inspiration

Writing Haikus #1

5:48 pm

Haikubes

I have a lot of word-based creativity games stashed away in my room, so today I thought I would pull out my trusty box of Haikubes (Chronicle Books) in an attempt to get the creative part of my brain working again. They're very easy to use. You roll all of the dice, put aside the two with statements on as your 'inspiration' for the haiku, and you make a 5/7/5 syllable poem out of what's left. The statements on my dice today were 'A DESIRE FOR' and 'MY CHILDHOOD'. That's a pretty meaty topic for anyone. Here's what I came up with:

Haikubes haikus

GLEEFUL FANTASY
THIS PRECIOUS SIMPLE GENTLE PEACE
I SLOWLY CLAMOR FOR

M x

comics

Library Comic Book & Graphic Novel Haul #2

1:00 pm


This week I actually managed to read/watch some of my library borrowings and return them, freeing my up some more loan space to fill with graphic novels. It's nice having a lovely librarian who will actually stock graphic novels, including ones that aren't over a decade old (Patience was released earlier this year). Here are my three most recent finds, plucked from the shelves and brought into my life.

Adventures of a Japanese Business Man - José Domingo (2013, Nobrow Press)
This is the second graphic novel I've picked up from Nobrow Press (the former being the slightly-confusing Destination X by John Martz, hauled here), and this one also has some stunning cover art. I'd never heard of it before, but Domingo's cartooning and use of panels inside made it nearly impossible to put back down. The title explains the concept pretty well, as the story follows a Japanese businessman leaving work and stumbling across some rather fantastical events. This is probably going to be a quick, but fun read.

Patience - Daniel Clowes (2016, Fantagraphics)
Now, I (shockingly) didn't really get on with Ghost World when I read it a few years ago, but find myself now with another of Daniel Clowes' books in my hands. Patience is described as a 'psychedelic science-fiction love story'. My brain is saying 'what's not to like?'. Hopefully practice will say 'nothing'. I do really like the illustrations in this one.

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth - Chris Ware (2003, Jonathan Cape)
A few summers ago I saw someone give a talk on the worlds of Chris Ware and ever since I've been eager to pick up one of his graphic novels. From what I can grasp, Jimmy Corrigan is one of his most popular, and by glancing at the art I can see that I am probably not going to be let down. There is something about Ware's illustrations style that I find so compelling and almost comforting, like weekend newspaper cartoons with a shinier edge. This is probably the first I will be picking up of these three.

M x

reading

Quick Book Reviews: Marisha Pessl, Lauren Oliver, and Emma Cline*

7:04 pm

Quick book reviews: Night Film by Marisha Pessl, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, and The Girls by Emma Cline

* I was fortunate to receive a copy of The Girls via NetGalley and Chatto & Windus, but all opinions are my own *

Night Film (2013, Hutchinson) - Marisha Pessl (4 stars)
This book had been on my radar for years after initially being drawn in by the cover artwork for one of its early editions. Night Film follows a disgraced reporter investigating the supposed suicide of the daughter of a cult horror film director. That description is a good start really, isn't it? This book is spooky and haunting, with multimedia aspects including news report clippings, online profiles, and sections ripped out of notebooks. It was also released alongside an app which I didn't use whilst reading, but apparently expands more upon these articles. Even without the app this book was full of information, with an incredibly deep-reaching story that goes on for over 600 pages. I don't really read a lot of 'horror' books (although I would call this much more of a mystery-horror than straight up horror as all of the awful things happen behind closed doors) but this has really lingered with me weeks after finishing. A very original story, well-executed, and one I didn't want to end.

The Girls* (2016, Chatto & Windus) - Emma Cline (3 stars)
This book has been getting attention from everyone, from professional reviewers to national magazines to Youtube beauty bloggers. It adds to the Manson-mania that seems to have been happening over the past two years, including the recent YA release My Favourite Manson Girl (also marketed as American Girls) and the TV show Aquarius. The Girls is basically a fictional retelling of the Manson cult. Our protagonist Evie lives a simple life with her mother in the 1970s until she meets Suzanne and the other girls. They flock around their charismatic leader, Russell, and live a life of free love, free (see: stealing) food, and free thought. Predictably, due to the Manson parallels, things start to go horrifically and violently wrong. The atmosphere of this book is compelling and hazy, and also probably the thing I liked the most about it. Cline does a wonderful job of transporting the reader back to the 1970s and creates a realistic voice for her young narrator that didn't feel patronising or fake. However I didn't find the story incredibly compelling and didn't feel like I had really experienced much by the end. The inclusion of a separate story told by a middle-aged Evie as a sort-of framing device also seemed a bit unnecessary. 

Delirium (2011, Hodder) - Lauren Oliver (4 stars)
A young adult dystopian read to itch that part of my brain once again, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one! Delirium is set in a world where love is illegal and must be cured. Yes, I know, stick with me on this one. When girls/boys reach eighteen they go through 'the procedure' which makes love, basically, impossible and they are matched with a boy/girl with whom they will live out the rest of their lives (homosexuality is basically eradicated through this too, hence the boy/girl pairings). Lena is our narrator and ninety-five days before her procedure, she meets Alex. Chaos and teen-romance ensues. Despite the cheesy premise, I bloody loved this book. It was funny, left lots of space in the future books for world expansion, and I really liked Lena as a YA protagonist. The second installment of the series, Pandemonium, is already downloaded and ready to go on my iPad.

M x

beauty

The Blurt Foundation's BuddyBox Lite: August 2016

1:00 pm

The Blurt Foundation BuddyBox

If you've not heard of the Blurt Foundation, I'll get you up to speed: they're dedicated to providing support and information for those affected by depression, whether people themselves with depression, or family and friends. They have a site full of articles about depression and anxiety, coping mechanisms, how to speak to people going through these things, and much more. They describe themselves as 'the knowing nod', the one that shows someone is listening and understands what you're saying.

Subscription boxes are at an all-time high right now, and Blurt have their own BuddyBox to throw into the mix. Each month you can have a box sent to yourself or a loved one filled with wonderful self-care goodies. This can be edibles, crafts, and other nice things to keep you calm and feeling just that little bit better. For £21.50 a month you will receive 5+ items, but there is also a cheaper alternative available for £12 containing three full-sized items if you just want a trial or you're on a budget. I decided to give the Lite BuddyBox a go, and you can see below the kind of thing you get inside.

The Blurt Foundation BuddyBox

The box contains multiple postcards. One explains what the box is for, which is important if you're sending the box to someone else, and another gives you all the social media links you need to share the contents of your box with the world. Every month Blurt will pick someone who has shared their box on social media and send them a free one the following month. Above you can also see a postcard (with two people hugging) especially to fill out and leave someone for a stranger to find. Finally we have the 'You're fintastic' postcard which lives on my pinboard, and a sticker sheet which serves as the first item in the box. I've already shared these out among my family. We're sticker fiends.

The Blurt Foundation BuddyBox

The remaining two items I received were this adorable Coconut Water Fibre Face Mask from OH K - a company that specialises in Korean beauty. I used this mask the next day and it was quite the experience! It's a sheet mask, which I have never used before, coated in a very strongly-smelling coconut treatment. You leave it on for 15-20 minutes, which is quite the feat as it slipped down my face and into my mouth far too many times I count. The experience was hilariously fun, however, and I did very much enjoy smelling so much like piña colada. You can see in my first photo an adorable tin mug that was also included, which was oddly just what I was needing in my bedroom for the bedside table. It perfectly fits the theme of the box (the seaside!) and makes me feel a little like a sailor or fisherman when I use it.

All in all this was a really successful trial run for me and the BuddyBox. I'll probably order another one in the future, and maybe for a friend as £11 seems quite reasonable for three lovely gifts! Fingers crossed I get food next time...

M x

reading

Book Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

6:43 pm

Book review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

It has taken me way too long to write this review, considering the fact I started reading this book in May and have prompted another friend to read it since (spoiler: we both bloody loved it). I don't remember ever buying Bitter Greens but I know it was there on my Kindle app when I needed it the most (craving more retellings after finishing The Lunar Chronicles).

Bitter Greens (2013, Allison & Busby) is a fairy tale retelling by Kate Forsyth, focusing and building upon the story of Rapunzel. And, never fear, we're in good retelling territory here. There's enough original, witty, and clever content here to shake a stick at. There's also witches.

The story is told from three different perspectives over time. The first is Charlotte-Rose, a novelist (in reality the first person to ever write down the story that is what we know today as Rapunzel) who is banned from Versailles by Louis XIV and sent to a convent. There she meets a Sister who tells the story of Margherita, a young girl hidden in a tower by a witch after her father steals bitter greens from her garden. It's Margherita's tale that forms the second narrative and the main retelling of the Rapunzel story in this book. The final entwined narrative is that of Selena Leonelli, a red-headed courtesan and artist's muse living in Venice. We follow as readers these three women through the tragedies of their lives and witness in the end how they are all braided together, happily or not.

Bitter Greens is an incredibly slow-paced book, but to me that was part of its beauty. The entire journey is sleepy and dream-like (often nightmare-like), taking place in Venice, Paris, Versailles. Forsyth presents you with all of the information you need to know about these cities and their cultures, painting them in your mind like a true artist. After the first chapter I didn't even care that this was a fairy tale retelling; I just wanted to know what was going to happen next. Why was Charlotte-Rose being sent to a convent? What did she do? Was she fairly treated? Does she deserve this? I was completely engrossed in her world.

To anyone wanting to read Bitter Greens, I must warn you that this is not a book for children or young teenagers. Scattered throughout are dozens of sex scenes (historical fiction seems to be unable to function without them these days), but also scenes of sexual violence, rape, and drug abuse. This is most certainly a fairy tale for adults. If you're easily affected by this sort of content, I don't think this book is for you. I did find myself flinching at times, but I imagine the things depicted are very, very real for many women now, and in the past.

This was a five-star read for me, and one that is going to stay with me for a long time. It cleverly weaves realistic historical narratives with fairy tale and witchcraft (witch stories are the best stories), with an added dollop of amazing characterisation and beautiful language.

M x

haul

A Magically Marvellous Book Haul

12:01 pm


The summer spirit is truly upon us at work, especially when it comes to the Summer Book Swap. After hauling in a few books my shelves could do without, I browsed the other donations and picked up some eagerly that have been on my reading list for a while. Two turned to three, turned to five. Oops. The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern, Vintage, 2012) was thrust into my hands by a colleague, even though I definitely would have picked it up on my own accord. I've been excited to read this slow-burning magic masterpiece and now I finally have the chance. The internet seemed to go crazy for it a few years back. Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel, Picador, 2015) came through the post after a friend recommended it to me (again, it was already on the list!), so that's another book soon to be read. The Taxidermist's Daughter (Kate Mosse, Orion, 2015) was a bit of a spontaneous choice on my part as I had no idea what it was about and had only seen it in passing. From the blurb it promises to be a dark and spooky read, maybe one to save for later in the year.


The final three books from the book swap are:

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman (Sceptre, 2014) - I remember this book receiving a lot of praise last year after its English re-release. Ove is a grumpy old man getting on in his solitary world when a young family move in next door and shake things up. I think 'heart-warming' is the best way to describe this.

The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith (Sphere, 2013) - This is the first time I've ever come close to reading anything non-Potter of J.K's, but I'm looking for some exciting crime and mystery to read, so I couldn't turn this down. 

The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende (Black Swan, 1986) - I will readily admit this was influenced a lot by the slightly uneasy but very pink cover. It looks like something you would find in a holiday hotel room or in a country pub, discarded by its previous owner. It reminds me a lot of my edition of Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood. Reviews call it 'one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century', telling the story of three generations of the Trueba family.

M x

comics

Book Review: Queer: A Graphic History by Dr Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele*

1:00 pm

Book review: Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

Book review: Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

* Icon Books kindly sent me a copy of Queer for review, but my opinions below are just that: my opinions! *

'Activist-academic Megan-John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. A kaleidoscope of characters from the diverse worlds of pop culture, film, activism and academics guide us on a journey through the ideas, people and events that have shaped queer theory. From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do, and how culture can shift out perspective of what's 'normal'.'
-

This review will begin with two thank-yous for Icon Books. The first: thank you for sending me a copy of Queer: A Graphic History for review! The second: thank you for your 'Introducing' series. Without it, I certainly would not have done as well in either my degrees. Shout-out to Introducing Freud - A Graphic Guide. Never has death drive made so much sense.

Icon Books specialise in non-fiction and publish on a range of subjects including science, politics, psychology, and philosophy. Their books are academic and thought-provoking, sometimes introducing subjects to readers for the first time, but also sometimes serving as a space to expand on knowledge already gained. In simple words: some of their books are really easy to read and some of their books are a bit more complicated. As I mentioned before, their 'Introducing' series is a very good one if you're interested in a subject (maybe a type of critical theory, a religion, a philosopher) and don't really know where to start. Think of them as primers.

I would say that Queer: A Graphic History is one of the more advanced of their publications. I've studied queer theory before during my postgraduate studies, but a lot of this was very new to me still and took several reads to wrap my head around. But this is fine, because learning is fun, right? This book details queer theory from its precursors and beginnings through to its uses and applications today. It's full of sources, quotations, and suggestions for further reading: a very good summary of primary texts for those looking for a comprehensive background to the subject. I wish this had been around when I was writing my dissertation because it includes all of the people I was writing about (Adrienne Rich, Teresa de Lauretis, Monique Wittig), but oh so many more too!

For those who haven't yet been introduced to queer theory, it's a type of post-structuralist critical theory that looks at existing texts through a 'queer lens' ('queer' being a sort of umbrella term for people who are not straight or cis-gendered), but also questions what 'queer' is. Like a lot of critical theory, it sounds pretty complicated. A lot of queer theory discusses and deconstructs gender, gender norms, sexuality, what is classed as 'normal' and 'other', as well as how race, disability, religion, and cultural background feed into all of this. It basically covers all bases of society and looks at how these 'norms' we're so used to are imposed unnecessarily, especially the use of binaries (male/female, straight/gay, cis/trans, white/black, good/evil, right/wrong, able/disabled.) A much more elegant and comprehensive explanation can be found in this book, or anywhere online if you do a quick search. I certainly don't claim to be an expert!

More on the book itself: I would call Queer: A Graphic History a real must-have for anyone studying or interested in learning more about queer theory. It's comprehensive, clearly-written, and a lot of fun! Icon's graphic guides are wonderful for taking critical theories, breaking them down into manageable chunks, and providing helpful imagery to aid your understanding. Illustrations provide refuse from the huge blocks of text we can get used to when studying. Another aspect I loved about this book was the application of queer theory onto popular culture, branching away from traditional discussions by showing how these things are actually used by people everyday on the internet when they read between the lines of their favourite shows and create fan/slash fiction. Critical theory put into a contemporary context = <3 

Queer: A Graphic History will be published by Icon Books in September for the UK and November for the US, RRP £11.99/$17.95. You can follow Meg-John and Julia on Twitter at @megjohnbarker and @juliascheele.

M x

colouring

An Overly Excessive Colouring Book Collection (feat. gifs!)

9:00 am

Magic & Musings colouring book collection

This blog post mainly came about due to a sudden brainwave I had lying in bed one night. I was wondering how on earth to show off a colouring book collection without using a simple stream of photos, and here we have it: gifs (pronounced with a hard 'g', thank you). As you may have seen in my previous post on Steph Halligan's Art to Self colouring book, I love colouring. Sitting in bed of an evening, colouring in one of my many colouring books whilst watching something on my laptop is pretty much my definition of a relaxing evening. Here's my collection in its full animated glory:

Jane Austen colouring book

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: A Colouring Classic - Chellie Carroll, Little Tiger Press
A relatively new addition, received as a gift from my stepmum. Lots of pretty, incredibly detailed, pictures.

Millie Marotta animal kingdom colouring book

Very detailed illustrations of plants and animals for when you're colouring with an attention span.

Creative colouring for grown-ups

The Creative Colouring Book for Grown-Ups - Ana Bjezancevic, Michael O'Mara Books
One of my first adult colouring books, which has since turned into a sort of collage-book.

Cambridge colouring book

The Cambridge Colouring Book - Kath Lees, Two Towers Press
Won at my work's Christmas dinner as part of a highly-competitive Secret Santa. Cambridge landscapes and artifacts from local museums.

Steph Halligan Art to Self colouring book

Art to Self Coloring Book - Steph Halligan, Amazon
 A very, very new addition. Review can be found here!


The bizarre colouring book for adults 2

The Bizarre Coloring Book for Adults 2 - Penny Farthing Graphics
Another Secret Santa gift, this time rightfully given and not stolen! Very bizarre illustrations but a welcome change from pretty pictures.

London colouring book

The London Colouring Book - Julian Mosedale, Buster Books
I can't remember where I received this one, but it has lovely cartoon-ish illustrations of London landmarks.

Creative colouring vintage patterns book

Creative Colouring for Grown-Ups: Vintage Patterns - Hannah Davies, Michael O'Mara Books
A classic adult colouring book.

Mindfulness colouring book art therapy

A tiny weeny colouring book of relaxing illustrations. A good size to pop into your work bag.

Star Wars colouring book

Art thérapie Star Wars - Hachette Livre
A gift from my grandparents after they spent some time in France. Can also be purchased in English, but it's not like the words are the important thing here.

Colour with me colouring book

Colour With Me: A Colouring Book to Share - Cindy Wilde, Felicity French, and Hannah Davies, Buster Books
A colouring book made for sharing. You can colour one page and your friend can colour the other! This is one of my favourites as it has some adorable images, especially the food ones.

If you have any colouring book recommendations, or just some favourites, please let me know as, honestly, I've started hoarding them at this point and it seems rude to stop. Feed the addiction.

M x

colouring

(Colouring) Book Review: Art to Self by Steph Halligan

1:00 pm

Colouring book review: Art to Self by Steph Halligan

I'm certainly one for a motivational daily newsletter straight to my inbox. Those little doses of happiness add structure to my day and, conveniently, the Art to Self one comes just as I'm walking into work. The email contains a motivational or inspirational cartoon drawn by the lovely Steph Halligan, along with a paragraph from her on what inspired this drawing and how the message is impacting her life at the moment. It's a lovely short burst of happiness during which you can get your breath back and stop floating around in bad feelings.

Steph's Art to Self drawings have always seemed the perfect thing for a colouring book, and lucky for us all, this is what has happened! Released yesterday (July 31st!), the Art to Self colouring book contains some of the favourite cartoons of Steph and subscribers to her newsletter, ready and raring to be coloured in. I think my favourite part of her drawings are their simplicity, making them easy to colour quickly and, like the newsletter, gives you a little boost in your day. 10-15 minutes spent colouring one of Steph's cartoons can sometimes be just want to need to ground yourself. Below I've included some of my favourites I've coloured in so far, and one I'm looking forward to doing next!

Colouring book review: Art to Self by Steph Halligan

Colouring book review: Art to Self by Steph Halligan

Colouring book review: Art to Self by Steph Halligan

Colouring book review: Art to Self by Steph Halligan

The Art to Self colouring book is available now, and is perfect for the wonder that is mindful colouring. Who can deny an adult colouring book these days? Also, you should definitely subscribe to Steph's newsletter if you want a dose of happiness each morning. 

M x

P.S. A colouring book collection post is coming soon, so hold on to your crayons.