Books I read in June 2021

Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes (physical book, new read)

‘’In Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes redresses imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar (the box came later) as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus or Agamemnon, Paris or Odysseus, Oedipus or Jason, the voices that sing from these pages are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.’’ (Pandora’s Jar synopsis)

I’ve previously read some of Haynes myth retellings and was sad to feel a bit detached whilst reading. I did, however, still want to read this book and I’m so glad I did because I really loved it, I think it could be in my favourites of the year! 😊 It felt to me like reading a podcast which I loved, it was easy to read, well written and always interesting. I love learning more through books and feel excited when I start to retain more knowledge about the many (MANY) characters in mythology, and it was great to learn more in this book, particularly about the amazons- I’d previously only really known a little about Penthesilea’s death and taken the rest from Wonder Woman- and Medea, who’s story is so horrifying and interesting. I also enjoyed Haynes references to pop culture throughout as they never felt like too much or brought me out of the book- I’d really recommend listening to Lemonade whilst reading Medea’s chapter! This book has intrigued me to read more non-fiction about these myths from different perspectives, please let me know if you’ve read any good books in this category!

Witches, Warriors, Women: Mythology’s Fiercest Females, written by Kate Hodges and illustrated by Harriot Lee Merrion (physical book, new read)

‘’From feminist fairies to bloodsucking temptresses, half-human harpies and protective Vodou goddesses, these are women who go beyond long-haired, smiling stereotypes. Their stories are so powerful, so entrancing, that they have survived for millennia. Lovingly retold and updated, Kate Hodges places each heroine, rebel and provocateur fimly at the centre of their own narrative. Players include:Bewitching, banished Circe, an introvert famed and feared for her transfigurative powers. The righteous Furies, defiantly unrepentant about their dedication to justice. Fun-loving Ame-no-Uzume who makes quarrelling friends laugh and terrifies monsters by flashing at them. The fateful Morai sisters who spin a complex web of birth, life and death.’’ (Witches synopsis)

This was my second mythology-based non-fiction book of the month, and it filled with short, illustrated character accounts. I bought this online from Edinburgh’s social justice book shop ‘Lighthouse’ after reading about the racially charged and homophobic abuse staff were dealing with, resulting in the shop temporarily closing; if you can, please support their shop! I enjoyed this book and the accompanying illustrations, although they weren’t my personal art style, I prefer really bright colours and patterns. It wasn’t my favourite book of the month, however, it was an interesting read and it was good to learn more about Scottish myths! I’d like to continue to learn about Celtic and Scottish mythology. 😊

Theogony and Works and Days by Hesiod (physical books, new reads)

‘’Hesiod belongs to the transitional period in Greek civilization between the oral tradition and the introduction of a written alphabet. His two major surviving works, the Theogony and the Works and Days, address the divine and the mundane, respectively. The Theogony traces the origins of the Greek gods and recounts the events surrounding the crowning of Zeus as their king. A manual of moral instruction in verse, the Works and Days was addressed to farmers and peasants.’’ (Theogony & Works and Days synopsis)

I do not know how I ended up owning this, which means I probably borrowed/stole it from my sister who has a random assortment of books from her literature degree haha. I tend not to like plays unless watching them as a play, especially those written long ago as the writing can frazzle my brain a bit. However, I was on a mythology binge and this was in my flat so here we are. These plays are so famous and studied so often that I know they are important, however, I am not their target reader and I found them very, very boring so I’m just going to leave this here.

Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller (physical books, rereads)

My last blog post is basically a love letter rambling about these books, so I won’t go into them here but I’d be thankful for anyone who’d like to read that post or comment your own thoughts about these books on it 😊

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts (physical book, new reads)

‘’It is in 1950’s Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim, gently guiding her through the water in the shadow of the city’s famous pier and Marion is smitten–determined her love alone will be enough for them both. A few years later near the Brighton Museum, Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted, and opens Tom’s eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world of art, travel, and beauty. Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion and meet Patrick in secret. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.’’ (My Policeman synopsis)

I loved the idea of this book, and I was very intrigued to read it. Sadly, I didn’t find this book very interesting, and it was quite a challenge to get through. This led me to think about this is more detail as I eventually dnf’d ‘The Paying Guests’ earlier this year as well as reading but feeling bored and disappointed by ‘Carol’. All three of these books are set in the early/middle 1900’s, and all three are centred around gay/bi characters. I’ve loved books set in this type period before, for example, ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ which is one of my favourites. When reflecting on why I loved this as opposed to the others, I concluded that Crimson Petal is so vivid, passionately written and features dimensional characters. It also features themes that were particularly taboo for this time period, for example, prostitution, but Faber did not shy away from these themes and instead brought them to life, vividly highlighting the hardships and impact on the characters wellbeing. The other books I’ve mentioned, including My Policeman felt flat in comparison. I think the nature of this conservative time period can often mean that the characters can be written in a way which feels stilted. This works well in reflecting the constraints of the time, however, can- for me- make the reading experience feel flat and a bit glum. I think this explains why I am often disappointed by historical fiction set in this time period. Interestingly (to me, probably not to anyone else because I’m just rambling hahaha), I don’t feel this way whilst watching historical fiction of this time period. I love Downton Abbey and Titanic, for example, so it maybe that my imagination is lacking when reading.

In reflecting back, I also feel like I struggled with these books due to the exploration of life as an LGBT person in the early-middle 1900’s. I am always looking for LGBT representation and I appreciate that these stories reflect the risk, stress, homophobia and taboo surrounding being gay. I am thankful that these authors choose to write inclusively. I think, however, I’ve read enough depressing LGBT stories now that I just want to read happy or at least more positive depictions of gay relationships. I think in coming to accept my own sexuality, I already deal with internalised homophobia and feel the weight of current LGBT issues. Reading about them is therefore quite draining and weighs on me, although I acknowledge that it’s so important. I’m therefore going to avoid LGBT accounts in historical fiction for a while, and I’d love if you could comment any positive, happy LGBT books which you have read. 😊 (Sorry, I did not plan for such a tangent here haha!) Ps. I do think Harry Styles is a great choice, and think he has the charisma to play the character well in the film adaptation!

Everyday Activism: How to Change the World in Five Minutes, One Hour or a day by Rachel England (physical book, new read)

‘’This inspiring, easy-to-use guide will help kickstart any activist’s journey. From supporting independent businesses and amplifying marginalised voices, to community gardening and giving to a food bank, there’s something you can do to make a positive change – whether you have a day, an hour, or just five minutes to spare.’’ (Everyday Activism synopsis)

I found this by chance is a bookshop this month and read it in one sitting; this is an easy read with some interesting, positive reflections and ideas for activism. Some are common sense, but all were interesting and very achievable small ways to make a difference. I’m sure there are more advanced or nuanced books of this genre, as well as some books on activism which are far more diverse. I’d love to read these in the future and try to actively work to make positive change, but this book was an interesting starting point! 😊

Thank you for reading, especially as I accidentally rambled lots haha! I’d love any recommendations based on the books I’ve been reading, and I’d love to know what you have been reading recently. I hope you’re well! 😊

Pretty places in Scotland

I love nature and the outdoors so I thought I’d share some pictures of Scotland which will hopefully be calming in these times. I feel lucky to live in such a beautiful country. There are many places I’d love to see in the future and many that aren’t pictured here as sadly I only have photos from some places but I’d recommend a visit to Scotland if you’ve never been 🙂

Glenfinnan viaduct and Culloden Battlefield

I was so excited to drive to Glenfinnan Viaduct as a stereotypical lover of Harry Potter. Harry Potter feels like childhood and Glenfinnan Viaduct is beautiful (I played the theme tune as I walked up the hill hahaha). The drive alone is worth it (although it took about 3.5 hours from my house) as Glencoe is extremely picturesque. The Culloden Battlefield is just on the other side of the Viaduct, which would be of interest to those who love history (or if you like Outlander, although I’m not sure how historically accurate Outlander is).

Glencoe

Sadly a lot of these pictures are taken on my old phone which got a bit scraped, so the camera is not the best. However, on the drive through Glencoe there are beautiful hills and mountains all around (I’m yet to climb one, I’d love to travel around Scotland in a campervan. I have to do the North coast 500 at some point, and I’d love to walk the West Highland way.

My local lochs and drives

This is the loch next to my house, it’s absolutely beautiful especially on (rare) sunny days. My favourite part of the loch is this forest trail and I’ve really enjoyed being able to go on bike rides (that kill my legs) especially at sunset when I tend not to see anybody and the deer start to come out (I’m still trying to get them to stop running away from me). I honestly feel like I’m in the hunger games or twilight. I also enjoy seeing the pretty swans swimming around, but I do not recommend getting close to them as they can only be defined as evil.

I love when Scotland snows (although I think this is an unpopular opinion) and it begins to feel all Wintery like Narnia.

These are again pictures near my house 😊 I live just outside Glasgow. I also enjoy seeing the occasional highland cow and the many hills.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

Three lochs forest drive:

I recently went here whilst social distancing before the lockdown and it was a nice balance of driving and walks that are good for the unfit like me. I never get sick of forests; something feels magical about them and I love the sound of the birds singing (I sound like a Disney film). I took Norse Mythology here to read which added to the magical element.

Dumyat Hill:

Over the past year or so I’ve enjoyed hill walking, usually in the Stirling area. This picture is from Dumyat which is a good hill to start on, but my favourite I’ve climbed so far has been Ben A’an. I’m hoping to work up to higher hills in the future, one positive from these crazy times is making the most of nature and the outdoors again 😊 I sometimes like to focus on the environmental benefits around the world to bring some positivity to such a horrible situation.

Stirling Uni:

For some reason I didn’t really like Stirling Uni when I was there, but it has an amazing setting! Stirling is beautiful and has always reminded me of a little Edinburgh.

Glasgow

I’m biased because I live closer, but I’ve always been a Glasgow person more than Edinburgh. I would definitely recommend visiting Glasgow if you haven’t before, it has a great balance of nightlife, music, museums, parks and shops as well as theatres (and Glasgow uni/Hogwarts). I also think that the people are really friendly and helpful (the one’s who aren’t trying to stab you) and it has a positive atmosphere.

Botanic Gardens:

I would class the West end as the fancy part of Glasgow haha, it has pretty vintage shops, bars and the amazing (and free, woohoo) Botanic Gardens. Kelvingrove art gallery is also nearby 😊

Edinburgh

Whilst I love Glasgow, Edinburgh is still a fantastic place. I love the fact that you can visit a castle, shops and the theatre, go on a Harry Potter tour and walk up a dormant volcano in the same day. I now associate Edinburgh with 6.30am uni trains haha, but it’s always an exciting and patriotic place to see. These pictures were taken on Arthurs seat.

Culross

Again good for Outlander fans, parts were filmed here 😊 There is a little (usually freezing beach) and a number of brightly coloured houses to be seen as well as a beautiful old fashioned church. I don’t know how much there is to see round about as I’m never really explored, but it makes for a pretty day trip and is fairly close to Burnt Island.

Finnich Glen/Devil’s Pulpit

I have apparently become Outlander woman at this point, another filming location. I’ll have to go back here on a future sunny day because the pictures don’t do it justice, but this is a mystical and almost haunting place. I will say though, be careful on the way down because the staircase has eroded (thank you german man who stopped me plummeting to my death hahaha), but it’s fun to walk in the waterfall and look at all of the colours. I also enjoyed the eery witchy tales associated with the devil’s pulpit. P.s the live action Pokémon film also has a scene filmed here (did not like that film haha) and recently the tv programme The Nest.

Ayr

I’ve never managed to get a sunny day here, but there are lots of beaches to be seen!

Anstruther

Famous chippy, cute independent shops and beaches. Anstruther is very close to St Andrews, another picturesque place for a day trip. Last year after coming back from holiday I drove to St Andrews beach on a whim to pretend I was still in Greece (didn’t work haha) so I now have nice associations of St Andrews and Song of Achilles- I love this book.

Aviemore

We drove here on a Wintery day through beautiful snowy mountains to visit the reindeer (it doesn’t look real in this picture, but it was!) I haven’t spent a lot of time here, but I know that there are tourist attractions that make it a popular place to visit.

I hope you get the chance to visit anywhere that interests you, please let me know where you’re from 🙂