Sunday, 5 July 2015

Bold As Love - Gwyneth Jones

This is a book that I have been meaning to reread for aeons. It is also one of those books which seemed to do really well when it was released but now is impossible to find anything about. Seriously, where is the Bold as Love fandom at?

I've been trying and failing to think of some way to coherently describe the plot so I'm going to do what I always forget to do and include the blurb.

It's Dissolution Summer. As the United Kingdom prepares to break up into separate nations, the Counterculturals have gathered for a festival where everything's allowed. Among them is a talented little brat called Fiorinda, rock and roll princess by birth, searching for her father, the legendary Rufus O'Niall. 
Instead, she finds Ax Preston, the soft-spoken guitarman with bizarre delusions about saving the country from the dark ages. And together with Sage Pender, techno-wizard king of the lads, they join the pop-icon team that's supposed to make the government look cool.
Rock Legends. True Romance. A fantasy about England.  
Sounds pretty cool right? I originally read this series when I was probably about 12 or 13, and I've been meaning to revisit it for years. Coincidentally, the year that I have finally gotten around to do so is also the year that this book is set in. Slightly weirder is how relevant a lot of the issues in this book now seem. It is rapidly becoming apparent that we have fucked up the environment, our current government seem quite happy merrily cutting benefits and funding for the most vulnerable members of society whilst happily giving themselves bonuses and colluding with the corporations who want to continue to cause even more damage to the environment, there is a growing movement of British nationalists, the list goes on. And these are all topics that are explored in this book, even though it's coming up 15 years old. Suffice to say, this is not an entirely light book. There are of course light moments in it, but overall it explores some heavy topics. Also some major trigger warnings for this book as there is a pretty major plot arc involving child abuse and rape, plus a fair amount of violence and drug use. I won't discuss these in this review but if you are even remotely triggered by any of these topics then avoid this book.

The thing that drew me to this book in the first place was the fact that it is a reimagining of the story of King Arthur. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am a sucker for Arthuriana. If a book gives even the slightest nod to anything associated therewith I get overexcited and happy about it. This book can essentially be described as if Arthur et al lived in an alternate future Woodstock. I keep using the phrase re-imagine because I don't feel like it's that much of a retelling. It's like Jones took the core essence of the characters but then the rest is all new. Of course Ax is Arthur, the chosen one who they all turn to to lead them into a better time. Sage is Lancelot, the people's champion who is by far the most musically successful and loved member of the Few (who are of course the round table equivalents). And Fiorinda would be Guinevere, who both men love. Except it is soooo much more than that. Ax may be the chosen one but Fiorinda is the character to whom we return most often. This is her book, driven initially by her need to find and confront her father and ending with her defiant Armada concert. 

[Spoilers for the sequel Castles Made of Sand in the following paragraphs.]

By far my favourite thing about Arthurian retellings is the different ways that people choose to subvert the traditional mythos, particularly in regards to the central relationship. If you read my review of the Fionavar Tapestry you will remember how much I adored having my heart broken by the dynamic between the core trio. There is a similar thing at play here. The thing about the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot relationship that I love and that breaks my heart every time is that it is very much a three way thing. Chivalry in Medieval texts goes far beyond the modern idea of it that we have now, where you do courteous deeds for women like opening doors and all of that crap. Chivalry celebrates the bonds between men, especially those between a king and his knights, but chivalry can also trap men into having to perform certain behaviours. In the Morte D'Arthur, the issue is not that Lancelot and Guinevere are having an affair, it is that it is exposed publicly to the rest of the knights, which forces Arthur to have to act against two people whom he loves. If it had remained a private affair, he could have continued to avert his eyes and pretend he did not see what was happening. All of the fall of Camelot that follows and the division of the round table is the result of these contradicting bonds that chivalry causes. I could go into a lot more detail but I'll hold back and get back to the point at hand.

My point is, the bit that tugged on my heart in the Fionavar Tapestry was that it was so obvious that all three people loved each other very much, but they were doomed to repeat the betrayal and downfall over and over for eternity. This book skips this part altogether which makes me very happy. To my memory, this is the only book I have read which takes a potential love triangle and goes "nah fuck that" and instead goes for a three way relationship. The society portrayed in this text is much more sexually liberated and so instead of the relationship dissolving in a mess of betrayal and sadness, it's strengthened by the fact that they all clearly do love each other and they find a way to make that work for them. There's a bit in the book which has stuck in my mind and that is when Dilip is painting the three of them. He's trying to assign them roles in relation to mother/father/prince but he comments that "any permutation of the roles would be equally valid" and that really seems to fit with their relationship. They're all very equal in relation to one another and each person's relationship with the other is as valid as all of the other ones and I just really enjoyed watching that play out.

[end of spoilery section.]

I like the fact that this book presents multiple genders and multiple sexualities. It also explores a number of different religions, but not being a part of any of these I'm not sure if I can really say if these are handled well or not. A particular aspect that I enjoyed was seeing the relationship between technology and magic. On the one hand, the level of technology in this series is more advanced than our own with a lot of immersive reality being used and an exploration of alternative, green sources of energy such as the stuff the Zen Selfers are working on. On the other hand, there is a feeling that England is slipping into the dark ages slightly with environmental and economic disasters happening. It's an interesting mix. Added onto this is the fact that there is a wild card of magic that is currently present but unexplored. Fiorinda's magic is undeniably real but as of this first book, currently still shrouded in lot of mystery and obscurity. I know that this gets explored more in the second book but I can't really remember what happens with it so I'm interested to see how it plays out.

Aside from the Fio/Sage/Ax relationship, by far the thing I most enjoy about this series is the role that the music has to play in it. The whole time I was reading this I had a quote running through my head. It was said by Leena aka justkissmyfrog, a youtuber who has started a series called Bathtub Busking. I adore this series anyway because I love hearing people do ukulele covers of songs, but I also really like the core idea of it. In this video she says about how music is an "antiseptic that we're not completely using to its full ability" and talks about how it can be used as a way of helping in times of shit and crisis. I feel like this book explores this idea as well. Obviously the main characters are all rock stars and the fact that all the books are named after Hendrix songs should hint at the importance music has within this text. The bunch of rock stars that were originally gathered for meetings by the government end up being referred to as The Few. A lot of stuff goes down in this book and they somehow find themselves at the heart of it all and try to find ways to keep the country together somehow. One of the things they do is organise the Dissolution Tour where they travel the country and play free shows to the general public. Overall I just found the way this book explores the importance and power of music very interesting.

I am definitely planning on re-reading more of this series soon as I am finding it extremely interesting to revisit it now that I am older. There are a lot of aspects of this series that I am slightly unsure of and am definitely going to have to ponder upon to figure out how I feel. I've read 3 of the total 6 books and I'm not sure if I'm going to work my way through the whole thing. From memory, the second book is still very interesting, but I don't think I ever finished the third. If you are a fan of urban fantasy or rock and roll and don't mind dealing with some heavier issues along the way then I would definitely recommend you read this book as a one shot, even if you ignore the rest of the series. I should say that they seem to be pretty hard to source unless you have a kindle, in which case I think they are all available on Amazon. 

Have you ever read this series and if so, what did you think? 

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Words Are Tricky

Does anyone else go through phases of expression? 

I'm not wildly talented at any one thing. I am vaguely creative and enjoying dipping my toe in various forms of expression but I've never had one definite thing that I can hold onto and define myself by. I flit between forms of expression and I muck about with them for a while and then something else will take my fancy and I'll be distracted with that for a while. 

This is kind of what has happened with this blog.

I am still reading. I am still having opinions on books. In fact I have been reading voraciously and have discovered some absolute gems and books that will stay with me forever. I'm just finding it hard to translate all of these into posts at the moment. I have been slightly more successful at using YouTube to express myself, but mostly I have been making lot of playlists. 

So. Many. Playlists.

This is not just an elaborate way of plugging my 8tracks (although y' here if you wanna...) but more of an acknowledgement of the fact that I frequently struggle to navigate between my love of words and my feelings of inadequacy related to them. I feel too clumsy and I just don't know how to express myself in ways that don't feel clunky and rambly, which is okay if you're talking in a YouTube video because you can at least edit together something vaguely coherent at the end of it. If the only way I can express my feelings about a book is to clutch it to my chest and make inarticulate noises then that's a lot harder to translate into blog posts!

But recently I've been realising that I do know how to turn this into a playlist. Which is probably why I've been making such a ridiculous amount of them.

I've mentioned book soundtracks before on this blog but that is something that has been replacing reviews recently. My book soundtracks are more than just songs that I listened to when I was reading a book. They are filled with songs that put into words the things that I am never able to say in a way that satisfies me. Sometimes this happens lyrically, other times it's just the feeling and atmosphere that the song evokes. When I listen through the playlist I am able to transport myself right back to the time when I was reading the book and I can remember all of the feelings it inspired in me. Hopefully when other people listen to them they can get the same thing, but who knows!

Obviously using music as a form of expression and a way of interpreting the world is not a terribly new thing. You just have to look at the history of relationships and see the amount of mixtapes that have been made for significant others to see the role that music plays in our self expression.

Sometimes putting things into words is confusing and the whole thing just falls flat. Whatever the original emotion was it has completely fallen apart by the time I have tried to turn it into a thing that other people can understand. So I guess instead I just piggyback on other people, far more talented people, and I use their words instead. It's like all I have to do is find the magic combination of songs and then you'll get it, whatever "it" is that I'm trying to say, and it'll be way clearer than if I used my own clumsy, half-formed words.

So playlists are where I have been at recently. And I won't lie, I think I've made some great ones recently. Some are just things I threw together because I liked the songs, others have successfully managed to capture feelings and emotions I have about people and books and those are the ones I'm actually pretty proud of. But I think I should try to get back into this again. Because whilst it's really great to be able to listen to a playlist and be like "this totally encapsulates how I feel about that", it would be really nice if I could actually use my words to do this as well. I think I need to stop being so afraid of messing up, accept the fact that I probably will do, and then just do the thing anyway, even if it feels like I am failing utterly.

This is a very long winded way of me addressing the fact that I have been an incredibly shoddy blogger recently. Sorry bout that. I'm hoping to be a bit better from now on.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

I'll Give You The Sun - Jandy Nelson

If you have watched my My Favourite Things video then you will know already that I was very excited about this book. (If you haven't watched it but fancy doing so head on over here. It's fine. I'll wait for you to return.)

This was such a wonderful experience. That's the only word I can really think of to sum up reading this because it was just so freaking beautiful to read. The American cover of this book is super pretty and rainbowey so I was ever so slightly disappointed to have to buy the UK cover instead because I do like me some pretty rainbowey colours. However, now I am so glad I did. I don't know what the format of the American edition is like, but the UK edition is so very pretty!

Let me show you what I mean:

See! GORGEOUS. The actual words of this were lovely (and I'll talk about them some more in a bit) but I just loved the physical experience of reading this. Art is a big focus of this book and I love the way that that spills across onto the page. Everyone loves a pretty book but I liked that this wasn't just pretty for the sake of it, it actually really ties in with the story. Noah and Jude view the world in a very metaphoric and artistic way and the page layout really reflected this and added to my immersion. It also had some cute little postcards that came free with it which work pretty well as bookmarks.

Now onto the words and the story and the actual content of the book. Noah and Jude are twins and the book focuses a lot on their relationships: to each other, to other characters, and to art. It alternates perspectives between 13 year old Noah and then 16 year old Jude. I enjoyed this narration style as I liked being able to view the world through both of their eyes. They are quite competitive with each other which causes issues but they also have an incredible amount of love for each other so it was interesting watching them navigate this and see the way that they view each other. I also liked how switching perspective broke up the narration a bit. Noah's narrative style is gorgeous and is overflowing with metaphors and imagination. Jude's narrative has elements of this but is slightly less full on and I liked this contrast. 

Plot wise, I probably enjoyed Noah's point of view the most and my favourite plot element was the relationship between him and Brian. I did also enjoy Jude's narrative, I just wasn't a big fan of her relationship with Oscar! However, it was the relationship between the twins I found most engaging and the different ways they were struggling to deal with their loss and relate to each other and all of the messiness that came with that. 

I loved this book. That being said, I can actually really understand why people wouldn't enjoy it. There are a lot of metaphors. Like, a LOT of them. Noah's narration is especially metaphorical as he is constantly painting the world within his head to reflect the way that he sees reality. This wasn't a problem for me as I just got swept up in the words and went with it, but I can see how it would irritate some readers. Also, the character of Oscar is a little clichéd. He's a British guy with a mysterious and dangerous past who rides a motorcycle and is a bad boy with a heart of gold etc etc. On a slightly more serious note as well, I can't remember precisely how old he's supposed to be but I think he's 19? I don't know but he just seems a lot older than Jude so now I think about it, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with their age difference. There's a massive difference in emotional maturity between someone who is 16 and someone who is 19. 

I liked this book because it tapped into the very visual part of my brain and gave me lots of wonderful imagery. As a result, I loved immersing myself in the experience and seeing where the book would take me. With hindsight, I can see that there are elements of the book that I think aren't that strong (namely the Oscar/Jude plot) but in the moment I didn't really care because I was just so enjoying going with it.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli

This book. I want to elope with this book. It was wonderful.

I've been hearing good things about this book for a while and it caught my eye last time I was perusing Waterstones. When I picked it up for a closer look I noticed the front had a quote describing it as the love child of Rainbow Rowell and John Green, which was the final push I needed to go for it and buy it. Add onto this the fact that the woman at the till got very excited about me buying it and kept telling me how good it was and I was suitably excited! And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

I pretty much loved every second of reading this. I've been having a bit of a YA book buying splurge recently because I got out of the swing of reading this genre when I was at uni and this book epitomises why I'm so happy I started reading YA books again. 

Basic plot is this: Simon is 16 and gay. The only person he's talked to about this is Blue. Blue and Simon go to the same school and are both in the closet but they don't know each other's real identities as they only correspond through email. Unfortunately, these emails end up in the wrong hands and Simon ends up being blackmailed. Hijinks and general adorableness ensues!

Sometimes I get the craving to read something non-heterosexual. I don't usually have anything more specific than that; I just want to read a really good book with an interesting plot and good writing where the protagonist just happens to not be straight. I was in one of these moods when I picked this up, having completely forgotten what the blurb said about it, so was immensely pleased when I realised that I had inadvertently satisfied my craving by pure chance. It turned out to be everything that I had been wanting to read.

The writing style is fun and engaging and I ended up speeding through the book in probably about 24 hours. The comparisons to Rowell and Green are very accurate. It's very fun to read with lots of jokes and references to things and some lovely moments of expression thrown in as well. I found Simon very likeable and the romance with Blue was just utterly adorable. Seriously, I cannot even with their emails. I know it's fictional but it makes me feel embarrassed about my lack of flirting ability when fictional 16 year olds are able to be so adorable and romantic and honest with each other and able to navigate waters that I am hopeless at. I mean read this: "He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to". 

But that is kind of the point and one of the reasons why the story grabbed me so much. Simon and Blue are able to be so honest and open with each other precisely because they don't know who the other is. It knocks down those walls and allows them to pour out their feelings and connect, even when it's scary: "there's something about you that makes me want to open up, and that's slightly terrifying to me". I loved being able to glimpse into this. Their emails are light hearted and fun and flirty but they're also genuine and intimate and I loved reading them. At one point Simon says: "I think I like that we got to meet each other from the inside out". I liked it too. That being said, they are both gigantic dorks. 

There is more to this story than the romance, although that is a big part of it. I liked the extended cast of characters and I particularly enjoyed seeing them try to navigate their changing relationships to each other. When people grow up they change which means that the nature of their relationships with others also changes and this book explored that a bit with some of the friendships, which I enjoyed. 

I'm so torn whilst I write this because, on the one hand, I just want to include all of the quotes that gave me feels so that anyone reading this review will understand why I loved it so much, but on the other hand I don't want to take away any of the experience of reading them in context. Just go away and read this book and then come back to me and we can talk about it. That would be great.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Any Other Name & All Is Fair - Emma Newman

This is a two for the price of one review of books two and three in the Split Worlds series. I have one main thing to say and that is, I am so freaking excited to see where this series is going to go next!

First off, Emma Newman has built such an interesting world in this series and I've been really loving exploring it. From a world building point of view this series is just excellent. The way that the society in this series is structured is so interesting, as is seeing all of the different spheres that orbit each other start to come together and interact more. There is a great mix of traditional presentation of fae and original and interesting ideas. I love fairy stories and books that focus on fairies and I have read quite a few, so I love all of the extra ideas that make it seem fresh and original again. 

Secondly, I love that Newman isn't pulling any punches. The world presented is very complex already but the main characters are wreaking havoc on it, and I LOVE THAT SO MUCH. Cathy doesn't just critique and rail against the unfair and antiquated patriarchal society of the fae, she is actively working to combat and deconstruct it in order to build a fairer society for the future. There is still a lot to learn about the Elemental Court and the role they have in the world but Sam is challenging the structure of that as well. I won't go into the situation with the arbiter's and sorcerer's too much for fear of giving away spoilers, but suffice to say shit is going down. Drastic, change-the-way-society-works-forever kind of shit. And it is so very exciting! I have no idea where this series is going to end up but I am so looking forward to finding out. 

Cathy is still my favourite (and gradually working her way towards being one of my fav literary heroines in general) but I like the way that her flaws are explored. Across these two books she has been forced to realise that she is not the only person who hates the way that society functions and who wants it to change. This realisation was important and has been very interesting for the development of the story as she starts to work towards changing the system rather than just running away from it. She continues to swear like a trooper but is also finding her strength and realising how well she is able to manipulate the system to her advantage as well. I've enjoyed seeing her character grow and develop and am looking forward to seeing how she continues to do so in future books. That being said, I am also hella concerned for her safety and if anything happens to her I will be most upset.

I have very mixed feelings about Will. In the first book I felt he had a lot of potential to be a good man but as the second book went on I really started to question this as he became more controlling and seemingly happy to go to any means necessary to achieve his aims. By the end of book three I definitely like where he is at more than I did previously, but I'm not sure I can say that I like him. That being said, I find his character very interesting. In a way, he shows the way that the current fae society damages people. He started off as a man with a lot of potential to be good and kind and just. As the series has gone on he has had to compromise himself in order to appease his patroon and, especially in the first half of the third book, has become increasingly cold and controlling. Whereas Lord Poppy is capricious and flighty, Lord Iris is cold, calculating and dangerous, and in serving him Will has started to embody these properties more. I am hoping that as the society is challenged and changes are made he will be able to remember the good side of him and connect to it again. Also, a lot of my initial dislike of Will came from the whole love potion plot that happened because I feel incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of those. I'm hoping that this is something that will be addressed a little more than it has been so far.

I am still loving the idea of the Arbiters and love every interaction that Max and the gargoyle have together. I think this is one of Newman's most genius ideas and I really enjoy the way they interact. I'm very intrigued to see what is going to happen with Sam as I have no idea where that plot is going! There are so many threads in this series and I am thoroughly enjoying seeing how they come together.

If you enjoy fantasy novels then I very much recommend this series. Honestly, it's a fantasy series set around Bath and London that is full of fairies and feminism and fantastic ideas so please someone read this and then talk to me about how wonderful it is!

(P.S. I am writing about these books like there's going to be more in the series. Can anyone confirm or deny whether this is the case? I really hope it is but I'm aware I might have the wrong end of the stick!)

Monday, 4 May 2015

All I Know Now - Carrie Hope Fletcher

This is the second book by a YouTuber that I have bought but it will be the first that I have ever reviewed! (The other book being Hannah Hart's cookbook cos I kind of love her and couldn't not get it). I've watched Carrie's videos for a good few years now and she just seems generally pretty lovely. I know you can never really know a YouTuber cos they show you an edited version of themself yadda yadda yadda, but what can I say, she seems like a nice person! I decided to preorder her book because I was interested to see what her writing would be like and to read the pearls of wisdom she had to offer. And I now have lots of thoughts on it to share with you guys.

First off, can we just take a moment to admire how intensely pretty this book is.  If you don't know what it looks like go have a google and ooh and aah over how very aesthetically pleasing it is. The yellow/purple colour scheme is gorgeous (I do love me some contrasting colours), when you remove the sleeve there is a cute design on the hardback itself, there are lots of cute little illustrations and the book is structured like a theatre programme. It is just an extremely enjoyable experience to read this book, regardless of the actual content. 

Secondly, I do have to acknowledge something about the book. I am not the intended audience of this. A lot of the book is focused on Carrie's life at school, from around age 11-14ish, and that is the age group I would say the book is targeted at. That's not to say I didn't enjoy reading this. It was entertaining and enjoyable and I had Carrie's voice in my head narrating it the whole time. It just wasn't very relevant to me. I'm pretty sure that Carrie's birthday is in the same academic year as mine, but regardless, we are a very similar age. As a result, the advice given in the book wasn't really applicable to me. Bullies and arguing with parents, and first relationships and all that jazz aren't things that I have to deal with any more. I can totally see how people in their first few years of high school will connect to and treasure this book. Twelve year old Sophie probably would have done! But twenty one year old Sophie ended up skim reading quite a bit towards the end because it just wasn't relevant to me. Again, that is not to say that the advice she is giving is not good. It is. It just didn't grip me to read it because it's all stuff I've kind of figured out for myself by now.

That's not to say I did not enjoy reading the book! There were a number of sections in particular that I really enjoyed. For example, I was particularly pleased to read the Birds and the Bees chapter and to see the way that she explicitly addresses the subject of sexual abuse. There has been a lot come to light recently about sexual abuse in the YouTube community and whilst that is awful and terrible, it has been good to see YouTubers acknowledge this and have the conversations that mean we can work towards making sure this doesn't happen again. Whether she feels qualified or not, Carrie is someone who a lot of younger teenagers look up to, so it is fantastic to see her use her influence to cover some of these topics that we do need to talk about more. Four for you Carrie, you go Carrie!

I hope this review doesn't sound too damning, because it's really not supposed to be! This was an enjoyable read! Carrie's prose style is engaging and characterful and, should she write any fiction books in the future I would definitely be interested in giving them a read. Whilst I didn't find the content super engaging throughout, there were some really great moments that I liked a lot. One of these being the idea of soul shrapnel, oh my gosh she has put into words something that I have definitely felt but never named before. It was a perfectly enjoyable read, and if you are a young teenager I would definitely recommend you give it a read!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Adventures in YouTube

I have been horrible at updating this for which I am kind of sorry and kind of not. When I first got my job it was important to me to keep blogging because it was something I really enjoyed and felt I was getting better at. It may look as though I have slipped up with this, but really I have just moved mediums! A lot of the things that I would normally blog about, I have now started talking about on youtube! Which is kind of super scary but also very exciting.

I love youtube and have done so for quite a while now. I’ve never delved into it for a number of reasons, the main one being that it really intimidates me! There are so many amazing and talented creators on there that I’ve always felt that it was a platform in which I should just be a spectator. After all, I am not musically talented, I am not a budding film maker, and I don’t exactly have the most interesting life to vlog. I felt like anything I had to say would have already been covered by people far more talented than I will ever be.

Before now I have never really shared my internet self with people I know in real life and I’m not entirely sure why. I just think the side of myself that really cares about things, whether that’s fictional characters or social issues, feels way more comfortable on the internet. I often feel like I fail at being me when I see people in person. If I’m seeing old friends then it’s fine, but when I’m with people I don’t know very well or that I haven’t seen in ages I sometimes feel like I fail to be me. I make too much uninteresting small talk, I get too nervous, I don’t make jokes or be silly like I normally do, the list goes on. I sometimes feel like I have a bit of a mental block that I have to push past in order to be myself around people. This is probably normal but it just means that I get very nervous talking about the things that I truly care about in person. Whereas on the internet, I don’t have to do that. I can put the time in and make sure that what I’m saying is what I mean, and I won’t be put on the spot trying to come up with evidence and the like, I can think it through and respond accordingly. Even if that response is just random emotional flailing.

Tumblr has always been my security place. Which seems silly when it’s a website full of gifs and stuff like “it craves that mineral” but it really is. I know lots of people have had bad experiences on the site but I have met some of the loveliest people on there and have received some of the nicest messages and it’s just always been a place where I can explore topics and build myself up a bit. It always used to be that if I knew you in real life and told you my tumblr username that it was a big show of friendship. Which is weird but there you go.

I don't know why recording myself talking about things and posting it online is more intimidating than blogging about them on here but it is. This blog has always felt pretty private whereas youtube just seems very open and public. So even though I really love the site and the people who create content on there and all of that malarky, I've just sort of lurked in the background like a little ghost viewer. 

And then I got tagged in a youtube tag challenge by my friend Leah on an evening when I was home alone with nothing better to do so I thought “fuck it” and gave it a go. And although the video is 20 minutes long and filmed on a webcam and I ramble a LOT, it was fun!

(Side note – Leah’s videos are excellent and if you’re not already subscribed to her you should head here and go do that. Really, if there’s one thing this blog is consistent at, it’s recommending her stuff. I am not secretly being bribed into promoting her or anything, I just think she creates great things.)

Having taken my first step into the land of youtube and not ended up spontaneously combusting I came up with a bit of an idea. For want of a better title, I am currently working with "Project Body Positivity". The basic jist is that I am going to create a series of videos that explore different topics that are associated with body positivity in order to hopefully make it clearer to other people what body positivity is, and also as an opportunity for me to learn more about it myself. At my current point of blogging I have done 3 videos and have a whole bunch more ideas for future ones. I am very open to help/collaboration/general suggestions and the like so feel free to comment/contact if you have thoughts! Below is the first proper video I did for the project but you can view more on my channel here.

It's important to me that I try to make an effort to continue learning about the things that I am passionate about and to work towards being the best version of me that I can be. I'm hoping that this project will be a way for me to continue to do that whilst also having some fun trying something new! I have no idea how regularly I'm going to be making videos but I'm having fun so am just going to go with it and see what happens. 

So yeah, this is just a bit of an update for you all really. I don't think a huge amount of people read this blog but if you do and you've been wondering where I've been recently, here is the answer! I do have a bunch of book reviews and other posts which I will post soon as well with a bit more regularity.

End of March Review

(I am so incredibly late in posting this. Please ignore the fact that it's nearly the end of April and just pretend I posted this on schedule okay thank youuuuuu)

Hellooooo there my little blogalog, it's been a while! I would like to have decent excuses to explain why I haven't updated in ages but, honestly, I don't really have any. March has flown by and I have no idea where it has gone! Things I have done this month include: spending two weeks covering work while my boss was out of the country, tentatively dipping my toe into the waters of youtube (a proper post shall follow soon), a couple of awesome day trips, and generally attempting to adult slightly. I have also read some books! Surprise surprise!

So in order to catch up a bit I thought I would do a compilation post compiling of mini-reviews of the books I've read recently!

Viriconium - M. John Harrison

Recently, my dad has been lending me a lot of seminal sci-fi and fantasy books and I have really been enjoying reading them! This is actually a collection of any of Harrison's works that are based in the city of Viriconium. It's got ten different stories in it, which vary from novel length to short stories. The highlight of the collection is definitely Pastel City. There were so many interesting ideas and imagery within that story; it really captured my imagination and made me excited for the rest of the collection. Unfortunately, the rest of the collection doesn't quite live up to this first story. It is in no way a bad collection, just something about both the content and style of the other tales just isn't as good in my opinion. I have temporarily paused reading this in the hopes that returning to it at a slightly later date will make me more enthusiastic about it.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

One of my exciting adventures this month was meeting a friend in Birmingham which was super awesome! It was a fantastic day but, as is so often the case whenever I attempt to travel anywhere, I had a lot of public transport kerfuffle. Essentially, my coach turned up and announced that, although it was going to be going to Birmingham, no one who had bought tickets to there could get on. Nearly two hours later the replacement coach turns up, except the driver was unaware that he was supposed to be replacing anything and wasn't best pleased about us all piling on his coach. But I did eventually make it to Birmingham! I also managed to finish the book I had packed for the journey before I had even arrived, so my friend lent me this for my return journey! And it was perfectly enjoyable! I probably won't end up recommending it to any of my friends, but it was a good read and had a twist that I absolutely did not predict.

The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

This was a weird book. I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it! I've been meaning to read this for ages and so I finally decided to get around to it and it has really stuck with me. At first, I was slightly bemused when reading this. Guy wakes up and discovers he is a giant vermin (commonly translated as a bug, but I read a bunch of reviews that debate the correct translation) and obviously everyone is pretty freaked out by this, and then he just sort of continues to live in the lounge of his house whilst his family try to adapt to this new turn of events. I'll be honest, I didn't really like his family. There were a lot of things that they did that really bugged me (haha 'bugged'. Cos, y'know, he's turned into a giant beetle...I'll see myself out...), especially his father. I took to GoodReads after I finished because I felt like I was missing something in my reading. I read a really interesting review which mentioned how it could be interpreted that rather than actually being transformed, Gregor only thinks he has been transformed but is actually still human. There were also a bunch of other interpretations which I won't reiterate (they are but a google search away) but generally they've made me ponder this book a lot more. I'm still not sure what I think about it but I enjoyed it!

Men At Arms - Terry Pratchett

As you probably know, Terry Pratchett passed away recently. His books have been so influential on me and my family and he just generally seemed like a pretty great person to be honest, so I thought I'd read another of his books just because really. I've been working my way through the Discworld's in the order that they were published and I've been really enjoying them! The Tiffany Aching series is and always shall be my favourite, but this was perfectly enjoyable! I don't have enough thoughts for a proper review but I like the Nights Watch and Carrot. I always enjoy Discworld books so I liked this, but it's not one of my favourites of the series.

Far From You - Tess Sharpe

Well this book was just fantastic! I've got a list of recommendations that I've been working my way through and this was on it, so I thought I'd give it a go and oh my god it was amazing. I got incredibly immersed in it and pretty much raced my through it because I absolutely needed to know what happened. Sometimes I get a little too into murder mysteries and end up creeping myself out quite a bit and that happened with this book. I become slightly convinced that the only thing stopping me from being killed by the fictional murderer was finishing the book and finding out who they are. Illogical but sadly true. That being said, I did kind of guess correctly. Not entirely, but just enough that I feel vaguely proud of myself. 

I could probably have dedicated a whole post to this but at the same time I'm not sure if I have the words (again. I'm a hopeless blogger.) A major aspect that I loved was actual bisexual protagonist who has a personality that does beyond her sexuality but is also not actually shamed for said sexuality and has it presented as a real and genuine thing. Can you hear me cheering from the rooftops? Here is a little snippet to tempt you into reading it: "but my heart isn't simple or straightforward. It's a complicated mess of wants and needs, boys and girls: rough, soft, and everything in between, an ever shifting precipice from which to fall". Essentially, I cannot recommend this book enough. It was so well written and engaging and just generally brilliant!

March has been super busy and I don't know where the time has gone but I will do my very best to get back to blogging again in April. That being said, I have been doing other exciting things, so will update again on all of that soon!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

High Fidelity & My Top Fives

This has been a good weekend for book buying. Less of a good weekend for my bank balance, but I am the proud owner of a bunch of superb books. (I'm going ahead and making the assumption that they're going to be good. What can I say, I feel very optimistic about them!) One such book is High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. I watched the film a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it, but I definitely preferred the book. The soundtrack to the film is great but the music referenced in the book is more stuff that I'm familiar with. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but am slightly out of the swing of reviews so am going to go off on a related tangent instead! 

Before I do that, you can click here to be taken to a playlist that is loosely inspired by the novel. I'll be honest, it's mostly just a mix of soul music but it captured the mood of the early pages of the book to me.

If you are not a fan of lists then you will probably want to stop reading right about now because the rest of this post is mostly comprised of top 5 lists. 

I find ranking things, especially music, incredibly hard because there are so many factors to take into account. For example, what is my favourite song? I always answer this question with Samson by Regina Spektor. My stats show this to be true, it is by far my most listened to song, so it's the one I always choose. It's pretty and sad and I like it a lot. But is it one of my most influential songs? Not by a long shot! It hasn't really shaped me as a person, it wasn't the soundtrack to a particularly memorable time of my life, and it doesn't even particularly have any memories attached to it. But I always say that it is my favourite song. 

Things I try to take into account when I rank something:
  1. Did I enjoy it?
  2. Given the fact that I enjoyed it, is it actually objectively good?
  3. Even if it's not particularly good, does it do what it's trying to do well?
  4. Does my enjoyment of it counteract whether or not it can be considered good?
  5. Has it stayed with me and left a lasting impact? Even if I didn't necessarily love it at the time?
And so on and so forth. 

The fact is, I love a lot of things. And I know some people think that by throwing the word 'love' around the place diminishes the meaning somehow. But I can't imagine only loving a contained amount of things. I say that I love things a lot but I absolutely mean it every time I say it. I might not love a song the same way as I love a person but in each case there is absolutely something in the very core of my being that is responding to that thing and love is the only word I know how to describe it. 

Slight tangent aside, I bloody love music. There are so many songs that mean so much to me for so many reasons so when I'm put on the spot and asked to rank them I get a little bit flustered and lose the ability to speak coherently, let alone actually come up with song names. But all of the top 5's that happened in High Fidelity made me ponder, and I have come up with some lists! 

Top 5 Most Influential Songs

Silver Springs - Fleetwood Mac
Piece of My Heart - Janis Joplin
Wild Hearted Woman - All About Eve
Cosmic Love - Florence and the Machine
Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

Top 5 Songs as Ranked on Last.FM

Samson - Regina Spektor
Closer - Tegan and Sara
I Hear The Bells - Mike Doughty
I Was a Fool - Tegan and Sara
Uncomfortably Slow - Newton Faulkner

Top 5 Influential Albums

Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Lungs - Florence and the Machine
Little Earthquakes - Tori Amos
Mother Earth - Within Temptation
Handbuilt by Robots - Newton Faulkner

Top 5 Soul Songs

I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding
Call Me - Aretha Franklin
When I Fall In Love - Sam Cooke
Cry to Me - Solomon Burke
I'd Rather Go Blind - Etta James

Top 5 Classic Rock Songs

The Spirit - Magnum
Always Somewhere - Scorpions
Try Me - UFO
Love Ain't No Stranger - Whitesnake
All I Ever Wanted - Thunder

Top 5 Classical Songs

Cello Sonata #3 in A Op.69 - Beethoven
Cello Concerto First Movement - Elgar
Tristesse - Chopin
Nefeli - Ludovico Einaudi
Claire de Lune - Debussy

Top 5 Meaningful Songs

Last Hope - Paramore
I Hear the Bells - Mike Doughty
She Keeps Me Warm - Mary Lambert
I'll Follow You - Shinedown
Collar Full - Panic! at the Disco

There are so many songs that mean so much to me that aren't on any of these lists, but if I tried to include them all then we would be here forever and this probably wouldn't be a very interesting post. So I'll leave it here for now, but let me know your top 5 songs of any category! I always love hearing about the music that influences and inspires people so recommend me stuff as well.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Alif The Unseen - G. Willow Wilson

I've had this book on my to read list for aaaaages and I have finally got around to reading it. I have to say, this was a really good book. I enjoyed it so much that I actually tried to recommend it to someone in my dream last night. 

My main reason for wanting to read this was because the GoodReads summary mentions The Thousand And One Nights. I love books about books. I like reading things that explore the importance of language and story telling and I feel like A Thousand And One Nights really epitomises this. It is literally at its core the story of a woman who uses language and stories to save herself which is an idea that I just love. I think one of the reasons why I have always been drawn to myths and ancient texts is because I love the way in which humans use stories to relate to the world around us and I like exploring the relationship between words and power. Speaking for myself, I have definitely constructed my personality out of the stories that I have consumed. Whether it is books, TV shows, movies, or whatever. The person that I am today is a result of all of the stories that I loved and all of the stories that I hated and my reactions to them. I might not write stories of my own, but I have definitely been shaped by the words of so many writers. I also think I find Scheherazade such an interesting character because I am endlessly fascinated by the figure of the storyteller throughout literature. Narrators have a power that is not always obvious but that can be very dangerous. I have yet to read a version of The Thousand And One Nights that is not aimed at children, but I fully intend to do so someday.

That being said, this book is not about A Thousand And One Nights. Sorry. I just took the excuse to ramble about something I find interesting. Deal with it. What it is about however, is A Thousand And One Days. I'll be honest, I am mildly confused as to whether this is a thing that exists in real life. I didn't think it was and there aren't a lot of google results for it but there is a kindle book so I think it might be? Someone let me know if you have this knowledge. A Thousand And One Days is the secret book of the djinn and has a very important role in the narrative. Part of this role relates to the idea of stories as relaters of information. Which makes my initial ramble seem slightly less out of place. Except this time, rather than being used to explore the ways in which humans interpret their world (although, it this is still a theme) it is used to explore ideas of information transfer. Specifically in relation to computer programming and religion.

You wouldn't automatically think that the language of computer programming is a good way to explore questions of religion and spirituality but it works very well and generates some really interesting ideas. In fact, one of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the way it combined lots of different topics. It takes computer hacking, programming, religion, djinn, philosophy, politics, and so much more, puts it all into a great big melting pot to create this really enjoyable story. I know that Wilson also writes for comics and I felt like this really came across in her narrative. Even when discussing abstract ideas her imagery is very engaging.

One of my favourite book series is His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and this book was very reminiscent of that. I think Wilson is probably very aware of this as the series is mentioned within the narrative and two of the characters discuss the books. On the subject of characters, there were a lot of great ones in this! Alif wasn't necessarily the most likeable character at the start of the novel but I enjoyed watching him grow as it went on. There was a really interesting cast of characters throughout as well. This book also has one of my new favourite lines: "I'm thinking that you are all good things in one place". Not going to lie, that's gone up there in my list of romantic lines with "I'm rooting for you", "as you wish", "I'm your density", and "I'll cross the sky for you". Whilst this book deals with a lot of complex and philosophical ideas, it is also a lot of fun and suitably geeky! 

If I have on criticism of this text, it is in relation to the female characters. I actually really liked Dina, I thought she was great. However, she does seem to change character quite abruptly. The Dina at the beginning of the book and the Dina at the end of the book seem like very different people, and I feel like the transition could have been done better. I also feel like the same thing happened with Intisar. She seemed like quite a complex figure throughout the majority of the text, but by her final appearance she seems to have become quite spoilt and much more of a flat character. I think it's definitely reasonable to say that these changes in character reflect Alif's growing maturity and clearer understanding of their true natures, but I would like to have seen a bit more development along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it has definitely stuck in my mind. I would really recommend you read this, if only so that I have someone to talk to about it!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Fionavar Tapestry Soundtrack

Welcome to part two of my Fionavar Tapestry review, the soundtrack! This is longer than most of my other book soundtracks but I mean, it is a trilogy so that makes sense. Some of these songs are here for specific reasons which I'll talk about, others just fit the whole fantasy genre thing that's going on. There's a particular abundance of classic rock style stuff because that's just a genre of music that I really associate with fantasy. If you fancy having a listen you can do so here!

The Last Dance – Within Temptation (Let Us Burn Live Version)

Real talk guys: why is this song only a B Side on the German version of The Dance EP, WHY??? It’s so freaking good. Seriously, listen to this song and then try and tell me you don’t feel transported into an alternate medieval inspired fantasy world. I DARE YOU. This song makes me think of so many different aspects of the trilogy; Dave’s encounter with Ceinwen, Kevin realising who he is and sacrificing himself to end the winter, Lisan and Jennifer waiting in the tower, Paul hanging on the Summer Tree….Finally, and absolutely heartbreakingly, it’s Sharra holding Diarmund as he dies after sacrificing himself to break to cycle of Arthur’s punishment. Maybe I am just naïve but that is a death I did not see coming and it hurt.

Ymer - Grand Magus

This song just builds and layers and creates a really great atmosphere that just really fits the trilogy. It's not very long at all but it just works.

Gracious – Ben Howard

I mean this entire album could feature in this soundtrack because I listened to it on repeat for most of the second book but especially this one.

This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

Why does this song make me think of this series? I have no idea. It just really does. There’s a little bit of Paul in it, pre-Summer Tree when he’s filled with guilt about Rachel and unable to cry about it.

Creature Fear - Bon Iver

This was playing during the Kavin/Liadon scene. Just something about how the song starts quiet and then builds a bit and does that a couple of times just really reflected how the tension in that scene built. Because for a while I thought that maybe he would be ok and he wouldn't have to die. That whole bit just gives me really mixed feelings to be honest because it's really sad but at the time it's not, because he goes quite willingly and his death really means something but I still get sad. This isn't very coherent but essentially a lot of the deaths in this trilogy give me really mixed feelings because I really didn't want the people to die but at the same time a lot of them went into the situation with their eyes open and accepted their fate so it's not entirely sad. I don't know okay, I just have a lot of feelings!

This Time Around (Live) – Glenn Hughes

In case it’s not already obvious, I got serious feels about the Arthur/Jennifer/Lancelot plotline and this is another song for that. “To lose you I would rather see the endless time and space go passing by / This time around”.

At The End Of Day – Once and Future King

If you like Arthuriana and/or 80’s rock and haven’t already listened to Gary Hughes’ Once and Future King album then you need to get on that shit. I mean, it retells the story of King Arthur with a bunch of awesome rock vocalists including the brilliant Bob Catley, plus Lana Lane and Irene Jansen (sister of After Forever and now Nightwish vocalist Fleur) and so many other great people. It should be pretty obvious why this is included seeing as there is a whole Arthurian plotline going on.

Down Where I Am - Demons & Wizards

First off I just really like Hansi's voice, I think it's so unique and interesting so I like throwing him into playlists. This is kind of a Darien song. I found his plot really interesting, especially the questions it raised about good/evil/choice. Everyone is constantly so wrapped up in being afraid of him and his potential that they want to make him choose to be on the good side, and it's only Jennifer who really holds onto the importance of him making his own choices. 

The Parting (Acoustic Version) - Katatonia

I don't know Katatonia super well but I really like their acoustic album so I listened to it a bunch whilst reading the final book. It's a bit dark and gloomy and makes me think a little of Rakoth? I don't know why. Also, the singer sounds very Biffy Clyro-esque in the first two lines and I like that!

Believe Enough To Fight – Once and Future King

So technically this is Morgana trying to convince Merlin to bring back the Pagan gods to Britain but I feel like it works pretty well for this series to be honest! “Think about the way you feel tonight / Does the fire inside you still burn bright / Find a way somehow / To believe enough to fight”. There are so many moments in this series where the light just seem to be drastically overpowered and it all seems a little hopeless, but they persevere.

Broadsword - Jethro Tull

I mean, this is a fantasy novel in a song really isn't it! If you listen to it I think you'll get why it's here.

Shake It Out - Florence & The Machine

This is one of my friend's favourite songs because she really likes the line "it's always darkest before the dawn" so now whenever I hear it I think of her! But I also like the optimism that's there. Sometimes everything is shit, but things don't usually stay shit. At some point they will get better and you just have to push through in order to get to that good bit, which is quite relevant to this book!

Heavy Stone - Kyla La Grange

This is sort of a Dave and Paul song. By which I mean it applies to them both individually, not their relationship to each other. They just both have their own sadness which they negotiate and come to terms with as the trilogy progresses and this song makes me think of them at the beginning when they're not quite able to deal with it yet.

Up On The Hollow Hill (Understanding Arthur) - Robert Plant

I mean this is just the Arthurian theme again really. The entire summoning scene on Glastonbury was just great and I really liked it.

Worth Fighting For - Judas Priest

This is here for very similar reasons to Believe Enough To Fight!

Kingdoms - Toseland

Oh The Tose! For those who don't know, Toseland is a world superbike champion or something who after retiring from that decided to go forward with his backup career of being a rockstar. As you do. I went to see him last year with my dad and it was fun! It's not the greatest gig I've ever been to but it was perfectly enjoyable and I particularly like this song and it makes me think of fantasy kingdoms so it's on this mix.

Small Mountain - Midlake

Literally so many of these songs are just here because I have little fantasy novel headcanons about them. This is another. 

The Crow, The Owl, and The Dove - Nightwish

This is a bit of a Kim song for no good reason, just because it is.

Our Farewell – Within Temptation

Okay so I was listening to Within Temptation on shuffle during the final epic battle of the series and this song just happened to start playing right when Tabor and Imraith-Nimphais appeared and if you’ve read the book you know all the mixed emotions associated with that and dear lord I WEPT. Ivor turning his face away so he doesn’t have to see his son die and then just when you think he’s lost he’s saved and I CRY. It was just too perfect a soundtrack to that moment. And it was right on the heels of Darien’s sacrifice of himself and gaaaaah. Darien’s entire plot kills me, he’s just so lonely and all he wants is someone to choose him and love him and to find a home and even though he chooses the light at the end and he saves them all, it still breaks my heart because he never really got that. He chooses to align himself with the light and I love that he stakes that claim to identity but god I wish someone would have just given the poor child a hug.

All Ends Well – Alter Bridge

I mentioned in my review post that I really liked the underlying hope of this series and I just feel like this song really embodies that idea. 

Honourable Mention:

Edge of the World – Within Temptation

This is just the Arthurian triangle. And unlike a lot of media, this is actually a triangle in the true sense. Lancelot and Arthur aren’t just two guys who dislike each other but love the same woman, they also love each other deeply which is why the cycle is able to hurt them all so much. (It’s at this point I have to do a shout out to Gwyneth Jones’ Bold As Love which decided not to spend too much time dragging out the ‘who shall she pick’ storyline and went straight for the ‘fuck it we all know they love each other let’s just make it a threesome’ plot. I am well overdue a re-read of that series.) 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Two Boys Kissing Soundtrack

I've been working from home these last few days which means I have actually been able to start uploading some of the book playlists that I have made recently! So I present to you the soundtrack to my reading of Two Boys Kissing. Usually I analyse each track and explain why it's there, but I seem generally slightly incapable of talking about this book because my words don't cover it well enough, so I'm just going to leave the track listing and link and then float away somewhere. If you fancy a listen clicky here.

1. Awake My Soul - Mumford and Sons
2. The Chambers & The Valves - Dry The River
3. Indestructible (Acoustic Version) - Robyn
4. Rather Be (Cover) - Yura Yunita
5. This Ain't No Hymn - Saint Saviour
6. The Kids Aren't Alright - Fall Out Boy
7. I Think I Like You - SIREN
8. Try - The XX
9. The One You Say Goodnight To - Kina Grannis
10. High Hopes - The Vamps

So yeah, that's that! Let me know if there are any songs in particular that make you think of the book and I'll be sure to check them out.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Hourglass Factory - Lucy Ribchester

From the moment that I read the blurb of this book, I knew I was going to like it. I mean, it’s a mystery novel set in Victorian London which heavily focuses on The Suffragette movement. What’s not to like? Add onto that the pretty cover design and the fact that it was three quid from a second hand bookshop and you have a very happy Sophie indeed! And I have to say it did not disappoint.
Our main character is Frankie, tomboy reporter who wants to write more than just the society column she is confined to. What should be a simple interview piece turns into something far more complex as the subject goes missing amid murders and political intrigue. I have to say, I really liked Frankie. She can be a little quick to judgement and her temper gets the best of her a lot, but there’s something about her I just really liked.

Along the way she meets a whole host of other characters, my favourites being Milly the snake charming dancer and the ex-Victorian courtesan Twinkle. Twinkle initially seems like an overly judgey society lady but along the way she proves to be an absolutely invaluable ally and at the edges is more open minded than she initially seems. I liked the scene where she called Frankie & co out on their negative judgement on the corset fetishists. “It’s never the deviants who are the problem, Puss. Don’t forget that. It’s people who won’t open their minds that are dangerous”. She is also entirely to blame for getting my hopes up so much about a possible Frankie/Milly romance. If she hadn’t of inferred that Frankie was into women so much I wouldn’t have been so convinced that it could happen! But no, she’s just assuming that Frankie’s gay cos she wears trousers. Sad times. Not gonna lie, I am heavily disappointed that Frankie and Milly didn’t elope at the end! I like to think I’m not just reading too much into it, they totally opened up to each other in a way they hadn’t with anyone else, so I totally think they fancied each other. Who knows, maybe there’ll be a sequel and they can be reunited? Lucy Ribchester take note, Gay Frankie and Bisexual Milly are the way forward. You can thank me later.

Seeing as I like learning about both history and feminism, the focus on the Suffragette movement was something I really enjoyed. Some of the stuff mentioned I already knew about, but there was also a whole bunch of events and names that I didn’t so this was definitely educational as well as interesting. There were two main things that I think Ribchester did well. The first was the reality of it all. These weren’t just women marching with placards, these are women fighting for their rights, chaining themselves to statues, being beaten by the police, going to prison, being sentenced to hard labour, and all for the right to vote and claim a voice. The description of the force feeding was awful and really brought home the amount of suffering that went into earning the right to vote. It’s something that of course I know about but reading this did make me feel incredibly lucky that there were so many brave women who suffered for my right to have a political voice. The big names like the Pankhurst’s are remembered but there are scores of women who fought and suffered and whose names got lost along the way. And I am so thankful they existed.

I also liked that this book acknowledges the limits to the movement. Namely that it is one geared towards a certain class of woman. I can’t remember which character it is, I think it’s the warden at the asylum, who points out that the movement as it is is useless to her. She can’t own land so the vote means nothing to her. To the working class woman who is never going to own property, the aims of the suffrage movement weren’t really relevant. Whilst it is incredibly important to remember what these women went through for their right to vote, it is equally as important to remember those who this didn’t apply to. 

Moving back to the book, I enjoyed trying to piece together the mystery. I would make a rubbish detective because I simultaneously suspect everyone and never guess the culprit correctly. I did manage to guess pieces of this puzzle but there were lots of little surprises along the way as well. Ultimately, I did really enjoy this book! It was a thoroughly entertaining mystery with a good cast of characters. Although everything gets concluded very tidily, I think it’s left open enough that there could be a sequel at some point maybe! (Never letting go of Frankie/Milly. I will go down with this ship!) Even if  not, I would be interested to see what else Lucy Ribchester writes.