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    Poet, Diplomat, Politician: Pablo Neruda and I

    This piece was first published on Proofed, a Boydell and Brewer blog.

    Poetry arrived in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where it came from, from winter or a river. I don’t know how or when, no, they were not voices, they were not words, nor silence, but from a street I was summoned […] there I was without a face and it touched me.”
    – Pablo Neruda, Poetry.


    There is a beauty in poetry that is not often found in books. Wild, explosive and untamed, poetry is like a painting made of words. It allows us to see the world in varying technicolour, rich with imagery and feelings of belonging or alienation, love or loneliness, fear or happiness. Language almost becomes magical.

    I have spent many years at high school, university and beyond reading and loving poetry. Trying to read as widely and voraciously as possible. I have adored many poets in my short lifetime: Lord Alfred Tennyson, W.B. Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats to name a few but Pablo Neruda has always been amongst my favourites.

    Regarded as the greatest poet of the 20th century, Pablo Neruda is a complicated man with a complicated history. Born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, Neruda’s literary career began early, at the age of 13, with contributions to local publications and journals. His father’s disapproval of literature and poetry (believing poets to be ‘cissies’) drove the young Basoalto to write under the pseudonym of Pablo Neruda, which he officially adopted in 1946 after his father’s death.

    Selling his belongings to publish his first book, Crepuscularia, in 1923,Neruda would go on to publish what would become his most popular collection at the age of 20, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and Song of Despair). Euphoric and sorrowful, this collection mixed adolescent thoughts of love and sex with descriptions of the Chilean wilderness. Despite its critical acclaim, it faced years of censorship for its eroticism. Today it remains one of the best-selling Spanish poetry books almost 100 years after its initial publication.

    Neruda’s body of poetry is so rich and varied that is defies easy summary. He explored themes of love, time, destruction and loneliness in all its varieties. His poetry filled with both harmony and anguish, also raged with political energy, ideas of social decay, isolation, alienation, communism and oppression. The Uruguayan critic and poet Eduardo Milan believed that “Neruda is, at the least, two: the author of Residencia en la tierra and the author of the rest of his work”.

    Neruda at his core is a Romantic, however, his experiences as a diplomat and affiliation with the Communist party greatly influenced his later works. He came to believe “that the work of art and the statement of thought—when these are responsible human actions, rooted in human need—are inseparable from historical and political context,” and began to use his work to advocate for social change. This was most evident in Canto general, a Whitmanesque attempt at reinterpreting the past and present of Latin America, detailing man’s struggle for justice in the New World.

    In celebration of Pablo Neruda’s 115th birthday, I share a few of my favourite poems:

    EVERY DAY YOU PLAY…

     “My words rained over you, stroking you.
    A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
    Until I even believe that you own the universe.
    I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells, dark hazels and rustic baskets of kisses.
    I want
    to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”

    I’d accidentally stumbled across this poem or more accurately, the last sentence whilst I was browsing through quotes on Pinterest a few years ago. There was a purpose to it, I assure you. The line in question was: “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees” and it remains the one singular line of Neruda’s poetry that I remember word for word and my favourite. I love the sentiment it conveys, this idea of helping your significant other blossom into something exquisite.

    Who would have thought that one session on Pinterest would have led to me reading as much Neruda as possible? Not me.

    Want to read a full version of the poem? Every day you play… can be found online here.

    One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII

    “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   
    I love you directly without problems or pride:
    I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
    except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
    so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
    so close that your eyes close with my dreams.”

    I have yet to read Neruda’s full collection of sonnets (even though I’ve been itching to) but Sonnet 17 is one that has always stuck with me. Quiet and intense, uncomplicated and overwhelming, this poem is naked in its honesty. It’s a poem about a love forged so deep, the lovers cease to be two separate beings but one.

    Want to read a full version of the poem? Sonnet XVII can be found online here.

    Walking Around

    “It happens that I am tired of being a man. 
    It happens that I go into the tailor’s shops and the movies
    all shrivelled up, impenetrable, like a felt swan
    navigating on a water of origin and ash.”

    I was surprised when I first read this, as with many others included in my copy of Selected Poems, published by Vintage Classics. It’s easy to forget that Pablo Neruda wrote more than just love poetry if you didn’t know any better.

    Originally published as part of Residencia en la tierra (1935), Walking Around dramatizes the conflict between man and society. The poet is tired of entering urban spaces transformed by technological advancements leaving him detached from nature and the physical world.

    Want to read a full version of the poem? Walking Around can be found online here.

    Tonight I can write…

    “Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
    To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

    To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
    And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.”

    There is something inexplicably beautiful about sad love poems. Perhaps it’s simply the process of taking one’s pain and crafting something precious and heart-wrenching out of it that makes it so appealing. Simple yet exuberant in its melancholy, Tonight I Can Write… explores the theme of yearning and the narrator’s eventual acceptance of his lover’s absence.

    Want to read a full version of the poem? Tonight I can write… can be found online here.

    Do you have a favourite poem by Pablo Neruda?

    Let me know your favourites in the comments below.

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    Spin the Dawn Blog Tour: A Review

    Spin the Dawn Blog Tour: A ReviewSpin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
    Series: The Blood of Stars #1
    Published by Knopf on July 9th 2019
    Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
    Pages: 400
    Format: eARC
    Source: Publisher
    Purchase from: AmazonBook Depository
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    Rating:

    Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

    Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she'll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

    Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia's task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

    And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

    Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

    I received this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review and forms part of the ‘Spin the Tour’ blog tour hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club.

    Spin the Dawn caught me by surprise. It’s Mulan meets Project Runway which meant two things: excitement over what essentially is a Mulan retelling and a loss of that excitement when I realised the central theme would be clothing. If there is ever a ‘type’ of Young Adult book I avoid like the plague, it’s the ones where clothing becomes a core part of the storyline. But like I said, Spin the Dawn caught me by surprise. This book was so much more than clothes. It was a book about magic, love, family, quests, freedom, compassion.

    In this sweeping fantasy, Maia Tamarin has a dream of becoming the Imperial Taylor of A’landi but her gender works against her. The Imperial Taylor must be a man. In the aftermath of war, Maia’s father, a renowned tailor in his own right, is summoned by the royal court to compete for the title of Imperial Taylor and clothe the Emporer’s new bride. Sick and decrepit, Maia’s father is unable to make the journey leaving one solution: Maia decides to pose as her brother to protect her father, save the Tamarin name and save her family from poverty.

    What starts as a Mulan retelling quickly becomes something more, something other. Mulan’s world is reimagined into something completely new in this brilliantly vibrant and well executed world woven expertly throughout the narrative. You can feel the magic being brought to life on the page.

    Readers will fall in love with a certain enchanter, and his mysterious and sassy ways. He was definitely the highlight of this book and made things a lot more interesting. I’m intrigued to see how his story-arc pans out in the next book… (just please don’t kill him).

    All-in-all, it was a fun and fast-paced read and the romance will leave you a puddle of emotion. If you love Renée Ahdieh, then you’ll love this!

    About the Author

    Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English. 

    Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since. 

    Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

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    Will you be reading Spin the Dawn?

    Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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    Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2019 Edition

    I haven’t forgotten, I promise. March has been a month. My poor wittle website got hacked (How? I don’t know?) and I spent what felt like 3,000 years of my life trying to remove malicious code and installing firewalls. But huzzah! It is fixed and I feel like a genius.

    I’ve done a lot of reading this month, mainly because I continued my Harry Potter re-read I never bothered to finish last year, and let me tell you! I forgot how much I love and treasure these books! I’ve read each book a minimum of 15 times at this point and I still get emotional over these characters.

    There have been a few other titles littered amongst the Potter – mainly Thrillers (what a surprise!). Excluding Enchantee which I’ve just started reading I have yet to read a YA Fantasy book this year which, for me, is a bit of a surprise.

    I’ve only read one short story collection this month and that was Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in preparation for Del Toro’s adaptation coming this August. Let me just tell you… reading this in the dark before bed is not the best idea if you don’t want to have series of weird dreams/nightmares.

    1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz ● rated 4 Stars

    1. Connections in Death by J.D. Robb ● rated 4 Stars
    While I enjoyed the 48th instalment of this series it was by no means my favourite of the series (or the best). Probably one of the most linear storylines Robb has churned out, I want a return to high-stakes, strained relationships and interesting things happening that I can fully invest myself in.

    2. Betrayal by Harold Pinter ● rated 4 Stars
    I get to see this performed in theatre in 2 months time (aaaaahhhhhh!) starring Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton (cue more screaming – aaaaaaaaaaaah)! This play is quite literally a series of shitty individuals lying and deceiving each other in 144 pages. I can’t wait to hate everyone all over again.

    3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling ● rated 5 Stars
    All my little babies – so sweet, so pure, so innocent.

    4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling ● rated 5 Stars
    Excuse me while I get emotional over Remus, Sirius and Dumbledore for the nth time. I just want my precious children to live long happy lives but we all know how that turns out.

    5. Misery by Stephen King ● rated 5 Stars
    Misery was twisted, dark, and to put it plainly… terrifying. King didn’t need to include the supernatural to make the hairs on your arm stand on end. He just needed humanity or the lack of it.

    6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling ● rated 5 Stars
    I’ve forgotten how much of this book I’ve, well, forgotten. It’s been too long. But it was also great because I got to be hella emotional again over the end! Sirius seeing Harry after the third task. Fawkes comforting Harry after the third task. Sirius with his face in his hands after Harry mentions James. I’m not okay, you guys. I’m not.

    7. Lullaby by Leïla Slimani ● rated 3 Stars
    After an explosive opening, Lullaby ended on a lackluster and disappointing note. I was expecting something akin to Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage but was sorely mistaken. This is not a thriller but a character study. Lullaby touched on themes of racism, class, mental health and the loneliness of being a parent. If, like me, you read the blurb/first chapter and expected a book chock full of twists and turns, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

    8. Batman Damned: Book One by Brian Azzarello ● rated 2 Stars
    I’m really not sure what I expected here? But I defintely expected better. A “visceral thrill-ride” that explores the events that take place in the wake of the Joker’s death as Batman is unable to recollect whether he commited the crime or not is not what I got. While the artwork was stunning, the narration dropped the ball and made this a tedious read. Frank Miller can’t be imitated.

    Here I am with the same set of books on my ‘next-to-read’ list for the third month in a row (well, almost the same set). I’ve managed to read Misery (which was A+++ everyone read it) and I’ve made a start on Enchantee (which so far is pretty so-so).

    1. The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea (ARC)
    2. The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan (ARC)
    3. The Furies by Katie Lowe (ARC)
    4. Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

    How was your bookish March?

    Read any of the books above or a choosing to in April? Got a book you think I’ll be interested in? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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    Monthly Wrap-Up: February 2019 Edition

    Did you think I’d forgotten you? Perhaps you’d hoped I had… and suddenly I’m spiralling into a Frank Underwood monologue but I digress. February has been another slow reading month mainly because I’ve discovered Fortnite and the need to actually be good at this game (which is currently not going very well) and I’ve also been working on a little something something. What is it you may ask? You may find out one day…

    I spent a large chunk of this month trying to slog through Priory which was an A++ read but my god was that book long. I’ve also fallen into a DC Graphic novel shaped hole thanks to my boyfriend who has sparked my obsession with the Injustice series.

    But here’s to March and a hopefully longer read pile…

    I’ve recently discovered this wonderful little gem called the Short Story Project which curates short stories from the literary greats but also from the modern greats. It doesn’t matter if it’s russian, spanish, english… these stories all exist in one place. I’ve read a great selection of short stories this month (looking at The Feather Pillow, Dracula’s Guest and The Red Crown as my February Favourites).

    I can’t wait to see what goodies I unearth in March – here’s hoping I discover more gems from some of my favourite literary greats.

    1. The Lady of the House of Love by Angela Carter ● rated 4 stars
    2. Napoleon and The Spectre by Charlotte Bronte ● rated 2 stars
    3. Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami ● rated 3 stars
    4. Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker ● rated 4 stars
    5. The Red Crown by Mikhail Bulgakov ● rated 4 stars
    6. The Feather Pillow by Horacio Quiroga ● rated 5 stars

    1. The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley ● rated 2 Stars (ARC Copy)
    A very dry, slow-paced book about a bunch of people that live to hate each other and talk about themselves. Have I ever met a more insufferable bunch of fictional characters in my life? My god. You can read my full review here. Why this book was so hyped is beyond me.

    2. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon ● rated 4 Stars (ARC Copy)
    Set in a crumbling queendom and a world plagued with draconic threats, The Priory of the Orange Tree is a feminist reclaiming of the epic fantasy genre. Complex and rich with detail, Priory leaves no stone unturned. Touching every corner of its world, Shannon explores different cultures, religions, monarchies and histories… each as detailed as the next. My only wish was that this wasn’t a standalone. There were parts I felt I had to slog through and at 800 pages, it felt neverending. Regardless, this was an expertly written beast and will stand the test of time cementing Samantha Shannon as your next go-to Fantasy author.

    3. Injustice: Gods Amongs Us Year 2 by Tom Taylor ● rated 5 Stars
    Superman’s iron grip on the world tightens as Taylor delivers yet another 5 star read with Year 2. No superhero is above corruption or falling prey to the darkness. Moral codes are tested and it’s interesting to see which heroes crumble under the weight and which ones take a stand.

    4. Injustice: Gods Amongs Us Year 3 by Tom Taylor ● rated 5 Stars
    The war between Batman and Superman grows ever more dire with each installation but Batman (being Batman) always has a backup plan to his backup plan. Meet John Constantine, The World’s Greatest Detective, Swam Thing and more… as magic runs rife in year 3. Will it be enough to stop Superman’s tirade?

    Are you surprised that the majority of these titles haven’t changed since last month?
    Ha ha ha… *cries gently in a corner*

    I managed to read Connections in Death at the start of this month which has given me some space to sneakily slide in Misery by Stephen King, gifted to me by my boyfriend. What a sweet and pure angel. It’s going to be my mission to at least from 2 out of 3 of the other books on my tbr list. I’ve got this!

    1. Enchantee by Gita Trelease (ARC)
    2. Misery by Stephen King
    3. The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea (ARC)
    4. The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan (ARC)

    How was your bookish February?

    Read any of the books above or a choosing to this March? Got a book you think I’ll be interested in? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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    Monthly Wrap-Up: January 2019 Edition

    Reading books takes so looooooooooooong. And by long I mean, I decided to start the year with a 700+ page beast and finish the month by starting The Priory of the Orange Tree which is an even bigger beast at almost 900 page. I’m drowning in words and I’m not even sorry about it!
     
    And now… presenting the very small collection of books and short stories that I got to read this month (if you haven’t read Salem’s Lot yet and consider yourself a vampire fan then what are you doing with your life? Read it right now!).

    1. In The Tall Grass by Stephen King ● rated 4 stars
    2. The Picture in the House by H.P. Lovecraft ● rated 3 stars
    3. Philomel Cottage by Agatha Christie ● rated 5 stars

    1. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King ● rated 5 Stars
    Cunning, relentless and spilling with bloodlust, King delivers an exceptional retelling and homage to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Set in small-town Maine, Ben Mears returns to his home town to write a book about the infamous Marsten House. Only something seems a little amis with the new owners (that’s an understatement). This is not the tale of a vampire you take to be a lover or a friend. This is the chilling tale of a vampire and his army of the night that will destroy you from the inside out.

    2. Injustice: Gods Amongs Us Year 1 by Tom Taylor ● rated 5 Stars
    Ever wondered what it would be like if Superman was the villain? Inspired by the videogame phenomenon, Taylor poses the philosophical questions: How far is too far when it comes to promoting the greater good? What would you sacrifice for the sake of peace? This comic is everything that Batman vs Superman should have been.

    3. The Last by Hanna Jameson ● rated 4 Stars
    A delicate mix of the locked room ‘whoddunnit’ and a nuclear induced apocalypse, The Last, explores the lives of 20 survivors trapped at L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland. The problem (beside the obvious)? One of them is a killer. Full review here.

    4. Shades of Magic Vol 1: The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab ● rated 4 Stars
    The prequel to Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic series follows Prince Maxim Maresh, long before he ever became King of Red London. Expect lawlessnes, magic and a new enemy with an interesting power. I only wish these comics were a little longer, and perhaps a little more detailed. Everything feels a tad rushed. Nevertheless, you’ll still feel the same Schwab magic.

    In between juggling my reading of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, I have these four delights to read before February is out. I probably won’t have time to read them all but I’ll give it my best shot. As long as I get time to read Connections in Death then all is well!

     

     
    1. Enchantee by Gita Trelease (ARC)
    2. Connections in Death by J.D. Robb
    3. The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea (ARC)
    4. The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan (ARC)


    How was the start to your bookish 2019?
    Read any of the books above or a choosing to this January? Got a book you think I’ll be interested in? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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