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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

#BloggerMystery, The Descendants: Part 2

So you're probably wondering what happened to Georgina and her little dog Piku by now, and I'm afraid we're not a lot closer to knowing the truth. Find out what happened in the first part of my story here. But something else has happened now, and I'm not sure I can quite believe it myself, even though I saw it with my own two eyes. It seems surreal to me now that I'm back in the safe confines of my room at the mansion, but it was horrible, awful, crazy...I'm getting ahead of myself in my fear though. What I need to do is tell the day, step by step, convince myself that it can't have been true. Here goes.
Haunted House header
So the other Descendants and I spent the day in a state of limbo - we couldn't leave the grounds as they're now classed as the scene of a crime, even though there doesn't seem to be any clear evidence aside from the blood left behind. I spent a while in my room, fretting over what happened. Had I really seen anything or was it just my tired imagination? Was there something I could have done to stop whatever had happened from happening? And why was it that Georgina had been picked rather than any of us?

There are only so many times you can go through what happened in your head though, and I eventually plucked up the courage to head downstairs and see how Beth, Daisy and Becky were coping. Not well it seemed; the situation was getting to all of us. And I could no longer deal with being inside that place any more, cooped up in the very building where Georgina had been murdered. I was getting more and more claustrophobic by the minute, despite the high ceilings and spacious rooms. Even though the thought was scary, I needed to get some fresh air, and thought there couldn't be any harm in wandering the grounds of the mansion, after all, the murder had happened inside, and what's the chance the killer would still be hanging around?

The sun was just dipping below the horizon as I stepped out the door onto the terrace; the twilight was flooding the gardens with the last of the golden light that can only be associated with a typical autumn evening. I'd heard from the Librarian that there was a lake on the boundaries on the grounds, although I hadn't been able to see it from the window of my room. The light was glinting off it as I wandered down through between the neatly clipped hedges, so I followed the path down.

As I reached the lake, the sun disappeared for good, casting an eerie glow over the waters, as something rippled the surface of the lake, moving beneath. The Librarian hadn't mentioned that they kept fish in the lake, but I supposed it was probably likely that's what it was. I stepped off the path and peered into the water to get a closer look, and noticed that what was at first a small ripple was expanding, the water almost pulling away from it rapidly as whatever was below arose. First what seemed to be the nose of a fish searching for food appeared, but it continued to rise as the water darkened with a shadow beneath that seemed to be ever growing.

It's almost impossible to describe what I saw since I can barely believe it myself, but that "nose" of a fish was in fact only the smallest tip of the smallest tentacle of the huge beast that emerged from the lake. It was hideous, repulsive, terrifying - there aren't enough words to tell you. The closest thing I can think what it looked like was the Kraken of ancient mythology - it seemed to have hundreds of tentacles, all twisting and writhing towards me as I stood frozen momentarily. It barely registered that my feet had started moving until I realised I was halfway back up the garden and glancing back down at the lake behind me, the waters calm again as if nothing had happened just seconds before.

Kraken

I reached the house breathless, both from the race up the garden away from the monstrous thing I had seen and in panic from the thing itself. The girls were there to meet me at the door - I don't remember screaming out in fright, but apparently I did as they'd all heard me coming. At first I couldn't get the words out to tell them what had happened - I was still in doubt myself that I really had seen anything. And despite their kind words and hugs to calm me down, I could see the looks of scepticism on their faces. I understand; I wouldn't have believed it if I was in their shoes and it had been one of them running like a mad thing up the garden and exclaiming that they'd seen "a giant octopus" too.

The events from the night before must have really got to me, as they can do, when you're stuck in what can only be described as a house pulled straight from a stereotypical nightmare, complete with all the creaky floorboards, twisting corridors and dusty rooms you can imagine, and that's not to mention the strange things that had already happened.

After I'd related my tale to them, my head began to pound, probably with all the adrenaline, so I headed back up to my room, hopefully to safety, although if that's what got Georgina, she disappeared from her room... I can see the torch beams of the police shining around the gardens as they begin the search for what I saw to investigate the claims I've made. I know they'll all think I'm crazy, but I saw it with my own eyes, I heard it roar as it emerged. What's happening?

Read the story from the other side at the other Descendants' blogs:
Pretty Green Tea
She Might Be Loved
Becky Bedbug
Plastic Rosaries
And if you think you know what's going on, tweet your suggestions to @MysteryClues with #BloggerMystery to win a £50 Waterstones voucher.


Monday, 20 October 2014

#BloggerMystery, The Descendants: Day 1

¿Cuándo despertaré?
Image courtesy of Jose Maria Perez Nunez
Bloggersphere, we need your help – something really strange is happening, and Waterstones need your eyes and ears to find out what’s really going on (read more here). Along with a few other bloggers, I'll be writing about it on my blog over the next week or so, and we need you to figure it out. Keep up to date on the clues on Twitter at @MysteryClues as well as #BloggerMystery and tweet them with any suggestions to win a £50 Waterstones Voucher! For me, the day started fairly normally, but things got weird – I wasn’t prepared that something like this could happen.

I was recently invited by the Librarian from a grand estate to visit them as they had some news for me – I was sort of hoping it was going to be one of those things where they tell you that some distant relative or well-wisher has named me on their will to claim the estate. To be honest, I wasn’t far off, and for me, it was actually just as exciting.
Cinephilia: Don't Put Ancient Forbidden Evil in Your Mouth (Lovecraft on Film)
Image courtesy of enigmabadger
So here's what's happened so far as I've seen it:
When I arrived at the mansion yesterday, I met a few others who had been invited too (was it some sort of crazy blogger meet up, we thought?!): Daisy, Georgina, Becky and Beth. It turns out that we’d been invited there as we’re all Descendants of horror writers from times gone by – turns out writing is in my blood then! As I said, being from the family tree of a famous writer was far more interesting to me than simply having a rich distant relative. I’m not quite sure of the exact connections between me and H. P. Lovecraft, but I know I’ve got a lot of reading to do now to get up to speed on his works.
So as frequently happens when bloggers get together, we sat around chatting for a long time, mostly about the news we’d just discovered. And of course, before we knew it - woops! -it was dark outside and some of us had quite a way to travel home. Luckily they’d been prepared for this and had plenty of bedrooms already set up for us to stay over. I’ve got to admit, I was a bit wary of staying somewhere unfamiliar, let alone a huge mansion like this – I’ve only ever wandered places like it on days out, but the bedroom was so decadent, I could hardly refuse. Little did I know what was to come later though…

The bed was so comfortable that I slept pretty soundly. I only woke up once to use the bathroom (you know, that old bladder of mine!), and thinking back, I did open the curtains to have a quick look at what the grounds looked like at night. They were bathed in bright moonlight, you could even make out the box hedges on the lawn and a couple of the statues around. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I did catch a fleeting glimpse of a shadow darting across the grass. Honestly, I was so tired after the late night that it barely registered and I headed back to bed.

It wasn’t until this morning when I woke up and headed down to breakfast that I realised something was wrong. There was already a definite sense of panic in the air when I reached the breakfast room, and that was before I even found out that Georgina had disappeared during the night, and the little dog, Piku, she’d brought with her had gone too. I wasn’t too worried at first, thinking maybe they were overreacting, that she had changed her mind and headed home during the night, but then I heard what they’d found in her room – I didn’t want to see it for myself after the description, but apparently it looks as though the walls had been repainted with blood.


The police were swarming the place within minutes. I didn’t want to get under their feet and headed back to my room. We’d all swapped numbers the night before, so I texted the others to find out if they knew any more – not many of us had really thought about it at the time, but it turns out we’d all seen something shadowy moving around during the night. Honestly, it is a big, old house, and it being the middle of the night, you end up seeing things that turn out to be completely normal in the morning – I bet all I saw was a bit of wind blowing the trees. But even so, what’s happened to Georgina?

What do you think is happening? See if you can scope out any clues at the other Descendants' blogs:
Pretty Green Tea
She Might Be Loved
Becky Bedbug
Plastic Rosaries
Keep your eyes open for any more clues popping up on our blogs and Twitters over the next week or so, and tweet your guesses to @MysteryClues with #BloggerMystery - good luck!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Peak District: Chatsworth

Chatsworth view
Chatsworth House
Chatsworth Gardens
Chatsworth
(Can you believe this pictures wasn't set up?!)
Back in August, over the Bank Holiday weekend, I took a little break to the Peak District with Ben and our friends Charley and Frankie. I've already written about our day out in Bakewell (do you know what, I had a dream about being back in Bakewell last night, can't wait to go again, clearly!), but I wanted to write a bit more about the rest of the trip as well as show off some photos - this might be technically a "style blog", but I do like to talk about my life a lot more than most style/fashion bloggers, and I like to keep a record of things I've done to look back at in the future.
Normally when we go to the Peak District, we spend most of our time at Alton Towers - we have in the past also visited the Blue John Cavern and visited a few towns, but this time we wanted to make more of the trip and pack in a few more touristy things, so that's what we did! Charley and I actually spent 2 days in Bakewell (one of which the boys spent somewhere else sourcing out board games for our evening activities!), a day at the Speedwell Cavern (which we don't recommend - you take a boat down the cavern, ie. an extremely narrow tunnel where you're ducking your head constantly and touching the walls at all times, get off in a tiny chamber at one end, then take the boat back - we recommend the Blue John Cavern much more highly!), and finally we spent a day at the infamous Chatsworth.
It's really one of the ultimate stately homes, and one which you've probably at least heard of before no matter where you come from. It's believed Jane Austen's Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice was based on the house as she wrote it while in Bakewell, and in the 2005 film version (can you believe it's nearly 10 years since that came out?!), Lizzie and the Gardiners tour Chatsworth as Pemberley. I was a bit concerned it might be overly touristy, and while there were a lot of people there (well, it was the Bank Holiday too!), it didn't ever feel overcrowded or busy. There are extensive gardens (partly woodland) to wander, as well as the house, which also includes various exhibitions, and cafes and shops around the courtyard. There's also a farm shop which we didn't visit that day, but have heard very good reviews of, so we'll hopefully be making that journey one day!
Chatsworth view
Chatsworth view
Chatsworth view
Chatsworth view
Chatsworth
So the first thing we did was wander the gardens. We picked up a few maps at the entrance (which were entirely necessary!) and decided to start with the kitchen gardens which were up the hill behind the house and off to the left. Surprisingly, we were some of the very few people that made it that far! Most people had taken to sitting on the lawns (some with picnics, books and toys for the kids), so we bypassed them and headed for the quieter areas. And we were definitely rewarded as that's where we got the best view down over the house and surrounding countryside, so of course, we each had to have a picture there! There was also a small war garden exhibition around that area as well as a building which promised to show us technological garden and ecological stuff, but turned out to be locked (hence the rather vague description of it!). We then took what seemed to be a back route through the woodland on a smaller path, climbed some trees (and maybe fell out of some...that's definitely not what happened to me...!), took lots of photos and wound our way through the maze (the girls won by reaching the middle of the maze first by the way, who says we can't do navigation!).
We had a surprisingly good day of weather which meant we got to explore the grounds pretty well, but eventually we headed for the main event, the house itself. And honestly, as I said before, despite being so hyped up, this was still one of the best stately homes I'd visited. We almost immediately came into the Painted Hall (part of which is in the first image below) and that stopped me in my tracks - the ceiling was painted with images of the ancient gods, the upper walls (below) made to look  3D, and basically, it was pretty amazing. There is a pretty hilarious picture that Charley took in that room where the boys are (maybe?) discussing the ceiling and I'm just stood between them staring up at it with my mouth open in awe! Frankie and I both studied Greek together at school (and obviously I continued it to uni), so we took it upon ourselves to try to name all the gods between us, before realising that there was a picture naming them all for us on the other side of the room!
Anyway, there was far more to the house than just the hall though! Even before we'd reached that room, we'd walked along a corridor which seemed fairly nondescript until you spotted the marbled floor underfoot (second picture below). I think we all agreed though that the library (third picture down) was our favourite room - can you imagine choosing a book and sitting down to read it in there? The ultimate dream house I have in my head includes a library and either this or Belle's library just about fits the bill! Then the final house picture I'm featuring is the Sculpture Gallery which Lizzie wanders through in the film version of Pride and Prejudice. And the final picture below? Well, if there are things to dress up in, you know I've got to be a part of that. The boys abandoned us at this point (no idea why!), so we had to resort mostly to mirror pictures, but seriously, have you seen that cape?!
There are so many parts of the house and gardens I'm not featuring here, simply because it was so big and we took lots of pictures! There was also a Chatsworth in Wartime exhibition set up inside the house, as well as one of the bedrooms set up as a dormitory when the house was used as a school during the Second World War, which we hadn't even known about beforehand.
So, all in all, a lovely day out, and definitely worth the money. The ticket prices do seem fairly expensive (I think it was £18 for adult tickets to the house and gardens, and £12 for the gardens, but we did get a voucher for some money off in the cafe/gift shops), but really it was worth it. There were even parts that we didn't explore (which came under a slightly more expensive ticket) with a farmyard and adventure playground, so there are even things for kids to do too. If you're around the area, I definitely recommend you make the trip!
Chatsworth painted hall
Chatsworth floor design
Chatsworth library
Chatsworth statue gallery
Chatsworth clothing

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Paisley Dress (Day 8)

Paisley dress
Outfit photo with heeled boots
Burgundy Cardigan: Dorothy Perkins
Paisley Dress: Primark
Heeled Boots: F&F
So, I have a confession: I gave up on my 15 for 15 :( But I do have a reason - my horrendous cold/flu I had last week. I did wear an outfit made up of 15 for 15 items on the first proper day of feeling ill - the stretchiest, most comfortable pieces I could find, but when I felt even worse on the next day, I ended up in a onesie and duvet all day. I was really poorly that day to be fair - I ended up a little bit delirious from the high temperature I had, and, apart from crying down the phone to Ben because someone had texted me and I didn't understand what it meant (it is pretty clear now, it was an easy question...), I don't remember much of that day. I've now only just reached the point where I'm feeling like I have a "normal" cold as opposed to whatever was going on last week, so I just have to get properly over this now. But as I said, it meant the end of the 15 for 15 unfortunately, although I do still have a couple more Instagram pictures of outfits and a properly taken set too to show you still, and I would imagine the clothes will make other appearances on the blog in future too!
Anyway, aside from having flu, let's get updated on what's going on in my life...as of yesterday, I'm now 24 - scary! I was still feeling not so great last night, but my parents came over to see me, and I spent most of the weekend at their house - I went round on Saturday, watched a Saving Mr Banks with my sister, then out for a meal in the evening at a local pub, then we went to pick sloes for Sloe Gin on Sunday morning and were harassed by a pair of nosy horses! 
Autumn Paisley dress
Primark paisley dress
It wasn't the most exciting of all birthdays, considering that I was still feeling poorly, but I still had a lovely time and got some really really lovely presents - I can never believe how well people know me and what to buy me, despite apparently being "difficult" to buy for because I like everything! I'll maybe do a proper round up sometime, but the first present I opened was from Charley - this gorgeous pair of gloves from our favourite vintage shop, Bowler Vintage, in York. My sister created this spectacular cake for me, complete with Belle and Charlie plus a little sign that says "Happy Birthday" in Ancient Greek, of course!! From the parents I got a cardigan from Voodoo Vixen (which I'm wearing today), a Pepperberry dress, tickets to the opera, chocolate...and the list goes on, and from Ben, a corset making kit (oh my goodness!!), lots of chocolate, some Duck Tape (I will explain this in a future post...maybe! Hint: it's to do with sewing!) and a Great British Sewing Bee book complete with 25 patterns! Lots of sewing stuff from everyone :D There are plenty more, but as I said, I'll do a proper round up soon :)
Onto the outfit, finally! I've had this dress since last year, and it seems to work well in every season, but I like to wear it best in autumn because of the colour, which, as you can probably tell, I'm usually obsessed with at this time of year. I'm having problems with shoes at the moment, because I mostly want to wear flats or lowish heels before the weather really kicks in and I have to wear boots all the time, but I've almost destroyed all my flats from too much wear (one pair I've left at a friend's house too, oops), and they look really scruffy. So I've been trying to find another pair to wear, but don't really want to go for another pair of cheap Primark ones which I ruin in a matter of weeks or other high street brands which are usually flatter than flat and make your feet sore. I've been searching sites like Brantano for a pair which are reasonably comfy and not excessively expensive, and also the Designer Outlet at York, but still haven't managed to find the right pair yet, any suggestions? Really I think I'm looking for some white quilted, black toe cap style, like ones I always go for every year, but I'm struggling to find ones I like this time!
Primark burgundy paisley dress

Thursday, 25 September 2014

What I've Read: August/September

Book Reviews
*For some reason, Flickr has decided the transparent side of my picture above needs a black background, so we'll just have to deal with that I'm afraid!
Yeh, I've been a bit off kilter with these round up reviews recently - technically they're supposed to be monthly at the start of the month, but you know things don't always work out that way, so today you've got a round up of my end of August/most of September reads! I'm still pretty busy at the moment, and it's set to get even busier now as I'm taking on some extra social things (for Ben and my dad) in whatever spare time I manage to get, so things like reading and sewing (as well as running, woops) go out the window sometimes. Last week I had my first proper day back at choir, including getting caught taking "Choir Selfies" (it was really difficult to keep the phone steady while pulling faces at the back of the room without being seen, oops!), another day at Brownies which including me getting blindfolded and attached to catch a group of 7 to 9 year olds (turns out I'm pretty useless at that), a meal out with Ben at a local pub (yum), and also the fact that we're constantly scouring the housing market in the area as we're looking to get out of renting and buying a house soon, so we'll quite frequently go for a drive to check out a particular street where a house is for sale to see what it's like from the outside (thus resulting in us looking spectacularly creepy as we slowly cruise past a house, turn around cruise right back again).
I also started this post about a week ago (it takes a while to get through each book review!), and during the time between starting and finishing I managed to come down with a pretty spectacular cold/flu that left me pretty much delirious with fever yesterday, meaning not a lot, aka nothing, has been done for a couple of days except lie under a duvet reading (particularly since our internet went down all of yesterday meaning I couldn't even watch Netflix, boo!). I'm starting to feel a bit better today (finally!), but am still at the stage where walking upstairs to get the tissues I left up there earlier feels like one of the hardest walks I've ever had to do...so I'm making do with the roll of toilet paper that I left here a few days ago (ouch, nose). So, due to being ill - this post was supposed to be up at the start of the week with only 4 reviews, but illness happened and it's now going up towards the end of the week with 7 instead - at least I'm catching up on my yearly target!
But onto the reviews! This month(/2 months) included a trip to the Peak District and a book club read again, so here goes:

The Tenth Chamber by Glenn Cooper - 8/10 (Kindle version)
This was a NetGalley read, and one of the better ones I've had recently. It combines a lot of things that I like in a book: a good mystery, switching between different times, lots of historic stuff (even some ancient stuff, yay!) and a solid storyline. It opens in Ruac Abbey where a 14th century manuscript is discovered hidden in a wall behind a bookcase - it is badly damaged and sent to Hugo Pineau to be repaired and to give up its secrets. It tells the story of an ancient cave in the cliffs near the Abbey, so he enlists his archaeologist friend Luc Simard to help him find it. They find the prehistoric cave, brimming with ancient cave art and more secrets than they can at first know, and a team begins work on preserving and studying it all, but of course, here come the deaths, as expected.
The story flits between the modern day, where it becomes ever more dangerous to continue work on the cave, the Medieval period and the monks who had found this cave and understood its wonders, and the prehistoric people who had filled the cave with the paintings and their lives. The storyline entwines itself well between each time period; although I found the Medieval one less interesting and more difficult to keep up with, the prehistoric one was really fascinating. The book even takes a turn towards the supernatural at points, which you know I like in a story. The ending was good, fast paced and rounded off well - it definitely felt very Dan Brown inspired. I'd never read anything by Glenn Cooper before, but I wouldn't hesitate to read him again.

The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith - 7/10 (Kindle version/Film cover version)
This was our Book Club read for the month (or few months, because we didn't manage to get together for a while!). Most people will at least know part of the story from watching or hearing about the recent film based on this book's events, but as a quick summary, it follows the life of Michael Hess, originally Anthony Lee, son of Philmena Lee, a young Irish woman who fell pregnant in the early 50s, gave birth to her son and looked after him until he was a toddler in a convent, before being forced into giving him up for adoption to a family in America. While the title seems to focus on Philomena, despite the very beginning and end of the book, she has very little part in the majority of the story.
This book is different to a lot I read as it is a true story, although it has to be mentioned that the events and conversations in the book are fictionalised to an extent, as you can imagine, there was a lot of secrecy surrounding the convents dealing in this kind of adoption. As such, it's difficult to review, being half way between fiction and non fiction.
I most enjoyed reading the beginning to middle of this book, which leads us through Michael's childhood and into a struggling young adult. It's not that the rest wasn't good, it's just that there was a lot of focus on American politics at the time, of which I know very little, so there were parts I felt I could have understand a lot better had I known what was going on. Michael grows up in a family in America with his 'sister', another little girl from the convent who was adopted with him, and his life is an almost constant struggle from then onwards. It deals with concepts such as the government's homophobia and Michael trying to understand and finally accept what's going on in his head, why he isn't 'normal' compared to everyone else's standards, as well as not having the identity he craves from not knowing or clearly remembering his birth mother.
It was a good read, and very eye opening to what was going on at the time. I'd heard about this sort of thing before, but never thought too much about it - for example, the mothers at the convents are coerced into giving up their children, the children are taken away 'legally' since the mother has signed a form, but their details are very sparsely recorded, and it's almost impossible for them to trace one another. I still haven't seen the film, but I would recommend reading the book first (as I would with most film adaptations) - it's a fascinating topic and time period, both in Ireland and America.

Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah - 6.5/10 (Kindle version) (available 8th October)
This was another NetGalley read and quite a nice easy one to get through - it's not one of those books I'd say I would pick up again to reread, but I can't say I didn't enjoy it. It was slightly different to what I had expected based on the description on Goodreads, which makes it sound as if there's a murder mystery type of story with one sister trying to find the other. In reality, the sister being missing is only for a short time period and is not central to the whole book, it's really just what brings the other back to her hometown to face her demons.
Claire is the older sister, Ella the younger; they live in a small town where Claire's best friend, Rae, teases her about the wolves that live in the cornfields and prey on little girls that smell like cherry and wear periwinkle. It is the night of Claire's birthday and Rae arranges a party, supposedly for this occasion, in the cornfield, but in reality it's her own leaving party as she plans to run away. Young Ella follows Claire, who sends her back, only to find her gone from her bed still the next morning, to later discover her attacked in the cornfield. We zip forward then to Claire living in the city with her aunt, while damaged Ella still lives back home with their parents, their relationship seemingly broken forever. Claire is still haunted by that night, finding herself followed by wolves even in the city. When Ella disappears again, Claire must return to finally face her demons and discover what really happened.
The book is well written, has some lovely descriptions and paints brilliant scenes. The reader is kept guessing, mostly because it's from Claire's perspective and she too has no idea what is going on, and I like to be kept guessing, but I did feel there were still a couple of questions left unanswered at the end that I would have liked to be tied up. The ending was pretty satisfactory overall, and I would recommend this as a quick read for YAs.

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan - 8/10 (Kindle version)
Another book I liked from NetGalley, yay! This is described as being in the vein of The Physicke Book of Deliverance Dane (which I reviewed here) and A Discovery of Witches, the first of which I have read and enjoyed, the latter I have sat upstairs waiting for me to read (better get onto that!). Revelation "Reve" Dyer and her husband are magicians, working on stage and living in Vegas with their 3 daughters, but during their show one evening, the pistol she usually uses to appear to shoot her husband is tampered with, and she shoots him, killing him immediately. She and her daughters disappear (quite literally) and flee to Hawley Five Corners, a deserted town in the midst of the forest, the place where her ancestors lived and that she explored as a child with her best friend, now head of the Police in the nearby town. Mystery surrounds the place, such as the "magic" book she finds in the wall and the ever present question, why was the place so suddenly deserted? Immediately it becomes clear that all is not well and their stalker is on their tail again, then her twin daughters disappear into the forest. It becomes a race to save them, find out what happened, and protect her family.
The story is filled with magic, both literally and in the writing. It flits back in time occasionally to the town disappearing in the past and what happened then, as well as Reve's college years in which one of her friends disappears, all of which explains what is going on now but in a roundabout way. It was a good read with a pretty good storyline, but what I loved best was the setting and the elements of magic all around.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge - 7.5/10 (Kindle version)
This book felt to me like an extended fairytale, and I guess that's what it's supposed to be. I read a lot of good reviews of both the book and the author, so was excited to find out what all the fuss was about, and I wasn't really let down. So the story goes: Triss wakes up one morning not feeling herself. Her family explain she's been in some sort of accident, but she doesn't remember it. Trying to find out what has happened, she discovers the pages in her diary have been ripped out. Her memories of her life before are still all there in her head, but don't feel quite right, and she can't seem to find her way through the house properly. It is put down to illness based on her accident, although we all know there's something more to it than that, especially when her dolls start to scream at her and both in retaliation and through insatiable hunger, she eats one of them. It becomes clear there's more to this than just Triss, including the mysterious things her little sister Pen is doing, the strange thing she sees in her older brother Sebastian's room, who died at war years before, and the way her parents talk about her and the situation when they think she can't hear. Without giving it all away, it transpires that she is, quite literally, not herself, and that she has to team up with her sister, who appears to hate her for an unknown reason, and travel to the "Underbelly" of the city to find the truth and unravel the situation.
There are plenty of fairytale elements going on in the book entwined into the city of the day (which is at an unspecified point in the past), making it seem almost as if the story could have really happened, despite the surreal and magic elements to it. I would say it's another YA read, but erring on the creepier side. I loved the relationship between the sisters, the way it develops and changes, and Pen is just a fantastic character in general - so spiky, fiery and brave, despite being only young. It was a fairly quick read for, quite easy to get through, and I would definitely recommend it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - 8/10 (Kindle version)
So I mentioned I read a lot while being delirious and ill, and this one got devoured in a single day, along with the one below too! Although the subject matter was not the greatest choice when I had flu, considering it begins with an estimated 99% of the earth's population dying from the Georgia Flu...oops! Onto the story though: we actually start at a production of King Lear, where the main actor, a famous Hollywood actor, Arthur Leander, falls to the floor dead almost immediately from a heart attack. While a little girl sits and watches on stage, a paramedic in training, Jeevan, from the audience leaps up to try to save him to no avail and the curtain falls. This seems almost irrelevant when the next thing to come is a warning to Jeevan that the Georgia flu has reached America, then that is spreading, then to lock himself away immediately before he too catches it. Within a matter of hours, the hospitals are filled with patients, and within days most of the population of America has died. 20 years later, we join the Travelling Symphony, including the little girl, Kirsten, now woman, who saw Arthur die on stage all those years ago; it is a group of survivors, travelling from one "town" to the next, each made of mostly only 5 or 6 families now and sparsely spread, performing music and Shakespeare to keep spirits high. We flit between the new present world of survivors, the world as it was before, including the story of Arthur's life with his 3 ex-wives, focusing in on the first one and Jeevan's life as a paparazzo, then entertainment journalist, then paramedic, bouncing off Arthur's life occasionally. We also see a bit of the intervening years between now and the "end of the world", and find out why the little things, such as the comic books entitled "Station Eleven" that Kirsten carries around, mean so much to her, and how they fit in to the story.
The current storyline sees the Travelling Symphony reaching a town, leaving quickly when they realise the state it has come to as a "cult" under the "Prophet" and that the friends they left there 2 years ago have moved on to the "Museum of Civilisation" at an airport a fair journey away. The group is inexplicably split though, and it becomes apparent how dangerous the new world is, even 20 years after the apocalypse when guns are really now only used for hunting, gasoline is stale and there are so few people left.
By now you should now that I like post-apocalyptic and dystopian world books, so this was always going to be along the right lines for me. I really liked the way that there was a good balance between the current story, the past story, the mixed up characters and their relationships to one another, and the descriptions of the world itself. Sometimes with these type of books, there will be too much focus on the characters getting through the new world, or too much on the new world itself, but this struck a good balance between them. I really liked the way the story came together; small parts throughout the book had relevance later and everything tied up neatly. It's a fascinating study of society and how it might continue after the world as we know it has ended, how relationships go on, and what's meaningful to you in your life before might change or might stay the same. I'd definitely recommend this one, a very good read, and one of my favourites recently.

BloodLight: The Apocalypse of Robert Goldner - 3.5/10 (Kindle version)
So, I've had some good books this month, some not so good, and some ones that I really haven't enjoyed, and unfortunately this one was the latter. To be honest, it's my fault for not reading further into the blurb: I should warn you now, this is not the YA book it seems to be at first glance, it is a surreal, metaphysical fantasy book that's dark and strange. It does seem like it might be for me, but in the end it turned out not to be.
At the beginning, it seems to be about a teenage black boy (the colour of his skin is emphasised very much, both through his own thoughts and through taunts throughout the book) struggling through his school career in high school wrestling and with "friends" that seem much more like bullies to me. Some strange descriptions are going on though, such as the very beginning where he is seemingly being attacked by snowmen, and despite his protests that he doesn't drink or take drugs, I thought it was to sway the reader or least show the beginnings of a mental breakdown. There are plenty of struggles with racism and homophobia, as well as the mentions that shortly before his mother was murdered, she called him a mistake, and that stuck with him. To me, I was imagining a boy struggling to come to terms with his identity has a breakdown. So it seemed, until it took a few turns I didn't fully get, and which I know understand more that I've read the description more thoroughly.
The book is in three parts - part one, he begins having strange hallucinations, then goes crazy and passes out a wrestling match after performing some illegal moves. Part two, he is partially recovered, but then begins having more hallucinations which become worse and worse. Part three, what seems to be a complete breakdown on his birthday sends him into an alternate reality of his body and mind where supposedly "truths" are revealed to him - this was the metaphysical part of the book.
There are lots of Biblical elements going on throughout the story too, and the question the book is supposedly answering is "What would happen if God went mad?". While it is an interesting concept, I don't think it's done well enough for me to enjoy it. I started the book thinking it was a bit of a rubbish YA book, it didn't seem to be dealing well with the concepts it was presenting, but then dived headfirst into this metaphysical prose, which to be honest I had enough of with my ancient philosophy modules at uni! The two sides of the book clashed horribly for me, but since I never put a book down, I persevered, and ended up disappointed unfortunately. It's not for me, but may be for someone else. As you can see, there's a lot to it, not a lot of which appeals to me, but may for you.

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