The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Matt Zoller Seitz

This post is about the book, which is all about the film and how it was made so there will be spoilers ahead! …also, as the natural-born overwriter that I am, I do go on a tangent about the film and why I absolutely love it. You have been warned.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is quite honestly one of my favourite films of all time. It’s the perfect tale within a tale within a tale; with multiple layers to its storytelling which make it such a rich film. There’s so many reasons why it’s such an amazing film, and they differ so much depending on who you ask. For some it’s that iconic pink hotel front and the funicular, the exquisite Mendl’s pastries, that pristine purple uniform that cuts such a dashing silhouette, or even that dresser-top fully stocked with L’air Panache (and how effortlessly that rolls off ones tongue). For others, it’s the darker elements of the film. The chase scenes with Jopling as dramatic music pounds in the background, his skull-shaped knuckle-dusters, the prison scenes and a seemingly never-ending rope ladder; not to mention, a head in a delivery box, a dead cat in a hessian sack, and four-missing fingers. While I love all the above, The Grand Budapest is my favourite for other reasons.

The writing is amazing. There’s a familiarity to the language and a warmth that’s unparalleled for me. It has a musicality to it that just gives me all the warm and fuzzy feels, and are just so unforgettable. I think the way that the writing has been performed also has a big hand in why I love it so much. The quick-fire way that it is reeled off, especially from characters like M. Gustave; so poetic and thoughtful yet sometimes steers into sounding more like a ranting sailor than his usual gentleman-fashion.

I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it… but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvellous grace!

Mr Moustafa

If you look further than the facade of the aesthetically-pleasing colour schemes and whimsically, fantastic characters, you realise the events at face-value are quite dire but there’s much more blood and gore involved. My boyfriend is a movie-lover and often mentions the films his dad introduced him to, and what ones he will one day introduce our kids too. It was only when I thought about this myself that I realised this film, while wonderfully colourful and somewhat comedic in areas, it’s actually probably a bit too much for a child to watch.

Now to the book…

This book is almost a window into how this masterpiece film was made. It’s a behind the scenes look with conversations with everyone varying from Anderson himself, to the actors, set designers, cinematographers, costume design, the film’s composer, and so many others. It also includes stunning photography, personal accounts and funny anecdotes as well as some amazing illustration and artwork.

I absolutely love the detailed costumes and vibrant colours, mixed with laid out backdrops in a perfect, symmetrical fashion. Anyone who knows Andersons work knows he’s so visually precise and meticulous with his cinematography. The film has different stages to it, all with frame changes depending on where or what era that portion of the film is set in which is something I think you enjoy and notice more when rewatching it. Each time I watch it I notice something else I missed before so reading about the cinematography and the decisions concerning all the camera work was really interesting for me.

This book is a must for every Wes Anderson aficionado! It contains so much insight when it came to not only the inspiration and sources for the story itself but also the process of storytelling, art and film-making too. It truly discusses every single element of the film and the inner-workings of making something great.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Cheerio for now!

((I must apologise for rambling on for soo damn long, but if you couldn’t tell-I bloody love this film! It is and probably will remain one of my absolute favourites forever!))

Three Books by Nikita Gill

Nikita Gill is one of the first modern poets who’s work I delved into when I first started getting into poetry. I remember seeing some of her work online years ago but it weren’t until I read Wild Embers that I really became entranced by her words. As I’ve mentioned here before, I got into poetry during the very beginning of the pandemic, when the world stopped and emotionally I just felt numb; and consequently didn’t know what to do with myself. Nikita Gill’s Wild Embers: Poems of rebellion, fire and beauty served as a welcome distraction and so I escaped into a new world of modern poetry.

I wanted to share a few books by Gill that I’ve read and fell in love with over the past couple of years

Wild Embers Poems of rebellion, fire and beauty

As I mentioned above, this was my first experience of Gill’s work: a collection of both poetry and prose. There’s a strong sense of validation and empowerment to her work. The language is both gentle and fierce, charged with so much emotion whether it be recognition, anger, rage, love, empowerment… I could go on. I also think her choice of words works beautifully in this work as it’s lyrical and there’s a musicality to the language which is incredibly moving at times. I love the themes she uses, especially those of rebellion and revolution; they definitely light that fire in you which is such a powerful thing. I also really appreciate Gill’s comparisons to nature and universe, an ongoing tool she’s also used in her other works, and how it relates to our acceptance and growth in personal ways. I think I’d characterise this work as very much ‘self-care-poetry‘: I cannot tell you how much solace and comfort that it brought me.

I had such a huge appreciation for her revisited, or should I say rewritten, fairytales and goddesses in her writing. She slightly changes the classic tales from mythology and princesses to show them in a feminist light and highlight how toxic society can be – which was so refreshing and truly enjoyable to read. I hate to leave this section on a bad note but my only little niggle was the fact that it was slightly repetitive in areas. Rather than a growing development and ‘journey’ through the different themes, it became tiresome as it flipped back and forth and dwelled on some of them. Ultimately though, I would say that this is a great first read to test the waters with Gill’s work and I’d definitely recommend it to any avid poetry reader or poet themselves.

Where Hope Comes From: Poems of Resilience, Healing, and Light

This is Gill’s most recent book off poetry and my second read of her work. Written as the world went into lockdown, there’s strong themes of loneliness and mental health throughout it. I found it incredibly poignant as it explores so many emotions that we, as a collective society, experienced to such extremes through this period of time. It explored the moments of isolation, fear and despair, hopelessness and hurt, depression and darkness, and anxiety and exhaustion. As I mentioned previously Nikita Gill’s work always seems to have strong imagery of the universe throughout, but this book also included imagery of constellations and the universe which was a nice change. I think the majority of us had a tough time through the lockdowns especially the very beginning of the pandemic, however I think even if you had an easy time and breezed through it, you’d be hard pressed not to feel touched and emotional from Gill’s work depicting this time. I personally found it a bit too much at times. I read this as they started to slowly ease our third lockdown and while there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel, it definitely didn’t feel like we were out of the woods; so at times I had to put the book down for awhile to recharge before I could continue on.

I only had a few issues with this book. While I did find it inspirational and it created a sense of hope and optimism towards the end, at times it was a bit too spiritual and godly for my liking but I wouldn’t say this ruined my reading of the book as a whole. Also I’d say sometimes it read more so as affirmations than poetry which, while still powerful, wasn’t what I expected or wanted from this book.

Your Heart is the Sea

This is the most recent book of Gill’s work that I have read. I found it quite a cathartic read as it definitely explores a lot of wounds and trauma, especially that of mental health. I felt as though it took me to the darker, more damaged parts of myself and then gave me safe and more comforting words to heal. I definitely felt like this book was more of a journey than the other books above. It had a bit more melancholy to it and was very much a ‘wallow-hollow’; which looking back felt as though it tore you down to build you back up. Having said this, there’s a connection through the trauma and turmoil that these poems explore which I think many could relate to. It deals themes such as trauma, healing, self-care and hope so I think it would appeal to a wider range of readers, across all age-groups.

This book is split into eight sections, The Anguish, The Descent, The Acceptance, The Defiance, The Survival, The Worship, The Wonder, and The Beginning, which makes it a bit easier to pick up and put down as and when you need to. Gill also draws on the classic Greek Gods and mythology in The Worship section of this book too, such as Narcissus, the Minotaur, Athena & Medusa, Orpheus & Eurydice, etc, which is a nice layer to the book. Overall, I loved this book. The language was simple but used with such weighty subject matters and themes that it felt like an extremely profound experience. I think the simplicity of Nikita Gill’s language too adds to an effortless effect; it hits all the right notes without trying.

While I loved all of the books above, and no doubt will return to them at some point, I think Wild Embers was my favourite of Gill’s work so far however, that is probably more so to do with where we all were with the pandemic and how that started my love of modern poetry at the time. I look back on it fondly and even now still have a flick through it’s pages occasionally, reading a piece here and there. I’d recommend any of these works, or any of her other works too – she is truly talented!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Cheerio for now!

((If you are a Nikita Gill fan, I’d recommend you listen to her as a guest on the Saturn Returns with Caggie Podcast, hosted by Caggie Dunlop. I love the podcast anyway but listening to Nikita Gill talk about poetry as a form of self-expression and how you can create beautiful things through your more painful experiences was so inspiring. I’d definitely recommend you give it a listen)).

I Am Her Tribe, Danielle Doby

What started as an instagram and hashtag movement, connecting like-minded folk of all walks of life through the storytelling and empowering words of Danielle Doby comes I Am Her Tribe. A collection of poetry drawing on this movement and growing into a safe place to, as Doby puts it on one of her first pages, ‘come as you are. your breath can rest here’.

Doby has created a book of simple moments portrayed with simple words but which has a beguiling affect on its reader. At first glance or even a skim read, these pieces don’t seem to hold much substance but when you take the time to sit with them and truly allow yourself to be taken by each piece, and the language it uses, you allow yourself to be engulfed by the emotion her work can conjure and it’s an extraordinary process. There are moments that a piece requires a slow, more thoughtful read while other pieces command to be read with a sense of urgency, the weight and emotion of the words not truly sinking in until you’ve finished reading it. Doby’s pacing and choice of language is mesmerising, and truly beautiful to behold.

both soft + fierce

can coexist

and still be powerful

I Am Her Tribe, Danielle Doby p. 137

It’s unlike other poetry that I’ve read in that it feels not so much as an individuals voice but very much a collective voice of the masses. The feel of much of her work is one of empowerment and solidarity; especially that for women which feels even more poignant given the social context since the MeToo movement and more recently the case of Sarah Everard. The raw emotion and imagery she employs in her work is moving and, while it covers many themes such as self-love, healing, and personal growth, it’s very much one of inner peace. There’s such an overwhelming sense of peace when you read her works. I personally love the astrological sign ending to the book which for me ends your reading on a more personal note – a beautiful touch.

Now I don’t want to be a Debbie-Downer and end of a negative note but I have one qualm with this book which is the cover. My copy is a matte white cover with a slight embossed title repeated several times and the authors name, all in white. While aesthetically it is somewhat cute to me, it is also becoming kinda dirty and quick to mark/scuff in all manner of ways which is infuriating to me. I love to revisit my poetry collection whenever I feel drawn to delving back into the authors work and I often take whatever book I’m in the middle of wherever I go with me so this does not bode well for this cover at all and makes me a little apprehensive to reread in the future. I also wonder how inclined readers would be to read it if they picked up a copy at that bookstore to find it a little grubby before they’ve even bought it. There that’s my nit-picking over with.

Have you read Doby’s work? What did you think?

Cheerio for now!

A Family Under the Christmas Tree, Terri Reed

Now, I mentioned this book in my Christmas Films post recently. I originally saw the film, Picture a Perfect Christmas on the movie channel in 2019 and loved it. I watched it again last Christmas and recently showed my mom it too – in a bid to get her excited and convince her that we should start decorating in late October. It weren’t until a month ago that I even realised it was based off a book and immediately I had to get my hands on a copy.

This festive tale revolves around Sophie Griffith and David Murphy, along with a few others. Sophie is a photographer whose job takes her all over the globe and while waiting for her next gig to be finalised, she’s helping her injured grandma Louise over the holidays. As she arrives in Washington state to lend a helping hand she meets David Murphy, Louise’s neighbour. Other than being outrageously attractive to Sophie, David is guardian to Troy his six-year-old nephew who Louise often helps with. Throughout her stay Sophie finds herself growing closer to the Murphy men with the help of their festive activities along with the meddling matchmaking of Louise. While they’re both attracted to one another, with Sophie about to jet off with her next assignment and David running his company and caring for Troy, surely it’s a non-starter but can they manage to make it work?

I read this book within two evenings – a personal best, I might add. It is light-hearted and full of all those festive warm and fuzzies. One thing I loved about this book is that it’s told from both Sophie and Davids point of view. That was really refreshing and just gave the story a bit more to it. Reed also does a wonderful job of capturing that chemistry and electricity between two people who are attracted to one another. I thought the ending was cute but a little vague and quick for my liking.

I found the story and characters a bit surface-level. There was a lot of potential to tap into, especially with the themes of grief and trauma which could’ve been explored so much more. I think the instant attraction between the characters made the whole ‘we can’t be together’ conflict a bit weaker especially in comparison to the strength of the attraction. This is something I preferred in the film: Sophie has a boyfriend Brent which is the obvious reason why she can’t be with David, even though something is there between them.

I’m glad I read this book and would definitely recommend to anyone who wants a light-hearted, festive romance but I think I preferred the film and will probably stick to that in the future.

Have you watched the movie or read the book, or both? What did you think?

Cheerio for now!

The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern.

I made the decision this year to keep a notebook with the purpose of recording my thoughts and feelings about everything that I’m reading. I wanted to keep track of everything I read, good or bad: making logs as I read so as not to lose track of anything. So often I read something that hasn’t exactly blown me away but has also struck a quiet enjoyment for me. This was one of the first books that I kept track of like this.

The Starless Sea follows Zachary Rawlins, a student who finds a book in the library and becomes utterly entranced by it. It’s contents hold much to be bewildered by, one factor being that it holds a moment of Zachary’s childhood. A memory long ‘tried’ to be forgotten but always fantasised about. Zachary is pulled into a mysterious world of masquerade balls and crowded ballrooms, secret societies and shifty characters, as well as a beguiling place far below the surface of the earth where a myriad of life and fantastical places awaits him.

Occasionally Fate can pull itself together again and Time is always waiting

Morgenstern creates a world unlike any other. Her writing has a magical quality about it, mirrored by no author I have ever encountered. Her language is almost lyrical, singing to her readers imagination. You only have to read my review of her debut novel, The Night Circus to know my profound love of her work. The Starless Sea is equally captivating in its’ settings, characters and beautifully imagery however, there were some things missing for me.

This is what his mother would call a moment with meaning. A moment that changes the moments that follow

While beautiful in so many ways, this book was very much style over substance for me. I felt quite lost through different points where it I couldn’t distinguish a main objective or purpose. There were times when I felt like Morgenstern was just taking us on a tour of this amazing world rather than showing us a clear cut story in this world. I didn’t understand the importance of Zachary in this world or how he fit into this equation. I finished this book with an overall feeling of ‘eh’. I wanted so much more out of the last few sections and really needed more to understand and finish off in a great way. I was left with so many questions: Is Zachary the new keeper? Did The Starless Sea become destroyed because it’s under someone new or has it just been concealed? Or was it actually destroyed? How does Zachary and Dorian return for his mother’s party? Do they really have a life together? So many more questions that I just need answers to and really need to discuss with other readers.

Ultimately, I think that had I not already read The Night Circus then I think I would’ve abandoned this book about two-thirds into it because it just felt aimless in it’s plot. I said to my boyfriend, I felt like I needed more pages to explain the story more. I wouldn’t recommend as a first read to Morgenstern’s works. Having said this, I do just want to add that the Bioshock and gaming references in it had my heart a flutter. They made me love Morgenstern that little bit more.

Let me know what you thought if you’ve read it.

Cheerio for now!

Book Review: Dear Chronic Illness

Dear Chronic Illness, Comprised by Pippa Stacey

Dear Chronic Illness is a collection of letters carefully comprised by Pippa Stacey. The letters are written by individuals to their chronic illnesses and detail what they would say to them if they could.

Now having just said that, you may think this is a variety of letters running through sad health stories while a violin solo plays in the background -No, it’s not. These letters sing to a different beat. Sure, they give their accounts of the challenges living their lives with their condition but they also provide these experience with a light-hearted banter. The type of banter a lot of us adopt when life gets hard and we learn to laugh at certain situations.

Having said this, that’s not to say chronic illness is something to simply be laughed at or not to be taken seriously by others. Sufferers’ have a hard enough time getting our doctors to believe our symptoms let alone family and friends we have around us. However, these letters dance along that borderline of somewhere in between the humorous inner commentaries us sufferers run through day-to-day and letting non-sufferers into the more serious, and eye-opening challenges that we have faced.

It’s a book which will provide new perspectives to friends and families of those with chronic illnesses but also provide a sigh of relief for other sufferers’, who can take comfort in the fact that someone with the same condition as them feels the same way. It’s a huge validation for thoughts and feelings we may be too scared to vocalise for fear of being misinterpreted.

For me personally, I had so many moments where I just quietly smiled at myself, my heart growing warmer that I wasn’t alone in thinking or feeling certain ways about my illness. Below are some quotes and snippets I have pulled from different letters that I personally scribbled a wobbly line under or an oversized circle around to be able to find at a moments notice when I need it again.

Although you took my teenage years away, you replaced it with a perspective and outlook on life that’s hard to come by -Ellie Whiting

Without you, M.E., I might never have been lost in the wilderness. Without you, M.E., I might never have found myself there either’ -Elizabeth Guntrip

‘You have taught me that being disabled through chronic illness is not a life sentence to unhappiness, it’s just a quirk- I don’t know many friends that own a floral walking stick or have been steered around shops in a wheelchair, crashed into multiple displays and cried with laughter at it. -Ellie Whiting

…I will say this: I’d like to thank you, M.E., for opening my eyes. Without becoming so poorly, I wouldn’t have seen how many people are silently suffering, and how little support is in place for them. -Pippa Stacey

The hardest thing you took away from me, was my pride. Being in a wheelchair is liberating and allows me some freedom, but it’s not all fun really – I used to be taller than all my friends, and now I sit at bum height. It’s like a sea of bottoms when we go out! -Ellie Whiting (never related to something more)

I went from teenager to doddery grandma in a weird Benjamin Button-esque way; feeling physically ancient despite my biological age of nineteen -Lara Strong

I know it’ll always be there, I’m well aware that my conditions won’t miraculously disappear, but I also never expected it to be as bad as it is. A part of me forgets the torture of a flare-up: the frustration, the anger, the sadness. A flare is like an abyss, as there’s no end in sight at the beginning, it completely consumes me and there are times I’ve wished for death. But there’s always a flicker of hope. -Sarah Alexander

I wouldn’t be running a social enterprise in my Disney pyjamas -Pippa Stacey

I would recommend this read to anyone, not just sufferers’ or family and friends of sufferer’s but literally anyone. This letters provide an insight which is enlightening to say the least, and in all honesty it’s something I can’t quite articulate into words so please just go with your gut and give it a read if your intrigued.

Cheerio for now!

The Dance of the Serpents

The Dance of the Serpents, Oscar de Muriel

5/5 stars!

Ah, another incredible addition to the Frey & McGray Series. The Dance of the Serpents is a delayed follow-up of the events from the second book in the series, A Fever of the Blood. If you’re new around here you can check out my reviews of the previous books here, however I will give a brief overview of how this book relates back to the second.

A Fever of the Blood deals with the Lancashire witches and ends with McGray killing two of those witches who just so happen to be Queen Victoria’s go-to-guys for contacting her late husband. The Dance of the Serpents commences with the prime minister informing the detective duo of this and the Queen’s desire to see them both dead. The calculating prime minister comes up with an ultimatum for them though. He offers them full resources and a few of his chaperoning goons to accompany them in hopes that they can find some of the scattered members of the witch coven; who could potentially fulfil the Queen’s desires in the occult. This quest is no doubt Frey & McGray’s most dangerous yet, with both various witches trying to kill them along the way as well as the Prime minister’s goons sabotaging them at every turn.

Note: spoilers from here on out, proceed with caution.

Overall this book is a wonderful addition to the series. It has everything you would want to a Frey & McGray tale; clever and tense plot twists, complex characters and an intriguing storyline to suck you in. I will say that given how it relates back to the second book, I doubt very much that it could standalone and wouldn’t recommend it to someone without them having experienced A Fever of the Blood.

The storyline was impeccable. I must admit reading Oscar de Muriel’s previous works have trained my eye to scrutinise every twist and turn of his tales, scanning for any clues as to whose responsible but this book just completely side-swipped me. It was intricate and beautifully curated – Muriel truly left nothing to chance.

How could you do this? This book is a relic! It was already ancient when Henry VIII chose his first trollop!

Frey

Frey & McGray make for a hilarious duo. Ever witty, sarcastic and just all-round perfectly contrasted to one another and yet completely in-sync at the same time. The balance between the two characters is just spot on. Every book I feel like I notice shifts in their dynamic and how they’ve become more in tune with one another. Not just them but also their households have this terrific dynamic which is just amazing to behold.

Caroline Aldglass makes a stunning return. She is a key part of the story but also a great addition to the duo. She has such knowledge and wit, challenging the detective duo whilst also assisting them and just all round kicking things up a notch by being a total badass b!tch. There were moments of tension between her and Frey, like a mild, victorian version of Rachel and Ross from the Friends. Ultimately, I loved her in this book and would love to see her become a permanent character in future books.

Other characters I really appreciated were the return of some familiar witches such as Nettle and Oakley. I found it really interesting having the followup with them and seeing how their lives turned out after the chaos at the end of A Fever of the Blood. The prime minister, Lord Salisbury and his goons were the epitome of high-up, elite tw@ts that you really want to opportunity to smack in the gob. I mean, Boss was so irritating to me. I yearned to see him get killed in the most violent of ways. The depiction of Queen Victoria was so humorous to me. Just the whole bratty vibe was spot on for me.

Overall this book was just brilliant. Almost everything was spot on for me… BUT, yes there’s a but. I have a slight issue with the ending. Usually Frey mentions the reports and papers they’ll have to file following the events, and the various inquests, etc but this had none of that. Instead the book comes to a close as Frey has retreated to his Gloucestershire estate to recover from the hectic events. McGray visits him saying he guessed Frey wouldn’t be returning, to which Frey replies no ***GASP/HORROR/SHOCK/BETRAYAL… never ending plethora of mixed emotions***. McGray, touchingly, seemed dejected and I joined him in the mutual feeling. The prospect of no more additions and therefore, no more adventures for the duo is quite a bleak one for me although I am hoping it’s Muriel’s cunning plan to make Frey return with gusto to a sarcastic McGray saying “thought we got rid of ye, dandy”. In my mind that’s how I want things to unravel but if not, I’ll be quite happy with just the promise of more to come. (…as I’m about to schedule this post, Oscar de Muriel has actually made an announcement about the next addition to the series. I won’t go into it but I’ll just leave a lil link here for you).

Now I’ve never actually published my fave of the series in order, despite having discussed it at great length with my unwilling boyfriend; but I think I want to do that here (favourite-least favourite).

  1. Loch of the Dead
  2. The Dance of the Serpents
  3. The Strings of Murder
  4. The Darker Arts
  5. A Fever of the Blood
  6. A Mask of Shadows

I, as you can probably tell, love this series of books. Let me know what you think of them, I’d love to know.

Cheerio for now!

The Mistresses of Cliveden & Other Great Historic Reads

I have always felt drawn to those strong women in history deemed scandalous but merely trailblazing the way for others to follow. I don’t know what that says about me or my upbringing but I have just always been fascinated by them. Maybe it’s the feminist within me that finds reading about these women empowering for the rest of us or maybe their stories are just interesting in of themselves. Either way, I thought I’d share with you a few thoughts on some of my recents reads about a few books and the awe-inspiring women they revolve around.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Often dubbed the ‘it’ girl of the eighteenth century, this beautiful book revolves around Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Born Lady Georgiana Spencer (yes, she is an ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer), she married the fifth Duke of Devonshire in 1774. Not only was she considered the queen of the fashionable elite and aristocratic society, but she constantly exuded an aura of glamour which drew the press and public to her. She was also best buds with the Prince of Wales, closely acquainted with Marie Antoinette and an important supporter of the Whig party. For all the adoration she received in her public life, it didn’t mirror that of her life behind closed doors. The book takes you through the hardship experienced in her marriage as well as her obsession with gambling leading her into an overwhelming amount of debt and disgrace. It also details her quest for love along with the difficulties and exile that came with that.

‘Mesmirising’, as Antonia Frazer describes this gorgeous book, it takes you through Georgiana’s opulent and glamorous public life as well as her private life full of suffering. It follows the Duchesses life while also touching on society at the time such as civil unrest and royalty of the time. I have the illustrated edition which is full of beautiful pictures of the people she knew and socialised with, the places she lived or visited and objects such as the remnants of her fashionable outfits, accessories, etc. Quite apart from this, the wiring itself is informative and incredibly detailed whilst remaining readable and easy to understand. All too often I pick up historical reads that lose me within the first few pages due to their confusing lingo and stern, scholarly tone. Foreman’s writing couldn’t be further than this. It is appealing with a warm tone, illustrating her intrigue and passion to display Georgiana’s life with the attention that it deserves.

What would Boudicca do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women by Elizabeth Foley & Beth Coates

As the back cover states, this book ‘will make you fired-up and ready for anything’. Showcasing fifty women from all eras and areas in the world, this book shows some fiercely, trailblazing women and the incredibly inspiring things they achieved. It includes women such as Elizabeth I, Frida Kahlo, Hypatia, Ada Lovelace, Marie Stopes, Josephine Baker and Catherine the Great. Accompanied by illustrations by Bijou Karman, it provides bitesize chunks about each woman. I wouldn’t say its the read for you if you want an in-depth, detailed account of each woman, as they only give a short, stream-lined account for each woman. Having said that, it is still a great and easy read.

The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue , Natalie Livingstone

I have wanted to read this book for the longest time but never actually took the plunge until now. As a total bookworm, the majority of my Christmas and birthday presents are books -this being one of them. After reading Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman and Marie Antionette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser, I have been intrigued by all the historical scandal that rooted from such ladies. The Mistresses of Cliveden was the perfect read to cater to my curiosity on the subject.

The book is sectioned into five parts -a part dedicated to each of the mistresses at the forefront of Cliveden’s history. Those women are Anna Maria Brudnell, Elizabeth Villiers, Augusta Princess of Wales, Harriet Duchess of Sutherland, and Nancy Astor. While all of the sections are fascinating, I personally found the first two women to be the most interesting, intriguing, and scandalous. I think what is most interesting is how simple gatherings and parties held at Cliveden played such a role in British politics and society at the time. Throughout it’s history, each mistress of the stately home held such an influence in her society: whether it be through her beauty and charm, personality or politics, each woman contributed to the English society in one way or another. It adds praise to the age old saying of its not what you know but who you know.

I love the fact that the narrative revolves around the women of a place. It gives the illusion that we are privy to information and events that Cliveden’s walls would have been too. The idea that those walls have stood the test of time and witnessed all these events and people in English history.

While it is a chunky book, I think the structure of it being sectioned into five parts (which also have their own smaller chapters within) make it easier to digest. I would definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in history. It is also one hell of a read if you’re a feminist -these women really paved a way for us. Even if you’re not into history, I’d say it’s an easy entry into the more heavier historical non-fiction.

If you love historic reads or even want to try something new then I’d definitely recommend all three of these reads. I have so many more I want to recommend too but I think I’ll hold off and keep this post at those three for now.

Stay safe – Cheerio for now!

Book Review: Rapture (Bioshock)

Rapture (Bioshock), John Shirley

Where to begin.

So, this book is a prequel to the first two Bioshock games. It gives you a wealth of knowledge about the characters and what led them to Rapture which, once you have read these things, gives you a whole new depth of backstory and layer to enrich the games.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who has played the games however, I think even people who haven’t or have no knowledge of the games plot would also really enjoy this book.

Would you kindly?

In a post-war world, everyone seeks to rebuild a life they once had – one man has a vision, Andrew Ryan. He manifests an underwater utopian society free from government, censorship and moral restrictions on science; for both men and women to build a better life away from the corruption above the surface. Using his wealth, he creates this shinning city beneath the sea; a world of autonomy and liberty . But of course, as all worlds and civilisations have, there are rules and a manner of conduct that Andrew expects to be followed – what could go wrong?

The plot slowly turns sour with an idyllic world slowly transforming into a living nightmare. With autonomy and liberty, as well as the lack of government and restrictions on science, people begin to do as they like. Hidden dreams and fantasies start to take shape and with the natural greed of mankind, everyone wants it for themselves.

The structure of flits from dates and places, following numerous characters and showing their opinions of, and paths to, Rapture. The story ends just as the Bioshock game begins, making sure not to overlap and become boring or repetitive.

I found that the text posed a lot more philosophical questions for me than the game, specifically the idea of ‘one bad apple’ and the corruption of mankind being inevitable wherever peace tries to prevail.

Although I say that anyone would enjoy this book, even those who haven’t played the games, I will say that while it is true to the games, I do also think it flushes out a lot of the world and story that isn’t explored in the games. I also wonder how I would have felt reading it without knowledge, or experience, of the games. Would I be able to picture the splicers? Would I be able to keep up with the multiple characters or envisage Rapture in all its’ glory? I’m not so sure.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it.

Cheerio for now.

The Darker Arts

The Darker Arts, Oscar de Muriel

You only need to look at my book posts on here to know that I love Oscar de Muriel’s books. His Frey & McGray series is without a doubt my favourite series of all time (yes, I would even say above A Series of Unfortunate Events). So when I saw back in June that the fifth book in the series was to be released in August, I clicked that preorder button like my life depended on it and then did a happy dance whilst marking it on my calendar (blacking out a day or two to devour it for when it arrived).

*Now, before I go on -I must put a brief disclaimer here. While I don’t discuss major spoilers, or give a play-by-play account of what happens in this instalment to the series, I do detail a quick run-through of the overall premise of the book. Now if you are like my boyfriend and liked to go into a book or film completely blind to what will happen, then I would personally skip over the next paragraph so you don’t ruin anything for yourself.

The book picks up in Edinburgh, 1889 after the fatal events of the last book, The Loch of the Dead. The ‘closed-room seance murder’ is as dark and spooky as murder mysteries come, especially when the only survivor claims to have seen the hand of the devil appear. Those involved, and murdered that night, all have one thing in common Grannie Alice: the matriarch of the family, who held an important secret that her family members are desperate to find out. Attempting to communicate with her, those involved find themselves killed in the most terrifying way: something so terrifying that even Madame Katerina, the gypsy fortune teller, is petrified beyond belief. With Katerina as the only survivor she is of-course the culprit or at least, in everyones eyes but Inspector Nine-Nails McGray. With his fierce protection over her he pulls in his colleague Inspector Frey to help prove her innocence. With so many conflicting factors to the case, it seems that in an age of superstition Madame Katerina’s fate is sealed.

Oscar de Muriel’s ensemble of characters is by far superior to any cast of characters I have ever encountered before. They are so diversely interwoven with one another that you have to remember all the other factors that link them to the murder: which makes plot twists and motives absolutely gripping. I have to say, the last ten chapters are just beautifully written and entirely addictive. Once you reach a certain turning point there is simply no putting the book down.

While the fourth book, The Loch of the Dead, is still my favourite I must say I applaud Oscar de Muriel on what a tremendous job he did with this addition to the series. I did not know what to expect from this book. Having enjoyed the fourth so much I really was apprehensive to dive into this next one. As much as I was excited for it, I also held it an arms length in my mind and had a mental ‘proceed with caution’ sign on it. The middle section did lag a little at a certain point but now having read it in its entirety, I must say that the lag was necessary to give the reader a breather before it picks up and reaches its apex of the story.

Ultimately, this is a wonderful addition to the series of Frey & McGray mysteries and although it isn’t my favourite, I would say it’s one of them. I would highly recommend this series to anyone, they are an absolutely fantastic series of books which I personally think should be a part of everyones home library.

Cheerio for now!