Sunday, 31 August 2014

what I've read this month (August)

Poor show this month, I've not read as much as I usually do (see 'a year in book' to see what I've read so far).

Here's my reading list:-
  1. Lionel Shriver, Big Brother 
  2. Robert Gailbraith, The Silkworm (J.K Rowling)
  3. Haruki Murakami, Tsukuri Tasaki and His Years of Pilgrimage 
  4. Toni Morrison, Beloved
  5. Stephanie Meyer, Eclipse (re-read. Ashamed of this one- but it was on telly) 
  6. Samuel Selvon, The Lonely Londoners  
(click on the book title to follow the link)
This month's highlight was Big Brother a controversial and confrontational novel about obesity. Toni Morrison's Beloved also comes highly recommended, and J.K is really beginning to hit her stride with post-Harry Potter novels.  

I need to get round to reviewing The Lonely Londoners has I think it is probably over-looked as a book. I hadn't heard of it until I spotted my sister's boyfriend reading it. It's all about the experiences of a group of men emigrating to Britain from the Caribbean in the late 40s early 50s and it's really rather good.    

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Beloved is a ghost story, as well as a story about slavery, which at first may sound a bit odd but actually works really well.

Toni Morrison is highly regarded as an author, though personally I've found her a bit hit and miss- loved Jazz, couldn't understand the fuss about Mercy.

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The Plot: Inspired by the true story of Margaret Garner, Beloved is set in the US during the time of slavery and after its abolition. Sethe, a runaway slave, kills her daughter and attempts to kill her other three children when men arrive to return her to Sweet Home plantation. she would rather they be dead than live in slavery. The ghost of her dead daughter haunts the family, until one day a young woman calling herself Beloved arrives on her doorstep.

Rating: 4/5

Full review under the cut:-

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Clandon Park

We want to get as much use of possible out of our National Trust membership before the properties close for the winter, so this bank holiday we took a trip over to Clandon Park over in Guilford.

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Victoria Sponge (gluten-free)

A Victoria Sponge is the most simple of cake recipes, it's usually the first cake that children bake themselves. This gluten-free version is just as easy, and tastes just as good, if you weren't told it's gluten-free you wouldn't know.

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recipe under the cut:

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Henri Matisse, The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern

I'm aware that I'm a bit ignorant when it comes to art, I don't have a very wide knowledge when it comes to artist or art movements, but when my mum was in need of someone to go to the Matisse exhibition with her I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more.
Southbank, London 

When ill health in his sixties started to prevent Matisse from painting, he invented a new medium to create his art, paper cutting. He had used paper cut-outs previously, before painting he would experiment with the composition if his piece by pining and rearranging paper on a canvas, but later the paper cut-outs became the actual artwork and not just a practice.

The exhibition itself is well laid out, it's done chronologically so you can easily see how his technique developed over time.  I expected it to be a lot busier than it was, when we saw the pre-Raphaelite exhibition it was so crowded we could barely get close to paintings, but we didn't have any difficulty at Matisse. Perhaps, it's because we went on a week day, Friday at 1:30. The Cut-Outs is only running until 7th September, so you'll have to get in there quick if you want to go.

Unfortunately their no photos allowed in the exhibit (though I did notice some people taking some stealth shots), so none of these Matisse pictures are mine..

Blue nude
(pencil marks clearly visible)
picture source

I definitely came away with a greater appreciation for Matisse. Seeing the cut-outs in the real meant I could see how the paper had been layered. Also, I'm pretty sure one of the blue nudes has a tyre track on it from Matisse's wheelchair. Part of me thought that he should have been more carefully with his cutting out, it's easy to see where parts have been chopped of and then stuck back on, there are pencil marks all over some of the pieces and the edges of most of the works are rough, but I suppose this must have been intentional. In art speak, you'd properly call the cut-outs 'raw' and 'honest', there is no covering of mistakes and the indecision and creative process is visible.
Blue Nude
 I think that a wheelchair track mark towards the lefthand side, going through the arm and leg.
 picture source
Matisse was known to be an expert at using colour, and I did like the vibrancy of the cut-outs. He was inspired by dance and jazz and there is a lot of movement in his work.

The Codomas
I found it really useful to know the names of pictures and have the context of the surrounding artwork to appreciate the art properly. At first we didn't understand what was going on in The Codomas, but once we realised its part of his circus series, the trapeze and the safety net becomes obvious. The trapeze artists are just yellow squiggles, but they manage to give the impression  of performers flying through the air and leaping from trapeze to trapeze. It is important to look at negative space in Matisse's work, he creates the effect of the safety net not by doing a cut-out of the net, but rather using black squares to be the spaces inbetween the net.

I did get bored of all the lagoon pieces. I get that they were important to Matisse as he was able to create an outside environment within his studio when his own mobility was restricted, but personally there was too many of them at it got repetitive. Also I really don't understand the fuss about The Snail, to me it's just crap.

The Parakeet and the Mermaid
(see if you didn't know the title, you'd overlook that blue smudge to the left as a parakeet)

The Snail
picture source 
Overall I would say I was pleasantly surprised with my experience at Matisse The Cut-Outs, and came away feeling like I'd learnt something had a more of an understanding about Matisse's work and its importance. We spent about 2 and half hours in the exhibition, so felt we'd got our money's worth from the £16.00 admission fee.  


Monday, 25 August 2014

Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuri Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

I haven't read all of Murkami's books, but he is one of my favourite authors, Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle are my top picks of his novels.

Colorless Tsukuri Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is Murkarmi's latest offering, when it was published in Japan it sold a million copies in it's first week, and it has been similarly successful over here. There is always a lot of expectation when Murkarmi publishes a new book, and it can be difficult to life up to the hype.

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The Plot: At high school Tsukuru Tazaki was part of a close friendship group of 3 boys and 2 girls. Apart from Tazaki, the other friends, coincidently, all had colours in their names, Akamatsu 'red pine', Oumi 'blue sea', Shirane 'white root' and Kurono 'black field'. Together they formed a harmonious group, with each member having a special interest or talent that complemented and balanced the others. One day, without any explanation or prior warning, the four colourful friends annoudnced they no longer wanted to speak to Tazaki ever again. Since that time Tazaki has struggled to form meaningful connections with other people, until he meets Sara, who encourages him to contact his former friends and discover why they abruptly dumped him.

Rating: (3.5/5)
Full review under the cut:-

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Currently Reading

The blog has recently been about what I've being doing, rather than what I've been reading, so thought I should give a quick update.

To my shame I've only read two books this month, Big Brother and The Silkworm. I've just been really busy. I usually read about 8, see my 'year in books tag' for my monthly reading list.

I have started 3 books though:-

  • Toni Morrison, Beloved 
  • Sam, Selvon, The Lonely Londoners
  • Haruki Murakami, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage 
Beloved and The Lonely Londoners are both library books, I really need to get a crack on with them as they need to go back.

I had a right parlava with the Murakami, I pre-ordered it from Amazon months ago, but when I received it I had to send it straight back as the copy was damaged. I'm very careful with my books, so was disappointed that the book jacket was all creased. It took another 3 days to get a replacement, so this has delayed my reading.

What do you think of my choices? Have you ever had trouble with Amazon deliveries?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Harwick Hall (old hall)

This is my final post about my trip to Hardwick Hall, I did warn you I took to many photos! (part 1, part 2, part 3)

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more pictures after the jump:-

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

she couldn't read clock time

"She couldn't read clock time very well, but knew when the hands were closed in prayer at the top of the face she was through for the day"
- Toni Morrison, Beloved 

Hardwick Hall (inside)

The interior of Harwick Hall is just as grand as the outside. Some National Trust properties I've been to are pretty much empty on the inside with the furnishing and paintings been sold to private collectors, but Hardwick has plenty of things to look at.

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More pictures under the jump:-
To see my photo from the outside of Hardwick see here, and for the gardens see here

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Hardwick Hall, outside

I visited Harwick Hall when I went up to Derbyshire and it was the highlight of my trip. We went an hour before closing and realised we'd made a mistake, because it's absolutely huge, so the next day we came back and saw it properly. 

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If you are thinking of a visit, be aware satnav will try and lead you the wrong way, it's best to get so far and then look out for the brown signs and follow them. 

I took so many pictures at Harwick, so I think I'm going to split them over 4 posts. First up is my photos from the outside:-

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Robert Galbraith, The Silkworm

The Silkworm is the second novel in a ongoing detective series written by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for J.K Rowling). See my review of The Cuckoo's Calling for my thoughts on the first in the series.

The Silkworm, The Cuckoo's calling, Robert Gailbraith, J.K Rowling, detective, Cormoran Strike, Own Quine, murder, review, novelist, hardback   
The Plot: When the novelist Owen Quine goes missing, Cormoran Strike his hired by his wife to find him. At first, it seems Quine will be unearthed at a writers retreat or holed up with his mistress, but when his mutilated murdered body is found, Cormoran and the Met begin a murder hunt. In the frame are angry literary agents, publishers, fellow writers and lovers as all have been savaged in Quine's latest manuscript.

Rating: 4/5
full review under the cut:- (I'm going to try and avoid spoilers, as they really ruin a detective story)

Monday, 11 August 2014

Lionel Shriver, Big Brother

I’ve found it difficult to settle into a book the past week, I’ve started 4 or so but have abandoned them all. Not that any of them were bad books, I was just feeling restless and none of them were what I wanted.
Lionel Shriver’s BigBrother on the other hand was a novel I had no trouble getting into.

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The Plot: When Pandora meets her brother at the airport after a four year absence, she is shocked to find Edison is now mortally obese. Edison’s appearance makes Pandora confront her own relationship with food, and her relationship with her sibling.
Rating: 4/5

Trigger Warning: weight, eating disorders, fatphobic.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

laughing children, dancing men, crying women

'After situating herself on a huge flat rock, Baby Suggs bowed her head and prayed silently. The company watched her from the trees. They knew she was ready when she put her stick down. Then she shouted, "Let the children come!" and the ran from the trees towards her.
"Let your mothers here you laugh," she told them, and the woods rang. The adults looked on and couldn't help smiling.
Then "Let the grown men come" she shouted. They stepped out one by one from among the ringing trees.
"Let your wives and children see you dance," she told them, and groundlife shuddered under their feet.
Finally she called the women to her. "Cry," she told them. "For the living and the dead. Just cry". And without covering their eyes the women let loose.
It started that way: laughing children, dancing men, crying women and then it got mixed up [...] in the silence that followed, Baby Suggs, holy, offered up them her great big heart. 
"Here," she said "in this place we flesh; we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.' 
- Toni Morrison, Beloved 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Pierre Grimal

The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology  is an invaluable source of reference if you have an interest in the legends and deities of ancient Greece and Rome.

The dictionary has 480 pages of entries and genealogical tables. The entries include famous figures, as well as important places and battles. To give you an idea of the format, here's a random excerpt:-

Leimone (Λειμώνη) A daughter of Hippomenes, an Anthenian noble. When her father realized that she had had an afair before she was married, he shut her up with a horse in a lonely house and gave them no food or water. The horse grew mad with hunger and ate the young woman.

I can imagine this dictionary will be useful for students, in my English Lit degree poets and authors were always making some obscure reference to Greek or Roman mythology, so this would have been a handy guide. Personally, I'm going to take it with me when I visit historical properties, often these houses have a mural or a painting that depicts ancient legends and it will be useful to get a brief synopsis from this book.

I'm still after a novel that retells the mythology as a narrative, rather than in dictionary form, I'm tempted by The Penguin Book of Classical Myths, Jenny March.

For an excellent re-imagined story of Achilles and Patroclus, see my review of Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


All though I've only recently gone a book buying splurge (and have yet to read them all) I've already got my eye on some more:-

(picture source: Amazon)

1. The British Witch: A Biography, Peter Maxwell-Stuart 

Using a variety of sources, Maxwell-Stuart looks at the persecution of men and women throughout 500 years of history.
I've had a life-long interest in witches, I have an affinity with outcasts, so this really fascinates me. Published a couple of months ago, there aren't currently many reviews, before spending £17.99 I want to know how accessible the book is.

(picture source: Amazon)

2. The Penguin Book of Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt, Joyce Tyldesley
Another period of history I've always loved is Ancient Egypt, I went to the British Museum recently and spent hours looking at the artefacts. A lot of my knowledge about the gods, rites and history of  ancient  Egypt comes from a Horrible History book I read aeons ago, so it's about time a read something more in depth.
Penguin really excels at this sort of thing, and the reviews are complementary.

3. Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings, Lyndsay Faye
I've not read any Sherlock Homes, but this novel pits the most famous Victorian detective against the eras most infamous serial killer.
I have huge respect for Lyndsay Faye as an author, she is brilliant at creating atmosphere and making history come alive. See my review of Seven for a Secret here  
(picture source: Amazon)
4. The Virgin of Flames, Chris Abani 
I listened to TED talk that Abani gave online and he really impressed me. The Virgin of the Flames is a novel about misfits, a graffiti artist, a stripper, a tattoo artist and a Rwandan butcher living in L.A. The blurb makes it sound cool and contemporary.

5. The Undertaking, Audrey Magee
This year is the centenary of the First World War, to commemorate I'd like to read some war related books. (see here for my list of 10 must read war novels)
The Undertaking is a novel about ordinary Germans trying to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of World War II

What do you think of my wishlist? Is there anything you'd recommend?

Friday, 1 August 2014

pear, chocolate and pistachio cake (gluten-free)

I adapted this recipe to create a decadent pear, chocolate and pistachio cake. It's a little bit of a faff, but I made it as a thank you.
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As it is flourless the cake doesn't rise very high, but it still manages to be light and spongy.

recipe under the cut:-