To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

 

My rating: 4.7/5.0

This book is an absolute classic, and a completely unmissable read. I read it before for my GCSE English Literature class, but being fourteen at the time I returned to it now, suspecting that it might mean slightly more to me six years later. And it did.

It’s heartbreaking, thought-provoking and totally page turning. I think I read it in the space of two days. The characters have such depth to them, and through the eyes of seven/eight year old Scout Finch (Jean Louise if we’re being formal!), they all come majestically to life. One thing that struck me is that I was still a little scared of Scout’s initial impression of Boo Radley! I guess the idea of an unseen phantom that one can’t put a face to is infinitely more terrifying than something you can quantify, hence the extensive imaginations of children.

Moving through the book and seeing the trial of Tom Robinson from Scout’s perspective makes it seem even more abhorrent. The innocence she has, which her brother Jem loses, becomes all the more precious in light of the outcome. One almost begins to detest the machinations of adults, purely because of the effect it has on children.

I cannot begin to this book justice here, but suffice to say that if you have no read it you must; and if you have read it, return to it, I almost guarantee you it will provide you with something new.

B

x

Introducing The Mixtape

The Mixtape

 

Okay, so after a long break from this site I have decided to return. Thought it might be a good idea – certainly give me something to do over the Christmas Holidays from Uni!

Right… The Mixtape. This is a radio show I present on a Wednesday night in term time from 7-8pm on 87.7 Bailrigg FM. It’s a predominately music based show and every week I choose a theme that the show is going to revolve around. Examples of what we’ve had so far have been; ‘Ladies Who Rock’, ‘Golden Oldies’, ‘… At The Movies’ etc. Most of the themes are fairly loose, giving me scope to play as many requests as possible. Listener interaction is paramount for me so when I start posting themes on here – feel free to request songs in the comments! Remember they must be clean/radio friendly.

B

xxx

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Book Review: Spoils of Time Trilogy – Penny Vincenzi

A couple of weeks ago I had no internet.

“No internet?!” I hear you cry… and I wasn’t even in a remote corner of the globe, I was in my home. The problem was that my broadband provider was Sky and they’re… not good… to say the least. Anyway, whilst I was in this wifi black hole I managed to read quite a lot of books, about five in the space of two weeks. Three of those books were the books that I’m going to review today; the three that make up the Spoils of Time Trilogy by Penny Vincenzi.

This series is made up of  the books ‘No Angel’, ‘Something Dangerous’ and ‘Into Temptation’ and it chronicles the lives of the Lytton Dynasty, focusing mostly around a lead female character by the name of Lady Celia Lytton née Beckenham. I think I will deal with the trilogy as a whole when discussing it, but will rate each book in turn at the end of my review.

The books begin in about 1908, the heyday of the Edwardian era and we are introduced to Lady Celia, who immediately comes across as strong-minded, determined, a little bit sly and a woman who certainly knows what she wants. Possibly a little bit too much of a modern sensibility for a woman living at such a time, but don’t forget that this was the time of the suffragettes and the Fabian society, so perhaps it is not out of place. She quickly entices and marries Oliver Lytton, a kind and fairly gentle soul who is the inheritor of a small but successful publishing company that goes by the family surname. Throughout the next half of the book Celia produces three children; Giles, and twins Venetia and Adele, before adopting a child from the slums of London who for the entirety books is known as Barty.

One thing that strikes me about Vincenzi books is that whilst her writing is rich in detail, her characters have a particular trait/fate that always comes forward, and is constantly represented by their actions. In that sense it is almost like a fairy tale. Celia, as mentioned before is extremely strong minded – almost to the point of bullying on several occasions – and this is contrasted to her long suffering husband. Her children also suffer at the hands of her own ambition, with Giles emerging as a shy and with low self-esteem. The twins fare a little better because they have each other and thus a lifelong bond is formed in the constant absence of their mother.

There are hundreds of characters in these three books, and more plot twists than I could possibly care to mention but that’s what makes them such an addictive read. The huge amounts of characters don’t detract from the story either, it’s not like Game of Thrones where you read about one character and then don’t hear about them again for twenty chapters. The books span the time period from the Edwardian era through to the late 1960s, and through that time (in no particular order!) we are shown the horrors of two World Wars through the eyes of the characters, the rise of the Fascists across Europe and how it affects all involved, the Wall Street crash, the roaring twenties, the depression, the change of British society as the 40’s came to a close and the 50’s began… it is really interesting to anyone who has a passing interest in social history. Of course it is fiction, but lots of the events that occur in the book are real and for someone who doesn’t wish to pursue their interest to academic texts would find this book fascinating.

Naturally there are issues with it, as afore mentioned characters can sometimes feel stereotyped or pigeonholed in order to fit the line of the story. I, for one, can’t help but feel sorry for Oliver and Giles but it becomes frustrating because they don’t seem to do anything about it. Another thing that frustrated me about these books was the ending. I won’t ruin it for you in case you wish to go off and read them, but suffice to say it comes to a rather abrupt halt, and one to which you think the publishers of Vincenzi were gasping for their novel, leaving her  little time to end it properly. If I were to pick a main criticism of these books it would be the end; after nearly 2000 pages of storyline, for it to end the way it does feels a little unfair.

Anyway, I really hope you do go and read the books. It’s a great summer read, but the books are quite big so if you’ve got an e-reader I suggest you get it on there! It’s a wonderful escape into the first half of the 20th century, a century so rich in history and intrigue it’s impossible to not be excited about it. And Vincenzi does do it justice; her plot lines fit wonderfully, and her characters don’t appear to jar against the edges of the time to which their bound. Well worth a read if you fancy something light, but not too light!

Covers and Ratings: (apologies the covers are different sizes – blame amazon!)

 Rating: 3.8/5.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Rating: 4.2/5.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Rating: 3.6/5.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time!

B

XO

The Playlist Files

  

 

Hey Ho, Let’s Go….

My Five Tracks of this (bi)weekly blog… (my excuse this time is that I have no wifi at home at the moment so I’m bootlegging in Starbucks at the moment!). Nothing older than 3 years on this week’s playlist files – I’ll see if I can get something a bit more old school on the next one!

 

1. War – Emily’s Army

2. A Lack of Understanding – The Vaccines

3. Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend

4. Mulholland Drive – The Gaslight Anthem

5. Want – Jawbreaker

 

Okay… Well…

1. I love this track because even though it’s dealing with some fairly important issues (greed, capitalism etc.) it seems to manage to do so whilst putting it against an upbeat pop-punk background. With the scratchy vocals of one of the Becker brothers (apologies for not knowing which!) propelling the song forward this is really a stand out track on their latest release. Fingers crossed that it’s going to be the next single!

Find it: ‘Lost At Seventeen’ – Emily’s Army (2013)

2. I have recently developed a deep appreciation for The Vaccines first album. I had always written it off before as too “indie/pop-rock” for me and dismissed it off hand because I associated it with things that I didn’t want to be associated with. Once I got over myself however and actually started to listen to all types of music I realised that this is actually a stellar song off a brilliant album.

Find it: ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ – The Vaccines (2011)

3. And another sweet track from Vampire Weekend. This song is their latest single off their third album ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ and it doesn’t disappoint. Definitely one of the better tracks off the album, it does peter off in places but then tracks like this really make it worth listening to. Brilliant song from a band that shows it can deliver strokes of genius…

Find it: ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ – Vampire Weekend (2013)

4. Another track from a band that I had decided I didn’t like after listening to one track. Once again, after revisiting this band I discovered this track (at the suggestion of a friend) and found that I really enjoyed it. Laid back rock track with just enough heavy percussion/solid bass line to keep me happy.

Find it: ‘Handwritten’ – The Gaslight Anthem (2012)

5. And back to my usual. A nice punk-rock song to round the list off for this week. This song is reminiscent of Social Distortion mixed with Rise Against and is great to get yourself pumped up and ready to go. Once again introduced to me through a friend – definitely worth checking out.

Find it: Unfun (2010 Remastered Edition) – Jawbreaker (2010)

An Elegy To English Literature

Well not really, because I suck at writing poetry – but here are some of my thoughts on the discipline as I leave it behind.

Okay so today’s the day. Today was the last day where I was technically a student of English Literature. Of course, if anyone loves reading and continues to love it then they are always, in some way, a student of English Lit. I have studied English Lit, properly, since I was 14 at GCSE level. I don’t really count what you did before that as studying it, before that level you’re kind of just placing the building blocks for what is to come later.

I then went on to A Level English Lit which I absolutely loved – exploring the contexts and connections between authors and their works. It fascinated me to look for hidden clues in either a poem or a novel (or any other form for that matter), as to what a writer was thinking, or trying to put across as they did so. What I liked the most however, was not the analysis of the actual text itself, but to look at how it’s context had so affected it. I think this is why A Level was so awesome for me, it was about developing an understanding of where authors had got their influence from, discussing how intertextuality was rife throughout literature and making links between different themes etc. I was lucky at A Level that we got one topic which I find interesting; the literature of the First World War, and the second topic was so open ended (Love Through The Ages) that we could basically study what we wanted – within reason.

I liked Lit so much then that I decided to take it on to University in a joint major with History. And this is where the downward slide began. I was made to study texts that I didn’t care for, by writers whose style I really didn’t like. This is hardly surprising of course but it really got me down. Now don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed various aspects we did; Renaissance Sonnets, Hamlet, British Romanticism, Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter etc. but some just drove me to distraction (I’m looking at you Virginia Woolf and Seamus Heaney). I just couldn’t bring myself to care about what they had to say, and I figured that this wasn’t a good thing when studying at University! Even though I love reading, and I love exploring contexts, influences and literary devices that authors and poets used, I realised that I had to be on my terms. It had to be books that I had chosen because I wanted to read  them, not because they fitted well into the section of literary theory that I should be coming to grips with at that moment in time.

So I changed my major to straight History, with a minor in Philosophy. History is one of those subjects that I am so passionate about, that even when we were studying Victorian social surveys, I still found myself moderately interested. I have a burning want to know everything there is to know about a History (even though that’s impossible), and I found my love of English wasn’t quite up to this. I figured that I should rectify this now whilst I still had the chance, before diving into ENG201 Literary Theory module next year (ew!).

I sat my last ever English exam today. I think it went alright. I feel as if I passed at least which is always a plus point! And tonight, I am going to curl up with my kindle, download something totally new (I’ve been wanting to read some Oscar Wilde for a while now) and enjoy just for the sake of it. Yes, I may wonder if Wilde’s Victorian/Edwardian context influenced his work, and how his unique position as the author affected the text… but at least I won’t have to memorise any quotes!

Until next time,

B

XO

Album Review: Lost At Seventeen – Emily’s Army

Rating: 3.75/5

The average age of the members in Emily’s Army is roughly eighteen years old. “Lost At Seventeen” is their second album to date, the first being 2011’s “Don’t Be A D*ck”. It’s always an interesting feeling when people younger than you are doing stuff like this, part of you feels old, another part wonder’s why you don’t think of it first, and the last part makes you feel a teeny bit proud. I suspect this might happen a lot more as I get older.

As to this release it’s great slice of punk-rock (occasionally bordering on pop-punk). It makes me want to get up and dance and there are a few stellar tracks on the record. The lead single ‘Avenue’ is a brilliant track, giving the listener a taste of what is to come with the rest of the album. It generally has a slightly heavier, and more mature sound than 2011’s debut album, I feel, although the fast-than-lightening, rip-through-the-room punk sound first established on the debut is still very much present.

Other stand out tracks for me are ‘Gübermensch’ (not-so subtle play on Nietzsche’s idea of the übermensch), ‘If Our Music Plays Again’ and title track ‘Lost at 17’ which closes up the album. There are only two downsides to this album; one is that some of the tracks bleed into each other if you’re not listening very closely because they have a similar sound to them; the second downside is that, due to the way my “Recently Added” playlist is as the moment on my iTunes, this album is followed directly by Green Day. The similarities are impossible to miss, and whilst this can hardly be called a bad thing (or a surprise), it might detract sometimes from their own personal identity. I fear that the band is always going to be linked to Green Day for personal reasons etc. and I hope they can escape this with their own sound.

All in all it’s a very decent offering, making me want to see the band live (I missed their tour this time around) and I am very excited to see where they head in the future. They are clearly very talented and if they keep grounded (which I’m sure they will), look like they could have a massive future in front of them.

Until next time,

B

XO

The Playlist Files

Okay, it’s been a while since I did one of these. I’ve recently just discovered Spotify Web Player so I’ve been eyeball deep in all sorts of music – new and old. But that aside, what five tracks have been blowing my mind recently?

 

1. Dr Feelgood – Motley Crüe

2. Panic Cord – Gabrielle Aplin

3. Don’t Blink – Relient K

4. Brutal Love – Green Day

5. Everybody Talks – Neon Trees

There are so many more as well, but I’ll save them for another Playlist Files.

Okay well…

1 – Most people and their uncle will know this track. The questions is though, as voiced by Bowling For Soup in their hit ‘1985’… “When did Motley Crüe become Classic Rock?” I love this track, because even though it’s heavy rock you can still dance to it. It’s just sodding awesome, and it makes me want to look like Kat Von D.

Find it: ‘Dr Feelgood’ – Motley Crüe (1989)

2 – Couldn’t be further from the first track if it tried. This is a song by an English singer-songwriter who first came to public attention by gathering quite a large YouTube following. I first heard of her through a friend at my radio station (87.7 Bailrigg FM) who really liked her. This is my favourite song by her so far and is definitely worth a listen – yes it is pop, but it’s got a little spark of something special about it too.

Find it: ‘English Rain’ – Gabrielle Aplin (2013)

3 – Kind of like Imagine Dragons but a bit more rocky. In the grey area somewhere between pop and punk. A very summery track that makes me think of cider and barbecues, with singalongs with your friends. Definitely should be on summer playlists everywhere. Helped by the fact that the lyric video (posted below) is of people riding bikes in a sun filled park…

Find it: Collapsible Lung – Relient K (2013 (out on July 2nd))

4 – Okay, well this track is on the playlist because of my experience on Saturday. This song is bringing me close to tears every time I listen to it at the moment. It’s a heartfelt ballad depicting the ups and downs of love, and to hear 60,000 people singing along, lighters aloft, I don’t think that’s a moment I’ll ever forget.

Find it: Tré! – Green Day (2012)

5 – This on there because I’m revising at the moment I need something to keep my spirits up. Neon Trees appears to be doing this with their chipper brand of more-pop-than-rock. If you want a dance, be reminded that you’re actually nearly 20 and not 16 anymore (whoops!), and also put a smile on your face then this is the track for you.

Find it: Picture Show – Neon Trees (2012)

And this week’s track:

Until next time,

B

XO