Moby Dick ~ Our love/hate relationship

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Moby Dick- this is a chronicle of our love hate relationship. Yes, I first met you during my years at university, and yes somehow I managed to get an ‘A ‘ grade without having properly read you. Yes, I feel bad about this. So, last week I decided to give my many hardbacks a break to attempt to rekindle our rocky relationship. I hope you forgive me for this.

I can’t deny that Moby Dick is great for analysis. The themes touched upon such as the desperation of humanity, of unadulterated revenge, of survival, of kinship, the juxtaposition between light and darkness & good and evil through the representation of the ‘whale’ and the fierce and seaworthy captain Ahab mourning over the loss of his leg. There are so many things you can discuss – making it no doubt one of the enduring pieces of English literature. (Thank you online resources for getting me through this period)

So, why am I finding it so difficult to read?? I endured, I persevered, I rarely gave up, it’s chapter 32 and that’s it- I’m gone. There is humour, there’s great character portrayal of the narrator Ishmael’s anxiety over his meeting with his ‘soon to be’ close brother and companion Queequeg. Even then, it shows the bonds and true friendship that transcends race, situation & religion. The characters know the fragility of life; “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.” There are quotes that are absolutely memorable and really help to set the scene;

  • “For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.” 
  •  “It is not down on any map; true places never are.” 
  •  “Then, there you lie like the one warm spark of an artic crystal”.
  •  “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.” 

That last one is something to think about!

The novel is heavy with words. I would be lying if I said I understood it all, and I have read a fair few literature books in my time. Some chapters tended towards philosophical/religious references to biblical characters & heavy with analogies (even Ishmael, Ahab- many names are carefully chosen for the purpose of contrasting their biblical counterparts) not to mention defined textbook jargon of the anatomy of whales/and the whaling industry. Like many 19th Century literature it undoubtedly takes time and perseverance on the reader’s part to sift through outdated terminology and phrases, yet all I can say, is that the more you read, the quicker- and easier it gets.

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There may be a time, perhaps when I am stranded with nothing but ‘Moby Dick’ as reading material I may endeavor to try and renew my complicated relationship with it. Perhaps I may even reach chapter 60. But for now, I will close your lovely turquoise leaves (the drop cap covers are truly stunning- stunningly bright) and replace you on the bookshelf, just like Matilda at the end of the movie…until next time, friend or foe.

Would I recommend this to others? Probably. Am I crazy? For sure. Because it’s still a great book, and like genres of movies you reach for at HMV, choosing a suitable novel for you is exactly the same thing.

Good luck 🙂

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Oyster

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It is the yolk of a pearlescent oyster,

A Viennese swirl baked to a slow caramelisation;

It hurls itself over the broken edges of peaks, smashed like egg shells, sculpted in marble.

The cracked tiles of the village are doll houses in miniature,

you can cut the clouds with a knife, spread it on the plains like a dollop of thick cream.

Molten metal cannonballs shot in rose gold.

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Copyright © 2016 by Kate W J White (All Rights Reserved)

 

~ Ink ~

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They swarm on the breath of a midnight shadow

glossy with the ink of stolen dreams.

Faster, towards a hurricane’s spinning wheel, faster-

draining the sky of its sapphire violet and dying sunset,

of fresh rain sliding down a windowpane.

As shredded paper, they settle on the hillside; paralysed.

Beautiful, stripped, like a shooting star.

Twinkling, as lost treasure under the ocean,

Arching in a slow cruise, their feathers burn to ash

and are taken.

Below, in fields the colour of squeezed limes, strawberries tremble in anticipation

until even the broken sky brushing their cheeks

~ matter no more.

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Copyright © 2016 by Kate W J White (All Rights Reserved)

Go Set A Watchman

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It is by no means considered a real sequel to TKAM (To Kill a Mockingbird) so like me, I went in without any expectations but interest as to why it received such controversy. I understand why some may think this novel is incomplete, or insubstantial. The ending is abrupt and people uproared against the portrayal/change in the much loved Atticus Finch. But if you wanted an epic saga then you had better read Lord of the Rings. Imagine it more of a snapshot of an internal conflict that occurs within Scout. It shows reality. It is real life, the change in society; history repeating itself.

Let’s face it, as we grow up we face multiple harsh realities. It’s like a slap in the face. We end up re-evaluate our past beliefs, (How can this be? The veil has been taken away and you see the world for what it is- with all the ugly, complicated and messy truths. Were we blind?) Like Scout (Jean Louise) our constructed world can be shattered when we realise what we once held so dear- our morals, events in our childhood; are not black or white, but simply the hues of grey in between.

Maybe it was never complete to start off with, and we need a certain level of maturity to truly see things as they really are.

Scout struggles hard. As a child she put her father Atticus Finch on a high pedestal, revering him almost as a God. Basing her sense of right and wrong, of morality, justice on the way he had taught her. That all people are equal, individuals. Yet when she returns home, she finds the town in political turmoil, she is disgusted to witness her close family/friends taking part in an act she views as a betrayal. Maycombe is not as it once was and she is physically sick when she cannot process the information for what she believes to be hypocritical behaviour.

“On any other day she would have stood barefoot on the wet grass listening to the mockingbirds’ early service; she would have pondered over the meaninglessness of silent, austere beauty renewing itself with every sunrise and going ungazed at by half the world. She would have walked beneath yellow-ringed pines rising to a brilliant eastern sky, and her senses would have succumbed to the joy of the morning.

It was waiting to receive her, but she neither looked nor listened.”

 You could argue that since TKAM Atticus Finch does not change, only more of his character is revealed through the eyes of his daughter. He maintains a sense of justice, his actions ‘to see the man behind the mask’ (to see the harm he can do) and his awareness of race arguably still make him a moral man.

“But a man who has lived by truth—and you have believed in what he has lived—he does not leave you merely wary when he fails you, he leaves you with nothing. I think that is why I’m nearly out of my mind.”

Harper Lee intentionally wrote ‘Go Set a Watchman’ with Jean Louise’s ‘childlike voice’ to address such a complex issue (perhaps a link to TKAM) The young and naïve Scout is still within her 26yr old self. She is strong, passionate and upholds her belief no matter who she stands against. That is something to be admired. But, you can definitely hear the little, petulant girl in her- she doesn’t listen to reason and believes her truth is the only one, as…that’s all she’s ever known.

 “Had she insight, could she have pierced the barriers of her highly selective, insular world, she may have discovered that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and by those closest to her: she was born colour blind.”

Scout learns to uphold her ‘identity’, and accept that everyone is free to act as they see fit, it does not make them any less moral, only more human.

Personally, I enjoyed the quick to read writing style, it’s humour, rhetoric and clever analogies iconic of Harper Lee. It’s been a while since I read TKAM (I honestly had to wiki the plot to remind me) Though the ending confused me a little with it’s politically heavy  and heated dialogue (it seemed like the characters knew more than they were letting on to us, and moved on rather quickly) I enjoyed the first 3/4. It is a complex novel that has many discussion points, so definitely something to re-read! I would still give it 4 stars.

Let me know what you think 🙂

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~ ‘Perfume’ the story of a murderer~

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Jean Baptiste Grenouille is a name not easy to forget. His unique job is to obtain, categorize, replicate and produce his very own human scent beyond the realms of scientific discovery. To me, the concept in itself was captivating….

“Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

Jean Baptiste is an orphan with no undefinable human smell which isolates him from society. His rare talent of pin pointing exact components, from brass doorknobs, wood, decaying fruit allows too him to pursue his passion. Under the guidance of the best perfumers in the world (through trickery, cunning or just brute honestly he manages to secure a place with them. It shows how unlucky Jean Baptiste is however- whoever he encounters meet their own sticky ends, which you could argue contributes to the author’s humour.) This cunning, yet seemingly straight forward character is able to combine and create his own ‘bottled’ scents with the single purpose of exciting disgust, or adoration from the general public.

Since the realm of scent is so understated (and I as one would admit to having just an average capability of smell, and eye-sight for that matter!) as we are able to create images from words, wonderful pieces of art, music- he can draw upon any scent in the world and strip it down to its bare elements not only to simply ‘recreate’ something he smelt only once, but create something new, unexpected. Quite inspiring really. But let’s not stop there.

As he grows older, his existence becomes almost animistic. “No longer distracted by anything external, he basked in his own existence and found it splendid.” He lives alone in a cave for many, long years, sustained by nothing but his ‘memory’ of lifelong scents, one day alone of which would drive any sane person mad, but not he. It becomes an obsession that overtakes even daily needs, an obsession which drives him to murder, again and again.

Grenouille knew for certain that unless he possessed this scent, his life would have no meaning.”

In fact, the novel is abundant with disgusting imagery of blood and decay, and most significantly, the perverse. He is systematic and logical, feeling no remorse for his actions and yet you sway between horror and desire to see him reach his goal of obtaining the ‘optimum’ scent – which by the way he does by killing all the beautiful girls in the city and embalming their skin.

I found the writing style to be witty, and fresh. Overall, I read this book in a few days and was really interested to read more of Patrick Süskind’s works. Though I had seen the movie originally and remembered liking it, it had definitely changed and diminished in my eyes after reading the novel. Nothing can be expressed better than through the author’s own words and intended voice, humour, tone, and ‘Perfume’ is no exception.

{The novel was originally written in German entitled ‘Das Parfum‘ in 1985, later translated and made into a film in 2006}

Urgent! Illustrator needed!!

So, a while ago I posted a cover of my book ‘Caskets of Ice‘, and after much deliberation and much inspired from the wonderful designs I found in “The Sleeper & the Spindle” by Neil Gaiman (Illustrated by Chris Riddell) I have come to the conclusion…..

That I am officially looking for an illustrator for my work. It is action/adventure fantasy, with gothic dreamy aspects with plenty of queens and castles that will appeal to all lovers of fairy stories-though not 100% a fairytale. It blurs the boundaries between dreams and reality from a perspective of a girl who yearns to escape from her daily life, trapped in a world which is far scarier, creepier and sometimes, downright brutal than she ever imagines.

It celebrates the imagination, and when dreams come alive.

All ideas are welcome! Below is the existing cover, designed by the talented Bonnie:

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Here are examples of some of the illustrations you may see in “The Sleeper & the Spindle”, with their wonderful black and white drawings and gold leaf.

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Please drop me a message if you are interested in collaboration, or you want to know more information about the book. Let’s begin on this magical journey together…

Kate 🙂

 

‘My Ántonia’~ Book Review

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“The red of the grass made all the great prairie the colour of wine stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.”

It recalls memories of the adventures of “Tom Sawyer”, Scarlet’s love of the land in “Gone with the Wind”, romantic tendencies towards philosophy in “The Great Gatsby” and a voice quite its own. For one, I really enjoyed the descriptions of nature, the vivid colours etched into your imagination of some place new, not yet experienced. A pocket into a time past.

On the edge of the prairie, where the sun had gone down, the sky was turquoise blue, like a lake, with gold light throbbing in it….the evening star hung like a lamp suspended by silver chains — like the lamp engraved up the title-page of old Latin texts, which is always appearing in new heavens and waking new desires in men.

There’s something about reading that makes creativity flow again, and I could well carry the images of the prairies with me as I went about my day. The plot mainly focuses on Ántonia, (My Ántonia) a Bohemian girl travelling to Nebraska with her family to escape poverty and build up the land from scratch- and the memories it affords to Jim Burden, orphaned at the age of 10. Though time passes and their lives are apart, he begins to write a journal of his childhood.

Time changes us all. We adapt and view things in different ways, ways which can give us some form of calm acceptance as we grow older. It’s true that one of the main aspects you miss about a place is it’s scenery and environment. Its overflowing nature, peace and greenery, solitude. The idea of leaving our modern lives behind, escape and live in a log cabin somewhere in the wilderness seems attractive and romantic. But the reality of the hardships Ántonia and her family have to face, immigrants from her native land- their struggle for survival is real.

“The older girls, who helped to break up the wild sod, learned so much from life, from poverty, from their mothers and grandmothers; they had all, like Antonia, been early awakened and made observant by coming at a tender age from an old country to a new.”

With any piece of writing, character development is by far one of the hardest – through speech or physical descriptions that need maintenance not just in introduction. Yet Willa Cather’s transition of Ántonia from child to adult captures her resilience, good nature, pure love for others and open, childlike wonder that sustains her as the yolk that brings all avenues of the story together.

Jim Burden’s devotion to Ántonia is remarkable in a way that transcends words. She represents to him his childhood days, his home, all the people that touched his life before he went away, memories that he has always cherished and carried with him. Their lives may have taken separate turns, but their collective memory is one that will always remain.  “…my mind plunged away from me, and I suddenly found myself thinking of the places and people of my own infinitesimal past.”

I will leave you with an extract – my particular favourite:

Of course it means you’re going away from us for good”, she said with a sigh. “But that doesn’t mean I’ll lose you. Look at my papa here; he’s been dead all these years, and yet he is more real to me than almost anybody else… The older I grow,  the better I know and understand him…”

About us was growing darker and darker, and I had to look hard at her face, which I meant always to carry with me ; the closest, realest face, under all the shadow  of women’s faces, at the very bottom of my memory. “I’ll come back,” I said earnestly, through the soft, intrusive darkness.

“Perhaps you will-” I felt rather than saw her smile. “But even if you don’t, you’re here, like my father. So I won’t be lonesome.”

As I went back along over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl ran along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass. 

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Gone With the Wind~A tale of Strength & Survival

2015-04-25-17-24-43_photo (1)What would Scarlet O’Hara do? It’s been months since I finished the book, but there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t aspired towards her strength, steadfastness and down to earth rationality of self-preservation. She can solve a situation with a tirelessness and a fierceness of spirit that shows Scarlet O’Hara as a survivor. But she was not always like this.

Though “Gone with the Wind” is an epic tale of societal breakdown, it is Scarlet’s epic tale of self-discovery and personal development. The people adapt to rise once again to rebuild what is lost – representing raw human spirit and perseverance. She adapts in order to survive. Her defiance is comparable to Melanie’s inner strength of mind, but weak constitution. Softly spoken and kind Melanie who finds no fault in others and loves Scarlet beyond reason. It is Melanie who is the saving grace in the novel, the sticky glue that binds them together. She may not be as physically strong and active as Scarlet, but her presence is almost spiritual, believing in a cause that is beyond reason and often brings her unhappiness. It is not until she is gone, does Scarlet learn to appreciate Melanie’s reliable presence in her life.

Tomorrow is a new day’ she reminds us; the famous lines in the novel. Tomorrow is a new day to think, to fight. And so it seems that Scarlet too believes that prolonging thought, blocking out is a strategy to cope with the problems she faces.

But it is okay. We all do it. And as Scarlet hides her emotions, she develops an exterior shell to protect herself so she does not have to think; to feel. In life, we often feel like falling apart. We feel like nothing makes sense, overwhelmed by situations beyond our control. But we pick ourselves back up again. We keep on persevering because as humans, that’s what we do to as a survival instinct.

Gone with the wind” by Margaret Mitchell is said to be a classic, epic romance story. However I feel that any romance is secondary to the concept of home and a sense of belonging, via the backdrop of the American Civil War. The comfort, safety of her mother’s love and guidance push her onwards through the war torn south. So what does Scarlet actually have to face that contributes to her strength as a character? Through the trials of delivering a baby alone while a battle rages outside, 3 loveless marriages and three children whom she feels no love for, losing her home and supporting 13 + people on her farmland, witnessing the death of her family members and her livelihood, running out of food and fearing death- these are all mental and physical tortures that no person should have to go through; but do so as parts of the rites of life. She has no choice but to overcome them, if not for herself, for the others that rely on her support.

The experiences we have contribute to who we are. Scarlet transforms from a frivolous, superficial and spoilt daughter (not crimes to be sure), to a capable, hardened and strong yes- but also calculating, mercenary and most notably; a selfish woman. Scarlet transforms into a creature of chance and opportunity. Her quest for money and material things consumes her and wrecks any relationship she hopes to have. She is outwardly strong and capable but at what price?? She has no love for her children and has hardened her heart that is too late to be rekindled. It is not until she has lost all she holds dear does she note her priorities. But like any character we learn to care about, we accept her for her good qualities, but also her faults.

So what did I learn from the novel? The characters tireless endurance to get back up and face the next problem. To find excess strength you didn’t know you possessed. Scarlet is comparable to the idealistic and philosophical Ashley. She thrives in the new world, he does not. The only thing that weakens her is her unrequited love for him, he cannot adapt or even survive in the changing South. Though he questions the battle he is fighting, he continues to do so to ‘reclaim’ the old world and what is lost.

We cannot afford to be so self-centred in this materialistic world. It is detrimental- yet still we focus on ourselves. There are some lessons we can take away from it and act as a reminder and comparison to our own lives. There are also two sides of a story. For example I was shocked reading about the KKK. In the narrative, they are sons, husbands, main characters whose will is to defend their family. Scarlet’s own husband is a member. The man she loves is one also. So how can this be? It doesn’t make their actions alright. But once you start to realize two sides, what spurs people on to do what they do and why- it is nothing but a shade of grey between the black and white of clarity.  Sure, life is not so clear cut.

But what about the modern world? How many of us are Ashley & Melanies- idealistic philosophers at heart who mourn the old world and ponder on the change happening around us? The dreamers. And who are the Scarlet & Rhetts- risk takers, practical opportunists who adapt to change and thrive? Or maybe we are a combination of both.

In fact, how many of us want to change? Even if we feel like giving up, do we? It is so easy to want to push away, somehow destroy the pain in our lives. Run away. But it is strength, to accept and overcome it, to deal with it head on and conquer the fear.

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Liebster Award

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Thanks so much to Josh at Been There, Read That for your kind nomination! The idea behind this award is to promote new and obscure blogs, to help them gain followers and readers.

Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer 11 questions from the individual who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 11 new bloggers (with under 200 followers) and come up with your own 11 questions. You cannot nominate the person who nominated you.
  4. Inform your nominee on being nominated.

Okay, so here we go!

  1. Books are full of memorable quotes: which one is your favourite?

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” — Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind

2. Out of all the fictional characters we’ve read about, there are plenty that we can all relate to; but which one do you relate to most?

Well this question just sparks off my indecisiveness. So for the sake of having an answer, I’m going to say Dorothy from Wizard of Oz.  Loyal to the scarecrow, tries to do what is right by destroying evil and save those she cares about, determined on the path she must follow but unsure all the same, goes on crazy journeys and gets swept up in whirlwinds….But in the end she realises that the dream world only takes her so far, and there’s no place like home. (Not to mention she’s a gal with a craaazy imagination!)

3. Speaking of characters: who is your number one?

I’m going to say Scarlet O’Hara just because I finished “Gone with the Wind” recently- she’s not a particularly likeable character but she’s down to earth and someone I aspire to be more like despite her faults! She is enduring with a strong, spirited personality and weathers all storms!

4. You know all of those characters you love? if they were real, who would you most like to date?

So, so tricky. Can I say a character in a story I wrote? Ha! If not, then maybe Bowman in the “Wind on Fire” trilogy. (the last one, because otherwise he is definitely underaged!) he is reliable, loyal, not to mention has really high EQ skills and can talk to animals… but actually there are definitely dateable book characters- let’s face it, most of them are pretty perfect on paper.

5. What do you feel is the best book->movie adaptation?

I enjoyed “Holes”. I also liked the BBC (most BBC adaptations actually) of “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” and “Emma”. But generally I hold the view that books are better than films! And my favourite films were not books to start off with…

6.What book or book series would you like to become a movie?

I would say “The Wind on Fire” series, but I’m glad they haven’t been made into a movie as it would ruin it completely! And I am pretty positive I would not be happy with the main character choices!

7. If you were zapped into Middle-Earth, which race would you like to become?

Definitely an elf. They’re gorgeous. They’re super-fast and have awesome arrow shooting skills among other assets.

8. Come, tell us a story! How did you first get into reading?

I was reading as long as I remember, I used to borrow around 4 books a week from the local library. I guess my mum told me a funny story about how my grandmother used to prop my head up for me as a baby while I was glued to the pages…I also have a memory of reading Beatrix Potter in red trousers, but that’s just…random.

9. E-books, paperbacks, or hardbacks?

I would have said paperbacks, but now hardbacks. Having seen such beautiful leather covers that exist in the world, I can’t go back. Ever.

10. How many books do you think you’ve read in your entire life? Go on, take a guess!

Hundreds, thousands, millions. Ha joking…I have no idea.

11. As we have all probably though about this: if you could have saved one character in Harry Potter, who would it be and why?

Lupin & Tonks? That was unnecessary. Dobby’s death was traumatic- along with all those that died in the crossfire, yeah I would have saved them all, but that wouldn’t have made for good reading would it?

I now nominate:

Reading and Roaming

Mind Ecology

Beautiful Insanity

Dating Dickens

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It’s your turn lovely people! The questions:

  1. If you could be transported into a book- which would it be and why?
  2. Kindle or hard copy?
  3. What is your favourite fairy tale?
  4. Have you ever wanted to write your own novel/piece? If so, what inspired you to start writing?
  5. Is there a character you truly hate?
  6. What is your favourite book? Why?
  7. Do you prefer reading short stories, poetry or novels?
  8. If you could time travel, where would you go and why? (ok so, limited to book worlds)
  9. What do you think about the idea of leaving books in public places for others to read? Would you do this?
  10. Are your books well loved/dog eared and spine bent, or kept in pristine condition?
  11. Have you ever had a book signed by the author? If so what was it? If not, who would you want to sign your book?

Have fun, and looking forward to reading your answers! 🙂

~ “Dombey & Son”, “Villette” Book Reviews ~

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Recently I got more Dickens books- some more classics ordered and on their way! (Leatherbound classics, Barnes & Nobles copies- if you have seen previous posts you will know my obsession with them!)

Along with “Dombey and Son“, I also picked up “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte. Any thoughts on this? I hadn’t heard of it before but it seemed intriguing, especially due to many classic lit lover’s hype surrounding Jane Eyre. I had recently finished Ann and Emily’s works so it would be interesting to compare writing styles.

It has been a while, but I am fully committed to getting back to writing reviews! I finished “Gone with the Wind” – it was great! If you like epic historical dramas/romance, you need to give it a try. If you have any recommended readings or requests for book reviews, feel free to let me know. A literature book club sounds fun! (possible to set one up here? haha)

Reviews will be posted shortly.  🙂

Kate