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Moranthologyby Caitlin Moran

I am no longer blogging at Novel Insights, but that doesn’t mean you can’t follow me on Twitter @Novel_Insights.

I’ll also be guest-posting now and then on Savidge Reads‘ wonderful blog so look out for me yonder!

First Resolution of the Year: Not Blogging!

Well firstly, I’d like to wish everyone a massive Happy New Year!

I personally am very excited about 2013. As with every year, I expect that there will be ups and downs, but I am hopeful that it will be a good one. There will be wedding bells for my fiance and I, and a place of our own! I am also keeping my fingers and toes crossed that there are good times in store for some of my nearest and dearest who have had a tough couple of years.

So, on to the main topic of this post. A farewell to blogging.

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Geek alert! I take my New Year’s resolutions seriously. I know that I can set a goal at any time of the year, however I also find that as the year draws to a close, and the holiday provides a bit of extra time for thought and reflection, it is helpful for me to consider what I want to keep and to change in my life.

Over the past few months, I’ve had a recurring hunch that it might be time to give up blogging, so finally last night I sat down and penned the following pros / cons list:

To blog, or not to blog...

Novel Insights has evolved quite a bit since the early, earnest days. I’ve been blogging for four years now. I’ve loved the opportunity to express myself and to learn, and enjoyed developing my thoughts about books that I have read as well as spamming the interweb with various bits of personal waffle – knitting, running, baking – yes blogging has revealed my (not so) secret granny side!

But the past year, Novel Insights has been on a visible wind-down (hence the recent blogging break), partly because I’ve been busy, but perhaps more because if I’m being honest, then I’m just not as motivated as I once was.

I won’t rule out taking up blogging again sometime in the future, but the conclusion that I’ve come to is that it is just not right for me now.

So, I’m drawing a line under it.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite personal literary moments:

  1. Being introduced to some of the more obscure / forgotten authors by Simon of Stuck In a Book. My favourite: The Vet’s Daughter, by Barbara Comyns
  2. Being entirely baffled and frustrated by Kafka, and Calvino which made me feel like something of a philistine! Challenging: The Trial, and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
  3. Some fabulous book group reads. I loved: Middlesex, Never Let me Go, and How To Be a Woman 
  4. Being seduced by Sensation Novels courtesy of Savidge Reads (who introduced me to blogging in the first place!). The best female villain award goes to: Lydia Gwilt, in Armadale by Wilkie Collins

Thank you to everyone who has read and shared their thoughts on Novel Insights, and warmest wishes for a fantastic 2013.

Over and out…

xxx

Novel Insights.

Seasons Greetings

As I’m reading A Christmas Carol, I thought I’d share one of Arthur Rackham’s cheerful illustrations today – Mr and Mrs Fezziwig having fun dancing together.

Wherever you are and whoever you are with, I hope you have a wonderful day!

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Mellow Yellow Meyer Lemon Drizzle Cake

Thank you to everyone who posted suggestions on my when life gives you lemons…” post asking what to do with the fruit from my Meyer Lemon tree. The one that really took my fancy was the idea of making a Lemon Drizzle Cake, and I did just that on Sunday.

Zesting:

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Cooling on a wire rack after being drenched in a glossy lemony syrup:

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Lemony icing sugar is drizzled on top:

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Ready to eat!

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It was a really delicious and light and fluffy – although more a testament I think to this excellent recipe than my baking. I’d like to think Mary Berry would be proud.

I have a couple of littler lemons ripening still on the tree so I’ll save those for that G&T…

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

5 stars5/5

The Song of Achilles is the first book that I have read in recent months that has really transported me to another world. I was so
wrapped up in the story, that I was thinking about it frequently in between picking up my Kindle.

The Song of Achilles

Bloomsbury, 2012 Kindle Edition, 368 pages – book group choice

That might simply make you question my reading choices, however recently I have read books that were well written, or interesting, but they haven’t inspired as much pleasure in reading as Madeline Miller’s book did. It takes a particular quality of writing to really whisk me away. I can count probably on my fingers those that have. Examples, off the top of my head would be Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Middlesex, The Night Circus and of course Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca or Jamaica Inn.

I loved reading Greek myths as a child and studied classics at school so it would be fair to say that I’m pre-disposed to enjoy this kind of novel. I do believe though, that it is accessible to anyone and might even inspire an interest in mythology in readers who haven’t read stories of this kind. Essentially it is simply a story of love and of war…but mainly of love.

The quality of Madeline Miller’s storytelling is the thing that really stands out for me. She often embellishes and intrigues the reader with fleeting references to other greek heroes, gods and goddesses, but never lets detail get in the way of the flow of the tale. Her descriptions are often lush and sensual, such as Patroclus, watches Achilles eating ripe figs:

“…the dark flesh parting to pink seeds under his teeth. The fruit was perfectly ripe, the juice brimming”.

I cared about her characters – tenacious Briseis, kind Patroclus with his constant but gentle love for Achilles – and enjoyed the sparring between the proud warriors.

I don’t know accurate it is from a scholarly perspective and I know
Miller takes some liberty with the stories (which she freely admits),
but she has obviously taken care to really research before elaborating
on the original tales. Just like in The Red Tent, the author has taken a
fleeting piece of the original and then expanded it, adding her own
creative flourish – you could say, in Homeric style.

A wonderful novel, and an absolute pleasure to read.

Chasing Bawa and Savidge Reads and Farmlanebooks also loved this novel if you want to find out what they thought!

When life gives you lemons…

It’s been pretty busy the last couple of weeks what with the new job, so I thought I’d pop by quickly to share a picture of my lovely Meyer Lemon tree (actually my fiancé’s but I take care of it!) which is looking splendid. It’s the first time I’ve ever really grown, or kept something growing successfully.

Anyone got any good ideas about what I should do with the first fruit of my labours? So far gin and tonic or pancakes with lemon and sugar is all I have come up with..!

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Happy Birthday Bram Stoker

Oooh. What a fabulous design on Google today.

If you haven’t read it, then Dracula is available for free for download on Kindle.

Happy Birthday Mr Stoker – 165 years today – a mere infant in Vampire years…