The Mime Order Blog Tour: If I were a voyant…

On this the 4th stop on The Mime Order’s UK blog tour, as I’ve already posted a review I decided to get creative.

If you’ve read The Bone Season, there is absolutely no way you’ve not thought, if only in passing, about what kind of a voyant you may have been were you thrust head-first into its pages. My own thoughts on the matter have been fleeting, first used as a gag for a video review on my somewhat defunct (but hopefully one day revivable) youtube channel, but as the publication date of hotly anticipated book #2, I decided it was high time I considered it seriously—and photographically.

My choice was to between two obvious options (three, if there were a type of voyant whose numa were twin lens reflex cameras, or box cameras, or any cameras): firstly, bibliomancy. I work in books, I spend most of my life reading books, I design them, I devour them. It would be all too easy for books to be my numa and I thought that might be too obvious a choice to make.

Secondly, cleidomancy (which you may have guessed if you saw a certain question and answer on twitter). Though obvious to almost everyone who knows me in person, you, dear reader, may be wondering why I made this choice and rightly so.

You who read this blog probably haven’t seen my wrists or the box which sits on one of the shelves in my room, waiting for a time when I have my own walls on which I can hang beautiful display frames. You would not have seen the equally beautiful leather-bound notebook I still have not dared to use for fear of ruining it. You might, if you follow one of my tumblr accounts, have noticed my obsession with a certain key-wielding series of video games. You will definitely have noticed my usernames on almost every social media platform ever and perhaps the other URL which brings you to this website.

I am obsessed with keys. I collect them, skeleton keys mostly (currently living in the aforementioned box). I love to imagine the doors they once opened and the rooms into which those doors led, and then the people who walked through those rooms; born, grown, lived, died. It makes sense, then, that if I were to commune with the spirits of the dead I would use one or more of my collection.

The key featured in these images, newly-probably-not-quite-coined bookography (expect more, I like it), is the first I ever purchased and the key that provided the shape for the tattoo on my right wrist. I remember vividly the day that I bought it, the smell of the shop (appropriately situated in Oxford), the long walk to another which sold masks after, the walk back to college and the impending A Level exam. It is my favourite.

So there you have it.

If I were a voyant, I would be a cleidomancer. A smoky-purple aura’d soothsayer, who has a penchant for top hats and deep purple–burgundy colours.

Hop along to Curiosity Killed the Bookworm tomorrow for your next stop! But before you go…

Competition time!

Enquiring minds would like to know what type of voyant you would be and why, in return I will endeavour, with the help of my camera and my partner in crime, to turn two lucky entrants into their voyant selves! Easy peasy!

How to enter

Leave a comment below with your chosen voyant type and why – do be creative! And remember to leave your name and twitter handle (or email) so that I can contact you!

What you win

A photoshoot with myself and Dress.Simple (at a time and date discussed with you by email later) in which we will transport you, using magic, into the world created by the brilliant Samantha Shannon.

Terms and conditions

  1. To enter you must be over 18 or have written permission of a parent or guardian (who will accompany you to the shoot should you win).
  2. You must be able to get to London or Oxford for the resulting photoshoot.
  3. You must be willing to have your image displayed online (via this website and my facebook photography page) and used by Bloomsbury* should they see fit.
  4. All entries need to be in by midnight (GMT) on 18th February 2015.
  5. Winners will be announced within a week of the closing date on this blog, twitter and facebook.
  6. If you do not respond within 48 hours of the initial winners announcement, another winner will be chosen.


There will be two winners, one chosen by me and the other chosen by a mystery judge, who will be announced 1st February in another Mime Order-related blog post. We will be picking our favourites so make ‘em good!

 If you want to buy The Mime Order it is available on the Bloomsbury website, Waterstones, Amazon and all good retailers! Happy reading!

 *Please note: this competition is not run by nor affiliated with Bloomsbury beyond being a stop on the blog tour, and will only run if more than 5 entries are received

Pentatonix at the O2 Academy, Oxford

Last Thursday yielded the culmination of many months of excitement: Pentatonix, live and wonderful. If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably inferred by my gushy tweets that I enjoyed it. Allow me to gush some more here.

I do not exaggerate when I say that this experience was probably the highlight of my 2014 so far. It started with my discovering that, if you’re on O2, you can skip the queue. Thanks, O2. Awesome. If we hadn’t skipped the queue thanks to my shiny, shiny contract we probably wouldn’t have been as near to the front as we were and I would probably not have been able to see a thing, being somewhat vertically challenged and having to wear glasses (amazing glasses, which I would never ever trade for contacts). As it was, I had a pretty great view and we were close enough to see Mitch’s fantastically sassy facial expressions, a sight which would have been sorely missed (and those high notes – whoa!).

If you’ve watched their videos (two of which can be found below), you know how incredible they are but seeing them perform live takes their music to another level. Even if you’ weren’t looking, you could feel how much they were enjoying themselves and it was impossible not to enjoy it with them. Their enthusiasm is like electricity and the energy… – Pentatonix have an incredible amount of energy, not only were they all singing almost all of the time but often songs were choreographed. I can’t imagine how hard it is to do that for just one show, let alone a whole tour with both an American and European leg.

The vocals were powerful and en pointe – Avi’s bass notes were not only heard but felt – and I definitely got goosebumps at more than one point during the show.  Run to You, an original song, elicited silence from the crowd and there were moments when you could have heard a pin drop (excuse the cliché); it was beautiful to listen to and to watch. It was clear from each of their faces how much that song means to them and was possibly my favourite part of the concert (if I absolutely had to pick one). Pentatonix were made to sing together.

As well as the music, I also really enjoyed how they interacted with the crowd (everyone wanted to be Jessica, the girl they called on stage for Let’s Get It On) – when people shouted about how awesome they were, they thanked them. It was clear that they appreciated us as much as we appreciated them, which makes for a great experience all round. Kirstie’s face when Scott enlisted the audience in singing Happy Birthday to her was beautiful, she seemed so, incredibly happy.

I can’t finish this blog without mentioning three things: Scott’s ‘FLAWLESS’ shirt, which is perhaps the most perfect shirt he could have worn; Kevin’s celloboxing, I need some of that on my ipod right now – it was amazing, totally amazing; and finally, Avi’s overtone singing, I can’t even describe it other than to say that the man is clearly some kind of mystical being who has jumped out of a fantasy novel – that is the only explanation.

It was a fantastic gig and I know I will be seeing them again when they’re next in Oxford/the UK.

Barefoot Books, Oxford: I found myself in Wonderland

I found myself in Wonderland by Elou Carroll

I found myself in Wonderland by Elou Carroll

Last weekend, I popped into Barefoot Books to pick up a copy of The Snow Queen and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, when asked if I wanted them to be gift wrapped, I proudly announced that the books for me; I read them that very same day and they read as beautifully as they look. Barefoot is a beautiful place, and a publisher I would very much like to secure an internship at (fingers crossed for my application!) and perhaps one day work. The studio is not just a bookshop. It’s like a day out; if I had children, I wouldn’t take them there just for a look, I would take them there for an experience. We would stay there for hours (and then buy everything).

In the words of Leah Lesser from the Barefoot blog:

When was the last time you walked inside a store and felt as if you had entered a different world, or stepped inside your favorite story?

When I stepped into Barefoot, I found Wonderland, Narnia, Neverland… I was in another place, plucked right from somewhere magic. As soon as I stepped through the gate, I bubbled with excitement and as soon as I opened the door my face was taken over by the most gigantic grin. Everything was so bright and colourful and the first thing you hear is children giggling in the back. One child was so excited about the books that he couldn’t stop running around and almost told his dad which book he would choose for him for Christmas. I don’t think I have ever seen a child so excited, let alone so excited in a book shop.

It was beautiful to see and that little boy is one of the reasons why I would love to work in children’s publishing. To make a child that happy, that awed about books, would be a wonderful thing.

Below is a video of the studio in question. While you can’t feel the magic properly until you’ve been there, this can give you an idea.

I have never seen a book shop I have loved so much. I am collecting a street in my mind, a street filled with beautiful book shops. Some are old, some are new, some I’ve not yet visited  but Barefoot sits at the top, on a hill, a bright light with the wind rushing whirring around it like rustling pages.

Barefoot books: The Snow QueenBarefoot books: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Extraordinary Things in Ordinary Places

This morning, as I sat on the bus reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent (for the second time, more on that in a later entry) on the way to OICPS, I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life. As I glanced out the window to see whereabouts I was, I was met with the fields by Water Eaton Park and Ride, covered in mist with the sun peeking over the top. Everything was in sepia.

When I looked up again, I was met with something better, something which looked as if it had leapt right out of a painting and I wish I had a camera. Rising up next to the sun, so close it looked huge, was the silhouette of a hot air balloon.

It was possibly the best way to start the day. The artist in me craved to capture it, camera in hand (if only I had one with me which wasn’t my phone); the writer in me wanted to pluck it out of the sky and onto the page; the rest of me was just happy to have seen it. Mist and fog are, perhaps, my favourite weather conditions, sunrise/sunset are my favourite times of day (except when the sky is clear at night and I am out in the middle of nowhere, where the stars are at their brightest – an experience I have only really had once, when in Scotland last December for a friend’s birthday, in a castle away from civilisation).

I think writing is all about finding extraordinary things in ordinary places, even when writing fantasy. When that bleeds into your real life, your real experiences, you should grab it and run with it. I think I should listen to my own advice. So that is what I am going to do within the next few days, between the wedding editing (more on that in a later blog post) and the university reading.

A Chance Meeting and a Ladybird Exhibition

One of the things that I love about Oxford is its book culture. It is so full of people who love books, be they OICPS Publishing students Trainee Professionals, Publishing and Research Professionals, tourists, C.S. Lewis enthusiasts, Tolkien enthusiasts, Lewis Carroll enthusiasts (guilty as charged!), students, teachers… the list is endless. 

Today, I met a lovely middle-aged couple at the bus stop and after answering their questions about bus times and ticket prices, we got onto the subject of my Masters and subsequently books. They told me that they had visited a Ladybird Art Exhibition in Grantham, which runs until the end of October and I now rather want to go to. It displays original artworks from 1960s and 1970s Ladybird science titles.

The husband, whose name I stupidly forgot to ask, remarked about the colours, the brightness and the lack of subtle shades in their design. He had a theory that their choice in colour, at the time of their creation (all of them were hand painted), was heavily influenced by possibly ongoing post-war shortages. While I am unsure if this is correct, it makes me want to find out. His enthusiasm for the exhibition and its quality was enough to get me at least a little bit excited about it.

Now, science isn’t my usual area of interest – I am ever the Children’s and Young Adult fiction enthusiast – but there was one title I found while researching which has me intrigued:

The Ladybird Book of The Night SkyThe Ladybird Book of The Night Sky.

While there are more sophisticated books about the constellations, which make use of the ever-improving astrological technology of our age, the Ladybird title has its own sort of charm. As all* of the images are painted by hand, there is little assurance of its accuracy. Rather than being the be all and end all of children’s astronomy books, it becomes astronomy through the eyes of the painter(s) and that concept is very tempting. Having sourced some second-hand copies, my finger is hovering over the ‘buy’ button and it is taking a lot of control** not to click.

Its age is part of its charm, with vintage being ‘in’ it’s not difficult to find myself leaning towards it (though I have always been interested in antiques, my book choices tend to be much older).

Claudine King-Dabbs writes of the book:

It demystifies the same sky observed by Isaac Newton – and seeks to explain the mechanisms and movements of the planets and stars – to unravel and explain the mysteries of our solar system, again, like Newton.

The link to her article on the conception of the exhibition can be found at the end of this post.

The night sky has always been something that fascinates me (I own a rabbit named Orion as testimony for my love of the stars, and rabbits; despite Orion treading on/hunting Lepus, the rabbit constellation, which is something I didn’t think about when giving him the name… but I digress), so it is unsurprising that it is this book which had pulled me in. Science for people who do not go out of their way to learn about the subject.

Without this chance meeting, I would never have known about the exhibition or even the above book; the people here have such enthusiasm about the printed (and now digital) word and love to share it if the conversation wanders down that path. It’s lovely to experience.

When the bus arrived, we parted ways and I spent the whole journey home thinking about Grantham, a place I have never visited, and the books on display there.

The Exhibition takes place at The Grantham Museum from 10am until 4pm and is free, so I highly recommend a visit. More details about the event can be found here.

For those interested in the event’s conception, the article can be read here.

While we are on the subject of events, my Resources page will list relevant museums and such with permanent book-related exhibitions (temporary exhibitions might also be listed depending on the amount of time I have free to take care of the upkeep of such a list).


*from what I can gather, having never seen inside the book I can only assume that all of the images are painted.

**The control is necessary, I already spent an alarming amount of money on books for my degree today. Adding another onto that total is not in my best interests, nor would it make my bank account very happy.