Tag Archives: Love

Love You, Manchester. 

Hey guys.

It is with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes that I write this post. I’m struggling with what is happening in the world. I don’t understand why we have such sadness. Naturally, I’m a ‘fixer’. I have a deep need within me to fix things, to make things better. Yet, today I can’t seem to do it. 

You will have probably heard on the news about the terrorist attack in Manchester. I’m utterly broken. That concert was full of innocent children and teenagers watching one of their idols.  I’m sure the majority of us can all relate to that. They were happy. Then everything changed in an instant. It’s funny, I tell my students to never write such clichés but here I am doing it myself. I can’t find the words. I don’t know what to say. I’m empty. 

Every attack we all feel: London, Paris, Manchester, anywhere in the world. It is wrong. It is heart breaking. But I really really struggle when it’s children; the epitome of innocence. 

Hate can not win. We are together. We must love more. I don’t have anyone to hold tonight, but if you do, hold them just that second longer. Because you can. 

Big love x

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My Not So Perfect Life – Sophie Kinsella Review 

Hey everyone! 

Happy May! Time is definitely flying by now. I can’t keep on top of it really. Anyway, I’ve not posted a book review in what feels like eternity. September apparently. This is for a number of reasons…time being the  biggest factor. Also, only reading books that I’m teaching. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Macbeth now. I’m starting to have Macbeth type dreams! 

Yet, onto something a little more lighthearted. I wanted an easy, happy read to help me recover from work in the evenings. This is where Sophie Kinsella comes in. I rely on her for this and her new book, My Not So Perfect Life, did not disappoint. 


What’s it all about? 

The story follows protagonist Katie Brenner, a Somerset girl trying to make it in London in her dream career: advertising. She’s even rebranded herself; changing her look and name to ‘Cat’ to fit in. However, London life isn’t as she expected. Her cramped flat that she shares with two others is problematic (I’m sure many of us can relate to this!) her commute to work is a horror and she stumbles over her new name. Her job too also isn’t as she expected (another point of relation for some of us!). Instead of being anywhere near the ideas aspect of branding, she enters tiresome amounts of data from questionnaires and deals with admin. But, London is her dream, she will not give up. Her Instagram shows the kind of life wants in London, yet who is to know it isn’t her life yet?

“Then, on impulse, I scroll back through my previous Instagram posts, looking at the photos of London cafes, sights, drinks, and smiling faces (mostly strangers). The whole thing is like a feel-good movie, and what’s wrong with that? Loads of people use colored filters or whatever on Instagram. Well, my filter is the “this is how I’d like it to be” filter. It’s not that I lie. I was in those places, even if I couldn’t afford a hot chocolate. It’s just I don’t dwell on any of the not-so-great stuff in my life, like the commute or the prices or having to keep all my stuff in a hammock. Let alone vanilla-whey-coated eggs and abnoxious lechy flatmates. And the point is, it’s something to aspire to, something to hope for. One day my life will match my Instagram posts. One day.” 

Her boss, Demeter, is equally problematic. She presents herself as mega successful and perfect with the best clothes, the successful career, the idyllic family: the Queen Bee. Yet, very few seem to like her. She also doesn’t seem to like ‘Cat’ much. Two instances that stand out for me are when Dementer gets Cat to dye her roots for her and when she fires her. The firing is a low point for Katie. Dementer doesn’t really remember if she’s done it or not. Awkward. However, Alex is at work and he’s a bit of a dish…

“I think: We’re rebranding Clairol? I’m going to help REBRAND CLAIROL? Oh my god, this is MASSIVE – Until reality hits. Dementer doesn’t look excited, like someone about to redesign an international brand. She looks bored and impatient. And now her words are impinging properly on my brain…”

Katie has no choice but to go back to Somerset where her dad has a new business idea: glamping. Katie refuses to give up on her dream, however, practicality tells her she has too. She’s broke and struggling to find another job. Her dad, Mick, and his partner Bibby, are overjoyed at her return. Katie throws herself into making this business work for her dad and Biddy, with the intention of getting back to London asap. She creates a brand for the farm and gets a website running. It’s not long until glampers arrive. Ansters Farm Country Retreat is taking off! 

“It’s funny how life works like a see-saw: some things go up while others plunge down. My life is swiftly unravelling while Dad’s is finally, it seems, coming together.”

A surprise visitor soon turns up at the farm: Dementer. Katie sees this as an opportunity to get revenge. Kinsella monopolises humour here. Her writing is witty, clever and incredibly realistic. As a reader, we naturally dislike Dementer as does everyone in her workplace. After numerous ‘bespoke’ activities, Katie learns to see a different side to Dementer. She even begins to feel sorry for her. Her husband is aloof, her kids are spoilt brats and she is utterly exhausted. I have to say, there were a number of laugh out loud moments here! 

God, this feels good. I start slapping Dementer’s head as I apply mud to her hair, and that feels even better. Slap-slap-slap. That pays her back for making me do her bloody roots.” 

When Alex turns up to fire her, Katie (as well as Dementer) believes someone is out to set Demeter up, prying on her scattiness and vulnerability. A side plot: romance. Who doesn’t love a bit of romance? Things hot up between Katie and the gorgeous man that is Alex. They each help one another to see the importance of their relationships with their fathers. Yet, there is a feeling of like a superhero mission though for Dementer. Naturally, Katie was right to trust her instincts. Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t read this yet, the ending is perfect. Life lessons learnt. Bright futures. 

“As the hubbub starts up again I glance over at Dementer and she clasps her hands tightly; then she blows us a kiss and puts a tissue to her eyes, as if she’s my fairy godmother.”

Overall: 

This book is pure joy. It’s so relatable on so many levels. It challenges your perceptions of characters, making you think about your own behaviour. You never know what’s really going on with someone. One thing it’s reminded me of, hard work pays off and everything happens for a reason. Thanks Sophie. A perfect stand alone book with characters you’ll fall in love with. 


Big love xxx

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Silk – Alessandro Baricco


Hi all! 

Another book review to close August. Can you believe it’s the last day of the month? I can’t! I feel like time is whizzing past me and I’m struggling to keep up. It also means with September fast approaching, I’m one step closer to being back at work. Better to put that thought on the back burner and concentrate on my review today. Today’s book is a little, cute thing I found at a charity book shop on my travels: Silk by Alessandro Baricco. 

Originally written in Italian in 1996, this book was translated in 1997. What’s strange is I stumbled across this 20 years later. It was sticking out, on a slant on the shelf. It caught my eye. I quickly saw that the cover was beautiful and the back of the book was full of quotes like:  

“A moving allegory of life as a quest…”

and

“A heartbreaking love story told in the form of a classic fable…”

Clearly a bargain at £1. 


What’s it all about?

The 1860s silk trade was booming and Hervè Joncour travels around the world buying silkworm eggs. Eventually, after problems with the silkworm eggs in Africa, Joncour travels to Japan. He buys eggs from the interesting character of Hara Kei, a French speaking nobleman. Joncour falls in love with his mistress, a rather curious and silent character, ultimately incredibly beautiful also. He makes a note of her eyes in particular. 

“Suddenly, without the smallest movement, the young girl, opened her eyes.” 

During his second visit to Japan, Jancour learns about the aviary of exotic birds that Hara Kei has built. His mind, however, seems distracted by the young girl. He leaves a glove her the mistress to find in a pile of clothes: a token. Towards the end of this visit, the mistress gives him a love note written in Japanese, the first of many over the travels. Unable to understand, Joncour visits Madame Blanche, a rich draper and brothel owner. She translates the letter for him. 

“Come back, or I shall die.” 

During Joncour’s third visit to Japan, Hara Kei’s mistress released the birds from the aviary. Through the darkness, as time progresses, they make love, thus starting their affair. It should be noted that Joncour was married to Hélène. She waits patiently at home for his return. Hara Kei conducts the silkworm egg transaction via another associate and refuses to say goodbye when Joncour leaves. 

However, when it is time for Joncour’s fourth trip to Japan, war had broken out in Japan. He finds Hara Kei’s village was burnt to the ground; nothing remained. From what appears to be out of nowhere, a young boy appears and gives him the glove that he dropped on the pile of clothes for Hara Kei’s mistress. Showing unlimited trust, he follows the boy to a place where the refugees from Hara Kei’s village are camping. 

“In front of him, nothing. He had a sudden glimpse of what he had considered invisible. The end of the world.” 

Unlike his previous visits, Hara Kei refuses to welcome Joncour, rather urging him to leave. They are living in a war and clearly nothing was left. Nevertheless, Joncour refuses to leave. The following morning, Joncour sees the body of the boy who guided him, hanging from a tree. Hara Kei has executed him for carrying the glove to Joncour and bringing him back to their village. 

Rather hastily, Joncour procures a supply of eggs but leaves far too late in the season to transport them. The silk mill, despite its earlier success, sits idle. To help the workers in the seven mills, Joncour decides to essentially landscape his garden, offering work to those who were missing out in the idle mills. 

“Occasionally, on windy days Hervé Joncour would go down to the lake and spend hours in contemplation of it because he seemed to descry, sketched out on the water, the inexplicable sight of his life as it had been, in all its lightness.” 

Time passes and Joncour receives a letter, again written in Japanese. This cues another visit to Madame Blanche who, after some reluctance, translates this for him. It is an erotic love letter from a woman to her beloved master. It’s lyrical, almost moving.  It tells the tale of a love that we all hope for. After reading, Madame Blanche gives him some of her trademark blue flowers. 

It is at this point that Joncour decides to retire from the silkworm egg business. At this point he and Hélène have three daughters. Unfortunately, Hélène gets sick and dies of a fever. Joncour lives a life of existing, visiting his wife’s grave whenever he gets lonely. It was at one visit he notices Madame Blanche’s blue flowers there. This sparks one final visit to her. 

“When loneliness mastered him he would go up to the cemetery…The rest of his time was taken up with a liturgy of habits that succeeded in warding off sadness.” 

It is with great sadness that at this visit, Joncour learns that this great love letter was authored in fact by his wife. 

“She even wanted to read it to me, that letter. She had the most beautiful voice. And she read those words with an emotion that I’ve never been able to forget. It was as if they really were her own words.”


Overall:

This novel is quite possibly one of the most highly descriptive, moving and emotionally charged novel I’ve probably ever read. It is beautiful and lyrical. It keeps you thinking about it long after you’ve finished reading it. It’s probably one of the best £1’s I’ve spent. 

Big love xx

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Penguin Little Black Classics – 46 New Titles

  

Hi everyone! 

Hope you’re all wonderful on this Thursday morning. 

I’ve kind of spoilt this post by the title – bit of a giveaway! Nevermind. But, Penguin have released 46 new titles to their Little Black Classic collection. Some of you may remember I bought all my year 11 students a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper from this collection last year. Therefore, I wanted investigate and to buy more of these to add to my original collection. I thought you’d all like to see too! (If you haven’t done so already of course.) 

I was very excited yesterday as I was able to pick up my latest titles from my local Waterstones. I’ve got one outstanding – Oscar Wilde’s Only Dull People Are Brilliant At Breakfast which I’m waiting patiently for. Oh Oscar. Anyway… 

I love the fact that they really are affordable fiction; small snapshots into a variety of literary worlds by a selection of fascinating writers. There’s a number of writers that I know nothing about, or have even heard of, and these little gems are a perfect way of reading new things you may be unsure of. 

The latest ones are a little more expensive than the original 80 at 80p (at £1-£2 each) but they are also a tad larger. Bonus: more reading material. 

  

I may set myself a challenge of reading them all, but this may be unrealistic. Some aren’t my cup of tea at all. Nevertheless, I may give it a bash. What do you think?

The complete collection of Little Black Classics are now as follows: 

  • Mrs Rosie and the Priest GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO
  • Bawdy tales of pimps, cuckolds, lovers and clever women from the fourteenth-century Florentine masterpiece The Decameron.
  • As kingfishers catch fire GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
  • The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
  • On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts THOMAS DE QUINCEY
  • Aphorisms on Love and Hate FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
  • Traffic JOHN RUSKIN
  • Wailing Ghosts PU SONGLING
  • A Modest Proposal JONATHAN SWIFT
  • Three Tang Dynasty Poets
  • On the Beach at Night Alone WALT WHITMAN
  • A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees KENKO
  • How to Use Your Enemies BALTASAR GRACIÁN
  • The Eve of St Agnes JOHN KEATS
  • Woman Much Missed THOMAS HARDY
  • Femme Fatale GUY DE MAUPASSANT
  • Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls MARCO POLO
  • Caligula SUETONIUS
  • Jason and Medea APOLLONIUS OF RHODES
  • Olalla ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
  • The Communist Manifesto KARL MARX & FRIEDRICH ENGELS
  • Trimalchio’s Feast PETRONIUS
  • How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher’s Dog JOHANN PETER HEBEL
  • The Tinder Box HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
  • The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows RUDYARD KIPLING
  • Circles of Hell DANTE
  • Of Street Piemen HENRY MAYHEW
  • The nightingales are drunk HAFEZ
  • The Wife of Bath GEOFFREY CHAUCER
  • How We Weep and Laugh at the Same Thing MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE
  • The Terrors of the Night THOMAS NASHE
  • The Tell-Tale Heart EDGAR ALLAN POE
  • A Hippo Banquet MARY KINGSLEY
  • The Beautifull Cassandra JANE AUSTEN
  • Gooseberries ANTON CHEKHOV
  • Well, they are gone, and here must I remain SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
  • Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
  • The Great Winglebury Duel CHARLES DICKENS
  • The Maldive Shark HERMAN MELVILLE
  • The Old Nurse’s Story ELIZABETH GASKELL
  • The Steel Flea NIKOLAY LESKOV
  • The Atheist’s Mass HONORÉ DE BALZAC
  • The Yellow Wall-Paper CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
  • Remember, Body… C.P. CAVAFY
  • The Meek One FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY
  • A Simple Heart GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
  • The Nose NIKOLAI GOGOL
  • The Great Fire of London SAMUEL PEPYS
  • The Reckoning EDITH WHARTON
  • The Figure in the Carpet HENRY JAMES
  • Anthem for Doomed Youth WILFRED OWEN
  • My Dearest Father WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
  • Socrates’ Defence PLATO
  • Goblin Market CHRISTINA ROSSETTI
  • Sindbad the Sailor
  • Antigone SOPHOCLES
  • The Life of a Stupid Man RYŪNOSUKE AKUTAGAWA
  • How Much Land Does A Man Need? LEO TOLSTOY
  • Leonardo da Vinci GIORGIO VASARI
  • Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime OSCAR WILDE
  • The Old Man of the Moon SHEN FU
  • The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon AESOP
  • Lips too chilled MATSUO BASHŌ
  • The Night is Darkening Round Me EMILY BRONTË
  • To-morrow JOSEPH CONRAD
  • The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe RICHARD HAKLUYT
  • A Pair of Silk Stockings KATE CHOPIN
  • It was snowing butterflies CHARLES DARWIN
  • The Robber Bridegroom BROTHERS GRIMM
  • I Hate and I Love CATULLUS
  • Circe and the Cyclops HOMER
  • Il Duro D. H. LAWRENCE
  • Miss Brill KATHERINE MANSFIELD
  • The Fall of Icarus OVID
  • Come Close SAPPHO
  • Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands IVAN TURGENEV
  • O Cruel Alexis VIRGIL
  • A Slip under the Microscope H. G. WELLS
  • The Madness of Cambyses HERODOTUS
  • Speaking of Śiva
  • The Dhammapada
  • Lady Susan JANE AUSTEN
  • The Body Politic JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU
  • The World is Full of Foolish Men JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
  • The Sea Raiders H.G. WELLS
  • Hannibal LIVY
  • To Be Read at Dusk CHARLES DICKENS
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich LEO TOLSTOY
  • The Stolen White Elephant MARK TWAIN
  • Tyger, Tyger WILLIAM BLAKE
  • Green Tea SHERIDAN LE FANU
  • The Yellow Book
  • Kidnapped OLAUDAH EQUIANO
  • A Modern Detective EDGAR ALLAN POE
  • The Suffragettes
  • How To Be a Medieval Woman MARGERY KEMPE
  • Typhoon JOSEPH CONRAD
  • The Nun of Murano GIACOMO CASANOVA
  • A terrible beauty is born W.B. YEATS
  • The Withered Arm THOMAS HARDY
  • Nonsense EDWARD LEAR
  • The Frogs ARISTOPHANES
  • Why I Am so Clever FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
  • Letters to a Young Poet RAINER MARIA RILKE
  • Seven Hanged LEONID ANDREYEV
  • Oroonoko APHRA BEHN
  • O frabjous day! LEWIS CARROLL
  • Trivia: or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London JOHN GAY
  • The Sandman E. T. A. HOFFMANN
  • Love that moves the sun and other stars DANTE
  • The Queen of Spades ALEXANDER PUSHKIN
  • A Nervous Breakdown ANTON CHEKHOV
  • The Book of Tea KAKUZO OKAKURA
  • Is this a dagger which I see before me? WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
  • My life had stood a loaded gun EMILY DICKINSON
  • Daphnis and Chloe LONGUS
  • Matilda MARY SHELLEY
  • The Lifted Veil GEORGE ELIOT
  • White Nights FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY
  • Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast OSCAR WILDE
  • Flush VIRGINIA WOOLF
  • Lot No. 249 ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
  • The Rule of Benedict
  • Rip Van Winkle WASHINGTON IRVING
  • Anecdotes of the Cynics
  • Waterloo VICTOR HUGO
  • Stancliffe’s Hotel CHARLOTTE BRONTË

I’m off to enjoy my lovely little books. I may start with a little Nonsense from Edward Lear; perfect for a Thursday lunchtime. Thanks Penguin. 
  

Big love xx

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Daily Literature Quote 

 Hey everyone,

Reading offers solice and some well earnt ‘me time’ in my life. I’ve been trying to put into words my love of literature recently. It’s actually quite difficult to do! So, my thoughts this dark and damp Monday are neatly summed up by the one and only F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wanted to share this with my many book loving bloggers because I’m sure you’ll all agree. 

 

Thank you for making me feel like I belong. 

Big love to you all. X

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The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

  
This was one of the books I received for my birthday, and I wanted to get started with it right away. The cover and title incorporates two of my great loves: Paris and books. I know we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but I always do, and this cover doesn’t disappoint. It has a timeless and vintage feel about it, and of course looks very beautiful. 

Originally written and published in German in 2013, we are lucky enough now to have a translated version, by Simon Pare, published this summer. However, it doesn’t read like a translated book. In fact the translation needs to be praised. It reads beautifully, like a song. The prose is delicate yet incredibly moving. There are also some incredibly humorous parts in the novel. The description of the Seine brought all my own memories from my trip back, showing how realistic the description is. 

The novel centres on Monsieru Perdu. French translation = Mr Lost. This sums up the majority of the novel and Perdu himself. He is completely lost and in search of the resolution he desperately needs. 

However, in terms of his work, he is more than a book seller. He calls himself the literary apothecary. 

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

His floating bookstore in a barge on the river Seine is where he describes books for the problems of daily life. He has a talent, and after speaking to visitors to his boat, Perdu mends the broken hearts and souls of his guests by prescribing books. He is pictured as refusing to sell a certain book to a lady, because she isn’t ready for it. This is when he meets Max Jordan, the famous writer of one novel, who has become blocked and seeks relief from his swarm of followers. 

“That customer didn’t need Night right now. She couldn’t have coped with it. The side effects are too severe.”

The twist in the tale, so to speak, is that Perdu is unable to heal himself through literature. His life is marred and haunted almost by his great love, Manon, who disappeared, only leaving in with a letter, that he has refused to open for 21 years. It lies hidden, within his very sparse flat. The description of his own living space actually made me feel incredibly sad. There is virtually nothing there. The characters who show the most life at this stage are his two cats, Kafka and Lindren. 

Catherine arrives on the scene, damaged herself from a relationship that went wrong. After meeting Catherine, who finds his letter, he is persuaded into opening it. He cannot believe what he has read, so he hauls anchor and leaves with Max, on a mission to the south of France. He has hopes of making peace with his loss, to find himself and who he really is, and to heal himself in order to discover the end of his own story. Max too, has high hopes of gathering material for his next novel. 

Whilst on their travels in the boat, they come across a number of interesting people and places. The description is just divine. I felt like I was on this journey with them. They have dealings with the police, spend some time with Anke, Ida and Corinna, meet some Brits when the boat ended up across the river and the wrong way round. Having little money, Perdu traded books for essentials that they needed. It seems to me, quite a delightful way of doing business. 

“Ahoy, you book paramedics. Doing some crazy cruising there!”

One of the most interesting characters they meet for me is Cuneo. He becomes the chef of the group. He creates the most stunning dishes that got my own mouth watering through the description. A lovely little touch at the end of the novel, is a selection of the recipes provided for us to recreate the magic at home. This really is a nice touch, and again for me, another love (baking/cooking). 

Their journey calmly continues, but is abruptly brought to shock as the men witness a woman swirling about in a raging storm in the sea. They haul her in and we learn she is called Samantha, she actively fell in on purpose and wanted to feel alive. For me, she is presented as being the female version of Perdu. Their interaction is significant within the novel – but I won’t reveal too much here! 

“I wanted to know what it felt like to jump into the river in this weather. The river looked so interesting, like soup gone wild. I wanted to know if I’d feel afraid in that soup or if my fear would tell me something important.”

A short while after Perdu decides he needs to find himself on his own. Max meets a girl, falls in love and eventually finds inspiration for writing in a new form. For Perdu he needs to follow his journey to find peace within himself. One thing he does realise is that he needs Catherine in his life, and thankfully she feels the same. 

“I don’t know if it’ll work out or if we can avoid hurting each other. Probably not, because we’re human. However, what I do know now, now that this moment I have craved has arrived, is that it’s easier to fall asleep with you in my life. And to wake up. And to love.”

The end of the journey circles back to his original love, Manon and her husband. They meet, and without revealing too much of the story, Perdu is healed and able to move onto a new relationship. Max has published a new story that is doing well and the novel ends tied up in a neat little bow, dusted with happiness.  

Whilst Perdu is essentially telling this story, there are also two other strands of narration via letters. There are the letters of Perdu and Catherine. As well as this, there is also the diary style of Manon. I appreciated that her chapters has titles and a different font. She is an interesting character and appears to show no mercy. However she acts for others, but this is not revealed until near the  close of the novel. 

“I came because you went.”

I really enjoyed this novel. It’s had to place it in a particular genre. There’s food, travel, healing, love, death, hurt and of course books. Some famous writers are also dropped within the narrative e.g. Orwell and Wilde. My only criticism is that there were a lot of characters, whom I really liked, but they were only fleeting. I wanted more time with them, but then the book would have been criticised for being incredibly long! The relationship between Max and Perdu I did like, they become close like father and son which is incredibly touching. 

As well as the recipes at the end, there is also ‘Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy from Adams to Von Arnim’. Here there is a list of books, what they treat and a list of possible side effects. Again, I saw this as a lovely touch and another reason to make this novel stand out from the crowd. 

My only wish, and curiosity almost, is that I could visit and be recommended a book from the magic healer. Maybe in my dreams, or imagination? 

BL xx

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