Friday 31 October 2014

A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys: Nathaniel Hawthorne

I am well and truly into the swing of third year and the Dissertation has been started, it is going to be a long, stressful and hopefully enjoyable process. I am looking at the way in which children's literature is influenced by Greek and Roman mythology. I am basically combining two of my favourite things- mythology and children's literature, how can anything possible go wrong! Maybe I'll do an update in May when it has been handed in and i'm no more than a quivering wreck of dissertation induced stress.

So in the summer I went a bit crazy on Amazon, buying any book that could possible come in use and as a result I came across this beauty! Nathaniel Hawthorne was writing in the 19th Century and wrote two books based on Greek Myth- Tanglewood Tales and A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys. This copy is a beautiful hard back faux leather bound book with silver edged pages!

The front and back cover have lovely illustrations which are expressive and eye-catching, the perfect way to draw in the reader. 

The book has these beautiful front and end pages which I think all books should have. The child in me wants to write my name in curly letters but another part of me is too scared to touch it and risk ruining it!

There are pages scattered throughout that illustrate beautifully the stories told on the pages.

Each chapter has an illustrated chapter heading which really breaks up the writing effectively and adds interest. 

I am sorry that this post is so short but I am so busy with university work at the moment that I am finding it hard to juggle my blog with everything else. I will do my best to try and get into a better routine! 

Friday 24 October 2014

Netflix Obsession

I have never considered myself a connoisseur of anything, but when it comes to watching American TV I do seem to have a rather remarkable talent for marathoning things that really shouldn't be marathoned. Too many of my days and nights have been spent re-watching Greys Anatomy again or catching up on the latest episode of Americas Next Top Model. It's fair to say that my obsession is unhealthy, but like snuffling that last piece of chocolate or giving into that final slice of cake, I doubt I will be breaking the habit anytime soon.

Back in March when I was still finding my footing in the blogging world I wrote a brief post on my slight (ahem) obsession with television programs, with particular focus on Greys Anatomy and Gossip Girl. Since then I have not only added more programs to my repertoire I have also signed up to Netflix aka the website that will ultimately see my decline as a fully functioning adult. How can one function in society when there are so many programs to be watched, and in all in one place?!

So here goes, I will attempt to jumble together a comprehensible list of television programs and films that have caught my attention over the last couple of months.

An American television program comprised of four series' that follows the lives of members of fraternities and sororities at Cyprus Rhodes University, Ohio. I started to watch this years back but ended up losing interest, I'm not entirely sure how, because when I started it again a month or so ago, I was hooked. There are a brilliant selection of characters from the carefree, child at heart Cappie (who I may or may not have developed a bit of a crush for) and nerd like Rusty who just wants to get the real college experience. As someone who attends a British university, it was fun to see the Greek system in action as it seemed to far away from my own university experience. I honestly have no idea how accurate it is but I do know that it is entertaining and slightly addictive and as I came to the end, I was definitely sad to be leaving it behind. Give it a year and I might start over again!

Life Unexpected 
Right, so the premise of this program is that teen, Lux, was given up for adoption as a baby. Unhappy in foster care, she decides that she wants to become emancipated but in order to do that she has to acquire the signatures of her birth parents. But upon meeting them and then being denied emancipation, she becomes part of a custody battle. I really enjoyed this to start with, I found Lux to be a relatively good representation of a teen and her birth dad, Baze, was suitably stuck in his teen years, refusing to grow up. I found Cate, Lux's birth mother, to be a bit annoying in parts but I suppose thats to be expected of someone who has just had their child thrown back into their lives. Although I really enjoyed the first series, and most of the second, I actually found the last couple of episodes incredibly hard to watch, they ramped up the cheese and fell into every cliche possible and I was almost glad when it came to an end.

and now onto a couple of films...

This film follows the journey of a substitute teacher, Henry, who arrives at a school and makes a huge impression on a number of people. The film had very dark tones and it had me ugly crying (the worst sort of crying). I understand that on paper the film doesn't sound all that amazing, but I thought it was brilliant!

Tiny Furniture
This film comes from the brain of the brilliant Lena Dunham, I am a huge fan of her and her TV series Girls but I really couldn't get into this film, sorry Lena! It follows a recent graduate as she struggles to enter the next chapter of her life, a chapter full of responsibility and long term work. I felt that the film lacked a strong story line and whilst I did warm to some of the characters, I found many of them to be lacking substance. It was disappointing as I loved Girls so much.

Cancer is a hard topic to cover in film, a lot of the time it is done badly but occasionally there is a good representation, see The Fault in Our Stars, and I believe that 50/50 also falls into that category. I felt that it effectively showed the gritty and ugly side of cancer, there was no Hollywood shine to it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a brilliant job of playing Adam and I believed his pain, both mental and physical as he struggled with the treatments. I thought that Adams best friend, Kyle, played by Seth Rogan added just the right amount of comic relief to the film. But most of all, I liked that even thought there were snippets of a love story scattered throughout the film, it was ultimately a film of illness and recovery. There were no dramatic declarations of love as he lay on his death bed and I was glad, I hate how often cancer is over dramatised and how the pain is made to seem almost beautiful.

Right, so I think thats enough for now! I had planned on keeping Netflix for no more than the first month free subscription, but two months in and I still haven't cancelled it. Maybe next month I'll put an end to it or maybe not.

Let me know if you have watched any of the above mentioned or if you have any recommendations...go on, feed my obsession!


Saturday 18 October 2014

Guildford Book Festival: Paige Toon & Ali Harris

What's it that they say about never meeting your idols? Well I'm going to disagree with that! When it comes to the world of books, Paige Toon and Ali Harris feature pretty high on the list of Authors that inspire me and I am so glad that I was finally able to meet them.

When I found out about the Guildford Book Festival, my curiosity got the better of me, as a student at Royal Holloway, a university only about half an hour away from Guildford, I couldn't resist taking a look at who would be appearing. I had been mid scroll of Twitter whilst wallowing around in a slightly too hot bath (yes, living life on the edge) when I spotted Paige talking about an event she would be attending alongside Ali. I didn't hesitate to book a ticket- alone- making the jump to go to an event alone was a big deal for me, socialising isn't my strong point! But I am so glad I did! The event was £9 and included a complimentary cocktail! It was hosted by Fanny Blake who did a brilliant job of asking the questions we all wanted to know. There is something rather strange about seeing people you have only ever known through books and social media. When any interaction goes on in front of a computer screen it is then incredibly odd to meet them in person. I am glad to report that Paige and Ali were even more brilliant in real life than I ever could have imagined.

As a classics student, my life tends to be taken over by course reading, but over the summer I took a break from Virgil and Ovid and allowed myself to be taken into the worlds of Paige and Ali and it was really interesting to hear about their inspiration and wiring process, I felt although it added another element of depth to their writing. Of course it was also brilliant to meet the two women behind some of my all time favourite characters and it was equally amazing to meet some fellow readers who are just as invested in the books.

As someone who would love to work in publishing and maybe, just maybe write a book one day, it was inspiring to meet two people who had done all the things I want to do. I have entered the third decade of my life and I am also in my final year at university. My future feels very uncertain but meeting Paige and Ali has made me feel that in the end it can all work out and for the first time I look forward to starting the next chapter of my life and possible writing the first chapter of a book.

Overall I had a brilliant evening and my only regret is that I didn't have the time to go to any of the other events at Guildford Book Festival. This was my first ever book related event and I hope it was just the start of a future full of brilliant bookish events!

Have you ever had the chance to meet your favourite authors? Did you attend any of the Guildford book festival events? I would love it if you could let me know in the comments!


Tuesday 7 October 2014

The Riot Club- film review

A film about posh boys- how could this possibly be the premise of a film- that was my initial reaction when I was first asked if I would like to see it. But it's posh on another level, it's the ugly side of posh carried on the shoulders of some very beautiful men. It's the sort of posh that looks down on schools such as Harrow boys school. Only Eton or Westminster for the best, of course. The boys that feature in this film are the sort that nobody can relate to. That was why I was so intrigued, I wanted a glimpse into this life that seemed so alien to me and in some weird way, I also wanted to take pleasure in hating their world.

So for those of you who don't know, The Riot Club is about an elite, secret society that is open only for the 10 wealthiest, most elite boys at Oxford university. They spend their time trashing dining events and lavishly throwing around their wealth. The movie starts with the arrival of first years, Alistair and Miles (Sam Clafin and Max Irons) and we follow them as The Riot Club puts them through the process of joining the club. Intelligence, wealth and status is what is required to bag one of the infamous spots. The film follows Miles' attempts to maintain a relationship with Lauren (Holliday Grainger) who is looked down upon as a 'commonor' whilst trying to live up to the expectations of the rest of The Riot Club.

The Riot Club originally came about as a play named 'Posh' and to me it has undeniable links to the infamous Bullingdon Club that has previously welcomed members such as David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osbrone- it feels good to know our country is run by men who were once happy to trash hotel rooms and then pay the extortionate repair fees, in cash! (note the sarcasm). The writer of the play however has refused to accept that the aptly named Riot Club was based on the Bullingdon Club. Regardless, the film was still an interesting insight into the life on an elite boy at Oxford, as someone who has never been witness to anything like it, I found it interesting and disturbing to watch them flitter money away as though it were nothing and trash property without a thought. Their treatment of women and anyone else them deemed beneath them was equally disgusting, and the worst part was that I have a horrible feeling that the film was actually on the tame side. How is it that the university that claims to take the most intelligent members of our society, can also be the breeding ground for an attitude towards life that is just plain wrong. Made worse by the fact that more often than not, these men then go onto hold extremely high powered positions, even going as far as becoming Primeminister or Mayor of London. Yep.

I actually thought the film was amazing, it is a brilliant example of how you can appreciate the portrayal of something you hate. The actors playing the members of the Riot Club did a brilliant job of making me hate them and I read somewhere that they even began to hate each other. They played their characters so well that by the end of it I found it hard to distinguish between the actor and the character. The female characters, although far and few between, were brilliant. Lauren, girlfriend to Miles, was the perfect example of someone who had got into Oxford through pure merit rather than off the back of a high profile parent. There attitude to money way disgusting- let me put it into perspective, one of the men, an owner of an incredibly expensive car, posted the keys through the letterbox of a charity after his friend was sick in it. How is it possible that a 20 or so year old can be so flippant about such a huge amount of money.

Overall I found the film disgusting and intriguing in equal measure. I thought the acting was brilliant and they all did a brilliant job of showing the corrupt nature of the elite at Oxford. It is a side of the university that has to be talked about, especially considering the link between the Bullingdon Club and figures such as David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

I would definitely recommend it even if it is just to get an insight into an incomprehensible world and failing that, you can just sit back and watch the likes of Douglas Booth and Sam Clafin on the big screen.


Wednesday 1 October 2014

A Hundred Pieces of Me- Lucy Dillon

Gina is just out of a long term relationship, she is leaving behind a time in her life she would rather not dwell on- heartbreak, illness and an uninspiring marriage. It is her opportunity to start her life anew and she takes it with both hands and never looks back. The book focuses on her ridding her life of all the items she had hoarded over the years, which is no mean feat for chronic collector Gina. Along the way she befriends an abandoned dog, Buzz and client, Nick. As she clears her present of her past she unearths some of the things that had been holding her back from really enjoying her life and slowly she learns to embrace her future.

The story line flies between past and present events, spanning about twenty or so years. To start with I found it hard to keep up with the switching dates but they also allowed me to get to know Gina and how her character had progressed. 

The premise of the book is that Gina is going to keep one hundred items that mean something to her, in the process getting rid of everything that is cluttering up her life. Each chapter starts with an item that she will keep and it is accompanied by the story of how the item came to being. I thought this was a lovely touch and gave me a real insight into the inner workings of Gina's mind. It also made me want to throw out all of my stuff and start all over again. I feel like it would clear my mind and it also puts into perspective what is really important- do I really ANOTHER pair of shoes? 

There was something about the book that I found so familiar and there were points where I forgot that I was merely the reader. It was almost as though Lucy Dillon was peering into my mind and writing accordingly- it was a weird experience but obviously one that not every reader would have! 

I thought there were a good selection of characters and I felt they were all developed sufficiently. As much as the book revolves around a number of Gina's relationships with men, I liked that in the end the focus was on her new found friendship with a dog. As the owner of an adorable Labradoodle, I could entirely relate to the feeling of responsibility and unconditional love you can feel for such loyal creatures. 

The only complaint I have is that I felt the story lines were all developed so well but were rushed a bit in the end. To me the story line lacked a good balance and I finished it feeling as though I had been robbed the ending I felt it deserved.

Despite the ending, I absolutely loved the book and would definitively recommend it! Please let me know what you thought of it or if you think you will go on to read it!