Monday, 31 March 2014

what I've read this month (March)

Here's my monthly round up, click on the links for my review:
  1. Lyndsay Faye, Seven for a Secret
  2. Margaret Atwood, Bodily Harm
  3. Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth
  4. Nigel Tranter, Robert the Bruce; The Steps to the Empty Throne (only up to page 223)
  5. Jo Baker, Longbourn
  6. Jeanette Winterson, Weight 
  7. A.S Byatt, Ragnarok 
  8. Conn Iggulden, The Wolf on the Plains (Conqueror: book 1) 
  9. Conn Iggulden, Lords of the Bow (Conqueror: book 2)
I had a slow start to the month, Robert the Bruce completely defeated me. I struggled on for two and half weeks and only got half way through, then I thought why am I doing this? It's really dry, for a story about succession and warfare featuring historic legends Robert the Bruce and William Wallace is was incredibly dull. Although, I have learnt something about the fight for Scottish independence, which I'm grateful for, it wasn't worth me persevering with. 

Best book out of the bunch was undoubtedly A.S Byatt, Ragnarok, if you've read my glowing review you'll know how passionate about this novel. Seven for a Secret was also a solidly good read, although not without flaws. 

Slightly ashamed that there are two Conn Iggulden books on this list (and I'm halfway through a third), they're a bit trashy really, but they're harmless fun and an easy read. The Conqueror series charts the life of Genghis Khan and I've been galloping through them like a Mongol horde sweeping through China. 

Keeping up with my news years challenge, I've started two non-fiction books, hopefully which I'll have finished by the end of next month. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

A.S Byatt, Ragnarok

I'm not sure this review of Ragnarok can do it justice, it's simply marvellous book and possibly the best novel I've read so far this year. It's slim, at a skimpy 154 pages, but it's made to be savoured, plenty of times I'd read a sentence, paragraph or even a whole chapter, then immediately turnaround and re-read it.

 I'm disappointed that I only have Ragnarok on loan from the library, as I can easily see myself wanting to go back to this periodically.

It's part of the canongate myth series, which I've only newly discovered.

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ISBN: 9781847672971

The Plot: Taken from Nordic mythology, Ragnarok is the tale of the predestined apocalypse, an epic battle cumulating in the destruction of the gods.

Rating:««««« (5/5)

Jeanette Winterson, Weight

I picked up Weight for an absolute bargain at Hylands House, confident I would like it, and luckily I wasn't disappointed.

I was even more excited when I read the introduction and realised it was part of a series by the publisher, canongate, to enlist well respected authors to retell classic myths.  Unknowingly, I've already read two in the series, Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, and Margaret Atwood's The Penelopied  and I look forward to reading the others. 

Anyway, back to Weight;
Weight, Jeanette Winterson, book, review, paperback, Atlas, Hercules, myth, mythology, cannogate, retold
ISBN: 9781841957753
The Plot: Condemned to carry the weight of the weight of the cosmos for eternity, freedom appears unattainable for Atlas, until he receives an unexpected visit from Hercules, the only other person strong enough to shoulder the burden, who offers him a deal.       

Although the story has been around for thousands of years, to avoid spoiling this retelling my thoughts are under the jump.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

mother's day book list

It's mother's day this Sunday, and although my family don't celebrate it (not that we don't appreciate our mum) I thought I'd put together a list of books that put parent/child relationships at their core.

photo, photography, list, mother's day, recommendations, paperback, family centred, literature, suggestions,

So, if you want to gently steer your mum away from Maeve Binchy or Joanna Trollope have a look under the jump for my suggestions:-


"If you only read the book that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking"
- Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood 

Monday, 24 March 2014

5 graphic novels I'd like to read

Graphic novels are not a genre I've ever really explored, I've only read one, Persepolis but after reading various reviews on Amazon and Good Reads, I think I might be missing out.

Here's a list of 5 graphic novels I have my eye on:

1. The Walking Dead Compendium Volume 1, Robert Kirkman 
I'm a huge fan of the tv show, so would love to see how the original story deviates. If you're not familiar, basically The Walking Dead is about a zombie apocalypse and the destruction of society. Originally released as comics, this compendium includes numbers 1-48 and is a whopping 1088 pages! It is pricey though at over £30, and there is another compendium after this one. I can see how an interest in comic/graphic novels will be expensive.

2. The Nao of Brown, Glyn Dillon       
This novel is about OCD, and as I have an interest in mental illness I'd like to give it a try.

3. Black Hole, Charles Burns 
This sounds right up my street, a story about a plague effecting teenagers in the suburbs of Seattle.

4. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel 

I first heard of  Alison Bechdel test through watching a youtube vid by Anita Sarkeesian (link), basically the Bechdel analysis the gender equality in a film, to pass the film must have have at least two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Most films can't even reach this small requirement, and the figures are even lower when the test is applied to POC. 

Anyway, so my point is Alison Bechdel seems like an awesome woman fighting the patriarchy so I'm really interested in reading Fun Home, her memoir about growing up in her dysfunctional family.   

5. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Guy Delisle 

I used to live in South Korea, and have peered into the North when I visited the DMZ, so this graphic novel travelogue is very appealing.  Guy Delisle has also written other graphic novels about Jerusalem and Shenzen, both of which I've been fortunate enough to travel to, and quite fancy reading as well, though Pyongyang is first on my list 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hel, daughter of Loki

'Her form was uncompromising, straight-spined, with long legs, strong, capable hands firm feet [...] Half of her was black, and half blue. Half of her, those who saw her also reported, was living flesh, and half was dead. Sometimes the line between black an blue split her cleanly [...] but sometimes the black and blue floated on and in each other. They were beautiful, like the last blue of the sky meeting the dark of the coming night. They were hideous, the colour of bruises on battered or moribund flesh'
-A.S Byatt, Ragnarok, The End of the Gods 

Thursday, 20 March 2014


"Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it"
-Donna Tartt, The Secret History 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Jo Baker, Longbourn

Whenever I visit a National Trust or an English Heritage property I'm always interested to see the kitchens and servants quarters, probably because in another life that would be my job, working as a maid in the big house (just like my Nana), so I was very intrigued by Longbourn - which retells Pride and Prejudice from the servants perceptive.
Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn, Jo Baker, review, book, literature, novel, retelling, servants perspective, Sarah, paperback, book cover, photo, photography

Pride and Prejudice has been rewritten a couple of times before (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Death Comes to Pemberley) but Jo Baker's novel really brings a fresh perspective to the story, and I think even enhances the original.

The Plot:  As vivacious and forthright as Elizabeth Bennett, but lacking the same opportunities and status, Sarah is a housemaid at Longbourn. With sore hands Sarah toils to make the Bennett family comfortable, but the daily grind is interrupted by two new footmen, both of whom have secrets and an interest in Sarah.

Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn, Jo Baker, review, book, literature, novel, retelling, servants perspective, Sarah, paperback, book cover, photo, photography

To avoid spoilers my opinion is under the jump:-

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

the old

"To me, the old were a separate species, like sparrows or foxes [...] The body's largest organ bears the brunt- the old no longer fit their skin. It hangs of them, off us, like a room-for-growth school blazer. Or pyjamas"
- Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth 

Monday, 17 March 2014

a whole paragraph in one visual gulp

"I could take in a block of text or a whole paragraph in one visual gulp. It was a matter of letting my eyes and thoughts go soft, like wax, to take the impression fresh of the page. To the irritation of those around me, I'd turn a page every few seconds with an impatient snap of the wrists [...] I wanted characters I could believe in, and I wanted to be made curious about what happened to them"
- Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth 

Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth

I've only ever read one Ian McEwan novel before, Atonement, which I thought was absolutely beautiful, so when I spied  Sweet Tooth on the library shelf I snapped it up.

Now I've finished it, my feelings towards Sweet Tooth are ambivalent. Although McEwan is undoubtedly talented, I don't think this book is half as clever as he thinks it is.

Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth, novel, literature, book, paperback, book cover, photograph, review, photo, English Literature, spy, MI5, espionage

The Plot: Groomed for MI5 by her Cambridge professor/lover, Serena Frome enters the service at the tail-end of the Cold War.  After a period of tedium and dogsbody duties, she is sent on a secret mission, to recruit promising writer Tom Haley to Operation Sweet Tooth- an assignment  that aims to undermine communist ideology through popular literature.

 As I don't want to give away too many spoilers my review is under the jump:-


"Those clear grey eyes of hers; you could see she was always thinking. She peered at him like he was a slipped stitch: unforeseen, infuriating, just asking to be unpicked." 
- Jo Baker, Longbourn 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Blog Birthday

Today is this blogs first birthday- and I must admit I'm pretty chuffed with that!
I started this blog to have a creative outlet, to share my passion for books and to document what I've read. My readership is steadily growing, so I'd like to say thank you, I hope you are enjoying my posts and please let me know if there is anything you'd like to see. 
Here's to another year!  

Friday, 14 March 2014

Pear & Almond Tart

After my visit to Hughenden Manor I've been craving a pear and almond tart, so I had ago at making on myself. For a first attempt at pasty, it turned out rather well! To be honest, two people managed to polish off this family sized tart over two days - I'm not even ashamed.
pear and almond tart, marzipan, fruit, home baking, recipe,  classic combo, home made, tasty, delicious, food, cooking, yummy, treat, pudding, British

Thursday, 13 March 2014

fatal flaw

"Does such a thing as "the fatal flaw", that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside of literature?"
-Donna Tartt, The Secret History 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Lyndsay Faye, Seven for a Secret

I've been eagerly anticipating the sequel to Gods of Gotham for a couple of years, so was mega excited when I saw my local library had Seven for a Secret in, luckily I wasn't disappointed. It's shaping up to be very good historical detective series.

12 years a slave, Lyndsay Faye, American Literature, criminal, slave-catchers, book review, hardback, slave narrative, tragic, historical detective fiction, read

The Plot: Timothy Wilde a talented copper star in the newly formed NYPD is still reeling from recent events, a case involving a sinister brothel madam, when he is once again plunged into the dark underbelly of  19th Century New York. Distraught, Mrs Lucy Adams appeals for Wilde's help, after discovering her family missing, she suspects they have been taken by black-birders, ruthless slave-catchers who hunt for runaways to sell back to the south. Determined to fight such injustice, Timothy Wilde fights to expose political corruption and rescue a family. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Book Haul

Here is my recent book haul from Hylands House, they're second-hand but look like they've barely been read and I got them for a grand total of £3.10! 

1. Jeanette Winterson, Weight: I'm a big fan of Greek mythology, so I put this short novel in my basket as it is about a deal made between Atlas and Hercules.
2. Irvine Welsh, Filth: A novel about a corrupt police officer investigating a racially motivated murder (highly topically at the moment, with the recent Stephen Lawrence inquiry). For my review of another Welsh novel click here
3. Elizabeth Wurtzel, Bitch: I felt slightly embarrassed about handing this over to the sweet, old ladies behind the counter. It is a collection of essays about 90s feminism and how bad girls have more fun.  

Hylands House

The sunshine this weekend meant pretty much the entire population of Chelmsford was at Hylands House. The car park was absolutely mental.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Abney Park Cemetery

After visiting Highgate Cemetery pictures here, here and here) last summer, we've been aiming to go to another of the 'magnificent seven', so couple of weeks ago we went to Abney Park Cemetery in Hackney.

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It may seem like a morbid day trip, but we try to be respectful we we visit. Also they are peaceful places, full of unique Victorian architecture. Abney, is more understated than Highgate, it doesn't have as many famous name.

For more pictures see under the jump:-

Monday, 3 March 2014

boozy courgette brownie

If you like dark chocolate, that is verging on bitter, try this simple brownie recipe. The courgettes (zucchini) keeps the cake moist, so it tastes just as good the next day. 

recipe, boozy courgette brownie, home baking, chocolate, hazelnuts,benedictine, alcohol,

recipe after the cut:

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Hughenden Manor (interior)

Hughenden Manor, interior, National Trust, 18th century, Victorian, library, visit, Uk, Buckinghamshire, photo, photography, inside,

Following on from my earlier post about the outside of Hughenden Manor, have a look at my photos for a sneak peak of the interior:-