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!

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!

Dear Chronic Illness

**I read Dear Chronic Illness last year and felt such a kinship with everyone who contributed and shared their experiences and feelings in that amazing book. I’ll leave a little link to my review here incase you missed it but I also wanted to do my own letter. I wrote this last year but completely chickened out on publishing so thought with it being M.E awareness week I’d post it now.

Dear M.E.

It’s been 10 years – did you realise that? 

10 years that you have stolen. You came out of nowhere: completely unexpected. Like with so many others you started small, the flu or an infection but five sets of antibiotics later you still lingered. Bigger and worse than ever before. Thats when the tests were done and we found you – M.E/CFS. What even is that? I thought. I heard my mom ask What can we do?, to which the scariest reply came… Nothing. There’s no cure. Everything went into slow motion and all I remember is seeing my mom crumble as my nana lent over to support her. The doctor took that moment to tell me the only thing that will get you through this will be your friends. And that was it. How we became stuck with each other.

I walked into that doctor’s office a carefree, determined, and slightly confused girl and came out numb and in shock. I was convinced they had something wrong. Surely they had the test results or the medical files mixed up with someone else. But no, low and behold there was no mistake. Nor was it a horrific nightmare which I desperately wanted to wake from. No, it was you. You, M.E and me – Jam. We were now forged together.

You have taken me down some roads and alleyways I wish never to return and at times you have broken me heart and soul. But you have never broken my spirit. True it may have grown weak at times but you have never, and will never, break it. You see, I grew holding onto an important idea of my grandfather’s. He always said, and still says, that when you give up on life, life gives up on you and you may as well hop into your grave now. With this in mind, I have always believed that if I mentally gave up on myself it would be the end so I always worked towards something. I set myself targets and learnt through trial and error what this broken body was capable of. Every so often I’d go beyond those boundaries and you would knock me down, harder then ever before. I’d stare at the ceiling, wincing in pain. You’ve caused a lot of that over the years – pain, exhaustion, depression, and then all the complications too.

I think a lot people are slowly beaten down by you but still they hold onto some hidden hope and faith that one day you’ll pack up and leave as quickly as you came. I’m not one of those people. Another thing you neglected to consider when picking me as your next ‘victim’ is that I’m not a child of god but a child of science: brought into this world by the marvel of IVF. As anyone familiar with IVF knows, you have to be patient, persevere and have courage in the process regardless how trying the situation may be. And those traits are firm in the foundation of who I am. I have the courage of my mother and, dare I say, the stubbornness of my biological father. I fought my way into this world and because of you I will continue to fight my way through it.

M.e. you have turned my world upside down from the get go. You tore apart the person I was and burnt the remains to the ground. But you also gave me the nobility to rise from those ashes and, through many hardships, forge my way to the person I am meant to be. These past 10 years have been a voyage into the great unknown and at times you have been my only companion. You have seen me go from a naive young girl to a headstrong young woman and despite the bad bits you still bring – I rather like the person I’m becoming.

I wholeheartedly thank you and, regardless of what you may bring from here on out, I’m glad our paths crossed,

Jam

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!

Books I Read In 2020

We all know 2020 sucked (as I write this, England has gone into another national lockdown so I don’t know how well 2021 will go at this point), but I found so much solace in books last year. I particularly loved reading poetry before bed to distract my brain from the various statistics on the evening news. I found quite a few of these reads from others and while I wanted to list all my reads here for my own personal reflection, I also thought some of you might find this list helpful in some way.

I might do some reviews on my favourite reads in the future but I don’t want this post to be too long or overwritten so I have included only a sentence or two alongside these titles below.

*to mark any books that are rereads

Mr Salary, Sally Rooney (Faber Stories): These little Faber editions are so great to grab on the go and stuff in your bag, wherever your headed. I actually read these two whilst on the train to the city -while we could still do things like that.

Intruders, Adrian Tomine (Faber Stories)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King (Audible): While I do have the copy of this book, I mainly listened to it on audible whilst busying myself with other stuff.

*The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux (Folio Society): Quite honestly the most beautiful edition of this classic, actually any book for that fact, that I have ever come across.

*All the Wrong Questions: “Who Could That Be At This Hour?”, Lemony Snicket (Audible): Having loved A Series of Unfortunate Events as a child, I really wanted to give this new series of books a go. As you can see from below, I got through three of them but haven’t managed the last yet.

Flux, Orion Carloto: Absolutely amazing!

*All the Wrong Questions: “When Did You See Her Last?”, Lemony Snicket (Audible)

Love Looks Pretty on You, Lang Leav: This was my first Lang Leav book that I read and I quite honestly loved every minute it of it. It weren’t my only Leav book of the year but I still need to get my hands on more.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson: This film is one of my all time favourites so reading the screenplay was sooo dreamy!

All the Wrong Questions: “Shouldn’t You Be in School?”, Lemony Snicket (Audible)

Empty Bottles Full of Stories, r.h. Sin & Robert M. Drake

Pillow Thoughts, Courtney Peppernell: If I could insert the heart eyes emoji here I would. Such a talented writer, I really need to get more of her books.

A Game of Thrones, George. R. R. Martin: After watching the final season of the HBO series, I have been wanting to delve into the books but have been put off by everyone saying how long-winded they are. While I won’t disagree to that last part, I’m so glad that I did take the plunge.

wild embers: poems of rebellion, fire and beauty, Nikita Gill: Another amazinggg poet.

Poems to fix a F**ked Up World, Various Poets: I finally picked this up off my shelf during the original lockdown -great timing, right?

Lullabies, Lang Leav: another amazing book from Leav.

Ten Poems about Tea, Various Poets (Candlestick Press Pamphlets): a great light read. I’d highly recommend any of the pamphlets by Candlestick Press -my personal favourite is The All Night Bookshop.

Sea of Strangers, Lang Leav: …how many times can I use the word ‘amazing’ to describe Lang Leav’s work? I should probably check out a thesaurus by now.

Love Her Wild, Atticus Poetry: a beautiful book, with both black and white photography and poetry. Some of his words really hit home for me.

Beyond Beautiful, Anuschka Rees... have to be honest, wasn’t entirely entranced by this read.

A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin

How to Survive: Lessons For Everyday Life from the Extreme World, John Hudson: not exactly my usual read but actually a really interesting book, recommended by my grandfather Stanley.

Midnight Sun, Stephanie Meyer: This is the book that I have been waiting for since I was thirteen and believe me when I say, it did not disappoint. True, it was a bit longer than I thought it would be -should’ve taken the whole Edward-mind-reading stuff into consideration.

A Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin.

Film for Her, Orion Carloto: a beautiful second addition to my Carloto area on my bookshelf.

Christmas Lights, Ten Poems for Dark Winter Nights, Candlestick Press

A Feast for Crows, George R. R. Martin

You Matter, Dhiman: super underrated poetry book.

Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack, Richard Ovenden: another recommendation from Grandfather Stan-lo… not actually completed as of yet. I’m currently on the tenth chapter, four more to go so this one can half be on this list and half on the 2021 list.

I always say I am going to commit to the Goodreads challenges but have never quite managed to complete them however, this year I am truly hoping and giving it my best shot. I am hoping to to read three books a month, making it 36 books by the end of 2021. Fingers crossed it all goes to plan but I do have quite a pile of books to get me started.

Did you read any ‘stand-out’ books in 2020? And, what are you hoping to read in 2021?

Cheerio for now!

Book Review: The Loch of the Dead

The Loch of the Dead, Oscar de Muriel

**I just wanted to add a little note here. This is one of the many posts I have had in my draft section since before my hiatus but with the fifth Frey and McGray book, The Darker Arts, being released today, I figured now is the perfect time to get this baby out. Enjoy.

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If you are a long time follower, then you will have already seen my reviews of the previous three books in the series of cases for Frey & McGray, by Oscar de Muriel. If you haven’t read them or even heard of these book, I’d encourage you to head on over here, and give the reviews a read to get the gist of these characters and the genre these books fall into. Now onto the book itself…The Loch of Dead starts with a death threat against an unknowing heir, which leads the inspectors to the remote Loch Maree. Isle Maree, one of the islands perched in the middle of the loch, is known for its ancient burial ground although that is not the only thing the Inspectors should be aware of. The highland area is cut off from the rest of the world, and the few souls who do reside there are strange – causing many questions that need answering. On arrival, and with little time to find a stable footing, the heir’s guardian is brutally murdered which makes everyone a suspect; especially that of the Koloman’s, a mysterious family whom the young heir and detectives must stay with.

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I have to admit it was incredibly difficult to type the above section without giving away major spoilers and divulging some of the many plot twists. I must also say that, out of the collection of Frey & McGray books, this one included -this has without a doubt been my favourite. The previous elements of the grim Victorian era of the 1800s mixed with the surreal crimes and the hint of humour this duo creates, alongside the folklore element of this book makes for a terrific read. The plot lines are so cleverly interwoven with one another that even though they are there, with so many clues as to who the culprits are, you can never truly pin it on anyone.

As previously mentioned, there are three books in the series preceding this. I think this book could standalone however, I don’t think the reader would experience every part of the book at it’s best. Especially that of Frey & McGray’s relationship, which has evolved leaps and bounds, or that of McGray’s never-ending guest to cure his sister so I would recommend reading the three previous books before this one.

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All-in-all this was an amazing read and I throughly enjoyed every second of it. I would highly recommend it to anyone and if me rambling about it doesn’t make you pick it up, maybe the 100% and five-star reviews on Amazon will.

Have you read this new addition to the series yet?

Cheerio for now!

Book Vs. Film: The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton 
This idea, of comparing book and film adaptations, came about when I was watching The Miniaturist over Christmas on the BBC. Having read, and loved The Miniaturist (you can read my review of the book here),  I found myself, as I watched,  mentally preparing a list of similarities and differences between the book and film adaptations. I say film, it was actually spread across a two-part series, with each part being an hour and a half long. 
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Now there were many things I liked about this adaptation but there were also things I really could not tolerate. For instance: 
  • The Miniaturists interactions: in the book the lady sending Nella the miniature items is a passing ship. She’s someone who reappears every so often and then disappears without a trace however, in the programme she has far more of a prominent role within Nella’s life. When Nella finally manages to get a response at The miniaturists shop, in the book, it is an elderly fellow who turns out to be the lady’s father. Between Nella and him they piece together the mystery and Nella gets to hear a bit about this mysterious lady sending her these spine-tingling figures. In the programme, Nella actually explores and finds her way into the living area above the miniaturist’s shop and once she realises the miniaturist lady is there, they have a conversation. I wish I could say that I liked this part of the programme, but to be honest I much prefer the end note to the book -that the miniaturist who has plagued Nella is simply a mystery: and just like throughout the book, she disappears. 
  • Marins Love Life: as with many things about books, I feel as though the book revealed a little more, or maybe even implied more, when it came to Marins love life and even just her personality. Although she definitely opens up more to Nella in the programme, once her secret is revealed, I do think that the book revealed more about her character: which I personally preferred. This is also the case for the character of Otto but you can obviously reveal far more with hundreds of thousands of words in a book than two hour and a half programmes. 

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Having said this, there were also things that I really liked about the adaptation and even a few things I preferred about the programme compared to the book.

  • I loved the setting. It was just dark and cold enough to embody the eerie-ness of the story without coming across too gothic. I also really loved how well they portrayed Amsterdam as a religious setting with the characters devoted to religious ways. I think they covered this element of the story really well which only helped to contrast Johannes lifestyle and the surrealness of the miniaturist and her figures. In a setting like this the miniaturist would no doubt be deemed as practising witchcraft. 
  • The character of Nella came across much stronger in the programme versus the actual book. I can’t put my finger on why or how but even before she finds out about Johannes lifestyle and Marins secret, she appears a strong young woman; even in the strange home environment she’s landed in. 
  • The casting was perfect. I think every cast member involved really relished in their characters role and I think that really brought the characters to life from the book. I also loved the bond the characters had with one another. The friendship between Nella and Cornelia, the respect between Nella and Marin, the thoughtful teamwork between Johannes and Nella: everything just seemed seamless when it came to the casting. 

I could ramble on comparing the book and programme all day long but I think I’ll draw a line there. Like with any adaptation, there is a lot of ground that producers and writers’ neglect to cover simply because they deem it irrelevant or don’t have the time to cover it. Ultimately, I really enjoyed the programme and the way they brought the book to life. 

If you didn’t catch The Miniaturist over the festive season then you can watch it here, on BBC iplayer. It’s not available for much longer so catch it while you can! 

 
Did you watch The Miniaturist? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now!