The Count of Monte Cristo ~

I always loved “The 3 Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” is another by Alexandre Dumas. It’s a powerful book about loyalty, commitment, determination, strength of spirit, of seeking justice and yet not giving up hope. And along with that, if you like sword fights, revenge, disguises, deception, then it’s right up your alley!

“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.”

No truer words said! As the main character finds out, he finds his ‘truth’ in the most unexpected way, through the people he meets that come into his life only briefly and teaches him something at the moment he needs it the most. 

Edmond Dantes is unjustly framed for treason and sent to a prison fortress for 14 long years. A fellow prisoner is able to teach him all he knows, to figure out his purpose and to plan his vengeance on his duplicitous ‘best friend’ who stole is life, and love. With the secrets to the treasure of Monte Cristo, he is able to re-instate himself in society as the mysterious Count, surrounded by wolves in disguise, he learns to keep his enemies close….

So, no matter what, we must endure. Nothing is perfect in life or happens as we expect, it’s about our mindset when we face disappointment and adversity, and how we act that counts.

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“When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.”

~ The mystery of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ ~ 🖤🌹

‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is definitely a tale about escapism- Christine spends her whole life being coached by a ‘mysterious voice’ that mentors her to do better and achieve beyond what she thought possible, when she finally steps through the mirror and meets the man behind the voice, her illusion shatters and she is repulsed by his deformed face. 💀

Instead, she goes for her childhood sweetheart Raoul, and, the phantom realises that despite all he’s given her, she still turns away in horror. She pities him and yet still agrees to lay a trap, by going along with his grand plans for her on the stage, but in the end, his jealousy still destroys them (and the opera house which is also his home.) 🎼🎭

We see him as the villain of the story, but we also feel sorry for him, hiding away with no love and kindness- and perhaps it’s this forced solitude & space to develop his talents that turns him into a musical genius. There are many things to learn from it, that you can’t force love, that you can’t expect too much from anyone, yet also the power of forgiveness and also dedication throughout a lifetime. 🖤🖤

Another thing I love about the Phantom are the aesthetics, the opulent backdrop & historical references- after all it’s a theatre, the masquerade balls, the grandness, and of course, the amazing soundtrack!! Andrew Lloyd Webber really transformed it and made it his own- hence why it still stands the test of time. 👰🏻👻🎞⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

~ 𝔔𝔲𝔬𝔱𝔢 𝔠𝔬𝔯𝔫𝔢𝔯~

“They played at hearts as other children might play at ball; only, as it was really their two hearts that they flung to and fro, they had to be very, very handy to catch them, each time, without hurting them.”

“And, despite the care which she took to look behind her at every moment, she failed to see a shadow which followed her like her own shadow, which stopped when she stopped, which started again when she did and which made no more noise than a well-conducted shadow should.”

20,000 leagues under the sea

Having started “20,000 leagues under the sea”, watched “Aquaman”, “Jaws” & “Blue Planet-the deep” all in the space of 2 days ~ it’s no surprise when I started dreaming of being violently flung about on a boat swept by ominous looking black waves. 🌊

My phone was sliding around on deck, and I had just managed to catch it in one hand with triumph- only to discover my 2 companions were sinking under the tide (we were on our way to attend a party.) Needless to say, I arrived at the party without them… though I did give all my best efforts searching around, it turned into an affair like “The Great Gatsby”, they had different personas and were trying their best to evade me…

I’ve always been intrigued with creatures deep under the ocean. Their bulbous eyes and sharp teeth, their luminescent, transparent bodies, their spongy blob like exteriors… stuff out of nightmares…(which, I love calling up on the projector to show my students just to see their reaction!)

They say an iceberg is largely 3/4 under the surface. There are things below those tranquil waters that are beyond our imagination, and will still continue to lie unobserved.

So when the ‘Nautilus’ arrives and causes havoc in the seas around the world, it’s not hard that it could be mistaken for a narwhal or a cross between a whale/sea unicorn with its impenetrable exterior. It raises panic enough that the best captains rally and send forth a ship ready to capture, and, sadly slaughter this troublesome creature…Only to realise, it’s not a beast at all coming forth from the depths, but indeed a vessel, captained by none other than the infamous Captain Nemo. At this point our 3 protagonists have nothing else to do but sit, wait, and be carried along in an adventure like no other (since they’ve seen too much to be allowed to return home to dry land.) 🙄

Captain Nemo lets our guests into many secrets about the creation of his vessel (as surely it defies science), but we know this is only the beginning. If it’s anything like “5 weeks in a balloon”, I know that there will be no shortage of crazy events, the possible harpooning of sea spiders and giant squids, oxygen shortage, walking on the ocean bed and many, new discoveries.

And…if it’s anything like Dr Ferguson, Kennedy & faithful Joe- hanging onto the last trimmings of their damaged hot air balloon, shot at by arrows above enemy waters and praying to be saved~ we can only hope this Parisian professor & his friends get back safely (along with the unsuspecting sea creatures that cross their path!)

Le Petit Prince ~ Review

 

I finally found time to watch the film of “The Little Prince” and it really didn’t disappoint. I was intrigued with how it stuck to the original storyline and how they developed the idea of the prince growing up in the real world, how society had affected him and how these characters he had met on the planets were manifested in modern society.

Many of us can relate to the girl in the film, who is pressurised to conform and grow up to be a responsible and hard working adult with good academic achievements. Her neighbour ‘the pilot’ deviates from this and allows her to explore her ‘creative’ and free state of imagination without the constraints, timetables and rigid structure her mother lays out for her.

The animations were captivating, with many touching points that really pull at the heartstrings. No doubt there are many instances where the characters drift apart/must say goodbye to one another. But, it is all part of life.

Some morals I learnt from watching it:

1. Everything lives on in the heart even if you can’t see it anymore

2. It’s okay to deviate from rigid rules, and yet pursue what you want through seeing it in a different light. Never dream too small, and always maintain the childishness and innocence in you. Be brave.

The fox is also pretty darn cute too!

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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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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 🙂

 

*Sneak Peak!* My Book Cover

cover final_s (1)Thanks to the very talented Bonnie for my wonderful book cover design! The novel is called “Caskets of Ice”.

If you have any questions, or think I should release a preliminary chapter (or two!) out into the blog- world, then please feel free to comment below! Here is a link to Bonnie’s page so you can check out her other illustrations and general awesomeness:

http://bonniepang.weebly.com/

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