Review of ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold

Again (really bad, oops) I watched the movie ‘The Lovely Bones’ years before I read the book. I already knew it was going to be such a good read based on how amazingly heartbreaking the movie was. This is such a heartbreaking book, but may be triggering for some people to read. The plot of the book is made even more disturbing (yet very real) when the background of the author is taken into consideration ( I suggest reading ‘Lucky’ by Alice Sebold, if you wish to understand how the author was able to write the events that occur in ‘The Lovely Bones’ so vividly).

The allusions made to Sebold’s experiences are important as they allow an exploration of a dark reality of the repercussions of acts of violence (in this case, rape and murder) and how these acts can haunt an entire society. Sebold explores the effects of the death of Susie Salmon on numerous members of society, such as her friends, family and wrongly accused suspects. The use of the first person narrator allows for the author to really explore the point of view of the victim, one that is not often shared due to obvious reasons. By looking at the earth from heaven, Susie is able to have an overview of all that happens after her murder, in this case she can definitely be described as an omniscient narrator.

I wouldn’t class this novel as a murder mystery, as the reader is already aware of who the murderer is. However, the reader gets to experience how the family and friends of the victim cope with such a violent act that has directly affected them, as well as to explore the continuing journey of the young life that has been cut short. Alongside this, I think that the way in which the family are seen interacting with the murderer definitely made me want to read on to see if justice would be served.

I don’t want to give too much away incase you haven’t watched the movie or read the book but I do recommend reading this. It is difficult to read and did make me feel uncomfortable at some points, but I think that is important in order for the text to truly allow a reader to grasp the issues that it deals with.

Happy reading!

Meg x

Homemade curry paste

You could probably find lots of more authentic curry paste recipes and I don’t pretend to be an expert at Asian cuisine but this is my ‘go to’ base for curries without having to use a shop bought paste or sauce! (I normally just throw spices in but I’ve estimated some measurements for this recipe, feel free to adjust to your own taste/the type of curry you are making)

Ingredients

  • Turmeric powder (2 heaped tsp)
  • Cumin (1 heaped tsp)
  • Ground coriander (1 tsp)
  • Garam masala (1 heaped tsp)
  • Paprika (1 tsp)
  • Cayenne pepper (1 tsp)
  • Chilli flakes (1/2 tsp) (optional)
  • Garlic powder (1/2 tsp) (optional)
  • Ground ginger (1/2 tsp) (optional)
  • Tomato purée (2 heaped tbsp)

Recipe

  • Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl
  • Add the tomato purée and combine to form a paste (add more if it still seems a little powdery but it should be quite thick)
  • To use the paste simply add to chicken (or your preference of meat/vegetables) and cook the spices out for a few minutes to extract their flavours.
  • Then add your liquid of choice (I normally use tinned tomato’s and around 150ml of chicken stock) and simmer until completely cooked!

An insight into feminism in Shakespeare’s plays – based on my undergraduate dissertation

The title for my undergraduate dissertation was ‘Women and Genre in Shakespeare’s plays’. I really enjoyed researching and writing this piece and was so proud to have learnt that I achieved a 1:1 grade for it! I also have a Shakespearean quote as a tattoo that reads; ‘though she be but little, she is fierce’ which is from ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ (a play studied in my dissertation).

I’ll write a brief synopsis of the feminist elements that I believe can be found in different Shakespearean plays and how this may differ from other scholarly views surrounding Shakespeare. I’ll also include a copy of the dissertation itself incase you are interested in reading the whole thing to research further into the topic!

When you think of the work of Shakespeare, and the period in which he was writing, feminism may not be the first link that is made. This is completely understandable considering most of Shakespeare’s protagonists are patriarchal male characters, with there being very little female representation throughout the canon. However, as I argue in my dissertation, i’d say that the work of Shakespeare can most definitely be read through the lens of feminism. Shakespeare is still relevant in modern times and you may use some of his phrases without even knowing! This is one of the reasons why i think it is so important to view the work of the playwright through more obscure lenses, you can interpret his work in so many different ways and can be creative in doing so.

If you struggle to read any of Shakespeare’s plays, there are so many different adaptations that you can listen to or watch to still appreciate his talents and work. From ballets, to children’s books, to movies, Shakespeare’s work is constantly being adapted to suit the tastes of more modern audiences. One adaptation that a lot of you may be more familiar with is the movie ’10 Things I Hate About You’ which is an adaptation of the play ‘Taming of the Shrew’. The plays that I have linked to the genre of feminism are ‘Othello’, ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ and ‘Henry VI (parts one-three)’. However, there are so many other plays that can be read positively through feminism, one of the top of my head being ‘Hamlet’.

Many of Shakespeare’s female characters can be considered feminist heroines in their own right, I explain this within my dissertation by referring to the female protagonists commonly used in Comic plays. However, one of my favourite female characters is from a tragic play; Emelia from ‘Othello’. Emelia is a character who is able to question the patriarchal standards that govern the society in which she exists, exploring the double standards that are placed upon men and women within marriage. I explore this in further depth in my dissertation, but if you feel as though the genre of tragedy may be more interesting to you then I would definitely recommend reading ‘Othello’ and playing close attention to the role that Emelia plays.

If you’re interested in reading more of my ideas surrounding the way in which Shakespeare may be considered ‘feminist’ then please feel free to read my thesis which I have attached below!

Happy reading!

Meg x

My top 10 favourite books; from childhood to University.

These are my top 10 favourite books from childhood all the way through to University! You’ll notice that I’ve already written reviews for some of the books included in this post but if you’re interested in reviews from any of the others please feel free to contact me via the ‘contact page’!

The books included in this post aren’t put in any particular order, although I will say that ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ is my all time favourite book!

I loved reading Roald Dahl as a child, although I love all of his books and have them all, ‘The Twits’ was definitely my favourite! His books are always silly and creative but also have hidden messages which are great for kids and adults alike!
As you’ll know from my previous reviews, I studied this book at University and absolutely loved it! Alice Walker’s work is always powerful and amazing and I’d say that you should definitely read at least one of her books during your lifetime (especially this one!)
I don’t have a psychical copy of this text as I borrowed it from a friend but I read this within two days; I was that hooked! If you’re into crime fiction like me, this is a must read!
One of my friends bought me this book for my 21st birthday and it’s the most beautiful book I own. It has interactive features and beautiful illustrations. The ‘Beauty and The Beast’ Disney movie is my favourite so the book is also obviously a favourite of mine!
This is my favourite book (so far)! If you’ve read my reviews on Hosseini’s work you’ll know that his work is always powerful and moving. The issues that he deals with are something that I feel everyone should have some knowledge about, and Hosseini is an author that truly explores the heartbreaking events that have/are occurring within Afghanistan.
Although not technically a book, the work of William Shakespeare will always hold a place close to my heart. Everyone will have read at least one of Shakespeare’s plays during their lifetime (or watched an adaptation) and his work is truly timeless. I actually wrote my dissertation on the work of Shakespeare and the links that certain plays have to the genre of Feminism. My favourite play is ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
This book is a classic for both children and adults. Lewis Carroll is an author that most people will be familiar with and all of his novels are extremely well written and his plots are creative and fun! This text offers a lovely form of escapism for anyone wishing to get away from all the stresses of life!
I very recently read this and just couldn’t put it down! This was recommended to me by a few people on my Instagram and I’m so glad that I bought and read it! I’ve also bought Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’ and plan on reading that soon! Flynn is definitely the queen of plot twists and crime fiction fans (if you haven’t already) should definitely read her work! The adaptations of her novels are also amazing, but you can’t beat a good book!
It was so difficult to choose my favourite novel of the ‘Harry Potter’ series so I decided to go with the last one. I read all of these as a child and should probably re-read them! The world that J.K Rowling creates is phenomenal and her writing is loved by readers of all ages, if you haven’t already read this then you really should.
I read this in an English class in primary school and a few times since. Although a short book, the plot to this novel is so heartwarming. It explores the life of a horse through the War and I’d therefore class it as a ‘war story’. The end of this book is definitely one that made my eyes water!

Trip to the Cotswolds Lavender field.

This post will mainly consist of pictures of my trip to the Cotswolds Lavender field in July 2020.

This was the first time I’d been to a lavender field and I’d definitely go again. If you plan on going yourself, you need to research Lavender fields near you as they are only open for a certain amount of time (a month or so) due to the need to harvest the crops! I’d recommend taking a picnic (there were lots of benches dotted around) and this would also be a really lovely place to sit and read your favourite book whilst you relax!

I had such a lovely time and will definitely be going again next year!

There was also a patch of yellow camomile!

Review on ‘Midnights Children’ by Salman Rushdie

(Despite the absolutely adorable feature image, this book has nothing to do with dogs)

Once again, I was introduced to this text through my studies at University, who’d have thought an English degree would entail reading so many books!? Anyway, although the plot to this text is fascinating and explores the rich history of India, it isn’t one of my favourite reads.

Rushdie uses a large amount of references within his work, some of which were unknown to me upon reading, which made parts of the text a little confusing to comprehend. I definitely relied on Google whilst reading this, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I prefer to read books that draw me into their plots without reading too much into other details. This being said, I didn’t hate the book by any means. The plot itself was really enjoyable and it is an extremely well written text!

The history behind this book is absolutely fascinating and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in studying History, in particular the history of Colonialism. If you don’t like History, don’t be put off by the amount of it that is used within the text. This book is definitely classified within the genre of magical realism and it’s fantasy aspects also make for a good read.

If you like an easy read then I wouldn’t recommend reading this book, however, in my opinion it was really interesting once I understood the references that were used. If you do read this, make sure that you research anything you don’t understand! This will make the text far more powerful and offer a larger insight into the message that the author is portraying.

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker

I was introduced to this book during my studies at University and was really excited to read it after hearing good reviews from friends at sixth form but not getting round to reading the book myself. I absolutely love this book and it’s one of my favourite ones! It’s one that I could re-read over and over and never get bored of, if you’ve seen and loved the movie then you will definitely love the novel itself!

The novel explores the life of protagonist, Celie, from childhood through to adulthood, and the experiences that she endures as a black female in the South of America. The novel uses the voices of characters through the forms of prayers, first-person explorations and letters. The prominent first-person voice that is used is that of Celie, I loved the way that as you get further into the text, the protagonist’s voice develops (from broken American English to a more eloquent form of speech) as much as she develops as a female within America. Compared to other texts that use similar narrative devices, this book is definitely easy to follow!

The plot itself is heartbreaking in some places and can be quite difficult to read when put into perspective. Numerous types of black female characters are introduced, this enables Walker to really explore the ways in which black women have been exploited in America and within their own communities and households. The ways in which the women each support each other in some way promotes the need for solidarity in such issues.

The end of the text itself is definitely fulfilling and it’s worth a read just for such an emotional conclusion. Especially when taking into consideration the issues that are occurring world wide through the Black Lives Matter movement, I would say that the work of Alice Walker in general is highly beneficial in exploring the plight of African American Women through literature. As a black feminist, she is able to accurately portray numerous characters and events that are powerful and equally as heartbreaking.

I would definitely recommend this book!

Happy reading!

Meg x

American chilli dogs

Ingredients (feeds four)

  • A jar of hotdogs (you could use fresh sausages if you prefer but I like these hotdogs (feel free to judge!))
  • Hotdog buns (I normally serve one per person but if you’re extra hungry you may manage two!)
  • One onion (peeled and diced into small pieces)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled and diced into small pieces)
  • 500g mince beef (pork or lamb mince would work well with this recipe too)
  • 3-5tsp chipotle paste depending upon your heat preference (I normally use 5)
  • 200g Demerara sugar
  • 150g tomato sauce (difficult to measure but just use a measuring jug and evenly squirt till the correct measurement)
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • A splash of red wine
  • A splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh or dried coriander to season
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated cheese (optional, chilli infused cheddar works great with these!)
  • Lettuce
  • Chips/salad/coleslaw to serve (optional)

Method

  • In a deep pan or wok, fry the chopped onion and garlic in some olive oil until the onion begins to soften.
  • Add the mince beef to the pan and fry until browned.
  • Add the tomato sauce, soy sauce, wine, vinegar, sugar and chipotle paste and bring to a simmer. Mix the chilli to ensure that all of the ingredients have combined.
  • Leave to simmer for twenty minutes.
  • If using fresh sausages now would be the time to cook these by either frying them in a pan or grilling them.
  • After the mixture has cooked season with salt and pepper and coriander.
  • If using jarred hotdog sausages cook according to instructions (I normally cook mine on the hob).
  • Assemble the hotdogs by putting a few leaves of lettuce in the hotdog bun, followed by your sausage of choice. Top with the chilli and add some grated cheese on top.
  • Serve with chips, would also be lovely alongside some coleslaw and a salad.
  • (I always have chilli left over when making this, I put mine in the fridge and have it the day after with nachos or a jacket potato)

Review on ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R Tolkien

I’m sure a lot of you will be familiar with this text (if not, then at least the film version) but if you haven’t read it and are into the genre of fantasy this is a must-read! This novel is easier to follow than ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as it was written as a children’s book and is therefore a good starting point if you want a text that is both exciting and full of action whilst being an easy read.

I really admire the work of Tolkien, especially the author’s ability to create a whole new world, complete with different species and even different languages. Even if you’re not a fan of his work, the creation of such a complex world and the thought and detail that he includes within his texts is something to be admired.

I’m not a huge fan of the fantasy genre but I did enjoy reading ‘The Hobbit’. The character of Bilbo Baggins was a likeable character who we follow and root for throughout the duration of the novel. As well as this, there are numerous adventures that the protagonist takes part in, at no point whilst reading the text was I left bored or waiting for something interesting to occur.

I find it difficult to review the writing style of this text without giving any spoilers away but the text is quite simple in comparison to a lot of other literature. This would be due to the fact that it is a children’s book, as previously mentioned. Although this is the case, if you are interested in reading more fantasy texts I would certainly recommend beginning with this one!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Livraria Lello – the library that inspired J.K Rowling

When I visited Porto with my family last year we went to Livraria Lello and it was one of my favourite parts of the trip! Before we arrived in Portugal it was on our ‘to do list’ as we had seen pictures online and had been told it was a ‘must go spot’.

The entrance/ticket office to the library was separate from the library itself, and once tickets were purchased you had to queue in line. The queue lasted around half an hour but there were lots of food and drinks places really close by that did take-away refreshments. The library itself wasn’t very big but it was beautiful both inside and out!

The first thing that I noticed when walking though the entrance were the amazing stairs that sat in the centre of the building. The library itself was rumoured to have inspired J.K Rowling’s depiction of Hogwarts, I could certainly see how the architecture (in particular the stairs) would be a form of inspiration! Personally, I thought that the stairs were reminiscent of the moving dormitory stairs in Hogwarts!

The upstairs of the library housed artefacts from the Harry Potter series and were really interesting to view (although they were encased with glass for obvious reasons). There were many different types of books on offer, as expected in a library, and the ticket used to enter could be redeemed against the price of a book. Certain texts (some classics and poetry anthologies) were beautifully presented, with gold edged paper and detailed illustrations. I bought three of these as souvenirs from my trip!

I would definitely suggest a visit here if you ever find yourself near Porto! It’s a must-do trip for literature enthusiasts and lovers of the Harry Potter franchise alike!