Thursday, 14 February 2019

Dear Ivy...

Dear Ivy,

My life has been one long trauma. First, my parents were brutally murdered before my eyes. Then, I found out that I was, in fact, from a faraway planet. A faraway planet that has been destroyed five different ways by five apparently unconnected organisations. Soon after the discovery, puberty brought with it a slew of fantastical powers that left me feeling like an outcast. I thought if I used them to help people, they'd start to like me. Instead, I've been kicked off five different teams, blamed for the end of the world (twice), and accused of causing a number of scheming supervillains to spring up. I thought I'd hit rock bottom when my fifth sidekick died (I really liked that one), but, barely a week later, the love of my life went missing only to turn up in my fridge.

Then it happened.

I met her. 

She's intelligent, and beautiful, and seemingly has a death wish because every other week her life is in peril. She's also an award-winning journalist for a well-respected broadsheet. I know that if I want this relationship to stand a chance, I have to tell her who I really am - you can't build a stable relationship by taking a woman for a drink every time you save her life, after all - but it's difficult. All my life I've been rejected. I don't want to risk losing her...

Yours sincerely,

Don't Look at My Underpants 

(Dear Don't Look at My Underpants,

I have one question for you, do you want to be front page news?

Seriously. I don't know what it is with superheroes and journalists, but it's like you're all looking to be exposed. You don't say how long you've been with this woman, but I get the impression that it isn't long. Ask yourself this, how invested do you think a well-adjusted, professional woman is in a relationship - I don't even know if I should call it a relationship.  Have you had that conversation with her yet? - with a man who deals with his issues by dressing up in spandex and punching things? Publishing your identity could do wonders for her career. Do you honestly believe that she isn't going to give you a hug and leave as quickly as possible to call her editor?

Yours sincerely,


P.S. If you don't want people to look at your underpants, maybe you should redesign your costume. Just an idea.)

Dear Ivy,

This is going to sound terribly convoluted, but I don't think my boyfriend is who he says he is. 

It all started last week, when my beloved Aunt Agatha was murdered. They found her body at the bottom of the stairs - frightful shock, it was - and the police said that she'd been pushed. Naturally, it happened during a family party so everyone was present. Since then, he's been acting...strange. Intercepting letters before the servants collect the post. Sneaking off at all hours of the day and night. Becoming defensive when asked where he's been. He's hiding something. What could it be but his own responsibility for the murder?

I don't want to accuse him - the idea that he would even consider hurting her is poison to me - but I can't trust him. Not when he's acting like a stranger. 

Yours sincerely,

Mystery Maiden

(Dear Mystery Maiden,

There's no easy way to say this, so I'll start with the good news: your boyfriend is (probably) not a murderer.

Now for the bad news. There's a very good chance that he's cheating on you.

I would wait to confront him about his suspicious behaviour until after the murderer is discovered. Just in case.  

Yours sincerely,


P.S. Make sure you clue the detective in. With any luck, he'll clear the whole thing up for you and you can dodge any awkward conversations.)

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Want more questionable advice? Check out Dear Ivy... (2018).

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..." (Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman)

"There is only one true legitimacy, and it's bestowed by love, not male lineage." - Sally Beauman, Rebecca's Tale, page 411

The reviews for this are vehement. There's a lot of high and mighty talk about how the author must not have any of ideas of her own, even though a quick Google search will tell you that she's written plenty of original fiction. I can't understand it, because there are plenty of well-repsected British writers out there who never wrote an original story (Shakespeare springs to mind), and fairy-tales and myths are being rewritten all the time. I think, perhaps, people feel insulted that she's rewritten a classic, but I'm not. Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca is haunting in its ambiguity. It's haunted me too.

I warn you now that I am about to spoil the big twist of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. If you do not wish to know, turn back now. 

I think the ambiguity of Rebecca is actually what makes this continuation so contentious. Everyone comes out of the novel with a different interpretation of the three central characters. Was Rebecca the monster Maxim likes to paint her as? Did Maxim intend to murder her? Or was he goaded into it? Did Rebecca deliberately taunt him into killing her, committing suicide by proxy? These questions, and many more, are never truly answered because we are only given Maxim's side of the story. Something that caught my eye when I reread it was the poem at the beginning. The narrator finds it in the pocket at the passenger side of the car, where Rebecca would have sat when out with Maxim. It talks about being chased by a man. That, and a number of other things, not least how he treats his second wife, made me think that Rebecca was Maxim's victim. I do not believe she was wholly innocent herself, especially in Gothic terms. In fact, I think they tortured each other. But he killed her. He took away her voice. 

Perhaps this interpretation was why I was able to enjoy this retelling.

It's told through four different perspectives: Colonal Julyan's, Terrence Grey's, Rebecca's, and Ellie Julyan's. Each of them sees Rebecca differently. To Julyan, she's a good woman who he failed. To Terrence, she's a mystery he wants to solve. To Ellie, she's a woman wronged, a woman silenced, and a role model. Ellie's perspective comes last, so it's the one we come away with, and yet I think Rebecca's was the most important. It does not exonerate the character, which is a good thing as it allows the ambiguity of the original novel to remain intact. There's a charm to her voice that doesn't quite gel with the narcissim and the thirst for revenge. There's something a little... off about her. 

One thing that I did have an issue with was how modern the views of the characters were, particuarly regarding gender and sexuality. I don't have a time machine, but I have a good enough grasp on history to feel that some of the things that happened in this novel would likely not have happened in real life. I'm not questioning people having sex outside of marriage - there's plenty of evidence to show that people risked their reputations all the time and hoped they wouldn't get caught - but I struggle to believe that people would have come out so casually in the fifties. The feminism at times also seems rather radical. At some points I would also say that it wasn't actually feminism on Rebecca's part. Beauman gave Rebecca a background that could, perhaps, have justified it, and Rose, I suppose, qualifies as an eccentric for the time period, but I struggled with it coming from Ellie. Her father was so traditional. Yes, there's Rose's influence, and her own intelligence, to consider, but Rebecca's notebooks are given the most significance by the text. I understand the choice she makes at the end and I think it makes perfect sense for the character, but some of her thoughts still had me squinting. Yes, there was feminism in the fifties, but it wasn't the same as it is today.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I think, if you enjoyed Rebecca, it's a worthwhile read, and Beauman's prose is beautiful.

What's your opinion on retellings of published novels?

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Hello, I'm Still Alive! (January Wrap-up)

How's 2019 treating you? So far I've been cold, unfulfilled, and miserable, which is a fabulous omen for the year ahead. Things are looking up for February though.

Let's take a look back at January.

News from the Reading Front

I finished seven books this month.
Remember how I said I wanted to work through my TBR pile this year? Well, three of these are library books and another was lent to me by a relative. Expect me to read a lot of murder mysteries in the coming months, as my family is passing them around. If anyone's looking for any recommendations, Ann Cleeves is a fabulous writer.

News from the Writing Front

January has not been a great month for writing, though not for lack of trying. I've felt sad for a frankly ridiculous amount of time. The kind of sad that weighs on your chest. It's been interfering with my ability to come up with ideas. As of yesterday though, a short story seems to have captured my heart. I hope it stays. I think completing something - even something small - would be good for me.

News from the Blogging Front

This has been a frankly appalling month. Four posts. 50% reviews. 25% tags. 25% memes. The reason? Like I said above, something's beaten my inspiration into the ground with a stick.

Hopefully things will get going again soon. The cold can't last forever.

So, now that I've made everyone feel miserable, how was your January?

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Evil Takes a Holiday (Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie)

“Ah! Madame, I reserve the explanations for the last chapter.” - Agatha Christie, Evil Under the Sun

This was a solid four star read until the reveal. Set at a British seaside resort in Dartmoor, Evil under the Sun follows Poirot as he deduces who murdered the fatally beautiful Arlena Marshall.

It boasts a fairly entertaining cast of characters. There's Mr Marshall, a stiff upper lip type with a habit of marrying damsels in distress, Rosamund Darnley, a fashion designer, Linda Marshall, a teenager who somehow manages to find a book on witchcraft in a small resort library (girl after my own heart), Emily Brewster, the obligatory sporty, no-nonsense, young woman, the Gardners, an American couple, and Patrick and Christine Redfern, whose marriage is now on the rocks because Patrick is having it on with Arlena. That's not a spoiler. It's established within the first few pages. 

Patrick's affair is framed by male characters as him being silly and losing his head. They comment several times that Christine is overreacting - doesn't she know that a man can cheat and still care deeply for his wife? This is notable because I've been wondering for a while if Poirot's views line up with Christie's or not and I've decided that they can't, at least not always, because Christie's first husband did cheat on her and eventually divorce her to marry another woman. Her brief disappearance is sometimes theorised to be linked to her husband cheating, either because she wanted to teach him a lesson or as a result of mental health problems that were exacerbated by his infidelity.

I suppose I've kept you in suspense long enough. Without giving anything away, my issue with the reveal is that it's impossible. I don't just mean it's impossible to get, I mean it's impossible in-universe. It hinges on two characters not being who they say they are. (An idea later reused in Third Girl.) We're supposed to believe that a female character who has been described as "tall" and having "dainty hands and feet" is the same person as a character described as "hefty". I always find reveals where characters turn out to be completely different characters contrived, but this one is all the more irritating because the descriptions just don't match up.

Have you ever read a mystery that was ruined by the reveal?

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Briggs Book Tag

My first book tag of the year was created by Jaded Reader. I stole it from Nicole @ Feed My Fiction Addiction.

For this tag, you answer the questions based on your Myers-Briggs personality type. For those of you who don't know, the Myers-Brigg personality test rates you in four categories based on your answers a number of questions. The categories are introvert/extrovert, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. At the end of the test, you get assigned four letters corresponding to which categories you score highest in. For example, I'm an INFP - introvert, intuition, feeling, perceiving. INFP is the mediator or the idealist (depending on the site).

You can be outgoing, but need to recharge with some calming solitude, Where is your favorite place to read & unwind? Why is this little oasis where you choose to go?

I like lying on the sofa when I read. It's the only place I can really stretch out. 

Some books are meant to be understood and others are meant to be explored. What book or character stands for an idea that is deeply meaningful to you?

Stephanie Brown from DC Comics. She's been Spoiler and Robin, but I'm mainly talking about her Batgirl run. (Although I have gotten hold of something that has pretty much all of her Robin run in and I. Am. Excited.) Steph sets herself up as the hero of hope and second chances. No mistake is big enough to keep her down. She sticks around because she wants to do better. Be better. And, most importantly, she believes she can if she just tries hard enough.
Not everything needs to be realistic, where is the fun in a world with limits? Which fantasy world do you find so atmospheric you slip inside and never want to leave? (Put simply a book with good vibes)

I absolutely love the world that Genevieve Cogman has created in her Invisible Library series. It's all different dimensions, so any setting is plausible. It has fairies that run on narrative tropes, playing out archetypes and gleefully waving around cliches. It has dragons that think they're superior but are at least as bad as the fae. And it has dimension-hopping librarians. This is my (fictional) dream job. Are they hiring?

TBRs are fun to construct and meant to be destroyed.   Do you stick to the list or mix it up every now and then? What’s a book you’ve put down that you want to pick back up, but just haven’t been in the mood for?

I'm a mood reader. I don't read books in the order I bought them, I pick them up when I feel like reading them. Sometimes, this means that I read a book immediately. Sometimes, I wait four years and flip a coin to decide. Who wants to be predictable?

INFP: The Idealist
Even when conflict runs high you can be the advocate for either side. What is a book that was not well received but you were able to find its good qualities?

This is so so subjective. I often see the same book praised on one platform and villified on another. Sometimes both happen on the same platform and people split into factions. Death threats are spat and curses are cast. People climb over bodies just to reach the moral high ground. Occasionally an enlightened soul leaves, having realised the futility of fighting on the internet. It has been almost thirty years. Some of them may never make it out.

Where was I? 

(A book that has good qualities despite its poor reception.)


I'm having a hard time thinking of a book that was received poorly that I haven't seen somebody else already use for this question, so I'm going to take a book that was received well that I felt was overhyped.

(Of course you are.)

What? I'm still advocating for the other side, aren't I?

This is All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, one of the most hyped books of 2015. I found the characters pretentious, parts of the romance creepy, and the focus on when the characters would have their first time both boring and kind of uncomfortable. I gave it three stars mostly because I binge-read it. I never feel I can justify giving less than three stars to a book that I barely put it down, even if I was a bit bored the entire time.

It has a 4.18 star rating on Goodreads and it won a Goodreads Choice Award. Boom. 

I tag Shar @ Virtually Read.

Have you posted your first tag of the year yet?

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

My Five Most Anticipated 2019 Releases

I'm a backlist girl. New releases, generally, don't get much of a look in unless they're part of a series I'm already addicted to or written by an author I already know I love. This year, they shouldn't be getting any look in at all since one of my main focuses is slashing my TBR pile down to size. Still. A girl's allowed to look, right?

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
Release Date: 29th January 2019

I was so excited when I heard about this! Tudor England is my favourite historical time period and high school retellings are always fun. I just hope it doesn't villify Anne Boleyn. of the Super Sons Volume One by Peter J. Tomasi and Carlo Barberi
 Release Date: 16th April 2019

This is a sequel series to one of my favourite comic book series so far. It's Stabby Robin and the second Superboy planet-hopping for twelve issues whilst a team of teen villains pursues them across the galaxy.

Release Date: 4th April 2019

I'm not a big contemporary reader, I say as I stare at a list that is so far 2/3 contemporary novels, but this sounds really cute in a sad, you-can't-make-me-cry sort of way. Also, I'm pretty sure I'm promised glorious descriptions of cake so...

Young Justice Volume One by Brian Bendis and Patrick Gleason
Release Date: TBC

 The release date hasn't been confirmed, but, given that the first issue comes out on the 9th of January, I'm willing to take an educated guess and say volume one will drop by December. Yes, I'm currently reading the nineties version, but there's no law against reading the rebooted version at the same time, right? Besides, I'm curious as to why two characters are going to be Robin at once. Especially those two characters.

(I'll get the popcorn.)

The Invisible Library #6 by Genevieve Cogman
Release Date: TBC

This series does not require a title or a summary to get me hyped. I'm so ready to see how the Embassy shakes things up. Again, there's no release date yet, but book six is confirmed and every book so far has come out within the last couple of months of the year. 

Now that I've posted this, this year will break the pattern. I guarantee it.  

What are your most anticipated 2019 releases?

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Have I Mentioned My Love for The Invisible Library Series Lately? (The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman)

"Was she the library's agent, or the Princess' knight? The Cardinal's spy and assassin, or the Countess' victim? Kai's lover? Vale's friend? Where did she ultimately stand in all this?" Genevieve Cogman, The Mortal Word, page 264

It's that time of year again. The time when I gush about The Invisible Library series for a whole post and you all have to sit there and take it.

Well. Unless you close the tab, I suppose.

The Lost Plot ended with a twist that changed everything and nothing. Kai left the library. He was no longer Irene's apprentice. He is, however, still Vale's friend and therefore there is nothing suspicious about him and Irene occasionally running into each other in London. Or about him turning up in Paris during a dragon/fae conference just after Irene and Vale have arrived to solve a murder. They totally did not plan it. You can prove nothing!

So. To sum up. The Fae and the Dragons are having a peace conference. The librarians are there to ensure peace. And a member of the dragon delegation has been murdered. Luckily, there are a lot of candidates for the killer. Could it be the Cardinal? After all, they're always evil in fiction. Or, perhaps, it's the Blood Countess, a mysterious fae who has based her archetype on Elizabeth Bathory. (For those of you who don't know who she is, here's a quick overview. Please note that it does not spare the gory details.) It could even be Prutkov, a librarian with some rather dodgy ideas about the Library's future place.

The Fae steal the show in this novel. The Cardinal wasn't particuarly interesting, but the Princess - oh my God - the Princess! In the world of this series, Chaos runs on narrative tropes. The fae, being creatures of Chaos, embody archetypes. The worst thing you can do is get pulled into their story, especially if you misunderstand your role. Of course, you can also use tropes to your advantage. Irene manages to wind up as the Princess' knight and it's comedy gold. Then there's the Countess, who's archetype requires her to be both an innocent woman wrongly accused and a bloodthirsty monster. She switches as it suits her. She also hates false accusations despite the fact that she's committed numerous crimes. Yes, she did that, that, and that, but NO! She did not do that and how dare you even accuse her? What makes you think - yes, that body in the corner is hers. What of it? 

Conflicted loyalties is a recurring theme in this series, as reflected by the quote at the top. Irene is constantly pulled between her loyalty to the Library and, usually, her loyalty to Kai. This time, there's also her loyalty to her parents and her loyalty to the truth to consider. It baffles me that some librarians were excluded from taking part in the peace conference because they were considered to be compromised, but Irene wasn't because she (has protagonist power) has experience with both dragons and fae. That experience should disqualify her! I mean, at minimum, she's close to a dragon prince to the point that she's arguably more worried about him surviving and not being an emotional wreck when he finds out who the killer is than she is about the peace treaty (to be honest, same).

Overall, I really enjoyed this. It's the detective story Irene's always dreamed of being in, and she hates every minute of it because has she mentioned that she's not supposed to be a diplomat? The one thing I would say though is that after a whole novel of Irene being motivated by her parents being held hostage, it would have been nice to actually meet them.

 Happy New Year! What was your first read of 2019?