Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

Today's Topic: Top Ten Bookworm Delights

1. That moment when I'm reading a new book when everything suddenly clicks into place and I just know that it's going to be a fantastic read and that it will become a new favourite of mine. Sometimes that can happen to me right from the very first page and sometimes that can happen to me when I'm a few chapters in but it's always a great feeling whenever it happens :)

2. Book covers! I think all bookworms know that we're not supposed to judge books by their cover but - let's be honest about it - a book with a gorgeous cover is a massive bonus and can really add to the whole reading experience. My favourite publishing brand for book covers are Vintage Classics. Their covers are always beautiful!

3. Whenever I find someone who likes almost all of the same books and authors that I do and I end up having a good discussion with them.

4. Reading a great book in bed during a cold, rainy day with a cup of tea.

5. Whenever someone reads a book because I recommended it to them and then they end up loving the book as well :)

6. When I watch a literary adaptation that is well-made and has perfectly-cast actors and is extremely faithful to the plot and spirit of the book that I love.

7. Books with literary and/or pop culture references. I love it whenever an author manages to sneak in a good literary reference or when the characters in it happen to love some of the same books/bands/films/TV shows, etc that I love. On the flip side I once read a book where the author put in so many references to various things that it became really annoying and I got the sense that the author was showing off their taste but, when they're not overdone, literary and pop culture references are very nice. 

8. When I re-read an old favourite of mine and find that it's just as good as I remembered it to be, maybe the book is an even better read because I now appreciate certain things about it that I didn't before.

9. Going shopping for books!

10. Whenever I manage to finish a book review or a TTT post or a Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts post :)

What are some of the things that you most love about being a bookworm? :)

'The Jungle Book' by Rudyard Kipling (1894)

Synopsis: The Jungle Book is a collection of seven short stories with accompanying poems. The most famous stories in the book are the three which concern a young boy called Mowgli who is found by a family of wolves in an Indian jungle. Much to the anger of Shere Khan, a man-eating Bengal tiger, the wolves refuse to surrender the child to him and raise the boy as one of their own. Mowgli is also given two guardians - a black panther called Bagheera and a sloth bear called Baloo - who teach him all of the laws and languages of the jungle. Mowgli then spends the next ten years of his life with the wolves and his friends but, when Shere Khan then starts to turn members of the wolf pack against him, Mowgli realises that the jungle is no longer a safe place for him and that he'll eventually have to kill his enemy. In The White Seal a Northern fur seal called Kotick who lives in the Bering Sea searches for a new home where he and his fellow seals can be safe from being hunted by humans; in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi a mongoose called Rikki-Tikki saves a human family from a pair of deadly cobras, in Toomai of the Elephants a 10 year old elephant handler boy called Toomai follows his elephant Kala Nag into the jungle and ends up witnessing a secret elephant dancing ritual; and finally in Her Majesty's Servants a British soldier eavesdrops on a conversation between various military service animals.

Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book is really quite different to the classic 1967 Disney film adaptation that I think most of us grew up with but, as much as I love the Disney version, the original three Mowgli stories are a wonderful read and I can now completely understand why some would prefer them to the film. Kipling's jungle has a much darker and grittier feel to it than the Disney version's and his Mowgli is more likeable since he's much more independent and resourceful. We also get the lovely story Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in this book - a charming and thrilling tale about a heroic mongoose's efforts to save his adopted human family. The other stories that are in this book I personally found a bit dull but I enjoyed the Mowgli stories and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi so much that they mostly made up for them.

Additionally one of the main reasons for my wanting to read The Jungle Book was because it was the major source of inspiration for Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and, now that I've finally read it, it's made me love Gaiman's novel even more. I have more of an appreciation for just how clever and imaginative Gaiman was in being able to reinterpret Kipling's book and I can see more parallels between the two texts than I did before. The character of Miss Lupescu in The Graveyard Book is obviously based on Baloo (since Baloo is stricter and is less easy-going than the Baloo of the Disney film), the ghouls on the monkeys, the night-gaunts on Chil the Kite, and the danse macabre on the secret elephant dance ritual in Toomai of the Elephants.

I personally found The Jungle Book to be far more accessible and enjoyable than Kipling's other novel Kim and I'm hoping that both the new Disney film version (which I haven't yet seen) and the upcoming Warner Brothers adaptation will be able to capture some of its magic.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, 24 April 2016

'Kim' by Rudyard Kipling (1901)

Synopsis: Kim is set in 1890s' India during the time of the British Raj and The Great Game (the political conflict between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia for the control of Central Asia). Kimball ("Kim") O'Hara is a 13 year old boy and is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier who was stationed in India before he died. After his father's death Kim was then raised by an opium-addicted local woman for several years but now makes a living by begging and running small errands on the streets of Lahore (now in Pakistan). Kim has become immersed in the local culture and is more fluent in various Indian languages than in English. His only links to his past are a small pack of documents and a prophecy from his father that a "red bull on a green field" will of help to him some day. One day, Kim then happens to meet an elderly Tibetan Lama who is on a quest to free himself from the Wheel of Things by finding the mythical River of the Arrow. Kim decides to become the Lama's chela (disciple) and to accompany him on his journey to the holy city of Benares (now Varanasi). However after the pair of them then encounter a regiment of the British Army, the Lama instead decides to pay for Kim to attend a prestigious boarding school in Lucknow. Kim then spends several years at this school and is trained up as a spy for the British Indian Secret Service there. Kim then re-unites with the Lama and the pair of them then go on a journey to the Himalayas in which they find both espionage and enlightenment.

Kim isn't Rudyard Kipling's most popular and famous work (which is of course The Jungle Book) but it is the one that's generally considered by the literary critics to be his "true masterpiece". Now I recently read both Kim and The Jungle Book and when it comes down to which of the books that I think is the better read I'm completely on the side of the general public here because I found The Jungle Book to be the far more accessible and enjoyable book of the two.

Kim was an extremely hard-going and tedious read. There's actually very little plot in the book, I was completely unable to care about Kim or any of the other characters, and the dialogue in the book is not only curiously formal but is absolutely full of idioms, colloquialisms and lines that felt like historical/cultural references that I wasn't able to get. I felt like I was constantly missing things in the book and that was extremely frustrating to me.

However even though I can't say that I enjoyed Kim very much, I will say that there are some lovely descriptions in it (there was a particularly beautiful description of night-time Lahore near the start that gave me a lot of hope for the novel) and that Kipling has an obvious fondness for India. Kipling is rather a controversial writer in our time due to his pro-imperialist views but overall the writing in this book left me with the very strong impression that Kipling had a great deal of love and affection for India and its people.

Rating: 2/5

Friday, 15 April 2016

A Selection of Poems (Days 12-15)

I'm posting four poems for today to make up for the fact that I've failed to put up any posts over the last few days. Hopefully I can get back on track tomorrow!

by Robert Frost (1923)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

by John Donne (1624)

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

by Rumi.

The most living moment comes when
those who love each other meet each

other's eyes and in what flows
between them then. To see your face

in a crowd of others, or alone on a
frightening street, I weep for that.

Our tears improve the earth. The
time you scolded me, your gratitude,

your laughing, always your qualities
increase the soul. Seeing you is a

wine that does not muddle or numb.
We sit inside the cypress shadow

where amazement and clear thought
twine their slow growth into us.

by Edgar Allan Poe (1845)
Read by Sir Christopher Lee.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

Today's Topic: Ten Books Every X Should Read (up to you! Examples: every history nerd, memoir lover, ballet lover, feminist, college student, etc etc.)

For my topic of the day I've decided to go with Top Ten Books Every Jane Austen Fan Should Read. I'm a huge fan of Austen which should come as absolutely no surprise to my regular readers. I adore Austen's works because of her wonderful prose, her fantastic characters, her witty comedy, her profound social commentary and her keen insights into human nature, her themes, and her lovely romances.

There is of course a massive amount of Jane Austen fanfiction type novels out there - male perspective books, sequels, prequels, attempts to complete the unfinished works, retellings, etc - but none of the books that I've chosen for today fit into that category. They're all just books that I feel have an Austen-esque tone or spirit about them which makes me think that my fellow Jane Austen fans would also enjoy them :)

1. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. I'm not really a huge fan of Shakespeare's comedies and usually much prefer his tragedies but Much Ado About Nothing is a big exception to that. It's a wonderfully witty and laugh out loud funny play and the romance between Beatrice and Benedick in it is very similar to the love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice :) Since Much Ado About Nothing is a play there are a number of different ways in which you could tackle the story. My first experience with Much Ado was through reading the text but if you're not into reading plays you could try to find out if there's a local theatrical production of it going on near you or check out one of its adaptations. Kenneth Branagh and Joss Whedon have both directed screen adaptations of this play but my personal favourite takes on it are the 2011 Josie Rourke stage production (which starred David Tennant and Catherine Tate and is available to watch on the Digital Theatre website) and the web series adaptation Nothing Much To Do which is set in modern-day New Zealand. I highly recommend them both!

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. North and South is another story that's very reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice and is set in a thinly fictionalised Manchester during the Victorian era/Industrial Revolution. North and South is a darker, grittier read than Pride and Prejudice with a heavy focus on the socio-economic issues of the time and yet the writing isn't at all dry and heavy-handed in the way that Gaskell's editor Charles Dickens could sometimes be (it was Dickens who came up with the title for this book by the way). Also the love story between Margaret Hale and John Thornton in this book is intensely romantic and beautiful ♥. The 2004 BBC miniseries of this book (which starred Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage) is one of my favourite literary adaptations ever so of course I would strongly recommend watching that as well and - even though I haven't actually read it for myself yet - I know a lot of readers out feel that Gaskell's other novel Wives and Daughters is very reminiscent of Mansfield Park so I'd also recommend reading that book.

3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. A Tolstoy book might not seem like an obvious choice to put in a "Jane Austen Book Recommendations List" but Anna Karenina is a brilliant novel with themes that you'll find in any of Jane Austen's stories: class, morality, family obligations, individual desire vs propriety, city life vs countryside life... It's all there! Just Russian.

4. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. E.M. Forster was a huge Janeite and you can definitely tell in his romantic coming-of-age novel A Room with a View. The writing in it is hilariously witty and full of social satire, its characters are deeply flawed and yet are oddly loveable and charming, and the whole atmosphere of this book in general is just very Jane Austen-like. And as a big bonus point the book is partly set in Florence, Italy too!

5. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I've read three of Edith Wharton's works so far and I tend to think of her as being Jane Austen's more cynical American cousin: Wharton's writing has the witty, biting social commentary that you'll find in any of Austen's novels but her characters don't get the unequivocally happy endings that Austen's characters get. Her novels are much more bittersweet. My favourite of Edith Wharton's works is The Age of Innocence - a deeply haunting and powerful novel with beautifully evocative descriptions of Gilded Age New York.

6. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. LM. Montgomery is best known for her Anne of Green Gables series but my favourite work of hers is her standalone novel The Blue Castle. It features a lonely "spinster-ish" heroine who manages to overcome her insecurities and self-doubt to carve out a new identity for herself, an utterly beautiful romance, and stunning descriptions of the Canadian wilderness. This book reminds me very much of Persuasion due to its mature feel and its theme of second chances :)

7. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Cold Comfort Farm is a hilariously funny book - one of the funniest that I've ever read - and I've been meaning to re-read it for a while now. Hopefully I'll be able to get around to it later on in the year... Anyway the book's heroine Flora Poste shares the meddling tendencies of Austen's Emma Woodhouse but wants to write a book "as good as Persuasion with a modern setting"- and the novel is a genre parody of the melodramatic rural-set works that were popular at the time (think D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy) so in that sense it reminds me very much of Northanger Abbey.

8. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. This book is a romantic comedy-of-manners novel that takes place between World Wars I and II and was rescued from obscurity when it got republished by Persephone Classics several years ago. Although there are one or two problematic elements in this novel - due to some of its characters voicing now un-PC sentiments - it's still very lovely, warm and charming. The film adaptation starring Frances McDormand, Amy Adams and Lee Pace is also a delight :)

9. Venetia by Georgette Heyer. I didn't start reading Georgette Heyer until 2013 but for years I'd been seeing her Regency romance novels getting recommended time and time again in various Jane Austen forums and Facebook fan pages and book blogs. To be honest I tend to find Heyer's books pretty hit-and-miss but when she's at her best her books are a lot of fun and make for great comfort reads. My personal favourite Heyer novel is Venetia. I've found it to be the most romantic and touching out of the dozen or so Heyer novels that I've read so far but it's still extremely funny and I love the characters of Venetia and Aubrey Lanyon and Lord Damerel. And as a bonus point there's an audiobook version of it read by Richard Armitage! :) Having said that if you're completely new to Heyer, Cotillion and The Talisman Ring are also favourites of mine and would probably make for better introductions to her oeuvre.

10. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. If you're a Jane Austen fan who also loves fantasy then this book is an absolute must-read! To give a basic summary, the book is set in a painstakingly detailed Regency AU in which the north of England used to be ruled by a mysterious and powerful magician called the Raven King who then vanished and took all of English magic with him. For centuries magic has only been studied by theoretical scholars but this completely changes when two practical magicians finally emerge who then begin to use their magic in the war against Napoleon. JS & MN is an incredible novel: it's beautifully-written and haunting but with an Austen-like wit, the worldbuilding is outstanding, the characters are deeply complex and engaging, and the story is full of fairies and magic and grandeur :)

So what are the books that you would consider to be must-reads for Jane Austen fans? :)

"Sonnet Xviii" and "Love Sonnet XI" (Day Eleven)

You may have noticed that I haven't written very much about the poems that I've been picking for this Poetry Month Celebration - about why exactly I love them. Well there are two reasons for this. The first reason is that I haven't always had the time and the second reason is that, erm, I don't entirely know! You see I'm not really used to analysing poetry. Even though I studied English at university I mostly picked classes where we read novels and plays so I don't really feel able to discuss the poems that I'm picking in very much depth. I know that I love them and that they make me feel a certain way but I wouldn't exactly be able to pick apart their structure or go into a lot of their depth about their meaning or anything like that. So from now there might be some days where I'll just share a poem without attempting to do any kind of commentary whatsoever. But for these poems I'll just say that they're so breath-takingly romantic and sensual that they give me chills the first time I read them. Enjoy :)

by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

by Pablo Neruda

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.

I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

"Invictus" (Day Ten)

Oh dear, I forgot to put up a post earlier and it's just gone past midnight where I am so technically I've failed in my task to share a poem every day. Oh well. 

The poem that I've picked for today is Invictus. It was Nelson Mandela's favourite poem and it's so powerful, inspiring and exquisitely-written.

by William Ernest Henley (1888)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

"As I Walked Out One Evening" (Day Nine)

I've gone for another poem with a bit of a personal feel today. I've picked a poem from W.H. Auden who happened to grow up in Birmingham which is the city where I'm from. Auden was also a close friend of fellow Birmingham author J.R.R. Tolkien and the particular road that he's talking about in this poem is one that I've gone down many times :) But I mainly love this poem for its arresting imagery and for the fact that it manages to touch on the big themes of life: love, death, and time.

by W.H. Auden (1940)

As I walked out one evening,
   Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
   Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
   I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
   ‘Love has no ending.

‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
   Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
   And the salmon sing in the street,

‘I’ll love you till the ocean
   Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
   Like geese about the sky.

‘The years shall run like rabbits,
   For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
   And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
   Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
   You cannot conquer Time.

‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
   Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
   And coughs when you would kiss.

‘In headaches and in worry
   Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
   To-morrow or to-day.

‘Into many a green valley
   Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
   And the diver’s brilliant bow.

‘O plunge your hands in water,
   Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
   And wonder what you’ve missed.

‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
   The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
   A lane to the land of the dead.

‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
   And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
   And Jill goes down on her back.

‘O look, look in the mirror,
   O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
   Although you cannot bless.

‘O stand, stand at the window
   As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
   With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
   The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
   And the deep river ran on. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

"All that is Gold Does Not Glitter" (Day Eight)

I almost forgot to share a poem for today but thankfully I remembered with just a few minutes of the day left to go! This poem is an all-time favourite of mine so I thought I'd put it up. I wish I had the time to write a few more lines about it but, alas, time is ticking.

by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings)

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

'This is Where I Leave You' by Jonathan Tropper (2010)

Synopsis: This is Where I Leave You is a contemporary family saga novel. Judd Foxman is a man in his mid-thirties and has recently discovered that his wife has been having a year long affair with his boss (a sleazy Howard Stern-like radio DJ). As if Judd's life couldn't get any worse he then finds out that his father has died of cancer. However, Judd is then informed that his father's dying wish was for his family to sit shiva (a Jewish ritual in which bereaved family members come together under the same roof and receive friends and condolences) for the seven days after his funeral. As Judd's father was a secular Jew who only attended synagogue on special occasions this comes as quite a surprise to everyone and Judd isn't much looking forward to the experience. Nevertheless he returns to his childhood home in Westchester County, New York and re-unites with his slightly estranged mother and three siblings who are all going through problems of their own. His mother (a famous psychologist) is harbouring a guilty secret, his older brother Paul and his wife are desperately trying for a baby, his sister Wendy is the frustrated housewife of a workaholic businessman, and his younger brother Philip is an irresponsible wild child who is now engaged to a much older woman (who is also his therapist). With this dysfunctional family all being forced to spend time together it isn't long before the simmering resentments and tensions between them are brought to the surface but over the course of the seven days the Foxmans ultimately re-connect, realise how much they all love each other, and find meaning and significance in the ritual of shiva.

I must confess that I only found out about this book after seeing the trailer for its film adaptation. This is Where I Leave You is an adult contemporary novel and is therefore not at all the sort of book that I'd usually go for but the trailer made it look like such a hilarious and fun story that it made me want to step out of my comfort zone.

Overall this book was an engaging read but I had very mixed feelings about it and I actually enjoyed the film adaptation more (and yes I did read the book first!) The book was touching at times, there were some meaningful themes and profound, thought-provoking observations in the writing, and I did find it funny. The book never really made me properly laugh out loud but it certainly had me smiling and sniggering. Philip and Hilary were my favourite characters in this book since they seemed to get all of the funniest/craziest lines and moments :D

But unfortunately I also found this book to be very problematic at times and that affected my enjoyment of the story. The narrator Judd is constantly lusting after the women that he sees in this book and, although I got that this is only because he's sexually frustrated and lonely, this did start to become annoying and repetitive after a while. And I was also very weirded-out by a sex scene in this book. Judd's sister-in-law and ex-girlfriend Alice is so desperate for a baby that at one point she sneaks into Judd's room and tries to persuade him to have sex with her. Judd makes it very clear that he's uncomfortable with the idea and even says "no" but Alice completely ignores his objections and forces herself onto him anyway... which makes it a rape scene. But what really bothered me was that afterwards Judd and Alice barely acknowledge what's happened between them :S It's not that I think rape shouldn't be presented in fiction - even though I do tend to avoid stories which feature it - but it's something that needs to be handled with respect and sensitivity and to be completely essential to the plot. It's not at all something that should be handled in a light, casual manner and the fact that this book didn't treat it with the care that it deserved was extremely disappointing.

But happily I liked the film adaptation of this book much more! The film is mostly accurate to the book - which isn't surprising given that Tropper also wrote the screenplay for it - but the issues that I had with the book weren't there. The film does feature a few voiceovers from Judd but we don't get to hear his thoughts about the women he sees, and although Alice still attempts to seduce Judd in the film the scene plays out very differently. She's interrupted before it can lead to anything and later apologises. Also the actors in this film - including Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, and Rose Byrne - were all perfectly-cast in their roles and had excellent chemistry with each other. They really brought out both the pathos and humour in the story and made me laugh a lot :) I've given the book a 3/5 rating but for me the film was more like a 4.5/5 because I really enjoyed it.

Rating: 3/5

"Still I Rise" (Day Seven)

It was Maya Angelou's birthday a few days ago so I thought I'd share her most famous poem Still I Rise. It's a magnificent tribute to the defiance, strength and resilience of the African-American people but the poem's universal messages of hope and self-love should speak to all of us.

by Maya Angelou (1978)

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Poem taken from the Poem Hunter.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Poetry Efforts #3 (Day Six)

From tomorrow I'll start to share more poems from the professionals again but for now here's another one of my own :) 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Poetry Efforts #2 (Day Five)

Here's another original poem of mine for Poetry Celebration Month :)

Monday, 4 April 2016

Poetry Efforts #1 (Day Four)

This was completely unplanned but I ended up writing two haikus today :) 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

'Anne of the Island' by L.M. Montgomery (1915)

Synopsis: Anne of the Island is the third book in the Anne of Green Gables series and follows the life of Anne Shirley from the ages of 18 to 22. In this book Anne finally fulfils her original dream of continuing her education and leaves Prince Edward Island to move to the bustling city of Kingsport in Nova Scotia (a fictitious city based on Halifax) so that she can attend Redmond College there and earn a B.A. in English Literature. Anne's Avonlea school friends Gilbert Blythe and Charlie Sloan have also enrolled at Redmond, as well as Anne's old friend from Queen's Academy, Priscilla Grant. However Anne still feels very lonely and homesick at first until she meets a beautiful and flirtatious girl called Philippa ("Phil") Gordon who also happens to be from the town where Anne was born. The girls quickly become close friends and eventually move into a lovely cottage called Patty's Place along with Priscilla, their mutual friend Stella Maynard, and Stella's aunt Jamesina (who acts as their chaperone). Anne returns home to Green Gables during all her holidays and continues to stay in touch with her old friends. Then, halfway through her years at college, Anne receives an unexpected marriage proposal from Gilbert Blythe (who has loved Anne since they were both children). Deeply shocked, Anne rejects Gilbert since she doesn't recognise her true feelings for him. Gilbert is heartbroken and the two of them drift apart. It's then that Anne meets a dark, handsome, rich boy called Royal ("Roy") Gardner who is exactly the type of man that she has always fantasised about marrying. The two of them then date for two years until Roy's eventual marriage proposal makes Anne realise that she has never been in love with him and has only ever loved the idea of Roy. This prompts much soul-searching and Anne eventually comes to realise where her affections truly lie.

If you've been reading my reviews of the Anne of Green Gables books you'll know that I really enjoyed the first book in the series but was dreadfully disappointed with Anne of Avonlea. In the end Anne of the Island wasn't that much better for me. I may have even liked it less! :(

There were so many aspects of this book that I found extremely aggravating. Although Davy doesn't have as much of a presence in this book as he does in Anne of Avonlea he still gets quite a lot of page-time and is still an unpleasant annoying brat. And considering that this is the only book in the AoGG series that covers Anne's university years there really doesn't seem to be all that much academia going on! I was hoping that this book would provide a fascinating insight into what it was like for a woman to attend a North American university in the Victorian era but in fact most of the details of Anne's university life were completely glossed over. This book mainly seemed to consist of... Anne hanging out with her friends in Patty's Place and then going back to Green Gables on her holidays. Anne's friends in this book are dull and uninteresting - I didn't even remember Stella and Priscilla from Anne of Green Gables - apart from Philippa Gordon and I stopped liking her after the "cat incident". Montgomery handles Anne's boyfriend Roy Gardner in exactly the same way that she handled Dora Keith - the character's own sister even calls him boring - and is only there as a plot device to conveniently keep Anne and Gilbert apart until the very end. This was so frustrating because Anne of the Island could have been a far more interesting novel if Montgomery had actually took the time to develop Roy's personality and his relationship with Anne more and had made him more of a legitimate rival to Gilbert! And finally I was completely disgusted by the animal cruelty that goes on in this book. Anne and her friends try to kill a stray cat just because it keeps following them around and Mr Harrison strings his dog up just because he doesn't want it any more!

I was initially planning to read all of the Anne of Green Gables books this year but because of my reactions to the first two sequels I've got absolutely no desire to do that now. Instead what I'm going to do is to just skip books 4-7 in the series by going straight to Rilla of Ingleside (the reviews for that book have made me think that I might actually like that one) and to watch the first of the Megan Follows films.

Rating: 2/5

"No Coward Soul is Mine" (Day Three)

The most mysterious of the Bronte sisters is Emily. We really know very little about her and she was an enigma even to the people who were closest to her, her sister Charlotte called her "a solitude-loving raven, no gentle dove". However in this beautiful, powerful poem that was written in the final few months of her life I think we get to see a glimpse of the real Emily Bronte - a strong, fierce woman who was full of faith and courage.

by Emily Bronte (1846)

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven's glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear

O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

This poem was taken from the Poetry Foundation

Saturday, 2 April 2016

A Selection of Matsuo Bashō haikus (Day Two)

Since I picked such a long poem for yesterday's post I figured I'd go for some haiku poems for today. But there was a problem - me not actually knowing any haiku poets. However after just a little bit of research online I soon found out about Matsuo Bashō - a 17th century poet who is generally considered to be master of the form - and I love the haikus of his that I've found! I'm definitely going to look into this poet more and if anyone could recommend me any more haiku poets I'd greatly appreciate it :)

“Winter solitude-
in a world of one colour
the sound of the wind.”

“How I long to see
among dawn flowers,
the face of God.”

“Harvest moon:
around the pond I wander
and the night is gone.”

“April's air stirs in
Willow-leaves...a butterfly
Floats and balances”

“Between our two lives
there is also the life of
the cherry blossom.”

Friday, 1 April 2016

"The Highwayman" (Day One)

Happy April Fool's Day, everyone! Does anyone actually enjoy April Fool's Day though? Really?

Anyway this particular post will be the first in a 30-day series of poetry sharing posts because I really wanted to get involved in my blogger friend Hamlette's Poetry Month Celebration. At first I just thought I'd share one or two poems a week but then I became more ambitious than that and decided I'd like to share a poem for every day of the month. Once the month is over I'll then create an index post with links to all of the individual poems.

The Highwayman is a long narrative poem (I swear not all of the poems I'll share will be as long as this!) and it's completely wrong for the season (it would be best read on a dark Autumn night) but I still really wanted to include it because I think it must have been the first poem that I ever loved. I first came across this poem when I was back in primary school (I would have been aged about 10 or 11 at the time) and I found it sooo thrilling and exciting :) Reading this as an adult I still find it pretty suspenseful but now I appreciate it more for its eerie atmosphere and beautiful imagery. The Highwayman came in 15th in the BBC poll for the "Nation's Favourite Poems" and I'm glad that it's so well-loved.

by Alfred Noyes (1906)


The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
         Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
         (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.


He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
         And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
         Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
         Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
         Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
         Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
         Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

.       .       .

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

This poem was taken from the Poetry Foundation