A Life’s Made Of Hope…

“Yes, the night has dark bits, but it has stars too,

And you’ll feel when they shine,

That they shine just for you,

You will step outside and see from the park,

That the light is brighter when it’s next to the dark.

You will have so many great times ahead,

And soft happy dreams from inside your bed,

The future is changing, a life is a mix,

A life’s made of hope like a house is of bricks,

And tonight, right now, you feel very sad,

But the rest of your life won’t be so bad.”

Some days are just hard, aren’t they? But it’s so important not to lose sight of the good, not to forget to hope. I am taking hope and comfort from the lovely and wise words of The Truth Pixie today and, as ever, I am so grateful to people like Matt Haig who not only share and speak openly about their own difficult days, but also create wonderful things like The Truth Pixie which provide gentle reminders of the light in the dark. With illustrations. And talking rabbits.

It is a beautiful story of feeling out of place and learning to accept and love yourself. Of losing hope and then finding it again. Of isolation and friendship. And of truth. Truth when it’s uncomfortable. Truth when it’s uplifting. Truth as the cornerstone of authenticity.

It’s a five star read and if you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend you do. And then lend it to your friends, your family, the stranger on the train. Spread the pixie love and don’t forget to hope. After all, “A life’s made of hope like a house is of bricks”.

What’s your go-to uplifting read?

J x

In This Moment

It’s hard to believe the end of the year is so close. The last few months have somehow managed to both drag their feet as they stumble by lethargically and fly past in a busy blur. I am bone tired. But I feel like so much has been achieved. At home, we have renovated both the kitchen and the bathroom (all credit to hubby for the gorgeous new ensuite!) and despite the stress of several months of DIY chaos filling the house, the end result is so worth it and order has now been restored (hopefully my equilibrium will follow soon…). In other news, I wrote a novel. A whole novel. 50,000 words of it in November. It was an intense, amazing experience. I had been planning to share regular updates as I wrote but (as you probably noticed) that went out of the window pretty quickly. Instead, I’m planning a couple of posts reflecting on the experience as a whole, with some little insights from along the way. I also got nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award! This is so exciting and there’s a whole post coming about that too.

I have been pretty much completely absent from the internet since the beginning of November and I’m just now starting to work my way back into my blogging, Instagramming, Twittering routine. Whilst I work out what to post and when in these last couple of weeks before the New Year, I thought I’d just take a moment to give a little snapshot of life right now – suspended between the waning chaos of NaNoWriMo and home renovation and the coming bustle of Christmas and New Year.

 

Outside my window… the sky is streaked grey and winter white. A bite lingers in the air and icy fingers worms their way in through every crack and cranny left open to winter’s encroaching chill. Though it is only mid-afternoon, night already hastens on, trampling the amber glow from the sky in its haste. The world is curling in on itself, seeking warmth and refuge from the cold, dark depths of year’s end, but anticipation abounds and everywhere is covered with colour and earthbound stars.

I am thinking… that even though there is always work to be done, sometimes it can wait. A beat. A pause. A moment in time. Sometimes stillness and silence are necessities not indulgences.

I am thankful… for the school holidays and the chance to rest. For the incredible people I have around me. That I am able to persevere and thrive.

In the kitchen… there is finally calm. Newly decked in white, glossy cabinets and sleek subway tiles, it is now a space that longs to be lived in and shared.

I am wearing… black treggings a white, sleeveless shirt with lace collar, an oversized maroon wool jumper and black boots.

I am creating… a novel (first draft completed!!), blog posts, a collection of poetry and short stories, bookstagram content, layouts for my 2019 planner – so much of my creating continues to be in writing form. It still feels new and exciting and I am completely in love with it.

I am going… out for dinner this evening!

I am wondering… what to have to eat when I am out for dinner this evening…

I am reading… Hollow City, The Book Thief, One Day In December, A Way Past Winter…to name a few.

I am praying for... a good night’s sleep.

I am hoping… that the last week of term goes smoothly.

I am looking forward to…Christmas!

I am learning… all about how we learn to read, how we teach reading and the impact that poor teaching has on reading.

Around the house… it’s finally calm. The tools are gone, the surfaces are clear. The lights are dimmed and the decorations are up. Cosiness has settled over the house.

I am pondering… the direction I want to take.

A favourite quote for today…

 But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round…as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  

One of my favourite things… is still curling up under a blanket with a good book or a good film and forgetting the world for a bit.

A few plans for the rest of the week: 

Finish the Christmas shopping.

Wrap all the Christmas presents.

Take some photos for bookstagram.

Write some blog posts.

Read some books.

Sleep.

A peek into my day…

 

Believe Me – Social Media Tour

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I will admit that when I’m looking for a new read thrillers are rarely my go to. In fact, they’re never my go to. But when Quercus contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in receiving a review copy of JP Delaney’s Believe Me, and I read the marketing blurb, I was intrigued.

From the Quercus website:

In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation

One aspiring actress from the UK pays for her acting class in New York the only way she can: as a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers, hired to entrap straying husbands. When the police begin investigating one of her targets for murdering his wife – and potentially others – they ask her to help lure the suspect into a confession.

But with the actress pretending to be someone she’s not, differentiating the decoy from the prey becomes impossible – and deadly.

I’ve tried to step outside my reading comfort zone a bit more this year and here was an opportunity to do so again.

I’m so glad I did.

I started reading Believe Me as soon as it dropped through my letter box and it did not take long for me to feel completely hooked by the story. The opening pages set up a disturbing scenario, which you can’t help but want to understand, but the thing that really drew me into this narrative was the way in which the main character, Claire’s, interactions are, in part, presented like scripts. It really pulled me into the character’s mind seeing how her actor’s perspective influences how she experiences the various aspects of her somewhat unusual life, and these scripted interactions actually hold much greater significance than is initially apparent. Her theatrical tendencies were so appealing and there was one early description of being backstage that was particularly evocative, brilliantly illustrating Delaney’s skills as an atmospheric writer, as well as a storyteller.

This compelling atmosphere becomes more intricate as the story progresses, building in layers as the mystery and tension set by the original scenario thickens. Descriptions of Claire’s acting classes add almost a sense of magical realism to the twisting tale in which she becomes entangled. This is only emphasised through the excellent use of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) as a central plot device. Both beautiful and terrible, Baudelaire’s poems capture the essence of the evil Claire is confronting whilst increasing the enigma of who, exactly, is at its root.

The story only becomes more compelling as it unfolds because it doesn’t actually unfold at all – it folds itself in tighter and tighter. Every time I though I was getting a sense for what was going on, something else happened that made me question what I thought I had just begun to figure out. There are so many twists in this tale that I began to feel I was getting whiplash! Each twist, often coming out of nowhere, is brutal and begins to paint an increasingly disturbing picture. At times I wanted to stop reading because what was being revealed seemed so horrifying but I just couldn’t put it down.

By the end, I felt disturbed and relieved in equal measure because, although the mystery was unravelled and the loose ends tied up, I was left with the discomfiting feeling that all was not quite well, and I couldn’t help but wonder what path Claire’s life would take following her deep entanglement with such horror.

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Believe Me was a quick and compulsive read which I didn’t know what to expect from, even after I’d finished. If you’re after an easy but addictive story, with more twists than your average rollercoaster and and edge of tension that will linger after you turn the final page, then I recommend you pick up a copy.

 

Thanks to Quercus for the review copy. You can find out what some other fabulous bloggers and Instagrammers though of Believe Me by following the Quercus Social Media tour. 

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The Long Awaited Music Of Words

Being a mood reader, there are not often books that I eagerly anticipate the release of; that I cannot wait to get my hands on and that I clamour for an early copy of. I usually browse in bookshops or see what takes my fancy on Bookstagram and pick up what takes my fancy. But this is one of those rare books I have been waiting for for a long time.

This week saw the release of C.G. Drews’ (aka Paper Fury‘s) A Thousand Perfect Notes, into the wild. I have followed Cait’s blog for years and she never fails to make me smile and always makes me want cake. Her blog is full of enthusiastic shouting about books, relatable moaning about the misunderstood difficulties of bookworm life, lots of extolling the virtues of desserts and the odd insight into her writing life. I have lurked in the background (no, it’s not creepy, I promise), watching her tenaciously work towards her dream of becoming a published author. This year that dream became a reality and I am over the moon for her. I also could not WAIT to get my hands on her book baby and devour every word.

I was amazingly blessed to be sent an ARC but, I’ll be honest, I had a moment of panic. What if I didn’t like it?! Here was a book I had been eagerly anticipating from a writer who, unlike most other authors I read, I actually occasionally interact with on her blog and on social media. If I didn’t like it what would I SAY?! It turns out I needn’t have worried. I read it practically in one sitting (that pesky thing called work got in the way of a true binge read) and I absolutely loved it.

Here is a story that is shot through with passion, heartache, friendship, and hope. The characters sing off the page, along with Beck’s music, and the relationships between them were so heartfelt and real. The Maestro, Beck and Joey’s violently obsessive and overpowering mother, is a truly terrifying figure but she also has such a believable vulnerability that begins, ever so slightly, to bleed through her vicious exterior, that even whilst I wanted to run screaming from her I also wanted to reach for her and try to bring that humanity out.

Beck is so lost within his incredible talent, heartbreak, and longing for a dream of his own, that I wanted to take his hand and hold him tight. I was so moved by his uncertainty and passion, and his relationship with his sparkly little sister is just so beautiful. A fabulously rendered sibling bond; equal parts love and irritation.

When August bounced across the page it was like a crescendo and a splash of colour. She is such a beautifully vivid character and I loved the glimpses into her quirky life:

“There are a few cats and a goat but we’re only babysitting the llama.”

“Naturally.”

August is a much needed balm to the pain and heartache of Beck’s reality and their unlikely but burgeoning friendship is so wonderful to read.

There were highs, there were lows, there were points when I wanted to climb in between the pages, squeeze myself into the story and find a way to make everything ok. I laughed out loud. I cried. And when it was over I kept trying to turn the page in the hopes there would be more. This is one of my favourite reads so far this year. If you’re on the hunt for an immersive YA contemporary read, this is it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Hachette for the ARCs.

Giselle: A Triumphant Reimagining


I have just had the pleasure, and the absolute privilege, of watching English National Ballet perform Akram Kahn’s Giselle. I’m not even sure if I can articulate how I feel about this production. Words like phenomenal spring to mind but I’m not sure even that would do it justice.
Every aspect of this reimagined classic has been crafted to perfection. Kahn’s choreography is poignant and eloquent, managing to be both true to the classical ballet style whilst also writhing with an earthy, contemporary edge. The combination of classical motifs, that appear like a breadcrumb trail evoking the original choreography, the bodily contortion and contemporary attack, blended with nods to Kahn’s classical kathak, make for a truly original work of art. 
Tamara Rojo is exquisite as Giselle, and carries the complex blend of frantic movement, utter stillness, and expressive gesture with the degree of poise and perfection we come to expect from professional dancers, yet which still manages to astound. Likewise, Stina Quagebuer portrays Myrtha with finesse: exuding other-worldliness and wielding suspense with her every movement. 
Along with the incredible performances of the principles and soloists, the artists of the company were truly breathtaking. For me, their portrayal of the Wilis in particular was striking. It was here, in Act 2, where Khan’s incredible conceptual originality shone: through the flawless execution of the artists. Managing to maintain the famous ethereal vision and movement of the classic, Khan brings a raw, underlying tension to the act, the eeriness of which raises the hairs on the back of your neck. The stunning choreography and performance is complimented beautifully by effortlessly flowing costumes; simple yet effective sets and staging; and a haunting use of light. 
Circling and weaving through the production is another masterpiece; Vincenzo Lamagna’s score. A perfect blend of symphony and silence, threaded through with industrial sound, Lamanga manages to both enhance the choreography and give it space to breathe and speak for itself. In the music, as with the choreography, there are familiar refrains woven through a new and exciting artistic landscape: I can’t imagine a more successful accompaniment.
As if the artistic virtuosity evident in this production was not enough, this unique retelling carries with it themes both old and new, that resonate with extraordinary power. Love, rejection, betrayal, death, revenge and inequality all have their place in the evidently timeless story, and all are expressed in such a way that invites us to consider the impact of such things in our own communities, and indeed the world.
I congratulate all involved in the planning, production and performance of Giselle; it is truly triumphant.