Book Reviews

Review: The Night Brother

Hiiiii 😊

So i just finished reading the ‘Night Brother’ by Rosie Garland and oh man, I loved it! It was such a sublime mix of poetic and descriptive language and all set in my beloved home town of Manchester❤ As a Manc I was super invested as soon as I read the ‘set in Manchester’ sentence of the blurb😅

It has a Jekyll and Hyde theme that runs throughout, and the book really plays with this in a number of ways – characters, journey’s, day and night. Through the protagonists, Edie and Gnome, the novel goes on winding and difficult journey’s of self discovery and is set in the early 1900’s which helps give, and keep, the air of mystery surrounding the plot. It also allows you to loose youself in a period set piece of fiction and go back to a time free from the constraints of modernity. Touching upon today’s prevalent issues such as women’s rights, what it means to be a man and gender fluidity, they’re all mixed together with a touch of intrigue, flair and vital importance.

The theme of duality that runs theough the entirety of the novel is such an interesting one because we all have different personas depending on who we’re with and the situation we’re in. A lot of people (myself included) probably feel like they are living seperate lives sometimes. The novel deals with sexuality and gender fluidity in a way that shows you that you are more and can be more than what you are born into. Edie and Gnome differ in every way, they are complete opposites. But, they need each other. They’re constantly battling against each other for freedom and you do, like with Jekyll and Hyde, get the sense that this could easily be interpreted as someone battling with their inner demons. They desperately yearn for freedom from each other, fighting agasint their restraints and bonds, but if one of them does win in the end, can they really be whole? To survive one cannot be without the other no matter how hard they try – they are indeed 2 halves of a whole.

Some people might say the ending is anti-climactic, and while I can see where they might be coming from, I have to disagree. The ending, for me, wrapped up the story of the 2 siblings and their arduous journey and provided a sense of comfort. Not just for them, but for us the reader. You become invested in their stories and you really (or I did anyway) want to see them find stability and safety in a world where they would be chewed up and spit out.

I adored reading this and I don’t want to give too much away, but I highly recommend😊

xo

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A book for every mood

Hello😊

Does anybody else have a book they automatically reach for when things get a bit shit and you’re feeling a tad insecure, low and generally down? Mine’s North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. I picked this up, ooh, about 8/9 years ago when I was around 15/16 I think. I remember cruising Amazon not looking for anything in particular (like I do most nights🤣) and I happened upon it. The first line of the blurb grabbed my attention, “how far would you go to find true beauty?” I mean what a question. When you’re a teenager that’s one of the most prevalent questions really isn’t it? ‘What can I do to be prettier/liked/popular/cool…?’ take your pick, there’s a dozen more interchangeable words you can use.

The story follows a young girl, Tessa, who goes through a journey of self discovery and self acceptance. A port wine stain covers her cheek and dictates how she portrays herself to the world. It’s the age old tale of a young girl who doesn’t quite fit in, trying to navigate her way through society and the world she finds herself in through her passion of cartography and art. As the story progresses she’s forced to realise that the way she’s been living her life, through her own choices and the circumstances around her, isn’t the path she has to continue on. With a controlling and emotionally manipulative father who cages her into a box, it’s takes a boy called Jacob (obv) and a trip to China for her to break down the walls she’s built around her self worth and recognise that her flaws are what make her beautiful, and not her quest to change herself to be the epitome of societal perfection and beauty, “flawed, we’re truly interesting, truly memorable, and yes, truly beautiful.”

The first time I read the novel I remember feeling peace, a stillness within me after I turned the last page. As a 15/16 year old, Tessa’s journey of self acceptance and self love spoke volumes to me. I don’t know why this particular book and the story spoke to me, but it did. Right book at the right time I guess. Every time I read it I felt so much better within myself. Happy. Content. Proud of who I was. I always turned to it whenever I was feeling low, upset, unhappy with who I was, inadequate, or a mixture of all them, and once I’d finished I’d make a mental note of my self worth and why I was important.But unfortunately this feeling didn’t last long and as it faded I needed more reminders. It reached the point where I was reading it at least 2-3 times a week, finishing it and literally picking it up again the following day. And then without realising it, as time went by, I was reading it less and less. Once a week. A couple times a month. Once every 6 months. Now I can’t remember the last time I read it. It’s definitely been at least 2/3 years, but the time frame is slightly hazy.

My university years are when I grew the most as a person, learning to love myself for who I was and North of Beautiful, along with a few other books and supportive and loving friends helped me come to terms with who I was as a person and to not feel like I had to hide myself away because I wasn’t ‘pretty enough’ like I’d been told during my teen years. I hate that. No one should be told they’re not pretty enough, or fit enough, or man enough, or if they did X they’d become more appealing. I still get this, but my skin has grown thicker and I’m able to brush it of much easier than I used to. This is the society we live it, but it shouldn’t be the norm, especially in the social media age we live in. It’s so easy to fabricate a life well led for others to be envious about and to edit images, that’s it’s no surprise depression rates are high and most people feel like they will never be ‘enough.’

This week however, I’ve felt the urge to pick up North of Beautiful for the first time in a long while but it’s okay. Everyone’s insecurities and inadequacies spring up from time to time and this week’s been my turn. Reading the book after such a long time away has been like an old friend welcoming me back. Warm and comforting, enveloping me into a world of safety. Below is one of my favourite passages from the book. It’s the turning point really where Tessa begins to re-evaluate her life and the impact she can have on others if she only learns to love herself and the talents she possesses:

“This is beautiful,” I said, ignoring the shop window to trace the gleaming stone walls fronting another boutique.
“You know what’s funny?” Jacob asked. He didn’t wait for my answer. “You can see beauty in everything, except for yourself.”
I swallowed hard. Erik thought my body was beautiful, Karin that it was enviable. At random times, people had noted that my hands were beautiful, or my hair. The Twisted Sisters had called my art beautiful. Mom had the best intentions and always told me before and after my laser surgeries that I would be beautiful. But no one had ever said that I was beautiful, all my parts taken together, not just the bits and pieces.”

Self love and self worth is so important, but it takes time. No one is perfect, and we should all take the time to recognise our flaws and accept them. Easier said than done I know. I’m definitely still learning to accept all my flaws and I probably will be for the rest of my life. But hopefully as time goes on, they’ll fade further and further away from my consciousness until I don’t fixate on them.

“That’s when it struck me: how gorgeous we all were, even with cellulite and stretch marks, scars and tattoos.” ❤ ❤ ❤

xo

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August book goals!

Hiiiii😊

After spending stupid amounts of money in Paperchase buying pretty stationary😍, I’ve made a conscious effort to put a plan in place and schedule to write more!

My plan is to (fingers crosssed):

  1. Line out any and all my book goals for the upcoming month at the beginning of the month.
  2. Write an update halfway through, see how I’m doing!
  3. And then a review of the overall month at the end.
  4. (Plus any extra blogs I manage to write😁

Soooo…*drum roll please maestro* here are my book goals for August *tada!*

  1. Read at least 3 new books this month AND review them.
  2. Read 2 literary journals/articles.
  3. Write 3 extra blogs on top of the 3 already listed above.
  4. Complete an August reading challenge (if anyone knows of one please let me know😊)

Not massively extensive, but small steps and all. Gosh I really hope I stick to this. Guess we’ll find out in 2 weeks!

Happy August😊

xo

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200 years of Austen❤

Hello 🙂 This is just my little tribute to the brilliant writing of Jane Austen.

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” – Jane Austen 

Today (or 2 days ago by the time this is posted😶) marks 200 years since one of the most influential women writers died. She, her novels, and characters have managed to stay in the public eye for 200 years. She even got put on the back on the £10 note😊🎉

Gosh, where do you even start with Austen? Her characters? Her mesmerising writing? Her scathing critique of social situations, and society? I’m not even sure to be honest. She’s spawned prequels and sequels, fan fiction, a web series, stage productions, podcasts, and multiple tv and film adaptations. Phew! Did I get everything? It’s like we can’t get enough of her, even 200 years later, constantly being drawn in and enticed by her witty language and bold protagonists. What’s brilliant is that her stories and themes still hold relevance today. Everybody still wants their Mr Darcy, or Colonol Brandon (I’m a hard-core Mr Darcy lover, particularly Matthew McFayden in the 2005 movie😍).

I read an interesting article today about how Austen is lost on teenagers because they can’t understand it. That the deep meanings, intricacies, and themes of her novels go over their heads. I’ve gotta say I completely disagree with this. It’s not that teenagers don’t understand it’s that most teaching methods won’t allow them to gain the understanding and nodules of from her novels. What makes Austen so relevant and brilliant is how accessible her writing is, whether that’s through her novels or the maaaany adaptations and interpretations (Bridget Jones ftw although I am partial to the Bollywood version of P&P😂).

Smart, funny, witty, passionate, and fiery, Lizzie Bennett is probably the most well known Austen heroine, and my favourite. But she’s not without her faults. Her pride and naivety get in the way of her judgement of both Wickham and Darcy. Its not until she’s forced to realise her mistakes that she re-evaluate all she knows and allows herself to become open to change. So beautifully written, Austen isn’t afraid to make her characters flawed, nd that’s what makes them human. No character in an Austen novel is perfect. Perfection for Austen is superficial only. No-one, no matter how much they claim, can attain that level of perfection because reality dictates it as unattainable. It’s down to this and Austen’s frankness of society that’s allowed her work to transcend over the past 200 years. 

For me there’s an Austen novel and heroine for everyone. You just have to find it. So thank you Jane. Thank you for writing 6 of the greatest novels in the English language. But not only that. Thank you for being one of the pioneering women writers in a time where it was frowned upon. Thank you for showing and proving that some of the greatest stories come from those who are oppressed and that all they need is one chance to get their story out there. 

xo

Book Reviews

How to be interesting?

Hello! I hope you’ve all had a lovely Monday😊

I picked this up from the clearance section at my local supermarket for £2! Such a bargain, I love clearance sections😌 

The title and red pages drew me to to it and for the price I thought why not. I mean who doesn’t want a step by step guide on how to be interesting? This was a YA read (which I didn’t realise), but on the whole it was an enjoyable, quick and easy going read. It was the overall message that stood out for me, being really relevant for today’s society. So want to be interesting? Well follow these rules and all will be well: 

  1. One must be attractive.
  2. One must make friends with attractive people.
  3. One must fall in love with someone forbidden.
  4. One must lose all sight of oneself, get into a huge emotional mess, and break down as a person. 

I mean of course we know that there is no step by step guide or miracle that can just poof can make you interesting and appealing to everyone, and like our protagonist finds out, popularity isn’t everything. This novel deals with school social hierachies, the repercussions of social media and technology, and what’s deemed as perfect and ‘interesting’ in a modern and clever way. Starting off as a ‘social experiment’ our main character goes through the motions of being the nobody to the popular girl, to the fallen, to finally coming to terms with her own self worth. It’s your standard coming of age and finding yourself plot, but modernised and for the generation today. It’s not about keeping a journal of thoughts any more, but rather blogging about them online (😉). I felt like it was almost a collision of worlds: the literary and the technological. The main character is desperate to be a writer and holds this passion for writing and literature, which is interwoven with her online blogging and the way social media plays a part in her life. 

For young people in this age of social media where everyone and everything looks perfect and ‘interesting,’ it’s hard to differentiate what’s real and what’s not. It’s no wonder that depression, self confidence and low self esteem are at an all time high, and that online bullying is becoming more and more frequent. While sometimes it’s easier said than done to have self confidence, self love is so important and healthy for everyone. You have to love yourself first and foremost and know that you’re important, perfect, and interesting just the way you are. 

Be bold. Be brave. Be unstoppable. But most of all be inspired in whatever you do❤

xo 

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20 years of Harry Potter ❤

Hello 🙂

Okay so I know that it was yesterday since Philosopher’s Stone was released 20 years ago (whelp!), but I was kinda busy with Eid…so free pass?

I just wanted write a little something to commemorate the day, but where do I start? These books mean so much to me. They’ve impacted my life in a way that no other book has done since, and I don’t think any book will. From receiving my first detention at 8 (because I was too busy sneakily reading Chamber of Secrets rather than doing my Maths work🙊😂), to making long lasting friendships over the years through our love for the books. 

They taught me about love, life and friendships. To not back down, to fight and stand up for what I believe in. To be just and true. That being smart or a nerd isn’t a bad thing, that true friends will always be there for you. They taught and showed me so much. I could go on for eons (might have to do regular HP blogs😅), but they’re so rich in story telling, intricately woven layer upon layer through each book that with every read I unearth new gems that were previously hidden to me. 

Philosopher’s Stone sparked off my insatiable literary passion, and I was hooked from the very first chapter. The magic literally flowed off the page and into my brain and I’ve never looked back. I also found a plethora of strong female characters, wildly flawed that made them human. Hermione Granger, untamed, wild and unapologetic. Gosh I love her. I saw myself in her and really connected with her and her struggles. The combination of her, Ginny and Luna showed me in my teen years who I wanted to be. That being female, a strong female at that, isn’t anything to be ashamed of. 

Thank you Jo. For creating this amazing world and sharing it with all of us. For never making us feel ashamed for loving it with a passion that could be considered obsession. Thank you creating a magical world where so many have found safety and belonging. 

“Whether you come back by page or by film, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” – JK Rowling.

xo

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Gotta love a bit of Shakespeare 

Hi! 

Look at me writing two blogs within 2 days😊 Fingers crossed this streak continues!

I was disillusioned with Shakespeare for so long – mainly because it had been improperly taught to me and forced down my throat from the age of 7 when I couldn’t really comprehend it and the complexity of his writing. It wasn’t until I was in my final year of University doing a Shakespeare module where I fell in love with good ol’ William. My lecturer was so passionate and taught his work in a way that was digestible, understandable and most of all, enjoyable. I finally understood why he was a big deal in the literary world – his prose, poetry, descriptions and language are just sublime. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a few plays I don’t like ***controversial opinion upcoming*** like Romeo and Juliet (🤤). Why this one you ask? Again I’ve been forced to read, react and perform this since the age of about 10 over and over and over again. I think by the time I was 14 I was so sick of it. I mean once again, don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch Leonardo DiCaprio in all his 90’s cute glory at any given point in the day, but the play itself I just can’t bring myself to enjoy reading. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and give it another go…maybe.

But I will say this about Shakespeare. All his plays are strongly rooted in terms of genre – whether it be tragedy, comedy or history – and his characters are widely flawed, human, and real. That’s what makes his play so memorable and so contemporary at the same time. There’s a reason why he’s stuck in the public mind for over 400 years. His plays, while written in the Elizabethan era, are so adaptable and transferable for any time period or actor.

Coriolanus is my favourite play of his. It’s classed as a tragedy, but like so many of Shakespeare’s plays there’s overlaps with other genres. It’s so witty (I think anyway), and relatable especially in these recent times. I was lucky enough to see Tom Hiddleston’s performance at the NT which was incredible (and he’s super hot too🙊). Please give it a read if you haven’t! 

Ah Shakespeare, you keep on doing your thing❤

xo