Indulging in Choc-Lit

Even though I am currently watching what I eat I decided to go along to the Choc Lit -Readers Evening at The Word, South Shields, last night.  However instead of feasting on chocolatey treats, I instead feasted on literary delights and had my interest piqued in a genre that has always previously eluded me!

A Delicious Selection of Fiction!

Choc Lit are an independent British publisher of women’s fiction and romance and although “chic lit” has never been my first choice of reading material I was intrigued by the idea of a women’s publisher and I was also hoping to attend a few of the events that were being held as part of the WRITE Festival so I thought I would tag along.  I am glad I did, it was a sweet and satisfying way to spend an evening!

Juliet Archer – Author

First we heard from author, Juliet Archer and how she has always been of the opinion that good literature should be just like chocolate, irresistible!  Any character, she mused, can be compared to a type of chocolate, there may be a nutty one, or soft centered, perhaps even a bitter one.

Juliet has always had a fondness for the works of Jane Austen, which being a fan of the classics I can totally relate to.  I was very interested to hear how some of her published works with Choc-Lit are retellings of Jane Austen’s classics with a modern view point.

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Photo from http://www.choc-lit.com/

One of the books I came home from the event with was The Importance of Being Emma winner of  the 2011 Big Red Reads Fiction AwardThis was Juliet’s first in her series Darcy and Friends and is described as staying “true to the original” although giving the reader “fresh insights into the mind of its thoroughly updated and irresistible hero.”  

Kirsty Ferry – Author

Next up on the panel was Kirsty Ferry who started off writing for competitions and also OU courses (lovely to see a fellow OU alumni by the way!)

After winning her first competition having only spent two hours writing her submission Kirsty, quite rightly, thought maybe this was something she was good at and decided to keep at it.  She then had a go at self publishing before finding Choc Lit who published her mysterious sounding title Some Veil Did Fall which went on to become the first in her The Rossetti Mysteries series.

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Photo from http://www.choc-lit.com/

Well a book with a cover like that is just begging to be bought isn’t it?  So I obliged.  Knowing that Kirsty is a fan of Wuthering Heights assures me that this will be a book that is full of atmosphere and I can’t wait to get stuck into it!

Jane Lovering – Author

The final speaker was the very entertaining Jane Lovering who writes “quirky” romantic comedies.  Having heard her speak I can bet they are laugh out loud worthy stories because she had the whole room chuckling with her anecdotes.

Jane, who began writing by taking her beloved childhood stories about ponies and rewriting them by placing herself in the story, took a long break while raising her family.  As soon as she could she picked her pen back up, this time creating stories from her own imagination.  She studied a part time Creative Writing degree and evidently became very good at it!

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Photo from http://www.choc-lit.com/

Please Don’t Stop the Music won the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year, although it almost didn’t get published!  Choc Lit received the book however it didn’t meet their USP of having a “male point of view” in the story.  Jane accepted this and decided there was no way she could re-write her story with a male view point as she said it was one of the fundamental aspects of the book that it was not known exactly what the male protagonist was thinking.  However sometime after while out walking her dogs it came to her mind that maybe she could include diary entries from the male character, how clever!  She incorporated this idea into the book and sent it back to Choc Lit and this time they accepted and published the novel.

And so a third book was added to my pile to take home!   I am lucky that indulging in this kind of Choc Lit will not expand my waistline.

Choc Lit

After such an enjoyable evening I will definitely be on the lookout for similar events in the future and have to extend a special thanks to Choc Lit for expanding my bookshelf horizons to include a bit more variety.  I have also signed up for their newsletter as I am sure it will be full of more interesting reads!

Thank you for taking the time to read through my post!  I have a couple more events to attend as part of the WRITE Festival and if I find them as enjoyable as I found this one I will be sure to post about them too.  Please follow my blog if you would like to hear more about the festival or about the books above once I have finished reading them (as well as all the other books on my growing tbr pile).  Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions!

Amy

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Sunshine Blogger Award

Recently I was nominated to write this post by an amazing blogger that I have been lucky to connect with on Twitter and WordPress, Kaleena at Reader Voracious, sorry that it has taken me a while to get round to doing this Kaleena! Connect with Kaleena, especially if you want to see posts from someone with a true love of books as this shines through in all her work!

I was so flattered to see I had been nominated for this award as it is for “bloggers who are positive, inspiring and bring some sunshine into people’s lives.”  I can honestly say that nearly every blogger I have connected with since I started this falls under that category, what a wonderful community I am becoming a part of!

So let’s get to it…

The Rules

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you by linking their blog
  2. Answer the questions
  3. Nominate 11 blogs with 11 questions
  4. List the rules as well as display the Sunshine Award Logo on your post

The Answers

  1. What was your inspiration to start a book blog?

After completing a degree in English Literature which took me 6 years to study in my spare time, alongside working full time and trying to maintain an active social life, I become quite despondent due to missing the sense of accomplishment I felt whenever I completed an essay on a book I had read.  I couldn’t find anything to fill up the void I felt until I finally thought to myself, well just keep writing essays.  I thought that a blog would be a good platform to do this, I didn’t for a minute expect that other people might actually like reading it but I am thrilled that some do!

2. How long have you been blogging?

Only since the beginning of April and I hope that it continues for a long while!

3. What is your favorite book, and why?

Oh that is too hard!  I think the first time I was really in awe of a book was when I read The Handmaids Tale.  It wasn’t the first time I had written an essay on a book but it was the first time I wrote one on a book I had really connected with and it was probably the book that made me want to study more about literature.

4. Who is your hero?

I have loads of hero’s, everyone I know is a hero for different things.

5. What is your proudest accomplishment?

That has got to be completing my degree as a mature student through the Open University.

6. Which blog post are you most excited about?

This one!

7. What would you sing on a karaoke night?

I’d probably go for some classic Madonna.

8. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chinese takeaways, burgers or cake.  That would be a very hard choice and all things that I am currently being deprived of as I am trying really hard to be good at the moment!

9. What is the last movie you saw, and what did you think of it?

I watched the Ghostbusters on Friday night and I loved it as it is one of my favourite classic movies.  I even enjoyed the new one that was released last year.  The last movie I saw that I haven’t watched before was the new avengers film which I saw at the cinema last weekend and I did not like that, I got myself a bit upset in the cinema.

10. Is your glass half full or half empty?

Well I have always said if my glass is half empty then that means I can get myself a refill so I will go with that.

11. What has been your biggest blogging challenge that you have overcome?

Time is a big challenge, finding the time to prepare and write posts.  Also a future challenge that I a trying not to think about too much right now will be making it actually look nice and more organised, with separate pages and things like that.  I will worry about that later!

The Questions

  1. What are your hobbies?
  2. Do you have any pets?
  3. What is your favourite thing about blogging?
  4. And your least favourite…?
  5. Do you have a favourite book genre and what is it?  Why is it your favourite?
  6. What do you do when you are struggling for motivation?
  7. Do you ever reward yourself for completing a task on your to do list?
  8. How do you wind down after a busy or stressful day?
  9. Would you say you are more of an early bird or a night owl?
  10. What kinds of things inspire you in life?
  11. Do you currently have a main goal that you are working towards?

The Nominees

The Little Booknerds in the Corner

Chrikaru Reads

Books and Dachshunds

Short Book and Scribes

Reading Under the Blankie

Merline Reads

Bookish Brunette

Back to Fiction

Sarah’s Vignettes

Amorette’s Reviews

Why Words Work

Thank you for the nomination and thank you anyone for reading!  If you want to read more from me then please remember to follow and I will try to keep things interesting and varied for you!  Please feel free to make suggestions for future posts or share ideas about my existing posts.

Amy

Antony and Cleopatra: A Tragic History

For my final installment of my Shakespeare birthday week series I had to chose a history play.  I decided to cheat a little with my choice as I know, and I’m sure a lot of other people will also notice, that Antony and Cleopatra was originally classed as a Tragedy in the first folio.  However these days it is definitely one of the plays that kind of crosses genres and is also classed as a history.  One of the reasons for this being my top choice of the history plays is due to the lead being female, and not only that but a strong and independent female, yay feminism!

Yeah sure Cleopatra is fairly vain, manipulative and extremely histrionic but she is also a total boss.  Let’s take an even closer look at how Cleopatra is portrayed by Shakespeare and try to remember that even today women still struggle to find well written roles with developed characters for them to play so think how rare it must have been then to see a female character like this, even though this would have been played by a man.

“She makes hungry where she most satisfies”

Cleopatra is struggling for power in this play, she is trying to retain her political influence but the focus of this play is more centered on the struggle of power within the relationship.  Although poor Antony never stands a chance against the cunning ways of Cleo as he himself can’t help but admit ‘Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods / Command me’  

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Free Inside the Temple Stock Photo, www.freeimages.com

She has Antony completely in her control, he is someone who was known to be a strong Warrior and leader in his own right but next to Cleo he is nothing but a puppet on a string.

Indeed in Antony’s final scene he is hoisted up on rope to Cleopatra even giving him the physical appearance of a puppet!  He is then denied any final speeches due to Cleo being given centre stage at all times even taking over poor Antony’s dying words.

‘Antony           I am dying, Egypt, dying.

                         Give me some wine, and let me speak a little

Cleopatra        No, let me speak’

Shakespeare reminds the audience who is the most important figure here, the one we should be listening to.  Cleopatra is the one who is given the speech and in her own final moments Shakespeare ensures we know who we are dealing with as she makes her last requests ‘Give me my robe.  Put on my crown.’ 

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Free dendara Stock Photo, www.freeimages.com

Queen in life and Queen in death.  Antony cannot compete, he is overshadowed in death as he was in life by this charismatic and powerful woman.  Lawrence Olivier, renowned actor and Oscar winner who played many of Shakespeare’s leading roles is quoted to have once said; ‘She has wit, style and sophistication, and if she’s played well, no Antony, however brilliant, can touch her.’  I wholeheartedly agree!

Thank you for reading the final installment of my first ever blog series.  I have loved writing about some of my most favourite Shakespeare plays although I love them all so it was a hard choice.  I hope that some people have enjoyed reading and if you have anything to say about Cleo or any other character or play I’d love to hear it.  Please remember to follow to see future posts.

Amy

 

 

Macbeth; The Tragic Hero

The classic plot for a tragedy is one where the main character has a change in fortune, ideally from happiness to misery.  There is really no better way to describe the plot of Macbeth that in this way.  He becomes King only to lose everything at the end due to his hubris (excessive pride).  Before this he is seen to gain understanding of his own self.  Lets have a look at how Macbeth’s self-knowledge develops before his demise.

“blood will have blood”

Most of Macbeth’s realisations come to him through apparitions or evil deeds, one of the most important scenes in the play is where Macbeth sees and speaks with Banquo’s ghost after he has had him killed.  This is when he has the epiphany that all he has done will have a price ‘There’s an old saying: the dead will have their revenge.’

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Free Ghost 1 Stock Photo, www.freeimages.com

Lady Macbeth has a similar realisation to this later in the play when she imagines that her hands still have blood on them even though the murder of the king took place many years beforehand.  ‘Out damned spot!’ a quote that many will be familiar with even those who do not know Macbeth and have never read it will be sure to have heard that famous line.  This is from Lady Macbeth who, while sleepwalking, is determined that she must rid her hands of the blood she imagines she sees on them.  In the end there is only one way that she can find to purge this imagined physical manifestation of her internal guilt, by her suicide.

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow”

Macbeth laments the above at the news of his wife’s untimely death, there should have been more tomorrow’s for them both, when thinking of how happy they seemed to be in the opening scenes.  Ambition, the fatal flaw took all of their tomorrow’s from them.

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Free sota el foc-02 Stock Photo, www.freeimages.com

Macbeth, once brave and good has lost all to his ambition, he has become a true tragic hero in every sense and his final realisation, or anagnorisis, comes when he faces MacDuff near the end of the play.  He now knows that he fell for everything the witches told him due to his own pride and love of flattery stopping him from seeing that their words were full of double meanings and hidden warnings.

‘And be these juggling fiends no more believed,

That palter with us in a double sense,

That keep the word of promise to our ear,

And break it to our hope’

Thanks for reading my little post on MacBeth, a play that I studied a long long time ago back in school and truly hated.  Then I studied it again only a few years ago and, thanks to an amazing tutor, had my eyes completely opened to the genius on every page.  It is now a real favourite of mine and I have seen nearly every adaptation of it going, I even went to see it performed by a small acting troop in a park nearby where I leave on a dark and stormy day which fit so perfectly with the atmosphere, I got drenched through but didn’t mind a bit!  Hope you enjoyed this and if you have anything you want to ask, or add please do!  Remember to follow if you want to see my next posts!

Amy

Twelfth Night: Ahead of its Time

There are a lot of young people who feel unable to identify with Shakespeare, it is old fashioned with strange language etc.  However if we take a closer look at a particular favourite of mine Twelfth Night we will identify a progressiveness that is absent from most modern day television shows, they could certainly take a leaf out of Shakespeare’s book when it comes to acceptance and open mindedness!

“One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons”

Sebastian and Viola are identical twins, their only difference being that one is male and one is female, a minor insignificance to Shakespeare.  In Shakespeare’s time all actors were male, female characters were often played by younger males so perhaps this is why Twelfth Night has so little concern for gender.

Cesario; a Girl in Boy’s Clothing

Voila spends most of the play dressed as a boy called Cesario forming a friendship with Orsino.  Orsino although professing to be in love with Olivia finds himself more and more attracted to Cesario ‘Diana’s lip / Is not more smooth and rubious’.  On the other hand, Olivia who has sworn off love finds herself enamoured with Cesario.

So looking at the above in more simple terms, Orsino is falling for who he believes to be a man, and Olivia is falling for a girl who is dressed as a man.  Gender is as fluid as love in Twelfth Night.

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Free Gender Symbols 1 Stock Photo, www.freeimages.com

In fact it is only by pure chance that Olivia ends up married to Sebastian, with the twins being so alike that ‘An apple cleft in two is not more twin’ Olivia is unable to tell the difference and therefore marries Sebastian thinking that he is Cesario.

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Free Male Gender symbols Stock Photo, www.freeimages.com

Then at the plays dénouement Cesario is revealed to be Viola and although still calling her ‘boy’ and only ever seen her dressed in typical male fashion Orsino plans to wed her.

Shakespeare has basically demonstrated here that gender is not relevant in Twelfth Night when it comes to love.  Well done Will!

“all the daughters of my father’s house, / And all the brothers too”

Thus ends my short essay on gender identity in my favourite of Shakespeare’s comedies, Twelfth Night.  I have really enjoyed writing this and can’t wait to get on with my tragedy and history essays.  Thank you for reading, I hope that it may have given some people a new perspective on Shakespeare.  If you want to read more from me please remember to follow my blog and if you have any more thoughts on this to add then please do comment as I’d love to hear them.

Amy

Happy Birthday!

23rd April; An Important Date

Today is the birthday (and deathday) of the one man who gave more to our language than any other.

Shakespeare invented no fewer than 1700 words that we still use in everyday speech and that many of our favourite authors use to give our favourite characters more believable dialogue, and our favourite plots more page-turn-ability (that is one of my own word inventions, Shakespeare can’t claim that!)

“Can one desire too much of a good thing?”

As You Like It gave us this gem of a phrase, and I know when it comes to Shakespeare my answer is definitely there is no such thing as too much.  I believe that maybe I am not alone in this opinion, especially considering that Shakespeare is the best selling fiction author of all time.  That is quite some achievement from a man who never went to the slightest effort to preserve any of his work.

Tragedy, Comedy, History?

I love them all.  As a special tribute this week I will make three more Shakespeare posts and spam you with some thoughts on a particular play from each of the above genres.  It will be hard to chose because the boundaries between genres can get quite blurred in Shakespeare, none of his history plays are especially accurate and they can be extremely tragic for example, so I’ll just stick with popular opinion when choosing.

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Free Old copies of Shakespear Stock Photo, www.freeimages.com

“Since I received command to do this business I have not slept one wink”

I am sure I will identify a bit more with Pisanio from Cymbeline by the end of this, my first blog series.  Four posts in a week is sure to cause a bit of sleeplessness but the bard’s birthday is worth that effort! I can’t wait to get started, I hope that it will be as enjoyable for readers as it will be for me writing it.

Thank you for reading!  Do you love Shakespeare too?  Come back tomorrow and see the next part in my Shakespeare’s Birthday Week series if you do! Please remember to follow if you are interested in reading further essays on other titles and be free with your comments and suggestions, but this above all, to thine own self be true.

Amy

 

Books, books, books…

Backstory

A good few years ago I remember talking with my Nan about books, “What are you reading at the minute Nan?”, she has had good recommendations in the past so I was interested to know.  She picked up a book from the table near the chair she was sitting on and began to tell me a little about it, “That is my living room book” she finished with.

Her living room book…?

I paused contemplating what she meant by that comment which gave her the opportunity to continue because she wasn’t finished yet with her current reads.  She started to tell me about her bedtime book.  I had to stop her then “you read more than one book at a time?” I had never even considered that this could be an option, you have to finish one book before you move on to another, right?

Right?

“Well I watch more than one television programme too” she said.  MIND. BLOWN.

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Free Nuke Stock Photo, www.freeimages.com

Of course!  She made it sound so simple, how had I never considered this before?

This was a big turning point for me in my reading, I don’t think I would have been able to get through my Literature degree with my old philosophy of one book at a time.

How I Read Now

Now I have a bag book, sometimes this is my kindle but currently it is a real life book.  This one comes with me wherever I go and I read it while I am on public transport or in a waiting room maybe, this will often be a crime novel or a thriller of some sort.  I have a bath book, once a week I treat myself to a lovely bubble bath or fizzy bath bomb and do some relaxing reading (I do shower and have non treat baths in between these special baths just to be clear), usually this is a fantasy style book for a bit of escapism.  Finally I have a bed book, which is usually a lighter, easier read, I don’t want anything too exciting when I’m winding down for sleep.  Every now and then I will pick up a random book just when the fancy comes over me and binge read it quickly in a weekend when I don’t have much socialising planned, this is totally separate to the above categories.

Do you read this way?  Or do you read one book at a time like I used to?  Or do you have a completely alternative approach to reading?  I’d love to hear about it.

Thank you for reading!  As always I would be happy to hear your suggestions for future posts.  Please remember to follow if you are interested in hearing more and joining in future discussions.

Amy