Category: Bookish Adventures

November’s Bookish Checkpoints

Posted October 28, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Bookish Adventures / 1 Comment

I love to keep an ongoing list of things I’m looking forward to. From holidays to movie releases, I like to set myself checkpoints in the future to keep me going. Right now my current batch of checkpoints is made up of a few books being released in November and Frozen II.

Today I will be rounding up the books released next month that I am most eager to get my hands on. I have even pre-ordered them because I am that excited.

First up is a fantasy novel inspired by Arthurian legend:

November’s Bookish CheckpointsThe Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising, #1) by Kiersten White
Published by Delacorte Press on November 5, 2019
Pages: 352

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution--send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name--and her true identity--is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old--including Arthur's own family--demand things continue as they have been, and the new--those drawn by the dream of Camelot--fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?


Second on the list is Erin Morgenstern’s second novel. This book sounds fabulous- I love books about the magic of books.

November’s Bookish CheckpointsThe Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Published by Harvill Secker on November 5, 2019
Pages: 512

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world--a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues -- a bee, a key, and a sword -- that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians -- it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose--in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

Last, but certainly not least, we have this beauty. I already know this novel will be the highlight of my year.

November’s Bookish CheckpointsThe Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3) by Holly Black
on November 19, 2019
Pages: 320

After being pronounced Queen of Faerie and then abruptly exiled by the Wicked King Cardan, Jude finds herself unmoored, the queen of nothing. She spends her time with Vivi and Oak, watches her fair share of reality television, and does the odd job or two, including trying to convince a cannibalistic faerie from hunting her own in the mortal world.

When her twin sister Taryn shows up asking of a favor, Jude jumps at the chance to return to the Faerie world, even if it means facing Cardan, who she loves despite his betrayal.

When a dark curse is unveiled, Jude must become the first mortal Queen of Faerie and uncover how to break the curse, or risk upsetting the balance of the whole Faerie world.

The finale to the New York Times bestselling Folk of Air trilogy, that started with The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King, from award-winning author Holly Black.

What book releases are you most looking forward in November?

Lauren x

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Occult Edition, Chapter Two

Posted October 24, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Bookish Adventures / 0 Comments

If you haven’t read my previous post on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic then check out this link for some background on my history with Sabrina and my thoughts on chapter one of the series.

Today I’m reflecting on chapter two of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic book series. This chapter puts Madame Satan centre stage. I thought chapter one was dark, but the dark twists and scenes are ramped up even more in chapter two. Which makes sense now that we’re focusing on someone who is going to bring trouble into Sabrina’s life.

Still, the premise of someone’s face being torn off and worn as a mask is a little bit out of my comfort zone. I’m going to put my hands up here and say I haven’t got a lot of experience with horror media. I am a wimp. Nevertheless I’m sticking with this story. Sabrina was one of the idols of my childhood so I’m embracing the horror turn that the team behind this series are going for.

In this chapter Madame Satan demonstrates just how much of a demonic presence she is. She kills, maims and torments people on her way to Sabrina. Before she gets decides to find her though, she takes a detour to Sabrina’s parents and punishes them individually. The punishment of the Edward and Diana also involved flashbacks to the past which helped build up Sabrina’s origins further from the first chapter.

By the end of chapter two I feel that enough foundations are in place for the true wickedness to start in the next chapter. Especially as it ends with Sabrina and Madame Satan in the same space.

It’s not all about Madam Satan in chapter two. We still get peaks into what’s going on with Sabrina along the way. The Sabrina sections helped to temper the darkness of Madame Satan’s adventures because they are fairly light-hearted in comparison.

We see Sabrina trying to audition for a part in a school production, with a bit of help from a celebrity who also happens to be a witch. This is the sort of plot line that harks back to traditional Sabrina. We’ve got Harvey in the background, mean girls trying to bring Sabrina down and Salem back home making snarky comments.

I’m glad to see that the story is continuing to keep some upbeats in it. It will be interesting to see how the dark and light sides of the story are worked together going forward.

Lauren x

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Occult Edition, Chapter One

Posted October 19, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Bookish Adventures / 0 Comments

I have been a fan of Sabrina Spellman stories for a long time. I read a lot of the comics, the first medium Sabrina appeared in, when I was a child. But I only started reading one of Sabrina’s newest incarnations, fashioned as the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, today. I am reading it in a hardback bindup that covers all the chapters published so far. I’m really excited to dive into it. Especially because it’s this version of Sabrina that inspired the Netflix TV show (of which I’ve only watched part one so far, though I’m looking to watch part two over the next few weeks in preparation for Halloween).

Today I will just be covering my thoughts on chapter one of this comic series. First of all I want to mention how different this is from my previous experiences of Sabrina. From the colour palette to the narrative tone, this feels like a complete turn around from the versions of Sabrina that were popular when I was little.

In this first chapter we get Sabrina’s origin story served up with all the darkness of a horror story. Orange is the overwhelming colour giving this story strong autumnal and Halloween vibes. The art style from the outset signposts that this a mature version of Sabrina. This one is dark and gritty where the previous incarnations I read were bubble gum cute.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take me too long to get used to this new version. I’m looking forward to continuing with it.

Chapter one gives us a thorough grounding in Sabrina’s origins, respun in CAOS‘s edgy style. It begins with her father, Edward, convening a coven gathering on Sabrina’s first birthday. It doesn’t take long for us to be shown how dark the witchcraft in this version is. The narrator tells us Edward has ‘conjured his Lord Satan, in the living flesh, numerous times’ and we see him condemn Sabrina’s mother to a horrible fate. The witches in this world meddle with demons, place curses and play with thoroughly destructive magic.

Character wise, this book features a few regulars of the Sabrina universe. Edward is the absent father figure (though for new reasons here). Zelda and Hilda are the protective aunts and mentors for all things magic. Salem, a long standing favourite of mine, is the back talking familiar we know and love (unlike in the Netflix show ☹️). Sabrina herself is still half mortal and half witch, and by the end of the chapter she’s attending a mortal high school and has already developed a crush on Harvey Kinkle, the staple heartthrob of the Sabrina universe.

In this chapter we are also introduced to Ambrose, Sabrina’s cousin. I do believe Ambrose has existed in the Sabrina universe before, check out this link for more info. But this is my first proper experience of him as a firm member of the comic cast and by all accounts this Amborse seems to be a very different character to his previous incarnation. I love Ambrose in the Netflix show and I’m excited to see how his role develops in the original CAOS (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) comics.

So far I find Ambrose’s role quite similar to what Salem’s has been in the past- he’s an experienced warlock who is more in the loop on what shenanigans Sabrina is up to than her aunts, more best friend than family. Because of the crossover between the role Ambrose serves and the one Salem traditionally plays, I see why Salem doesn’t really get to talk on the CAOS tv series (still makes me sad though). But in the CAOS comics we get both of them talking. I’m really excited to see how Salem and Ambrose play off each other as the story goes on.

Another interesting thing to note about chapter one are the Archie-verse crossover cameos. Betty and Veronica feature as witches. Also, we see a Josie poster which I would see as a reference to Josie and the Pussycats. This Sabrina is definitely grounded in the same world as the rest of the Archie-verse (albeit reinterpreted in CAOS‘s edgy horror style).

After quickly pulling us through the first few years of Sabrina’s life the chapter finishes with the introduction of a villain. I’m really interested to see where this comic goes next.

Have you checked out the CAOS comic yet?

Lauren x

My University Essay Archive: The Shakespeare One

Posted October 11, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Bookish Adventures / 0 Comments

I studied English at university a few years ago and on the whole I really enjoyed it. As most of my old essays are sitting around gathering dust I thought I would share one today. This is all about Shakespeare plays.

PATROCLES:   Then tell me, I pray thee, what’s Thersites?

THERSITES:   Thy knower, Patroclus .                        

(Troilus and Cressida).

Do Shakespeare’s characters really know themselves or each other?

The characters ‘know’ themselves and each other to be actors. The nature of ‘self’ in Shakespeare’s plays is shown to be layered, fluid, artificial and unstable. Consequently a character’s self is difficult, if not impossible, to know.  Shakespeare’s characters, such as Malcom and Hamlet, often devise methods of performance and observation in order to understand other characters. These methods often reveal the dynamic and intangible nature of self. To ‘know’ is to ‘be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information’ (Oxford English Dictionary). ‘Self’ is ‘a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action’ (Oxford English Dictionary).  To know requires activity and in Shakespeare’s plays the activity characters use to interrogate self is performance and observation in the fictional world of the play and as actors on a stage. Each character is performing a self, truthfully or misleadingly, and each character is performed by an actor who has their own self. As ‘all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’ (As You Like It, Wells and Taylor, 2005, 2.7.139-140; all subsequent quotations will be from this edition, unless otherwise noted) the nature of a character’s essential being is a fabricated and fluid fiction.  The fact ‘self’ is a blurry concept is the truth characters ultimately discover.

The natural fluidity of self under the pressure of performance and observation is particularly striking in Richard of Gloucester’s soliloquy in act three of 3 Henry VI.  Shakespeare strips the scene down to leave Richard alone on the stage. The audience are reminded that they overwhelmingly outnumber the actor as he switches to an introspective mode of thinking.  Richard’s soliloquy allows an actor to play with the audience as he shows them just how fluid a character can be. He shows the limits of fluidity by lapsing into a performance of self-delusion as he imagines himself making ‘heaven in a lady’s lap’ (3.3.148) and charming ‘sweet ladies with my words and looks’ (3.3.150). The delusion turns out to be conscious self-mockery. The discourse challenges the audience to laugh at the discordance between the charming identity he imagines and his appearance, but also makes the audience feel uncomfortable. There are identities Richard cannot convincingly perform because nature prohibits it.  His fiction can only be as convincing as its container (the body, the actor) allows it to be. But Richard then challenges this notion by suggesting a strongly performed fluid fiction can defy nature, ‘I can add colours to the chameleon,/change shapes with Proteus’ (3.3.191-192). He shows intent to defy nature with the liquidity of a water god. The soliloquy becomes a balance sheet of the limitations of nature versus the force of his fictions; an audit of his ability to gain the crown. Richard, under the gaze of an audience, ends up revelling in his ability to perform against nature through developing a dynamic and slippery vision of his identity. Richard is an example of how characters are willing to sacrifice a static identity in favour of a fluid one that is innately unknowable due to its changeability.

 Hamlet in Hamlet and Malcom in Macbeth both attempt to mislead and at the same time expose others through performance, in doing so they become examples of the fluid nature of self-representation they want to see through. Hamlet takes on an ‘antic disposition’ (Hamlet, 1.5.173) and Malcolm pretends to be a villain.In act four of Macbeth Malcom is presented with a problem: is Macduff his ally or foe. Macbeth, a ‘tyrant’ who ‘was once thought honest’ (4.3.13), is an example of the power of disguise that Malcolm has learned from. Surface appearances are, for him, no longer enough to know a man by; he now seeks to know the true internal selves of others. To test Macduff’s true character Malcolm uses observation and performance.  Malcolm airs his thoughts on disguise; he says ‘all things foul would wear the brows of grace’ (4.3.23), a statement that bears a similarity to Hamlet’s comment ‘one may smile, and smile and be a villain’ (1.5.108).  These lines reference disguise as a device used by the wicked, but Malcolm repurposes disguise for his own ends. Disguise is a fiction used to gain power. A sign of power is, as Greenblatt describes, ‘the ability to impose one’s fiction upon the world’ (2005, p.13). Malcolm creates a fiction to overpower any fictions Macduff may be hiding behind. Malcolm builds a tyrant king persona through a list of vices. He claims to be ‘bloody,/ Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful,/Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin/ That has a name.’(4.3.57-60). Macduff is forced to break under the power of this fiction. ‘Fit to govern!/ No, not to live!’ (4.3.103/4) Macduff says. The exclamation marks emphasise the force with which the actor is persuaded to perform the line. A Lord is pushed into questioning whether a divinely chosen future king of Scotland should be allowed to live if he is possessed of such vices. ‘Angels are bright still though the brightest fell’ (4.3.22), Macduff appeared good on the surface, but so did Macbeth. It is the self Macduff keeps within that Malcom wants to see. Malcom acts differently to how he naturally is because he no longer trusts surface self-representation, he will not ‘submit to another’s narrative’ (Greenblatt, 2005, p.237). Malcom’s performance is itself an example of how deceptive self-representation can be in the name of power.

Characters do not have to be consciously disguising themselves in order to hide elements of their internal self. In Hamlet, Hamlet becomes intent on discovering if Claudius is really a murderer. The complicating factor is that the un-guilty self Claudius presents when he is not known to be a murderer is not a deliberate disguise but perhaps a subconscious one. Claudius does not constantly perform the guilt that comes with murder because he internally dissociates himself from it. ‘My fault is past’ (3.3.51) Claudius reasons, as he prays to be divinely cleansed of his sins. The play scene in act three forces Claudius into exceptional circumstances where he is forced to act uncharacteristically and perform the guilt he does not perpetually feel, which is a performance structure Edgar (2009, p.51)  discusses in relation to building characters through drama. ‘The plays the thing/ wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king’ (2.2.606/7), Hamlet claims. The play is Hamlet’s active attempt to gain knowledge about Claudius through ‘performative activity’ (Edgar, 2009, p.49).  The shift in Claudius’s persona that Hamlet is looking for happens in a short line: ‘give me some light. Away’ (3.2.257). Claudius refuses to let the murderer part of himself into his public persona. Nevertheless, his sharp reaction is an obvious product of his guilt. The sharpness of the line highlights how unused he is to consciously burying this murderer identity. Rather than perform a conscious disguise of it in public, he chooses to exit the public performance space completely, both in terms of the play world and the stage world. Claudius is ‘possessed/ of those effects for which I did the murder’ (3.3.53/4), ‘possessed’ means ‘held as property; owned’ (OED Online). Claudius’s current identity is owned and shaped by what he gained through being a murderer, regardless of his internal hope to be cleansed of sin.  Parts of Claudius’s essential being are unclear in ordinary circumstances even when there is not a conscious decision to deceive because he genuinely ‘imagined he could trick something more than men’ (Bradley, 1969, p.138). Characters sometimes unconsciously deceive because they do not want to truly know themselves for what they are.

Some characters seem to gain an uncanny awareness of how they are a character in a play and exist only as a constructed-self performed by an actor on a stage. This awareness demonstrates how the concept of identity becomes fluid for actors. During the main body of a play characters often use the language of performance in a way that reminds the audience it is make-believe, but Shakespeare crafts the language with enough subtly so as not to jolt audiences out of believing in the stage world entirely. In Hamlet, Hamlet discusses the time when Polonius acted ‘I’th’ university’ (3.2.95), ‘what did you enact?’ (3.2.97) he asks. ‘I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed I’th’ Capitol. Brutus killed me’ (3.2.100), Polonius replies. Shakespeare wrote a play called Julius Caesar that is generally thought to have been performed around 1599, which helps date the version of Hamlet containing the dialogue discussed above.  Interestingly, ‘it is generally assumed that John Heminges acted… Caesar in the first play and Polonius in the second, and that Richard Burbage acted both Brutus and Hamlet’ (Edwards, 1983, p.148). The dialogue between Hamlet and Polonius, which was performed by Heminges and Burbage, works in relation to the world in and on the stage as it references another self both the characters and actors have previously performed. Polonius’s line presents an uncanny reference to the real world in a way that blurs the lines between whether the actor is representing himself or the character, but the answer is perhaps that he is performing a combination of both selves intertwined into one body in that scene.

Endings deal with the relationship between a character’s and an actor’s identity in a slightly different way in comparison to the rest of a play because the friction between the overlapping selves of actor and character reaches a peak. Rosalind during the epilogue of As You Like It is directed to speak ‘to the audience’ (p.680). She comes partially out of the play to recognise ‘it is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue’ (p.680). Rosalind shows she is conscious of the fact she is contained in a genre with generic expectations. The young male actor who would have performed the role in 1600 shows through in the line: ‘if I were a woman’ (p.680). ‘If’ sharply highlights that Rosalind’s character, further to being trapped in a play, only physically exists when the male actor wishes to perform her. The dual selves embodied in the actor’s person rub against each other in this epilogue. The audience are jarred into remembering they are watching a boy actor perform the cross-dressing Rosalind, whose performed masculinity as Ganymede in the main body of the play bought the character closer to the actor’s male self. Characters cannot really know themselves during their time on stage without recognising their fictional nature. But a careful balance between awareness and ignorance is usually maintained in the main body of the play because if characters fully recognise their fictional nature then they will cease to exist, which is why the scene between Polonius and Hamlet limits itself to dramatic irony rather than break the play’s world, even Richard’s revelry in his own fictionality works within the world of the play. Fiction has power as long as it can suspend disbelieve. Endings, however, are where boundaries are pushed and as a result characters become more like shadows as their fictional power dwindles and the actor becomes more prominent. The epilogue is where the fiction of the play and characters dissolve.

Characters in plays come alive through performance and observation. In act five, scene one of A Midsummer Night’s Dream the audience watch as Hippolyta, Theseus and the lovers become an audience to the mechanical’s play. The audience on the stage perform as actors and observe as characters. The scene sharply reminds audiences that the definition of who and what you see on stage is blurry and complicated. Performance and observation are at the heart of quests to discover truth. In the case of ‘self’, a somewhat liquid and intangible thing, there is one essential truth Shakespeare’s characters reach: because they ‘are players’ in and out of the play’s world they have no set form of self. As Puck says in the epilogue, characters in plays are but ‘shadows’ (l.1). Because identities are dynamic and artificial no character can truly grasp ‘self’ in regards to themselves or each other, but they can understand that the fluidity of performance is why they cannot precisely define who they are besides being actors.

Reference List

  • Bradley, AC (1969) Shakespearean Tragedy. 2nd edn. London: Macmillan
  • Edgar, David (2009) How Plays Work. London: Nick Hern Books
  • Edwards, Philip (1983) ‘Shakespeare and Kyd,’ in Muir, K., Halio, J. and Palmer, D.J. (eds)  Shakespeare, Man of the Theatre. London: Associated University Press, Ltd., pp.148-154
  • Greenblatt, Stephen (2005) Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From Moore to Shakespeare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Shakespeare, W. (1591)3 Henry VI in Taylor, G and Wells, S. (eds.) (2005) The Oxford Shakespeare: The Collective Works. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Shakespeare, W. (1595)A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Taylor, G and Wells, S. (eds.) (2005) The Oxford Shakespeare. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Shakespeare, W. (1599-1600) As You Like It, in Taylor, G and Wells, S. (eds.) (2005) The Oxford Shakespeare. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Shakespeare, W. (1600-1) Hamlet in Taylor, G and Wells, S. (eds.) (2005) The Oxford Shakespeare. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Shakespeare, W. (1606; adapted 1616) Macbeth in Taylor, G and Wells, S. (eds.) (2005) The Oxford Shakespeare. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • “know”. Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Oxford University Press. (accessed December 22, 2013).
  • “possessed, adj. and n.”. OED Online. [online] Oxford University Press. (accessed December 22, 2013)
  • “self”. Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Oxford University Press. (accessed December 22, 2013).

Lauren x

Book Inspired Looks

Posted October 10, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Bookish Adventures / 0 Comments

Today’s post is about the time I dressed as Jude Duarte for Bookstagram.

I have been experimenting with Bookstagram over the past few months. I have a long way to go before I can increase my photo taking and photo editing skills to a level where I’m happy but I’m not going to get there unless I practice.

Bookstagram has been a super fun experiment so far. I would like to try a few different styles and themes before I figure out what works best for me. My most recent experiment involved putting together book inspired looks. My first bookish victim was The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King.

I aimed for a look inspired by the main character, Jude Duarte. I tried to do my hair in a way that is reminiscent of Jude’s signature look, ‘braiding my hair into an elaborate style that makes me look as though I have horns’ (The Cruel Prince by Holly Black).

I used one of Britney Spears perfumes as a prop to represent poison. Throughout the book Jude takes doses of poison to build up her resistance to it. I also put on my butterfly ring because 1) it’s pretty and 2) it seemed thematically appropriate.

I chose the Beauty and the Beast tapestry I got in a Fairy Loot box as the back drop because it seemed appropriately dark and moody for the tone of Black’s series.

I really enjoyed putting these photos together and I can’t wait to do it again when Queen of Nothing comes out next month (can you believe it’s so close now?!!). I think I would put more effort into the hair next time because I did it super quickly. Jude is one of my absolute favourite characters. It was a lot of fun to try and dress like her briefly.

I have a few more books on my wish-list for book inspired looks:

  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
  • Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I have done some test photos of looks for each of these books but they aren’t quite right yet 😛

Have you ever tried to go for a book inspired look or would like to try it in the future? Let me know in the comments.

Lauren x