Things I’ve found solace in lately | pt. 5

While there’s moments when life feels ‘back to normal‘, I find myself feeling in flux still. I’ve enjoyed seeing and catching up with friends again (safely) and I’m so looking forward to the festive season beginning but I’m also enjoying having those safe moments in the comfort of my own home and just chilling out. Maybe it’s the November version of me – I always seem to hibernate a little during November as a way of trying to build up some energy and enjoy the peace before the madness of Christmas begins. It’s a moment of rest and serenity for me although, it is usually littered with a few Christmas shopping trips or some ‘brainstorming‘ for gifts. In these moments of rest I’ve really been enjoying my more creative hobbies/past-times so I wanted to share a few of my favourites with you lovely lot.

Colouring books – Without sounding like a total kid, when it came to my birthday I asked for quite a few colouring books. I really enjoy popping on a podcast or something on audible and colouring for an hour or two. It’s so peaceful and relaxes me so much that I really lent into that when it came to my boyfriend wanting present ideas. He got me a Twilight one (team Edward foreverrr!) and a Schitts Creek one. I love both of them and they’re great additions to the ones I have on my shelf too -like Gilmore Girls, Game of Thrones, and Tim Burton. As it happens, my mother also got me a Beetlejuice one which was such a surprise -I’m a bit of a darker one when it comes to my favourite films so I’m shocked she would even know what to look for.

knit kits – I found a real love of knitting during the pandemic. I learnt years ago but never found the time to pursue the craft properly and then an international pandemic came along and helped me out. I spent most of 2020 knitting, even knitting at least one thing for everyone in my life for Christmas, and now it’s got to the point where I feel a little lost if I’m not working through a project at any given time. In all honesty, I’m usually knitting items for other people so this year there’s been a few things on my list to knit for myself. Lauren Aston does some incredible knit kits, some of which I have done already but I listed some on my Wishlist and was lucky enough to receive the Santa hat one from my boyfriends parents. I have actually done this one before but I did it for my mom and knew I wanted one for myself but never got around to doing it. So after receiving this gem, I stuck on a Christmas film (during Halloween, might I add) and got to knitting it, with hot chocolate to hand too.

Last Christmas I actually made a point of knitting something for almost everyone in my life, which was insanely hectic. Although, I’m not making that commitment this year, I will no doubt be enjoying knitting a few bits leading up to and over the Christmas period… I would actually love to share a few things I’ve knitted with you all so stay tuned for that!

Books! I’ve been spending a lot of time reading lately. Whether it be through audible or curling up with an actual book, I’ve really enjoyed it lately. I think the cooler weather really stirs up the need and desire to just immerse myself into fictional places. I’ve also really been diving into my reading list lately as I completed my Goodreads reading challenge during October and while it was lovely it felt a little disheartening. I should’ve done it far higher. I made my challenge for 36 books for 2021, thinking that 3 books at month will be a challenge -I should say that I think I made it a lower number because I was reading chunkier books at the time like those by George. R. R. Martin. I have since edited it to 45 but I’m already 4 books ahead of schedule and it’s early November as I write this so I think next year I’ll have to take the plunge and just go for the full 50! Anyway, because of all these contributing factors I have been absolutely loving my books lately. The books I’ve been reading will appear on my end of year roundup and no doubt, you’ll see a few reviews here soon.

What have you been enjoying lately? Let me know

Cheerio for now!

Sustainable Shopping | Clothes

Sustainable shopping has been on my mind a lot lately. Anyone who knows me knows I use to have a tendency to buy a lot of fast fashion, never get round to wearing it and throw it out two years later with the tags still attached to the garment. I can feel your dagger-looks and hear your huffs of anger from here. I think my routine of doing this was rooted from my upbringing and local environment. Growing up in a single-parent household, we never had a lot of spending money for the new clothes or ‘niceties‘. Through secondary school I got used to saving what pocket money I had and spending it in Primark with my friends at the weekend.

Now being older, and a little wiser, I’m aware of the impact a lot of industries are having on our planet – one of them being the fashion industry. We consume a vast amount of clothes which we probably don’t wear more than a handful of times. The items find themselves in landfills and we move onto the next.

For the past four or five years – or ever since I started reading Peppermint magazine – sustainable shopping has constantly played on my mind. It’s always there niggling in my brain as I hand over my debit card as well as when I get home with those bags of shopping laid out in front of me. Because of how this issue has played on my mind, I have got myself into the healthy habit of thinking about some of the things below when shopping:

Shop your wardrobe

Before shopping for new items, I like to take some time really analysing what I already own. I ask myself which pieces do I wear the most? Which do I feel drawn to? and then ask myself why? I analyse the cut and fit of it, the tones and textures, its’ versatility, etc. I like to do this not only to remind myself of what I own, but also to remind myself of the items I feel comfortable in and the shapes and cuts which truly suit my body. By doing this, I also remind myself of the ‘winners’ in my wardrobe. The pieces I wear once a week which go with anything and everything, and will no doubt still be in my wardrobe in a decades time.

Find your base colours

Sticking to neutral base colours for your wardrobe can help the longevity of your clothes as well as make them coexist with other items perfectly. I consider base colours to be the neutrals, so that is your black, grey, white, linen white, navy, brown, and olive tones. A great way to establish your base notes, as I call them, is by standing in front of a mirror and assessing how they suit you. Note how they make your eyes and skin glow, or does it wash you out? See if it suits your hair colour, etc but also see if you are drawn to it. Be open-minded, sometimes the colours we are drawn to do not align with what we feel comfortable in or do not physically suit us. I find that Black is a great colour because it goes with anything however, it can also be too harsh on my skin tone and sometimes appears to wash me out if I’m not careful.

Some people like to choose two of these tones, one for Summer and one for Winter however, I like having three and for me that is black, grey and navy (sometimes). I sometimes step over the line and don some olive or khaki tones, purely because I feel drawn to earthy tones and it compliments my complexion, eyes and hair colour so well. It is also worth noting that these base notes may change over time, either due to age or simply because you changed your hair colour.

Alter and Adjust

I never used to think of altering garments – I know, I’m stupid – but since making even the slightest alterations, like pinning the strap of a top, I have noticed the world of difference it makes to the fit of an outfit. Further more, even altering hemlines or the fit of an item can give it an entirely new lease of life. I know some things are beyond repair and just simply no longer work for our bodies however, whenever you can – I think adjusting items is a great option.

Add Accessories

When entering a new season, or even if you have an event coming up, don’t feel compelled to buy new clothes instead look in the accessory section. Adding a statement necklace, bold earrings or even minimal bracelet can completely change an ensemble. It is often too easy to keep adding clothes to your wardrobe – instead play dress up in front of your mirror, dabbling with different accessories and if you really feel the need to freshen things up, head to the accessory area first!

Invest in quality pieces

It is quality over quantity always! Although things can often seem pricey at first glance, in my opinion it is far better to spend a lot of money on something well made than a lot of items that are cheap and will become worn out faster. This is often the case with fast fashion so I think it is better to establish what you need and what you want, write a list of these items and spend some time looking around before buying. Really mull over each purchase and question if it is a quality product that will still be in your wardrobe in 5-10 years.

So those are just a handful of the things I like to think about and address when contemplating whether or not I want to add items to my wardrobe. I think it is really important to stop and think before you buy, and with a few little pointers, it can make the world of difference to your lifestyle and wardrobe.

Do you have any tips or tricks you use?

Cheerio for now! 

Gothic Classics perfect for Autumn and Winter

While I love revisiting Christmas tales like A Christmas Carol and taking comfort in festive poetry over the Christmas period, I also enjoy taking solace in some darker reads too. There’s nothing quite like reading a book from the gothic or horror genre when the weather is often reflecting those gloomy landscapes the writer is also portraying. It’s the perfect mix. Throw in a blanket, some candles and a brew of your choice and you’ve got yourself a winner!

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

A dark classic within the horror genre, with themes such as vanity, selfishness and cruelty, this classic is definitely a tale of corruption and makes for the perfect read during the darker months. The prose and language is incredibly lyrical which, for me, made the plot line so digestible and fast-paced. I won’t go into the plot line too much as it is a classic that many of us know well however, I would like to point out that this isn’t in the horror genre due to it’s relation to monsters or the supernatural (as such), I would say it’s more so in this genre as it showcases the horror and cruel acts at the hands of a human. The display of Gray’s personal traits and how this effects the events that unfold are quite startling, and are what adds to and plays into the horror. I do have an old post on this book here, although it is rather old now so do forgive me.

Dracula, Bram Stoker

The ultimate vampire story of all time – how could I not include this gem here?! I know I recently mentioned this book in my Dark Reads for October post so I won’t ramble on as I’d truly be repeating myself. All I will say is that this is, to my mind, the original vampire story and set against the backdrops of locations such as castles in the middle of the mountains and Whitby Abbey perched upon the hilltop, mausoleums and graveyards, to mansion homes – it’s so eerie and perfect for cozy evenings.

The Hound of Baskervilles & The Valley of Fear, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I personally find a mystery, let alone one set against a creepy location, perfect for this time of year. The Hound of Baskervilles is very similar to that of a Scooby-Doo episode. The structures are identical. A secluded location with little to no inhabitants in the area, some form of monster or evil reeking havoc on the locals, some sort of warning or signal to leave, a couple chance meetings with that monster or form of evil which then turns out to be someone taking advantage of local myths and legends to capitalise on something they can get from it, usually wealth or power. This is the structure of the Hound of Baskervilles story but a bit darker in areas and so much more atmospheric. I’d highly recommend it to anyone, its language is straightforward and it’s not too long a read either. The Valley of Fear on the other hand, while I know that I have read it I can’t remember the plot line for the life of me.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, like Dracula, is seen as the pioneering classic for all ‘creations-come-to-life’ tales that followed. Again, many know the tale of the scientist Frankenstein whose creation comes to life and seemingly haunts him in his quest for purpose. Set against the backdrops of the Swiss Alps and Mont Blanc, the collegiate city of Ingolstadt Germany, the desolate artic landscape, and the wild, sparsely populated Orkney Islands. Shelley’s writing is expertly paced and has such a musical quality in parts. The imagery of the outcast creation is beyond beautiful and the language she uses evokes such emotion in it’s reader you do sometimes have to remind yourself that ‘yes, this is the monster everyone dresses up as when Halloween comes‘. You can’t help but feel heartbroken for the orphaned creation trying to find a purpose in his life as he scours the land in a state of loneliness.

The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux

Like Dracula, I did only mention this book recently in my Dark Reads for October so I won’t bore you with my musings all over again, you can find them here. The tale of a lonely phantom-figure terrorising and causing mysterious happenings in a grand, opulent opera house is one that thrills my bookworm heart. The writing and imagery Leroux conjures is exceptional, paired with the backdrops of dressing rooms, theatre boxes and a bustling theatre with secret passageways and mezzanine labyrinths is exquisite. I cannot recommend this book enough for these cooler months ahead.

There, those are just a handful of my gothic, slightly darker classics for the winter months upon us. Let me know if there’s any that you would add or what you’re favourite winter read is – I’d love to know.

Cheerio for now!

For the love of Antonia Fraser

For the pst few years, I have found myself infatuated with all books by the hand of Antonia Fraser. My inner history geek as been unleashed and I cannot devour enough of her work. 

I kept seeing the name Antonia Fraser on recommended reads and in the history section of the bookstore I so often find myself in; however it weren’t until I found myself in a bookshop in Brecon that I really dived into her works.

My boyfriend introduced me to Brecon Books a few years back, which I think he came to regret pretty fast considering the stack of chunky books I came out with. Among them were two by Antonia Fraser: The Six Wives of Henry VIII (Illustrated hardback) and Mary Queen of Scots (Folio Society edition). I quickly devoured the Henry VIII read and found myself with a growing pile of books by Fraser on my desk.

As a Tudor nerd, anything that involves Henry VIII or is remotely related to him is right up my alley, so The Six Wives of Henry VIII was the perfect read for me. With sections of the book dedicated to each wife, Fraser goes in-depth through the life and events of each wife: flawlessly mapping it alongside Henry’s life too. With illustrations, paintings and images of artefacts too, it makes the book incredibly interesting and such an easy read. Instead of using complex jargon, Fraser writes in a simple and straightforward way which makes the book such a quick read.

One of the other books I picked up after enjoying the Henry book so much was Marie Antionette: A Journey. Now this one took me a little longer to work through but it was far more in depth and was ridiculously detailed in every element of Marie Antionette’s life. It also had photos of paintings, illustrations and artefacts but was more heavy with the text and information as opposed to the visuals. I never learnt much about Marie Antoinette at school and of course, I’d heard the expression let them eat cake but I didn’t know any details about her life so this book was the ideal read to fill the huge gap. Although this is the only book I have read on Marie Antionette, I imagine it is unrivalled by any others as it is so thoroughly researched and so readable for the everyday reader (like myself) that it would be hard to find another book to match it.

The other book I have read by Fraser so far, is The Warrior Queens which is a compilation of chapters about different warrior queens throughout history. From ancient times through the centuries up to the likes of Queen Elizabeth II. With a collection of chapters about Catherine the Great, Elizabeth I , Queen Jinga of Angola and the Rani of Jhansi, it presents a wealth of knowledge about these women in chunky chapters which keeps the book interesting. Although I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the two previous, I still applaud Fraser for her portrayal of these women and the sheer amount of research that went into composing this book.

Among my collection of books by Antonia Fraser, I also have Love and Louis XIV, The Gunpowder Plot Terror and Faith in 1605, and, as mentioned above, Mary Queen of Scots; all of which are in a pile to the side of my desk waiting to be read. Fraser also has historical works on King Charles II, The Weaker Vessels (Women in history), and Cromwell. I will probably post more once I have made my way further through my reading pile.

Cheerio for now!

Greenwich Park

I’ve had a never-ending love for Greenwich Park for as long as I can remember. It’s so ingrained in my childhood and who I am, but Greenwich Park at this time of the year is something entirely different. The trees take on a whole new colour palette, an array of warm tones; browns, oranges, yellows, and fading greens. Often causing shimmering shadows of sunlight on the pavement and every so often you hear a rustling noise and have to watch out as two or three conkers come falling at your feet.

Everything just changes there in autumn. The Pavilion cafe is lit by the lowering sun, the planetarium and observatory scream all things dark academia against the dried leaves, the squirrels are friendlier -often grabbing a monkey nut or two to bury for winter. The air is crisp and cool but the sun still warm enough to enjoy a stroll, maybe even some people-watching which of course, where better to do it than in a park?

I would always tease my mom about her people-watching and her ability to conjure up stories about passers-by but as I get older I’m noticing more and more how fixed into my DNA it is. As I sat taking a break on a bench there, I couldn’t help but watch all the walks of life there. Groups passing along in worlds of their own, usually with one or two four-legged folk in tow. The passing commuter, seemingly talking to himself –yes, I know he has AirPods in but I still find it so funny to see someone chattering away to themselves, or to what I like to think is an imaginary friend. The elder couple out for a stroll after lunch and the students rushing off to their next lecture. All the mums, the pram club, out in full swing; bonding over the shared struggles of motherhood. And the school classes passing through with noisy chatter, a sea of green and grey uniform littered with colourful lunch bags and a handful of grown ups apologetically smiling as they go past. Then me – the girl perched on a bench, in the knitted pumpkin beanie hat, desperately scribbling musings down with the fear of missing a moment, a memory.

If I could freeze time at Greenwich Park, it would always be frozen and stand perfectly still at autumn.

Women are some kind of magic, Amanda Lovelace

The Women Are Some Kind of Magic boxset of books was something I had wanted for some time when I received it at Christmas from my partner. I’d say while I enjoyed some poetry here and there, I really got into it last year as the pandemic hit. Quite frankly poetry was the only thing that calmed my mind enough to go to sleep after hearing the evening news or weekly briefings from our government, which often included some form of statistically charts. This would have my head on a never ending merry-go-round of anxiety which then would hinder any chance of those sweet zzzz’s.

I had already found the beautiful work of Lang Leav (post to come on that gem of a wordsmith) but it took me awhile to find Amanda Lovelace. Now I could fob you all off and say I was busy with other books but ima be real – I had seen her books before, even had a flick through and really didn’t feel drawn to her material. I go off gut instinct and magnetism a lot whilst looking at books/materials by ‘new-to-me’ authors, and that just wasn’t there. Cut to when everything had opened up and those statistic figures soared again in the autumn/winter, I felt entirely different and that’s how I ended up being blessed with some of her work for Christmas.

Women Are Some Kind of Magic is a trio of books including; the princess saves herself in this one, the witch doesn’t burn in this one, and the mermaid voice returns in this one. Now, overall Lovelace’s work is beautiful. Her words have a rawness and authenticity to the emotion behind them that I don’t think anyone could fake or even try to emulate. I will say also, they are incredibly direct and definitely don’t beat around the bush. Lovelace tells it and tells it straight, and I’m sure that can be a bit jarring for some readers but I absolutely loved it. The three books compliment one another really well yet each brings something entirely different and could stand alone.

the princess saves herself in this one

This was the first book I read by Lovelace. It was a perfect taster of her work to come; just an overall beautifully curated book. I find her work definitely has a darker tone and subject matter but I found this book (like her others) has a narrative journey to follow throughout the course of the book. Her work in this book is very much centred on the themes of pain and healing, love and loss, and the overall idea of female power, or lack there of in certain situations. I will say that the tone lightens towards the end which makes the experience of reading it a bit of an emotional ride but one that has you wanting more of her work.

the witch doesn’t burn in this one

Now this addition to the trio was both my favourite and least favourite all at once. It’s main theme I would say is female empowerment and resilience in the face of judgment, mistreatment and even abuse. The imagery this book conjured in my mind was exquisite. The whole concept of individuals or a coven of women as a whole rising from the flames, even being emboldened by them is an attractive one for me. When I say it is also my least favourite, what I mean by that is that some of the poems are just a tad too angsty and almost man-hating for me. I don’t like using that word at all because I think feminists are unjustly labelled that far too often however there is truly no other way I can illustrate how I feel. Some of the poems just tip-toe on that boundary for me. Having said that, some of her poems in this book are among my favourite pieces of her work and just portray such feminine wisdom; one that I’d love every coven of strong women to possess.

the mermaid’s voice returns in this one

This final instalment to the collection was filled with a lot of pain and scars from abuse, especially that surrounding sexual abuse. As the poems progress, Lovelace takes you through the emotions from abuse and the memories that follow, and then ultimately the healing that comes after. The last section was probably my favourite. Labelled as the surviving, this portion of the book reels in a vaiety of other poets, all women, who’s work comes together to champion the overall message of the book we have a voice and we will use it. This book definitely came at a perfect time in our social culture and I think had so much more depth to the content given the #MeToo movement. I will say that while I enjoyed this book, I didn’t feel as connected to the material in it like I had with the previous books; and I would say because of this, it does not stand out to me as much.

I would also like to point out that while all these books are wonderful, some of the themes are quite grown up so I would give it a read before gifting to a young person or maybe even ask their parents/guardians. All of these books come with a trigger warning at the beginning of each of them so I would be mindful of that. Regardless of all of this, I would definitely recommend this trio of books to anyone interested in poetry, especially modern poetry or free verse.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let me know.

Cheerio for now!

things I’ve found solace in | pt. 4

I know I haven’t been around these parts lately but I’m hoping that will improve soon. Life has been so crazy lately and there are so many great things that have kept me going but for now I just wanted to share these few bits below.

This piece by Daniel José Older. I came across it through a Skillshare course and have been returning to it on a regular basis since. The idea of showing up and having to write is one I’ve struggled with at times, and definitely felt as though I’m forcing something. This piece goes on to state how if we do this, we’re ultimately doing a disservice to ourselves. We’re not living, observing and experiencing all those wonderful things that ultimately inspire our writing. I personally loved this piece and will forever return to it.

This video was somehow recommended to me and I absolutely love it. The shots are incredibly beautiful and Laura’s voice is so calming, you can’t help but feel at peace watching it. Wild swimming is something I really want to get into so it’s definitely given me a boost to look at some local spots I can try this out at.

This tour with Rajiv Surendra’s apartment felt like a tour of his soul – so damn beautiful. What struck me throughout the video was that, while everything he owns is incredibly beautiful and well-made, it is also functional and serves its purpose. A lot of the items in his home are handmade by either himself or someone else, either a friend or individuals he has outsourced in his desire to get his hands on something. He referred to himself as a butcher-baker-candlestick maker at one point which really tickled me but is so on the mark when you observe his living space. I’m a huge believer that our living arrangements say so much about a person. Rajiv’s definitely illustrates the thoughtful, organised and beautiful soul that he is. I absolutely love how everything is his home is thought out. He recalls multiple stories where he has outsourced a company or individual to hand-make an item he’s trying to find -which I adore the concept of working closely with artisans to get exactly what you desire. I cannot recommend this video enough. I will also be living by the saying we’re too poor to buy cheap things from here on out.

I hope you get a chance to check out some of the above, they really are great. I have a few things lined up for this space so hopefully all goes well and we’ll chat soon. I hope you’re well.

Cheerio for now!

Favourite Historic Reads Lately

This year I have read quite a few historic reads, which you’ll now doubt get the low-down about in my year round up of what I have read. I’m the type of person that works through a few books at the same time and I always have at least one historic read on the go. I wanted to share a few of the most recent ones here today and a few of my thoughts about them. I do have penchant for those feisty feminist rulers and the women who paved the way for us today so I do think my historical books definitely reflect that -especially todays group of books I want to share. If that sounds like your sort of thing then I hope you enjoy!

Long live the queens: Mighty, Magnificent and Bloody Marvellous Monarch’s History’s forgotten, Emma Marriott.

This book has a very similar format to What Would Boudicca Do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women but strictly Queens and Monarchs. It included some queens I already knew about like Catherine of Aragon, Matilda of Flanders, Zenobia, Queen Anne, etc, but it also introduced me to a whole host of leading ladies who I may have heard their names briefly but never delved into their stories such as Queen Elfrida, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen and Caroline of Brunswick. The layout of this book makes the information super easy to digest in bitesize chunks which is great for giving a brief overview into these ladies lives and what they did, but it wouldn’t be well suited for those who want a detailed account. I’d recommend this a great jumping off point to use almost like a catalog if you’re looking for a new queen to learn about. You can simply have a read through this book and find the perfect queen. I must mention, this book also has a great light-hearted, comedic tone to it which helps keep the information breezy and easy to read.

Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes.

This book is split into sections, with every Greek woman having her own chapter to explore her story and then comment on it. I enjoyed this book but it was far more academic than I thought it would be. What I mean by that is while it was informative and an enjoyable read there were times when it felt a bit too critical, especially when it came to relating to another source commenting on that given woman. I think my favourite chapters in this book were those relating to Penelope, Medusa and the Amazons.

Queens: 3,000 Years of the Most Powerful Women in History, Victoria Crossman

Queens was such a quick, informative read. It’s a lot like Long Live the Queens as it gives bitesize bits of information however, this book has an entirely different layout and gives information from all areas of these fierce women’s lives; accompanied by beautifully, vibrant illustrations.This book covers such a huge range and variety of Queens from world history. It has mythic, majestic queens like Queen Gunnhild and the Queen of Sheba to Royal Rebels and sword-wielding queens like the Trung sisters and Isabella of Castille. It also has ruthless rulers such as Ranavalona I of Madagascar, Mary I and Biawacheeitchish (a name I had never heard of and want to learn so much more about this talented woman). One thing I really loved too is that the book doesn’t just mention what these women did in their lives but it also highlights other elements of their lifestyles such as royal hobbies they partook in, how they were portrayed on their currencies, crowns and jewels of their reign, royal residencies, and even the royal beauty regimes. I especially loved the beauty regimes section. Reading about Empress Dowager Cixi and how she was rumoured to have used a small jade roller to massage her face to maintain her youthful looks was really interesting to me.

I always love these types of compilation books. There’s always some popular names which I’ve read about numerous times but as every author brings a new perspective, there’s inevitably names that I’ve never heard of and love learning about. I will say that this book has such a diverse group of women which I have never encountered before. I think a lot of books focus on Queens and influential figures from the Western world, and this book has really highlighted that fact for me. From this book I’ve now heard of queens like Queen Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba, Razia Sultana the first Muslim female to reign over Delhi, the Jamaican heroine Queen Nanny, the Mayan warrior queen Lady K’abel, The African leader Yaa Asantewaa and the ambitious Empress Myeongseong.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of these books.

Cheerio for now!

Dark Reads for October

With the evenings drawing in earlier and the temperature dropping, October is the perfect time to take comfort in something cozy and warm, and preferably a really great book. I personally love darker reads all year round. There’s something about a darker theme that keeps its reader more on edge and enthralled with its plot. While I love finding new reads like this, I have quite a collection that I love to return to around this time of the year and wanted to share a handful of them with you.

The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell.

I won’t go into too much detail with this book as I wrote a review for it here however, this is a great Victorian ghost story that is beautifully written by Laura Purcell. It includes a gothic crumbling mansion, a newly-married/newly-widowed/newly-pregnant protagonist, a locked room with a two-hundred-year old diary within and painted wooden figures who’s eyes seem to follow all around them. This book is full of suspense and suspicion, threat and violence, all cloaked with a grim and gothic atmosphere. A perfect spooky read for around Halloween.

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton.

Again, I have a more in-depth review here for this addition. Newly-married Nella Brandt, finds herself gifted a magnificent dolls cabinet which not only is a replica of her new home but she’s also told to furnish it to her hearts delight. Soon after, an elusive miniaturist starts sending Nella pieces for her cabinet which start to predict the events around her. With each piece of furniture and figurine uncovering secrets of her new life, she soon starts to grasp the peril of the surrounding events that could endanger her and those around her. Set in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam, during the Dutch Golden Age of the seventh century, Burton’s research adds such a grim and authentic tone to the plot lines. While it is in essence a rather sad tale, the mystery surrounding the craftsmanship of the miniaturist is so gripping that I find it perfect for this time of year.

Dracula, Bram Stoker.

Here’s another little review from back in the day. We all know the story -even if we’ve never read it ourselves. Dracula is probably the most well-known vampire story; setting a benchmark for those to follow. I like to think of it as not so much a novel or story but a collection of journal entries, letters and articles; so it’s very much a epistolary form of literature. Each piece serves to create a suspenseful tale of horror and macabre that has lasted the test of time. I personally love the details of the locations; the howling wolves, remote castles, and cryptic strange figures. It’s just overall a wonderfully gothic tale that I think is perfect for this time of year.

The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux.

This is one of my favourite books. The idea of a lonely phantom-figure terrorising an opulent theatre bustling with life and culture, causing mysterious accidents and murders along with feats of almost magic is such a beautiful concept to me. Leroux also makes the theatre so vividly enchanting. The descriptions of clandestine meetings, secret passageways, terrified ballerinas, empty theatre boxes, an underground mezzanine labyrinth, and snowy rooftops make for a gothic tale with such a chilling atmosphere. I think the thing that I love the most about this book is the overlap of real locations and real events in history that it was based of, mixed with the fictional tale make it more mysterious.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern.

Now this isn’t as dark as the others above however I’ve placed it here more so for the striking descriptions. It’s a beautiful tale of duelling magicians, bewitching feats and enchantments, red-scarfed rêveurs, set to the backdrop of a Victorian circus clad in black and white and only opens at nightfall. With a whole host of other characters and subplots, you can’t help but be entranced by this work. This book is full of rich details of the circus tents like ‘The Wishing Tree’, ‘The Ice Garden’, and the bewitching carousel complete with breathing gryffins. It has such vivid descriptions throughout. Morgenstern makes use of all the readers senses, setting an atmosphere and ambience full of festivities that feels tangible. It’s imagery is incredibly captivating and just adds something so magical to the story. I wish I could go into the plot more but I now I will struggle not to give spoilers. I do have a review link here – which I probably should update, so you may see a revision of that soon. And yes, I know I have too many copies of this book but I do absolutely love it!

Do you have any dark reads that you think are perfect for this time of year? Let me know

Cheerio for now!

Books I’ve Loved Lately

The pandemic really reignited my love for reading and I’ve been trying to keep it up while the world has been opening back up. I have been keeping a log of everything that I’ve read this year, and will probably do a round up or ‘best of’ post at the end of the year, but for now I thought I’d just let you know about a couple that I have really loved.

No Shame, Tom Allen

This book was hilarious. Just all out amazing-greatness-hilariousness. Now Tom Allen is pretty new to me. Having seen him on a programme last Christmas and cried with laughter multiple times, I loved him so much and had to see more of him. I then heard him on a few of the podcasts me and my Bearded-Boyfriend listen to, and just became so smitten with all things Tom Allen.

Now if you don’t know who Tom Allen is, I urge you to google or search him on YouTube. He is not your average male. He is dapper. In his uniform of three piece suits he is always put together like something you’d see on men in photos from the roaring twenties not in suburban London. This book is a very frank memoir with the chapters serving as vignettes of parts of his life, especially those from his early life and when he was coming to age.

When I was 16 I dressed in Victorian clothing in a bid to distract people from the fact that I was gay. It was a flawed plan.

Tom Allen

The book is sectioned into chapters which are labelled Driving, Working, etc; all of which come in heavy with the anecdotes. They are witty and sharp, honest and hysterical but also heartbreaking at times. He bears all in this book, even writing it in a fast and personable way rather than mimicking the narration style of some academic scholar with long-winded accounts. It’s a very accessible book to read or listen to -I actually downloaded it on audible too after I heard a sample of him narrating it himself. While I do highly recommend getting your hands on a couple, the audiobook just brings so much more colour to it. The timing of which he narrates it and accents he puts on just adds so much to the experience.

Intimations: Six Essays, Zadie Smith

This little book is a collection of essays from a pretty hefty time in history. I wouldn’t call them essays, more so reflections or vignettes of a moment in time. They all relate to the beginning and surge of Covid and how we, humanity as a whole, got through some of that. Smith explores some of the mundanity of life and the stillness most of us were engulfed in. While the humdrum subject matters in here seem wearisome, Smith details them in such an intimately powerful way. She muses about the unprecedented events in a way that now on (somewhat) the other side of them, gives the reader a lot to think about and reflect on.

What I’ve tried to do is organise some of the feelings and thoughts that events, so far, have provoked in me, in those scraps of time the year itself has allowed

Zadie Smith, 31 May 2020

I enjoyed this book so much. I must say this was my first book I had read by Zadie Smith on the recommendation of a friend. It was a welcome reprieve from a lot of anxiety and uncertainty as the covid statistics started to rise over winter. It is also the perfect little size to fit in my bag and for that reason it came everywhere with me; I often found myself dipping in and out of it for a moment of calm. I would recommend this for any reader, not just for the moments of reflection but also just for posterity. I now have a small collection of books that have come out post-covid that I will definitely refer back to when I’m talking about covid; this being one of them.

Within these four walls, mindfully Evie

This book is not necessarily one piece of work but rather a collection of eloquent pieces of poetry, prose, letters and journal entries tied together beautifully around the theme of self-discovery, healing and growth. They exude a resilience that I think really speaks to a lot of people like myself who suffer from chronic illnesses, which I would say is the central topic of this book. As the author herself puts it;

Spanning over nearly three years this book is a testament to my time being housebound and proof that despite all the suffering, there is always happiness to be created, peace to be unearthed, and a life to be live‘.

The books has three sections to it: The Storm, The Aftermath and The Calm. It also has an extra chapter called A Conversation with Wisdom. Each section holds such a selection of writing, from the wisdom in some pieces to the thoughtful and reflective pieces in another; all oozing powerful emotions in such an articulate way.

Now, I did really love this book but I will say that this is definitely one you pick up every so often and I wouldn’t recommend reading it all at once like other poetry collections I’ve read in the past. As I type this, I do wonder whether this is purely because of my own emotional and physical journey with my chronic health or if the pieces would stick with someone else in the same way. What I mean by this is, sometimes Evie’s words were too close to home for me and transported me back to darker times which were much harder for me to handle and live through. Literature has always been an enjoyable escape for me but sometimes the pieces would strike a cord and, while they did illustrate how I felt at times so eloquently, they also at times were too potent or vivid. Having said this, I do think this is a wonderful collection of work and I cannot recommend it enough to those looking to understand the lives and journey of those who suffer from chronic illnesses. It really serves well as a looking-glass into the realm of a Spoonie’s journey. Mindfully Evie also has another book newly released called Everything is Always Changing. I haven’t got my hands on this book as of yet but it’s sitting pretty on my list of books to buy so stay tuned!

Thats about it for now but keep an eye out for my bookish content coming soon – I’ve been rather busy on the book front lately so there’s lots to come.

Cheerio for now!