Emily Dickinson Poetry Review

Looking for poetry to read, I was surfing my library’s elibrary when Emily Dickinson’s name caught my eye. I was looking for more modern poetry, but I thought I’d give it a try and I’m so glad I did, because I have since bought a copy of ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’, the complete poems of Emily Dickinson.

This review is going to be less poetry analysis and more just me gushing about Emily Dickinson’s poetry, because I love it. She is now one of my favourite poets, and I read pretty much the entire collection over two days. I’ll start with some quick info on Emily Dickinson herself, then we’ll get into her poetry.

Emily Dickinson was an American poet born in Massachusetts in 1830. She enjoyed school, particularly botany and her love of nature is evident in her poetry. After leaving school her letters in the early 1950s show she didn’t like domestic work, and she disliked having lots of visitors. She wrote many letters over the course of her life, sending friends poetry and trying out different narrative voices. She died in 1886, and her firs poetry collection was released in 1890. If you want a VERY in-depth life story, check out this link.

The book itself is split into 3 series, and within each series are four sections: life, love, nature, time & eternity. Some of the poems are titled, some are not, and they vary in length. Her stanzas within a poem remain the same length and all her poems have a wonderful rhythm to them which makes them a joy to read. I loved the all the rhyming she used and the antiquated language which expresses truths relatable to the modern reader. Emily Dickinson did not write with an audience in mine, her poems were personal, and I think there’s a gorgeous vulnerability about them.  Emily makes frequent use of metaphors and similes and personification in order to create vivid and evocative imagery within her poems, with a mixture of light-hearted and deep topics covered. I think her writing is so beautiful and imaginative and I could read it over and over again. And I will be.

Here are a couple of poems I enjoyed, to possibly tempt you into reading Emily Dickinson’s work, and the book I have is here if you want to buy it too!

Sunset
A sloop of amber slips away
      Upon an ether sea,
And wrecks in peace a purple tar,
      The son of ecstasy.
Power
You cannot put a fire out;
       A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
      Upon the slowest night.

You cannot fold a flood
      And put it in a drawer, -
Because the winds would find it out,
      And tell your cedar floor.
Disenchantment
It dropped so low in my regard
      I heard it hit the ground,
And go to pieces on the stones
      At bottom of my mind;

Yet blamed the fate that fractured, less
      Than I reviled myself
For entertaining plated wares
      Upon my silver shelf.
A Book
There is no frigate like a book
      To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
      Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
      Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
      That bears a human soul!
A Syllable
Could mortal lip divine
      The undeveloped freight
Of a delivered syllable,
      'T would crumble with the weight

Others I loved include ‘The forgotten grave’, ‘The snow’, ‘A thunder-storm’, ‘The sea’ and many more! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and maybe found some new poetry to read. Before you go please remember to keep signing petitions and educating yourself on racism, we need to keep going even when it’s not on the news! Stay safe and I hope you’re all well.

At the Last Minute Review

At the Last Minute by Estha Weiner

Hello everyone!

I know it’s shocking, but I have finally started writing reviews again. I’m as surprised as you are, yet here we are. I have been reading A LOT of poetry recently. I don’t know why, but I was hit by a sudden craving for poetry and in the last month it’s pretty much all I’ve read. I’ve also decided to do a school project on poetry, because not only have I been reading a lot of poetry, but I also write a lot of it. All in all, there has been quite a bit of poetry.

I was very kindly sent an ebook of At the Last Minute by Estha Weiner in exchange for an honest review, so you can be assured all opinions expressed here are my own (as usual). I was sent the book in April, but due to circumstances I have only just got back into writing reviews so I thought better late than never and jumped right in!

At the Last Minute is a collection of poems published by Salmon Poetry. It is Estha Weiner’s fourth collection of poetry, and was first published in 2019. There’s about 50 poems, and they tend to be about 10-20 lines long, although there are some longer and some shorter. This combined with the uncomplicated language used makes the collection of poetry accessible to anyone who may be interested in reading some poetry. The topics covered seem quite random (am I missing something?), including love/relationships, plays and several based off or inspired by quotes.

I enjoyed the shortness of the poems, which meant that the meaning or story being told did not get lost between endless metaphors and similes. While the enjambment used throughout Weiner’s poetry is effective, I sometimes found it harder to focus on the sentiment she was trying to put across because of it. The poems were more narrative than emotional, so I didn’t particularly connect with them and I preferred the poems that were more vulnerable, for I found them more engaging. My favourite poem was ‘At 5:45 pm in The Conservatory Garden’. It was short and sweet, and the simple imagery evocative.

Overall, At the Last Minute is a nicely written collection of poetry with a couple of lovely poems, but not one of my favourites. Upon reading it a second time I didn’t find myself any more interested, but it might be more attractive to an American audience (Weiner mentions American locations several times) or perhaps someone older than myself with more life experience. I hope you’re all as well as possible, and keep signing petitions and educating yourself about racism because while the news cycles will inevitably move on, the fight is far from over. Stay safe and feel free to contact me because I love hearing from you!

April 2020 Round-Up

Hello and welcome to my April 2020 round-up! I honestly cannot believe it’s the end of April already and we are all stuck inside watching the weather through our windows. This is not how I thought 2020 was going to go, but I’m trying to make the best of the situation. I’ve been writing daily for Camp NaNoWriMo and making pom-poms like there’s no tomorrow. There is something incredibly therapeutic about winding wool round and round and round, especially while watching one of my favourite movies like Burlesque. Back to the books, I’m struggling to read as much as I did before, but I try to read a little each day, even if it is only a couple of pages. I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed, so thanks for bearing with me while my blog posts are very sporadic. I will try to get some book reviews up soon!

Top 3 novels I read in April

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What I liked about it: the unique format, the drama, the way she writes about music

What I did not like about it: Nothing that I can think of.

My favourite character: Camila. What an amazing woman.

Position in series: 1/1

Genre: Historical fiction, music

Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

What I liked about it: sassy misfit crew, aliens, lots of sarcasm, the action and excitement

What I did not like about it: my heart exploding

My favourite character: Tyler or Zila. I didn’t realise how awesome I think Tyler is until I actually considered it.

Position in series: 1/3

Genre: young adult, science fiction, fantasy

Dust by Hugh Howey

What I liked about it: an incredible conclusion to the Wool trilogy, the worldbuilding, the unravelling of the plot

What I did not like about it: DEATHS.

My favourite character: Jules. I would die for that woman. Amazing.

Position in series: 3/3

Genre: science fiction, post-apocalyptic

Poetry of the month: Wild Embers by Nikita Gill

What I liked about it: emotional and empowering

What I did not like about it: that it wasn’t longer!

My favourite poem: For Her

Genre: poetry, feminism

Special mention: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Why: this book means more to me than I can put into words. It has saved lives and reminds you that at no point are you alone. You can get through than this. There is more to life than your mental illness.

Genre: nonfiction, mental health

And that, folks, is my April in books. For a full list of everything I read in April, check out my goodreads which I try my best to keep up to date! I hope you’re all well, even if you’re feeling unmotivated like I am. Wishing you and your families all the best, and if you ever want to talk you can reach me through my contact page here, Instagram here or twitter here.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back Review

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young.

I’ll start off by saying I absolutely adored the cover for this book, it was what first attracted me to it. A girl in Viking-esque style stepping out of a choppy sea? Amazing. As usual I did no research on this book before reading it, and therefore had no idea this was the second in a series. Thankfully it doesn’t directly follow on from the previous book, because that would have been very confusing. Instead the main character from the previous book appears as a very minor relation to one of the main characters in this book, Halvard. This review is a bit messy, but so were my thoughts about this book so it couldn’t be helped. The synopsis:

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Now, if you’ve read the first book, I’m assuming you went into this book knowing about the history between all the clans and who the Svell are. I didn’t, and if you are going to read this book, I highly recommend reading The Sky in the Deep first. You can read this one and understand it, but it takes some detective work to have any idea what’s going on.

Some basic details I picked up were that Tova comes from a territory not connected to the mainland, from a people called the Kyrr. They’re mysterious and no one messes with them. On the mainland there are the Svell, who Tova lives with, and the Nadhir, who are made up of two joined clans, the Aska and the Riki. Some people called the Herja attacked the Nadhir a while ago. While this book is described as a standalone, I think I would have got less distracted by random details if I had read the first one.

The book is written in first person from two perspectives, Tova and Halvard. Tova is a Truthtongue, which means she can read the runes. The Svell hate her and think she is an insult to their god, so want to kill her while their Tala (holy person) keeps her alive for his own uses. Tova is uniquely in tune with the spinners, who control the destiny of gods and men. She can sense the web the spinners weave, and occasionally hears things. I did a bit of research and while the spinners are called the Norns in Norse mythology, they are roughly equal to the fates in Greek mythology. This book definitely felt more historical fiction than fantasy. Halvard is the heir to the Nadhir chieftain and the link to the previous book.

The writing of this book was the best bit about it. There were some stereotypical features such as memory flashbacks to provide background to Halvard and Tova and some outsiders who save the day, but the plot got better as the book went one, with the mysterious Kyrr who Halvard knows and the brief encounters between Tova and Halvard before they meet properly. I really enjoyed the simple, evocative descriptions of setting and the vivid writing of action, the mixture of fate and free will, inevitability and brutality.

The ending was my favourite part of The Girl the Sea Gave Back. That sounds like an insult, but I don’t mean it as one, it’s just the book took me a while to get into and everything pulls together very dramatically near the end. It had the contrast between Tova and Halvard tentatively trusting one another, Tova finally not feeling like an outcast and a great final battle. There was a bit of romance if you like that kind of thing, although I slightly thought Tova and Halvard should be left as friends. Overall I would recommend this book, but only after reading the first one. Would I survive? Maybe not, I’m not a particularly violent person.

Storm’s Clouds Review

Storm’s Clouds by J.W. Golan

I could not wait to get into this book, and thankfully I had it within arm’s reach when I finished Storm’s Herald. Like I said in my review of Storm’s Herald, I did indeed receive Storm’s Herald and Storm’s Clouds in exchange for review, but all opinions expressed are my own! VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: this review does contain a spoiler for the first book (Storm’s Herald). Nothing that will change the plot dramatically or ruin it, and I did suspect this once I was about ¾ through the book, but if you want to read it completely spoiler free then don’t read this review! All my other reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated.

Everything is really well explained at the start of the book, not explicitly but through the first few pages of character interaction so if you forgot anything in the previous book you can work it out pretty quickly. Of course, I had finished the other book seconds earlier so that wasn’t such a problem. The chapters in this book are really long, and it can be a bit on the nose sometimes, but there are moments of real humour where I genuinely laughed. I loved that they set off on a quest with no clear plan except ‘find a dragon’ when they had no idea where it was. Again there is a lot of jumping to random perspectives for a few pages to see what is happening elsewhere, but I had got used to it at this point and I could generally tell how they were linked to the main story at this point. There was a lot more of the Fae court and the magic school in this book as well as the quests, including lots of focus on Princess Elise and what she was up to. There was more tension in this book than in Storm’s Herald, which had me reading faster and faster!

THIS IS THE SPOILER. Okay, I’m done yelling about it being a spoiler. What I want to talk about here is Garth. Garth has enough personas to fill a city here people, and they are very varied. Garth is actually Gwythr, a guy who was a hero in the Fae’s war. He’s now human and wanders around as Garth, except when he is Gyaltso, an old dude who turned Kalden’s hair white then straight up left him which I found hilariously random. I have several problems with Garth. The first is quite petty but I think Garth’s nickname of ‘little bird’ for Lynette is so creepy and it made me cringe and my skin crawl every time he said it. Maybe it’s meant to be cute, but NOPE. And even weirder, a trope I hate, is Lynette being *strangely attracted* to the bad guy (Garth) who is nice only to them. I know Garth isn’t technically bad, but he isn’t exactly good either. Also, this isn’t a problem but how does Garth get around so fast? Can he teleport? What?!

Anyway, back to the rest of review. Princess Elise was a lot more prominent in this book and although she was a little irritatingly perfect, I did like seeing what she was up to. It was quite stereotypical that the lady in waiting was a spy, like it wasn’t even subtle. At some points I felt there were too many characters, but if I just thought of the characters from the random jump arounds as one time things it was a lot easier to focus on the main ones. There were some giants who inexplicably spoke like Scottish people. Not sure what was going on there. Then there is Waya. Waya is introduced as a boy and it is later revealed they are transgender, or at least very confused about their gender and sexuality. You see, Waya is in love with a girl, and to impress her parents they go on a quest to act manly. While I liked Waya as a character and I would definitely be interested in knowing more about them and whether they decided to have Garth magically change their body, it did feel a bit like a token because Waya is the only character I can think of who is on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.  Once again in this book time jumps around with no respect for how much time it seemed had passed.  One minute I’m chilling, and the next two years have passed, and I am like WHAT.

In conclusion I really enjoyed Storm’s Clouds. Especially the sentient library which moves books around to mess with the librarians. I could read a whole book about that library. I really liked the ending, and I very much need to know what happens next. Would I survive this book? Yeah I would, I’m living in that library.

Storm’s Herald Review

Storm’s Herald by J.W. Golan

Happy Easter everyone! Or just happy Sunday if you don’t celebrate Easter, I hope you have a great day with chocolate regardless. If you want to read these books, Storm’s Herald is free as an ebook on Amazon 10-12th April, and Storm’s Cloud 24-25th April.

I received both Storm’s herald and its sequel, Storm’s Clouds, in exchange for a review. All views expressed are honest and my own. I have a very terrible habit of writing notes while I’m reading a book, then writing the actual review quite a while afterwards. It means that sometimes my notes are very vague and incomprehensible, but not this time. I had so much fun rereading the notes I made, I think they are possibly some of the best notes I’ve ever made. And you can’t have good notes without an interesting book to make them on, so kudos to Storm’s herald. Here’s the synopsis:

A peasant girl who dreams of becoming a sorceress, a boy who imagines himself a knight – trailed by a ruthless mercenary armed with an ancient sword.

All Lynette wanted was to leave her boring village life – to attend the Fae Academy and become a Druid priestess like her teacher before her. Her clumsy attempts at magic are a reminder of how much she has yet to learn. But if they would only accept her, if the Fae Kingdom – closed to human visitors for centuries now – would only just open its doors, she is certain she could become a master of the magical arts.

Yet her journey puts her on a collision course with a reawakened evil – offering a king’s ransom for the recovery of a long-lost relic. Treasure hunters of every variety – werewolves, mercenaries, common thieves and undead alike – are soon locked in pursuit of its promised riches. Together with Baxter, a young squire who fled his own kingdom, and Eirlon, a gnome who trades in rare antiquities, Lynette is drawn unwillingly into the hunt for the elusive relic.

Hounded by goblins, ogres – and darker things – Baxter carries his own burdens: secrets that have made him the enemy of the crown. And then there is Garth, the mysterious mercenary who both frightens and intrigues Lynette: the weapons-master armed with an ancient blade – snatched from the hand of a long-vanished fae prince.

Willingly or not, Lynette, Baxter and Eirlon must together solve the riddles behind the relic – and stay one step ahead of the ruthless killers that pursue them.

Like many a fantasy, and lots of books now I think about it, Storm’s Herald begins with introductions to various different viewpoints over the first few chapters. Quite quickly I understood the basic worldbuilding and the traditional type of fantasy I was reading. Slightly uncommonly, new points of view were introduced throughout the book, sometimes only for one chapter. These were usually to show what was happening somewhere else in the world, but sometimes I found the switching too frequent, so it took me longer than usual to properly get to know the characters. Slowly all of the various characters crossed each other’s paths, and for once there was none of the hiding information from these people are clearly on your side. I was very thankful for that, because nothing irritates me more than a character being unnecessarily reticent as a plot device. The storytelling is not very complicated, but the story was good, and it was fun and easy reading.

Let’s move onto the characters. There were four main viewpoints I could identify, with several minor ones who would appear once or twice like Kalden. The main viewpoints were Lynette, Elise, Eirlon and Baxter. I don’t know if I have a favourite, but I like them all in different ways and by the end of the book I was very interested in seeing what happened next. The story begins with Lynette, a normal girl with magic her half-fae teacher is teaching her to control. After some *events* Lynette sets off to the Fae-gate from which she can enter the fae lands and join the magic school. Lynette is the typical beautiful, magical peasant in many ways and she does get attached to a very dodgy guy, but when he first meets her in the forest and is very creepy (in my opinion), she doesn’t put up with it which I applaud.

Baxter is apprenticed to a knight and is very accepting of his master being a horrible person because of his nobility but apart from that he’s quite a nice guy. He’s just a regular, hardworking human who predictably ends up with a crush on Lynette, but the focus on the romance is very minor. Eirlon the gnome is pretty cool. A chill guy, albeit with a minorly annoying habit to keep things to himself. Elise is the fairy princess, heir to the fae throne. She doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone and despite her insecurities she pretty much does what she thinks is right. I’m down with that. The other character mentioned in the synopsis, Garth, I have a LOT of opinions on but that would be spoilers so that will be going in my next review. The fae are what you would expect of fae in a traditional fantasy, with longer life spans, few children, attuned with nature and big fans of trees.

This is not a particularly descriptive book in terms of physical descriptions of people/settings, but personally I actually tend to pretty much read those and forget them anyway unless they’re long and lyrical, so I didn’t mind. The one thing that threw me in this book was the passing of time. From one chapter to the next 9 months could have passed and there would only be a brief mention of it which was a bit wild, but once I got used to it, I just rolled with it.

When I got to the end of the book, I was very thankful to have the sequel next to me because I really wanted to know what happened next. I was left like what?!?! But ready to read the next one. Would I survive? I think I would, if I stayed out of the way of goblins.

Two Dark Reigns Review

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Darks Reigns is the third book in the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake, a Fantasy YA series with four books plus novellas told in the present tense. I read Three Dark Crowns a couple of years ago now, along with the sequel, so as usual I decided not to read a summary of the previous books and jumped straight into the third book in the series. How badly could it go?

Synopsis:

Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether or not her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but in hiding on the mainland and dealing with a nightmare of their own: being visited repeatedly by a specter they think might be the fabled Blue Queen. Though she says nothing, her rotting, bony finger pointing out to sea is clear enough: return to Fennbirn.

Jules, too, is in a strange place—in disguise. And her only confidants, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep.

This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.

This story definitely feels like a YA, but that’s what it’s meant to be, and I enjoyed it. At times it felt a bit slow and meandering, especially nearer the start, yet as I got more into the story, I found myself really wanting to know what all the mysterious dreams and signs meant. Through Arsinoe’s dreams we are shown the events of the life of someone in the past who I grew to quite like.  I’m a big fan of the story being focused on three sisters and their relationships with each other as well as the overarching plot, which I’ll be honest I did not see coming. From the first book I did not expect to end up here, yet I was equally interested in all the viewpoints and there was the occasional cliff-hanger which I’m almost always down for.

The main characters of the story are the three sisters, Queen Katherine, Princess Mirabella and Princess Arsinoe (both supposed to be dead, along with Jules who grew up with Arsinoe with the naturalists. My favourite character was Braddock. If you’ve read the previous books, you know who I’m talking about. I stand by my choice. Also, while I wasn’t such a fan of Jules in the previous books I grew to like her a lot more in this one. I’m also very into the setting, because while the ‘magic island hidden from the mainland’ trope is a common in fantasy, I liked the way Kendare Blake decided on its relations with the mainland and the way it is set up.

In conclusion while I am not as obsessed with the series now as I was when I read the first book, this is still an interesting series and I will definitely be reading the final book to find out what happens to all the characters and see how the author chooses to resolve the plot. Would I survive? Yeah, probably. I think I’d be a naturalist or poisoner.

To Kill a Kingdom Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I absolutely LOVED To Kill A Kingdom. I’m a huge fan of retellings done well, and this bewitching dark retelling of the little mermaid was both brilliant and felt different to the original. The main thing to take away from this review was I had great fun reading this book. It was the first time I’ve read a book in one sitting in a while, I just couldn’t put it down!

The Synopsis:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Like a lot of fantasy stories, the first chapter or so had a bit of explanation but the way it was weaved into the story was not at all boring. We get introduced to the two main viewpoints, Elian and Lira pretty early in the story so we get lots of time seeing their individual sides of the story. Alexandra Christo balances the fairytale feel to the story perfectly with and edge of cruelty which stops the story being to sickly. There’s plot twists, marriage alliances, disguises, sirens pirates and a magic quest for a crystal. What more could you ask for in a fairy-tale fantasy? The enemies to lovers trope is a common one but I thought it was done really well here, slowly enough that it didn’t feel like two characters being shoved together and then you get partway through the book and they’re in love and I’m in love and there’s so much romantic tension. It made me very happy, I smiled most of the way through this book.

There are two points of view in To Kill a Kingdom, and if you asked me to choose one I would have a very hard time. I liked the narrative voice of the siren Princess Lira, her development from cruelty throughout the book, but Elian’s crew completely stole my heart. Elian is a prince who adores the open sea and killing sirens, and to begin with their POVs are completely contrasting with the darker Lira and more noble Elian. That being said they are both bloodthirsty from the beginning. What better to bond over than violence and murder? There is some great banter, lots of romantic tension and a pirate crew I would die for. If Alexandra Christo would like to write a book solely on that crew, I would definitely buy it. The setting comprises of several different kingdoms, each with fairy-tale aspects that match their name in some way. For example, Prince Elian is from Midas, a kingdom of gold. The kingdoms are wonderful, nothing too complicated but described succinctly to perfectly capture the mood of the place.

In conclusion this is a brilliant standalone fairy-tale retelling with what I thought was a pretty perfect ending. Would I survive this book? I reckon I could live in Midas or one of the other kingdoms without too much trouble. Not the sea though. As I have previously mentioned, I get seasick.

The Middle Ages Unlocked Review

The Middle Ages Unlocked by Gillian Polack and Katrin Kania

I have a habit of picking up very solid historical information books about the middle ages and reading them from cover to cover. It is a slightly questionable technique, especially since some of them are VERY information dense, but I have great fun doing it. As you can see in the image above I used a lot of sticky notes.

The Middle Ages Unlocked was awesome, really informative and jam packed with every type of information you could possibly need about medieval England 1050-1300. The time period you choose for a medieval nonfiction book is very important because there are huge changes that happened over what is quite a large period. This was the first one I’ve read where it considered both Jewish and Christian communities as well as slavery in the middle ages, two things I have never seen much info about. There is even information about measuring things! In conclusion, The Middle Ages Unlocked was very readable, sorted into handy sections and filled with information. If you want information on this time period, this is the book for you.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this without it getting repetitive, so instead I’m going to throw some facts at you from different sections that you can surprise your family with (if you so wish.)

Rich and Poor, High and Low

Rich and well-born people were supposed to be happy and look happy, regardless of their state, as happiness was considered attractive.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

From Cradle to Grave

Pain was often considered an essential part of Christian death because it was thought to be the deserved punishment for sins.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Death and Taxes You Cannot Avoid

Outlawry meant that the person was considered outside the law and thus had no legal protection from others.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Crossroads of the Mind

The vast majority of magic practices were considered part of daily life or religious belief and were not regarded as sorcerous.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Babies were ideally bathed one to three times a day.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Written and Spoken Words

Dragons were generally considered to be oversized snakes, with wings, a tail, feet and sharp talons.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

The Chalk Pit Review

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

I cannot believe that this is the ninth book in the Ruth Galloway series I have read! It feels like just yesterday that Ruth was a happily single woman just focused on archaeology at the university. Oh, how times have changed. And yet some things stay the same, and these books have a kind of comfortable rhythm in them so I simultaneously have no idea what is going to happen but feel safe enough with this world that I can slip right back in every time I read a new book. This is one of my favourite series and I am always excited to return.

The Blurb:

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they are recent – the boiling not the medieval curiosity she thought – DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard of a vast network of old chalk-mining tunnels under King’s Lynn, home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

As I was expecting the book started off slowly, but with a few murders to keep you on your toes. With some books a slow start means boring but it never is with Elly Griffiths, it just means it’s intriguing and laying the foundations for the fast paced tension ahead. When the connections begin between all the different, seemingly unrelated areas of the plot I get a little thrill, link after link being revealed yet not coming together to produce a coherent picture then the story picks up and the crimes become more frequent until BAM you reach the climax and I’m so tense I am physically attached to the book.

With subtle humour and more plot twists than I can count I am slowly absorbed into the lives of the characters, yet the domesticity slips away and I end up on the edge of my seat every time. Brilliant. Elly Griffiths truly manages to cover everything in her books, from racism and religion to childcare and Alice in Wonderland. The recurring but not main characters get developed over the years without too much focus taken away from main story, and Griffiths knows the exact moment to switch to the other point of view to keep me on edge and desperate to know what happens in both situations.

If you can’t tell from this review, I love the Ruth Galloway series and I will be reading the next one as soon as I can get my hands on it. Would I survive? In the story I would as long as I was careful, although if I get one more dramatic twist in real life my heart may give out.