Book Review (s) – Brian Jacques: Mariel of Redwall/Salamandastron

Hello everyone! If you saw my to-read post earlier this month you will know that I had these two lined up. I read and re-read these many times over my childhood and early teenage years, so these aren’t full reviews – more like quick refreshers! If you are new to the Redwall series then I highly recommend you give it a go – no matter what age you are. However, BE WARNED, during these re-reads I had a watch of the animated television series which I apparently missed whilst growing up. And it was pretty naff, the illustrations on the covers of these books are far more suited to these stories then cartoons – however that’s just my opinion. Let me know if you have read or watched this series!

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Mariel of Redwall – Brian Jacques

This book is the fourth in the Redwall series and has always been one of my favourites because of its feisty female protagonist. Mariel is a young mouse, and whilst travelling with her father Joseph the Bellmaker to deliver a bell he has made to the badger lord at Salamanastron their ship is captured by Gabool the Wild – a pirate searat. He makes them his slaves, and places the bell in his castle. However Mariel upsets him and he ties her to a stake before throwing her  into the sea She washes ashore barely alive, with no memory of who she is. Fighting seabirds with a knotted rope she christens herself Storm Gullwhacker. Storm is found by three hares of the Long Patrol from Salamandastron who decide to escort her to Redwall Abbey – a place of safety.  It is here she makes new friends – a young hedgehog called Durry Quinn, Dandin a young mouse, and Tarquin a hare of prodigious appetite who is madly in love with Rosemary of the Long Patrol. An old riddle read by the gatekeeper of the Abbey unlocks Storm’s memories, and with only the riddle as a guide the new friends set off to avenge Storm and her father. However in their absence the Abbey comes under threat from searats who have deserted Gabool’s horde, and the peaceful Abbey creatures are hard pressed to defend themselves…

That was quite the synopsis ey?! I’m impressed with myself; I always find them hard to do. Anyway, this book was a cracker. The riddle from Redwall that ties the whole adventure together is intriguing, and definitely fun to try and puzzle out. What makes the book though are the hilarious characters – Mariel is so feisty and fierce, but grows up throughout the story. I think my favourite characters are the hares Tarquin and his lady love the Honourable Rosemary (Rosie). Rosie’s earsplitting laugh ruins secretive plans on more than one occasion and Tarquin constantly composes ditties about his two loves – Rosie and food.

Salamandastron – Brian Jacques

Fifth in the Redwall series this book tells the reader more about the badger lords who rule Salamandastron and their links with the Abbey. Mara a badgermaid, adopted by Urthstripe the ruling badger lord, is disgruntled at how Urthstripe treats her and along with her hare friend Pikkle leaves Salamandastron. Naively she becomes friends with a young weasel – who is the son of the leader of a great army of searats and vermin named the ‘Corpsemakers’. This army plan to trap the young pair, however the plan is foiled and Mara and Pikkle escape – only to be captured by a ferocious tribe of newts. Using the information gleaned from Mara and Pikkle the vermin horde begin to lay siege to Salamandastron. Whilst this is going on back at Redwall Abbey a young squirrel named Samkin and his mole friend Arula find themselves in trouble. Two stoats are preying on the hospitality of the Abbey folk and, after accidentally killing a member of the Abbey, flee with the famous sword of Martin the warrior. Framed for the death Samkin and Arula set off after the stoats, determined to prove their innocence and retrieve the sword. Another quest is underway as back at the Abbey Dryditch fever takes hold, and it is up to the otter Thrugg and a stowaway baby dormouse Dumble to bring back the cure from the distant mountains.

These three stories converge, and make for a great adventure! I really do love both of these books, and I think they make a great introduction into a fantasy world for children. They are filled with the most amazing descriptions of food – the Redwall feasts are legendary. And the different types of animal speak in various dialects – the hares are all ‘top notch old chap, I say! Wot’ wot’!’ whereas the moles speech is more rural. I have to admit, I did catch myself lying in bed acting out the different voices to a non-existent audience!

Did any of you read the Redwall books when you were younger? Have you been tempted to revisit them? For me the experience was just as enjoyable a good ten years after first reading them.

Becqui

 

Flat Tour: Things I Love

Flat tour: Things I Love

Hello! So this is something a little bit different, today I’m going to show you some peeks of the areas I love in my flat.  We (me and the boyfriend – Dan) recently moved in, less then two months ago; and whilst it is beginning to feel  a lot more like home we still have some big things to sort out. Mainly the bedroom as we needed more furniture, and whilst we managed to grab some bargains in a sale the delivery date keeps on getting delayed – so annoying! I also have a reading nook to furnish, as together our book collection overspills the bookshelves. If you like this post, I’ll show you some more of the flat when it is finished. Anyway as we’ve been moving our own stuff in I noticed how much of our interior is influenced by either books or television shows. I love reading, Dan loves computer games and we always have a television show on the go – so it’s not surprising really.

 

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01. This is above the dining table, and there is a matching print of Londinium on the opposite wall. These are fictional travel posters from the television series Firefly. Dan introduced me to the series with the words, ‘it’s a space-western’ and I loved it immediately. I think these posters look really nice – but I definitely need some bigger plants on the table to fill that space.

 

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02.I couldn’t decide where to put my orchid for ages, and moved it all around the living area. However I was looking for something to pair my quote (from Alice in Wonderland) with and I think that this is perfect. The whimsy of the orchid blossoms sets it off perfectly – and it’s at the foot of my bed, to remind me in the morning to dream of impossible things.

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03. Lastly, I suppose this isn’t really décor but this cocktail book my friend got me is brilliant! Such good fun. Is it cheesy to love themed cookbooks?

 

What did you think of this post? Interesting or not? I’d love to know what geeky décor you have in your home!

Becqui

Ps. If you want to have a look at the interior design that inspires me, then check out my Pinterest – I add new pictures pretty much every day and have a whole board dedicated to books, reading nooks and libraries.

Book Review: The Passage – Justin Cronin

The Passage – Justin Cronin

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Let’s start this with an apology. I’m super sorry guys but this is gonna be chock-a-block full of spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happens then close your eyes now! I normally try to steer clear of ruining books for people, but I just loved this one so so much I want to tell you all about the parts that interested me. And if you have read it then please speak up – I really want to discuss it with someone!

Vampirical apocalypse is what this novel is billed as, and right from the start you are know something catastrophic is going to happen. The opening section follows two stories; one of which is Amy’s, a young girl who has been abandoned with nuns by her mother. The second story is that of FBI Agent Wolgast who is in charge of collecting death row prisoners who have been given the option to live out the rest of their lives in incarceration rather than lethal injection. These inmates are then used for experimentation by the government, who have discovered a virus – transmitted by vampire bats that can make humans disease-free and thus immortal. Wolgast doesn’t object to this task, until he discovers that he has to pick up a thirteenth subject – Amy.

There is a connection between Wolgast and Amy from the very beginning, he even tries to escape with her – but is foiled – and upon returning to the government faculty stays with her up until she receives the injection. When everything inevitably goes to shit and the test subjects break out Wolgast manages to run away with Amy under the cover of the calamitous events that unfold. Whilst the term vampire is never used, the test subjects gain super strength, are virtually immune to attack and have a prodigious appetite for human flesh.

For a while the book follows the story of Amy and Wolgast’s survival, whilst the virus spreads across America. They hole up in a cabin in the mountains making occasional trips out for supplies. Amy has contracted some aspects of the virus, she does not age and is sensitive to light – however the destructive elements are not evident. This is where I thought the story would continue, with their survival and adaptation to the new world. However Justin Cronin brutally kills off Wolgast in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. I was not this massive twist, Wolgast is a brave extremely likeable character and it honestly threw me as to how the book would continue.

The following section picks up the story 92 years later; following a band of survivors who have formed a Colony surrounded by massive lights that burn all night thus protecting the survivors from the “virals” as they are dubbed. This section feels like a whole new novel, the virals are the only continuation until Amy shows up at the colony’s gates. Her arrival is the beginning of unrest throughout the colony. We learn that the batteries powering the lights are beginning to fail. People begin having strange dreams, leading to a chain of events in which the lights are turned off. There is a devastating viral attack which results in the death of a prominent figure in the Colony. A combination of these factors and increasing friction within the Colony force several members to leave along with Amy to seek out a radio signal which they believe to be from other survivors.

Ok, that’s it I won’t spoil any more of the plot; I will only say that it gets even stranger from there on in. A lot happens in this book, there are heaps of characters as well as many little side spinoffs and interactions that later have significant impact. Despite this it is a really great storyline; you can’t help but be drawn into the intrigue surrounding the virals. Cronin manages to depict a creature far more interesting and  than your regular zombie or vampire, these creatures have some degree of physic power being able to manipulate humans’ dreams and thoughts to weaken their defences. I found parts of this book really scary, something I haven’t experienced reading anything for a long long time. So if you like being terrified then this is one for you! I would recommend it to anyone who likes horror, dystopian novels and a good long book to get their teeth into. It is the first part of a trilogy so I expect a lot from the next installation (which I have already ordered!! Have any of you read The Passage? Who loved it as much as I did?

Book Review – David Starkey, Elizabeth: Apprenticeship

David Starkey – Elizabeth: Apprenticeship

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As you may have noticed in my previous post – I expressed an interest in reading more historical texts and this is one of the books that I was gifted by my lovely boyfriend. I had mentioned that I wanted to read it as from a bit of internet research it seemed like David Starkey was a pretty safe bet when it came to the Tudors. Elizabeth the 1st is such a fascinating character – as a child I loved looking at pictures and paintings of her. She was to my young mind, like a fairy tale queen; her pale skin and red hair set off by massive starched ruffs atop bejewelled dresses. Throughout junior school I was interested in Lady Jane Grey and her nine day reign, followed by Elizabeth taking the throne in such tumultuous times.

The blurb on the back of this book captures perfectly the intrigue that surrounds Elizabeth’s reign;

A woman in a man’s world, confident of her destiny to reign, intensely intelligent, passionately sexual yet (she said) a virgin, Elizabeth was to become England’s most successful ruler. Finding her way through the labyrinthine plots that surrounded the court, she had to live by her wits, surrounded by betrayal and suspicion, not knowing who to trust with her desire to be queen, or her desire to be a lover…’

Within the text Starkey focuses on Elizabeth’s early life, an area relatively unexplored, with the belief that this holds the key to her behaviour throughout her reign. The book begins with the event of her birth, an event which King Henry the 8th had divorced his first wife and married Elizabeth’s mother for, but unfortunately Elizabeth was not the longed for prince and heir. Nevertheless the first few years of her life were golden ones; she had her own house and was showered by gifts from her royal parents. Starkey points out that this might marks the beginning of the rift between her and her elder sister Mary, whose own house was dissolved and put under the charge of Elizabeth’s. However the doted-upon toddler’s life was soon to change, with the death of Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn. Starkey follows the effect Henry’ next three wives had on upon Elizabeth’s life – and I think very cleverly, throughout this childhood section sows the seeds of themes which will develop throughout her life.

Starkey’s impeccable scholarly research shines throughout, with his referrals back to letters and ledgers of the time. His interpretation of them is really interesting; particularly in regards to the words Elizabeth spoke and wrote around the time of her coronation on the topic of religion. Starkey says that careful ambiguity in her turn of phrase is the reason why she was so successful in making the changes to religion throughout the country. She had never stated her Catholic intent, and thus was able to make changes through her behaviour – and the court followed. I don’t know enough about religion in the Tudor times to state how accurate this interpretation is, but it made for interesting reading.

However – there is one thing that niggles, and I mean REALLY niggles at me about this book. Starkey’s aim is to make it read like a historical thriller, and there is enough in the life of Elizabeth the 1st to make this plausible, however he cannot resist making some little aside comments throughout. These, I feel, are intended humorously or descriptively but to me they just feel a bit overdone. He describes poor Mary as ‘pudgy’, and there is an exceptionally ill-mannered comment about attitudes to foreigners in England having not changed since the Tudor period. Small things, I know – but I just felt they were in bad taste.

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Tudors. You don’t need to be knowledgeable about the time period to read it, and it is a good read! Hopefully you will gel with Starkey a little better than I did. Are any of you interested in specific historical periods? I’d love to receive any historical fiction or non-fiction recommendations!

Becqui

What’s on my to-read list?

My to-read list.

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I don’t know about you but I love any kind of blog post that is a little bit nosey. Have you seen those ones where people post what is in their handbag? Or answer twenty questions? I love them. So it’s no surprise that I also love seeing what other people are reading. As my to-read shelf was looking pretty plump I thought I would share what I am planning on reading in the next couple of weeks!

Fiction

Brian Jacques: Mariel of Redwall / Salamandastron

These books made up so much of my childhood and I think are probably where my interest in fantasy fiction stems from.  They are set in an animal kingdom and follow the tale of Redwall Abbey, fore founder of which is the mouse warrior Martin. The woodland creatures in the Abbey and its surroundings strive for a peaceful existence; however this is constantly threatened by armies of rats weasels and ferrets – as well as sinister double-headed snakes which stalk the woods. Whilst battling these enemies, riddles must be deciphered and legends of times past consulted in order for the mice of Redwall to win the day. These are great books for children, the animals all speak in various British dialects which are hilarious and the descriptive passages of the feasts in the Abbey appeal to young and old. Re-reading them (I finished the first in the series, Redwall recently) was something I was tentative about, but they stand up to the test. Easy reads, but enthralling.

George R.R. Martin – A Dance with Dragons 2: After the Feast

I suppose this is technically another re-read – but I’m trying to finish the series off. If you want to see reviews of the other books in the series (and a comparison to the television show) then here’s the link to one of my previous posts. I don’t want to post any spoilers but I will say this, I LOVE Arya’s story in this book. It’s so strange and different from what is happening to every other character – you definitely get the feeling that she is going to blossom and be pretty spectacular in the books to come. I’m excited to finish this book, but also impatient for the next one to be published!

Justin Cronin – The Passage

Do any of you go on reddit a lot? There is a great subreddit which is all about books and I have to confess that quite often when looking for a recommendation I have a browse on there. If you have never been on reddit before then where have you been?! Go go go!! The Passage was recommended as a good post-apocalyptic read, something that I am really interested in. It details the collapsing of the world due to a highly contagious virus which turns its victims into vampirical beings. I’m really looking forward to reading this; expect a review of it soon.

Poetry

René Char – Furor and Mystery & Other Writings

René Char is a French surrealist poet that I became interested in due to Foucault citing him, something I discovered whilst researching for my dissertation. I bought a couple of volumes of his poetry and apart from the occasional dip into them haven’t really worked my way through them. This is a great volume as it contains the original French alongside the English translations.

Historical

David Starkey – Elizabeth

Peter Ackroyd – The History of England: Volume II Tudors

My wonderful boyfriend is to thank for these two! Recently I was saying that I would be interested in reading some more historical books, and he asked what time period I wanted to read about. The Tudors – particularly Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth the 1st – have always fascinated me so I thought that would be a good place to start. Being the sweetie he is, he treated me to not one but two books on the Tudors! I think I will see how these go and potentially you could see more historical books cropping up on this page.

Non-Fiction

Naomi Wolf – Vagina A New Biography

Well, I really wasn’t sure what to categorise this one as! I’ve had this sitting on my bookshelf for a while, and started reading it a while ago but gave it up quite quickly. That’s not because it wasn’t interesting, but I think you need to be prepared to really think about this book and be engaged with the discussion it provokes. Naomi Wolf begins by talking about her own experiences, how despite being happy and sexually fulfilled one day she noticed that her orgasms were no longer taking her to that ‘other’ place. This was directly related to a mild form of spinal bifida that was causing the pelvis nerves to become compressed, thus affecting her orgasm. After successful surgery Wolf began to investigate further into the pelvic nerve and how because the nerve wiring varied from woman to woman it could affect their ability to experience orgasm. Sexuality is another of my areas of interest and I think that this book is going to be eye opening, provided I stick it out this time!

I’m extremely keen to get started on this list, there’s a good varied selection in there and I am quite happy to be tackling different areas in my reading. Have any of you read these books? Were they any good? If you have anything to recommend to me please do!

Becqui

Book Review: Jack Kerouac – On the Road

Jack Kerouac – On the Road.

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I love worn battered covers from charity shops!

Kerouac is an author I have never read before, yet in dissertation seminars over the past year he cropped up a lot. It seemed like loads of my peers were extremely taken by On the Road – and indeed the whole Beat generation. When I found this copy in a charity shop I noticed that the small- print on the front of this book describes it as ‘The Beat Generation’s Classic Novel of sex, jazz and freedom,’ all of which sounded pretty great to me so I decided it was time to give Kerouac a go.

This novel is a semi-autobiographical account of Kerouac’s own adventures with his friends. The protagonist Sal Paradise is Kerouac himself and the plot follows the trips that him, and his main friend Dean Moriaty (Neal Leon Cassady) take. The drive of the plot is fairly loose, a lot happens on the road trips that Dean and Sal take together; there are jazz clubs, women, recreational drugs and heaps of hitch hiking. However ultimately there isn’t much sense of moving forwards in this book.

The boys are mad, bad and wild – idealistically free, they aren’t tied down by jobs, family or relationships instead they choose their own adventures. Long walks down the freeway in the rain trying to hitch hike and living off apple pie whilst crossing states aren’t constraints – they are an unhindered lifestyle. However what we come to realise is that they actually spend a lot of time taking advantage of people and situations. Dean in particular is extremely promiscuous; he marries three times within the novel but leaves wives with the conviction that they are ‘whores’. He even abandons one with his children in order to spend time with Sal in jazz bars, drinking and pursuing prostitutes.

However, as little as I care for the story the writing is what sets the novel on fire. Dean Moriaty is a feckless man, but Kerouac’s descriptions of him – full of enthusiasm ‘rubbing his belly’ with excitement like a child, and just jumping around loving everyone one so wildly and happily really tickle you. You get excited with him; he is the light at the centre of the text. I think that this enthusiasm for people and for excitement is captured perfectly in this quote:

‘the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.’

Isn’t that a fantastic description? You can’t help but become enthused yourself by his words. And Kerouac’s writing style could not be more perfect to describe this unorthodox life. Despite having prepped the story meticulously in notebooks for years, recording and detailing the events. When it comes to writing the novel, Kerouac taped together paper to form a one hundred and twenty foot roll so that it might flow continuously through his type writer. He then sat down and wrote the whole novel in three weeks. It’s the long sentences with lots of strange description, an eye for familiar details and the and the repetition that keep this book moving and exciting.

For me therefore I had a bit of a love hate relationship with the novel. Re-wind to my teenage years and I probably would have fallen in with the free spirited recklessness depicted. Now I just see the protagonists as beat-out, a bit worn down and distasteful (the feminist in me is raging at Dean’s treatment of his wives…). However I can’t help but fall a little in love with the writing, it evokes some of that wanderlust in me and I can’t help but want to hitchhike with nothing but seven dollars and apple pie to feed me.

Be honest with me now – what are your thoughts on this novel? Have any of you watched the film? I’ve heard good things about it, but I generally hate film adaptions of books so I’m undecided as to if it’s worth a watch! Let me know either way!

Becqui

Book Review: ‘The Goldfinch’

Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch

Impulse purchase that paid off.  That’s my review of this novel done in five words – boom. I’m only joking, I’ll write a little bit more than that. However it was most definitely an impulse purchase, this article about lengthy summer reads popped up on my Facebook timeline, and with my re-read of A Song of Ice and Fire coming to a close I was in the market for a tome I could get my teeth into. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Donna Tart – The Goldfinch, weighing in at just fewer than 800 pages, was recommended so I popped onto Amazon and had it on my kindle within minutes.

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Not relevant but – I love my Kindle cover, it’s from Cath Kidston and it’s lasted for over two years so far. When travelling I always pop my phone/passport in it as well!

This is a novel about loss, life changing in a second, about good and bad, adolescent confusion and the power of beauty. A painting, The Goldfinch by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius (which incidentally is a real painting, but the story that unfolds around it is purely fictitious) is at the centre of this text, with vivid characters and settings drawn around it.

Donna Tartt’s power of captivation runs right from the opening scene when we meet the protagonist Theo Decker living in a hotel room in Amsterdam where, sick and haunted by fever, he dreams of his dead mother. The plot then rewinds fourteen years to reveal the close relationship between Theo and his mother, living alone after his alcoholic father abandoned them, in a flat in New York. This world is torn asunder when a bomb goes off when they are visiting an art museum. In the confusion that follows directly after the explosion Theo attempts to rescue an old man, who gives him a ring off his finger and then motions towards a painting on the wall. This is the painting that gives the novel its name, The Goldfinch. Disorientated from the blast Theo takes the painting, and the ring, escapes from the building and, still in shock returns to the flat waiting for his mother to return home. His mother however, died in the explosion and Theo’s future changes forever.

He is taken in by the Barbours, a high-society family with spiteful younger children and a mentally unstable father. Whilst trying to adapt to these changes Theo visits the address the old man gave him alongside the ring and finds himself becoming friends with Hobie, the old man’s business partner. Hobie runs an antique store, and spends most of his time restoring furniture in the basement. Theo finds comfort and friendship here and begins to take an interest in restoring furniture. Just as he seems to be adjusting to life once more, his father reappears and once again Theo’s life is upturned as he moves out to Vegas.

The strength of this novel and what makes it a great read despite its length is Tartt’s ability to depict places and people with such vivid qualities. This is very much in evidence in the passages where Theo is in Vegas, it’s a sunbleached land with near-empty towns that are gradually being taken over by the desert. Here Theo meets Boris an enigmatic, irrepressible young man with a skewed view of the world. They spend their teenage years drowning parts of themselves with vodka and pills.

From here on in these are the two themes that weave through the novel, Theo’s dependency on narcotics and his feelings about the painting. He has confused emotional attachments which alongside financial difficulties lead him into forgery – both of which he combats with narcotics, for the way they make him feel and forget. The painting is, I think, the foil to this. It reminds him that there is good in the world. However the ending of the text shows to us that good and bad are intermingled. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but the layers of deceit and confusion ultimately lead to a redemption that can’t be viewed as wholly pure.

For me this is something I loved about the novel – Tartt depicts a world where characters aren’t good or bad, they are all multi-layered and captivating. The storyline isn’t a straightforward one, but that’s what drew me in – the ambiguity, Theo does bad things but for good reasons. Combined with Tartt’s masterful storytelling this was a fantastic read.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read it – what were your thoughts on the novel? I’ve heard it described as full of clichés, but I didn’t think that was the case. What is your take on the characters and places depicted?

Becqui

Dig the City – Manchester’s urban gardening festival.

Dig the City – Manchester’s urban gardening festival!

Recently I moved from  a ground floor flat with a massive garden that attracted all kinds of wildlife into a city centre flat with no outdoor space. Luckily it does have massive windows and captures the sun, so lately in lieu of my own outdoor plot I have become obsessed with my little house plants. I also love getting out into the green spaces of Manchester, and  therefore was extremely excited to find out that Dig the City – Manchester’s urban gardening festival was back for another year!

This festival sees the creation of beautiful urban gardens amongst the bustle of the city centre, there are little art, craft and of course – flower markets as well as outdoor bars and live music. There are loads of events on for families, the National Trust were exploring 50 things to do before you are 11 ¾ and on the days I visited there were loads of children busy making mudpies and making the most of a very windy day by flying colourful hand-made kites. Stockley Farm in the City were also keeping the children entertained over near Manchester Cathedral – I think the novelty of having animals you could pet just minutes away from the shops was keeping many adults entertained too!

However, a personal highlight for me was the colour that this festival brought to the city centre. Not only did the festival create some beautiful spaces, transforming features of the city into blooming delights but it felt as if the whole city centre contributed. All the pubs and restaurants revived their hanging baskets, and many of the shops created floral window displays. For a girl missing her own green space the city was transformed into a whimsical oasis full of magical surprises.

Anyway, I think that’s enough wittering on… here’s some pictures!

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These photos are from a lovely Show Garden, which was based upon optical illusions. The grids of greenery on the floor led back to a sky scape of Manchester – whilst hidden amongst the mossy walls were peepholes lined with mirrors. Looking through these created a kaleidoscopic effect – which you can see below.

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  I was inspired by the hanging baskets throughout the festival, in particular these ones which used unusual objects to house plants.

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IMG_2858Not only were there flowers growing out of items such as boots and teapots hanging from the lampposts, but if you took a closer look amongst the greenery in the pots there were hidden items there too. I love how the pale china contrasts with the glossy colours!

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Finally, I will leave you with a lovely picture of a piano sprouting with colourful blooms! Are any of you heading to Dig the City? I think I will be heading down tomorrow for a last wander before it all packs down. If you want to see more beautiful pictures of everything going on you can catch them on Twitter: @digthecitymcr

Becqui

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A Song of Ice and Fire  :Revisited

A Song of Ice and Fire :Revisited

So this isn’t going to be a review of A Song of Ice and Fire – the books or Game of Thrones the television series. Suffice to say I think there are a million reviews out there, from the people scandalised by the series – to the avid fans who have all kinds of wacky future plot theories. However I am going to write about my thoughts on ASOIAF , and how watching the series has impacted upon my re-reading of the books.

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I love this little rainbow of books sat on my shelf!

Recently those who have read the books and are way ahead of the television series have come under a bit of fire. The actors in GOT have apparently not even read the books (lest the knowledge of what happens spoils their acting) and actress Maisie Williams, who plays the character Arya Stark has responded to those who read the books in a negative way.  But I don’t think there needs to be any kind of conflict between those who read the books and those who watch the series – both are extremely good. I bloody love the books; and I have an equally high regard for the series – George R.R Martin’s method of writing, with each chapter depicted from a different character’s viewpoint translates well into film.

I first read all of the books, and since then have sporadically watched the television series – I think I watched pretty much all of the first and second season and with the third and fourth I kind of just lost interest. I think it was more to do with me not watching the series faithfully meant I just drifted out of touch with what was happening. However as the fourth series was wrapping up I decided I wanted to revisit the books and have since worked my way through six out of the seven. And holy mother of god, I wish I had done it sooner.

I’m not sure if it was the result of watching the series, the lapse in time (two years) since I first read them, or just the anticipation of diving back into a series I love. Whatever it was opening that first book, Game of Thrones was like leaping into crystal clear water. George R.R. Martin is a sheer genius at rich description that sets you up for all the drama – from epic battles to the wars fought with words.  I forgot the images of the characters on screen and instead allowed my imagination to run wild – I’ll admit I was worried that Ned Stark would forever be Sean Bean, Cersei Lannister would be Lena Headey and so forth – but that wasn’t the case.

And that’s why, for me personally; the books will always win out over the television series. Re-reading them was like a wholly new experience, books that bogged me down the first time around revealed hidden interests and story lines.  That’s something the series won’t do

Lastly I’ll leave you with this little gem from Jojen Reed. ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.’ Therefore, even if it isn’t Game of Thrones, to live these thousand lives I urge you all to pick something up and read!

Ps. If you are interested in some reviews I wrote of ASOIAF the first time I read them, then just click here to read them. // ASOIAF Reviews //

First Post / Book Review

Hello! Welcome to my little corner of the internet, I’m Rebecca/Becqui a recent English and Philosophy graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University. I’m going back to do an MA in English studies in September, but in the mean time I am occupied with part-time work and a little bit of freelance writing. I love reading and following many blogs so thought it was time to jump into the fray. On here I’m going to post mostly book reviews, but also about anything else that I find interesting! Let me know which posts you do and don’t like – all feedback is welcome! And if there is anything you’d like to see, I’ll do my best to make it happen.

Anyway to kick things off I thought I would share with you one of my favourite books – The Beach by Alex Garland. The reason that this is one of my favourite reads is because every time I return to it, and I must have read it at least six times, I find something different to interest me and to think about.

Alex Garland - The Beach

Excuse the bad quality pictures, I will be upgrading to something better soon!

The Beach tells the story of Richard, a seasoned traveller who upon his first night on the Khao Sang Road, Bangkok, discovers the suicide of a follower traveller. The man, known only as Daffy Duck, leaves nothing but questions for the police and a hand-drawn map for Richard with directions to ‘The Beach’. ‘The Beach’ has become something of a legend amongst the young travelling community, for it is the home to a select group who are living beyond the reach of tourism on an elusive island. For Richard, plagued with half-memories of the glamour of Vietnam war movies visiting unknown Thai territory is irresistible. Alongside a young French couple he ventures into the forbidden land of the Thai national park, encountering drug barons and sharks on his quest for the ultimate traveller’s paradise.

The first time I read this book was about seven years ago, when I was just sixteen. At that time I took it pretty much at face value and loved it. The plot follows a travelling community who all smoke weed, a lot of banana pancakes are consumed, and the beach has easy access to massive marijuana fields. Despite risking the wrath of Thai drug barons there is an endless pot supply. I think every teenager would love the seemingly glamorous hazy lifestyle that the travellers aspire to. Sure shit gets a bit weird towards the end and people die but on the whole I thought it an amazing adventure.

With a few more years and a lot more books under my belt on this read I was really interested in different aspects of it. Richard, the narrator is a character who seems to exist mostly inside his own head. After meeting Mister Duck, the Scottish run-away from the ‘Beach’ who commits suicide Richard has frequent nightmares about him all of which contain omens about his future. Mister Duck leads Richard out of trouble a few times, and eventually starts appearing as a hallucination. This initially startles Richard but then he comes to view Mister Duck as a friend, they have a lot in common and they spend hours chatting about their favourite films and Airfix models. People from the ‘Beach’ even comment on how much Richard reminds them of Daffy (Mister Duck).

Equally Richard is presented as an outsider, he travels with a couple Françoise and Étienne, and he likes to describe the relief he feels when he shuts himself off from them. When they reach the beach he again becomes an outsider – completing missions that mean he spends a lot of time alone with only Mister Duck to talk to. I’m still not sure what the significance of these aspects is, but that’s just why I like it: even though it’s well-read I still find things to chew over.

However, the main draw of this book for me is was how the ‘Beach’ is presented as a Mecca for travellers who want an untainted experience, closed off from tourism and the outside world. However in the end it is the people within the Beach that destroy it, rifts spring up and it descends into a nightmare. It reminds me of Lord of the Flies in this respect, showing how lawless societies descend into a madness that is almost inhuman.

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I also love these simple illustrations at the beginning of each paragraph!

I think this is a good book for those who are interested in ‘cult’ fiction; there is something captivating about this novel, something increasingly strange which sets it apart from other texts. As previously mentioned, if Lord of the Flies interested you then this is a totally different read, but has aspects of similarity in it.

So there you go! That’s one of my favourite books! Have any of you read it? If so, what do you think of the review? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Richard’s dreams/hallucinations.

Becqui