representation is important

Something that has always been important to me is finding novels that do things a little differently, one of the main things that I am always on the hunt for are novels with LGBTQ+ characters, because – say it with me kids – representation is important! So this is the beginning of a list of (mostly YA – they seem to do this pretty well) novels that include (well-represented) LGBT+ characters:

  1. Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertelli
    • A coming of age story about a gay teenage boy as he tries to navigate young love, coming out and the typical friendship quarrels of teenagers. It includes great lines such as ‘White shouldn’t be the default anymore than straight should be the default. There shouldn’t even be a default.’. 
    • This is one of my favourites because the characters seem so realistic and I absolutely fell in love with Simon and his story. I couldn’t put it down because I was trying desperately to work out who Blue was before Simon did (not exactly difficult, he’s very slow on the uptake!)
    • This novel is also at the top of my list because it not only includes a gay relationship at its heart (that is presented in the sweet and overly-romantic way common for straight couples in YA novels) but one the main characters is a gay POC which is something that is not often found!
    • Also, it has a happy ending! No ‘bury your gays’ trope here! Just good, old-fashioned super cute boyfriends
  2. Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
    • Gay historical fiction? What more do you want?
    • It tells the story of Achilles and Patroclus before the battle of Troy in the way that Homer was presenting it (read as: gay) unlike the cop-out of the film Troy when Patroclus was made Achilles’ cousin…
    • Excellently written and beautifully presented, if you have any interest in Ancient Greece read this because it’s perfect! The story is perfect, the setting is perfect, the language is perfect… just, please! Read this book!
    • There is character death – if you have a general idea of the story of the Iliad then you’ll know that it’s coming – but it is not because of their sexualities but actually because of war so it’s still not ‘bury your gays’
  3. Pretty Things – Sarra Manning
    • A story of a group of teenagers discovering who they are, their sexualities are not the sole focus but it does play an important role in two of the characters’ lives.
    • Charlie is gay, he spends the novel supporting his friends and trying not to fall in love with straight boys (spoilers: it doesn’t work). Daisy first presents herself as gay but as the novel progresses she discovers that perhaps this label is not the most appropriate. This is actually really important representation because whilst the word bisexual is never actually used to have a character that begins with the label gay but then discovers that their sexuality is a lot more fluid than that is amazing! So it’s great for anyone that has ever questioned their sexuality.
    • The other two characters are straight but they are both incredibly supportive of their friends and they also discover who they are throughout the novel. Particularly Brie, she begins the novel as very much in Charlie’s shadow and ends it centre stage, literally!
  4. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz
    • Not actually one I’ve read but one that I have heard nothing but good things about.
    • It is the story of two boys working out who they are and who they want to be. It follows the life of Aristotle, an angry teenager with a brother in prison and Dante who sees the whole world a little differently.
    • It is apparently brilliantly written from Aristotle’s point of view and develops so naturally and so perfectly from a beautiful friendship to a beautiful romantic relationship that one cannot help but adore it.
    • I, for one, cannot wait to read it!

 

The reason that I have chosen to do this is because this is a topic that is incredibly important to me. I feel that it’s really important to have novels that deal with LGBT+ themes in a mature and cohesive way without always making it the centre of the story. Most of these are YA novels in which the main focus is on the characters discovering themselves but that isn’t all we need. What we need are novels of different genres with LGBT+ characters. Give me gay detectives and non-binary vampire hunters!

And it will happen, but for now we should appreciate the excellently written ones that we do have currently because they’re still brilliant novels with lovable characters even if the main focus is their sexuality.

But it is so important for young, LGBTQ+ kids to see people just like them living lives that aren’t solely based around sexuality or gender identity. Because, I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again, representation is so important!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and then there were none

I have always loved detective stories, from a young age I was reading Anthony Horowitz’s Diamond Brothers series – still one of the best detective series for young people I’ve found – and as I got older I started reading Sherlock Holmes and other such famous detective novels. But something that I never managed to read was Agatha Christie but now that has been rectified.

I bought And Then There Were None from the bookshop and finished it in a single night. I simply could not put it down! The story itself is fascinating and the writing, simply perfect. I fell in love with the fast-paced intellect of it all, rushing ahead to try and solve the mystery before they did… I didn’t manage it but anyone that has read it will probably understand why!

Detective stories are one of the most difficult thing to write because you need to have be able to not only have the motive for the actual culprit but everyone else also needs a valid enough motive to make it feel like there truly is an element of suspense. So I have so much respect and admiration for the people that write them.

But Agatha Christie is the undisputed queen of detective stories. Her characters are phenomenal, the detectives Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot are brilliant and the characters in And Then There Were None are some of the most well-written ones I’ve ever encountered. Vera was excellent, quick-witted and sharp and yet still vulnerable. Philip Lombard, the mercenary with a softer side. The stiff-lipped judge and the dismissive socialite. They all have a place in my heart. As does the great Agatha Christie.

I think that one of the things that I loved the most about And Then There Were None was the use of the poem throughout, it was  interesting and really should have given me the clue that I needed to work it out! But it didn’t because everything else was so cleverly designed.

The crux of the matter is, if you haven’t read this book then give it a try and if you have then let me know if you worked it out before the epilogue!

 

 

 

 

 

book vs. movie

There is always a sense of trepidation and almost fear when you hear that your favourite novel is being made into a film. Will they get the characters right? Will they cut out something important? Will the casting be good? Or will it just be generally awful?

These were the thoughts flashing through my head when I heard on the grapevine about a film in the works set to come out next year. A film version of my favourite book, like, I really love this book, I’ve read it at least fifty times and have loved it every single time… you could say that my love for this book is ‘like a heartbeat, soft and persistent, underlying everything’ (a beautiful quote from an equally beautiful book). Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli is an excellent book that will make an equally as excellent film… as long as it is done right.

Simon is not a perfect hero that knows all, in fact, there are so many things he doesn’t know that I’m surprised he actually manages to work anything out! But perhaps worse – but also what made me love him so much the first time I read it – he thinks that he knows a lot more than he does, he thinks that he has worked out the answer before he’s even had any clues and it is this lovable optimism that makes this character so great.

But anyway, this was not a post for me to wax lyrical about this book – though if you haven’t read it, you definitely should – but in fact to discuss the idea of turning books into films.

Some books to films are brilliant, like personally, I think that the Harry Potter films are excellent and very close to the books, that’s not to say that they’re perfect (I too have an issue with their loose idea of the word ‘calmly’ and the fact that Ron’s character was reduced to mere comic relief) but they are still a lot better than some attempts!

Attempts like the absolute disasters of the Percy Jackson films… which as films go aren’t awful but as films of the books? They were an absolute catastrophe!

Not only was the casting some of the worse I’ve ever seen, the ages and appearances were completely wrong and some characters were just omitted completely, but the plot was also changed drastically – and not for the better! Basically, when even the writer of the books that you’re butchering tells you to stop… you should probably stop.

Drop your favourite (and least favourite!) movie adaptations in the comments and tell me why!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April

Despite the fact that three months have already passed, April always feels like a beginning to me. Perhaps it is because it is the real beginning of spring, the flowers are blooming, the lambs are out and the sun is actually shining! Or perhaps it’s because my birthday falls at the end of March and so April feels like something special. byu

I don’t know why but I do that the first days of April always feel like a new beginning and this year I am embracing that even more fully than I have before. I have started on a new writing project, I have picked my journal back up and I am even looking into eating more healthily… let’s see how long that lasts!

But the main point of this post is to say that people often want to make a change in their lives but they feel like they have to wait until they have a reason to do so, be it Lent or the new year, yet I am here to say that if you want to make a change then just make it! Don’t decide that you have to leave it until you have a ‘reason’ to do it because by then you might not want to!

Make April your month to start something new, or May, or June, or simply tomorrow. Because every day is the first day of the rest of your life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

writing update

Recently I started writing again, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time for anything (including this, my most sincere apologies)! But in the last few weeks I have picked up my pen and started writing again and it is brilliant!

It began because I was discussing with my friend the difficulty that comes with trying to write a classic whodunit and decided to set myself a challenge of writing one… because obviously, after discussing how difficult something is, one cannot help but try it! It is still in its very early stages yet but I have  a murderer and a victim so really, what more do I need?

You know, apart from a detective, a plot, alibis, clues, a motive, other characters and a setting! But I’m getting there and Eloise Betjemen is coming to life – my wonderful, Holmes-esque protagonist – and a motive can’t be that hard to work out!

I have always loved detective stories and it has been a dream of mine to write one for ages so, despite the difficulties, I decided to give it a go! But I wanted something a bit more fun and thus, the murder mystery dinner was born. Because where’s the last place someone would expect a murder? One where a fake one has already been committed, of course!

I don’t know, I thought it was a fun idea! I’ll try to keep you all updated on Eloise and her crime-solving abilities!

 

 

 

 

“He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two.” – Les Misérables, Victor Hugo

I used to read constantly, I never left the house without a book and any spare time I had was spent poring over them. But then school started getting in the way, then college and the next thing I knew the only thing I’d read in nearly two months was stuff for college.

Yes, I was still reading, it’s kind of a big part of English Literature but I hadn’t read anything simply to read it. I hadn’t picked up a book and been so enthralled by it that I couldn’t put it down. And when reading becomes something you have to do, you stop enjoying it. It stops being something you can’t wait to do and becomes something you can’t wait to finish. Every book feels like an epic saga that you don’t have time for, regardless of length or difficulty.

I wanted to get out of this reading rut so I decided to set myself a challenge, in 2017 I want to read at least 24 books. This sounds like quite a small number in comparison to how much I used to read but I also do have to think about college and university so I thought that I would start small and work my way back up. And by 24 books, I mean books that I haven’t read, ones that I have read before don’t count so the actual number will probably be higher than that! I just knew that I needed to do something to force myself to actually start reading again. And a competition against myself? That sounded like a good a way as any.

And it really has made a difference, in the last two months I’ve read three books which is more than I read in six months last year. It’s a mixture of classics and not-classics but that doesn’t matter, as long as they are books that I haven’t read before they count.

So far, I have read:

  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

and

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

So… I guess I’m doing pretty well.

Let me know what books YOU want to read this year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I cannot live without my soul”

The first time I read Wuthering Heights, I will admit, I hated it. It felt clunky and dragged out, the characters were completely unlikeable and the plot? Dull at best.

Having now studied it for a year and reread it three times, my opinion has changed. The plot isn’t dragged out, the two halves of the novel reflect each other. It’s not clunky, I just wasn’t reading it properly. Symbolism always looks clunky if you only think of the simplest thing. And the characters? Still completely unlikeable. But that isn’t a bad thing, you can see a character as a horrible person without them being an awful character.

There are many examples of this in literature throughout time, from Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff to J.K Rowling’s Snape. These are characters that do awful things and you know that if they were a real person they would be terrible, terrible people. But as characters? They can be fascinating. You just have to accept that the two are not linked. A character can be a terrible person but an interesting character. In fact, perfect characters that never do anything wrong are actually extremely dull.

As a culture, we find horrible people fascinating. Just look at how many films, tv shows and even documentaries there are about serial killers or life on Death Row. We understand that these are people that have done horrific, unimaginable things but we still find their stories fascinating. This is why characters like Heathcliff are so adored by some people, and yet abhorred by others. As a person, he is awful. As a character? Fascinating.

Anyway, this is not a post about our culture’s morbid curiousity  and odd fascination with serial killers. It is a post about Wuthering Heights and why it is important to give novels (particularly the classics) a proper chance.

Wuthering Heights is a quintessentially Victorian novel, but it is heavily influenced by the Gothic era of literature which had come before, this is clear with Brontë’s use of ghosts and spirits. It is a much darker novel than most written at the time and this is part of its charm. The plot is not dull, I was just reading it too simply. The first half of the novel is still my favourite half but I have a newfound respect for the second half now that I understand what she was trying to convey. The characters in the second half of the novel are reflections of the characters in the first. Brontë is using this to show the way that their lives could have gone, particularly at the end with Hareton and Cathy.

Catherine is obviously the reflection of her mother, Cathy, but it is also important to note that she is also a reflection of Isabella. She is a wealthy, young woman who falls in love with a ‘rough young man’ – as Isabella does with Heathcliff – fortunately, Catherine is much luckier than Isabella as the man she falls in love with isn’t using her as part of his intricate revenge plot. But Catherine embodies all of the positive attributes that Cathy had with less of the negatives. She is excitable and high-spirited but not as spiteful and vindictive. She adores her father and truly does care for Linton, despite the awful way that he treats her. This is showing the happy life that Cathy could have had if she had been kinder to those who loved her and had chosen love over money.

Hareton is a reflection of Heathcliff. Despite being Hindley’s son, he is incredibly similar to Heathcliff. It is also a reflection of Hindley’s treatment of Heathcliff – he refused to let him join Cathy in her lessons and generally treated him as a servant. This is, in turn, how Heathcliff treats Hareton. He is, however, better than them both because unlike them, he is kind and loving and he begins teaching himself to read in order to be able to talk to Catherine. He has all of the best parts of Heathcliff – of which there are some – he feels passionately and honestly – unlike most of the characters! – and shows how Heathcliff’s life could have been if a) he cared less about revenge and b) his love for Cathy had been less obsessive and more, well… loving.

And Linton… I don’t have much to say about Linton. If any of the characters in Wuthering Heights are truly dull. It’s Linton – and Mr Lockwood, but he hardly counts. He is the reflection of Edgar Linton but he embodies the negative parts of all of the characters. He has Edgar’s childhood sense of entitlement and his lack of backbone, Cathy’s spite, Isabella’s frailty and submissive nature and Heathcliff’s vengeful malevolence. He is, in short, a horrible person and also a dull character. He spends the entire time whining about how unfair his life is – his life isn’t easy, I understand that, his father is awful and he is seen as nothing more than a pawn in Heathcliff’s game of revenge, but still… – and refusing to go outside for fear of the cold. He says that he loves Catherine but has no qualms about helping his father regardless of what that means for her. It is partly out of fear but also partly out of spite and his generally vindictive attitude.

When I read it for the third time after having studied it for nearly a year, I appreciated more what Brontë what trying to do and realised that actually… it was extremely clever and I had misjudged her and her novel.

So basically, despite this being the longest post I’ve ever made, all that I’m trying to say is that if you have ever started a novel and not finished it or had to read a book for a class and hated it then pick the book back up and give it another shot. Seriously, you might really enjoy it the second time! And if you don’t? Then at least you’ve given it a shot.