MAJOR BLOG CHANGES (read if you’re here for the books and writing stuff)

If you’ve been here for a while then you may know that my blog didn’t always have a ‘Books’ section, or a ‘Creative Writing’ section. Guess what? Soon it won’t have them again, because I am creating a separate blog, specifically for these things.

Ecstatically Em was always meant to be a food and lifestyle blog, and I added the literature and creative writing aspect of it towards the end of my time at uni. Now that these sections are growing, and getting a really good response from you guys, I feel they need a space of their own. This blog will be remaining as a recipes and lifestyle blog, and the new blog will be a place to read book reviews, creative writing tips, updates on my own attempts to get published as a poet, and (maybe) some of my own poetry (if I kick myself into putting that up).

When this post goes up I will be busy exporting all of my posts that need to be moved to the new blog. Anyone who reads this blog purely for the writing aspects (I can tell from your usernames), then head on over to the new blog, and please follow it to carry on receiving updates! Initially these posts will be old ones I’m moving over. As the exporting tool hasn’t been working for me, and despite chatting with WordPress Help it still isn’t, I’m doing a manual move. Alongside just having started a new job this could take a week or so. After that be expecting some new content- though I may throw new stuff in if I get the chance…

I’m incredibly excited to be starting a new blog. I’ve had this one (including my changing the name, and moving from Blogger to WordPress) since my time in sixth form. Obviously a person changes quite a lot in 5 years, and so does their mind-set and writing style. Even my photography style has changed. This new blog is chance to show a side of my writing this blog doesn’t showcase, and basically start from scratch. I plan on making some changes to Ecstatically Em and my linked IG account as well, but that’s for a different post!

The new blog title and a link to it is below. You’ll have to put up with me whilst I get it up and running, but I hope to hear from you over there…

 

Shelf-Bound

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9 Top Dystopian Reads (and what I want to read next…)

Hello and welcome to another Top Reads post! I’ve covered quite a few adult and YA dystopian reads in my 21 years, and below are my top picks for anyone wanting to try and get into dystopian literature. These are my absolute favourites (I’ve even thrown a poem in there). There are a couple of YA dystopian series I’ve read but haven’t included here, as I thought they just became plain boring after the first book and a half. The very last series I mention (the Divergent series) I have mixed feelings on, but have included it anyway because overall it was a great read.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley- This is a dystopia disguised as utopia. A world where people are drugged up and constantly kept happy- but art, culture, books and general free thought isn’t allowed. Loved the twist at the end. Full review right here.

1984, George Orwell – This is a parallel to the above. This dystopia is obviously a dystopia. The media lie and cover things up, the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. The poor have the man power to overthrow the ruling Big Brother, but aren’t encouraged to think and so to see a different future. Forbidden relationships, fake news, brutal law enforcement, and torture in Room 101. Full review here.

We, Yevgeny Zamyatin- This is massively underrated as a dystopian book, although it has a lot in common with 1984. The ending is very similar, but no spoilers in this post! I don’t believe I’ve written a review of this novel yet, and so keep your eyes peeled in the future. One of my favourite dystopian novels of all time, possibly in the top three.

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins- This is my favourite YA dystopian series. I completely fell in love with it. Its one of the only things (excepting London Grammar), where I can say that I liked it before it was cool. Katniss is one of the best female YA characters I have come across in this specific genre of fiction.

Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, Anna Letitia Barbauld – This is actually a poem. It criticises Britain’s role in the Napoleonic Wars, and imagines a future where Britain as an empire has declined, and America’s empire is on the rise. Barbauld gives the vision of London (and Britain itself) joining other ancient civilizations long gone. Its got some pretty dystopian elements, and wasn’t well received at the time because of this. Continue reading

The Handmaid’s Tale: Book Review

1500221125976This book has been on my reading list for a long time, since reading The Penelopiad in a first year uni module, back in 2014. Its taken me three years to get around to it, but I have finally read the book. Now I feel I can start on the TV show!

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel written in 1985, by Margaret Atwood. In the USA, a wave of totalitarianism has swept over the land, creating a place where some women are used as “Handmaids”, an odd kind of surrogate to those in power. This new world is called Gilead. Many women have been left sterile due to pollution levels (it is implied that the rest of America outside the confines of the novel- “The Colonies”-  is barren and toxic, with those living in these areas suffering some kind of radiation sickness where the extremities and even the skin peels away), and STDs. The world inside the borders of what I suppose is a large compound where the characters of the novel live (at least as big as a city), and is a strange echo of a literal reading of the Old Testament views on women. Many references are made to the biblical, but in the most fanatical ways. Women are not allowed to have their own money, read, and modesty is a must. Offred, the protagonist and narrator, vaguely remembers a time before this came to pass, before she had to become a Handmaid. There are implications that outside the world she lives in, war between the fanatics who run the compound, and other religious and social groups, is still raging. Offred knows she has another name from this past, but never mentions what exactly it is. Her memories are brief and fragmented, so that as a reader you understand she had a partner called Luke (previously divorced, and under this new law divorce doesn’t exist, making Offred an adulteress), a feminist mother, a friend named Moira, a young daughter, a rigorous academic education (she often remembers things she learnt in past times), and a job which required a knowledge of technology. We understand that as things worsened in society (all women’s bank accounts were closed and the women laid off of work, the money in the accounts being transferred to the next male of kin), Luke, “Offred”, and their daughter attempted to escape across the borders. Luke was shot (it appears, we have no idea if he is dead or alive), Offred captured and forced to become a Handmaiden, and her daughter taken somewhere else.

There’s all the background you need to know. I want to leave the finer points and weirder little things, and of course THE ENDING, for you to discover yourself. There aren’t any major spoilers above, but from this point on, there will be. There are a few things about this novel, a few messages in it, which I think are very important. Grab a cuppa, because this is a long review/discussion. Skip to the last one if you don’t have time. Anyone who has also read this, please chip in below and let me know what you thought: Continue reading

Creative Constipation. Yes, you read that right.

I know I have a few people who read this blog that love reading, writing, and all things creative. And so I want to talk about something that plagues pretty much all of us creatives from time to time. I am going to call it creative constipation. Its not writer’s block, its different. Just to clarify. I might ‘TM’ it.

Creative constipation is when you have an idea that doesn’t want to come out. It is there. It is ready to be introduced to the world- but you can’t get it out. And it becomes uncomfortable carrying it around all day every day. Sometimes it is downright frustrating and even painful. Other ideas build up behind it, but also can’t get out. You stop wanting to write or be creative because of all of the shit building up (pardon the pun). Do you get why I’m calling it this now? This is literally the only way to describe it. Writer’s block is, for me, when you simply can’t think of an idea. This is much more frustrating, and it does get me down from time to time.

Right now, having moved back to Bradford from Newcastle, I have lost my creative writing circle. One I’ve had due to my degree for three whole years, and I’m struggling to find a replacement back home. Yes, they’re on the end of messenger, but it isn’t the same and believe it or not I have an aversion to being social on “social” media. Face to face is best for writing support, I think. Changes like this can often feel a bit stifling, because the ideas are still there, but you don’t really have anyone else to talk them through with. My family don’t want to hear me rambling on about poetry. My friends back home aren’t into poetry, though they will patiently listen to be try and explain an idea for something I want to write, bless them. A lot of them love prose however, and so if I can translate an idea for a poetry collection into a prose-y sounding synopsis, its much easier to explain and they manage to fill me with enthusiasm and ideas.

But what can we do to relieve creative constipation if you don’t have any creative lifelines? (its okay, you can laugh. I’m absolutely wetting myself on this side of the screen). Well, you do what you do with normal constipation. For that you increase the amount of fruit and veg and fibre and water you intake (can you tell I’m also into #health?). For creative constipation you need to look for things that might link to your creative idea that you haven’t been doing, and might help push it out onto paper. For example, I’m looking at working tattoos into the next batch of poems I want to write, so these are things I can do:

  • Find a photography book of poems if possible, for some inspiration
  • Sketch tattoos characters would wear and consider why?
  • Visit art galleries- what would I want to recreate on my body?
  • Speak to one of my friends who is covered in amazing tattoos, about the process and how it feels
  • Get a tattoo (might put that on hold until financially viable)
  • Pinterest! Instagram!
  • I have to dream up the characters and the world of my poems, so look around at different cultures, movies, books etc. and different styles and methods of tattooing
  • People watch.
  • Consider people’s reactions to tattoos

This list could go on and on and on. Not all these tasks are going to produce things that make it into the poems, but they might just inadvertently trigger the release of those ideas that have built up. Think of these things as the fibre that will release that constipation. If the things you think may help don’t work, then take the laxative: force yourself to go to a creative writing class. Even if it looks like an awful one. Even if you end up listening to Betty telling you about the collection of short stories she’s writing about her cat Tiddles, its sure to produce a reaction that gets your idea onto the page as your brain goes into spasm. However painful.

So what do you think? Are any of you feeling creatively constipated?

The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter (Book Review)

1498738436270My latest book purchase was on a bit of a whim, as recently I’ve been spending more money on poetry than prose. Here, I made an exception.

Little bit of background on my kind of fairy tales: I am Grimm girl, not a Hans Christian Anderson girl. I used to have a book of fairly gruesome English fairy tales when I was about twelve, and they were brilliant too. I would say Carter leans more towards the Grimm versions of the tales most people know, but with definite modern twists. If I had to sum up her style in one word? Refreshing.

The style of writing is very elaborate in most of the stories. Its much more convoluted that I’m used to, and I swung wildly between loving and hating it. In some stories it made the whole atmosphere gothic and strangely beautiful, in others I found it made the tale harder to follow. The tone is definitely reminiscent of the classic fairy tale mode of story telling. There really is something magical in many of the stories, but with a grittier edge that makes them more adult. They’re more focused on the female body and sex for one. Continue reading

Book Review: Brain over Binge

From the end of April until the end of May I was struggling with some of the most hard-core binge eating I have ever experienced (I know I owe you all a recovery update soon, because I’m now doing pretty well!). Nothing I was doing was improving my situation, meaning that I was ready to try absolutely anything- including buying this book. I had heard amazing reviews, and reports of people stopping binge eating immediately after having finished it. I was not one of those people. I have some severely mixed feelings on this book, and am still not sure entirely what I think of it, so this could be a long review.

Before buying Brain Over Binge I had a good long browse of the responses from readers on Good Reads and Amazon. They were overwhelmingly positive, but a few stood out to me as swinging the opposite way, claiming that the book was frustrating and disappointing, that the author (Kathryn Hansen) lacks the expert knowledge of the functioning of the brain to make the assumptions she makes, that the style of writing is awful, that the writer tells her story in pointless detail- and that the overwhelming message of the book was insulting to those suffering from binge eating. Because the message was : just don’t binge! Now, I don’t entirely agree with these reviews. I didn’t find the style of writing annoying, I found the details of Hansen’s journey interesting, and it was comforting to know someone had gone through close to the same thing as I was in that moment. I know that the author isn’t a brain scientist, but although her book is mainly theory based it does all make sense. She also does signpost the fact that she is drawing on her own experience and rookie research. I thought she had made links between other addictions and their treatment very well. However, I do have to agree with two things:

  • There wasn’t enough advice on handling the urge to binge, and so stopping (I did some research here: Hansen runs a podcast and has numerous blog posts and YouTube interviews, where she addresses additional questions such as these).
  • The “now you know this you can just stop binging” message did bite me in the arse further down the line.

Continue reading

Poetry you need to read. It could convert you…

1496929404558Hello there readers! So, its been a while since I wrote a post here, what with final year hand-ins. More importantly, following hand-ins I made the decision to take nearly two weeks away from IG and blogging, because on Sunday I leave Newcastle forever (only joking, I’ll be back), and move home to Yorkshire to begin life as a working girl (that’s right, I’ve signed my life away starting in September). The weeks I had left, I understandably wanted to spend with my amazing friends, who are also all buggering off home in a few days. What else have I been up to? Well, if you read this blog often you’ll know that my degree was English Literature with Creative Writing, that I specialise in poetry, and that I always have a book on me. For the past few weeks I’ve been living in a bubble of coffee, reading, and poetry writing (lots of book reviews coming soon). And much as I knew I should be getting some recipes up here, I also knew I didn’t have any ingredients for what I wanted to make -I’m winding down my cupboards so won’t be buying anything in until I reach Bradford. All I wanted to do was read and write. And then I realised: this is my bloody blog and I’ll write what I want. And so today we are talking poetry, and recipes are on hold until I get home.

A lot of people hate poetry. But, poetry is one of the most powerful literary forms out there. Poetry is dangerous. Look at the Romantic era radicals and their poetry. Look at poetry of witness now, and political or spoken work poetry. One of my lecturers once said that poetry holds us in a little bubble of the present; it’s more alive than prose because you experience things so much more vividly for being held in one moment. You’re carried along in that little bubble, and things don’t have to be 100% clear in poems- its about a feeling you get from them. You have to leave a good poem or collection changed in some way. I’ll write a whole post on this at some point. Today, I want to introduce you to some collections, and some poets I think you will love. Some are classic, some are modern, some are to be spoken, some are to be read, some are female, some are male. I hope you find at least one you like.

 

 

Rupi Kaur- Milk & Honey

A fellow poetry student recommended this to me, and I fell in love with it. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. I love collections that tell a story, and this definitely does that. Each poem is short and I’m sure you will find at least one that resonates with you. If you’re a feminist, get yourself a copy asap and thank me lat.

 

Andrew McMillan- Physical

This was the first poetry collection that made me want to be a poet. I fell head over heels for this collection. Its about a homosexual relationship and the male body. It is beautiful. It is painful. It is a must-read. I met Macmillan at a reading in Leeds and actually forgot how to speak for a good five minutes. Its also a novelty to hear poetry in a Yorkshire accent, if you fancy listening to his readings online.

 

Staying Alive anthology (numerous poets)

If you want to read a few different poets in one purchase, then I can’t recommend this enough. If you’re new to poetry then you can flick through and find poets you like to follow up on a bit more. This anthology is published by Bloodaxe, and its contemporary poems on the reality of living in unreal times. Continue reading