Recent Reads…

I can’t promise there won’t be spoilers.

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The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black

Holly Black is a new favourite author. If I hadn’t been so overjoyed in discovering ‘The Cruel prince’ earlier this year, then this stand alone definitely sold me. The central premise revolves, once again, around faerie lore, with a heard of magnetic characters and themes integral to the fantasy genre. There are mystical forests, hidden worlds, knights and dream walking. It’s set in a small town in America, always a promising setting for the weird and wonderful. The plot follows the lives of a sister and brother, now in their teens, who have grown up infatuated with the mysterious presence of a young boy in an unbreakable glass coffin in the woods. In this town the people aren’t strangers to the trickster work of the faerie folk and even have a half breed changeling boy living amongst them. The story is all sorts of magic but has it’s roots in the modern world which is always the best doorway to escape.

As a kid I used to love being let lose in the woods, my imagination whirring in the same direction as the tale Black weaves in ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’. For some reason the setting just stuck with me, a little like the Shiver series by Stiefvater, where the forest is home to the uncanny, a deep, twisted land of possibilities. If you’re a fan of the genre then you have to give this one a read. Black is sort of phenomenal.

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A Skinful of Shadows – Frances Hardinge

A stunning write with a fascinating concept at the heart of it. The opening to chapter ten is one of the countless pages I bookmarked and I’ve included some snippets here because, gosh darn, they’re illuminated by imagery. Such prettily strung words they are.

‘Twenty-seven months is long enough for a place to seep into your bones, its colours become the palette of your mind, its sounds your private music.’

‘Humans are strange, adaptable animals, and eventually get used to anything, even the impossible or unbearable.”

‘One day you wake up in your prison, and realise that it is the only real place. Escape is a dream, a lip-service prayer that you no longer believe in.’ 

So many of the lines are almost poetic and there’s a constant solemn tone to every paragraph. I found it almost draining to read because there wasn’t really any comic reprieve or any love story. But the tainted bones of it all only made it all the more impressive. It had the senses of a classic in the detail of description, the setting in an old manor in the marshes, the severity in class divide and the themes of war and politics. The characters are pretty much all ghastly, the redeeming qualities are forever in self interest. It’s all very pessimistic and very…honest.

Makepeace is likeable in her naivety and in her struggle. She’s just so good despite her “curse” and the family that are bestowed on her. I say it in every single book review when I’ve quite obviously chosen the novel because of the protagonist, but she’s such a gem of a female character. She doesn’t give up, not in the cemetery where the dead could get the better of her, not at the house when she’s caught time and time again daring to escape and then not on her brother James, even after he seemingly gave up on her. The way she and James utilise their curses in the end is so fulfilling too. But bear is my favourite character, I love the way he becomes an extension of Makepeace, possesses her and turns her into a feral girl capable of protecting herself. Like a witches familiar, only a whole lot more discreet. The heart of the story is bonkers and, for me, a very original concept. Massive love for Hardinge.

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Dark Elements – Armentrout

I think this may not be the first time I’ve read this series which wouldn’t be a wild guess seeing as it’s an Armentrout creation. The first two books were niggling at my memory and I kind of had a grasp on the outcomes and felt familiar with the characters and their relationships. Regardless, it was such a throwback series, a very teen me kind of deal, and I felt a bit weird reading about eighteen year olds falling in love at twenty three. Is that silly? Regardless, I dig the plot. Being that it revolves around my all time favourite subject matter, demons. It’s a classic, over done, concept but I always go back to it.

Layla is fiesty and headstrong, though the self pity in the beginning made her my least favourite Armentrout heroine. But the whole, mother is Lilith, boyfriend is Prince of Hell but demons have redeeming qualities and one once feeble eighteen year old girl can now save the world thing had me hooked. And of course the ease in which the books read is just bliss. You can drown in the world because you don’t have to think about an overly complicated language or navigate your way through a completely new realm. That’s not to say the simplicity is a bad thing but a strong foundation to place witty banter between well rounded characters. The dialogue in Armentrout’s books has forever impressed me. There is always such a rhythmic, realistic, flow to it and the characters are always so dominating of their own identities. You could read the lines without, ‘he said, she saids’ and know from the story who’s speaking when. It’s a powerful thing that.

As always recommendations are welcome, hope all of you lovely people are doing well.

Light and Love, N x

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Moods, Rhythms, Prose…

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Oh, to be the colour yellow. Honey smiled, iridescent thing. A riot of personality. A loud, present, lively disposition. The ambiguity of her! So meek but ferocious, so calm but elated, so subtle but so effervescent. Oh, yellow, she’d be a demanding creature. Would you dare the lightning of an embrace? Or stumble back lest you wither in her sweetness? All of that golden giving is a wild woman’s prerogative. She’d be so busy being that she’d risk being stretched out on life’s palette, her vigour swept up by the brushes of the masses. No. Yellow, she’d have to be a sacred thing, reigned in lest the world’s murky vendors should ensnare her.

This mini mix is a a lot of dream pop and tinkering guitar riffs. I’m currently residing in a seaside town so the whole surfy, summer sound is sort of my soundtrack. 

Check out my Spotify for more musical goodness

Love and Light, N x

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14/01/2018

A uniform – a sentence, an expectation, a decharacterisation. A faltering smile and another “How are you today?” but you don’t care much for an answer, another coffee machine with altered basics. But the sun is very real and the sea is very real and the pint Claire hands you is very real, as are the laughs, for a little while. Oh, it’s always very real until it isn’t. The very real becomes distorted from your view out of the bell jar and it doesn’t matter how much effort you put into belonging it always fails eventually.

26/01/2018

Padding bare foot on warm pavements, onto warmer sands and into mild waters. Salty tumbles, tan lines, lingering grains in unwanted places. The sea has always been the greatest of presences in the grand scheme of things, a drifter needs a means of momentum to drift after all. It’s not getting easier to remedy the gnawing but some moments feel better. Better comes with getting used to accepting the disease as it rages in a new environment and sometimes that ‘getting used to’ has to be enough.

29/01/2018

A bank holiday.

Tay street cafe, my local, is bustling with shaggy haired sea God’s and bikini clad swimsuit models. I never feel envious or insecure anymore and I suppose that acceptance comes naturally when you realise you are, effectively, invisible. A wallflower indulging in her greatest potential. Out on the waves, surfers wait for their turn to ride. The swell is good, or so I gather from the lads next to me and the whole scene is reminiscent of Bondi or Byron Bay. As has become natural to me over the past three years, I seek out a spot nearest the most bustling stretch of tide. And I could be happy there for hours, watching the easy grace, fluid twists, the sure footing and the wipeouts. I get itchy feet just witnessing it all but as always my musings of getting out there and learning myself are snuffed out by the uneasy churn it illicits in my chest.

 

These are a couple little scraps from my journal, some of the less self indulgent (believe it or not). After Mount Moments 01, which was a random little idea I decided to make this series a little testament to anxiety and what it’s like to travel alone, suffering from it.

Light and Love, N x

Recent Reads

Midnight Sins – Jennifer L Armentrout

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A haunting, erotic, very devourable novel. I didn’t absolutely love it and it did take a bit of time to get into but it was a nice easy, impossibly romantic, storyline with a proper crime plot around it. There was a hint at ghosties and the supernatural but it never lead anywhere, it was more of a thriller than a fantasy. Which of course was gripping just not a genre I tend to get obsessed with. Armentrout is, as always, one of my main ladies and her female lead had that same headstrong determination I’ve always admired in her novels. Julia was relatable and courageous and grew subtly throughout which is always a little bit empowering. The de Vincent brothers were a treat too, and not just because of how they were physically described either, it was a pleasing story in itself to go from that super tense relationship between them all, to that sense of loyalty in the end. Armentrout planted little seeds of intrigue hinting at the lives of Gabe and Dev too, which definitely upped the hype for the next instalments.

Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas

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After the whole A Court of Thorns and Roses hype I was sceptical to try another series by Maas because it seemed that anything would just be a disappointment in comparison. However, though I can’t quite let myself love this world as much just yet, it still indulges in that smooth writing style, particular description, deep world building and of course a feisty leading chica. Celaena is a freaking assassin for a start which is just such a top level of badassery I can’t even handle it. It has just the right sprinkle of romance between a lot of magic and action packed scenes too. And though I was gunning for a possibly lesbian relationship between Celaena and Nehemia (how perfect would that of been though?) the tension between Celaena’s obvious attraction toward Prince Dorian and that hopeful little spark toward Chaol was tension enough. I’m team Chaol by the way, in case you were wondering.

Be Careful What You Joust For – Ryan Hauge and Ivy Smoak

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This one is a little bit special because I got to read it before the release and as an avid reader of the fantastical, that was a slight honour. When I was in my teens I was following all major writing and book publishing career paths, I wanted to be an editor and publisher and a published writer and just all of the wordy creative pursuits. I used to follow book bloggers and get all kinds of envious when one of my favourite authors reached out to them for an early copy of a book and then a couple weeks ago it happened to me.

I read the synopsis and I was super keen, it had hints toward the historical and fantastical, a whole load of depth to promise a gripping read. What I loved most was the multiple perspectives. It gives you a stronger engagement with each of the characters and as there are a whole bunch of them with varying but related stories to tell, it’s a pretty nifty narrative tool. I was particularly fond of Isolda because of her double life and Terrin for his wild little heart. It was a beautifully crafted world too and after that cliffhanger I’m hungry for what the writers have up there sleeve for the rest of the Pentavia series. Massive thanks to Ivy Smoak for letting me read it ahead of release too. So cool.

As always drop me your recommendations and favourites below. Always scouting for new paper worlds.

Light and Love, N x

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Moods, rhythms, prose…

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The last post like this was simply titled ‘inspiration’. It was a way for me to utilise the mood boards I make when I’m overwhelmed by everything leaving impressions on me. But I had an idea! I’m mesmerised by us women, our different quirks and how we, and the things we pour ourselves into, express who we are. So I thought why not create a character from what I collect, incorporate the ever changing facets of who I am and what’s interesting me and combine it with the scribbles I accumulate whilst people watching and the moods and scenes the images paint. It’s one of my most expressive tools as a writer, to look at an image and unravel it, paint the backstory and give the subject life. And seeing as it’s International Women’s Day (All the love to my fellow chica’s) I thought it was the perfect time to post one. Let me know what you think.

She is a solitary creature this one. A myriad of musings painted by her features, a whisper of a smirk, an appraisal in the subtle tilt of her brow, defeat in a minuscule hunch of her shoulders. With gentle grace she pours admirable patience into the life she so desperately needs to surround herself with. Potted palms in every corner, every room of her home a conservatory. Her existence is measured in shades of evergreen, sage, olive. In the yard she tends the soil with bare hands, dirt beneath the bitten nails, the glue to bound what anxiety unravels. This is her way of encouraging life from her breaking. A way to purge the loneliness, the doubt and in turn find budding shoots from this mangled suffering, the ugliness blooming into something to sooth, something she can nurture.

The seeming meekness is just an introverts protection though and if you were to spy, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, between the shutters of the bay windows, then you would see a damsel of independent certainty. The record player crackles out folk melodies, that she spins to, lulls the plants into a gentle sway with her lofty tones and fairytale whistles. She’s barefoot and grazing the carpet, in just a shirt, hair a mess atop her nymph like face. The smile is foreign, unleashed from its confines in the security of home.

The off balanced wooden bookcase behind her has life etched into it, with splits and cracks in the white overcoat. On it, the spines to manuals of varying botanical topics are visible in no particular order, interluded by vintage spray cans and a picture frame of pressed daisies. The walls are white, the carpet a light hazelnut, the only colour injected is from leaves that boast unique patterns and budding blooms of whites and muted pastels. There are no ornaments, no personal photographs or trinkets, everything is precisely there to benefit her work, her pleasure, her purpose. Around her, love thrives, her patience and maternal core a focused thing, a rare thing.

Love to all my green thumbed Goddesses, N x

 

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Recent Reads: A Court of Thorns and Roses

All of the sorry’s for not uploading for last week or so. I have been slacking I’ll admit and there are no real excuses except that the weather here has been a blessing and I’ve had my lazy arse on the beach every evening after work, soaking up every last beam, book in hand. And there, my friends, we have the second reason, the book series I just finished. It’s been a while since a series got that under my skin. I was wishing away my hours at work just to get back to its pages. And the culprit? A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. Be warned there are a few little spoilers ahead!

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Picture taken from Pinterest – My crappy Kindle is not nearly as photogenic.

I’ll get right down to it and say that the first element that snared me in was the writing style. Before I began, I got the impression that it would be a light hearted, young adult paranormal romance book. And I don’t mean that in a negative light at all, many of my favourite books are of a similar genre and they’re the books I rely on most to really transport me somewhere. But whereas there were elements of the expected, this was different from the get go. Much like Stiefvater (Shiver trilogy, The Raven Cycle) never underestimates her audience and gives us “big” words and lengthy description, Maas too has catered to the hungry. There is no difficult language per say but the way she strings together sentences and plays out her narrative is pretty spectacular. There is intention behind it, a determination to paint the most spectacular of images in the readers head, to really give life to the characters, most importantly Feyre. And there lies my next compliment, the characters.

Always of most importance to me with any novel are darn good characters. Especially if it’s the character narrating the story. I have to like them, or at least find them intriguing to really get into the stories rhythm. Feyre is a gem, likeable but difficult. Ferocious and head strong and all the admirable things a young woman could be. Her development throughout the three books is so satisfying and honestly? I miss her. She has a courageous backstory, a self deprecating attitude that blossoms as she persists and takes on all of these insane challenges. She does everything for love, loyalty, despite the way others treat her. You fall in love with her in those opening pages as she faces the wood alone, crossbow in hand and takes on a wolf she suspects to be something even far more terrifying just to feed a family devoid of gratitude. It’s beautiful how Maas uses the imagery of painting to represent her story, her emotions. The dream that painting is, the subjects and moments in her life worth the time of creating a piece, how the darkness post Amarantha blocks her creativity but the calm and security of Velaris and the dreamers cracks open that defensiveness, the fear until she’s willing to think of painting again. You can’t help but want all of the happiness for Feyre which makes all those brutal tasks she takes on all the more tense.

The other characters we meet in her story are equally as tangible, all unique and carefully crafted. Identity is so solid in each new interaction and the villains are pretty gnarly too. I love it when I can really hate a villain, when they’re so terribly vile you really feel that animosity. Like they’ve threatened you personally. And Amanthara does that job very aptly. The dark beings like the Attor and Naga are equally as haunting in the brutal way Maas portrays them. I like darkness very much, nightmares and horror, and these books are saturated in it.

Then there are the unexpected villains, in the second book for example when one of the good guys from the first does a switch and goes from being a beloved hero to a bit of a sorry excuse for a man. There is room for much sympathy toward Tamlin but because Feyre is our conduit to this world, because you experience her so completely, it’s hard to have an unbiased view. Though Lucien’s involvement in Feyre’s depression always hurt me more, Tamlin was always a little bland in my view but Lucien was a cracker and I needed him to stay good.

But lets just take a hot (literally) minute to discuss Rhysand.  In his introduction in the first book he has that love hate situation about him. He’s charming and seductive and so opposite to Tamlin and even though he’s presented as a threat there’s something in his description that you can’t quite help feeling endeared by and then in the second book I found myself looking forward to his involvement. So cheeky and lighthearted whilst the rest of the plot was so dark and twisted. And then of course his whole backstory and his family back at Valeris. He’s that classic tortured soul, misunderstood by the world and harbouring a heart of gold. He’s divine.

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Settings are also so crucial throughout, so much imagery goes into casting a whole host of fantastic scene’s. The Night Court becomes something so magical when you’ve been led to believe its a nightmare. Cassian and Azriel and Mor and Amren are all such delights, my little dreamers. It’s always intriguing when the characters have a darkness and a light to them. When they’re a little bit screwy. It makes them relatable, despite the whole magic thing. And each of them already possess their own whole little worlds inside the mammoth plot that I would kill for a spin off series, prior to the current day, that goes into detail about how they all met and all of the shenanigans they got up to. That unit of characters really made the series for me.

I, of course, have to gush about all the magical stuff. I love me a deeply intricate fantasy world and Maas delivered in this series. Prythian is a beast of a world, a place that you yearn to hear more tales of, especially in the third book when you’re introduced to the other Courts and their High Lords. And all of the creatures that inhabit the place, not just Fae (always a favourite with me) but some original species too, like the Illyrians and Shadowsingers.

Finally I just wanted to give a massive shout out to the social issues Mass interweaves throughout the three books. Yes the whole class element is nifty but also the idea’s surrounding gender and sexuality. Though I wouldn’t personally categorise this series as Young adult, due to all those naughty scenes and the violence and torture and all that good stuff, it’s positive to know that younger readers are being exposed to all types of representation. Mor’s little confession to Feyre in the third novel, about her attraction to women and her lost love whom no one knows of, had my feels all in a tangle. I need another addition to the series if only to see Morrigan happy. And then, of course, all of the badass women, including Amarantha and especially lovely, brave, Feyre. The feminism is oozing out of the pages in this one.

I’m so sorry that this turned into one heck of a ramble. I really need to get a grip on how I want to present the whole book element to this page. But if you’re a fantasy fan, a lover of a well developed world and carefully constructed scenes, if you’re love of a novel is held quite detrimentally in the hands of its characters then this series will not disappoint. Go read it and if you have already lets gush about it together in the comments!

Oh, and be sure to follow me on Goodreads! – Check it for more specific reviews on each book.

Happy energy, always, N x

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Inspiration…

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I’m such a visual person and I’m constantly making these daft little moodboards, I lot of it has to do with me living on a backpackers budget and having limited space for clothes. I love style but have to do what I can with a handful of pieces. This is my way of indulging in that side of my interests. I’ve included a wee mixtape too. There are a lotta old tunes on it, I’m not much into listening to new releases right now but instead I’m taking comfort in the familiar tracks I can belt out in the shower. Maybe you’ll find a few gems in there anyways or maybe rediscover an old favourite.

P.s. The new MGMT album though. Still not fully convinced but there are some refreshing as hell, interesting, sounds in there. Not that I’d expect anything less. Opinions? Anything I should be listening too?

All the love, N x