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Gone Girl - review

"It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters."

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Phoenix
Buy it: On Amazon


Synopsis 

Amy Dunne is missing. Gone from her Missouri home, there are signs of a struggle, traces of blood on the floor, and the day of her disappearance is her five year anniversary to her husband Nick - who is smiling at police press conferences and grinning wildly in photos with the search party. 

And then, there is the diary. Sweet, innocent Amy has lived a life of loved-up devotion that has ultimately ended up a life in fear of her husband. Where is Amy, and just what did Nick do to her? 

photo from SXC
The Good 

This is a dark little tale of manipulation! A bit slow to kick in, the resulting story builds up into a frenzy of lies, mind games and hate. The plot was very well crafted and I imagine the author must have had one hell of a planning stage to get everything lined up, straight and irrefutable. I like to try and pick holes, and this narrative was pretty tight - even when everything got all a little (a lot)... wild! 

It's a bit hard to review Gone Girl without spoilers, as the "twist" kicks in about 50% through. So if you don't want to know, I've put everything that could remotely allude to the twist in the asterisks below! 

***SPOILERS*** 

I found it intriguing that for half of Gone Girl, I didn't like a single person in this story, and yet I couldn't wait to see what happened to them. After the initial emotional alignment with "Diary Amy" I loved having that sense of plot safety stripped from the book. There was no-one to root for, really. I guess I could have switched my allegiance to Nick, but to be honest I found him just as vile as Amy, in his own way. 

I also loved the character of Tanner, who brought a bit of stability to the story when everything else was up in the air. He was a typical "movie character" - as Amy would probably say - but that is exactly what the book needed. Someone you could bet your expectations on. 

***SPOILERS END*** 

The Bad 

There isn't much actual "bad" to this book. It's a great little mystery in the first half, and a wonderful mash up of craziness in the second. 

I was a bit confused as to the presence of Go in the book. A lot seemed to be made of her character for it to not have any relevance. Every time a little snippet of information of Go was revealed I asked "so what?" and I never found an answer... She just acted as a trampoline for Nick to bounce his feelings off of but she had no actual function. 

***SPOILERS***

I also struggled to believe in Amy after the 50% reveal. Some of her actions were just a little too unhinged. I mean, I know she was pretty crazy, but some of the stuff she did...? I'm not sure. I wont go into it too much as Amy is too complicated a character to ever truly "understand", but I lost a little of my suspended reality, lets just say that. Her plot succumbed to melodrama and almost seemed spoof-y at some parts. Things she did were SO extreme I didn't know whether to laugh or baulk. 

 ***SPOILERS END*** 

Overall 

I enjoyed Gone Girl for its manipulative plot and unexpected character alignments. The twist was good, and I was interested to see what conclusion the revalation at the half way mark could draw at the end of the novel. 

Score 
7/10 

Extra! A screenplay of Gone Girl is currently in production starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in the lead roles. I think this is perfect casting for the characters, and can't wait for the release!
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Re-cap and Round-up

Well, it has been something of a crazy week on the blog! #ATaleofDiceandFire has officially ended after a frenzied week of rolling and writing.


Writing a short story every day wasn't as hard as I thought in the end, but I did notice myself struggling to keep stories original each time. I'll admit to leaning onto the crutch of already-establish characters (Dracula, The Wizard of Oz) or folklore and fairytales (The Frog Prince) to afford myself the ease of not having to squeeze a back-story into 500(ish!) words. I feel the stories that didn't add to an already well-known premise struggled to make much sense. *I* knew what I meant, but I don't think the whole concept in them was portrayed clearly enough for new readers. Plot holes are probably very apparent!


So, I have learnt a lot! I am most impressed with the fact I have managed to write each of the five short stories without falling into my most common writing trap: swapping tenses! However, if you do spot a slip-up, please do let me know in the comments :)

Have you enjoyed the series? What was your favourite story of the week?

I think my personal favourite was Day 2 - GONE. I have a weakness for vampires! My partner in crime this week has been Kelly at DorristheLoris, and she has written some stunners - especially her last entry. Here is a list of all the stories from the week in case you missed them:

Day 1 

Breathe Easy – Mab is Mab 

Princess Ironheart – Dorristheloris

 

Day 2

Gone - Mab is Mab
The Wizard’s Apprentice - Dorristheloris

Day 3 

Science – Mab is Mab 

Oakmother – Dorristheloris

 

Day 4

Home - Mab is Mab
Jackanapes – Dorristheloris

Day 5
100 - Mab s Mab
The Last Moon – Dorristheloris

Would you like to see the writing challenge as a feature again? Perhaps a monthly meme? Would anyone else like to join in? I have to admit, I am kind of sad to see it come to an end! However, I'm taking this as prep for the big one: NANOWRIMO! dum dum duuum!
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#ATaleofDiceandFire - day five

The final day has arrived! - or has it? If you have enjoyed this feature please pop over to DorristheLoris and take part in her poll. Perhaps we can make it a monthly storytelling meme?

Today's dice were just my kind of thing. Remember, if you take part please leave your links in the comments below :)

Time travel, Storm, Moon
100

It was a few degrees below freezing when I entered the forest, and it only got colder as I made my way through.  My skin pricked and bristled against the temperature, but inside I was a furnace. I burnt up with anticipation. I think I was probably sweating, despite the fact mounting snow pulled the clouds so low they almost embraced the tree tops. They were going to burst their white confetti free at any moment – an impending snow storm – as soon as the dawn sun brought new warmth to the promise of tomorrow. That’s what was kindled the warmth inside me too, I thought; the promise of tomorrow.

There was already snow underfoot, settled hours before I began my journey. It crunched beneath my weight and in-between my toes; I had abandoned my shoes at the edge of a lake before the forest, where I had also laid the rest of this life to rest. I’d burnt all of my clothes and letters – the only things I had left – and set the ashes to the ice cold water in ceremonial silence. Now, it was just me, making my way towards the path that was set ahead of me. Naked, hot, cold and walking. It was the path I was determined to take. I was full of purpose and confidence.

Everything was lit in an eerie silver glow. Any light that escaped the surface of the moon in breaks of cloud was trapped between the icy earth and the suffocating sky – doomed to bounce from one to the other until either one gave way.  I thought of an injured bird, fluttering helplessly against the hands of its captor, and shook myself free of the image as quickly as it came. I was too aware that my feet were suffering the human weakness of flesh. I was leaving blood trails for miles, anything could have tracked me. I felt guarded yet guided as I pushed myself beyond my body’s limit, believing in the goal.

As I finally came upon the last row of trees, I suddenly felt my nakedness. Before me was a stretch of pure, untouched snow – a cotton white blanket as far as my eyes could see. I was a small speck of dirt at its perimeter, and not the naked exposure of my body, my soul or my fear could have made me clean enough.

My first step onto that field was like stepping over the threshold into an unknown land. Leaving the reassurance of the trees behind me, and the footsteps that betrayed where I had come, I felt unworthy of my place. Each step made me smaller. I walked until the trees had disappeared and as I turned in a circle the sky and ground were one. In all directions, there was nothing but the white snow – fallen and to fall – in the eerie glow of trapped moonlight. I fell to my knees under the weight of it.

Very soon, I was joined by another.

“Where next?”

“I’ve reached my one hundredth, Sir. I... I would like to become human and return to the day before I learned of my wings. I want the next time I reach heaven to be the time I am the guided, not the guider.”

“Congratulations Michael. As you wish. You will have no memory of any of this; you will live your life from that moment along a different path.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Everything merged beautifully as dawn came and the snow storm swept around me. The sky fell and the ground reached up to greet it. It was then that I felt every inch of my skin, and it was cold, icy and painfully frozen. I felt every second of agony as I passed from whiteout to darkness. Shivering seized me violently and my chest felt tight and small. And then it was peaceful. Everything was soft. I woke in my parents’ house, 100 years younger, with no idea of my destiny. I had a life – a real life – laid out ahead of me.

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#ATaleofDiceandFire - day four

Eep! It's the penultimate roll! I wasn't 100 percent happy with yesterday's story so I hope todays collection of images can inspire something better!

Story will follow once it's written :)

Hourglass, pumpkin, gnome
HOME

Shards of ceramic scatter the stone floor. Next to my foot, a cheerful eye stares up at me, its partner facing downwards over by the parasol. A hand sticks up from between a gap in the paving and it is almost grotesque, like the stupid gnome is breaking free of a patio-ed grave. I would have taken his fishing pole and gauged his eyes first if I didn’t have to be so quick and thorough. The thought of him happily whole makes me shudder.

I don’t have long left. I glance down at my watch, I have perhaps 20 minutes to finish. I make sure my boots are tied tight and I stomp my way over the garden to the pumpkin patch – the ridiculous pumpkin patch. What a whimsical world my sister likes to live in. Pumpkins... Eurgh! I jump onto the plants breaking their hold on the earth. I land heavily into the corpses of unclaimed orange bulbs. I can smell their musty sweetness and I feel sick.

“Fairy circles?!” It keeps getting worse! I trounce the miniature mushroom monuments. Scanning the rest of the garden I pick out a bird table, a sundial and an oversized hourglass statue. I don’t even know if they’re related but I can’t leave anything to chance. They all crack, smash and splinter delightfully, with minimal effort on my part. Good, it will keep me swift. I manage to fit in a little more on a quick second sweep. I throw frogspawn from the pond and pull down a string of lanterns.

I hear a door open and close from inside the house. I buckle myself and brace for impact: Keys on the side, radio on, kettle boiling, my sister’s face at the kitchen window... Horror... Impact. She comes running through the back door with her mouth and eyes in equal, round zeros.

“WHAT- HAVE –YOU- DONE?!”

She is stiff, unmovable, unmoving. Kind of pretty. Unable to place herself in this new world I have created. My anarchy and destruction reverberates in the very air. Suddenly she falls to the ground and pulls free the gnome-hand from the patio. Tears are rolling down her cheeks.

Quieter now... “...why?!

“I think we’ve lived in peace for too long, sister.” I have rehearsed this. I stand proud in the middle of the lawn. The wrecking ball. “I’ve allowed too many of your... indulgences... to flourish. I mean, one or two new hives of pesky fairies I was happy to look past, but Fairy Godmothers?! This has got to stop! There was a Prince the other day, rescuing girls from all kinds of so-called imprisonment. They were just in an office, sister! Working the good old 9-5 which, must I remind you, was MY allowance in this agreement. I heard he was once a frog. That kind of agrees with me, but to be released as Prince Charming... No. No, no, NO!”

I stride forward, approaching my sister like a raging storm cloud.

“I’m leaving Kansas. I’m taking back control.”

Her blonde hair falls across her face as she nods. “I’m sorry Elph... Can’t we just -”

“Nope! This is exactly what I want. I am so excited to stop being so GOOD!”

I head into the house and pick up her shoes from the door mat.

“...There’s no place home!” I cackle and in three taps, I am gone.
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#ATaleofDiceandFire - day three

A new day, a new set of dice! Today we have an interesting mix...

Leave links to your stories in the comments and I will post mine below the picture once it's finished!

Go forth and write :)

Invisibility cape, child, tree
SCIENCE

Lori sat in class, thinking not about photosynthesis, but about The Hanging Tree. Spindly, vast, Nevergreen, it stood resolute in the middle of the woods outside her village, no other plant life around it for metres.

Deemed “unclimbable” – even by the older kids – rumour had it a boy once reached the top, but before he could holler down in celebration, he slipped and fell. He died when one of the sharp branches snagged the neck of his t-shirt. Now it was common for friends to dare each other to try to climb the tree at night. If a kid was brave enough to try, they would return to school the next day, quiet and jumpy. Whispers of ghosts and stories of silvery steps to the top of the tree would bubble from their quivering lips. The tree had become folklore. Legend.

Lori put her hand up. “Miss, does the hanging tree do photosynthesis and stuff? Coz, um, it doesn’t have leaves...”

Her teacher sighed. “That tree has been dead for a long time, Lori, so, no, it doesn’t function in the way of a living plant. And, please, don’t call it that.”

“It’s dead?”

“Yes. Ever since I can remember.”

“How come it’s still standing then?”

“Enough Lori, do your worksheet please.”

Lori begrudgingly picked up her pencil. When the bell rang for the end of class she threw her worksheet into the marking tray and stomped out of the doorway.

“Don’t forget your science projects are due next week!” The teacher called after her students.

***

Out in the playground, Lori huddled with her friends.

“What made you think about The Hanging Tree?” asked her best friend, Meg.

Lori shrugged.

“I dare you!” Meg’s eyes were narrowing mischievously.

“Fine, I’m going tonight anyway. I don’t think it’s dead and I need still a science project.”

***

The night was breezy and cold, and Lori layered up with jumpers and tights, grabbing a woollen blanket from the back of her cupboard to use as a cape; a disguise, if she should need it.

“Mum!” Lori yelled into the living room, “I’m going next door to revise with Joe!”

She slipped out the front door into the evening air before her mother could reply.

Trudging through the forest in the dark was interesting. Lori expected bats, owls and spiders but there was curiously little going on apart from the rustling of a breeze. She found the tree within minutes and approached its bare bark.

Her hand upon the trunk was cool and clammy, and she gasped as – No... – She could swear she felt it sigh. All of a sudden she was surrounded by the murmur of voices. Two carried clear above the rest.

“Danny! Danny where are you?”

“Mum? Mum, I’m here – is that you? Help me! I’m stuck!”

“Danny I can’t find you. Come home Danny!”

“Muuuum!”

The tree was shaking. Lori was fixed to the spot, her hand still resting on the bark. A misty vision appeared next to her. It was a boy, his head lolling onto his shoulder.

Lori was terrified. She needed to get away. She threw the blanket over herself for protection and suddenly felt light. Looking down , she almost fell over in shock – She couldn’t see herself! Torn between fear of the ghosts and fear of her predicament, Lori ran. She ran until she reached her front gate and tore the material from around herself. She was visible again. Breathless, confused and shaken, Lori couldn’t help but think as she stared at the blanket – I guess I found my science project, just not the one I expected!
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#ATaleofDiceandFire - day two

Hello guys - how did you do with Day One's selection of dice? Today we have a more random collection of images (as rolled by @MinotaurShock - thanks!)

Don't forget to post links to your own short stories in the comments if you join in :)

My story shall appear below once it's written!

Treasure, bat, magic wand
GONE

From up here, I can see forever. The nightlights of the city below me dazzle like stars reflected on the sea. A distant memory... This is some departure from my last grand entrance into life; a misty port, a British storm, gothic cliffs, rats and rum. Boeing is far more refined. There is no storm, no rough tide, shutters for the dawn and not a pest in sight. I have a glass of very fine Red. There are too many air stewardesses anyway.

I am no longer angry. I have gotten over mourning. So long, my wife, I start anew. In this city of dreams where anything is possible, and anyone is whoever they want to be. I let go. New York, my new mistress, shall show me what can be mine.

A basement apartment – perfect! A job as a magician at a nightclub – what luck! It’s almost too good; a license to make people disappear. I’ll select my meal each night from a menu of new choices. If I can just look past the comedy of the role... top hat, bow tie, bunny, wand. It’s as if I am cursed to forever play a caricature of a time I want to forget.

The two nights before I start on the job are adrenaline fuelled as I plan my Big Act. I have my large shipping chest, which will do nicely. I empty it of the treasures of my past; heirlooms, portraits, coins and leather bound books. There are two diaries that fall, all of a flutter. Why must my past be around every corner? Once empty, the chest is cavernous. A wry smile wraps my face. I saw out the chest’s bottom and check my cape covers the chest completely. Everything will work. I am itching with anticipation. Hungry, one might say, to begin.

***

For months now, I have achieved everything I had hoped for. New York, you Angel, for siding with the Devil! I have perfected my line for the worried faces of friends and lovers – “Ah but Sir, magic is magic. Before you leave this place she shall return.” I leave an hour before the club closes and linger. I’ll probably catch The Concerned as they leave too. I am getting rather fat.

***

Ah, it has come. The inevitable. I have been too gluttonous! The NYPD have been snooping around my apartment today. They questioned my possession of copious antiques (“why does a man with such tastes work a novelty act?”) and waylaid their opportunity to remove any floorboards. The time has come. It is sad. I have enjoyed my life here, but my Final Act has been ready for weeks. I felt the change in the air. Suspicion smells like liver.

At the club I am routine. I change nothing but the position of my chest. I place it near a window. After three taps of my magic wand I open the lid and the girl inside has not gone anywhere. The audience laughs. Heckles.

I smile.

“And now, my final act!” In a spin I transform and fly, black and leather winged towards the moon. Hmm where, next?
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#ATaleofDiceandFire - day one

Hi everyone - if you are taking part in A Tale of Dice and Fire, your three dice for today are pictured below. Happy storytelling! (And err, try not to go for the obvious with this roll...!)

I will be posting my story below the image once it has been written. Leave links to your own story in the comments :)

Ring, Frog, Princess

BREATHE EASY

My story is one you know, in part.

I am a Princess. Young, beautiful... all the stereotypical clich├ęs of the fairytale bride. I am the stories your mother used to tell you.

But I am human, and I am flawed. I carry (quite literally) inside me, the truth of my character.

The bedtime story your mother told, as you waited all dozy and warm for her to shape your dreams for the night to come, would go something like this: A selfish and naive Princess loses her treasured golden ball in a lake. When a frog kindly offers to retrieve the ball for her, wanting only friendship in return, the Princess agrees, but reluctantly allows the frog to share her palatial life. Despite herself, the Princess learns about friendship as she bonds with her amphibian companion, and casts aside her selfishness along the way by sharing all the privileges her life affords her. She grows. Becomes a “better person”. The frog is of course a magnificently handsome Prince under an evil spell, and when that curse is lifted the two united humankind make off in marriage to live Happily Ever After.

Of course, your mother wouldn’t want to give you nightmares, so this is where the story ends. What she won’t tell you is the Hereafter. I am that Princess, and I bear the marks of a naivety I never grew from. I am no better a person and it took more than three days with a frog on my pillow to lose my selfishness.

You see, my wedding ring is not upon my finger. I did not come across that frog by chance. The curse was not on him but upon me.

The wedding to my Prince was sealed with a kiss, at which point my ring disappeared from my finger and lodged itself at the base of my throat. My Prince looked unsurprised as I began clawing at my neck.

“Don’t worry, my love,” he said, “you will feel no bother from it as long as we remain equals, as we have been since we met.”

I felt FURIOUS, at myself as much as him. I began to question my actions: I had married him on his looks alone. I knew him as a frog, not as a man!

As weeks passed, I sought solace and planned my escape. I started to collect a small pile of coins to help me. It was then that I began to feel a scratch with every swallow. As I stockpiled food the scratching turned to coughing, and as my resentment towards my husband grew, the coughing turned to wheezing, turned to choking.

I am currently bed-bound, tangled in sheets from my frustration, gasping for every breath and wondering why I couldn’t just share life, love and happiness with this man. Was it so much to ask? I don’t know him. His strange pre-nup could be his only flaw. I should get to know him. Perhaps like him... Dare to love him, eventually? Maybe one day I could be a Queen!

Gosh, I feel dizzier than usual...

Copyright notice: The story above is an original work of Emma B. If you would like to use the work in any form please contact Emma B directly.
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Join in with #ATaleofDiceandFire




If you want to join in with the 3 dice, 5 day, 500 word story fest that is #ATaleofDiceandFire here is all the information you will need!

What?

CALLING ALL WRITERS! And those who like to dabble...!

Next week, Mab is Mab will be joining forces with Dorris the Loris blog to host ‪#‎ATaleofDiceandFire‬ - a series of 500 word stories based on the roll of dice.

Every morning, Kelly @ DorristheLoris and I will roll 3 storytelling dice from our shiny new collection. We will then each set to work crafting a 500 word short story, incorporating all the "rolled" elements from the dice. There will be one story a day, for five days.

Who?

The fun is hosted by myself and DorristheLoris, but anyone can join in!

We will share a photo of the rolled dice every morning so that those who want to join in can take part.

Leave a link to your contributions in the comments section of any #ATaleOfDiceandFire blog post, on either blog, and we will read and share your work. Please use the hashtag on twitter when sharing with your own followers so that we can find you :)

Where?

Your blog, your notebook, your website ... even your Twitter page in 140 character installments. We aren't fussy!

When?

Monday 22nd July - Friday 26th July. You have the full 24-hour period for each day to get your stories online - don't miss out!

How?

Let us know your taking part via our blogs or on Twitter, and grab an image if you fancy pimping it out with some semi-official graphic-y-ness. You can download graphics from DoristheLorris on this page. Enjoy, create and have fun!

I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Right, I'm off to flex my imagination in preparation... :)
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#ATaleofDiceandFire


CALLING ALL WRITERS! And those who like to dabble...!

Next week, Mab is Mab will be joining forces with Dorris the Loris blog to host ‪#‎ATaleofDiceandFire‬ - a series of 500 word stories based on the roll of dice.

We have a collection of storytelling die, and a lot of imagination, so for five days (Mon-Fri) we will be crafting short stories determined by what we roll!

WANT TO JOIN US? 'Course you do! Leave a comment below and we'll add your links to the posts!

Rules and info will be posted on both blogs tomorrow.
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The Panopticon - review

“I dinnae get people, like they all want to be watched, to be seen, like all the time. They put up their pictures online and let people they dinnae like look at them! And people they’ve never met as well, and they all pretend tae be shinier than they are – and some are even posting on like four sites; their bosses are watching them at work, the cameras watch them on the bus, and on the train, and in Boots, and even outside the chip shop. Then even at home – they’re going online to look and see who they can watch, and to check who’s watching them!”



Title: The Panopticon
Author: Jenni Fagan
Publisher: Windmill Books
Buy it: On Amazon 

Synopsis

Anais Hendricks is being taken into a care home called The Panopticon after being suspected of putting a police officer into a coma. The building is a circular construction where the "clients" are watched by a central watchtower. This is not Anais' first home. She has been in social care all of her life, never knowing her biological parents. She found her first adopted mother dead in a bathtub when she was young and has never been successfully placed since. As the police wait to see whether the police officer in a coma will survive, they are amounting a case to lock Anais into a secure unit until she turns eighteen. But Anais has more to worry about than a police officer she swears she never hurt; her boyfriend is in debt in prison, her best friends in the home are putting themselves in danger, a monk in a mental institution is claiming he saw her being born to a real mother... and, all the time, The Experiment are watching her.


The Good

This book was a stunning read. Writing the synopsis above was unusually hard as the narrative is so richly layered, just saying "a police officer is in a coma" or "Anais found her adoptive mother dead" doesn't quite cut it because there is so much circumstance around it, it feels as though I'm doing the story an injustice by putting it so simply! Getting to the "bare bones" of this story is hard.

There are a lot (and a mean a lot) of hard themes in this book. The care system, mental illness, death, sexuality, sex, love, abuse, drug use, identity, morals, rape. neglect, authority...  All of them, although shocking at times, are written with great relevance, and with great empathy. The characters in this novel are so wholly crafted that as you experience these things with them, you see them through their eyes. This gives a softened edge to some of the themes while it hardens others. They become peaks and troughs in a character's journey and not just set-pieces for gratuitous purposes or simply controversy devices. It was very well done, and I was unable to put the book down at a "trough" as I wanted to leave these characters in a good place at each sitting!

I enjoyed seeing the world through the eyes of the kids in care, but I think what made this novel special was the inclusion of Angus - a social worker at the home who was the only adult to trust the kids, keep their secrets when they weren't dangerous and see the potential in all of them. He was the only adult not to see Anais as "bad". He reminded me a lot of some of the best teachers I ever had: not perfect himself (wearing hole-ridden socks and spending money on music rather than clothes) but just, human... He was able to keep in mind that the kids in care are human too, not just another passing face or case book.

There are likely to be comparisons to Irvine Welsh when it comes to The Panopticon. Jenni Fagan writes her story in a Glaswegian dialect, and drugs, self harm and sex litter the pages as often as a full-stop. However, I felt The Panopticon had far more heart than Trainspotting and the like. Anais, although troubled and confused, has a wonderful presence in the novel, and large amounts of compassion. I knew every step of how she came to be who she is, I felt for her, hoped for her, feared for her.

The Bad

I'm not sure there is any bad to this book, unless you pick it up expecting a chick-flick. This is a book of no-holds-barred grittiness; of urban life at it's hardest. Your expectations will be the only thing that will let this book down for you. I have seen this book marketed as YA in some places, and I think perhaps even the book's own blurb gives that impression. I'm not sure whether I would class it as such... While there are similarities to books such as Junk, I think there are some themes in the Panopticon that are left too open ended and should probably have been "dealt with" in YA. If anyone has read it I would love to hear what you thought about this!

The dialect, although easy to read once you've gotten a feel for it, may be enough to put some people off. But I would urge you to stick with it if you struggle. The story itself is worth your effort.

Overall

The Panopticon was a surprising literary discovery for me. Although I had a curiosity about it, I don't think I expected it to be as good as it was. I will await the next title from Jenni Fagan with anticipation!

Score 
9/10
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Why "Mab"? How the blog got it's name



Quite a while ago now, I removed the description of how my blog got it's name from the "About" section of my site (now called Meet Mab). I felt it distracted from the function of the page and, to be honest, I couldn't explain it in a way that suited an "about" section anyway! It's much more of a post-friendly topic...

So, for anyone who has ever wondered, here is how and why my blog has it's name, Mab is Mab.

Too many Emma's!

Amazingly, I managed to get through school being the only "Emma" in my classroom. When I started work, though, that all changed! I was quickly reclassified by my colleagues as "Emma B", "Emmab" when they were feeling lazy/cheeky(!) and then, eventually, Mab for short. It was around this time my blog was started.

Since moving teams, cities and role, "Mab" as a nickname has not followed me, as I am once again the only Emma. It surfaces now and then in emails from past team members though. It is a name I associate with many great memories, feeling inspired and being creative.

Childhood reading memories

When I was in school, I used to love the stories of King Arthur. I felt a great sense of achievement when I finally read, and really understood, all of the manipulations and undertones of it!
Around this time, the Sam Neill TV mini series of Merlin was shown and I simply loved it. Dragons! Witches! Wizards! Helena Bonham Carter! And, of course, the wonderful Miranda Richardson as Queen Mab. She was my favourite character and the reason I watched it over and over. Because, let's face it, Sam Neil as Merlin wasn't exactly Oscar-worthy ;)

Shakespearean kudos for fearlessness/craziness?!

I'm not one to shy away from my opinions, and even Shakespeare knew Mab was a presence not to be taken lightly. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio has a monologue referencing the the fairy Queen Mab. True to Mab's own imposing nature, it's a jarring interruption to the flow of the dialogue in the play - and fobbed of by Romeo as nothing but an indulgence by Mercutio. A dream:




MERCUTIO: O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider web;
Her collars, of the moonshine's wat'ry beams;
Her whip, of cricket's bone; the lash, of film;
Her wagoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as 'a lies asleep,
Then dreams he of another benefice.
Sometimes she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled much misfortune bodes.
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage.
This is she!


(Ok, so Mab is more than a little scary here, but that's probably also what attracted me to to moniker!)

I love the Baz Luhrmann film version of the speech too, but unfortunately I couldn't find it on the web to link to :(

So there you have it! A brief history of "why Mab?" It fit me both personally and in that it had wonderful links to literature, which made it perfect for the blog. If you have a blog, brand or site why not share how you found your name too? Leave links or tell me in the comments :)


Code Name Verity - review

It took a long time to get my hands on this book. When I finally settled down to read it I was filled with anticipation thanks to copious good reviews, award nominations and the fact that it was a female adventure novel (yay!) Did it live up to the hype? Read on...

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein has a brilliant premise for it's story: A British spy, code named Verity, has been captured by Nazis in France, and it being forced to write down her confession, divulging British intelligence secrets during World War 2. Alongside war secrets, she tells the story of her best friend, a pilot named Maddie. Is she telling them the truth? What has she traded for her information? How did she end up a Nazi prisoner? Intrigue and action shoot through the pages of this book right up to it's heart-wrenching end.

I loved how much a I learnt from this book. I had a one-size-fits-all, school-given history of WWII and had obviously watched many films on the subject... but female roles in the war effort are very hard to find out about  in detail, without going out of your way to look for them. Perhaps I'm just uncultured?! Either way, learning about female pilots was great. It's something I'd never even thought about before and I really enjoyed being shown throughout the novel the hurdles women faced, despite being more skilled than some of the fighter pilots being sent to Europe. I could almost feel my inner feminist stamping her foot!

I also loved the characterisation of Verity - a tortured prisoner of war torn between her choices. Bordering on hysterical but always, always in control. It's very hard to speak about the characters without giving away plot spoilers so I'm going to have to keep it brief, but Verity encapsulated everything great about a character in adventure books. She was also - amazingly - a source of comic relief in the novel. She was a perfect balance of strength, vulnerability, role model and traitor. Very good.


However (sorry, guys, I'm always swooping in with the "buts"!) Code Name Verity is not perfect. It is not the shining example of brilliance I was kind of expecting...

After a very slow beginning (I didn't feel the unrelenting urge to keep reading until about 200 pages in) I felt there was far too much war jargon, acronyms and tactical/technical information. While I enjoyed learning about female WWII pilots, I didn't enjoy feeling as though I could probably navigate airfield to airfield myself by the end of the book. The constant flight information was overbearing to the point of skipping pages. It wasn't until reading the authors notes at the end I found out Elizabeth Wein is a pilot herself. It made a little more sense at that point, but it really dragged down the pace of the story.

Also... ***Slight spoilers in the next paragraph***

The ending left me feeling a little... meh. It just kind of petered out! After a heartwrenching act of friendship at it's climax, the story continues in something of a meandering nonsense towards the final page. I found it devoid of any real emotion which utterly surprised me considering how much I loved the characters. Simply being told "I am now crying" is just not the same as experiencing an emotion with the character. Considering the format is a diary, we should be welcomed into the inner turmoils of the narrator, and yet all we have is words to the effect of "I must stop before my tears smudge the ink". Show don't tell just didn't seem to apply very much and it was such a shame.

***Spoilers done***

So, overall I loved the original concept and insight to WWII Code Name Verity provides. It has some wonderful characters, and lots of questions to keep you going despite long periods of "war talk" that may simply pass over the head of some readers. The finale, despite it's lack of momentum after the climax, was painful and suitably fitting all at once. Endings were tied up nicely, too, which was quite neat. 

8/10 for Code Name Verity :)
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While I've been away...

Hello! I have had a week off to cycle, recover and enjoy a visit back home to Cambridge, and now I have returned with photos to tell you all about it!

It's been a crazy past few days, and I can't believe some of the things I did were only a week ago. Not to mention my disbelief at the wonderful weather I was treated to. It's been a brilliant break. So here's what I did:

First up, I took part in the Bedfordshire Cycletta! I've been boring you all with blog updates of my training and now I can happily say that I completed the 57KM (The routes were made a bit shorter due to roadworks) in 3 hours and 20 mins - WOOHOO! It's not the greatest time on the board, but as my target was 4 hours I am elated. Big thank-yous to everyone who helped me raise the amazing total of sponsorship to be sent to Parkinson's UK. I feel all gooey inside thinking about how lovely my friends and family are for supporting me. Here's some red and sweaty photos, complete with helmet-hair, to celebrate the ride (all I can say is heat and hills are a killer!)




While recovering from all that exercise at my mum's, we went to see Despicable Me 2. Mostly because my family are big kids, and who doesn't love a minion?! My brother and I were inspired to make our own minion cake pops. We're no bakers so the effort was a pretty poor one when compared to the awesome examples on Pinterest(!), but a couple came out vaguely cute haha.

Minions!

The rest of the week was spent eating a TONNE of food. I visited Cau (which has just opened in Cambridge and I believe also just opened in Bristol too?) and was super impressed with my steak sandwich - highly recommended. I also spent a lot of time in local Cambridge-y pubs and cafes. There's just something about them in Cambridge that you can't find anywhere else. Perhaps it's the students?!

Cau Steak Sarnie
I got to finally meet the lovely Claire from Claireabellmakes too. We should have taken a selfie! Alas we didn't, but she will be popping up on the blog soon as we have some book/craft mash-ups planned. Exciting!

Heaven!

Book-wise, I read Code Name Verity (review will be up later this week) and got half way through The Panopticon :)

So what have you all been up to? What have I missed?!
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