Category Archives: Uncategorized

Incubus by Ann Arensberg

incubus ann arensbergTeenaged girls meddling with witchcraft in the churchyard of Dry Falls parish seem to have woken something up. As an incessant heat wave holds the town in a stranglehold, the women of the town begin to have nightmares and as Henry, the town priest, investigate, his wife Cora begins to feel increasingly isolated.

The above, is the plot of Ann Arensberg’s Incubus as I managed to gather it from reading this book which took me weeks because its tendency to meander away from the details of the plot and insert a multitude of irrelevant descriptions made it a very frustrating read. The novel starts with a vaguely academic tone as Cora promises to provide a scientific record of the events of that summer, then proceeds to narrate her husband, mother and sister’s life stories… though it isn’t too long before she veers away from focusing on the paranormal aspects of the summer to provide tedious descriptions of her cooking and wax lyrical about outdated notions of femininity, basically positing that all women occupy a vaguely pagan status and that cooking, wishing and gardening are tantamount to witchcraft. I found the “we weak and helpless women” tone of the piece profoundly irritating.

The characters were poorly rendered and unbelievable. For all that Cora says about her husband Henry, he remains a shadowy figure, and there is no relationship between him and Cora to speak of but at least the author has tried to shoe horn in some depth of character here. The rest of the novel was stocked with 2D characters whose bland interactions held neither interest or credibility for the reader. The author genuinely seemed more interested in describing dry chicken dinners than developing a plot concerning the incubus.

The ending of the novel was so bad it was laughable, I won’t include too many spoilers but it mostly involves a showdown between the forces of heaven and hell in a church, the priest sustaining a sprained ankle and Cora(who the whole town seems to have agreed was too boring to become a target for the incubus) deciding she is like Persephone locked in her husband’s underworld. I was left wondering what on earth the author could have been thinking.

A town plagued by an Incubus is a subject with the potential for a really gripping novel, but somehow Ann Arensberg has managed to make it deathly dull. It’s almost a snatching defeat from the jaws of victory scenario.

At times, Aresnberg writes very pretty descriptions but given the weakness of characterisation and plotting I did wonder whether food or travel writing might be a better genre for her than supernatural thriller.

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Crystallised Rose Petals

crystallised rose petals

This weekend I spent a lot of time hanging out in my garden, chilling out with my guinea pigs, weeding the borders and checking out how my crops were coming along. I decided to make some rose petal biscuits to celebrate midsummer, and thought that crystallised rose petals would make a lovely decoration. If you’re an organic gardener, they are really easy to rustle up. All you need is a rose, some greaseproof paper, an egg, a paint brush and some caster sugar.crystalised roses step by step

 

 

Pick your rose, and gently pull off the petals, abandoning any that are torn or spotted.

 

 

 

 

 

Gently paint each petal with some lightly beaten egg white, I add a tablespoon of water to my egg whites for a thinner and a finer glaze.

 

 

 

 

 

Gently sprinkle caster sugar all over the rose petal, shake off the excess and then lay on a sheet of greaseproof paper to dry for a few hours.

 

 

 

 

Quote me on that… how the witch became wicked

how the witch became wicked gregory maguire

Adapted from original by MetaSarah

When I was little I never wanted to be a princess. I wanted to be a witch. I collected books about witches and wrote my own spell book. I have a really vivid memory from when I was about three of drawing a picture of a witch and feeling upset because my great-grandfather complimented me on drawing a beautiful princess… she was meant to be queen of the witches.

Maybe it’s as a result of this that I love the quotation from Wicked. Witches and villains are people too y’all, and who doesn’t love a complex fictional character?

Quote me on that…bridges and metaphors

Image adapted from original by Jeff Smallwood under the Creative Commons

Image adapted from original by Jeff Smallwood under the Creative Commons

I love everything about The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, if you haven’t read it you must. I especially love this quote about bridges- meeting places, possibilities, metaphors- even though when I’m on them I can freak out a little about the height. So here’s to bridges, especially now the trolls that used to live underneath them moved to the internet.

Talking Chaucer with Patience Agbabi and Mark Watson

iconiconLast night I went to an Oxford Literary Festival talk on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and why they still resonate with people which had the poet Patience Agbabi and the comedian Mark Watson as key speakers. Oh my gosh it was amazing, and having bored my boyfriend and friends sick telling them about it, I’ve decided to bore you too.

For me, the best bit, beyond a shadow of a doubt was Patience’s live performance of some of the poems from her new book, Telling Tales, a twenty-first century remix of Chaucer which represents the diversity and dynamism of modern Britain while remaining faithful to Chaucer’s work. Sceptical? So was I until I saw Patience perform, then I was enchanted and I have now bought the book and am watching all of the videos of her performances on YouTube. She originally wrote a modern version of The Wife of Bath’s Tale in her collection Transformatrix, before becoming poet laureate for Canterbury which required her to write poems which had a connection to the city of Canterbury. Check the collection out and I’m sure you’ll agree that the results are phenomenal. If you’d like to see what has turned me into such a raving fan girl, check out this performance from Telling Tales below- I spent most of the night wondering how Agbabi would have approached The Prioress Tale given the overt antisemitism of the Chaucer text and this video shows how brilliantly she’s done this:

Mark Watson read from a modern prose of translation of Chaucer, which inevitably lacked the colour of the original, especially when compared to Patience’s blistering rhymes. Nonetheless he was brilliantly witty all the while being charmingly self-deprecating, telling us before reading “If you  like, you can imagine I’m Chaucer, but this may take substantial effort…I’ve never read this aloud, because why would you? I didn’t write it. I wasn’t at any of the publishing events.”

It was a really lovely night, the only downside being that there was one of those in the crowd… if you know what I mean. One of those is one of the reasons I decided against doing my masters in Literature because one invariably shows up in every seminar and lecture. The ones who always make a point of asking a question which implies an argument with the speaker and is intended to show off which only makes the one of those look silly and irritates the rest of the audience. The most annoying thing about this one was that they actually swapped seats with their wife to get a better eye-line with which to snidely rebuke the panel for not being as clever as they clearly thought they were… tedious, tedious man!

I’m off to more talks tomorrow and on the weekend, very exciting 🙂

Quote me on that… the end of the world

that world is ended as if it had never been lewis narnia

Image adapted from an original by Eldar under Creative Commons

On my extensive list (204 pages to date) of this that annoy me, climate change deniers are way up there. Like the environment secretary Owen Paterson, who actually came out and said that global warming would be good for Britain. Sigh.

Anyway, the C.S. Lewis quote above is taken out of context but seemed pertinent.

New Year Stationery

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery -The Little Prince

I don’t know if it’s some vestige of the back-to-school routine that I used to have, but I love the stationery that you get to use in the New Year. My favourites this year are The Little Prince Moleskine Diary that my boyfriend got me for my birthday (it came with these gorgeous bookmarks-bonus!) and the Paperchase list book that my older sister bought me for Christmas.

The Little Prince Moleskine Diary

The Little Prince Moleskine Diary

list book interior

Paperchase List Book

Both have already come in super handy, I’m back in work now and scribbling down meetings in my diary allows me to remember what I’ve agreed to (!) and the list book has come in really handy for working on the Apartment Therapy January Cure… I filled five of the A5 lined pages on day one!

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Little Prince Moleskine Diary Interior

New Year Reading Resolutions (you’ve probably broken already…)

Have you made a new year’s resolution? I haven’t yet, partly because I think January is a terrible time to make any kind of life change (way too dark and gloomy) and partly because, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been a little bit distracted. But year after year, I see the same reading resolutions cropping up, and I’m pretty sure that they’re never kept.

Here are 5 popular reading resolutions I’ve seen and why, if you’re anything like me, I think they will fail:

Resolution 1- I will read 52 books this year.

A book a week. Perfectly achieveable… if you already read at around that rate and don’t expect to have, you know, life get in the way of your plans if you don’t. You get sick, have a busy week at school or work and the next thing you know you’re behind on your schedule and will start panicking. I hate it when people set numerical reading targets, because for me, reading is meant to be enjoyable, and a pleasurable activity can’t really be quantified in terms of the number of pleasurable items consumed. For example, you might like eating chocolate, but eat too many bars and you’re going to get sick. This doesn’t have to be a book a week either, it’s any arbitrary number that you use as a stick to beat yourself. Just read at your own pace, and love the books you do manage to read.

Resolution 2- I will read War and Peace

Ah, so you’re going to read that fictional classic that you’ve always felt that you should read but didn’t quite get around to despite that fact that you’ve been promising yourself that you will for the past seven years? It’s all well and good, but are you promising yourself that for the right reasons? My feeling is if the book had really called to you, you would have read it already. If you feel you should read a book, you’re probably doing it because it symbolises something to you, an intellectual achievement, a chance to fit in… not necessarily the right reasons to beat yourself around the head with a 1,440 page dusty tome. If you love classics, fine, but if you actually love dodgy sci-fi with giant spaceworms and bigger plot holes? Do yourself a favour and stick to what you love.

Resolution 3- I will read “the greats”

Ever fancied reading the unabridged great books? I tried this when I was in sixth form and thought I should educate myself before going to university. I started with Marx’s Das Kapital because I was studying Nineteen Eighty-Four at the time, and I didn’t get much further than that. The thing is, many of these great political/philosophical works are pretty esoteric or are deeply rooted in their time, with obscure references to people, works and ideas which you may not have heard of or which are very much of their time. Do yourself a favour and if you are going to try this, either go abridged or get a good academic guide which is going to offer you some context.

Resolution 4- I will share my favourite books with my partner…

Ever heard the expression that you can take a horse to water but can’t make it drink? Well in my house, the horse only drinks sports drinks… if you follow the analogy. Best of luck in your own house though!

 

 

What New Year’s resolutions have you seen or made that have struck you as being overly ambitious?

My Top 5 Bookish Tumblrs

031020103131.jpgThere are so many inspiring book blogs out there, but I find that the Tumblr pages tend to get a little overlooked compared to their wordy companions. Here are my five favourite book related tumblr pages which I like to check for smiles and inspiration.

1. Bookshelf Porn

Bookshelf Porn is not such an overlooked tumblr since anyone who is into books or interior design will be familiar with their page, if not through tumblr itself then through the multitude of shares on Facebook, pinterest, etc. The most famous and the best for a very good reason.

2. Epigraphic

I am a bit of an epigraph obsessive, I really appreciate a well-chosen one but found during my A-levels that others don’t find them as interesting (the epigraph in question was the Sufi proverb in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale). I was delighted to come across Epigraphic a really cool tumblr page which collects pictures or quotations of epigraphs from a wide variety of books. I’ve even added a few books to my to read list as a result of their epigraphs being shown on this page.

3. The Art Of Google Books

The Art of Google Books was a recent find after I read a piece about it on the New Yorker. Collecting scanning errors and quirks that have occurred during the mass appropriation of content for the Google Books programme, it also includes marginalia, tea stains and other evidence of previous readers which will be lost if books go entirely digital.

4. Pretty Books

Pretty Books is edited by an individual and I think it’s all the nicer for it, as you really get a sense of Stacey’s individual tastes and style from the consistently gorgeous images she selects. I envy her aesthetic flair.

5. Ideal Bookshelf

I came across Ideal Bookshelf through Bookshelf Porn which just goes to show the lovely stuff you can find while reading other people’s blogs. The artist creates portraits of people which show them as the books that have shaped their lives and personality, rather than the nose and eyes that genetics have assigned them. I think it’s a lovely idea and am so tempted to get my own.