Hello! Sorry if I’ve been a little quiet on here over the past week. I kept up as best I could whilst I was away, but am otherwise getting back to normal now. Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram are probably sick of me talking about how incredible my third trip to Iceland was, but I still wanted to put together a little post sharing a few of the highlights nonetheless. I hope you can indulge me, and that the pictures convey even a small amount of the beauty the country has to offer.
I like to review everything I read, but sometimes my thoughts for a particular book don’t necessitate a full blog post. When that’s the case, I’ll combine a couple of mini reviews as they accumulate, and share them together retrospectively. Here are a couple such reviews, which both happen to be for non-fiction.
The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel
Published by Doubleday, 2017
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Well researched fact and passionate prose come together to form a compact and enjoyable, if not revolutionary look at the owl species native to Britain, and man’s complicated relationship with them. John Lewis-Stempel can write beautifully, and he manages to convey genuine awe and respect for his subject matter, whilst remaining informative and unbiased.
That said, a section of the book looks at man’s historic vilification of owls, suggesting that their association with evil, darkness, death, and suffering is unjust. However, he then ends the book by describing a particular owl as ‘The Lord of the Night’; detailing the joy it gets from the paralysing screams of a dying rabbit ringing out in the cold dead of night. Whilst it’s one of the most evocative sequences in the book, it felt like an odd and somewhat contradictory tone to end on, given the previous attempts to redefine their reputation.
I can’t say I learned much from it, but it was an interesting overview nonetheless. I’d say it’s worth a read for those fascinated by owls, and for those who like their nature non-fiction presented in lovely prose, befitting of the sense of wonder that the creatures themselves evoke.
You can pick up a copy of The Secret Life of the Owl by clicking here.
Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Júlia Sardà
Published by Tundra Books, 2018
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
A very condensed, introductory biography of Mary Shelley, with a particular focus on how she came to write her magnum opus, Frankenstein. I’m certainly no expert, but as someone with a keen interest in Shelley, this didn’t teach me anything new. That said, I picked it up mostly for Sardà’s gorgeous illustrations, which are suitably atmospheric and enchanting.
The beauty of the artwork, combined with Bailey’s simple prose, and the book’s overall brevity, make this an enjoyable glimpse of a fascinating literary figure that is accessible for practically any age. So, whether you’re a seasoned Shelley fan looking to expand your collection, or you’re keen to encourage a younger reader to dip their toe into the world of gothic horror, you could do far worse than this book.
You can pick up a copy of Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein by clicking here.
Have you read either of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them if you have.
Today in my series all about sharing bookish love, I’m shining the spotlight on Dieter Braun, a German illustrator who has released two companion books, Wild Animals of the North and Wild Animals of the South. Each celebrates the variety of species native to its respective hemisphere, with the animals depicted in Braun’s gorgeously vibrant and expressive art style that has an almost geometric inspired quality to it, making it a unique and instantly recognisable style that I love. I could open either of his books on pretty much any random page and would happily have it framed on my wall.
The pictures are accompanied by simple but fun facts about the animals’ characteristics, habitats and suchlike, like how a single humpback whale can weigh as much as six adult African elephants; giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as humans; and macaws can live for up to 60 years and mate for life. These add an extra layer to the books and make them suitable for all ages, which I also really appreciate. In fact, I think they would make particularly wonderful gifts for any lover of nature or art.
Aside from that, there’s not much else to say, so I’ll just let his work speak for itself.
Today is Earth Day – a movement designed to encourage celebration and conservation of our natural environment. To show my support, I thought I’d let Mother Nature speak for herself and simply share a few pictures of one of my favourite places in the world: Perthshire, the area of central Scotland which I call home.
I hope you enjoy the snaps and have a lovely Earth Day!
It’s a different and random little post today but I think it’s important to share the things we care about, and having visited Iceland earlier this year, I can tell you that it makes me incredibly sad to hear that much of its iconic wild habitat and rugged beauty is under threat of destruction.
There are government plans to lay roads and construct power plants in the Icelandic Highlands, which is currently one of the largest uncultivated and uninhabited territories in Europe. These lands have remained untouched throughout all of time and it would be such a tragedy if money hungry politicians spoiled that now.
There’s a site that explains it all better than I ever could, as well as a petition that aims to show that people from around the world are against this sad waste of natural splendour, so if you want to take a look that would be great.
I thought I’d share a few snaps from my time in The Land of Fire and Ice, which in spite of my seriously lacking photography skills, hopefully show a little glimpse of just how special a place it really is.
I’m back from my long-dreamt-of trip to Iceland and can in all honesty say that despite years of anticipation, it did not disappoint. The beauty of the landscape is unlike anything I have ever witnessed (and I’m lucky enough to live in some of Scotland’s most striking highlands). The culture and atmosphere were both warm yet relaxed – unlike the weather!
Of course, my inner-geek also marvelled at how heavily modern life and history there revolve around literature and storytelling (they actually have the highest number of bookshops and the most imported/translated books per capita in the world).
All in all, it was a fantastic experience, and I already hope to return one day to explore more of what this fascinating country has to offer. Here are just a few snapshots from my time in the land of fire and ice.
I’ll leave it at that for now, but I hope this gives even a small taste of the wondrous place that Iceland is. I’ve never been anywhere that felt more harmonious when it comes to the balance between modern, convenient living and utter respect for the natural world. I highly recommend you visit should you ever get the chance.
Trees in search of bluest sky
given chase by cold, hard steel –
what have we done?