Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden and our next Book Club pick.

Hello everyone, I hope you have had a wonderful weekend and have been out enjoying the summer sun!  For the UK, this is a bank holiday weekend, so you guys should kick your feet up and enjoy the long weekend!  For everyone else, commiserations on work tomorrow, but the good news is, I am here to cheer you up with a book review and our next book club pick!  If you haven’t joined my book club already, then you should definitely give it a go!  Just buy this months book, read along and let me know your thoughts!  It’s that easy.

Bear nightingale pic

Last months book was ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden.  For those of you unfamiliar with this book, the blurb reads: In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift- a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter.  Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family.  But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

As blurbs go, this promised a lot, and the book itself did not fail to disappoint.  On the surface, this is a good old fashioned adventure story.  A young girl facing unimaginable odds and unsurmountable danger, must face her fears and fight to save her family.  The tale has been told dozens of times, in various forms, but with the addition of mythical creatures, Russian folklore and classic fantasy, this book rises head and shoulders above the rest, to produce an exciting and entertaining read.  It takes those traditional tales, and turns them on their head, spins them around, and pushes them over.  In a word, it is magical.

Peel back a layer, and the story is about so much more.  The main character’s struggle for independence and power over her own life in a Patriarchal society, provides a classic tale of feminism and female strength.  Indeed, Vasya is told repeatedly throughout the book that a woman’s ‘place’ and ‘lot in life’ is marriage and children, or the convent.  Those are her only two options.  Both, to Vasya, are worse than death, and so she fights her family, her village, even society itself, for the ownership over her body and her future.  Her refusal to submit to such overwhelming pressure from all directions, makes her all the more heroic to me as a female reader.  Too many fairy tales present the concept of a princess who needs to be rescued, or who gives up everything she is to marry her beloved prince.  Indeed, most of the stories I grew up with as a child, seem to give the distinct impression that finding your ‘Prince Charming’ is the be all and end all.  This story certainly does not read like that, and Vasya is a strong and independent female character. I will definitely be reading this book to my daughter.

On another level, it is about a girl who does not fit in.  She is strange and odd, and as a result, she is ostracised and bullied.  But again, in the face of name calling and isolation, she remains determined to be herself.  She is happy knowing that the people who are most important to her, like her family and nanny, love her just as she is.  Again, this presents such a positive role model for younger readers, and makes Vasya all the more loveable as a main character.

Finally, and more controversially, the book is a damning indictment of organised religion and indeed modern politics.  Vasya’s village once believed in the old ways, leaving food and offerings to the many spirits which occupy their home and the neighbouring woods, and who watch over them and their animals.  When a new priest comes to town, Father Konstantin, an arrogant man who yearns to be loved, he brings with him his charming way with words and his striking good looks, both weapons in his arsenal, which he uses to sway the people towards the ‘New God’ with surprising effectiveness.  He wants to be loved, and to have power, so he terrifies the ignorant villagers, with his warnings of the fiery inferno and eternal damnation awaiting them all in the afterlife, if they do not repent and submit to him.  The villagers change, blindly following him, whatever he says, out of pure fear.  In a society where politicians also wield fear as a weapon, this makes for incredibly relevant reading.  Even as the villagers die, the crops fail and the dead walk, Father Konstantin is unwavering in his faith, simply telling the villagers to pray.  Again, I am struck by similarities to our modern day politics, where people in positions of power, positions where they can make real change, merely offer prayers and empty promises.

In short, this book is simply wonderful, and I found myself, on several occasions, unable and unwilling to put it down.  I can’t find any fault with it and I thoroughly recommend it to all of you!  Have you read ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’?  Let me know your thoughts.

Junes Book Club pick is ‘The 9th life of Louis Drax’ by Liz Jensen.  This isn’t a long one, so we may have two book club picks for this month, I will let you know!  So what is this book about?  Nine-year-old Louis Drax is a problem child: bright, precocious, deceitful- and dangerously, disturbingly, disaster prone.  When he falls off a cliff into a ravine, the accident seems almost predestined.  Louis miraculously survives- but the family has been shattered.  Louis’ father has vanished, his mother is paralysed by shock, and Louis lies in a deep coma from which he may never emerge.  In a clinic in Provence, Dr Pascal Dannachet tries to coax Louis back to consciousness.  But the boy defies medical logic, startling Dannachet out of his safe preconceptions, and drawing him inexorably into the dark heart of Louis’ buried world.  Only Louis holds the key to the mystery surrounding his fall- and he can’t communicate.  Or can he?

If you fancy joining my book club, buy a copy as well, and read along!  Don’t forget to follow my blog for updates on this series of posts, along with many others and happy reading!

The Galileo: A Science Fiction Short Story.

Good evening fellow story lovers!  I know Sundays can be pretty bleak, but hopefully a short piece of science fiction will cheer you up! I am a huge Geek- I love Sci-fi and have been a Trekkie since I was a child (I have action figures and a uniform and everything).  This story draws inspiration from years of movies and books and comics.  I hope you like it!  Don’t forget to enter my competition giveaway if you haven’t yet, this is the last week it will be open, with the winner drawn at the end of the month!  Enjoy…

The Galileo

She awoke slowly, all blurred images and muffled sound. She felt like she was under water, fighting to get to the surface. Dazed and dizzy, she struggled to focus on her surroundings, blinking hard as everything slowly stopped spinning, and began to clear. She was in one of the ship’s corridors, cold from lying on the steel floor. A red warning light flashed on and off, casting the narrow space in an eery light. There was an alarm sounding, far off, intermittently drilling into her skull with it’s loud buzz.

She had no memory of what had happened. The last thing she could recall was them receiving a distress signal from a transport vessel, but after that it was blank. Her head thumped and pulsed with the rhythm of her heart beat. She touched her forehead and found her fingers wet with her blood. She checked her status on her electronic cuff. It indicated she had received a blow to the head four hours ago, and had immediately fallen into unconsciousness. She had a concussion and would require stitches, but apart from that her vitals were good. But where were the others?

She dragged herself off the floor, and wobbled over to a computer outlet on a nearby wall. Plugging in her cuff, the screen suddenly came to life, casting an eery blue light onto her face After a moment, it had booted fully and was ready for interfacing.

“Identify.”

“Crewman Holly Mathews, Delta five five three of the science vessel Galileo.”

“Voice identification confirmed. Please provide instructions or state your query.”

“Where are the others?”

“Please clarify ‘others’”

She yelled in frustration. She hated the interfacing tool. The ship was capable of travelling at the speed of light with the push of a button, but ask it something without spelling out exactly what you need, and it became like talking to a toddler. It was a machine, and it thought like one. It didn’t understand slang or metaphors or sarcasm. It was literal, it was frustrating at the best of times, but with her head pounding, it was even worse.

“Locate the other members of the crew.”

“My records indicate that the science vessel Galileo has thirty two crew members assigned. I can locate only one crew life sign at present, that of your own.”

“No…that can’t be.”

“I run over one hundred and twelve checks per second. My data is accurate to zero point zero zero zero…”

“Alright, stop. I get it.”

She suddenly found it difficult to breathe. Tears made there way up her throat and through her eyes, stinging the cut on her cheek and sending red water droplets onto her uniform. How could this be possible? How could they be gone? This had to be some kind of nightmare. She tried to steady her breathing, to hold the emotions back until she could figure out what was going on.

“What happened to the rest of the crew?”

“Unknown.”

“What do you mean unknown?”

“My systems were shut down three hours and thirty seven minutes ago. I have been offline until you initiated the interfacing programme, automatically rebooting my system.”

“Who shut you down?”

“Unknown.”

“How were you shut down?”

“Unknown.”

She yelled, banging her fist against the screen, a small hairline crack forming in the glass. The ship was the most sophisticated of it’s kind, and had an incalculable IQ, yet it could answer none of her questions. It sounded like a record stuck on repeat or a parrot which had only learned one word: Unknown, unknown, unknown. If she heard it one more time, she would smash the screen. If she was going to find out what happened to the crew, she would have to physically check herself.

“Show me on a map, where the crew’s bodies are located.”

“Unable to comply. There are no crew member’s bodies on board.”

“What do you mean? Where are their bodies?”

“Unknown.”

“God damn you.”

She punched the screen over and over again, until the cracked flickering surface was coated in a thin layer of her blood, now trickling from the open wound on her hand. She began to weep, sinking to the floor. She closed her eyes, begging herself to wake up, but when she opened them again, she was back there, in that corridor.

After a while, she pulled herself to her feet, and began to run to the bridge. The alarm grew louder the closer she got. When she entered, it was deserted, with no sign of any struggle or injury, no bodies, nothing. She plugged her cuff into the Captain’s control panel, and took a deep breathe.

“Identify.”

“Crewman Holly Mathews, Delta five five three of the science vessel Galileo.”

“Voice identification confirmed. Please provide instructions or state your query.”

“Turn off the alarm.”

“Confirmed.”

The red light vanished, and normal lighting levels returned, as the loud intermittent noise suddenly stopped.

“Who initiated the alarm?”

“No crew member initiated the alarm. The alarm was initiated automatically when my systems went offline.”

“Where is the other vessel? The one with the distress call.”

“The vessel which issued the distress call is in cargo bay three. I detect all systems are non functional, and there are no life signs on board.”

“Show me.”

The screen was divided into four images, from the cameras which covered the cargo bay. She chose the top left image, and zoomed in on the ship. It appeared to be a two man sub vessel, used for short journeys to the surface of planets and back or evacuation. The distress call had come from a transport vessel, or so she had thought.

“Confirm, did the distress call originate from this vessel.”

“Negative. The distress call originated from the transport vessel ‘Safe Haven.’”

“Where is the Safe Haven?”

“I detect debris and fuel, the signature of which confirms it belonged to the transport vessel Safe Haven. I detect no life signs. This sub vessel is all that remains.”

She felt her heart rate rise and her breathing quicken.

“How many souls were on board?”

“Records indicate the Safe Haven had three hundred and seventy two persons registered on board.”

Tears forced their way through her eyes and fell onto the screen.

“What happened to it?”

“Radiation levels and chemical signatures present indicate that the vessel’s core exploded.”

“How?”

“Unknown.”

“Play the distress call.”

The screen flickered and blurred with static. A face could be seen occasionally amongst the moving waves and shapes. It was a man, perhaps in his thirties, with short dark hair. He looked terrified, eyes wide with panic, and he was dirty, black covering one side of his face. Or, perhaps that was a burn? The sound quality wasn’t great, and she had to strain to hear what he was saying.

“This is Captain Ray Thorn of the transport vessel Safe Haven. We are under attack from something. We answered a distress signal from one of the small moons orbiting planet Alpha one one. We found a ship, appeared to be a salvage ship or perhaps a pirate vessel. It was heavily damaged, it clearly hit the surface pretty hard, half of it was missing. The crew, they were gone, no bodies, no blood, just vanished into thin air. But there was something there, we didn’t realise, we brought it back with us. I don’t know what it is, but it’s on board now. They’re all gone too, my crew, the passengers, all of them. There’s no one left, just my life sign and it’s, whatever it is. I’m going to blow her, the Safe Haven, try and kill it. I have…”

It suddenly cut off, leaving only static before the screen went black. Her stomach twisted, and her throat went dry.

“Confirm, was the sub vessel scanned for life signs before we docked it?”

“Confirmed. One life sign was located on board.”

“Was the life sign Captain Ray Thorn?”

“Negative.”

“Was the life sign human?”

“Negative.”

“What was it?”

“Unknown.”

She swallowed hard, dread rising within her. She suddenly recalled her question to the system and it’s exact response when she had it scan for the crew’s life signs: “My records indicate that the science vessel Galileo has thirty two crew members assigned. I can locate only locate one crew life sign at present, that of your own.” She repeated it inside her head, I can only locate one crew life sign, one CREW life sign. She had asked the wrong question.

“Confirm, how many life signs are on board.”

“I detect two life signs on board, that of your own and that of an unknown entity.”

The dread had filled her up, her voice crackled with fear, and she could hear her heart beating inside her skull, it’s thumping increasing as her breathing quickened.

“Confirm…where is the unknown entity.”

“The unknown entity is located on the bridge.”

She went to scream, but it was too late, and then, nothing.

……………………………………………………

“Captain, we are picking up an automated distress call.”

Captain Robert Gregson, sat forward in his seat. After years of working his way through the ranks, this was his first command. The military vessel ‘Mars’ was as new as him, and he was eager to test out her capabilities.

“Which vessel does the call originate from?”

“A science vessel called the Galileo sir. She’s supposed to be out here researching black holes. No signs of damage but she appears to be adrift.”

“Open communications with them.”

“I’ve already tried Sir.  All attempts to communicate have gone unanswered.”

“How many life signs on board?”

“Just one sir.”

“Jesus, what the hell happened? You’d better take us in.”

Mother’s Day Haiku poetry.

Since it is Mother’s day in some parts of the world, I decided to dedicate this blog post to mothers everywhere.  I myself am a mother, to a beautiful and perfect baby girl, and I now know just how much I owe my own mum.  It is the hardest job I have ever done, and the most rewarding.  I have never been more frustrated or happy, all rolled into one ball of emotions, and I am thankful every day to have been blessed with my daughter.

I also wanted to do something a bit different, so instead of a short story, I thought I would try to write some haiku poetry for the first time.  For those of you unfamiliar with a haiku, originating from Japan, it is a three line poem which consists of five syllables, seven syllables and then five syllables again.  It sounds short and easy, but it’s harder than you think.

I decided to write one haiku as a mother and a second as a daughter.  Let me know what you think, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there!  If you feel inspired to write your own haikus then please post them in the comments section below.

I hold her closer,

Tiny hand wrapped round my thumb.

I am truly whole.

I hope I’m like her.

Strong, kind smart and loving.

My hero, my mum.

Inspired Part 9

For this part of the Inspired series, I have collaborated with a fellow lover of all things that go bump in the night, to create something which will wiggle it’s way into your nightmares.  Nick Villicana lives in sunny Los Angeles, and when he is not at his day job in retail management, he is busy writing and drawing, creating dark and twisted little creatures.  If you like Nick’s monsters as much as me, you can check out more on his Instagram.  As before, I have written a short story and sent it to Nick, who has created this amazing image.  Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and if you are a creative soul, and would like to collaborate with me, please get in touch!

Monster art work

Infection

Hate is a poisonous and infectious emotion. Once it forms within our hearts, it spreads quickly, consuming us until there is nothing of who we once were; no humanity, no love, no empathy. It creates dark creatures, who wonder the earth intent on spreading the disease further. I saw it happen once, with my own eyes.

He was a student at my university, and he lived in the same halls of residence as me. When I first met him, both new to the student world, both nervous and anxious, he was shy and sweet. I liked him. He was tidier than the others who resided there, and he never stole food or brought home rowdy, drunken people or played techno music at 3am. Overall, he was a decent room mate. We never spoke that much, he kept himself to himself, but when we did he was funny and self deprecating. Then it started.

He went to a meeting, one of the many political and social groups which meet regularly within the campus, and there he met someone that planted a seed. When he returned that night, he didn’t respond to my hello, he just shuffled past into his room. I didn’t notice it in the beginning. It’s a cunning disease, which spreads slowly, subtly, so as not to provoke concern or intervention. But after a few weeks, I could see something was different, something was off.

When we spoke he was rude and cold. He would talk about things which made me uncomfortable, he labelled entire groups of people, or fellow students, as wrong, as different. He spat when he talked. I didn’t like what he said, so I avoided talking to him after that.

One night I was in my room, when I heard shouting from the communal areas of the halls. I walked down, meeting several others who had formed an audience to an argument taking place between him and another resident. They were screaming at each other. He called the girl a terrible name, so she slapped him. He spat on the floor at her feet and left the room, just as she began to tear up. I could tell they were tears of anger, not sadness. He was reported to the university after that, and given a warning. He stopped speaking to any of us.

I could hear him, inside his dark and musty dorm room for hours at a time, listening to broad casts and speeches. I don’t even think he went to class after a while, only occasionally exiting his lair to eat or take a piss. It was on one of these late night excursions, when I first saw the physical changes in him. He had become thinner, gaunt even, and he seemed taller than before. It almost looked like he had been stretched. His shoulder blades jutted out like sharp, stubby wings, and his hair had began to fall out in patches. I stopped dead when I saw him, drinking milk straight from the carton. I watched the back of his head, as milk poured down his face, pooling at his feet. When he opened the fridge door to replace the carton, it briefly illuminated him in harsh yellow light, and I could see his skin had a blue tinge to it. It was barely noticeable, almost like someone who has become suddenly cold. When he turned to leave, as the crack of light from the fridge growing smaller beside him as the door creaked shut, I could see his eyes, at least, what his eyes had become. For, they weren’t the blue eyes I had looked into before. They were milky, a white film spreading across the iris, broken up only by red snaking veins. He looked like something from a horror film. I nearly screamed as he flew past me back into his room, door slamming. I couldn’t sleep that night; every time I closed my eyes, I was staring into his.

Soon, we began to hear strange noises coming from his room. It sounded like an animal was trapped in there, something with a low deep growl. There was also a smell emanating from it, a musty smell, like damp earth and rotting leaves. We would notice clumps of hair in the bathrooms, and one day, a collection of finger nails and toe nails, not trimmings or cuttings, but whole nails, yellow and cracked with blood tinged edges. Several of the residents left after that.

I asked around, and no one had seen him for weeks. I checked his class records, and discovered he had stopped attending. I even went to one of the clubs he had joined, but he was nowhere to be seen. Concerned he may have hurt himself or worse, I decided enough was enough. I had to check on him, I had to see if he was alright. The door was unlocked when I tried the handle. I opened it slowly, the light from the hall behind me creating a line across the carpet, which grew in size, illuminating rubbish and clothes. It might have looked like any other messy dorm room, except there was pieces of rotting meat lying in piles, scattered around the floor. It looked like pork belly, except one piece had a marking on it, a tattoo of a star. I stifled my scream; he had hurt himself. But the reality was so much worse.

monster artwork part 2As the door reached it’s apex, the room illuminated by the hall light, I saw him. He was huddled on the bed at first, but he began to uncurl his body, like a centipede. No longer was he the boy I had known. He was twisted and jagged, like an insect. His arms were long now, ending around where his knees once were, and his fingers were sharp and pointed. His skin was a navy blue, and he was completely bald now. He was so tall, crouching slightly to avoid the ceiling, towering above me like some nightmare incarnate. But it was his eyes which were the worst. They were all white now, and matte, like a pearl, and they stared down at me with hatred and anger. His mouth twisted into a snarl and saliva fell as he growled and howled. I screamed and ran from the dorm. I ran until I wanted to vomit and my lungs felt like they were on fire. I ran until everything began to spin, and only then did I look back.

I could just make it out in the distance, walking out of the student’s village, a black shadow passing over the other dorms and street lights. And then, it was gone. We never saw him again after that. There were posters and TV appeals, but I knew there was nothing of him left to find. He had twisted and eroded until only hate remained. I see it everywhere now, spreading through the campus, through the country, through the world. I watch the news and see politicians giving speeches, their eyes beginning to fade white, their finger nails missing. I hear that same snarl on my radio during phone ins and debates. I smell the damp rot festering all around me, and I fear that if something isn’t done, the effects will be irreversible, and humanity will succumb, lost forever to hate.

Thank you Giveaway!

Hello readers!  Before I started this blog, I was extremely nervous about putting myself out there.  To show my writing freely, felt almost as if I was presenting a part of my soul, and for that to garner a negative or nasty response would have been very difficult.  I have been honest about my struggle with mental health issues, and often, in life, I have found myself refusing to try in order to avoid failure and the subsequent negative feelings that would inevitably go with that.  Depression and Anxiety leaves you feeling vulnerable, and I was afraid to make myself more vulnerable by exposing myself to ridicule or insults.

But truthfully, the response I have had has been nothing but positive.  I have made some amazing friends online, collaborated with some very talented and inspiring people and got really great feedback on my writing.  Now, I have reached the 1000 follower mark on Instagram, and to say thank you, I have decided to run a giveaway of everything you see in this picture.

 

competition prozes

The prize includes:

  • A print featuring blue birds printed onto a vintage book page, with the title ‘Vocal Beauties from the Opera.’
  • A bookmark by East of India featuring the words, ‘Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.’
  • A Rose gold pen.
  • Three books from the Penguin little black classics range, namely ‘Woman much missed’ by Thomas Hardy, ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ by John Keats and ‘Only Dull people are brilliant at breakfast’ by Oscar Wilde.  Perfect to start your collection!
  • An A5 lined notebook, featuring the phrase, ‘Ideas Hopes Dreams Notes.’
  • The book, ‘Tequila Mockingbird’ by Tim Federle, which contains step by step instructions on how to make cocktails with a literary twist, including, ‘Drankenstein’, ‘A midsummer night’s beam’ and my personal favourite, ‘One flew over the cosmos nest.’
  • A blue Librarian badge.

For your chance to win, simply head over to my Instagram and follow me, tagging two friends under the Giveaway post, and subscribe to my blog.  That’s it!  You can also get additional entries, by sharing the Giveaway post on Instagram, making sure you tag me in it, and use the hashtag #mariemcwilliamsblog or by liking my Facebook page.  The competition is open internationally and the winner will be chosen at the end of the month, so spread the word amongst your bookworm friends and Good Luck!!

Terms and Conditions:

  1. In order to enter the giveaway, you must be following @mariemcwilliamsblog on Instagram, have tagged two friends under the ORIGINAL Giveaway post and have subscribed to this blog.  This will be checked.
  2. The winner will be drawn after 31st May 2017 and will be chosen at random from all the eligible entries.
  3. The competition is open internationally.  The prize is as above, and no alternative prizes will be given, and no cash alternatives will be given.
  4. The winner will be contacted immediately.  If they fail to provide their postage details within 7 days, they forfeit the prize and a new winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries.
  5. Additional entries can be made by liking @mariemcwilliamsblog page on Facebook or by sharing the giveaway post on Instagram, tagging @mariemcwilliamsblog in the photo and using #mariemcwilliamsblog.  For these additional entries to count, you MUST have completed point 1 above.
  6. This competition is not affiliated with WordPress, Instagram or Facebook.

Get entering and Good luck!!

 

Inspired Part 8

Inspired is a series in which I collaborate with other creative people.  I have collaborated with photographers, illustrators, comic book artists and painters and for this part I am collaborating with a poet.  The poet in question is called Georgia Lee Rose and she lives in Auckland, New Zealand, but you probably know her as ‘The Coffee Cup Poet.’  Georgia expresses herself with poetry, by free writing her words onto a beautifully illustrated and photographed coffee cup.  She started on Tumblr in 2013, as a way to get her out of a writing slump and stop her over thinking and over analysing her work.  She has been on Instagram since 2014 and has amassed thousands of followers.  If you like her poetry as much as I do, check her out!  For this collaboration, I wrote a story and sent it to Georgia, who used it as inspiration for this wonderful poem, which she then carefully placed onto a coffee cup.  If you would like to collaborate with me, please get in touch, and let me know what you think of this piece in the comments section below.  Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog, for updates and alerts when I post something new.

Coffee cup image

Beginnings and Ends

She didn’t truly understand the meaning of heartbreak until she met him. She had read endless novels depicting women crumpling under the weight of loss and she had seen a multitude of movies showing images of running mascara and snotty tissues. She had even read the endless advice columns from her favourite glossy magazines; ‘How to forget him’, ‘He isn’t worth it’ or ‘Move on with moving on.’ If there was a test, she would pass with flying colours. She was like that, learned, fastidious. She believed life could be learned in advance. Studied for like any test.

She loved to read. She digested books like meals and always had room for desert. She also liked to run. It cleared her head. She would run and run sometimes, without realising how far she had got, endless thoughts preoccupying her mind. She was fun. She danced without embarrassment or self awareness, she sang to the songs that played in the background of supermarkets, and she had a laugh that got her noticed and made others smile.

The first time she had met him, was in the university library. He had sat beside her, despite many empty benches. His elbows touched hers and he smelled of cloves. After about an hour, he had passed her a handwritten note, scrawled in red biro. It read simply, ‘Lunch?’ With one word, he seduced her. They enjoyed their first meal, then their first kiss, and then other firsts, precious and cherished, and never forgotten.

He was tall, over six foot, and she had to crane her neck to kiss him. She liked the way his long arms completely enclosed around her as she breathed him in. He had the same dark sense of humour as her, and they would laugh until they cried. They always held hands while walking, no matter the weather, resulting in a constant clamminess. He was in a band that played terrible punk music, with too much distortion and yelled lyrics. She was front row to every show. When her Father died, he had stood beside her, wearing a suit for the first time in his life, fidgeting at the uncomfortable tie and the even more uncomfortable silence.

They had a song. It had been playing in the trendy hipster bar on their second date; Moon River. It should have been a sign. They took endless selfies, always smiling, sometimes kissing cheeks or silly faces. The world knew them, and agreed they were the perfect couple. They moved in together their final year. After more than six months, they still had boxes as coffee tables and foot stools. They didn’t care, as long as they had a bed and each other.

They started fighting, quietly at first, then louder. He stayed out too much, and never said who he was with. She checked his phone when he was in the bathroom. He hated that guy in her class. He became moody and surly, sniping at her and making passive aggressive remarks. She always rose to the bait. They yelled and cried and said things they didn’t mean and could never take back.

He needed space, at first a few days, then a few weeks, then his things were gone and only odds and ends remained. A toothbrush, an odd sock, deodorant, a dog eared book; insignificant and minor in of themselves, but reminders of something painful, something that was once beautiful. Something broken. She cried when she saw these things, she kept them, even though they had no use. She stayed in her pyjamas, and ate junk food, watching horror movies and cheesy rom coms. She whinged to her friends, her family, anyone who would listen. Her profile was now full of vague comments, designed to have people ask how she was, desperate to express her rage, her sorrow to anyone who would listen.

She kissed other boys, but it wasn’t the same. They tasted differently, and she missed the way he smelled, and the way he would kiss the top of her head when they hugged. She called him drunk, and he said hurtful things to her. She never did so again after that, but there was more tears, more heartache.

She recovered, slowly, but healing takes time. She began to look around again, and smile at those who smiled at her, unafraid of their intent or agenda. She ran again, her thoughts no longer being exclusively about him. She read books, not about heartbreak and self help, but about strength through adversity and adventures and travel. She danced with friends, and even with other men, and sang aloud to the music, never caring who saw or heard. She laughed, at friends and movies and books and shows, and she found herself again, stronger than before, but changed nonetheless.

Georgia’s Poem:

He smelled like cloves
and I shopped for his
scent long after
he left me
dancing beat-less against our
firsts, our
lasts, our only’s
crushing love
more now than
snarling breath, and
what we’d used it for, I
dab my skin
with stems and
run
until it’s gone.

Fancy joining my Book Club?

It’s the 1st of the month, and you know what that means!  It’s time to review last month’s book club book, and announce this months.  If you are new to my blog, the premise for these posts are simple…I want you to join my book club, and read along with me.  Are you in?

April’s book was ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood.  So, first of all, what was it about?  Time to read the blurb:

The Republic of Gilead allows Offred only one function: to breed.  If she deviates, she will, like all dissenters, be hanged on the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness.  But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire- neither Offered’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.  

handmaid's tale

This book offers a terrifying glimpse at a not so unlikely future, of oppressive regimes and corporal punishment.  I found it horrifying, mostly because I can in fact, see it happening, perhaps not exactly like this, but another form of  it.  It describes the drip drip drip effect of a government, slowly closing in, and eroding your rights, until you are surprised to find yourself no longer considered a full person, and sadly I can see such erosions all around.

Atwood’s chaotic form of writing, perfectly captures the confusion and confliction of the main character Offred.  It is told from her perspective, and you truly grow to connect and feel for her.  As a new Mother, I found in particularly difficult to read about her child being taken.  I could genuinely feel her heart break, and admire her determination to continue on, to survive.  Despite the situation being hopeless, Offred never seems to completely surrender hope.  Despite her desire, whether drug induced or indoctrinated, to conform, you still sense her determination to be true to herself.  In short, she is a beautifully formed character, with an emotive and interesting story to tell.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I will say that the way in which the story ends is as brutal and mysterious as the regime in which it is set, and it’s perfect.

I honestly cannot recommend this book enough.  It has instantly become one of my all time favourites, and I plan on buying a lot more work by Atwood, and I will be binge watching the TV series this week.  Buy it, read it, and let me know your thoughts!

book club pic

For May, the book club will be reading ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden.  With a tagline like, “Beware the evil in the woods…” How could I resist?

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift- a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter.  Uncertain of it’s meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family.  

But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.  

Sounds amazing right?  Join my club and read along with me.  If you have already read it, let me know your thoughts!  Happy reading!