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.

Short Forms of the Written Word

I’m not gonna lie, I found the title for this post a little tricky. Basically the premise for this post is that I want to share some short doses of fiction, prose and poetry (even some magazines) that I have really been enjoying lately. Throughout this lockdown I have found myself wanting to read but as soon as I start reading, I have the niggling voice in my mind telling me that I should be doing something more productive or spending my lockdown time better. This thought has made me a little torn between wanting to be uber productive but also not having the mentality to truly fulfil such tasks. I think we’re all in the same frame of mind and the state of the world is just mentally draining right now. Because of this, I have found myself drawn to shorter forms of writing not wanting to get too stuck into a chunky book in fear that I’ll lose momentum half way through and never want to revisit it. So, I wanted to share those here today.

Poetry

Bit of a broad one I know but I have been finding poetry in general to be super calming before I go to sleep. In particular, I have been absolutely loving Lang Leav’s work. So far I have read Love Looks Pretty on You, Lullabies, & Sea of Strangers. Lullabies is entirely poetry however the other two have been both poetry and prose which has been a really nice mix. When I say prose, it has been short and digestible prose so it’s an easy-read. I have also really enjoyed Flux by Orion Carloto and Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell. I do have a variety of others too but those are the ones that definitely stand out in my mind.

Short Fiction

Faber Stories have a collection of cute little books, each a different story. I had a few for Christmas presents and bought quite a few before the lockdown so I think I stocked up at a convenient time. The little books are a convenient size for when life gets back to normal. I actually read my first one on a train to my last doctors appointment in February, and have since read more. They serve as easy, bitesize pieces of fiction to get lost in for a while. Two that stick out in my mind are Mr Salary by Sally Rooney and Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom by Sylvia Plath.

Pamphlets

For the past year and a half I have really enjoyed the Candlestick Press Pamphlets. They have a huge variety of topics but each pamphlet focuses on one particular genre or subject such as Tea or Scotland, etc and then it will either have a bunch of poems about that given subject or a mixture of poems, short fiction and prose. My favourite so far has been The All Night Bookshop by David Belbin. While it is a piece of fiction, the pamphlet also has a selection of poems about books to accompany it. It was a such a magical story and I really can’t recommend it enough. The thing I also love about these pamphlets is that they come with an envelope, a sticker and a blank bookmark for you to scribble a little note on to send someone with the pamphlet inside. I have sent quite a few, the most recent being the pamphlet with poems about grandparents to my Granddad, who loves poetry. I also really love that each pamphlet donates money to a chosen charity near that subject, so for instance the one about dogs donates to Dogs Trust while the Christmas Lights one donates to the Starlight Children’s Foundation. They’re a great little thing to lift someones mood at any given time but especially now when we can’t be together, we can just pop one of these in the post to a loved one.

Miscellaneous

Now, I say miscellaneous purely because I can’t really group this section in any other way. I have recently been loving digital magazines, specifically Betty Magazine which I believe available through online pdf’s for a limited time only. I do have physical copies of a few of these but I love the idea of having digital versions which I can always revisit. The imagery and articles are just among some of my favourite content. Popshot Magazine is a great source of short fiction and poetry too if you wanna stick to strictly poetry and fiction. I have also really enjoyed reading the first issue of The Coven Magazine. This has made for an interesting read during lockdown. I always enjoy audiobooks but lately I have been pulled to podcasts more. Like books, I’ve been trying to digest shorter formats of everything; trying to take breaks to address my mood and mentality in this crazy time. I have been absolutely loving Queens Podcast -if you looked at my Spotify queue right now you would see a list of their episodes that I’m working through.

Let me know if you have any other forms of short fiction too.

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!

Iris Apfel, accidental icon

Iris Apfel, accidental icon: Musings of a Geriatric Starlet

The name Iris Apfel is not one that the everyday Joe would know. Hell, my boyfriend didn’t know who she was. But if you have an interest in fashion, wisdom, or are just up to date on the pop culture scene you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about. The bold little lady wearing every colour imaginable, usually sporting at least five chunky bangles on each wrist and always sporting her signature thick, round spectacles and swoosh of red lippy.

She’s everything you want to be when you’re in your 90s.

Young in spirit, she embodies everything wonderful about the fashion industry but at the same time doesn’t conform to any fashion trends or rules. She plays with fashion and accessories wonderfully: putting together the most creative and unexpected ensembles, which is so refreshing when we are used to seeing the black and grey drab outfits or the perfectly co-ordinating ones.

I never want to be an old fuddy-duddy; I hold the self-proclaimed record for being the World’s Oldest Living Teenager and I intend to keep it that way

Iris Apfel

A true icon full of vibrant panache, Iris Apfel shares anecdote, maxims, and passages on all topics from technology, style, interior design, textiles, and all things in-between. Her pearls of wisdom fill each sentence alongside pages of vivid colours and eye-catching prints. Iris embodies everything I wish I will be when I’m older, and not even older but now. Entirely awe-inspiring, I hope to breath fresh-air into my wardrobe with prints and colours in the future; and over all try to be fearless and go with what I like rather than what ‘goes’ together.

Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, this book is a must for anyone: especially women. I think there is a lot of ‘take homes’ for women, especially from Iris’ experience in the workplace and just growing up in general. The insight I have personally gained from this book is something I wish I had come across in my teens -which I honestly think would be the perfect time to read it for anyone. With so much good sense within its’ pages, it is one of those books I wish I could give a copy of to everyone I know. I can’t recommend it enough!

Cheerio for now!

things I’ve found solace in | isolation edition

I started self-isolating mid March due to pre-existing health conditions and while I am used to spending a lot of time at home because of my health, I think there’s something very different about not being able to leave your home because of an epidemic than just simply from chronic health conditions. Because of just how much time I spend at home already, I have a variety of go-to’s which always work however, this obviously isn’t the usual circumstances. Since being in isolation I have found some new features that I’ve come to rely on through this time and wanted to outline a few of the specifics below incase they can help you.

First of all, how can I not mention Emma Hills isolation vlogs. When it comes to hauls and content such as that on YouTube I’m not interested, but certain peoples vlogs I eat up so quick! Emma Hill is one of these people. I love her vlogs as it is but there is something so raw and interesting about vlogs at the moment, when we’re all in the same boat and struggling to pass the time away. In this sort of situation people true colours come out and I think there’s something really refreshing about connecting that way. Not with sponsorships or plugging social media handles but just connecting with one another in a way that encourages and helps people through these days… the 5B’s help a hell of a lot too!

Another person who’s youtube content I have really been loving right now is Kate La Vie. Her weekly vlog vids are always welcome with open arms in my subscription box; and miraculously, she’s someone I can handle hauls with. Her home is an endless source of inspiration and she just radiates such a positivity about her, even on those days when you can tell she’s maybe having not so great a time, she still seems to have an upbeat energy to her. I also love the content on her blog too.

I always love seeing Orion Carloto’s instagram content. Her sartorial aesthetic is so satisfyingly pleasing that it makes my heart flutter a little bit (is that sad to say?). Her Youtube content is great too, although few and far between. But what has really helped lately is her book Flux. Flux is a short book of poetry in a variety of approaches including hand-written notes and diary entries too. It’s so alluringly deep that you can’t help but keep turning the page. It also is a great starting point if you’re only just getting into poetry.

I think poetry in general is something that I have found myself feeling quite drawn to right now. I have been spending my evenings curling up with a book of poetry to try and divert my mind for the current state of the world. I find it so soothing to unwind with it and a tea before I go to bed, and if truth be told I don’t think I would be able to have an evening without it now. While I love reading in general, poetry has a lightness to it. The experience depends entirely on the reader. You can either analyse each stanza, reading between the lines for hidden meanings, or you can simply enjoy the musicality of the words chosen by the writer. My evening reading usually falls into the latter, deciding to enjoy the words, imagery and emotion that it gives me; which I find so helpful when trying to unwind.

And of course, in the state of affairs the world is facing right now, I found Alice Catherine’s post incredibly grounding for my anxious thoughts. I have always found solace in her posts, naturally gravitating to her words and advice but I found this post in particular extremely helpful.

I think that’s enough to mention for today, but no doubt a ton of other things will come to my mind later on so stay tuned for another post of this kind coming your way. Stay safe.

Cheerio for now!