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I swoon over fictional men

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April 2017

Why reading is more important than ever in the 21st century

Reading is a past time that stretches back hundreds of years. Centuries ago, people read as a means of escaping the hardships of everyday life. They read as a means of leaving for greener pastures – mentally at least, anyway. People, myself included, have often complained about the weighty tomes Victorian novels tend to be, but the reasoning for this isn’t because Victorian authors were boring and simply enjoyed waffling on. The truth, in fact, is far more poignant. The everyday Victorian often lived in the village, town or city where they were born until the day they died. They saw the same buildings day in, day out. The same people, the same trees, the same animals…the same everything. When we emit groans as we suffer at the hands (well, words) of lengthy descriptions, it’s important to remember that many readers back then needed those descriptions. They hadn’t seen the things being described and couldn’t browse through Google for pictures or definitions like you or I can.

Reading was important back then. It transported readers elsewhere, offering them a brief respite from the disease-ridden, short-lived reality of their everyday lives.

But reading is more important than ever in the 21st century. “Why?” I hear you cry. Well..

  1. Life is stressful. I’m in no way saying that life in past centuries wasn’t stressful. I mean, had I lived in the Brontes’ home town of Haworth, where the average life expectancy was a measly 30 in the early to mid 1800s, I would have been stressed beyond belief. There’s so much I want to see and do yet and had I lived in that area and era, I would have been painfully aware of my fragile mortality. In early Victorian Haworth terms, I’m an old lady! But my point is that 21st century life presents its own stresses, stresses that affect each and every one of us on a daily basis. Society pushes us to the metaphorical edge in a number of ways. It’s drilled into us from an early age that we’ve gotta succeed in everything we do; we’ve got to pass our exams, we’ve got to excel in our careers, we’ve got to settle down and pop out babies like our lives depended on it. It’s a lot of pressure and if we don’t meet these expectations, it’s all too easy to feel like we’ve failed, not only ourselves but those around us. Is this societal pressure contributing to the rise in mental heath disorders such as anxiety and depression? I mean, my own battles with these disorders manifested when I was a high school student and studying for my GCSEs. I appreciate it’s not as black and white as that. After all, there is a school of thought that argues mental illnesses aren’t on the increase, but are simply less taboo. My overall point, though, is that we are all in desperate need of a means of escaping the pressures we face everyday. Reading offers us that sweet relief.
  2. Books often have a diverse range of characters. Within the past twenty years, literature has seen a widening in the spectrum of characters in leading roles. Many books that I personally read have characters spanning a wide range of ages, races and species. This trend is mirrored in our everyday lives as well, though. We live in a world that is becoming more multi-cultural with each passing year. We have neighbors of different races, colleagues of different religions. Books teach us empathy and this empathy crosses the boundaries between fiction and real life and helps us to understand and befriend people of any race, gender, age or religion. In a world constantly at war with itself, this is more important than most people realize.
  3. Books can help us to cope with trauma in our lives. It was only just over fifty years ago that the publishing house, Penguin, was taken to court following their publication of an uncensored edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It was, at that time, seen as ‘obscene’, its exploration of things such as sexuality and class viewed as inappropriate reading material. Times have changed, though, and books – fiction in particular – now encompass a whole range of themes and its these themes that we find ourselves drawn to and can derive comfort from. It’s not always easy to talk about the things that are hurting us, but if a fictional character is experiencing something similar – perhaps the death of a much-loved family member, for example – we can seek solace in the knowledge that others have felt what we’ve felt and have survived, fictional or not. Furthermore, by seeing these turbulent emotions being so openly written about, we feel more normal in our feelings and this can encourage us to open up to our family and friends. We realize that it’s okay to be feeling how we are and that there’s no shame in it.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below! 

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WWW Wednesday – 26th April 2017

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words. It’s a chance to showcase your past, present and future reads and is super easy to participate in. All you’ve got to do is answer the three Ws below and post a link to your answers here.

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The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading

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I was long overdue a reunion with my favorite boys. Seriously, if I could live in any fictional household it would be the Lords of the Underworld’s. It’d be a riot!

Recently finished reading

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A book of breathtaking beauty, Beauty of the Beast is a dark retelling of a much adored classic. You can check out my review here.

Next on my reading list 

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Dipping my toes into the ocean of sci-fi next!

‘Beauty of the Beast’ Rachel L Demeter

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A BEAST LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF HIS PAST

Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.

A BEAUTY IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER FUTURE

Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…

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Before I begin this review, I just want to forewarn potential readers of this book. There are some scenes, particularly at the beginning of the novel, that could possibly be triggering for some people. 

I’m a massive fan of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (both the animated version and the recent live-action remake) so when I saw Rachel L. Demeter’s Beauty of the Beast on Goodreads, I couldn’t resist adding it to my TBR list. It had received numerous four and five star ratings and claimed to be a dark, realistic retelling of a much-loved fairy tale.

There are vast differences between this book and the traditional fairy tale read to children as a bedtime story and I liked this. It lived up to its claim of being darker and more realistic. For one (spoiler alert) Isabelle’s father dies and two, Prince Adam simply isn’t the victim of a passing enchantress; the truth of his past is far more tragic and is interwoven with actual historical fact, adding that dash of realism that makes this tale all the more believable. Rachel L. Demeter, while having written a beautiful novel, demonstrates to us that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Shit happens but, to quote Adam himself, “You grow stronger. You move forward as best you can. And you learn to endure.”

Beauty of the Beast is one hell of a slow burner but that isn’t a criticism. While I admit there were certain moments where I was like…

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…I appreciate it’s in keeping with the realism. Both Isabelle and Adam have pasts built upon pain and both have scars that go far deeper than the skin. They take their time getting to know one another. Understandably, they’re cautious and because of this, it makes it all the sweeter when we witness their relationship moving to the next seemingly small yet monumental level, perhaps through a warm smile or a gentle caress. Honestly, there’s a scene following one of Adam’s night terrors where Isabelle simply reads to him and lulls him back to sleep and it seriously had me choking up. Her intentions are just so pure; she doesn’t want him to feel scared or alone and Adam reflects these feelings right back at her, helping her come to terms with the loss of her beloved father. These two…man, they are made for each other.

Can I just have a moment to swoon over Adam?

Oh.

My.

God.

Dark and mysterious? Initially a bit of a Byronic hero? Check!

Knows how to play the piano and makes his own music? Yes!

Is a a gentleman in every sense of the word, respecting boundaries and would happily spend three nights mopping a person’s fevered brow as they drifted in and out of consciousness? Can I check this point off my list of ‘Things Jazz looks for in a man’ multiple times? The latter point had me swooning in the kitchen at work, saying to my friend “Why can’t I get a man who would mop my fevered brow for three nights?”

Pretty much vomits poetic verses? Hell yes! Some of the sweet nothings he murmurs in Isabelle’s ear had me like…

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My only real issue with Beauty of the Beast is how I felt Raphael’s disgusting behavior was too often blamed on his father. He’s a grown man in his mid-thirties, capable of making his own decisions. What he does to Isabella is of his own doing and nothing can justify his actions.

All in all, though, an impressive start to Rachel L. Demeter’s Fairy Tale Retellings series!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Song:  Aerosmith’s I don’t want to miss a thing

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

Jazz has a dilemma…please help!

2017, so far, has found me reading far more than paranormal romance. I’ve been reading regular romance, fantasy, horror etc…

…and now I feel like my blog’s name is a lie.

I’ve been considering changing it to simply ‘I swoon over fictional men’, perhaps with the tagline ‘Human and non-human alike’ but that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it (not that ‘I swoon over fictional, non-human men’ rolls off the tongue, to be honest) and it seems a bit, well, bland? The ‘non-human men’ has made people laugh at least.

But I swoon over human men now too!

I’m overthinking this, I know. Help!

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Me thinking of blog names

The trials and tribulations of a bookworm 

Me in an hour’s time when I’m wrenched from my book by work 😦 

Jazz’s top 5 overused tropes in horror fiction

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I was feeling somewhat inspired today and decided to talk about overused tropes in horror fiction in my first solo podcast. Couple of things before (if, even) you listen, my apologies for the not-so-great sound quality and apologies if I speak a bit too fast in places…I was feeling a bit nervous.

Listen to six minutes of me rambling here.

 

 

‘Focus’ Sarah Doughty

 

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In the battle of her life, Aisling Green must survive the Kramer Scholars to save the world from a demon, but only one will stand victorious.

Earthen witch Aisling Green wakes to find herself in the Kramer Scholar’s torture dungeon. She needs to escape and rescue her fiancé, Connor before they’re both killed.

But they can’t just escape the dungeon. They need to escape Germany. Not just to find their way home, but to fight a demon that was summoned to destroy the world. He’s tearing his way from the West Coast, collecting corrupted souls along the way. Aisling needs more strength than ever but finds herself in danger at every turn. Can they escape and save the world before it’s destroyed?

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Before I begin, I just want to talk briefly about what an idiot I am. I have been pronouncing Aisling’s name wrong for the past two books. I’ve always looked at her name and thought “How exactly is that pronounced?” and it only occurred to me moments ago that I could Google it.

Anyway *clears throat* Check out my review for the first book in the Earthen Witch series here!

Having read and loved Just Breathe, I was super excited to jump back into Aisling and Connor’s world, a world in which magic exists and everything is possible.

I feel when the two books are compared side by side, Just Breathe very much acts as an introduction to the world in which readers suddenly find themselves in. It introduces the key characters in the series – Aisling, Connor, Shadow, Liam (my favourite), Angela and Salvatore – and briefs us on the weird and wonderful world in which they live. Focus is built upon the strong foundations of Just Breathe, showing us how the characters have grown since the events of the first book and how that growth has strengthened each of them, Aisling in particular. I noticed she’d become a lot more confident, both in herself and with her power. In books, but especially in series, character development is so important. As people, we’re shaped by the challenges we face and overcome and if a character can do this as well, it proves that they’re more than just a simple character. They’re more than just words on a page. They’re people, just like you and I. It shows an author’s gift for writing when they can render something that began as a mere concept into an apparent living being.

Focus was a lot darker than I was anticipating, but this isn’t a criticism.  The novel’s antagonist is a demon called Bilu, who arrives on Earth in the form of Bannerst. There are chapters narrated from his perspective and while reading them, I would find myself shuddering as I looked at the world through his eyes, thinking things like “C’mon, Aisling, either eradicate this guy or take charge of the narration!” and for me, this is a sign of excellent writing. As I was saying previously, characters need to be more than characters. They need to be people and, like people, they need to have their own individual personalities and traits. Sarah has very much succeeded in this. Each of her characters have their own mannerisms, making them both believable and original. The fact that Bannerst’s narration gave me the creeps shows how effectively his evil, menacing persona has been conveyed.

There are many things that I loved about this book but one was Aisling’s new found sense of belonging. With Connor, Shadow and Liam and his people, she’s found a family and reading of the strong emotions that bind them together was so incredibly heartwarming. There’s this awesome scene near the beginning of the book where Aisling has been kidnapped and Connor, Liam and the others go to find her. When they arrive, it’s just incredible. They’re all armed with swords, crossbows etc, walking straight for the Kramer Scholars guarding the building in which Aisling is being held…and while reading this scene, I was listening to this song and I was imagining the whole scene in slow motion and it was just…so epic. They were just so determined to reach her!

Focus is so many things; it’s dark, it’s dramatic, it’s heartwrenching, it’s humorous in places and it’s an incredibly emotional journey to embark upon, side by side with this array of wonderful characters.

Definitely a series I’m looking forward to continuing.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Metallica’s Master of Puppets 

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This book is available in e-book format on Smashwords, Kobo and iTunes.

 

WWW Wednesday – 19th April 2017

I’ve been in something of a reading slump these past couple of weeks but I think I’m finally recovering! I’ve nearly finished my current read and I’ve already decided upon my next two reads. Happy days! How do you pull yourself out of a reading slump? Let me know in the comments below!

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words and it’s super fun and easy to participate in. All you’ve got to do is the answer the three Ws below and a post a link to your answers here.

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The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading

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I’m currently reading and loving the second installment in Sarah Doughty’s Earthen Witch series. Very nearing the end so my review will be up in the next day or two!

Recently finished reading

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A short horror novella that, while it wasn’t my cup of tea, has lots of potential and I’m sure others will enjoy. Check out my review here.

Next on my reading list 

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I do love a good fairy tale retelling. I’ve seen this kicking around Goodreads for  while so I thought I’d give it a try.

 

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Before I head to work, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote this morning. Sadly, I’m not the woman in the poem but I can dream, right? 😝 

Happy Easter! Have a wonderful day, whatever you may be doing ❤️

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