I need your help!

I am going off to university in September to study Creative Writing and English Literature and I need some help from you all!

I can only take 5 books because I won’t have space for many more than that so I have narrowed down my favourites list to just ten books and need you to tell me which ones I should take!

  1. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli
    • pro #1: a fun, easy read
    • pro #2: one of my favourites books to re-read
    • con #1: I’ve already read it at least a hundred times
    • con #2: it won’t look the most intellectual because it’s a YA novel with a bright red cover
  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • pro #1: one that I would be happy to reread as I find something new every time I do
    • pro #2: it’s a classic so bonus student points for me
    • pro #3: it makes me look intelligent because I studied it at A Level so I can talk about it
    • con #1: again, I have read it loads of times already, at some point I’m likely to run out of new things to find
    • con #2: it’s not the most cheerful of novels
    • con #3: I’ll be studying classics, I might just be a little sick of them
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
    • pro #1: one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever written (don’t fight me on this, it’s true)
    • pro #2: I would look super intellectual again
    • con #1: again… not particularly cheerful
    • con #2: how many times can I read it, really?
  4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
    • pro #1: brilliantly written, I absolutely love detective novels
    • pro #2: kind of a classic but also not like full-classic so it’s an easier read
    • con #1: not the best re-readability because once you’ve read it once you know the twist
  5. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (all seven books)
    • pro #1: it’s one of my favourite series
    • pro #2: fun and easy to read
    • pro #3: excellent re-readability
    • con #1: that is a lot of books and will take up most of the space
    • con #2: like… way too many books
  6. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R Tolkien
    • pro #1: it’s only four books in total so still less than Harry Potter
    • pro #2: excellently written with a brilliant, classic story
    • pro #3: could actually be helpful for my course because I want to write fantasy
    • con #1: four is still most of the amount I can have
  7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
    • pro #1: I just really love Oscar Wilde
    • pro #2: it’s a classic so bonus points for me
    • pro #3: excellently written and the plot and characters are great
    • pro #4: extremely quotable
    • con #1: will it become dull after too many reads?
    • con #2: will I be pretentious rather than intelligent?
  8. Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin by Alan Bennett
    • pro #1: poetry rather than prose, nice to have a bit of variety
    • pro #2: easily written and hugely enjoyable
    • pro #3: quotes and facts galore
    • con #1: how many times can I read the same poems, really?
    • con #2: the fear of being pretentious
  9. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
    • pro #1: again, poetry
    • pro #2: brilliant for when you don’t feel great because she seems to know exactly how you feel
    • pro #3: so re-readable because each one means something different depending on when you read it
    • con #1: literally none, it’s perfect
  10. Pretty Things by Sara Manning
    •  pro #1: easy to read
    • pro #2: super fun and enjoyable
    • con #1: not the most intellectual
    • con #2: as far from a classic as possible
    • con #3: I’ve already read it a hundred times so I do wonder how many more times I can read it

Let me know which five you think I should take and why!

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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!