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You might have gathered from me gushing about Stephen Fry’s book a few posts ago that I’ve taken a renewed interest in poetry. Now, I did have a go at writing some verse — but I’m not very good at it, and I don’t like poetry enough to commit to trying to perfect the art. But prose? That’s something I’m a lot more comfortable with. So here’s my attempt at a prose poem. Opinions?

Fragrant red petals, so soft, glare from the path. Sinister green spikes, sharp as needles, support the sweet flowers. Purple plastic casing, so artificial, holding the bouquet together.

The roses lie abandoned on the garden path. Crimson against dull beige. She sees them, pauses, stares. She blinks, pauses, stares. She closes her eyes and wishes they would disappear. But they don’t, so she stoops, so she puts the vivid reminder of love in the bin.

For love is unwanted.

The Hunger Games

Finally, after six months of anticipation, I have watched the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel, The Hunger Games. It didn’t disappoint me at all, and I remained glued to my TV for the whole film.

I read the trilogy months ago, but since it was exam time I couldn’t justify taking a day out to go and see the film. It was worth the wait though. When I first read the books, I loved how fast paced they were, how well-characterised they were (particularly impressive, since it is in first person), and I just loved the story. It feels so very real: like something that could actually happen, and so in that way I just found the novels incredibly absorbing. I would write a full review of the novels, but to be honest so many people have written detailed breakdowns of why these books are great — it would be pointless for me to just repeat what’s already been said.

So the film. Gah. This is possibly the best book-to-film adaptation I have ever seen. Usually, after I watch a film of a book I love, I can’t help but pick up on things that weren’t the same as the book. But hey, you’d have a ridiculously long film if the screen-writers, etc., stuck to the book word for word, so this doesn’t bother me like it used to. However, The Hunger Games really does stay true to the book. The only thing that I found different was the story of how Katniss came to have the mockingjay pin; maybe it would’ve been nice to keep to the original story there, but the way it’s portrayed in the film is very poignant.

The one major thing that isn’t in the books is the cuts to the gamemakers throughout the Hunger Games. I thought this was ingenious. In the book Katniss is very aware that she is on screen constantly, and that the gamemakers control a lot of the goings on in the arena. However, cutting to the gamemakers in the film really emphasises the reality show aspect of the story, it really hones the idea that people are sitting behind screens and effectively deciding what trauma to throw at these kids next. In that way, it is very harrowing.

I’ve read elsewhere that people thought the way the Capitol were portrayed as ridiculous rather classy is something they didn’t think was done well. Having seen the costuming of the Capitol citizens, I don’t really understand this criticism. In the book, Katniss is mocking of the Capitol’s ways, and the film allows us to see why. In comparison to the district citizens, they look foolish and in a better place, both of which are true.

Another thing I noticed was the lack of lyrical songs in the film. I bought the soundtrack ages ago and wondered how they’d place the songs: but I only noticed one song from the soundtrack as the credits rolled; the rest were from the score. I really liked this: sometimes the music alone is a lot more evocative than lyrics, and in this case that approach was used well. It gave the movie a more earthy feel, which I think keeps with the themes of the districts perfectly.

Truly, I can’t fault this film, and I wish we didn’t have to wait over a year for the next installment to hit the cinemas. What did you guys think? Looking forward to Catching Fire?

I enjoy reading Edward’s writing: she constructs beautiful narratives which swept me away when I read The Memory-Keeper’s Daughter last year. So, naturally, when I saw The Lake of Dreams sitting on the bookshelf of a charity shop, I picked it up to add to my collection. However, in the year since I read Edward’s debut, I’d forgotten about the weaker points in her writing that make me less absorbed by her story.

For example: characterisation. And a lot of my issue with this has to do with the dialogue. Sometimes, the dialogue is constructed in a way that feels almost contrived — it doesn’t quite sound like something a real person would say. For example, long passages which have little variation in punctuation, and I’m left thinking real speech is so much more complicated than this. In The Lake of Dreams, though, the characterisation was also let down by the point of view. It’s in first person, and throughout the book I was left with the feeling that I didn’t really know the character as well as I would have from third person. It was disappointing.

Characterisation aside: I was interested in the historical story woven into the modern day setting, that ends up affecting everything the characters know. However, sometimes the mystery seemed to slot together too easily, too conveniently. And in addition, there were too many passages dwelling on the narrator’s thoughts on these events. I was left feeling a little bit annoyed, because it was like she the author was constantly reiterating the story to make sure the readers get it. It felt like a bit of an insult to the reader’s intelligence, and I thought it was just a way of dragging the book out. It didn’t need to be there, all that repetitiveness.

I loved the imagery Edwards constructs though. Particularly, I like the use of the small earthquakes at the beginning of the novel. You could really draw direct comparisons between their disruption, and all the disruption in Lucy’s life: how she moves constantly, and is never quite sure of herself, it seems, until she establishes what happened to Rose and her father.

I’m aware that I’m sounding overwhelmingly negative, although I would actually give the story 3.5 stars. It’s not a book I would recommend if asked for a recommendation, but I did enjoy going on this journey with Lucy and Rose. There were just issues throughout the book which I wish hadn’t been there, as they did diminish my enjoyment a bit.

In the next week, I will be doing that long-promised post about The Hunger Games. I’m re-reading the book now, and will watch the film in a few days. I’m excited: I’ve been waiting to see this movie for so long! <3

It’s been a week since I wrote my last blog! Whoops. I was getting quite good at regular blogging until now. :/

I have no new fiction recommendations this week, since I’m still on Harry Potter (50 pages till I’m done!). However, I have been doing some studying on the side, and I don’t think I’ve ever read such an accessible study book.

I’m reading (not exactly through choice, though I’ve gotta admit it is really interesting) The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within by Stephen Fry. It is, essentially, a text book on everything poetry. I never thought I could enjoy reading a textbook, but I’ve been proven wrong. If you’re interested in poetry in any way, I completely recommend you find a copy — it is easy to read, well-organised, and witty. And I’ve learnt loads. Basically: it is everything you would expect from a book by Stephen Fry.

A more substantial blog will be delivered soon, I promise — I just wanted to share this with you. <3

PS: My itunes has just played two Christmas songs in a row… it makes for a good mood!

Top Ten Reads?

So, taking a stroll through blogosphere this morning, I found that a lot of posts tagged ‘books’ were talking about top ten reads of the last year or two. Naturally, I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I don’t really have a favourite book (if someone asks, I say the Time Traveler’s Wife, but that’s just to have an answer), but a top five seems more attainable. I was going to do top ten, but other books I would count as favourites don’t really compare to the five I’ve chosen. I might do another post for the others, though, since they deserve the honorable mentions.

In no particular order:

1) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I love this story. It is a book that actually captures what love is, without being contrived. You get dragged into the story, pulled into the character’s lives, to the point where I cried once or twice. And I’m not much of a crier when it comes to books, heartless as that makes me sound, so there’s a recommendation for you.

2) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I tried to read this years before I was actually mature enough for a book like this, since, you know — this book has my name! Anyone who shares a forename with a book should realise how exciting this is for a young child. The most striking thing for me is the fact that this novel is unequivocally about Rebecca — despite the fact she is dead. Everything hinges on her; she seems to be ever-present, something that is emphasised by the fact that we never know the narrator’s name.

3) Harry Potter by JK Rowling. These stories will always be classics; a love of these novels will be passed from parents to children over the years. And it’s easy to see why: Rowling has created a fantasy world that is relatable to our own but completely different too, which just goes to make the stories all the more absorbing. I could go on about Harry Potter for hours: at the end of the day though, their success speaks volumes.

4) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. This is the kind of story that you feel like you shouldn’t like because of the content, but it sucks you in anyway. I couldn’t put this book down: the writing is beautiful, the plot is moving.

5) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is the only book I’ve had to read for school which I’ve walked away from singing its praises. It’s a dystopia, with some incredible details worked in that really make you believe in the world created. It is also beautifully written: Atwood really has a way with words, and coupled with the story told that makes for an incredibly powerful read.

Would any of these stories make your favourite five? Which stories would be on your favourites?

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a bit of a music geek. My life would not be the same without music. I’m not musically inclined myself — recorder as a kid was a nightmare, and guitar lessons as a teen weren’t much better — just because I was never very patient with it. I can play the basic chords, and pluck a basic tune, but my talents don’t extend much further than that. I’d rather listen to others make brilliant music. So here’s a run-down of my top five artists, and why you should be listening to them too (although you should be already!):

Dire Straits — beautiful lyrics, beautiful guitar. Need I say more? My favourite is Romeo and Juliet:

The Civil Wars — I can’t wait for their second album. Kind of country/folk-y, and very minimalistic. I love that it’s literally their voices against a guitar/piano; it makes the music all the more intense. They are so talented. My favourite is C’est La Mort.

Lana Del Rey — Video Games was my track of last Summer; she has such a unique voice, kind of haunting.

Mumford and Sons — Modern folk, one of my favourite types of music at the moment. The Cave is very powerful.

U2 — These guys are getting to be music veterans, I think. My favourite will always be With or Without You — I sing along every time.

Honorable mention: Jenny and Johnny. I saw these two on the BBC coverage of last year’s Glastonbury festival, and immediately googled them. Their voices really compliment each other; they have a unique sound. Check out Animal.

Do any of you like/dislike these artists? Why or why not, and which songs are your favourites? Also: any recommendations you’ve got to chuck back at me would be gold. I love discovering new music. <3

Taking a break from the regularly scheduled short fiction to bring you a book recommendation. Haven’t done one for a while, but since I’ve took a short detour from Harry Potter (gonna start on Deathly Hallows later) I’ll let you have my thoughts on the detour. Mix things up a bit, you know. :) This post may be slightly spoiler-y, so be warned.

So, I’ve been reading The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead the last few days, and I finished it about an hour ago. I’ve been reading Mead’s stories for about a year, and I think she’s a very talented writer. Her books are easy to read but absorbing, too, and all her characters have such distinct voices — particularly impressive since she always writes in first person.

A bit of background: The Golden Lily is the second book in Mead’s spin-off series of Vampire Academy, Bloodlines. It’s from the point of view of alchemist Sydney Sage, as she undertakes a job to look after some Moroi (vampires).

I really enjoyed this book. Granted, there could be a little more action and less talk — but one of the things I enjoy is reading about the characters, who are all interesting and unique in their own right.

The budding romances written in were particularly well-written. I love the kind of awkwardness between Sydney and Brayden… well, awkwardness isn’t quite the right word, but seeing how Sydney interacts with him intellectually but not physically (and doubts her own normalness* because of this) was interesting to read juxtaposed alongside her budding relationship with Adrian.

I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the ending though — in a way, I felt like it was leading up to that particular moment for the whole book… and then Sydney won’t acknowledge it. I would’ve loved it, but it felt too similar to Dimitri and Rose’s relationship in Mead’s first couple of Vampire Academy books, so I was left a bit deflated.

However — this does not ruin the book for me since it’ll all be resolved over the next four novels in the series. I just wished I didn’t feel so much like I’ve seen the ending before. It’s a shame, but there we go. A definite four stars all the same. I love a good YA, and I love a good urban fantasy.

*is that a word? :/

Having just used my last lemon and ginger teabag, I’m going to have a good old discussion of coffee/tea. Because even though many of you… all of you… will find that boring, I love them both and want to write about my love of them on the internet.

Where did my relationship with hot drinks begin? I can remember having a cup of tea on a snowy day when I was a small person, though seeing as I’m still a shorty, I’m not sure that’s saying much. When I was about eight or nine probably. But no, I didn’t start my full blown relationship with tea until I was doing my GCSEs (Brit exams you take when you’re 16), and realised I needed something to make revision happy. Coffee came soon after, since, you know, coffee is cool. I was determined to like coffee, and after feeling sick from milky coffee, I realised black no sugar was the path to go (although, I do like latte and cappuccino, and they’re both basically milk).

And last year I decided to experiment with tea flavours, alongside drinking decaf coffee. Because I feared all the coffee wasn’t helping me concentrate when I was drinking about six mugs a day. And minty teas, lemon and ginger — they’re all the way to go. Green tea is bland, and fruity teas are disgusting (I hate putting sugar in tea, but I had to in order to finish a mug).

Are you a tea drinker or a coffee drinker? I’m both — is that allowed?

PS: Tagging the post, it seems I’ve already tagged coffee before. That’s how important coffee is. And it appears I also have several pictures of coffee on my laptop — see above for the proof. Not sure why.

Fiction Friday!

And now back to our regularly scheduled story. I’m aiming to write something a little more substantial for next week, but here’s today’s effort for now. It’s under two hundred words and about fulfillment. It is a free write, though, so take it with a pinch of salt. :)

Sometimes she wanted to give up. Actually — a lot of the time, if she was going to be honest. And she would be honest, because she just wasn’t good at it.

It felt like a lie, when she went home and told her parents ‘yeah, I love what I do.’ Because she didn’t. She felt tired all the time, she felt unappreciated all the time, she felt unfulfilled all the time. All the effing time. She wanted it to mean something, but it didn’t. She was just another person in an overpopulated world.

‘I’m going to prescribe you these tablets. Take one a day until you’ve finished the course; if it hasn’t cleared up, make another appointment, and we’ll try you on something else.’

She felt like that’s all she did every day, but it wasn’t. She saved lives every day, just by sending a person off to have tests. But it didn’t feel like she was, so she didn’t believe it.

The truth was, she needed to be somebody, but she had to make that happen and she didn’t know how to.

How many of you have read JK Rowling’s stories about the boy wizard? I have, many many times. And (I think) for the first time, I am rereading them in order, without breaks in between. I’m on Half-Blood Prince, now, and I imagine I’ll be saying good-bye to Harry and friends yet again within a couple of weeks.

But why is Harry Potter so readable; why has it captured readers all around the world? Why is it a rare book that people of all ages can enjoy? For me, it’s because Rowling has created an incredibly intricate fantasy world, that is believable enough that I can lose myself in it. I can believe in it. There are some fantasy worlds which I’ve enjoyed, but I don’t invest myself in heavily because I don’t conceive that it could be real. Meaning no disrespect to those authors, but Rowling brings Harry Potter’s world alive in a way I haven’t read about elsewhere.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I aspire to be an author too. I want to write. And in many ways, Rowling is one of my main inspirations. In fact, I owe her a lot, because I know without Harry Potter, my writing wouldn’t be as developed as it is at this stage. I’ve dabbled in fanfiction since I was about thirteen or fourteen — and it wasn’t so much about revisiting the characters for me, but learning to write.

Fanfiction doesn’t have a good rep. But let’s face it — you can post your writing for hundreds of similar people to see, and they tell you what you’re doing wrong and right. And you return the favour. I have contributed to fanfiction for about four years I should think, and looking back I can see the improvements in my writing. And I have to thank JK Rowling, because I don’t think I would’ve written fanfiction for any other series. It’s kept me writing, and it’s helped me to develop my writing in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.

And now I’ve pretty much stopped writing fanfiction; I’ve moved into original writing, and only original writing. Because I want my words to mean something to someone, just as Rowling’s words mean something to me. You can criticise fanfiction all you like, but it’s given me the tools to improve and criticise myself that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. So, I’m always going to respect it (although, I should add I use a moderated website. If you want to learn from writing fanfiction, I recommend you do too).

Now with that said, I’m going to get back to novel-planning. I’ve spent the last two months revising my plan constantly because there’s always something that isn’t quite working. Perhaps I’ll revise it ten more times till I’m happy, but I’m determined to write that book. Wish me luck!

http://fanfiction.mugglenet.com/ — my recommended fanfiction site, if you’re interested. :)

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