So, I have some exciting news, I’ve just started a new job. And not just any job; my perfect job. I am now Staff Writer at History Revealed, part of Immediate Media. I’ve spent years trying to get work placements at their magazines and have even started a distance learning journalism course to improve my chances and I’m so thrilled it’s paid off. As I say in my blog, it’s always been my aim to be a writer and history is something I’ve always been passionate about. I was the one at school that actually enjoyed learning about dates and kings and queens where some of my schoolmates couldn’t have looked more bored. I love wandering around castles and museums; I would annoy my family on holidays by trying to get us to visit as many historical and heritage locations as possible. This could mean a few more historical themed posts which I hope you’ll enjoy reading. If anyone’s interested in History Revealed, check it out here. I’ve written many articles for Milkround and other sites about persevering in the job search and can now testify that it works. If you’re still struggling to get into your dream career, don’t give up. Keep showing initiative by contacting companies and individuals you’d like to work for to ask for advice. If anyone wants to get into writing/publishing, feel free to contact me by commenting for some tailored advice. It’s been a short post today but I will be back soon once I’ve settled into my new role x
The Elizabethan thriller The Cursed Wife by Pamela Hartshorne is a change of direction from my usual genre. With the historical setting, I couldn’t resist. It tells the story of Mary and Cat as we slowly uncover their past and understand why their lives are irreconcilably intertwined. The theme of Mary being cursed follows her throughout the novel and is tied to the doll she keeps with her; this doll seems to have powers of its own and changes its expression to foreshadow events, a subtle but terrifying addition.
The trouble that Mary finds herself in is mostly not her fault and you really for her as she struggles to keep her perfect life together. It’s a story of self-fulfilling prophecy. The ending is at once heart-breaking yet undeniable; it also leaves the story open for a potential sequel. Cat is a character I find myself disliking the whole way through; I couldn’t find any redeemable qualities in her but could understand her situation at times.
The story is told from the perspective of the two women and it’s a great insight to see their different takes on the same event. If you like historical fiction and thrillers, I’d definitely recommend this book. Buy The Cursed Wife here.
I recently read The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal, if I could sum this book up in a few words it would be that it is an incredibly moving story and at times heartbreaking. Using a parallel timeline, we follow Mona on the eve of her 60th birthday as she reflects on her past. She runs a doll shop and also helps women cope with tragic losses; something she’s too familiar with. Some may dislike reading two timelines at once but I personally enjoyed it and find that each event complements another. It also shows the power of the story as I was willing younger Mona’s path to change even though I knew the eventual outcome. There is a twist at the end of the book which took me by surprise which I’m sure was the aim. There’s the reoccurring theme of missed chances throughout the novel with the story of Bridie back in Ireland and Mona’s potential suitor Karl. It’s a very thought-provoking novel and I feel it deals with the subject of loss very well. Setting part of it during the IRA bombing in Birmingham was a good touch, highlighting how Irish immigrants during this time in Britain would have felt. I would definitely recommend this book but would be wary as it does deal with the loss of children.
So here’s my first book review and it’s a positive one with a unique publisher. On the House by Helen Maskew was published last year by Unbound, a crowdfunding publisher that allows authors to raise money by talking to readers and sharing ideas. If enough people are interested in the idea, they can help contribute. I recently went to a talk at my town’s first Literary Festival and heard some great writers talk about their experiences. Even though they have all had success, they still explained how it’s such a demanding job. You can’t write one book and hope to retire with riches. Starting out you have to be able to work at the same time while facing rejection. So Unbound is great concept that I hope will continue. Onto the book.
On The House is thoroughly researched and well written social commentary on the hardships faced by everyday people in Victorian England. The novel starts with Edgar, the local landowner who becomes embroiled in the nearby workhouse. He slowly starts to see that not all is as it seems. He already dislikes the hypocrisy of his class and becomes a champion for social justice. For a history lover like me, it was a joy to read as I could tell how much work had gone into making the novel as accurate as possible. This leads me to the only criticism that those unfamiliar or disinterested in the topic might struggle to enjoy or fully grasp the conext. I loved the references to Charles Dickens as well as the Peterloo massacre which had a poignant connection to the unfair social system of the time.
With hindsight now we know the welfare laws weren’t fair or humane, unfortunately, something that still goes on today. There was an unexpected gruesome section that was a stark but enjoyable contrast to the rest of the story. The story came to a satisfactory ending which gave hope in a bleak time. I believe this is a planned trilogy and I look forward to reading more of these enjoyable blends of social commentary and a gripping whodunit.
Click on the book cover below to get the ebook from Amazon.
I wasn’t sure what to write about in this week’s blog post so I thought I’d write probably the most honest blog I’ve done so far. I’m an introvert; there I said it. To those who know me well that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. I came across this article recently and it gave me a few things to think about.
Misconceptions about introverts I’d like to challenge:
- Introverts hate people: I have a small but amazing group of friends, family, colleagues etc. who I enjoy spending time with. However, there are certain social situations where I feel quite uneasy and uncomfortable. I sometimes go out of my way to avoid these but that does not mean I don’t want to see people
- We always want to be alone: Everyone likes their own space sometimes; a relaxing bath or catching up with your favourite TV shows. Introverts, however, can need this more than most. I saw it described somewhere as having to recharge. This is exactly how it feels; after spending a lot of time with a large group of people or even a small one, it’s nice to have time to just relax and unwind and not feel like I’m on edge.
- Introverts are control freaks: The one thing as an introvert I do hate is unexpected plans. I like to know what I’m doing and when so that I can plan my time. It’s not that I need to be in control of every situation but sometimes impromptu plans can catch me off guard.
- Introverts hate having fun: This is just not true, everyone has things they love doing and those they don’t. There have been times where I’ve made up excuses rather than just admitting to people that I don’t enjoy certain things.
- Introverts have nothing to say: I’m very rarely the first one to speak in a large group of people or in a meeting and I’m often told I’m quiet. That doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say. My mind it too full of thoughts sometimes. I just take my time and choose what to say wisely.
- We wish we were extroverts: Occasionally there are times I wish I was more confident and out-going. There are probably times it has hindered me. However, it’s who I am. I’m always told I was born in the wrong century and I’ve decided to own that now. I read Jane Austen, think Downton Abbey was one of the best things on TV, and love nothing more than a good cup of tea but I can party with the rest of them.
An honest confession
Along with being an introvert, I do believe at times I’ve experienced elements of social anxiety and it can make me feel like I don’t fit in. A classic example was my first weekend at university. I have never been a big clubber; I don’t enjoy it like the majority of people my age do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great nights out with friends and my husband and I love going to the club night Ultimate Power (check out my post about that here). Therefore, once I got to university I had very little experience of going ‘out’. I obviously wanted to bond with my flatmates so we all went down together to the first fresher’s night. I couldn’t even make it into the tent and just suddenly felt terrified that I knew no-one and wasn’t comfortable. Therefore I spent that evening on the phone to my now-husband in tears.
Being an introvert can feel like you’re trying to be someone else and there are times where I have to push myself out of my comfort zone. One of my biggest weaknesses is talking to strangers, I hate this and even more hating using the phone to call or answer to someone I don’t know. One of my responsibilities in a previous job was to answer the incoming phone calls and if would fill me with dread every time. Now, you probably think that’s ridiculous and I can’t really justify it. I was just always worried that I would do or say something wrong or cut the person off (something I did on numerous occasions). However, it’s not all negative.
What makes being an introvert great
- We’re great listeners: I’m proud of the fact that friends feel they can come to me with problems. I have been known to be an agony aunt and like to think I can offer advice without judging and I always keep things to myself. Introverts are empathetic and let people unload.
- We’re really imaginative and creative: I love reading and watching films that take me off somewhere else. I’ve always had an active imagination and that’s why I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
- We’re passionate and have strong moral compasses: The causes I care about, I really care about and
So my main aim with this blog post was to let all the introverts out there know they’re not alone and it’s ok to feel this way. To my friends reading this, sorry if you ever feel I haven’t wanted to spend time with you, I love you all x
So it’s been a few months now but I’ve finally got around to writing a blog about my wedding. I got married in August and it was a wonderful day. I was told many times that I was a pretty chilled and relaxed bride; I never wanted to turn into a bridezilla. However, inside I did feel stressed. Buying a house and getting a mortgage at the same time as planning a wedding probably didn’t help. Here are a few things I wish I’d known or listened to when it was my turn and hopefully these tips can help someone else:
- You can easily go overboard with the spending and I can see how people do it. Put the word wedding in front of anything and the price skyrockets. Photography is a key example of this, we went to many wedding fairs and saw photography packages where you could pay well over a grand and only get digital copies at the end of it. Having a photographer stay around after the ceremony and speeches in many cases required an extra cost. Thankfully we used Bradley Wedding Photography. Ray and Sandra were fabulous and stayed there for the whole day. You can do a wedding reasonably. Set a budget, find out if you have any friends or family that can help out. Our amazing wedding cake was made by my best friend’s mum. You’ll be amazed how many people are happy to help.
- Weddings can bring out the best and worst in people. Some unexpected people will really step up and help you in so many ways whether that’s letting you rant about something or throw you an awesome hen party. You might even find out that some people have more opinions about your day than you. Take no notice and don’t let anyone ruin your day.
- You’ll look forward to it being over. The planning that is. You spend so long building up to this one day that you’ll be wishing yourself on honeymoon before the wedding. Try and enjoy the planning stage as much as you can.
- Something will go wrong. In the grand scheme of things, as long as your nearest and dearest are there and your bride or groom turns up, you will not notice what else happens. I forgot my shoes but luckily my lovely driver did a detour and we were able to pick them up. If I’d had to wear sandals walking down the aisle however, it wouldn’t have ruined the day. Unfortunately, the day goes so quickly that you don’t have time to notice everything. We’d love to go back and do it again and actually take everything in.
- You’ll spend so long worrying about other people when you really should just focus on the two of you. It’s your day and you should do what you want. Regardless of what others say or think. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what colour your table cloth is, no-one will remember anything except what a brilliant day it was.
If you want any wedding advice from someone who’s recently done it or have any other tips, please leave a comment.
Yesterday, along with my mum and sister, I took part in a beach clean at one of my local beaches. I’m not going to lie, Sunday’s are normally very lazy days for me where I catch up on the mountain of TV I have to watch, take a leisurely bath and do any other chores I need to do (currently the kittens are taking up most of this time). So when my sister suggested doing this, part of me wanted to stay in bed, especially with the bitterly cold weather we’ve been having recently. We set off with a flask of hot Ribena and were wrapped up ready for the Artic.
The statistics speak for themselves
The Marine Conservation Society has been running beach cleans for years but they’ve recently taken on the gigantic project of the Great British Beach Clean. According to stats from surveys carried out in 2017, an average of 718 litter items were found per 100m across the UK’s beaches. Over 30% of this comes from us; items that we are deliberately leaving on beaches or flushing down toilets etc. The majority of the items are plastic pieces and sweet and crisp packets. As well as ruining the look of our beaches, this is hugely dangerous to the wildlife around our country. The UK has some of the most diverse natural habitats in the world and they are being destroyed due to our impact. Anyone who’s seen Blue Planet this year will know the devastation plastic especially can do to our oceans. Turtles can get caught in it; fish are eating it and poisoning their young and even us. We don’t know enough yet about the impact that plastic has on us but it’s already affecting the other residents of this planet. Plastic bags can look like delicious jellyfish in the sea and tiny colourful pieces of plastic could probably be mistaken for fish.
A great day to make a difference
The turnout for the beach clean was amazing. Apparently, they normally have around 20 people attend but there were at least 100 people there of all ages. It was great to see parents bringing their young children to help. The amount of litter we found was staggering. Cigarette stubs, a load of cotton buds, plastic bottle tops, polystyrene foam you name it, it was there, we even found a whole broccoli. Even more worrying was the number of needles found which you can see above on such a well-used beach for walkers, children and animals. It’s so sad to see, especially as one of the clean-up leaders reminded us, the tide comes in twice a day so more is washed up all the time. It felt really great to help and I would encourage everyone to do one. A bracing walk on a cold winter’s day could be just what you need and you get to help the planet too.
We need to make a change
We visited the Maldives last year as part of our honeymoon and were lucky enough to see some amazing underwater wildlife including reef sharks, dolphins, rays and beautiful fish. The idea that in the not too distant future these habitats and species won’t be around anymore is so sad. Coral reefs are dying due to rising sea temperatures and now fish are eating the rubbish we chuck away. Something needs to be done. The Marine Conservation Society is doing a fantastic job to try and change this. They’ve already had success by helping bring in the plastic bag charge in 2015 and run beach cleanups across the UK regularly. Click here to find one near you and sign their petitions to stop the devastation of plastic.
I would like to ask everyone who has read this to do a few things to help:
- Share the messages in this blog and those of the Marine Conservation Society
- Recycle as much as you can. Visit your local authority’s website for more information on what you can and can’t recycle
- Sign the petitions the MCS are running which includes banning straws and other plastic cutlery from fast food chains
- Don’t flush anything down the toilet that’s not meant to go down there
- Small changes can make a big difference so leave a bag for life in your car or bag so that the use of plastic bags can be reduced
I suppose it’s finally time I do a blog about Jane Austen. Given my blog’s name where I’ve managed to get three Jane Austen titles in, you might have gathered I’m a bit of a fan. From quite a young age I’ve always enjoyed watching historical and period dramas but I think I really have Keira Knightley to thank for my first journey into Austen. As soon as I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean film when I was about 12, I was hooked and became obsessed with seeing every film I could with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in (especially Orlando Bloom) When I saw that she was in something called Pride and Prejudice, we hired it on DVD. I was transfixed. The polite way they spoke to each other, the stunning costumes and stately homes. The moral behind every story and even the social conventions. Although luckily we’ve progressed a lot (although not far enough) from a woman being on the shelf if she’s not married by 21, I still think there’s something we can learn from Jane Austen and other writers of her time.
The dating system
Luckily I don’t have to navigate the tricky world of 21st century dating anymore but if I did I wouldn’t know where to start. Where do you meet someone if work, mutual friends and hobbies aren’t working? Online dating? For some, this is a scary process though I personally know quite a few successful love stories that have flourished from this. Back in the 18th and 19th century, the rules were clear; you met a suitable partner at a dance. No more than three though or there’d be talk in the morning. There were obvious flaws with this system. Your whole courtship is public and you can never be alone to fully learn about each other. A chaperone would be needed and the first time you would be able to have a private conservation would be after you’re married.
An easier time?
However, there are no worries about who makes the first move, it would have always been the man. In this age of feminism, women don’t want to be seen to let the man pay or wait for him to ask her out. However, this can lead to confusion and miscommunication. I personally like the idea of chivalry (maybe that’s why I love these types of novels so much) as long as the man isn’t being taking advantage of. I see it as meaning mutual respect for both men and women. I see no reason why a man can’t open the door for a woman and vice versa; it’s polite.
A misunderstood genre
For those who haven’t read any Jane Austen, there’s the assumption it’s all bonnets and tea. Many don’t realise that social commentary and irony play as heavy a role in Austen’s novels as romance does. She’s not writing a classic man meets woman, fall in love story. She deals with issues of inheritance, illegitimate children and slavery as well as poking fun at the clergy even though her father was a vicar. We’re determined to believe that before the modern ages of the 20th century, women were meek and mild. Austen’s heroines are nothing of the sort. Elizabeth Bennet is fiercely independent and has no issue sparring with a man seen as her superior in wealth and class. This would have been unheard of and unbecoming. Emma Woodhouse has no thoughts of marriage but spends all her time matchmaking in a time when love wasn’t seen as a prerequisite for marriage. Elinor Dashwood understands finances and tries desperately to help her mother’s situation when they have reduced circumstances.
A woman before her time
The main thing I want you to take away about Jane Austen is that she was a realist. She understood that, at the time, a woman did require marriage in order to survive. She may have tried to ensure that the majority of her characters had happy after evers but she did it in a realistic and plausible way. Her own life didn’t match this and she knew enough about heartache and lost chances.
I hope for those who are yet to venture into the world of Jane Austen, I’ve inspired you. If you’re already a fan, please let me know what your favourite Jane Austen novel is and I will review it in my next Austen blog.
You may have noticed my blog looks a little different, I’m making a real effort this year to make my blog the best it can be and I really appreciate everyone’s support. Please share if you enjoy reading. x
Happy New Year to all my readers and I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I enjoyed my first Christmas with my husband in our first home with our two gorgeous kittens. I hope you had a good rest and lots of fun with family and friends. I received a lot of rum this year, I think someone’s trying to tell me something. 2018 should hopefully be a good one. However you saw in the New Year, whether you had a quiet night in or you hit the town, I hope it was a good one. We went out for the first time at New Year to an alternative rock night which was fantastic. I have lots planned for my blog for 2018 so watch this space x
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers, I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating with your family and friends. I’m grateful to all those who spend the time reading my blog and the New Year will bring some exciting new changes as well as more regular posts. But for now, drink, be merry and have fun!