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

 

Writing About Writing: Who Should We Write For?

Since starting university three years ago, I’ve met a lot of writers – most in the same position as me, at university learning to hone their skills and now many of us are graduating and being thrown into the big wide world. In these three years, the same topic of conversation to do with writing has come around a lot; who should we write for?

The question is one that I struggle with personally a lot more now that I have this blog. I created it for myself, as a way to keep myself reading and writing, and so far that has also happened to be quite successful with readers; by no means is the blog popular as such, and I’m certainly not going to become a full-time, professional blogger any time soon, but my audience is steadily increasing and I think I’m doing fairly well considering it’s only been about a month. In posting what I write online, although it is from and for myself first and foremost, the reader becomes a part of the reason for writing.

I think it’s quite common with things like blogs to become easily discouraged, and for me I think writing solely for readers will do that to me; I need a schedule and I need to make myself write things on time, simply to keep me motivated, but pushing myself to write things that readers will want to see all the time will just make me tire of it. I’m currently tackling this attitude quite well; I’m not letting it bother me if my posts aren’t very successful, and instead focusing on writing the next one. This is often easier said than done, but making a conscious effort to do so is helping massively. Writing for me means writing things that interest me – and if other people aren’t interested by that thing, I have a million other things to write/review/discuss.

A friend of mine recently admitted that she was scared to set up a dedicated place on the internet for her creative writing, in case no one read it. My response to this, and I know it’s a hypocritical one, was this – who cares? It’s really scary to put your work out there, and I certainly worry that no one will read or like my creative stuff, but it’s better to have it out where someone can read it than leaving things gather dust in a 5 year old folder with an embarrassing title buried deep in your laptop.

On the topic of creative writing, we must discuss books and publishing works on paper. Historically speaking, many writers wrote for the money; Dickens was often paid by the word to write his serials, which we now of course read in the form of huge novels. It would be naive to say that many popular authors today write without money in mind, however for the majority of writers nowadays this isn’t a lucrative business; only the very bestselling authors earn enough money to live on, much less the fortunes earned by the likes of JK Rowling. Going into writing with the sole purpose of making money would be largely disappointing.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that people don’t write with the intention of getting published – there would be little point in spending all that time creating something to then not show anyone­, whether we publish for free or for profit.

So, who (or what) should we write for? Ourselves? Our audience? Money? Personally, I believe a mix is probably the best bet for success, but that’s just my personal opinion – I’ll get back to you when I’m a bestselling author!

See you soon,

Ro x

Review: Welcome to Night Vale

Before we get into today’s post, a quick announcement: Always in the Write has Facebook and Goodreads! Like us on Facebook here and follow us on Goodreads here. Now back  to our usual scheduling! Ro x 

‘And now a brief public service announcement. Alligators: can they kill your children? Yes.’ – Welcome to Night Vale, Episode 1 ‘Pilot’

Welcome to Night Vale is fortnightly podcast. It is in the format of a community radio for the fictional American town of Night Vale, hosted by Cecil Gershwin Palmer (voiced by Cecil Baldwin). There are currently 89 episodes as I’m writing this, along with 7 bonus episodes and separate live performances that are available to purchase separately.

The podcast is free to listen to and ad-free. It usually starts with co-creator Joseph Fink discussing tour dates, merchandise and other Night Vale related updates, and ends with a brief message and proverb from Meg Bashwiner. There are many guest voices, including Wil Wheaton as Earl Harlan, Mara Wilson as The Faceless Old Woman and Retta as Old Woman Josie. It is available on iTunes, via their website or YouTube channel, on most podcast apps and more (see their website).

I must admit, I’m not actually up to date on the show. I started listening when there were about 25/30 episodes and unfortunately didn’t have time to catch up and keep up to date with them. I pick it up every few months or so but I’m yet to catch up. This past week however I’ve been listening to it a lot – I’ve had a lot of packing/tidying/unpacking/tidying to do, and it makes a nice change from listening to the same playlist over and over again, as I’m prone to do. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to episode 76. Each episode is around 25-30 minutes long, including the introductions and proverbs.

When listening to previous episodes of the show, especially if you’re binging as I tend to do, the introductions do get boring – the announcements are out of date and same-y, but you have to remember that the show is only released every two weeks and wasn’t really meant to be binged. The introductions aren’t very long, however, and break up listening quite nicely; so it’s not all bad.

I realise I’ve written 300 words of this review without actually reviewing anything! So, here goes. The show is darkly funny, which suits my sense of humour perfectly. Science fiction is quite hit and miss for me, however Night Vale seems to get it just right. It isn’t too complicated, and yet paints a picture of the town brilliantly. Despite the plots and events being told mostly retrospectively by our host, Cecil, Welcome to Night Vale manages to find the balance between ‘showing’ and ‘telling’ the audience well. The show aims to mix the supernatural, horrific and down-right weird with everyday life, and does so in a charmingly amusing way. It dips into the serious and profoundly philosophical matters of the meaning of life, humanity’s place in the universe and other such topics, but never for too long without returning to light-hearted comedy. For me, Welcome to Night Vale is reminiscent of the original radio performances of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is following a similar path in the publication of the Night Vale novel last October.

The format of a podcast is a really interesting one for storytelling, and Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor use it incredibly well. Using the premise of a radio show is a convenient and effective way to use podcasting. The different segments keep it organised but interesting, and add separate aspects to the podcast as well as the main plotline for the episode. Episodes often revolve around a certain event, for example, but this is broken up by segments such as horoscopes, sponsor messages, an advice section, traffic updates and of course, the weather.

The weather segment is a song performed by a different independent artist every episode, providing exposure for new and budding artists from many different genres – even though the show revolves around similar plots and the same characters, you never know what you’re going to get with the weather. Although they are currently fully booked for the next year, they do take music submissions when they can; listeners are able to contribute to the show and get exposure for their work. Fink and Cranor truly go out of their way to support fellow independent creators in everything they do, Night Vale related and otherwise. This year saw the creation of Night Vale Presents, described on their website as;

The Night Vale Presents network continues Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink’s mission to encourage new, independent podcasting from writers and artists who haven’t worked in the format before. More podcasts will follow under the Night Vale Presents network in 2016 and 2017, both from the Night Vale artistic team and from other artists with a similar vision for independent, original podcasting.’

Not only is Welcome to Night Vale a great show that supports independent artists, but is also very diverse and inclusive. Cecil Baldwin, our host, is openly gay, and the cast and characters are diverse in age, race, gender and sexuality. In a town where a five-headed dragon runs for mayor and a Glow Cloud (allll haillll) is the head of the PTA, it’s difficult to be prejudiced. Unless you’re from rival town Desert Bluffs, no one really cares who you are.

Welcome to Night Vale is a well-established podcast now, and so may be difficult to catch up on, but I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, for several reasons. It is a brilliant show and a fantastic success story for independent creators, which is giving back to the independent arts community in many ways. If you do want to listen but are behind, don’t panic! Most episodes can be listened to as stand-alone plots, and they recently released a catch-up episode for the last few episodes. There are long-standing jokes and mentions of previous plotlines, however these are largely explained enough for new listeners to understand as well.

In the words of the Night Vale website: Turn on your radio and hide.

See you soon,

Ro x

Ten Minutes.

Ten minutes left. The man sighed, putting his book down. He’d been checking the clock every thirty seconds anyway; whatever he’d actually read had already been forgotten. The ticking seemed to get louder and louder, a harsh reminder of how long he’d been waiting and how slowly time seemed to be moving.

He got up and went to the kitchen – there was no clock in there. The silence was a welcome break, but he was still itching to check the time. He flicked the kettle on and sat at the small table, simultaneously trying to remember when he’d last sat there and wondering when he’d sit there again. He pulled the crumpled kit list out of his trouser pocket and went through it, picturing each item in his bag.

Seven minutes left. He sat back in his armchair with his tea and opened his book again, determined to forget about the time and focus on the story.

Reader, have you ever had to wait for something? Have you ever felt like time slowed down, just so you’d have to wait longer?

Yes, he thought. Spooky.

Janice Willow is the type of person this happens to a lot. Purely by chance, I suppose – it’s just her luck. Janice is our protagonist, you see – hence my asking. It helps for the reader to relate to a protagonist; or so they tell me.

He put the book down. Five minutes. He’d tried, at least. Never could get on board with this meta-fiction lark; it always just seemed pretentious and complicated to him. He sipped his tea and, upon realising that it was the perfect temperature, subsequently drank the whole thing in a few large gulps.

Three minutes. He read the blurb of the book, rolling his eyes and tossing it onto the coffee table. His daughter had recommended it, said he should get back into reading more literary texts. Personally, he was quite happy with his detective novels; and who said Agatha Christie wasn’t literary, anyway?

He got up again and went to the toilet, picking up his shoes from by the front door on his way back to the armchair. Somehow only a minute had passed. He rolled his eyes, tying his shoelaces up slowly.

One minute left. He washed his mug up and left it on the draining board – future him would probably be annoyed, but that wasn’t his problem.

He hoped his companion would be on time. He didn’t like lateness as it was, but this was especially important. He’d been waiting for this moment for years; ever since Esther died, or so he told himself. In reality, he’d wanted to escape long before that day. She’d been so ill, and he’d worked so hard to give her everything. He’d never want her to think she was a burden; the day she passed was the first break he’d had in two years, but he’d have given anything to have her back. Thirty seconds.

There was a knock at the door and his heart leaped – time to go.

Book Review: Dart – Alice Oswald

when the lithe water turns
and its tongue flatters the ferns
do you speak this kind of sound:
whirlpool whisking round?

Dart is a 48 page long poem, based around the River Dart in Devon. The poem explores many different voices, marked in the margins along with a few brief notes. The piece won the 2002 T.S Eliot Prize, and it is easy to see why.

I usually struggle to read long pieces of poetry, and so I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this so much. Again, this came from my boyfriend – he had to read it for a module of his, and started reading it aloud while I was there. I think this approach was what kept me interested; I didn’t read it all aloud, but if I found myself getting tired it helped to imagine it being read out in my head, rather than just reading it. Focusing on the rhythms and beat of the piece not only helped me read it but I think it also adds to the feel of it – there are places with little rhythm and places with a clear beat; this is obviously intentional, and should be read as such.

The River Dart (not my photo)

The narrative itself is a really interesting one. We aren’t physically transported along the river – that is to say, the reader is taken on the journey through the river by the different voices, going from walkers at the source of the river to crabbers and salmon fishers at the estuary, rather than the poem focusing on physical descriptions to show the river’s progression. The only real complaint I have here is that I’d have liked to hear more of many of the voices; we only get snapshots of stories, many even cut off mid-sentence just as you get hooked – but I suppose the river flows through fast, and cutting stories off before they’re finished is one of the ways Oswald reflects this. The voices cut off and overlap, which can be jarring but is also incredibly effective.

As a result of this cutting off and changing of rhythms, Oswald’s pacing is interesting and well done. Again, this reflects the river; some parts as slower, as the river may slow down, others fast paced, like rapids. The way she uses language and formats the poem also adds to this in an unexpected way – this isn’t set out in one way. Like the changes in voice and rhythm, the formatting of the poem changes regularly and in different ways; sometimes it changes suddenly, others it transitions smoothly.


Oswald’s own words on the piece explain what she is trying to achieve  incredibly well, and I would definitely suggest keeping them in mind if you decide to read this;

‘This poem is made from the language of people who live and work on the Dart. Over the past two years I’ve been recording conversations with people who know the river. I’ve used these records as life-models from which to sketch out a series of characters – linking their voices into a sound-map of the river, a songline from the source to the sea. There are indications in the margin where one voice changes to another. These do not refer to real people or even fixed fictions. All voices should be read as the river’s mutterings.’

I know poetry often seems daunting, especially when it’s this long, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as all that and Oswald proves this – she’s telling a story, just in a slightly different format. Try it, you’d be surprised.

See you soon,

Ro x

Why Are We So Averse To Poetry?

I recently finished reading Dart by Alice Oswald (Review here). Dart is a narrative about the River Dart in Devon. It is also a 48 page long poem. If you’d have told me even a few months ago that I’d be able to sit and read 48 pages of poetry and actually enjoy it, I’d definitely have laughed at you. It’s not that I don’t like poetry- I love it- but the idea of a poem that long is definitely off-putting. It sounds daunting, and like a lot of effort, as any poem that long would, but you’d be surprised. It seems to me that a lot of us have an aversion to reading poetry of any length – I suppose many people believe that it has to be difficult to understand and inaccessible, but this simply isn’t the case.

I think most people first experience ‘traditional’ poetry in school – poets like Dylan Thomas, Keats and T.S Eliot are probably what springs to mind if you were to ask most people what poets they’ve read; along with images of boring English lessons in stuffy classrooms (if my A Level teachers are reading this, I love you and remember that I did an English degree because of you – bear with!).

GCSE Anthology
Just looking at it makes me panic and I sat my GCSEs 5 years ago!

What most people forget is that this isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of poetry. Poetry isn’t just the GCSE anthology or Shakespearean sonnets. If you don’t enjoy this kind of poetry, there’s plenty more out there. Poetry can be fun and light hearted, and even for children – take this excerpt from Roald Dahl’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf’:

’That’s wrong!’ cried Wolf.
‘Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.’

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head,
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ‘Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.’

Of course, a lot of poetry is serious, and for adults, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. The first time I properly felt like I engaged with ‘grown up’ poetry was in listening to a spoken word performance by Sarah Kay, entitled ‘B’ (If I Should Have A Daughter) (the actual poem ends at about 3:40 in this video). Yes, it’s a little bit pretentious, but it’s so engaging and optimistic. Poetry can be simple and fun, as well as deep and thought provoking.

Spoken word poetry also allows theatricality and performance to become part of the poem – it becomes more three dimensional. In the discussion after she performs, Kay mentions her introduction to spoken word poetry, and the ‘indignant’ first poem she ever performed, as a fourteen year old. I think if anyone thinks about teenagers writing poetry they probably think of angsty goth kids writing about death and destruction – but this isn’t the case either. Take these four girls, for example. ‘Halloween’ is political and yes, indignant, but it makes a point in an engaging way.

Sarah Kay
Sarahhh ❤ 

Poetry is powerful and unlimited, and can be about anything. Poetry can touch you in the same way that prose or music can, so why is there such an aversion to it? I believe everyone could find a poem that speaks to them in some way, even if that poem is simply an Edward Lear limerick that makes you laugh. Poetry doesn’t have to be complicated and elitist, and we don’t have to be scared to read it. Like most literature, poetry reflects life back to us; this might not be obvious in Romanticist poetry or Breton lais, but it’s by no means an art form that should be written off, if you’ll pardon the pun, just because we don’t always enjoy studying it at school.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favourites;

‘Still I Rise’ – Maya Angelou
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/still-i-rise/

‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ – W.B Yeats
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/he-wishes-for-the-cloths-of-heaven/

‘OCD’ – Neil Hilborn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnKZ4pdSU-s

‘Pangur Bán’- Anonymous
https://www.ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/pangur-ban.html

 

http://poet.tips/ – This is a really cool website I found yesterday if you’re struggling to find new poets to read. You can type in the name of a poet you like, and the website will give you a list of recommendations for similar poets to check out!

See you soon,

Ro x

PS – I know this is two days late and I need to stick to my own schedule!!
PPS – Featured image & image of Sarah Kay taken from videos linked above.

TV Review – House Of Cards: Pilot (minor spoilers!)

I know, I know, I’m four seasons late to the party on this one. I’d seen it on Netflix before, but never chosen to watch it for various reasons; mostly because a lot of my Netflix choices are often light-hearted comedies and easy-to-binge favourites. As a student I preferred things I didn’t have to think about a lot of the time – that I could work while watching or just sit and relax with. House of Cards has been sat in my to watch list for a long time, and now I have the time to fully commit to it I figured I may as well review it in the process. Also, before you say it, yes I should’ve read the novels first – but in fairness to me, I didn’t know it was a book series until the title sequence!

house-of-cards-kevin-spacey

The show begins with a dog getting hit by a car. Enter Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and the first of his infamous monologues, spoken as he strangles the dog. As a dog lover, killing one in the first scene of the show wasn’t exactly going to get me on side – but even I must admit it got my attention, and provided a powerful premise to the rest of the episode. Underwood is set to become Secretary of State under the newly elected president; however at the last minute another man is given the position. This triggers the cut-throat, yet measured attitude shown at the start of the programme – Frank doesn’t get angry, Frank calmly plans his revenge and acts carefully.

So far, the show is well written and cleverly done. I’ve heard a lot of good things, and I can see why it is so popular. Frank Underwood reflects the opinions many of us hold of politicians – he is jaded and sly, his morals are questionable and his goals are entirely selfish. Yet, he’s still incredibly likeable. His smooth talking, Southern charm appeals to us and although on paper I shouldn’t be able to stand him, there’s something that makes him a compelling protagonist.

I haven’t seen the British version, and as I said I didn’t know it was based on a book series, so my knowledge of the show is mostly limited to what’s in this episode. The pilot is interesting and well-paced, and has left me intrigued and wanting to find out more. I don’t think I’ll be able to binge watch it in one sitting, but I’m certainly hooked.

Girlguiding UK: 106 Years Old and Still Going Strong

Girlguiding is, as the title suggests, an organisation for girls and young women aged 5-25. The Guide Association started here in the UK, however has spread across the world. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) boasts 10 million members in 144 countries. In the UK alone there are around 450,000 young members (aged 5-25), as well as many adult members who volunteer their time and resources regularly. As it stands, about a quarter of all 8 year old girls in the UK are Brownies, and Girlguiding as a whole is the largest youth organisation for girls in the UK.* Why is it, then, that people still ask me if it’s needed?

This is a matter that is incredibly close to my heart. I joined Brownies aged 8, just before a particularly difficult time in life. We won’t go into details, but Brownies provided a place where my self esteem wasn’t constantly taking blows to the head – and I just didn’t get that anywhere else. I didn’t go to Guides, purely because although my confidence had improved, the Guider for my Brownies’ sister unit was terrifying. Skip forward 4 years or so and I joined Rangers – right in time for the Centenary year. When I was 17 I started helping one of my Ranger leaders at a Rainbow unit, and a little over a year ago I started my training to become an adult leader for Brownies with a unit here in Aberystwyth. I started as a tiny, shy little girl and now I’m a slightly less tiny, much more confident Tawny Owl! Guiding has given and still gives me so much, and I love giving back by volunteering with them – which is why it is so frustrating that people cannot see all the hard work this organisation does.

Brownie
Believe it or not, I was 10 in this photo.

Now, I know this seems hypocritical considering last week I was writing about how gender is unimportant in literature. Unfortunately in reality, however, we live in a male-dominated, sex-driven society which is often unwelcoming to young girls. Girlguiding allows for any self identifying females to have a safe space in which to develop, learn and just have fun away from their male peers. Of course, that isn’t to say that girls can’t be just as mean-spirited, domineering and competitive with each other – but a network of girls and women all over the world supporting each other and working together can only help stamp out the negativity nurtured by modern media in favour of celebrating other females.

Perhaps it is the organisation’s age that leads people to believe we’re insignificant – 106 years is a long time, and when mothers, grandmothers and even the Queen were members, it hardly seems cool now. People seem to think that Girlguiding hasn’t changed in that time; that we’re outdated, unchanging and disconnected from the modern world. Why is it then that The Scout Association, an even older organisation of a similar nature, doesn’t get the same questioning? Correct me if I’m wrong, but personally I’ve never seen any of my Scouting friends asked why their organisation is still around.

Yes, members may be taught traditional skills like cooking and crafting, but the point of the organisation when it was started was to allow girls to do everything boys could – and this still stands. Girlguiding offers girls the chance to go camping, try new sports, build fires, learn first aid and survival skills and so much more. At the core of leadership training is the girls themselves and how to involve them in decision making and building the term’s programme. Each section has different ways of doing this – Brownies have ‘pow-wows’, for example; not my favourite terminology, I’ll admit, but it is essentially sitting down with the girls and giving them the chance to tell us what they want to do more of.

Rangers
We apparently just wanted to pose.

 

A gendered organisation like this is intrinsically political. Guiding embraces this by allowing their members to discuss serious issues that affect them and the world around them. Senior Section members (aged 14-25) can train to become Peer Educators, and teach local units of all sections about a range of topics that interest and affect them, including sex and drug education, self- esteem and body confidence discussions and most recently mental health and wellbeing. These sessions are tailored for most if not all sections, and so girls as young as 5 are being taught about serious issues in a way that is accessible and understandable, and comes from other girls as well as adult leaders.

In a perfect world, this organisation wouldn’t be necessary. In our world, however, a world in which women are consistently dominated and silenced, even just in simple conversations, Girlguiding gives girls the space to develop and use their voices. Don’t try and tell me that that’s not something to be proud of.

Do you have a Guiding/Scouting story? I want to hear it, let me know in the comments!

See you soon,

Ro x

* Figures were found here.

 

Book Review: The Silkworm

 

‘When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls private detective Cormoran Strike. At first she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.’

‘The Silkworm’ is the second novel in the Cormoran Strike series, written by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K Rowling). I worked in a charity shop last summer, and bought this there in September, however only picked it up at the start of this year. ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’, the first book in this series, was appealing and interesting, so I had high hopes for ‘The Silkworm’.

I should say right now that I am a big JKR fan. I grew up with Harry Potter, and devoured ‘The Casual Vacancy’ the day it was released. I look up to her as a writer and enjoy much of her work. It is surprising, then, that I wasn’t massively impressed with this book. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but she lost me several times along the way. As I said, I picked this up at the start of the year. University work along with other things has led me to stop and start it several times, so maybe this is what made it so difficult for me to engage with the plot. Making myself sit down and finish it over the last few days, in order to review it, has improved my opinion of it. It’s well written and clearly well thought out, but still felt over complicated.

Part of the problem was the amount of background characters. While all important to the overall outcome and all well written, it was confusing to keep track of them all and fully keep up with the storyline. I felt like as soon as I got a handle on everyone and started to get on top of the plot, a new character was introduced. The plot itself was convoluted and twisted – this is to be expected in crime fiction, however in this case I didn’t feel like it was necessary to the degree that Rowling took it. There was a lot of backtracking, and much of the process felt repetitive; several interviews made up a large part of the middle of the book, and these were largely forgotten by the end, for example.

One thing Rowling always does well, however, and this is no exception, is write realistic characters. Strike, Robin, Matthew and a few others from ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ return in this, and go through some serious character development. Robin and Matthew finally discuss Robin’s career goals and relationship with Cormoran, who in turn deals with his ex-fiancée’s very public new engagement and subsequent marriage. Robin comes into her own and Strike begins to see her in a more equal light than before; she is no longer seen as just a receptionist but someone with ambition and talent for detective work – which we the readers have seen all along. It’s satisfying to see these characters develop, and the new characters we are introduced to have a lot of depth. I may not have engaged with the plot as well as I’d hoped, but I can’t fault Rowling’s ability to create characters that are believable and relatable.

Overall, the novel was good, but for me personally it was a bit of a disappointment – it didn’t excite me like much of Rowling’s other work. It was a decent read, and I may in fact read the next in the series, however ‘The Casual Vacancy’ triggered a much more passionate reaction in me (as did Harry Potter, quite obviously – although I’m trying to avoid comparisons with that for obvious reasons). I wanted to discuss it and the themes involved in detail, although as a largely political book I suppose that was the aim. ‘The Silkworm’ was enjoyable, but for me it was just too drawn out.

Ro x

She

A/N: So I actually wrote this a while ago for an assignment but as I’ve been really busy this weekend (I’m sure you’ll hear all about it!). It’s really dark (again), so I apologise -we’ll have something happy soon, I promise!

See you soon,

Ro x 

TW: Self-Harm 

I take a deep breath and open the box. There she is, staring at me. She’s always been there, watching. I never thought the day would come that I would need her touch again; I thought I could live without her, but she knew better. She has waited patiently in the darkness, knowing that I’d take comfort in her vigilance. She’s addictive, and she knows I can’t stay away.

I pick her up, the cold stinging my skin. It’s seductive, sensual even. I almost manage a smile for my old friend. She’s as smooth as she was the last time we met, and still as sharp. The light dances off her as I move her around, inspecting her carefully. She’s mocking me, daring me to just try it once more, just one tiny touch. I hesitate. I know that if I do this, I can’t turn back. I won’t be able to let go, and I’ll fall once again. I wipe my eyes, and let her stroke my arm. Fuck the consequences.

It’s just a gentle touch, at first. She glides along, teasing me with her kisses. A tiny drop of blood appears and I sigh – she’s won.  She nuzzles deeper into my skin, running faster with every stroke. I throw my head back, the pain taking over. My thoughts and feelings leak out with every streamer of red. There’s nothing now; nothing but me, and her, and the pain. I run the tap and watch the red swim faster. The water fades to a pale pink and eventually runs clear as the bleeding stops. I turn off the tap, let the last of the water drain, and drop her in the sink, wrapping a towel around my arm. She glints in the light; one last flirty wink. Red is her colour, and she knows it. I try and ignore that nagging feeling of regret, and enjoy the brief sense of relief she’s given me.

I take a quick peek at my arm. Harsh, burgundy claw marks tear through the porcelain white skin – glaringly ugly, damning evidence. It looks as though something, someone, is stuck under there, implanted in my body, trying to escape. I suppose, in a way, that’s the truth.