Search

I swoon over fictional men

‘The witch doesn’t burn in this one’ Amanda Lovelace

35924698

2016 Goodreads Choice Award-winning poet Amanda Lovelace returns in ‘the witch doesn’t burn in this one’ — the bold second book in her “women are some kind of magic” series. 

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now—indestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.

underline+(transparent)

Check out my review for the princess saves herself in this one here!

There seems to be this general rule that the second one – be it a movie or book in a series or a band’s second album – is never as good as the first. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule (actually, a lot of exceptions…maybe I made that ‘general rule’ up) and Amanda Lovelace’s second collection is one such exception. Unlike the witch, her creative energy most certainly burns and burns yet brighter in the witch doesn’t burn in this one. 

The thing I adore about Amanda’s work is that I always feel like I’m being addressed directly. There are so many of her poems that just speak to me on a soul level, one such poem being:

say it / with me / now: / “i am a woman. / i am a human. / & i matter with / no conditions / attached / you may not / see my worth / but i do. / i do.”  (page 120)

(and countless others, I’ve folded over so many page corners, forgive me, Amanda)

I think everybody interprets poetry differently and the meaning they derive is the meaning that brings them the most solace. For me, this poem reminded me of the non-relationship I have with my father. I’ve been rejected by him twice as an adult and despite telling myself I’m ‘over’ it, that wound has never quite healed. I ask myself things like “How much am I worth if my own flesh and blood doesn’t want me?” or “If my own father doesn’t like me, what chance do I stand with anyone else?”. In a few lines, Amanda reminded me that as long as I see my worth, fuck what my father thinks or doesn’t think of me. I matter even if I don’t matter to him.

the witch doesn’t burn in this one implores us women to support all of our fellow women, regardless of how they identify, regardless of their skin colour, regardless of their age, regardless of their sexual orientation, regardless of their religion, regardless of their education. They are all our sisters.  Some people naively believe that the fight for women’s rights is ‘over’ just because things are okay for them and the women in their inner circle, but Amanda reminds us that globally – and sometimes not even that, sometimes it can be the woman next door or the woman we see everyday on the bus on the way to work – there are women being stripped of their rights; they’re stripped of their bodily autonomy, they’re stripped of their voices and they’re stripped of their dignity. These are the women we must lift “above the flames”. These are the women we must continue to fight for.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Two Steps From Hell’s The Fire in Her Eyes 

reviewgif5

This book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-reader format.

Advertisements

‘New Fears’ edited by Mark Morris

newfears

The horror genre’s greatest living practitioners drag our darkest fears kicking and screaming into the light in this collection of nineteen brand-new stories. In “The Boggle Hole” by Alison Littlewood an ancient folk tale leads to irrevocable loss. In Josh Malerman’s “The House of the Head” a dollhouse becomes the focus for an incident both violent and inexplicable. In “Speaking Still” Ramsey Campbell suggests that beyond death there may be far worse things waiting than we can ever imagine… Numinous, surreal and gut wrenching, New Fears is a vibrant collection showcasing the very best fiction modern horror has to offer.

underline+(transparent)

spoiler-alert-rubber-stamp-white-print-impress-overprint-83195493

Okay, so I initially went into Waterstones hunting for the final installment in Ezekiel Boone’s Hatching trilogy (check out my reviews for the first two books here and here) and came out instead with New Fears. My quest for Zero Day ended in failure (I eventually ordered it and am now happily devouring it), but the cover for New Fears pulled me in simply because it put me in mind of the covers of The Hatching and Skitter. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions in my reviews of Boone’s books that I’m prone to night terrors that revolve solely around bugs so any horror book that has such things adorning its cover is guaranteed to be a book that’ll scare the living crap out of me (metaphorically, of course).

There were a couple of stories within New Fears that genuinely creeped me out, namely The House of the Head, which is unique take on the traditional haunted house story in the respect that it’s about a haunting that takes place inside a dolls house. We witness the events unfolding through the eyes of a young girl, who’s reflecting upon it many years later as a grown woman. The description of the creepy ass doll’s head which seems to be at the epicenter of the haunting genuinely chilled me and don’t even get me started on the scene where the girl can see its reflection in the dolls house bathroom mirror…despite not actually seeing it in the bathroom! Also, somewhat ironically, this story was written by Josh Malerman whose novella A House at the Bottom of a Lake I didn’t get on with overly well.

However, I found a majority of the stories somewhat anticlimactic. The Salter Collection, for example, had a great premise. Imagine having an immense collection of phonograph cylinders dating back to more than a century ago, only to find undiscovered secret cylinders hidden beneath the outer wax coating, cylinders that contain sound recordings of a mysterious language and haunting screams. That’s pretty cool, right? Well, yeah, it would have been if the ending hadn’t fallen so flat. It’s sometimes good to leave the conclusion of a story open ended, but I have to confess and say that I didn’t understand it at all. I don’t know, maybe I’m a bit stupid and not good at reading between the lines. I mean, I don’t need things spoon feeding to me but I just found it didn’t seem to make sense.

An intriguing collection of horror stories nonetheless and well worth a read. Amazon informs me that a second collection is due out later this year!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Song: Eels’ Fresh Blood

reviewgif3

This book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-reader format.

Anxiety update

Hey, guys. How’s everyone doing?

I’m not sure how many people stop by my blog anymore because I hardly post anymore, but I figured it might be good to post an update. I was once a very active member of the book blogging community and, truth be told, I miss it so much it hurts.

I haven’t been blogging for a few reasons, but the main reason has been my mental health. My anxiety has been gradually worsening over the past three or four months and things came to a head about a month ago when I had an episode which saw me having to have a week of university to go home because I’d called my grandparents, hysterical, having been unable to both sleep or eat because I was so anxious.

Long story short, I’ve been trying to get back on my feet and trying to take care of myself. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was prescribed some SSRIs (a specific type of antidepressant which can also help with anxiety disorders) to trial for a month. I also had my first counselling appointment last week. I’m hoping I might finally start being on the up soon. I really, really hope so. I’m exhausted if I’m honest.

These are probably details people aren’t interested in but it’s my blog and I want to be honest about my mental health. Too often people feel ashamed to talk about their mental health out of fear of judgment, but illnesses such as anxiety and depression are just as real and as valid as any other.

When I’ll be back to regular blogging I can’t say, but I do miss you guys. I know I’m not the podcast-making, book-blogging, flash fiction-writing annoying person that I used to be but that person is still here somewhere, underneath everything that’s happening at the moment. If anyone wants a catch up or anything, feel free to drop me a message, either on Facebook or on Instagram.

Jazz x

Meat Feast (as in the pizza) – flash fiction

I promise the Meat Feast referenced is the actual pizza. I thought I was being all clever with the double meaning, but I think it genuinely just sounds like she’s having an affair with the pizza fella? Anyway, here’s a 100 worder (103 if we’re gonna be pedantic)…

She brushed a finger against the screen of her phone, disappointment an ache that found its origins in her very soul. No missed calls. She bit her bottom lip as she stared at the softly illuminated screen.

9:16pm.

One minute late. She moaned softly and leaned back into the pillows behind her, her toes curling at the thought of the illicit pleasure that had been promised and had, as yet, been denied.

Bzzt bzzt bzzt.

Finally. She leapt from the bed and pounded down the stairs, flinging the front door open.

“Meat feast?” the Dominoes’ guy said.

She sighed.

“Give it to me.”

 

‘Dracula’ Bram Stoker

dracula

Bram Stoker’s peerless tale of desperate battle against a powerful, ancient vampire, the Penguin Classics edition of ‘Dracula’ is edited with notes and an introduction by Maurice Hindle, as well as a preface by Christopher Frayling.

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client’s castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: a ship runs aground on the shores of Whitby, its crew vanished; beautiful Lucy Westenra slowly succumbs to a mysterious, wasting illness, her blood drained away; and the lunatic Renfield raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘master’. In the ensuing battle of wills between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries – led by the intrepid vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing – Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

underline+(transparent)

spoiler-alert-rubber-stamp-white-print-impress-overprint-83195493

Does a novel that’s 120 years old really need a spoiler alert notice stamping across its review? Hmm probably not, but I was once famed for my spoilers and I refuse to ruin yet more books for my adoring fans. There are just so many elements of this book that I want to discuss and it would be impossible to do so without letting slip major plot points.

So, Dracula, eh? My last encounter with the titular character was during my reading of a horrifically bad paranormal romance trilogy in which Dracula (or Vlad, c’mon, let’s use first names here, no point in being shy…I mean, I did read a graphic description of his, ahem, manhood), but I had this deep rooted desire to read about the actual Dracula, the original Dracula, the Dracula who has inspired generations of people in everything from music to art, from movies to Halloween costumes.

I will confess; I did try and read this book some years ago but Jonathan Harker’s fifty page account of travelling through the Carpathians proved too much for my 17 year old self (may or may not have exaggerated just slightly there). However, having seen this pretty Penguin English Library edition sitting on a shelf in Waterstones, I felt compelled to give Jonathan one more chance. Just one more single chance, though. Life’s too short for boring books after all.

But Dracula is far from boring. The issue, it seems, lay more with my impatient teenage self, who disliked the lengthy descriptions so often found in Victorian literature. The thing with Victorian literature is this; the readers whose eyes first read the words we’re still reading today didn’t have the likes of Google at the literal tips of their fingers. They didn’t have £40 EasyJet flights into central Europe. They didn’t have Netflix streaming movies from all over the globe. Their world was their home, their street and their town. Places such as Transylvania were far off places of almost mythical proportions. The overly lengthy descriptions were essential. How could a writer immerse their readers in a story if the place in which it was set was unimaginable?

Dracula struck me as a Victorian novel that’s very…well, unVictorian. In a time when a woman’s place was deemed as the kitchen and more than two decades before women won the right to vote (that right with many conditions placed upon it), the character of Mina Murray is a breath of fresh air. Sure, she’s annoyingly dramatic in places (well, I guess most people would be if their best friend had to be beheaded because they’d become a god damned shit sucking vampire), but she’s treated as an equal among the men. Towards the end of the novel, when they’re off gallivanting in hot pursuit of the boxed up Dracula, Mina accompanies them and she’s recognised as the valuable asset asset that she is. She’s brave, intelligent and resourceful.  She’s never treated as a hindrance and her opinion is always, always taken into consideration. Jonathan is initially reluctant for her to travel to Dracula’s castle (for obvious reasons), but he hears her out and eventually understands that it’s her right to exact revenge against Dracula.

In regards to Dracula himself, I initially assumed that I’d been desensitised to horror books. I read The Shining when I was 12 and figured nothing would ever scare or creep me out again in regards to a horror novel…but that moment when Jonathan sees Dracula freaking crawling down the castle walls? Eugh! That’s a scene that had shudders wracking my body! Creeeeeeeepy! My only issues with Dracula himself were a) how little he appears in a book with his name gracing the cover and b) how easily he was defeated. I won’t go into details for those who haven’t read it, but that scene is near enough over and done with in five pages. For such a feared, centuries-old being, it didn’t seem feasible that he’d be taken down so easily.

I can see why this book has endured for as long as it has and, minor faults aside, it’s one that should be read by all horror fans. The book itself is the forefather of modern horror and Dracula is the forefather of the modern vampire.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Song: HIM’s Vampire Heart (RIP HIM, the first band to ever capture my heart)

reviewgif4

This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format…and the Kindle version is free!

 

 

Jazz dabbles in spoken word poetry

Why do I always title my posts in the third person, like my non-existent PA drafts them up for me?

Anyway, here’s a short ten minute recording of me attempting spoken word poetry and a bit of general chit chat (excuse the naughty words, I’m not the squeaky clean, sweet and innocent persona I exude in my writing)

Have any of you guys dabbled (love that word) in spoken word poetry? Tell me about your experiences!

Check out my attempt here.

Jazz’s moment of brag

Okay…so I know I shouldn’t brag, but I know some of you are aware of my struggles with my university course, so I have some good news! After literally crying over my grammar classes and having to do a shit ton of extra revision…I passed the exam! I only got 55% but for something I struggled with so badly, I’m really super happy! I would say I’ll be happy to never see another grammar book again but I’m currently surrounded by three hefty tomes of grammar for my next assignment 😛

dsc_0215-24148130.jpg

‘Wild Embers’ Nikita Gill

wildembers

WILD EMBERS explores the fire that lies within every soul, weaving words around ideas of feeling at home in your own skin, allowing yourself to heal and learning to embrace your uniqueness with love from the universe.

Featuring rewritten fairytale heroines, goddess wisdom and poetry that burns with revolution, this collection is an explosion of femininity, empowerment and personal growth.

underline+(transparent)

First and foremost, I’d like to thank Nikita Gill and her wonderful collection for presenting me with a great opportunity to whip out my adorable panda and kitty page markers that I received over Christmas…

26732284_10155407739184624_1602429065_o
Asda Living if you’re wanting to get your own space kitty bedding.

I’ve read a lot of poetry over the past year and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said Nikita’s Wild Embers is by far my favourite collection yet.

Compared with a lot of other poetry that I’ve read, I found the poems within this collection to be…simple. ‘Simple’ is a word that carries often negative connotations, but I use the description in this instance in the most positive of ways. I find it’s common for poets – myself included – to use overly fancy metaphors which, while beautiful, can detract from the message that the poet is trying to convey. The focus becomes the cleverness of the metaphor and not the importance of the meaning it carries. Nikita’s poetry is beautifully written but, at the same time, gets straight to the heart of the matter.

One of the running themes throughout Wild Embers is this idea that pain is normal and that we’re allowed to feel it. Very often, well meaning poets write things like “Don’t let anyone bring you down!” and it can almost make you, as a reader, feel weak for allowing negative feelings to attach themselves to you. Nikita assures each of her readers that feeling like this is normal and that it’s okay to feel sad when reflecting on the past, but at the same time she gently encourages us to move forward…to almost thank the pain for what it has taught us and use the strength it has bestowed upon us to move forward. One such example of this can be found within the piece Graveyards and Gardens, in which Nikita talks about the graveyards we harbour inside of us, graveyards which are made up of the people that hurt us and the memories that go along with these people. She talks about us making gardens from these graveyards, using the nutrient-rich ground under which these memories are buried to build afresh. She doesn’t tell us to eradicate those bad memories; she simply tells us to use them as a base upon which to create happier ones.

One of my favourite parts of this collection was the poems dedicated to fairy tale princesses, such as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. We’ve all heard retellings of these famed stories, but Nikita puts a completely unique spin on them, writing about how Cinderella’s godmother was, in fact, a lawyer who took her stepmother and stepsisters to court because they had unlawfully evicted her from a house that was legally hers. Taking some of the magic and miracles out of these fairytales and reimagining these women as resourceful, pragmatic individuals is refreshing and each of Nikita’s readers will be able to see a little of themselves in these characters.

I can’t recommend Wild Embers enough!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Two Steps from Hell’s Victory 

reviewgif5

This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

Vent

It’s 21:53. I’m home alone…and my mind is loud. My mind is screaming at me and my thoughts need out.

First off, I’m sorry for being shit. I haven’t blogged or looked at any blogs in nearly a month. I’ve been busy. I’ve been depressed and I’m not sure if I even feel like a real person anymore.

There are moments and sometimes even days of happiness; when I go up to Glasgow to see my boyfriend, when I see my friends for lunch or coffee and a catch up, when I see my family and have some good home-cooked food…but in between all of that, I feel like nothing.

I never expected my course to be easy. I like a challenge and I’ve tried to tackle this one head on. I’m doing all the reading and the feedback I’ve received for my practise assignments has been promising. From a social standpoint too, life at uni is great. I’ve made some great friends, one of whom is coming over for Christmas.

But I don’t want to be at uni anymore. I feel like it’s consuming who I am as a person. Everything that I enjoyed doing – everything that made me me – has taken a back burner. I barely have time to read and when I do, I’m too exhausted to read more than ten pages at a time it seems. I only have time to jot down the odd poem here and there; the short story collection I wanted to work on has come to nothing. I don’t have time to blog on a regular basis and while it’s not the end of the world, I miss the community I became a part of over the course of a year and a half. I feel isolated from everything that I love doing. I don’t feel like me anymore and it scares me.

I’m worried about money as well. Although I only did part time hours at the hotel, I had a monthly income that I could rely on. I could pay my rent and still have enough left over for other things and suddenly not having that anymore has left me feeling financially insecure. I’ve been sticking to a budget these past three months, but I’ve been trying to work out the figures for my second semester and I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to manage. I tried finding a part time job but the places that I applied to didn’t get back to me and a lot of places that I wanted to work in offered too many hours or weren’t flexible enough. I figured I’d leave it until maybe my second or third semester but now I’m worrying about not finding work when I actually really need it.

I’m feeling anxious too and I’m not even 100% sure why. I think it’s an accumulation of everything weighing on my mind, but I find myself waking up early in the morning, my heart pounding as all my irrational worries begin to wake up as well. I’m anxious about the things I’ve previously mentioned, but I’m anxious about a lot of other stuff too and the thing that makes me so angry with myself is that most of the stuff I’m anxious about aren’t even real things. They’re things my mind imagines happening. I get anxious at the thought of my boyfriend leaving me because he’ll get sick of me. I get anxious at the thought of becoming homeless because I can’t afford to cover the expenses of my studies. I get anxious at the thought of leaving my course (even though I want to) and my family being ashamed and disappointed in me. I get anxious at the thought of those I love and care for getting sick or getting hurt and being unable to help them or do anything about it. I get anxious at the thought of 2018. I get anxious at the thought of being in my mid twenties and still not being 100% sure of what I want to do in terms of a career despite doing a fucking MA.

I was relatively happy before uni and now I’m not. I know it sounds pathetic and like I’m ungrateful because not everyone gets the opportunity to do this. It’s my own fault. I applied for this and I’ve got no one to blame but myself.

 

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑