Rainbowthon 2.0 TBR

9:00 am

The last time I did a read-a-thon I failed miserably, but as I am currently at a point in my life where I'm eager to get as much reading done as possible and fitting reading around my work day, I thought now would be a good a time as any to try again. After watching Riley's Rainbowthon 2.0 announcement video yesterday morning I picked a few books off of my shelf of varying rainbow colours to attempt to read during the week 8th-14th February. You can find more details on the specifics of the read-a-thon and how to choose books by watching Riley's video, but it's relatively straightforward. I've chosen the highest end of books to read as a bit of a challenge, but I also won't force myself if I'm just not feeling any of them. The list is as follows:

The Chrysalids - John Wyndham
The Piano Teacher - Elfriede Jelinek
Bliss and Other Stories - Katharine Mansfield
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

I've tried to combine varying genres and lengths of books in order to keep my interest in the week, so we've got lyrics in the Balling, young adult fiction from Sebold, short stories from Mansfield, science fiction from Wyndham, non-fiction from Ronson, and translated fiction from Jelinek.

Let me know if you're also planning on doing the Rainbowthon 2.0, and what you're planning on reading. I can never get enough of TBRs for reading inspiration. Peace out.

M x


Book Review: Antoinette May's The Determined Heart*

9:00 am

* I was fortunate to receive an eARC of The Determined Heart via NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing, thank you! *

I'm not usually one for historical fiction, but when I see novels floating around telling the stories of authors and revolutionary figures, I can easily be won over. Mary Shelly is a woman I've been interested in learning about since I was in lower school and someone exclaimed to be that 'Frankenstein was written by a girl! And she was only eighteen when she wrote it!' How could I not be interested? I never studied the novel in school, whereas many other people did, and when I reached university we spent a lot more time focusing on the writings of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, alongside our Romantic and Victorian literature modules.

The Determined Heart is a fictionalised version of Mary's life, with the author's note at the end stating that creative licence was taken in a few cases to help the story flow more, but the majority of what's on the page is as it was. Obviously conversations are fabricated because, well, obviously. The story begins with Mary as a child adjusting to her father's new romance after the death of her mother. From here to begin to see her relationships, including that with her sister Fanny and her new stepsister Clara. We're introduced to a lot of characters at once which can be quite confusing, but I found it easy to tether them out once the story really got underway. We read about Mary meeting her future beau, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the conflicts that arise through Fanny and Clara's infatuation also, the rejection of Mary by her father, and the explosive arrival of the beast that is Lord Byron. There is a great deal of world travel and grand adventures, juxtaposed with constantly troublesome relationships between, basically, everyone. There is infidelity on all sides, which Mary must deal with in the name of 'free love', something her mother believed in (and got in a lot of trouble for).

The most interesting relationship dynamic in the story for me was between that of Mary and her deceased mother. Throughout her life Mary is compared to her feminist, revolutionary, philosophising mother, loved by many, but hated by just as many. The burden of her mother's 'scandalous' views does not serve Mary well when she herself is judged for her elopement with Bysshe and rejected by her family. All men that meet her comment upon how like her mother she is, with many stating they liked her but found her views a bit...much. We see many decisions being made by Mary that create a conflict between her strongest feminist ideals and her obsessive want for Bysshe, a family, more children, stability, and fidelity. 

One thing I had issue with in this novel was the unnecessary name-and-quote-dropping. Especially at the start of the book, I found the exposition and inclusion of famous names far too in-your-face, and feel it could have been done in a more subtle way. There was a lot of 'Bond, James Bond' going on when you met new characters, or heard of their existence, which took me out of the story momentarily. I will praise Antoinette May, however, for the depth of her research for this novel as the detail she goes into at times is incredibly impressive. You can tell that this has been a subject she has enjoyed studying and is passionate about, which in turn makes it very enjoyable to read.

Overall I would recommend this book to those interested in reading more about Mary Shelley's life, and aren't worried about a bit of added drama. It's a quick read that I sped through in a matter of days and really rekindled my love for this time period.

M x


Bright Paper Packages: January 2016

1:00 pm

Oh boy, Bright Paper Packages outdid themselves this month. Last month's box with the theme 'Celebrate & Sparkle' was wonderful, but this month's 'Bright New Year' was a new level of spectacular. The first thing in the box was this adorable illustrated desk calendar from Not Only Polka Dots. The calendar is a mini-easel with a selection of illustrated designs for each month, each with a fruity print. I am absolutely in love with this and am so happy with it as I've been trying to find ways to still keep a physical calendar in my room after moving away from large wall ones (I use my phone to keep dates these days). It sits happily next to last month's straws.

Next is this mini enamel pin badge from Hand Over Your Fairy Cakes, a company from which I have often admired products in the past. My stepmum is a fan of their jewelry so I was really happy to see something from them in this month's box. The rainbow spectrum design looks wonderful on a cosy jumper and has brightened up my outfit's this week at work. I'm really happy with how well made this pin is and I can tell the colouring isn't going to scratch off or the metal oxidise any time soon.

Next up is this pink leather pencil pouch from Ark Cambridge, a company very local to me and a shop I've been in many a time! As soon as I saw this I fell in love. I've seen similar sassy stationary on the likes of Pinterest and Tumblr a lot in the past year, so I'm incredibly happy to have my hands on some.

Inside the pouch came four golden pencils.

Last but certainly not least are two bars of organic chocolate from Doisy & Dam. One bar is white chocolate and contains lemon, poppy seed, and baobab (I'm not sure why I'm talking in the present tense; these bars are long gone) and the other milk chocolate with roasted cacao nibs. Both were delicious treats and I'll be keeping my eye out for more by this company (date and pink salt, yum). I believe both bars were fully gluten and soy free, organic, and with products sourced sustainably. Many of their dark chocolate bars are also vegan, so maybe a good thing to keep in mind when you're looking for a gift.

I'm over the moon with happiness thanks to this month's Bright Paper Packages box, and can't wait to see what pops through the door in February.

M x


Mr Robot: The Best TV Show of 2015

3:46 pm

Image credit: Lena @ theheartofgold on Tumblr.
I urge you at any point before watching Mr Robot NOT to read anything about it. The world is rife with spoilers and this is one show you want to be shocked by. Real hands-clasped-on-face shock. Real screeching-at-the-screen shock. Real gentle-sobbing-and-rocking-back-and-forth shock. Honestly, look nothing up. Even cast lists will screw you over.

I was first introduced to Mr Robot back in the summer by my boyfriend, and we watched an episode together. Now I'll tell you this: that entire night when I was asleep in bed, I dreamt about that show. I couldn't stop thinking about that show. My brain was happily living in the world of that show, to the point at which I didn't watch the second episode until maybe a month later because I didn't want it to ruin this vision I had in my head of what was going to happen. That's when you know a show has totally got you hooked.

By the time I got to episode three, I had reached the point of 'I need to watch this, and I need to watch this now', and by 2am I had watched all but the final episode. I decided it was best to leave that until I had fully-functioning mental capacities after sleeping through the night. The next morning (or the same morning if you're being picky), I woke up and immediately watched the finale. It ended, I cried, all I could do was Google the show for the rest of the day, week, month, year. No exaggeration. Mr Robot is my favourite television show of the year, and potentially of all time, and today is the day I force you to watch it.

Our protagonist is Elliot Alderson, played by the ever-wonderful Rami Malek. He suffers from social anxiety, clinical depression, and delusions, which he attempts to combat through drug abuse. He quietly works at a cybersecurity company, spending his free time side hustling as a hacker. After a huge, complicated hack affects the company he works for, he is brought face-to-face with 'fsociety', an underground hacking group, and their mysterious leader 'Mr Robot' (played by Christian Slater, see image) who invites him to join their ranks in an attempt to bring down, basically, the whole of society to start fresh. That's the basic foundation of our story, but bring onto that Eliot's own personal demons, the grating nature of Mr Robot, the introduction of the troubled characters around him, as well as the big wigs at the top plotting their way to greatness. A lot of interesting relationship dynamics are produced by this dangerous mixture of storylines, and I never found myself bored of what was happening on screen.

One of the most wonderful things about Mr Robot is the diversity and inclusivity of its cast. In 'fsociety' was have Eliot (an Egyptian-American male), Mr Robot himself, Romero (a black American male), Trenton (an Iranian-American woman, also the girl in the 'Turn Down for What' video), Darlene, and Mobley (an Asian-American male). Later in the series we meet an important character to the progression of the plot who is a transgender woman. One main character is a gay man, and another is seen conducting relationships with both women and men. I really can't think of a show off the top of my head that deals so well with diversity without showing off that it is diverse. This mix of people, like in the real world, is completely normal, and that's how it should be.

This is pretty much all I can say about Mr Robot without giving the good stuff away; I do wish I could say more and gush to you all day about how much I adore it. Just settle yourself down with the first episode and allow yourself to become immersed. Everyone who I've spoken to about the show has loved it (imagine my face when I discovered two whole people at work who had watched it also) and gulped it down in a handful of sittings. You can watch Mr Robot instantly on Amazon Prime if you're in the UK. You probably should.

M x


Waterstones Gift Card Haul 2016

1:00 pm

Ahh, Christmas. A time of giving and a time of receiving gift cards. If you're anything like me, the prospect of choosing your own bookish presents will fill you with joy, and that's exactly what I did during a city jaunt last weekend. Gift card in hand, I naturally picked up some of the first things I saw in Waterstones that I was interested in, then pointlessly browsed everything else. 

I'm always a fan of the table displays in Waterstones as I find they're really good at bunching together the right kinds of books I'm interested in. On a non-fiction table I found two titles I've been really looking forward to picking up: So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson and Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I really enjoy Jon Ronson's writing and have heard so many interviews with him about this book, as well as read the articles he's written online to supplement it. I'm really interested to hear in more detail about how the internet jumps to shame those who either accidentally or purposely say less-than-ideal things. Regarding Yes Please, I'm a huge Amy Poehler fan and find her to be an incredibly intelligent woman, so this has been on my list ever since it was released. This is the paperback version and oddly weighty, with pages of illustration, graphics, and photographs inside to balance out what I can only expect to be hilarious and inspiring anecdotes and advice from Amy herself.

Last but certainly not least is Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka. I've never really delved into the world of Star Wars written fiction before, but I've known of it and its strong fanbase for a while now. It seemed silly to be such a fan of the series and so invested in the canon of stories to avoid a whole other medium simply because it wasn't in the 'film canon'. The release of Star Wars fiction has rocketed since the hype for The Force Awakens started, with Disney doing a brilliant job at getting new books published giving backstories and side missions for new characters and old. There was a whole selection at Waterstones from the adventures Han and Chewie to Leia, but this is the one I really wanted to get my hands on after seeing a review for it on Goodreads. Before the Awakening collects three backstories, one per lead of the new film: Rey, Finn, and Poe. Could this get any better? No, it could not. Feed the obsession. Feed it.

I hope you're all spending your Christmas gift cards well, and please let me know if you've read any of the things I've picked up!

M x


January 2016 Goals: Crafting, Music Discovery, & Lunches

1:00 pm

Happy New Year! We're back round to January, the month of planning, dreaming, and getting things done. I love the feeling of the start of a new year, and will always say that the current year feels better than the last. This year, thanks to Gala Darling's Radical Self Love Coven Almanac, I will be setting myself three goals per month to keep me, well, getting things done. It's easy to get into a 'go to work, get back from work, go to work again' rut, so having short-term goals is something that really keeps me positive and motivated. For January I have decided upon the following goals:

  • Plan and complete one whole craft project.
    • I've always been into arts and crafts, but never had enough confidence in my ability to really try and make something. I've made a pledge this year, after reading so many motivating books about creativity (Big Magic, I'm looking at you), to make things without the fear of failure, so in January I'm looking to plan and create one whole craft project. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet; it could be painting, weaving, sewing. Watch this space.

  • Listen to ten random albums from 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
    • Using a random number generator, I've picked out ten albums from the above book to listen to to broaden my musical horizons. I like to think I already have a very varied musical taste thanks to being brought up by a dad who adores music, but you can never stop searching. Here follows the very 1970s-centric list:
      • 1967 - Loretta Lynn - Don't Come Home A Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)
      • 1968 - Aretha Franklin - Aretha: Lady Soul
      • 1970 - Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's Factory
      • 1970 - Rod Stewart - Gasoline Alley
      • 1970 - Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughs
      • 1975 - Patti Smith - Horses
      • 1976 - Parliament - Mothership Connection
      • 1979 - Japan - Quiet Life
      • 1998 - Pulp - This Is Hardcore
      • 2006 - Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
    • If you want to listen along with me, here is a playlist below including the ten albums. I'm going to be listening album-by-album for the full experience rather than on shuffle, so I would recommend you do the same.

  • Find at least one new lunch for work.
    • This is my last goal of the month, and probably the most important. I work afternoon and evening shifts at work, so it's really important for me to sort out my meals as I'm usually commuting around lunchtime or early afternoon. Naturally this means on many days I have a sub-par lunch, and sometimes no lunch at all. This is really bad as I'm a person incredibly sensitive to not having enough food, so I end up feeling tired, angry, and unwell. Therefore I'm going to be trawling Pinterest for quick, healthy, wholesome, and filling meals to prepare in advance for work. Fingers crossed.
M x


Goodbye Hepburn's Pixie Crop, Hello Magic & Musings!

8:16 pm

I'm currently suffering from that giddy excited feeling you get when you finally go for something you've been wanting to do, and it's not as scary or world-ending as you expected. Ladies and gentlemen, Hepburn's Pixie Crop is now Magic & Musings. I am so excited to get started in 2016 with a new blog name, and, fingers crossed, it'll give me the refreshment I need to get some very exciting projects off the ground. This blog is very nearly two years old and Hepburn's Pixie Crop has served me well, but I knew it just didn't fit anymore. Magic & Musings is where I live now, of course still dishing out random prattles about books and what I'm up to, but also existing as a space where I can start fresh and bounce around new ideas.

I hope you all had a very Happy New Year, and I'll see you in the next post...

M x