Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

It’s always slightly intimidating to review a well-known and well-loved story but Anne of Green Gables is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for ages, having somehow skipped over it as a child, and I recently borrowed a copy from the library.

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables is the story of a young orphan who goes to live on a farm with the aging siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, after a mix-up at the orphanage. Written as a series of chronological vignettes, the story follows Anne settling into life at Green Gables, through her school days, all her adventures, hijinks and (many, many) mishaps, making friends and finding “kindred spirits” along the way.

Anne is imaginative, absent-minded, fiery-tempered, relentlessly optimistic and prone to fits of melodrama, but it’s hard not to feel sympathy for her when her background of loneliness and domestic drudgery is revealed, with only her daydreams to keep her company until she moved to Green Gables. One aspect of Anne’s character that resonated with me was her reverence for nature, and how she always noticed the beauty of the changing seasons that so many of us take for granted. I also have a soft-spot for sensible, dry-humoured, calm and collected Marilla, and I loved the exchanges between Anne and Marilla, who seem like such opposites most of the time but are fiercely devoted to each other.

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This is such a gentle, comfort-read and reminded me of other childhood favourites like Heidi, The Secret Garden and Little Women that transport the reader to simpler times and capture all the trials, tribulations and triumphs of childhood and growing up. Have a lovely week. X

The Enchanted Forest ~ Lighting Up Dark Nights

The Enchanted Forest

Last weekend we made our annual jaunt to Pitlochry for the Enchanted Forest, which remains one of our favourite traditions, and a seasonal midpoint marking the transition into the colder, darker months of the year.

The theme this year was ‘Cosmos’, inspired by the skies above the forest and commemorating 50 years since astronauts walked on the moon. Now in its 18th year (and this was our 8th year visiting), it still impresses me that the creative team continue to explore new ideas and technologies, never content to just repeat what they’ve done before, and always striving to make it an immersive and interactive experience.

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It’s so refreshing and restorative to have a night away at this time of year, from watching the scenery change as we cross the country with trees lining the roads already various shades of red, amber and gold, to treading the familiar paths around an illuminated Faskally Woods, pausing to take photos and appreciate the displays, sipping hot chocolate and treating ourselves to a little Christmas decoration from the merchandise stall, before returning to the hotel for a well-earned rest and waking up to marmalade on toast and porridge with honey for breakfast.

The Enchanted Forest is the first of a few seasonal activities we’ve got planned over the next couple of months, and as the nights draw in and life moves indoors, it’s lovely to wrap up warm and get outside for events like this that light up the long, dark nights. Have a lovely week. X

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

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The story begins in Cairo where a young woman called Nahri is working as a thief and con-artist, though she dreams of becoming a physician. During a ceremony to exorcise a demon possessing a young girl, she accidentally summons a warrior Djinn (or rather a Daeva) called Dara, and is pulled into a world of flying carpets, mythical beasts and simmering tensions between the different races of Ifrit, Djinn, Daeva and half-human Shafit. One of the things I loved most about The City of Brass was that it drew from Arabian folklore and mythology which was such a refreshing contrast to the countless medieval European inspired fantasy stories that dominate the genre.

The narrative switches between two perspectives, Nahri, and Ali, a Djinn Prince in the city of Daevabad. The three main characters, Nahri, Dara and Ali are all flawed and victims of circumstance in their own way: Independent and used to fending for herself, Nahri finds herself caught between feuding factions all plotting her future with little consideration for what she wants; Dara was enslaved by the Ifrit to serve human masters and is weighed down by the guilt and shame of all the lives he’s taken and the things he did while enthralled; while Ali – as the second son of King Ghassan – has been trained as a warrior, when he longs to become a scholar and end the injustice and hypocrisy he witnesses.

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The City of Brass is probably the best book I’ve read this year, though it’s not perfect as there are some pacing issues and a few slightly predictable twists, but I was still captivated by this tense, political and character-driven drama as Nahri and Ali discover just how ruthless King Ghassan is and how far he has gone to hold on to his throne and maintain order in the city of Daevabad. This is the first book in The Daevabad Trilogy and I’m looking forward to finding what happens next. Have a lovely week. X

Happy Anniversary to Mara

It’s been far too long since I last wrote about Mara, and as it’s just a week shy of four years since we adopted her from the Scottish SPCA, it seemed fitting to share a wee post about our beloved pet cat today.

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I’ve often wondered what Mara’s life was like before she came to us, what she looked like as a kitten and how she got the scar on her nose, but she settled in with us so quickly, establishing her own little routines that it’s hard to remember what life was like before we adopted her.

Caring for Mara has provided a grounding consistency to our daily life, and in return she’s been a constant source of affection and companionship. Mara can still be shy and skittish around strangers, but she actively seeks out our attention and company, from rushing to the front door to greet us when we return from work to following us around the house as we go about our chores and squeezing herself into the smallest gaps to snuggle up close.

Much has changed since the newly-wed couple just back from their honeymoon adopted a squeaky, tabby and white cat from the rescue shelter – we’ve moved house, we’ve both changed jobs (and the whole direction of our careers), and just as significantly Mara herself survived cancer. We’re now preparing for another significant change, but so far Mara seems oblivious to my pregnancy. I’m not sure how she’ll react to having a noisy, little human infant in her midst but we couldn’t have imagined a more gentle, playful and cuddly family pet (such a contrast to the rough and tumble cats my husband and I had growing up!) and we hope Mara will take this latest shift in our little family’s dynamic in her stride.

Happy anniversary to Mara, and wishing everyone else a lovely week. X