Review: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

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A MAN WITH NO EYES.  NO EYES AT ALL.  TWO TUNNES IN HIS HEAD…
Somewhere – some time – there’s a tangled ball of evil and spite, of hatred and malice, that has woken up. 
And it’s waking up all the old stories too – stories about evil old withces….
‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ is the thirty eight novel in the Discworld series.  It is set on the Discworld, which is basically a disc supported by a bunch of elephants, on the back of a giant turtle.  It is clearly a fantasy series, and a very funny one at that.  In many ways in is a satire of the fantasy genre, especailly in the early books.  ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ is one of the Discworld novels that are for a younger audience, but many fully grown fans think the books for younger readers are just as good as the normal ones.  This novel follows the character of Tiffany Aching, a sixteen year old witch who has featured in three prior novels. Even though this book, like the rest of the Discworld series can be read out of order or on its own, it helps to have read the earlier instalments pertaining to her. 
I am lost for words at what to say about ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’.  I love the Discworld novels, they are always funny but also make me think about how I see things around me.  Sir Terry Pratchett has this amazing ability to make people happy through his books, while also telling more truth in his works than most authors can get away with.  ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ is one of those novels that does an especially good job at it.  It is sad and at times frightening, but not in a gory, cheap way.  This novel begins with the deaths of two people – an old man and a newborn baby.  The first from old age, the other because a young woman’s father beats her half to death causing her to lose her baby.  Tiffany has to deal with both, in her line of work as a witch.  She also has to deal with prejudice, and the impact it can have on people’s lives.  She reflects over the human cost of hate – an old woman was killed years ago for looking like a witch.   The enemy Tiffany faces this time is not one that she can destroy – instead she can only get rid of the Cunning Man for a short period of time.  He basically is hate. 
Despite all the above, ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ is also a very sweet and fun book.  One of the themes of the novel is that of self-fulfillment ‘Ye know full well that the meaning of life is to find your gift.  To find your gift is happiness.  Never tae find it is a misery.’  Jeannie.  Happiness is a subject that is explored, and not to spoil too much for anyone, but Tiffany learns that she has to know herself and trust herself in order to succeed.  Additionally, the Nac Mac Feegles are back, and as always they are hilarious.  But, like the rest of the novel, the reader gets to see a little bit under their skin which in a sense makes them more real, and funnier.  The prose is very electric, and at times very touching.  To quote the  Daily Telegraph at the back of the book ‘A passion for language, wordplay, and puns bursts from the pages’
‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ was a novel that I had wanted to read for a while, and in a way dreaded reading.  I love all the ‘witches’ books that I have read in the Discworld series, and am not ashamed to say that I am attached to the characters.  I knew that this was potentially the last book that features these characters and I think the ending made it clear that Tiffany Aching will not feature in a Discworld novel again.  I found it an emotional book, but also a very wise and honest one.  I would recommend this to anyone, because it is just brilliant.  Dare I say a masterpiece? 

 

Halloween

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Seeing as Halloween is just days away, I figured I’d talk about how much I love this time of the year.   Since I was little I’ve always been interested in everything to do with Halloween.  As a child I remember finding out about the cultural significance of Halloween through TV and books.  I remember being beyond happy when I found out that I lived in one of the countries where the celebration of Halloween began: Ireland.  The ancient Celts worshiped pagan gods, and followed a calendar based on the way the world interacted with the sun and the stars.  Religious holidays and festivals were based around solstices, or the coming and going of seasons. 
To the Celts, Halloween was known as Samhain.  It was their version of the New Year, and as such it had a profound impact of the world around them.   It was such an ingrained holiday to the Celtic peoples that the Catholic Church had to adapt around it in certain countries.  Thus, Halloween became part of a larger tradition, and is a day before All Souls day.  Growing up in Ireland, I, like most Irish children, learnt how to talk about Halloween in Irish.  I was never great at learning languages, but I always liked it when it had to do when it was something fun like Halloween.
I think Halloween is as big as it is today because of American commercialism.  It has become a mixture of several holidays, such as the Mexican Day of the Dead.  Companies make a lot of money off of decorations, sweets and costumes at this time of the year.  However, I don’t necessarily think that that is a bad thing.  Neither do I think that that is all there is to it.  I think people love Halloween because it allows children and adults alike to share in the fantastical.  It is the idea that you can dress up and be someone different for a night.  Also, I think there is playfulness in the idea that monsters and ghouls might be walking about that people just love. 
Most importantly, I think there is just something that can’t be described about the atmosphere at this time of the year.  It’s like we can feel change is in the air, and yet somewhere deep inside we know that this change isn’t very scary.  Winter will come and go.  Perhaps we parody our inbuilt fear of change to reassure ourselves that things will remain the same.  Life will go on. 
Nowadays, both Wiccans and Pagans still celebrate Samhain in a religious sense.  I feel that this is something that is ignored by the larger media.  To some, Halloween is not just a time for dressing up.  It is a time to thank the world/universe.  I won’t pretend to understand the larger concepts behind these religious movements, but I do think it is interesting.  It is a time to leave behind the past, and move into a new period.   I think above all else, people should respect that there is something more to this holiday for many different groups of people, past and present.   Like a good book, Halloween cannot be judged by its cover.  
(All images taken from weheartit.com sorry if I’ve infringed, but they are really pretty) 


I Love Music: The Stone Roses

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The Stone Roses are back together again
I would have put an exclamation mark after the last statement, only by the time this post goes up most people who know about the Stone Roses, will know that they are back together.  It’s been all over YouTube and everything.  So this isn’t really news anymore.  If this is news to you then wow cool that you found out here on my little blog.  That’s a joke FYI. 
The Stone Roses were a rock group, formed in Manchester in the eighties.  They came to prominence in the UK around 1989 – the year they released their self-titled debut album.  The album contained hits such as ‘I Wanna be Adored’ and ‘Fools Gold’.  It coincided with the rise of the’ baggy’ indie rock/dance scene and so is seen as a standout from that genre.  Their second album ‘The Second Coming’ came out a few years later, and isn’t as much the darling of the music critics.  The band frequently gave amusing (though often very topical and interesting) interviews later emulated by the likes of the Gallagher brothers of Oasis (who openly adore the Stone Roses). 
I’m not writing this blog post as a news item though, more of an ‘I’m so excited I might as well’ post’.  Honestly, I’m thrilled that they are back together after all those years.   I’ve been a fan for over five years, and over that course of time have read many interviews with various members where they said they never would, despite the money.   I accepted what was said, and so got into the other groups associated with the Stone Roses such as The Happy Mondays and Primal Scream. 
So I’m really glad.  Even though it looks like all the shows they are going to do will sell out in minutes.  Which makes the chances of me going rather small, but still, I hope I get a chance to see them live.  Either way it will certainly be legendary. 

‘You and I’ Review

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‘You and I’ is the fourth and latest release from the Pierces.   For those that do not know about the Pierces, they are a duo, made up of two sisters called Allison and Catherine Pierce.  They hail from the USA and make interesting folksy-poppy music as far as I can tell.  I’m a new fan, and have only really heard this album, but sometimes that is all you need to know. 
‘You and I’ is a sweet, energetic album.  From the other reviews I have read (Q magazine eons ago) their sound has been linked to hippies and witchcraft and all that stuff.   I think the album has something psychedelic about it, but I think that that has more to do with the way the sisters use old school harmonies when they sing than anything else.  The harmonies are beautifully done, and seem effortless. 
The instrumentals in ‘You and I’ are also really nice.  The guitars are kind of jangly and the overall atmosphere created by the different instruments is bluesy but fun.  There is softness to the music, and the lyrics range from the sad ‘The Good Samaritan’ to the playful ‘You’ll be Mine’. 
My personal favourite song is ‘Close My Eyes’
Overall I really like this album, and it is one that I will probably listen to for a long time to come.