Magic and Ruins

Friday, 8 June 2018

I thought that I would do a casual post here today to share these photos that I took last week. I was out at Inch Abbey ruins taking some photos for a friend. I took along a book and a wand as props. I found a few minutes and played around with the props.

I decided to take the opportunity to get some end slides for my YouTube videos (by the way, in case you weren't aware - I make YouTube videos too). 

I fell in love with this wand the moment that I saw it. It is Queenie Goldstein's wand from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Queenie is my favourite character and her wand is the most beautiful wand that I have ever seen. Naturally, I had to have it in my possession and naturally, it had to be a part of this mini photo shoot that I ended up having with a wand and a book (the book is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo),  


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

For at least three instances when I was perusing the shelves of Easons, Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón kept screaming at me to buy it. Just look at that cover. Just look at it. Isn't it absolutely gorgeous? How did I manage to pass it up three times? Even now, I'm still finding something on the cover that I didn't notice before. It is beyond beautiful. The font instantly cried out to me. It was cover-love at first sight. Of course, I read the back of it and was instantly intrigued by it. Granted, I obviously wasn't intrigued enough to buy it on those first few instances but I gave in to it and finally bought it because 1980s Barcelona? Yes, please!

I want to talk about the translation first. Ruiz Zafón is Spanish and so Marina was translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves. I spent the majority of my A-Level Spanish classes translating texts into English and Spanish. It is difficult. Very difficult. It is easy to translate it straight from Spanish into English but more often than not, it doesn't sound like English. If you know me, my reading is very sensitive to sentence constructs and I genuinely stumble over sentences that don't make sense. I'm pretty sure that that sentence didn't even make sense.

Lucia Graves does an astounding job at translating Ruiz Zafón's words. From the very first sentence, this book was an absolute dream to read. The words were like the most luxurious cream ever. A weird analogy for words but every sentence was even more magnificent than the one before. It makes me want to read it in Spanish. I cannot wait to read more of Ruiz Zafón and Graves' work.

The synopsis of this book hooked me from the first sentence, 

In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts.... 
His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings. 
When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

1980s Barcelona? Gothic tale? I instantly fell in love with this book. From the first chapter, I was under its spell. Oscar is a protagonist that you can root for and that you want to stick his nose where it doesn't belong. But he also has a conscience and a thirst for knowledge which I absolutely adored about Oscar. The enigmatic Marina is just as much a curiosity as Oscar. I was just as enthralled with her as Oscar was. I wanted her to be a real person so that I could be her friend. 

Together, they uncover a mystery that takes them around Barcelona. I have to admit that I was attached to my phone and Google Maps when reading this book just so I could visualise where they were and how far they had gone on their adventure. What I loved about Ruiz Zafón's writing was that it was impeccably vivid. I could easily see everywhere that Oscar and Marina went. Sometimes, a little too vividly. There were times where I would finish a rather spooky chapter right before going to sleep. Thankfully I didn't have any nightmares. Typically, the substance of Marina wouldn't be what I would reach for. Had I known what would happen, I probably would have passed on it but the way that Ruiz Zafón writes made it enticing and made me enjoy being uncomfortable and scared for the characters. I loved the atmosphere that he created across Barcelona. There was a masterful use of pathetic fallacy and as much as I don't want this review to turn into an English Literature student essay, I loved the use of weather throughout this book. 

I don't want to give away spoilers but I liken this book to a crossover between Frankenstein and The Phantom of the Opera. I was not expecting that crossover when I first started reading Marina. I was pleasantly surprised by it and absolutely loved it. I couldn't believe the twists and turns that this book took. I was strapped in and along for the ride. Wherever this book went, I was going too. Even now, thinking about it two months later, I'm still under its spell. The story that Ruiz Zafón created was dark, gothic, undeniably beautiful and heartbreaking. I felt for every single character that appeared. They were so wonderfully interconnected. I loved the stories that the characters told to Oscar and Marina. Usually, stories being told within a book don't appeal to me because at times I feel that they can distract from the plot if done incorrectly. Ruiz Zafón created the most enticing stories that I couldn't stop reading and that I wanted more from. I simply wouldn't put this book down. 

I cannot sing the praises of this book enough. It is beautiful, mysterious, enthralling, surprising and captivating. I was hooked from the very first page to the very last. The translation of it is impeccable. I would really love to read it in Spanish. I loved the characters. The whole plot was unlike anything that I have ever read before. I loved everything about this book and I hope to read more books by Ruiz Zafón in the future. If Marina is anything to go by, I have no doubt that I will love it. 


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

There have only been two instances in my life where a movie trailer has inspired me to read a book long before the movie is due out. The first instance was Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is the second example. I first watched a trailer for the upcoming movie on YouTube back in January and was instantly intrigued by it. It looked like a cute little story and with a title like that, how could I resist?

I bought my copy second-hand on Amazon and to be honest, I feel as if that added a little character to it. The book is told in a different format to most books. It is told through letters. Every letter featured is from a character to another character but they are usually all from or to Juliet, an author who is struggling to find inspiration for her next book. One day, a letter from Guernsey arrives from a man who read her previous publication. The story takes place from there. 

Initially, I was put off by the letters. I couldn't get used to it because I'm so familiar with reading chapters. Nevertheless, I found myself eating my words and loving the format. It was so unique. Originally, I thought that the letters were going to be nothing more than word-vomit superfluous detail - I don't know about you but I do write an enormous amount of waffle in letters. Shaffer and Barrows wrote the most perfect letters for this books. Nothing was out of place. Even the letters from the Guernsey local 'busy-body' had me laughing. A number of the letters made me laugh, made me smile, and ultimately, they made me fall in love with these characters. There were moments where I had half a mind to put pen to paper and write to these characters myself. 

The characters were loveable from the get-go.even the ones that we weren't really supposed to like. All of them were endearing in one way or another. I loved the bond that they all shared through this accidental literary society and how willing they were to talk about it. I think I enjoyed reading their letters more than the fictional Juliet did. The characters were a humbling bunch as each letter unveiled how they helped each other survive the Nazi Occupation of Guernsey and how they are still helping each other to survive. They are all a wonderful array of characters. 

An unexpected aspect of the book was that it educated me. I'm ashamed to admit that I very little about the Channel Islands. The Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands was not covered in any History module that I had in school. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society educated me on what these people had to deal with before, during and after the Second World War. I found it very humbling and heart-rendering. I felt for these characters and by extension, I feel for what the people of Guernsey actually went through. 

The upcoming adaptation is coming out in cinemas from April 20th and I cannot wait to see it. I have even roped my Mother into coming with me. She hasn't read the book but she is still interested in seeing the movie. I hope that the movie does this wonderful book justice. It has cemented itself as a favourite in my books (pun intended).


Friday, 16 March 2018


Also, this may be the first video that I've cross-posted to this blog this year. I am beyond useless this year. I'm here now and I'm posting a video on my blog. It also just so happens to be the tour of my bookshelves and I mean, all of my bookshelves. I take you through all of the books that are on the shelves behind me when I film my videos and also on the shelves above my bed, my desk/vanity area and my DVD bookcase. That's a lot of shelves, for sure. What's more is that my main bookcase is double-faced with books which means that there are two rows of books on each shelf. Yup. A lot of books. I like books. Additionally, you'll be able to see the books that I have multiple copies of. I like pretty versions of books. I'm a hoarder. 


Saturday, 10 March 2018

It is positively shameful that we're in the third month of the year and I have not posted a single blog post. Utterly shameful. What's more is that the blog surpassed 100,000 views in the past few weeks and that is monumental. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my little blog would get that many views. Yes, I would have loved it, for sure. However, I never would have thought that my blog would be seen over 100,000 times. Wow. I'm so cliché but it's true. Thank you to everyone that has ever visited, viewed, commented or seen this blog page. I'm forever grateful. 

Back to what this blog is here for... posts. One of my resolutions for 2018 is to be more consistent with blogging. I'm doing fabulously so far, aren't I? Well now, I'm finally getting around to blogging about a book that I read at the end of December; Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. This book was my penultimate read of 2017. 

This will come as no surprise to those of you that know me but I pretty much read this book in the hopes that it would be a perfect read for my inner Sanctuary fangirl. Sanctuary is one of my favourite shows and the show that I consistently compare a number of Fantasy books to. It's ridiculous how many Fantasy books give me a Sanctuary vibe in one way or another. In Sanctuary, Doctor Helen Magnus fell in love with the man that was Jack the Ripper, Montague John Druitt. In real life, Druitt was never convicted of being the infamous serial killer and committed suicide in December 1888. In fact, no-one has been conclusively proven to have been the Victorian murderer, yet, Druitt was one of the suspects. Sanctuary creator, Damian Kindler, posits Druitt as the killer in the television series. I shipped Magnus and Druitt like there was no tomorrow in the show and so when I heard about Stalking the Ripper and that its tagline was, "I'm the girl who loved the Ripper," I was instantly intrigued. 

I have been fascinated by Jack the Ripper for years, even long before Sanctuary came to my attention. I watched numerous documentaries about the case and read a number of books that detailed conspiracy theories, had autopsy reports and even detailed the various suspects and their movements before, during and after the infamous murders in Whitechapel. I was very well informed so going into Stalking Jack the Ripper, I was going to be looking out for those details and hoping to find out something that I hadn't already known. 

I will say that Maniscalco was very well informed about the details regarding the Ripper case. To be fair, for a case of that is over one-hundred-and-thirty-years-old, there isn't a lot of new evidence coming out. Whatever is known, has been published and has been adapted into television programmes and published in books. In Stalking Jack the Ripper, Maniscalco does keep to the timeline of events but does implement some artistic liberties here and there to fit into the story that she wanted to tell. All of these are clearly disclosed in the Historian's Notes at the end of the book. 

With regard to who actually is revealed to be Jack the Ripper in the book, I did enjoy who it was. I can honestly say that I didn't expect this person. However, I personally would have liked to have seen more references to the actual suspects that Scotland Yard had in 1888. 

The Whitechapel murders were very brutal and were not for the squeamish or the faint-of-heart to read about nevermind witness. What I enjoyed about Maniscalco's writing was that she didn't shy away from describing the actual scenes that Audrey Rose found herself at. Maniscalco described them with the clinical accuracy that a forensic scientist would have which I found very fitting and also cohered to the police reports as if Audrey Rose had contributed to them. I have a book that has facsimiles of all of the police reports and coroner reports of the day. As I read the book, I could clearly see what Audrey Rose was seeing and found myself reading it all like a forensic observer and believing Audrey Rose's detachment. 

In terms of the main characters, I found myself enjoying Audrey Rose for the majority of the book. She was strong-willed, determined, unapologetic about her ambition to study medicine and be taken seriously in a predominantly male profession in 1888, just as Helen Magnus did. However, there were instances were Audrey Rose's youth and naivety lead to me disliking her and finding her unbelievable. In the moments when she's walking around Whitechapel in the dead-of-night hoping to come across Jack the Ripper, I found her very naive considering the state that the Ripper left his victims in. Was Jack the Ripper honestly going to be foisted by a 17-year-old young girl? I didn't find that wholly believable. Magnus doing that, I could believe because she would have been older than Audrey Rose. In my mind Magnus is. I didn't take those moments where Audrey Rose was being so gung-ho seriously. I found her tenacity admirable but with the air of fear in Whitechapel at the time being so dense, I didn't find it believable that a 17-year-old girl would have done anything like that. Although, that being said, that side of Audrey Rose could be relatable to Ashley Magnus. Ashley would have, and has, done that.

I did find parallels with other Sanctuary characters and those in Stalking Jack the Ripper. I found that Audrey Rose's Uncle, Jonathan, took the place of Gregory Magnus, Helen's Father. Audrey Rose's Uncle was the one that was teaching her all there was to know about anatomy and forensic determination. I thoroughly enjoyed his character. I found him undeniably intelligent, driven and observant in that he noticed the potential in Audrey Rose and did what he could to allow her to flourish. 

The love interest in the story, Thomas Cresswell, was a character that I didn't particularly enjoy. For me, he was a combination of James Watson and Nikola Tesla from Sanctuary. He had the knowledge and observance of Watson but the arrogance of Tesla. However, for me, his arrogance was very off-putting. He was too presumptive and he came off as sleazy instead of intriguing. I wasn't particularly attracted to Cresswell like a number of my book-blogger peers have been. For me, he was rather annoying and ultimately reminded me of Will Zimmerman from Sanctuary who is the character that I hate in the show. 

Nathaniel Wadsworth, Audrey Rose's brother, was a different story. I found myself thoroughly liking his character throughout the book. He was protective in the right places, suave in other places and ultimately, fascinating and multi-faceted. He very much felt like a combination Watson and Druitt in my opinion and I love those two characters.

The one thing that I didn't expect in Stalking Jack the Ripper was the twist about who was Jack the Ripper and why he was driven to murder these women. I can honestly say that it did surprise me. I wasn't expecting it and very much enjoyed where the book was heading when that was all coming about. I thought that it wouldn't have been amiss in a Sanctuary storyline. It felt very much like something that the Cabal would do which only heightened my enjoyment.

The book cover is absolutely stunning. It is absolutely perfect for this kind of book. It is what drew me to the book. I'm not ashamed to admit that. I was fascinated by this book from the moment my eyes fell on the cover. It's just so beautiful. I love the outfit that the model is wearing. I love her hair. I love her red lipstick. I love the black lace gloves. The dagger draws my eye and makes me ask questions as to why she's holding it. The fonts used for the title are perfectly paired. The flourishes aren't overpowering and beautifully frame the title. What really caught my eye is the way that it transitions from Audrey Rose's outfit into a dreary image of London below. It's so seamless and really sets the mood for the book as a whole. It paints the perfect scene of how dreary, dirty and dismal London was in 1888. It's glamorous and foreboding at the same time. 

In fact, I'm obsessed with the covers in this entire series. They just keep getting better and better and each cover fits the story perfectly. After finishing Stalking Jack the Ripper, I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to continue with the series because I didn't particularly want to see more of Thomas Cresswell. Nevertheless, I have the sequel Hunting Prince Dracula in my possession simply because it is too beautiful to not have on my bookshelves. I will probably read it at some point but in the meantime, it can sit and look pretty. Just look at how stunning these covers are?

For a book review, I know that I talked a lot about Sanctuary and how the book related back to it but that's honestly how and why I read it. The characters spoke volumes of Sanctuary characters and that's the only way in which I can describe them and relate them to you. Sanctuary is a show that means a lot to me and it still has a profound impact on what I read and how I digest what I read. Characters from books remind me of characters in Sanctuary. Settings, plot lines, and even names remind me of Sanctuary. I cannot help that. I can only apologise to those of you that have never seen Sanctuary but I will not apologise for how it still impacts me. You'll just have to watch it. 

Have you read Stalking Jack the Ripper? What are your thoughts on it? I ultimately gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I found it enjoyable and I loved that I could link aspects of it to Sanctuary which made it all the more enjoyable. It wasn't the read that I was hoping it to be in terms of the Ripper and the tagline that sold it to me and there were a few issues with it. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable.

50-ish Books That I'm Getting Rid Of

Monday, 20 November 2017

This was meant to be up days ago but it took forever to render and then forever-and-a-day to upload. Then once it did upload, the last minute had been cut off. So, I had to go back to the drawing board and render the video again before uploading it for the second time. I need to learn to stop making such long videos - they take an age to upload (I wonder if anyone else has twigged on to that?).

So, in this video, I take you through all of the books that I'm getting rid of - I have donated them to a charity run bookshop in Belfast and some books are going to my former English and Theatre Studies teacher from high school. Put the kettle on and grab a hot beverage. 

REVIEW || Star Trek: Discovery 1x08 and 1x09

I had considered not doing this blog post. I have done weekly reviews for every episode of Star Trek: Discovery since the first two-parter became available on Netflix. I've spoken at length about what I like about this series and also what I have not liked about it. With the last two episodes of Discovery, I have seriously begun to question this series. I was in Spain a fortnight ago and so I missed the penultimate episode of the mid-season break. When I got home, I had a double-bill of the latest two episodes and I can honestly say, neither of them impressed me. 

I had seen gifs floating around Twitter about bits that happened in the mid-season finale. Nothing that was an overt spoiler, thankfully. The spoilers were thankfully reserved until after I had watched the mid-season finale. Still, spoiler alert, people. It amazes me that, even now, people still haven't grasped that they are spoiling things for others when they blab on social media. 

So, without further adieu, let's get into the review aspect of this post.

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