Posted in book reviews, books

Book Review: Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood

So, like most other human beings on the planet I got very stuck into Atwood’s book spin-off series, The Handmaid’s Tale (which I shall do a review on too so look out).

What has followed can only be described as Atwood mania.

I have been on a bit of a binge which led to me starting and finishing her novel Lady Oracle in a matter of days.

I ate that book up.

The only way to describe how good this book was, is to point out that it got me out of a writing slump that has been plaguing me for months now.

The book was very real and wasn’t so much plot focused as it was concerned with the psychology of the main character Joan.

This book is the epitome of the escapism that we all long for in our everyday lives.

Joan recounts her failed love affairs and the upbringing that led her to want to change identity and absorb herself in the fantasy world of the Gothic romances that she writes.

Atwood has a knack for what I would call composed chaos. Her novels are witty, manic and utterly intimate in the sense that she understands what her reader feels and wants.

I read a couple of reviews that criticised the book for having an open end, or for not feeling complete. But this I feel is exactly what she wants from us.

After all, why does a book need to go in a complete circle?

I like the idea of knowing that our heroine is still out there, trying to find her way in the world much the way that we as everyday readers are too. Her journey hasn’t ended- she’s just progressing to a different stage in life.

Without giving away too much, I really resonated with this book and felt the pain and rejection that Joan is subjected too. Her “let’s just get on with it” attitude is very admirable and her progression into adulthood is bumpy rather than clean cut.

This isn’t a novel that wants you to feel proud and smug about the characters transformation but rather accurately shows that sometimes we just don’t know what we want out of life.

Anyway, the magic, the charisma and charm of this novel will have you feeling satisfied and more self-reflective.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was certainly mine!

See you tomorrow,

Esther 🙂

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Posted in book reviews, books, reviews, TBR

Book Review: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Oh this book is just something else! Words just do not do it justice, but I can honestly say that this is my new favourite book. That’s how good it is.

How can I best describe it? It’s like childhood summertime in the English countryside. It reminds me of growing up in my home town and I find it a goddamn shame that I only just discovered it now because this is something that younger me would have really needed.

It’s a coming of age tale about two sister Cassandra and Rose. However, the books perspective is from Cassandra and it is her journals that we are reading from. They are very much the thoughts of a seventeen year old. She lives with her quirky family including the vivacious and extravagant Topaz (her model stepmother) and her father whose been suffering with severe writers block for several years. They live in an old tumble down castle in the Sussex countryside and endure an interesting but poor life. That is until two American chaps come to town and sweep the girls off their feet.

There are a myriad of other characters involved in the framework as you travel through Cassandra’s first experience of the real world and adulthood (other than what she’s read in Jane Austen novels). You go through it all with her and get wrapped up in love triangles and late night swimming.

Like I said I cannot do this novel justice enough so I shall leave you with a couple of quotes, snippets of my favourite lines from the novel.

The thought came to me that perhaps it is the loving that counts, not the being loved in return- that perhaps true loving can never know anything but happiness.

-Page 267 : Realisations about the nature of love.

And I knew she was gone forever… she makes me think of the corpse of a dressmakers doll.

-Page 294 : In reference to losing imaginary friends from childhood, when reality ensues.

It is part of a follow-my-leader game of second best we have all been playing… It isn’t a very good game; the people you play with are apt to get hurt.

 

It isn’t enough to give. Not for the giver

– Both from Page 406 : Cassandra understands the cruel nature of unrequited love and how each of us falls victim to it at some point or another.

As you can see it is a very thoughtful novel which manages to be both witty, wise and real with the theme of love. I am in awe of Smith’s writing and intend to read more of her book, especially her autobiographies.

This would also be a good novel for anyone doing Love Through the Ages at A-Level for your coursework or even to use as a comparison in the exam for unrequited or lost love.

5 stars all round!

-E

 

Posted in Book Hauls & Book Shop Recommendations, book reviews, books

Brighton Book Haul & Where to Go!

Hi again!

I told you I had a lot of posts to crack on with.

Anyway moving swiftly on I thought I would do a quick book haul with some recommendations of places to go in Brighton if you’re a big bookworm like myself.

My second day visiting my boyfriend saw us going into the city centre in which I attacked every bookshop I could find. My finds for the day included Alain de Botton’s ‘The Romantic Movement’, some short stories by Kate Chopin and Night and Day by my absolute hero Virginia Woolf. The shop that I bought all of those from was called The Wax Factor – a record and books shop which is just off of Tidy Street. It had a really lovely atmosphere and the guy behind the till was absolutely lovely.

I was actually looking for Alain de Botton’s ‘Essays in Love’ but couldn’t find it anywhere, not even in Waterstones. Anyway, this book looked similarly interesting and I can’t wait to read it. There’s something about understanding the psychology of relationships which deeply intrigues me. The same goes for Night and Day which is Woolf’s second ever novel. It questions attitudes towards love and marriage and what they mean to us. I didn’t realise I was on quite a trend until now- because the third book I picked up – the Kate Chopin one follow a similar wave length. I read one of the stories in it ‘The Story of an Hour’ at A-Level which was about a Victorian woman who is overjoyed to learn that her husband is dead because it means she’s finally free. I won’t give away the ending but let’s just say it’s comically dark.

Some other bookshops I recommend would be the Oxfam in Kensington Gardens and a shop called Raining Books which is so cluttered and piled high with books in no apparent order but is truly fun to sift through. It did appear to have some gems but it’s the kind of place that you need to dedicate an entire afternoon of sifting.

The next place was in Lewes, Sussex which is a twenty minute train journey away from Brighton if you hop on at the London Road Station. The Fifteenth Century Bookshop (yes that is it’s name) was beautiful and where I got my next finds. It varies in prices but I was extremely happy to find an 1897 Tennyson collection for £6.50 with a lovely inscription inside as well as a 1946 copy of The Waves by Virginia Woolf published by the Hogarth Press before it disappeared entirely. That was only £7.50! I was in awe at the prices especially if you compare them to London bookshop prices. When looking at reviews online I could see that a lot of people had marked it down because they found the woman (perhaps the owner) to be very rude when  they visited. This was not my experience at all and I actually had a lovely chat with her about books and she even offered me a bag for my newfound treasures. I don’t know if it’s a different woman or they just had her on an off day but I found my experience to be completely delightful. Five stars!

Anyway, that’s all for today I think but I will probably do another post like this on books in Nottingham that are worth a look at. I hope you enjoyed this style of post and I have a lot more to upload – so keep an eye out!

I’ll love you and leave you (as my mother would say),

-E

 

Posted in book reviews, reviews

Book Review: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Where do I even begin with how good this book was? It was my first time reading any of Carter’s work and I will admit that since then I am now currently in the middle of devouring Nights at the Circus!

The work is a collection of short stories, all re-workings of fairy tales but each with a twist. Most, appeared to have some feminist moral behind them but I wouldn’t say that this is the most central thing although admittedly it is the most raved about.

Rather, I enjoyed the tales because not only were they unique in a short and sweet kind of way but they all had an individual tone. No two were the same.

My favourites were probably The Bloody Chamber, Puss-in-Boots and the Lady of the House of Love. Like I said, the stories range from melancholy and foreboding too jolly and happy.

Carter’s writing is vivid and entrancing in how she creates her stories, the imagery is so detailed that it’s very difficult not to get dragged into the fairy tale yourself – and that’s probably why this is the best short story collection that I’ve ever read by an author. They all ranged in styles and lengths and none of them were carbon copies of the other or the original tales. She definitely brings something extra to the table when it comes to writing!

The only other thing I have to say is that I love how unapologetically crude and experimental she is in her writing and vastly ahead of the game and era. She’s not scared to show us the true gothic undertones that lie in the original Anderson and Grimm tales that companies like Disney have muted to make more child friendly. Rather than shying away from it she embraces these elements and uses them to meet her own ends as a writer.

Overall, I give this collection 5 stars and look forward to finishing Nights at the Circus and updating this blog with my opinion on that too.

See ya!

-E

Posted in book reviews, books, reviews

Book Review: England, England by Julian Barnes

This was a roller coaster of a novel, and not just because it’s about a theme park *bad dum tish*.

This book was one that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own accord but seeing as we had to read it for my Literature course I had no choice. And for the most part it was quite a pleasant read, albeit one rather odd and disturbing scene.

The novel explores what we view as nationalism/ patriotism and how this affects our outlook. It delves into the idea of authenticity and replications- taking a few Platonic terms here and there with a modernised version of “The Cave” allegory in Plato’s Republic. 

To summarise, the novel is essentially from the perspective of a character called Martha. In the beginning we are introduced to her life and see her growing up. The story focuses on her relationships with her father as well as men in general and we get to see inside the inner workings of her love life and thoughts. This however is just one facet of the story. She goes to work for a man called Jack who plans to buy the Isle of Wight and turn it into an amusement park based off of all the better things about being English. The park then becomes so popular that it quickly steals all of the real England’s tourism custom and leaves it in disrepair. In this way the book introduces ideas about what are real vs. the expectations we place on things. And whether our nationhood is justly founded and where and why it originates.

I liked the books way of picking up on the ironies of patriotism and how it often overlooks key factors. In particular, the fact that it highlighted the ignorance that people can assume without actually understanding all the factors and details of the very thing that they are defending deeply resonated with me. Although this book was written in the context of the Scottish Devolution Referendum in 1997 I also feel that it is relevant today what with Brexit. I liked how it emphasised the need to be educated on a certain issue and how little we are told or care to know when we are force fed propaganda by the media.

Anyway I rate this book 7/10 – It was something that I felt I benefited from reading, but not something I would necessary pick up to read for fun or re-read.

Thanks for reading,

-E xxx

Posted in life update, Student Story Time, TBR

Daily Update: Fire Alarms, Ant Infestations & TBR Lists

Hey again,

Interesting title for this one, eh? And yet it adequately sums up my day.

I awoke this morning after sleeping through three alarms and Kumar’s loud knocking on my door (I asked him to be my alarm clock) and got up at the undignified hour of 11:30.

This is what happens when I have days off…

I then proceeded to sit in bed and create yet another new blog and wrote the first part of a short story on said new blog.

Then at about 12 ish I decided it was time to get a shower, you know, because that’s what normal functioning people tend to do (except usually a lot earlier).

I was finally ready by about 1pm. Now, reader you may be wondering how on earth it teddy dancetook a gal like me roughly an hour to get ready. I could lie and say it was my hair – but I have a pixie cut so that would fail.

The reality was this. I decided to dance around my room listening to my epic “Happy Jammys” playlist on spotify singing into my hairbrush.

I will admit I have now got a bruise on my right arm from struggling to both sing along and put on my shirt. Because multi-tasking isn’t my forte and I clearly put singing along to Runaway by Del Shannon above my own safety.

Moving swiftly on from my lack of adulthood capabilities… I walked into the kitchen to grab some shopping bags only to be met with the sight of a billion *exaggeration* evil ants running along our counter.

Aaaaaaaghhh!

Admittedly, I did rage out a bit and started smacking them all with a piece of kitchen towel and a lone glass that some drunkard had left in our flat eons ago.

I then went and did my food shop at Lidl and then came back to see them pretty much gone. Until like five seconds ago, when they came back again. But it’s cool I have let Tom the security guard know and he’s going to get the exterminators in.

mahThen the fire alarm went off and I swear to gawd the world just doesn’t want me to revise today…

I did get some reading done today which leads me onto the next point of business. My TBR list.

I finished both England, England by Julian Barnes and Crossing the River this month. And I am planning to have read A Clockwork Orange and Much Ado About Nothing as well.

Well, there’s not really anything else of interest to write right now and I guess I should actually do some more work…. Uuuuuugh.

Chat soon!

 

-E xxx

 

Posted in book reviews, books, reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Another book review, good progress right on this TBR list?

So this is the second time I am reviewing this book. That’s how much I love it, that I wanted to put it on this blog as well as for the university magazine. howl and sophoe

I found this book very nostalgic and a lovely break from the ever-so-hardcore university reading that I am subjected too. It certainly gave me flash-backs to summer holiday reading as a child and I loved the feel of the book!

Sophie Hatter is living her normal, boring life as the unlucky oldest child in Market Chipping. She doesn’t feel exceptional in any way whatsoever and her luck gets even worst when she happens to catch the eye of the Witch of the Waste. And then she gets turned into an old lady.

Yep, ladies and gents- but please don’t worry so much because as abnormal as she is she actually doesn’t mind being an old lady! In fact she uses it as a way of getting away from  her old life and thus starts the beginning of her journey with Howl.

So if you likold lady sophiee talking fire demons chilling in fireplaces, egotistical wizards with dating problems and life lessons in the means of self-discovery then this is the book for you.
Oh yeah, and you may have noticed that Ghibli adapted the book into a movie, which is actually how I first found out about it despite the original novel having been published since 1986.

I know this is a story that I’ll be revisiting and hopefully passing down throughout the years- that’s how good a book it is.

Also, you will totally fall in love with Howl’s character ( I know I said he was egotistical but he’s actually a good guy).

Five stars rating *****

Speak soon and stay awesome ;P

-E xxx