Lifestyle

Review – Writing Gloves from Literary Book Gifts

Review – Writing Gloves from Literary Book Gifts

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Spring has sprung and I’ve taken my reading and writing outdoors. 

Sitting outside, whether that’s a park, the back garden, or a quiet spot at my local nature reserve, allows me to focus. With no broadband, minimal noise and fewer opportunities for procrastination, outdoors really is a literary person’s best friend. 

And yet the weather isn’t always on our side. Cold hands are an unnecessary distraction, but until now, I haven’t found a pair of gloves which are designed with a pen in mind. 

That changed when Literary Book Gifts offered me a complimentary pair of writing gloves in exchange for review. 

The gloves are fingerless and made of a light material which makes it easy not only to grip a pen but to keep hold of it through a longer writing session. They are so soft and cosy that I was hardly aware that I was wearing them. Made up of 35% cashmere, it is no wonder they are such a delight to wear. 

Available in thirteen different colours, there is a shade for every writer and every season. 

Gifts for book lovers can be a bit predictable – bookmarks and tote bags are spilling off my shelves. These offer something different and fulfill a practical need. They also look super-cute when I’m out book shopping or heading out on a research trip with a notebook and pen. 

Get outdoors, get rid of those cold hands and get writing. 

 

Writing Gloves are available from Literary Book Gifts. The gloves in this feature were gifted in exchange for honest review. Opinions my own.

 

Literary Fiction Reviews

Blog Tour: Folk by Zoe Gilbert (Longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize).

Blog Tour: Folk by Zoe Gilbert (Longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize).

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Extract:

This is not at all what he thought Gertie Quick would turn out to be either, who never makes a squeak on the school bench, and what’s more, she has just called him stupid, twice. 

(Folk by Zoe Gilbert. P37.) 

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Synopsis:

Every year and every generation, the same traditions are observed on the island of Neverness. Boys run through the gorse hunting for arrows fired by girls to determine their future partner. A boy dressed in ox-skin waits behind the waterfall to answer questions girls have on love and marriage. Every winter the tale of Jack Frost is told. Lives are lived in accordance with nature and folklore.

Characters recur and age, their relationships with each other woven together in a web of history and love. 

A collection of short stories which come together to show how myths and stories represent a deeper truth inside ourselves. 

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Review:

A small island ruled by tradition and steeped in its own history. This collection of short stories, which are as dark and quietly gory as the best of fairytales, shows us a place which is both unfamiliar and yet startlingly like our own country. Inhospitable, inward-facing and dictated by the outcome of its own ancient rituals.

The stories are separate and yet tied together by a cast of characters and a set of locations and rituals which recur across the collection. It is neither novel nor a traditional book of stories, but something which plays with form to great effect. By introducing us to the customs of Neverness, Zoe Gilbert paints a picture of one generation and how it fares across time. 

As a real folkie, I was keen to read this and I fell in love with the language. This is a land of gorse tunnels and ox-hide, fish scale and hare skin and wattle and daub. It is like getting to know England not by its pop culture or city life but by taking a walk along the hedgerows. 

My favourite story was The Neverness Ox-Man where young Harkley Oxley takes his turn at the family tradition of dressing in an ox hide and hiding behind the waterfall to answer questions about love. It is his role hide his true nature from the girls, but he too is unaware of exactly what the girls on the other side of the waterfall are like. 

The stories may be whimsical, even fantastical, but they stop short of being straight fantasy. They paint a portrait of past lives and past ways of life, and much of their commentary on the way women have struggled as a result of social structure is astute. Fishskin, Hareskin, for example, shows a woman in the depths of postpartum depression caught between being scolded by her husband and by her father. She wraps her baby in a hareskin, the only remains of the wild and wonderful animals she had felt an affinity with as a girl. Her action shows both her desperation for the baby to lead a different life and the futility of it when the hare has already been skinned by a man. 

A striking and unusual collection which lingers in the mind like the best of stories – a word here, an image there, until it demands to be reread and looked at in a different light. If you love old stories, wild spaces or beautiful language look no further. It’ll inspire you if nothing else to ramble through some outdoor spaces. 

 

Read the International Dylan Thomas Prize longlist and follow the blog tour:

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Thanks to Midas PR for gifting my copy of Folk as part of a promotional blog tour.

 

 

Announcements · Chat

Chat: About my second blog and why I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Love literature? Love stationery and bullet journaling? Check out my new blog.

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The secret is out. 

As secrets go, it wasn’t very well kept. I hinted several times during Twitter chats that I was involved in a project with a literary heritage group. I shared pictures with two of my very closest blogging friends. 

The blog was up in the webosphere from June 2018.

Nevertheless, it was my project but now it is out in the big wide word. I’m so pleased to finally share Grasmere Bullet Journal with you. This is my new blog which I am going to run along with BookMurmuration.

Grasmere Bullet Journal began, as all good projects do, with a conversation. I was having a cup of tea with a friend, and pouring over her books when I told her something which had been on my mind.

If Dorothy Wordsworth was alive today, she would make a killer blogger. 

Dorothy Wordsworth was a journaler, pioneering walker and sister of the Romantic poet William. She kept journals throughout her life, most famously the Grasmere Journal which she kept during her time at Dove Cottage from 1800 – 1803. 

Her journal wasn’t a private diary. It was a place where she recorded her observations as well as tracking her daily activities. As I wrote here, this is very much the same thing people do in their bullet journals today. If Dorothy Wordsworth was alive today, I said during that conversation in March 2018, she would be a bullet journaler. 

An idea was born. An idea which I’d had all along without recognising it until I said it out loud. 

One bullet journal and a set of brush pens later and I set to work. 

GrasmereBulletJournal is two things. Firstly, and at its heart, it showcases my creative project – to present information from the Grasmere Journal in bullet journal form. 

Secondly, it is a blog which covers stationary, bullet journaling, and literature. Inspired by the exhibition as Dorothy Wordsworth as a walker, and proud of my own muddy walking boots, I would like to branch out and include posts about walking and nature. 

I would *love* to hear from you over on Grasmere Bullet Journal, as well as right here on BookMurmuration. There are people who comment regularly on my blog who talked to me when I had ten views per post. I value your feedback as much as I did then. As much as always. 

Here’s to our creative pursuits, to blogging adventures and to online friends. 

 

Do you keep a bullet journal? Are you currently working on any creative projects? Let me know in the comments below.

Lists · Stationery

Bookish Stationery Guide – August 2018

Bookish stationery guide and wishlist

This week I took part in one of those memorable group conversations when someone produces something everybody else once. The thing in question was a set of Jackie Morris notecards. These were passed around the table and admired. Stoked. Snail-Mail may be in decline but people love beautiful notecards more than ever. 

Jackie Morris is one of my favourite artists, and I’m also pleased to include Dee Nickerson in this round-up. She paints introverts. Women with cats and books. Women who jump in the waves and dream of flying with the birds. I love her art more than I can possibly say and aspire to live like a woman in a Dee Nickerson painting. 

I own a small amount of bookish stationery. My Peter Pan Moleskine is my pride and joy – and still hasn’t been written in because I haven’t had thoughts which are worthy of its pages.

Here is my current bookish stationery wish list. Is there anything here you would like to own? Do you have any beautiful bookish stationery? Let me know in the comments below. 

Literary Fiction Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

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Extract:

I was handed over to Odysseus like a package of meat, A package of meat in a wrapping of gold, mind you. A sort of gilded blood-pudding. But perhaps that is too crude a similie for you. Let me add that meat was highly valued among us – the aristocracy at lots of it … 

(The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. P39.) birdSynopsis:

Everyone knows the story of Odysseus the hero. Odysseus the bold adventurer who sailed the seas. His wife is remembered for her devotion. Although Odysseus disappeared for many years, Penelope refused to marry one of the suitors who begged for her hand. She wove a shroud, refusing to marry until it was done, and unpicked her work every night to keep the suitors at bay. This is her role in the Odyssey.

Now Penelope wanders the underworld she is free to tell her own story. Her version of events is quite different. It begins with the father who tried to drown her at birth, moves to the husband who disappeared for twenty years and then to the son who grew to assert his dominance over his mother.

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Penelope. Immortalised as the devoted wife of Odysseus, Penelope is best remembered for weaving and unpicking and reweaving a shroud as she awaited her husband’s return. Margaret Atwood gives Penelope her own voice. As Penelope wanders the underworld she tells her own story, freed for the first time from the shadow of men.

Good retellings should bring something new to existing stories. Make us see something in a new light. The Penelopiad is fearless and feminist. It shows us what life was like for Penelope and how little value a woman’s life had in Ancient Greece.

Poetic and lyrical, Penelope’s story is woven around regular songs from the hanged maids. While Odysseus was away – looting and pillaging and having affairs – Penelope’s home was overrun by men seeking her hand in marriage. The twelve maids were hanged for their affairs with these suitors. The way in which the songs interrupt the narrative is haunting, precisely what Atwood seems to have been aiming for, as the voices are meant to haunt the men who think they can get away with rape and murder. Odysseus, who killed the girls for the shame of their crimes, was free enough in his affairs with other women.

Penelope recounts her life in relation to men – the father who tried to drown her before he realises the material worth of marrying a daughter, the husband who left her for years to conduct affairs with other women and the son who grew up to believe his voice was the most important in the household. The maids’ songs remind us that Penelope was lucky – a noblewoman was safer because her life had material worth.

These themes are not all retrospective. The trial at the end of the novel reminds us that the same issues are still present in the world today. This is an extraordinary work because it not only brings a female voice to the myth but a female agenda. Poetic and bold and one of my favourite retellings.  

 

Thank you to Canongate Books for my copy of The Penelopiad. Opinions my own. The Canongate Myths – new takes on old myths by leading authors – are available now.

Lifestyle · Round-Up

Wishlist: Literary Mugs

Confession time. I have a cupboard full of mugs, a box full of mugs and mugs acting as pencil holders. That doesn’t stop me from buying another. Print something I love on the front and I’m a sucker. 

One thing I’m short of is bookish mugs. I have a Shakespeare mug from when I won the English prize at secondary school but one hardly does justice to my infatuation with the printed word. It seems a pity, especially because reading goes hand-in-hand with tea-drinking. (Well. Mug in one hand. Book in the other.) 

A quick scout of the internet brought up literary gold. Here is my literary mug wishlist. (And a unicorn, because people who read books believe in unicorns.) Do you have any literary mugs? What do you drink when you are reading? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

(L-R, Top to bottom – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory * The Secret Garden * Penguin Books * Unicorn * Literary Cats * Library Slip * Books * Moomin * Alice * Reepicheep