Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Ivyclad Ideas - Contemporary

This is the third in a series of posts aimed at helping anyone joining my reading challenge to fill the board. Ivyclad Bingo permits basically any type of book: novel, ebook, audiobook, comic, manga... 

The following are not recommendations, they are suggestions.

(What's the difference?)

If I haven't read it, it's a suggestion.

If you want to sign up for the Ivyclad Bingo 2018 Challenge, there's still time! Just click here and follow the instructions.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

In beautifully artistic prose, one twin recounts the past whilst the other explores the present.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18460392-all-the-bright-placesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I've been meaning to read this since it first came out in 2015. Finch and Violet meet on a ledge and essentially pull each other back from it. Whether or not they both make it to the end of the novel is something you'll have to find out for yourselves.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1773713.Frankie_Peaches_MeThe Stella Etc. Series by Karen McCombie 

I read these as a teenager (some Ally's World, too) and I remember that they were brilliant. They're about a girl who moves from London to a seaside town and follow her through the weeks before school starts up, making friends and dealing with the drama that comes with them.

A contemporary debut about sisters, love, and mental health. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35489957-twist-of-faithTwist of Faith by Ellen J. Green

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32075671-the-hate-u-giveFamily secrets come out in this contemporary thriller about a woman who finds a photo hidden in a crawl space after her adoptive mother dies.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Probably the biggest YA contemporary of 2017. Certainly the one I've heard the most about. The Hate U Give tackles race relations in the United States. It's won a whole host of awards, and came first in two different categories in the Goodread's Choice Awards last year. 

Check out the debut authors post for more contemporary recommendations, but remember you have to use a different book for every box.

Superhero | Debut Author |

What are you reading for the contemporary box?

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Dear Ivy...

Dear Ivy,

I was a little concerned when my sixteenth birthday passed and he had yet to show, but it's finally happened. I've met the one. He's not like the other boys I know. The room doesn't fill with deodrant fumes when he walks in. Instead, I smell pomegranites, honey, cinnamon. 

It happened on the way home from school in October. I was walking alone in the dark when I came across him, leaning against the wall in his beat-up leather jacket. His eyes were like the sun. Just one look and I was dazzled. It's all a blur, but we must have gotten to talking because the next thing I knew we were outside my house, his hand touching my neck. He leant in, his teeth grazed my throat, and I know he would have kissed me if it hadn't been for my father appearing at the door.

Every night since I've met him on the road to Castle Street. In the moonlight, he seems carved from marble, shaped by the hands of one of the greats. We kissed beneath fireworks on the fifth of November, the sparks catching on his midnight hair, and in a snowstorm on New Year's Eve. We've had our hiccups of course - he was impervious to hints that he should sneak in my bedroom window when I wanted to show him my prom dress, and the first time I cooked him dinner he had a terrifying allergic reaction and fled into the night - but I truly did believe that things were going well. Now though, he tells me that when March comes he will no longer be able to meet me on this road. I've begged and pleaded for him to explain, to tell me what it was that I did wrong, but he just runs away, disappears into the shadows. Sometimes, he suggests I try another route, down past the cemetery. He swears it'll shave half an hour off my journey, but I like sticking to the lit streets. Do you think if I compromise he'll stay?

Yours sincerely,

Unwitting Protagonist

(Dear Unwitting Protagonist,

You are aware that boys aren't supposed to be edible, right? To be fair to you, loverboy is definitely labouring under the same misconception when it comes to girls. 

A compromise will not save your first love. In fact a compromise will most likely leave you a bloodless husk on a dark street. He's not leaving you because he wants to, he's doing it because he has no other choice. Think about it, you met him when the nights were drawing in, and he's leaving you just as it gets light again. There's no way to sugarcoat it: the boy's a vampire. I don't know how you could possibly have missed this. It's YA heroine 101. Let's start with the obvious, nothing human has eyes that colour. If they're not brown, blue, green, or grey, you should be asking some questions. Then there's the fact that most guys - let me rephrase that, most human guys - aren't going to try and stick their teeth in your neck ten minutes after meeting you. If they are, you should be running. As for your hiccups, I think you'll find that a mere hint doesn't qualify as permission to cross the threshold into your home. Shocked? You should meet some of the vampires I know down south, they want it in writing. On the allergies front, I'm going to hazard a guess here and say that dish included a substantial amount of garlic. 

My advice? Put some garlic near your window, start wearing a crucifix under your clothes, and forget him.

Yours sincerely,


P.S. What do pomegranites even smell like?) 

Dear Ivy,

In hindsight, I think my marriage was a mistake. It's not his average looks, or advanced age, or impressive bank balance. It's his (very large) house. At first, I thought it would be a joy to live in. My family was disinherited, you know, so I grew up in almost a shack with only two maidservants and a cook. This, I thought, was my kingdom come at last.

As it turns out, I'm not cut out for mansion-life.

I just can't seem to find my bearings. The garden stretches for miles between us and the road - God forbid we ever have to run for help - and, whilst the gardeners keep it gorgeous, there are far too many rhodedendrons. They're so easy for one to get lost in. Then, once you've found the house, you have to navigate the hundreds of passageways. If I did not know better than to indulge such a fancy, I would suggest that they moved daily. You cannot imagine how often I have opened a door expecting to enter my own quarters, only to find the library, or the dining room, or, on one occasion, a broom cupboard. It was in this way that I stumbled across it. The locked door.

Now before you tell me to ask my husband, I'll have you know that I brought the matter up over afternoon tea. He was infuriating! Dillying and dallying over excuses you wouldn't believe! Perhaps I'd been mistaken? Perhaps I hadn't applied another pressure to the handle? Perhaps I'd gotten so turned around I'd ended up outside by the sheds? The nerve! 

Anyway, he went away this weekend and, before he left, he handed me a set of keys. There's one on there that I haven't seen before, one that he forbid me to use. If I could find that room again, do you think I should try it?

Yours Sincerely,

Help! I Married a Byronic Hero!

(Dear Help! I Married a Byronic Hero!,

I don't suppose you can get a divorce, can you? That would definitely be the best thing to do in this situation. Still, I suppose we should deal with the immediate situation first. 

You want to know whether or not you should try that key? No. Oh God, no.. You won't like what you find and he'll know - he'll have his ways. My advice would be to stick to your normal rooms. You should try to contact any family you have. If he's away long enough, you could even try to arrange somewhere to escape to, but do everything you can to ensure that the letters pass through no one's hands but your own. In a house of that size, anyone could be a spy.

Yours sincerely,


P.S. By the way, you might want to check the attic. Make sure to keep an eye out for hidden rooms!)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Thoughts on Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7160173-agnes-greyThe title of this post is a tad misleading because upon finishing this novel my thoughts, and my sympathies, did not lie with Agnes Grey, but with Rosalie Murray. 

I cannot believe that Brontë intended for her readers to hate Rosalie. This is not to say that I believe that the novel endorses her behaviour, but whilst her flirting is occasionally presented as cruel, it is more often comic, not least because of Agnes' disapproval. Rosalie is young - bear in mind that her governess is only twenty two - and I think it's important to take that into account. I don't believe she's intentionally malicious, just a bit immature. This is perhaps best shown by contrasting her with her foil, Agnes. When asked what she thought of Mr Weston, Agnes says, 'I cannot pretend to judge of a man's character by a single, cursory glance at his face.' Rosalie, on the other hand, dismisses him at first simply because he's 'ugly'. Now, don't get me wrong here, Agnes does not develop all that much throughout the novel - she's a Victorian heroine after all, and they pop out of the womb pretty much perfect - but her first post at the Bloomfields stripped away much of her naivety. Rosalie still has hers. Yes, she's vain and a bit catty, but she doesn't have any real life experience. At one point, it is mentioned that her father won't take her to London to check out the social scene. It's probable that she's never left her small country town. It's a mark of naivety, I think, to judge a person by their looks alone.

At the end of the novel, Rosalie is married and miserable. Her husband is rich and it's easy to see the old aesop of don't marry for money in her fate, however it is important to note that Rosalie married the man her mother wanted her to. She was acting as the dutiful daughter, and isn't that what we expect of women in Victorian literature? Again, I feel the need to emphasise that Rosalie is young. At an estimate, I would put her at twenty. I was a good few months past that before I fully understood what people meant by attraction, and I think perhaps I'm biased because of this. I am nothing like Rosalie, and yet I found myself identifying with her. I don't read Rosalie as a bad Victorian woman. I read her as a girl who's married off before she gets a chance to discover who she is as person.  Rosalie does not transgress against society - not really - and yet society still betrayss her. It shoves her into a box and moves onto her younger sister. Literally. As Rosalie vanishes into the depths of Ashby Park, Matilda is being prepared for her own introduction into society.

This seems a good time to say a brief word about Matilda Murray. Matilda is an excellent example of a woman born in the wrong century. She's the earliest example I've read (which isn't necessarily to say the actual earliest example) of a tomboy. She's more interested in riding and hunting than suitors and society, and she's massively influenced by her father who has taught her a great deal of swear words, presumably by accident. Of course, this being a Victorian novel, Matilda cannot stay this way. The moment they're done ruining Rosalie's life, they're banning her from the stables and anywhere else she enjoys spending her time, but I thought it was an interesting archetype to see in a novel of this era all the same.

Tell me about a character you identify with.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

January Wrap-up

The fact that the first month of 2018 is already over fills me with physical pain and mild panic.

(You should get that checked out.)

I would like to say that this has been a gloriously productive January, but I'm worried that if I did say that I'd start laughing uncontrollably and never stop. 

News from the Reading Front

I finished five books this month -

Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott - 4 Stars - Review

Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater - 4 Stars - Review

Agnes Grey by Anne Bront

And one manga book.

Reading Challenge Check-in

2018 Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge: 0/5

Science Fiction VS Fantasy Bingo 2018: 1/25
  • Fantastic Beasts - All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
The 2018 Swords and Stars Reading Challenge: 1/20
  • Read a Book with Magical Realism in it - All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: 1/12 
  • A classic written by a woman author - Agnes Grey by Anne Bront
  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater 
 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge: 0/5

Ivyclad Bingo (2018 Reading Challenge): 0/16 

We're not going anywhere fast, but to be perfectly honest I'm not expecting to complete more than three of these maximum. 

News from the Writing Front

If you haven't tried writing to Evanescence, I totally recommend it.
News from the Blogging Front

Does anyone have any idea what's wrong with Intense Debate? Is it a glitchy comment platform, or is it just me? No one else who uses it on their site seems to have had any problems, but sometimes it doesn't even appear on my posts. I don't want to change - I'm a creature of habit - and, right now, I don't have any time on my hands to devote to overhauling any part of my blog, but it's long passed the point where it was an issue I could ignore. 

News from the Net
Did you have a productive January?