Review Wednesday | The Muse

Like most artists, everything I produced was connected to who I was – and so I suffered according to how my work was received. The idea that anyone might be able to detach their personal value from their public output was revolutionary.

The Muse had a lot to live up to. Jessie Burton’s first debut novel, The Miniaturist was a bestseller and as such her second novel was hotly anticipated. As a bit of a historical fiction fan I thoroughly enjoyed The Miniaturist and was looking forward to reading more of Burton’s work.

The Muse is set in two time periods and locations – Andalucia 1936, shortly before the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, and London 1967. The narratives follow four women and the painting that connects them.

In Spain, Olive Schloss and her family arrive at their new home, a villa near Andalucia. Teresa Robles and her brother Isaac introduce themselves and Teresa is soon hired as the Schloss’ maid. On learning that Isaac paints, Olive’s mother commissions him to paint a portrait of the two of them for her husband. The results are unexpected and lead to a series of events culminating in Isaac Robles gaining popularity 30 years later as a forgotten voice of war.

Odelle Bastien meets the charming Lawrie Scott, who she encourages to bring a painting of his to the gallery she works at. On seeing the painting her employer, Marjorie Quick looks as though she’s seen a ghost. It is a shock to Scott that his painting turns out to be an original Robles – he inherited it off his mother, but how did she get it?

Writing two time periods is really hard, trust me on this. Not only are there two narratives and two stories, but having them in different time periods is basically setting yourself up for anachronisms. Everything from the clothing to the technology to the food is different. Despite a few linguistic issues Burton seems to do well at avoiding anachronisms. She does, however, write in a very flowery manner which can be distracting. Flowery can be good (I just spent three years with other pretentious literature nerds remember) but there are times where the dialogue is jarring – Isaac and Teresa speak limited English and ask what some simple words mean, while simultaneously understanding long, rambling sentences. In terms of plot I found the pacing a little off; the story is slow to begin with, but once it gets interesting moves very quickly. The idea is brilliant and I did enjoy it, but there were times when my interest was waning and times I felt it could have been slowed down.

The Muse is a lovely second novel, and while I preferred The Miniaturist it certainly lives up to expectations. I love Burton’s work and will be eagerly waiting to see what she does next.

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Daughters of the Witching Hill

“‘You were meant to be more than a common beggar, our Bess. You could be a blesser. Next time you see a sick cow, bless it. Say three Ave Marias and sprinkle some water on the beast. Folks will pay you for such things’ […] What nonsense. The Church Warden would have me whipped and fined for saying the Ave Maria – and that was but mild chastisement. Catholics were still hanged in these parts”

**Real events that happened 400 years ago can’t have spoilers but I won’t spoil anything non-factual**

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Birds Art Life Death

 

I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It would be small and manageable, just a tiny bird, embarrassingly little. Not a crisis. And that’s why I regret it. Because the attitude that somehow, without our acting, the little things will take care of themselves does not ring true anymore.

Kyo Maclear’s Birds Art Life Death follows her through a year of her life and discovery of birds and their impact. At the beginning of the book her father is unwell and she is beginning to fall out of love with her art. She falls into a rut of being unable to write and create the way she’d like – until she meets a bird-loving musician. The Musician, as he is referred to throughout the novel, introduces her not only to birds but to the idea that the small and seemingly insignificant can mean everything.

For someone who was in such a creative rut, Maclear writes beautifully. She is honest, funny and writes with quiet grace. Her work is well thought out and intelligent, but also raw and natural. Her struggle to create is relatable and her observations pure and uncensored. Her encounter with a Peregrine falcon, for example, shows the greying and harsh Toronto environment against the majesty of the bird.

This is by no means a research book. Maclear’s ornithological interest doesn’t become boring, and she doesn’t write about fact or science – in fact she does write about finding the balance between looking at birds too scientifically or too sentimentally. In a period of being unable to go out birding with the musician she reads books on birds, and finds that many are too factual for her needs. She writes more often purely on her experiences with birds, not the science behind them – although occasionally this does play a part in moving the story on.

The point of the book is to show that the insignificant, small things can be some of the most important. Birds are a constant, as are art, life and death. No matter what is happening in the world, people will take comfort in the small things – and that’s okay.

Birds Art Life Death is a wonderful little book. It is understated and modest, just like it’s subject matter, but with a lot of life lessons and wisdom in its pages. I’m a little disappointed that I only have the eBook copy – I feel like there are some books I want to physically hold, and this is one (that is a good thing!).

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Amber Shadows


‘You’ve dropped your book.’ He reaches to the floor.

   ‘How clumsy of me.’ The blond sticks out his hand. ‘Thank you.’

   ‘Figley’s Book of Ciphers. Ha. Not planning on fighting Fritz with that, are you?’

   ‘Gracious, no.’ The blond man laughs. ‘Gift from my father when I was a boy.’
The Amber Shadows is a novel set in Bletchley Park during World War Two. The novel centres around Honey Deschamps. Honey works in Hut 6, transcribing decrypted German messages. Aside from her top secret work, war raging on and reclusive billet family she lives a relatively normal life. She’s embarrassed by her mother’s flamboyant lifestyle as a dancer and entertainer, who in turn is embarrassed by her daughter’s plainness, she goes out with her friends and enjoys a drink and a laugh…then she’s approached by Felix.

Felix works for a neighbouring hut to Honey’s, but the huts rarely communicate unless it is work related. It is surprising, then, when he and his greyhound Nijinsky approach her with a parcel that he claims was delivered to his hut by mistake. This is the first in a series of mysterious parcels that appear to be from Honey’s long lost Russian father. 

The book starts off strong. The setting provides that juxtaposed combination of mystery and idyllic scenery, mixed with the wartime pride in our country that Brits lap up. Saying that, however, the book is under no illusions about the reality of war – I usually have reservations about war time fiction, however this is done very well. There isn’t really the glorification seen in some war time fiction, the characters simply…live. They really do make do and mend, but this isn’t seen as particularly good or bad – it’s just the way it is. On the flip side, there are some very dark moments and these are portrayed sensitively. Historically it is clear that Ribchester has researched both the Park and the time period extensively. There is some lovely attention to detail. 

This is a book that, much like the Park, holds its cards close to its chest. The secrets of the packages and the questions the readers ask aren’t answered fully until the very last moment. This is one of those books where all is revealed and you suddenly realise there were clues staring you in the face all along – even in the characters’ body language. In some ways this is jarring, and I was left feeling like the pacing was off. One has to wonder whether this was the intention all along – in true Bletchley Park fashion, information is revealed as and when it is needed.   

See you soon,


Always in the Write | I’m Back, Baby!

Hello, hello, hello!

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Look at me, actually publishing things – how swish! I’m so glad to be back, I’ve truly missed posting and sharing my thoughts with you guys. I’m back and ready to share what I’ve been working on over the past few weeks with you. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, I’ll admit, but taking the pressure of having to post off has helped a lot. I’ve had the time to re-evaluate what I’m doing, work out what isn’t working and how to fix it.

Good for you Ro, but why should we care?

Well, I’ll hopefully be posting more regularly and with higher quality content. I’ve been thinking about how to achieve this, knowing how damn lazy I am and what little time I have. I’m struggling to find a perfect solution, but I think cutting down how often I post, just for now, is a good idea. I rarely managed to post on ‘Fandom Friday’ anyway. So here’s what’s going to happen:

  • I’m keeping Review Wednesday as is. It’s the one day I manage to keep up with, and doing a weekly review is good for me.
  • I’m not posting on Monday and Friday any more. Instead, I’m doing Saturdays, at least right now. Maybe I’ll go back to Monday-Wednesday-Friday again soon but for now I need to know my limits and work around my schedule better.

What will the result be?

Well, I’m hoping to produce better quality, longer posts that are closer to what I want to be putting out into the world. I have some strong opinions (I am a strong woman, after all – comes with the territory) and there are things I’m always saying ‘I could write an essay on this’; so why don’t I? I want to have less posts that I see as ‘filler’ compared to what I want to put out. Look forward to seeing more creative pieces, more think pieces, and of course more reviews.

Okay, what else?

I want to be around more. I feel like I’ve been a terrible Teacup lately, abandoning my beloved chat just as Mama Teacup has FINALLY come back to blogging (catch Breanna over at Too Cute For Life). I want to engage with the blogging community more, especially my favourite bloggers, & I hope that in getting more organised I’ll have more time to get on to twitter chats, meetings etc. and read more blogs. Once I have a better schedule properly in place I might put one night aside a week specifically to get reading & commenting on more blogs. You can’t expect people to like you if you don’t give anything back, right?

One last little thing. I think I’m gonna be more relaxed about taking breaks – taking two weeks to plan and knock a few posts out has been really good for me & hopefully the blog. I’m not going to be scared any more about stopping if I need to – in blogging what I’ve learnt is that quantity is good but quality is better.

Anyway, that’s the plan. I’m getting my butt into gear and working it out – I hope you’re as excited about it as I am.

See you soon.

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Man I’m glad I’m back.

 


Me (sort of) Monday | Quick Life Update!

I know I didn’t post yesterday, which is why I thought I’d post today with just a quick update on life stuff and why I didn’t post yesterday instead.

Previously in my life…

I have been looking for a job for the last month (and since I graduated really, but as I had a work experience placement it was put on hold). I had some interviews last week but unfortunately nothing came of them – one would have been perfect but I’m trying not to get too discouraged; these things happen and something else will come up. I’d love to do something that actually relates to what I want to do in the long run, but at this point I think I’d take anything.

Job searching has been put on the back burner for the last few days, however, as I’m not currently at home. My family & I (well, my parents and youngest brother, the other one is at home) are on Anglesey, an island off North Wales. We came for the bank holiday weekend and are going home tomorrow (hopefully with enough time for me to post my review!). My grandparents live here so it’s been lovely too see them, and my Labrador loves the sea (the Jack Russell isn’t so keen)!

Anglesey is gorgeous, but I don’t think anything I can say will do it justice – I’ll just have to show you:

 

What’s been going on with you? Did you do anything over the bank holiday (if you’re in the UK)? Do your dogs like the sea/swimming?

See you (very) soon,

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[x]


Blog Update!

 

Hey guys,

So again, MASSIVE apologies for not posting much over the last few weeks, but I’m back! I’m hoping to get some posts scheduled for next week over the weekend. Watch this space!

Since I’ve not been posting, however, I have had time to think and get organised with the blog. I started with the premise that even though I don’t expect it to get ‘famous’ or become a source of income, at least not in the near future, I was still going to treat it as a professional endeavour. As a result and since starting, I’ve learned a lot about blogging. I’ve started applying these things already, but I think it’s time to properly get into gear.

One tip a lot of people have offered is this: Have A Focus. While this blog is predominantly about books and literature, I do want to have the freedom to write about other stuff too. I’ve decided, then, to split my posts into 3 categories, posting one on every blogging day (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as it stands):

‘Me’ Mondays: Personal, Lifestyle and Opinion posts. These will include any of my opinion or personal posts that don’t fit the other categories, and possibly some lifestyle stuff too. This will include ‘Writing About Writing’ posts.

Review Wednesdays: This isn’t going to change! I still intend to post reviews every Wednesday, whether they’re book, film & tv, theatre or even video game reviews.

‘Fandom’ Fridays: Nerd time! These will include posts on all sorts of things I’m passionate about, from specific ‘fandoms’ to general geekery. This will include non-review literature posts.

I know it seems like there’s very little room for creative pieces here, and there’s a reason for that – I don’t write them and you don’t read them often enough. If I do write anything creative it will be posted on Mondays, if not as an extra piece in the week.

See you soon,

Ro x


It’s Not The Time.

I know I’m supposed to be posting a creative piece today, but this is just so much more important. I’m so saddened by the attack in Orlando and confused by some reactions to this that I couldn’t just carry on like normal today – creative piece will happen later on in the week.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, last night 50 people were killed and 53 injured in a mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando. A place that was considered “safe” for LGBT+ people to embrace and celebrate who they are was attacked. My heart is so heavy and while I started writing this angrily, it’s just turned into more sadness over the loss of life.

In a situation like this, you expect people to mourn. You expect Facebook news feeds, Twitter feeds, WordPress readers to be full of people paying their respects. Of course I saw many of these sorts of posts – there’s an awful lot of sadness and an awful lot of anger, as there should be. I also unfortunately keep seeing people making the comment that it “doesn’t matter” that these people were LGBT+, and that “all lives matter”. A lot of people are comparing it to the Paris shootings.

This attack was not just a terror attack. This was a hate crime – as Owen Jones so rightfully put it, it’s comparable to someone walking into a religious building and open firing. This wasn’t an attack on anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as in the Paris shootings. The victims of this attack didn’t happen to be LGBT+. The attacker knew most if not all people in there would be LGBT+. It cannot be denied that this was a homophobic attack.

It matters that the attacker targeted a certain group of people. It should be a no-brainer that this matters. It doesn’t mean that these peoples’ lives are any more or less important than any others, nor does it mean that the Paris shootings are any more or less tragic. It matters because the LGBT+ community have fought for so long just for the right to exist, and this has been taken away by one man with a gun. It matters because no one should have to fight for the right to stay alive and safe, especially in their own communities.

I could go on and on about how oppression works and what the impact of this attack will be etc, etc, but this isn’t the time. This isn’t the time to tell people to calm down. This isn’t the time to pick fights. This is the time to support the LGBT community and appreciate that people all over the world are grieving. Don’t make it worse.

Ro x