parts, but I adore that. I adore that you can discover something new (but old at the same time!); it’s quite like that feeling of walking into a bookshop, picking up anything that draws you in, buying the book and reading it without any expectations – I think it can be hard to do that sometimes when you have the mountain of to-read books beside your bed glaring at you but I certainly think it’s worth it. The items can range from articles about soap operas and recipes for chocolate truffles (mhmm) to an ultimate guide on making the perfect cup of tea and the debate that will always stand: water or milk first? (water OBVIOUSLY guys).

On the whole, I rate these magazines highly. For £3 each, it’s not exactly going to break the bank for a light read on a rainy Sunday afternoon or when the reading slump is just too much to handle. I can’t say I’ve ever found them in bookshops so I personally order mine from Amazon but I know Waterstones always have thin, short novels on the counters just below the till so it’s worth taking a look there if you’re ever nearby (which, let’s be honest, is a lot of the time, huh? Yeah me too…)

Happy Reading Bookworms!


The Lottery


The LotteryShirley Jackson
Genre: Classics?

RATING: ★★★★✩

Goodreads page

This short story was sad and tragic yet enticing. As you’d expect from 30 pages, not an awful lot happens but I think that is beside the point because it remains a very impressionable piece of literature with important messages that Jackson wished to express. I couldn’t quite justify giving it 5 stars merely because short stories rarely satisfy me enough and this was no exception. Nevertheless, a brilliant little read, one that took me about only 30 minutes to get through, and I am definitely going to start looking into more Shirley Jackson if The Lottery was anything to go by

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The Invention of Hugo Cabret


The Invention of Hugo CabretBrian Selznick
Genre: Adventure, Middle Grade

RATING: ★★★★★

Goodreads page

This was a very lovely read and exactly what I needed right now. I’ve read one of Selznick’s other books, Wonderstruck, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret was most definitely at par, if not better, than that. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Brian Selznick’s books, I’ll explain a little about the format that they take. The stories are made up of a combination of words and sketchy-pencil effect illustrations which is essentially like an unconventional graphic novel. In this particular novel, we follow Hugo, a 12 year old boy in Paris, 1931 who lives with his mean Uncle Claude who has him help with the changing of the 27 clocks of the train station twice a day. However, Hugo doesn’t really mind doing this as it gives him the opportunity to play around with the cogs and gears that help to feed his inventive brain that he inherited from his father. The only remnant of his father that Hugo possesses is his notebook so when a cruel old toy-shop owner takes it off him, Hugo works hard to get it back, discovering an awful lot along the way.

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Maddie Recommends: Fantasy

I thought I would create a new series on the blog that I’ll release every now and again, that being a classic recommendations post. There are so many amazing books that I’ve read in the past that I feel the need to share and discuss with you but, without the novel fresh in my memory, I know I’d struggle to write a proper review so I thought this would be next best thing! Likewise, if you ever fancy a book from a particular genre then there should hopefully always be a post to directly go to! So, seeing as fantasy is one of my absolute favourite genres, I thought it’d be a good idea to start with that so here are my top fantasy books that I’d recommend:

MistbornBrandon Sanderson (s)
I read this trilogy for the first time in 2015 and it was amazing. Sanderson is adding to the trilogy rather rapidly (2 books this year!) and I cannot wait to see where they take our characters. The characters in these books are probably the driving force for me; I adore Vin’s fiery, vivacious attitude and the countless relationships she forms with the group. These novels are seriously unique, my favourite concept being the burning of metals, which really sets it apart from other fantasy novels. They’re chunky books and admittedly, for all three of them. it does take me about 100 pages in to get myself hooked but once I am, you’ll have to struggle with me before I put it down!

Daughter of Smoke and BoneLaini Taylor (t)
These books are some of the most beautifully written novels out there. The descriptions are so vivid that you cannot help but take your time with them, you must appreciate how meticulously every word has been selected. A far less conventional fantasy, we follow Karou who has a very different life to what one may perceive from the outside, one filled with theft and mystery. I’d rather say too little than too much about this trilogy because I think it can really speak for itself once you get going.

The Lunar ChroniclesMarissa Meyer (s)
TLC are a series of books that are, simple, fairy-tale re-tellings; Cinder telling the tale of Cinderella, Scarlet telling the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, Cress telling the tale of Rapunzel and Winter telling the tale of Snow White. If that doesn’t intrigue you enough, how about sticking them in a futuristic world that contains cyborgs and androids? As the series progresses, another fairy-tale princess is added and by the end, they all work together to fight against the evil empress of Luna, Levana, who wishes to takeover Earth and have all the ‘earthens’ worship her courtship. These books have some real inspirational female characters and I truly adore how Meyer took elements from the traditional fairy-tales and integrated them so craftily (the amount of times I’ve stopped reading and thought, ‘oh I see what she’s done there!’). A great, introductory read to the genre!

Throne of Glass Sarah J. Maas (s)
Wowee, I hate to be predictable but there’s a reason everyone raves about these books. This perfectly flowing series contains one of my top female protagonists of all time, but that certainly wasn’t the case in the beginning. When everybody adored Celaena Sardothian for her badass attitude, I was rolling my eyes in distaste; I found her boastful and arrogant. But you cannot help falling in love with her, the first novel consists of a challenge of which Celaena must win or she’ll be returned to her past life. The love triangle is frustrating, yes, but as the series goes on, becomes less significant to the plot, which I do prefer. This is going to be a hell of a long series so if you fancy joining me on the ride, come along!

The Bone SeasonSamantha Shannon (s)
A brilliant series that follows Paige, a teenage clairvoyant in Scion London. Paige beholds special abilities that categorised her as a ‘dreamwalker’, somebody who can look into and depart from the minds of the public. When she is suddenly captured, she embarks upon a frighteningly unique adventure. There was a lot of action in the first two novels and I’m glad that The Mime Order (no.2) gave more of an explanation of the world Paige lives in, which I had thought was lacking in the first novel. Beautiful writing that accompanies a thrilling story.

A Song of Ice and Fire George R.R Martin (s)
These are some chunky, intimidating books but they’re certainly rewarding once you finish one! As with the television series, there are so many characters thrown in all at once in the first book which can be a little overwhelming (I ended up watching the first season in full before returning to book just so I could get my head around the characters!). Personal favourite characters are Sansa Stark, for the difficulties she’s faced and the sheer miserable, sassy attitude she manages to maintain throughout the books and Tyrion Lannister, the humorous dwarf were all know and love. The writing is very simple and easy to follow which makes the thousands of pages seem more feasible! A must-read for fans of the show and anyone who wants fantasy without the magical, supernatural elements but still all the mystery and excitement.

Happy Reading Bookworms!