Sunday, 1 December 2013

"I should be Adam, God was proud of Adam."

Frankenstein is a great book - a book with so much meaning it almost feels as if Shelley is holding a pillow to your face, ready to smother you with feathered handfulls of words and moral messages that can potentially change the course of your life; perhaps its not the most subtle, but why be subtle when you can be devastating?
Last Monday me and a couple of friends were lucky enough to get tickets to see a special showing of Danny Boyle's Frankenstein in the cinema to celebrate the National Theatre's 50th anniversary. Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch played the title roles of Frankenstein and the creature (they alternated roles every night whilst the show was playing in the theatre, but at the showing we went to Cumberbatch played the creature to Miller's Frankenstein). Of course I'm probably biased because these are two of my favourite actors, particularly Cumberbatch, but their performances were absolutely phenomenal. 
The great thing about theatre is that it can portray the interpretations of many different people: from costume designers and lighting technicians to the actors, producer and director; many, many people have the opportunity to put forward their own
interpretations and readings of a text to produce a single creative piece. In this particular show, for example, the lighting as Frankenstein's creature woke and began to move about the stage links directly back to Shelley's words. "A stronger light pressed upon my nerves, so that I was obliged to shut my eyes", a light that in the show becomes repeated bursts of blinding white-yellow light (it was so bright I cried), the kind of light that would be absolutely debilitating were it to continue. Also the sudden shocks of light bursting at unexpected intervals as Cumberbatch crawled around the stage like a baby, wearing nothing but a loin cloth for a good 5 minutes, maybe longer, really did feel like a shock to the nerves. -- I can't believe I've just spent a paragraph talking about lighting?? I know nothing about lighting -- can you tell?? Aha.
In terms of acting, I really think Cumberbatch achieved one of the best performances I've ever seen, I only wish I'd had the opportunity to see it live as it must have been even better in the actual theatre. Cumberbatch's performance really brought to the forefront Shelley's messages about the wicked extents humanity can reach.

"Slowly I learnt the ways of humans: how to ruin, how to hate, how to debase, how to humiliate. And at the feet of my master I learnt the highest of human skills, the skill no other creature owns: I finally learnt how to lie". 

The entire plot of Frankenstein never shies away from criticising the enormous failings of humankind, and while there is immense good within our same species, perhaps it is the overpowering negatives which need to be addressed in each of us first and foremost. What arguably makes Frankenstein as hard-hitting as it can be if read for more than entertainment, is the way Shelley confronts all that no-one wants to admit about the extent to which people can fall, but which we all, in our hearts, know to be true. For me at least, the above quotation is amazingly profound and contains within it perhaps one of the most important messages that needs to be learnt. 
What was surprising about Danny Boyle's production was the combination of the dark, gothic story of Frankenstein with genuine humour. From Frankenstein's questioning his creature with "You've read Paradise Lost?" and the creature's response: "I liked it", to Elizabeth's upset at forgetting to invite the creature to her wedding, these moments made for scenes of much needed comic-relief. However, these moments of light comedy were then perfectly off-set with more serious dialogue. I'm not sure who the script-writer was but their writing is absolutely fantastic...

"What does it feel like to be in love?"
"It feels like everything is boiling over and spilling out of me; it feels like my lungs are on fire, and my heart is a hammer, and I feel like I can do anything... I feel like I can do anything in the world."

Sometimes I find it ironic how the best of human nature is described by Frankenstein's 'creature', a being made from the dead who is ultimately, and arguably, ruined by what he learned through observing people as we really are from the unbiased perspective of a forced outsider.
If you ever get an opportunity to see this production of Frankenstein honestly do as it's fantastic. The combination of Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller and Danny Boyle was always going to produce something amazing, but it really did surpass all expectations, making for a show that, if at times heavy, is only so because of the subject matter that, true as it is, can at times be hard to digest.

Monday, 11 November 2013


This review must have been written thousands of times by different people all over the world, and now having finally seen it I'm going to join the huge amount of people who have reviewed 'Wicked'. I don't even know how long I've wanted to see this musical for, but it's been years, and on Saturday night I finally saw it :D. If you haven't seen 'Wicked' yet seriously go book tickets now! It's just so ridiculously good, I can't even describe.
For some reason when my family go to see shows we somehow always miss the principle actors - we missed Alfie Boe by a day when we went to see Les Mis which I don't think I'll ever get over. But on Saturday we actually saw Louise Dearman as Elphaba, Gina Beck as Glinda and Ben Freeman as Fiyero. (If there ever was an excuse to fangirl I think this is one).
Since I'm the only one in my family who would actively choose to go and see musicals it can sometimes get a little awkward as I force my 20-year-old brother to sit through cheesy songs like 'Dancing
Louise Dearman as Elphaba
Through Life' or 'Popular'. But this time my family actually seemed to like it - right from Glinda's hilariously blonde comments about Dorothy's dog 'Dodo', to the unbelievable singing that just kept coming and coming.
This is definitely one of those musicals that's difficult to describe afterwards, but unusually for me I didn't leave the theatre only feeling deflated that it was over, instead I was just so happy I'd finally seen Defying Gravity performed live, after years of waiting. It was just as good and better than I could ever have hoped for it to be and I already want to go see it again - the sooner the better.
I'm still not sure which character I would rather be, but I know I couldn't be more jealous of the actors who get to play the parts. I can't even imagine how amazing it would be to be able to sing like that. 
Although the story did get lost in transition a little at times - I'm still not entirely clear on what exactly the Wizard was doing that made him and Elphaba become enemies, although I know it involved animals - the bits that did work were just so cleverly linked into the original 'Wizard of Oz' story, and the singing was some of the best I've ever heard. There was just the right mix between sad moments and funny moments, and 'Defying Gravity' might just be the most uplifting musical theatre song I've ever heard - looking round as the lights went up for the interval everyone was just staring at each other with open mouths, trying to comprehend how any human could sing so loudly and amazingly as they do at the end of that song.
Gina Beck as Glinda
There were riffs all over the place ('The Wizard and I', 'Defying Gravity' and 'No Good Deed' being the biggest songs), Gina Beck was fantastic as the shallow Glinda, and Louise Dearman literally unbelievable as Elphaba (even if my brother's only comment as we left the theatre was to say how short she was - I'm serious).
It made me so happy to see people of all ages in the theatre on Saturday night, not only because it means musical theatre is reaching many different generations, but also because 'Wicked' is such a powerful, relevant musical. The thing that is immediately obvious from the story and all the songs is the message to "never judge a book by its cover". And of course that's important, but, in my opinion, the more significant idea is that we can be anything we want to be, no matter what we look like or who others perceive us to be. Even though the whole of Oz knew Elphaba to be 'The Wicked Witch of the West', that doesn't mean that's who she really was, and although she conformed to that idea in front of them, she never fails to be herself to her true friends: Glinda and Fiyero, and even to the Wizard. She never stops fighting for what she believes in, taking no notice of what others think because she knows she is morally right. And that's why it's so great that so many people get to see the show (London's Wicked had their 5 millionth audience member at the show I went to see), especially with all the judgement that goes on in the world now-a-days. For young children, particularly girls, to see a show where someone who is not beautiful has the biggest songs, someone who is popular doesn't end up getting the guy, and where being yourself is undoubtedly the best thing you can be, it's
Ben Freeman as Fiyero
just so important.

Although Fiyero is most definitely a stereotypical male and can definitely be seen to be at least a little one dimensional, to me there was something a little more to him. I mean, if he really was a completely flat character he would almost certainly have married Glinda when she told him they were engaged. But instead he finds Elphie and helps her to be herself, even if that means going against the Wizard and his many guards, admitting he loves her without caring what others might think of that. I think it's so amazing to have a handsome prince reject the outwardly-beautiful girl for the girl he thinks is beautiful for her personality and who she is. As he said, although Elphie is supposedly ugly on the outside, seeing her as beautiful isn't lying "it's looking at things another way". Fiyero and Elphie are definitely one of the best musical theatre couples and it's so great that seeing beauty on the inside can be seen by so many people in such a successful musical. 
'Wicked' has some of the best songs in musical theatre and you could literally feel yourself being almost blown backwards by the force and power of the actor's voices. I already want to go and see it again, and hopefully this time people won't come in late and tread on my toe in heels right in the middle of 'What is this feeling?', but the show was just so good that didn't really ruin it at all. I hope everyone who has the opportunity to see this amazing musical does go, and I'm just so happy that a musical that is so relevant in today's judgemental society is so well-liked by so many people. Although 'Wicked' has left me with a weird want to travel everywhere by bubble or broom, the combination of a hilarious script and much needed moral messages mean 'Wicked' has been around for years, and will hopefully continue to be in the West End for many years to come. 10/10. 

I got tagged! - 10 questions about me

Okay so my amazing friend Jess over at Girl On Film tagged me in this post to answer some random questions about myself - basically it's time to let the internet know how boring I really am. But seriously, it looks like a really cute tag so have a read if you feel like it :)...

The rules of this tag are:

1.The tagged/nominated blogs have to have under 200 followers.

2.Tag the blog that nominated you.

3.Tell the people you tag so they can respond.

1. What inspired you to start a blog?

Okay this question is going to make for a really uninteresting start to this post. I don't really remember being 'inspired' as such, more I just thought I might as well. If anything it was probably the result of boredom, too much time on my hands and wanting my writing to improve, which I really hope it has. 

2. If you could go back to an era for a day which time era would you go back to?

Definitely 1920s England. Or maybe a little earlier in the 1800s or something. I just really love the fashions, the manners and pretty much everything about that time period. Although, if I actually went there I'd probably end up as some pauper's daughter working on a farm or something like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, or I'd be Daisy the kitchen maid in
Downton Abbey - 4am starts would not be my thing. But yes, mostly I love the manners and the clothing, especially the dresses... and the fact that men wore waistcoats every day :). Plus I think it would be pretty amazing to live at the same time as some of my favourite writers, nerdy as that sounds...

3. Cats or dogs?

Definitely dogs. St Bernard puppies are the cutest things I've ever seen in my life.

4. What is your must have clothing item for Autumn?

I actually have a serious lack of clothes at the moment and I spend most of my life wearing my black skater skirt - not very Autumny. But if I had a job and could afford it the first thing I would buy would be an autumn jumper... and then I'd sit in a window with some tea and a book and watch it snowing outside. I don't even know if it snows in Autumn but I really want to do that anyway.

5. What is your favourite book?

Okay, this one is too hard! I have no idea...and I definitely can't pick just one... Hmmmm, okay so if I had to list some of my favourites I guess I would say Les Miserables because it was one of the first books to have a genuine affect on me and I was unhealthily obsessed with it for a looong time - some would say I still am but I dunno. If anybody wants to shut me up or make me cry all they have to do is mention 'A Tale of Two Cities' because I just can't express my feelings for that book. I adored 'The Book Thief' and 'The Kite Runner', and 'One Day' was pretty good too. 'Life of Pi' took me a while, and two watches of the film, to get in any way at all, but once I'd kind of understood it a little bit I remember thinking it was so clever and probably deserves lots
of re-reads. But I need to move on because otherwise we could be here for days...

6. What is your dream job?

I'm glad this says dream job because every time I think about this in real life my brain
basically explodes into a mess of shouting "I HAVE NO IDEAAAAAA D':" But if I could sing, act and didn't get stupidly nervous I would love to be in loads of West End shows because that just seems like the best job anybody could ever have. But until I magically discover that I have an amazing voice that's been hiding away somewhere for 18 years, my kitchen, and now my car, will have to make do. And all those who can hear will just have to try and block out what sounds like a screeching cat as best they can. Sorry.

7. Is there anything you do that other people find weird?

I become easily obsessed with things that really aren't all that 'normal', so when I then fangirl over whatever that might be people just look at me like I'm some kind of freak (I actually got called a freak when I went to see the Les Mis movie on opening night and went in waving my home-made red flag... andd I'm probably not as embarrassed as I should be..) 

8. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Not stereotypically at all: PARIS. I adore this place. I'm not even sure why, but it's just so much prettier than anywhere else I've ever been. Also potentially Disney Land, if that's possible, because why not? 

9. Must have make-up item?

I've never been the greatest at doing my make-up, probably because I'm always worried about doing something seriously wrong, even though I know I could just take it off and start again if I wanted. And also make-up is EXPENSIVE!! But anyway, getting to the point, probably mascara because I have the tiniest eyes, or maybe foundation because I hate my skin. One of the two, but please never take them away from me.

10. Favourite quote?

This always used to be: "the greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves." (Victor Hugo). Because quite honestly if I ever get married I will feel desperately sorry for whoever that man might be. But last Christmas my brother gave me a little notebook which I started filling with cute quotes I like, the idea being if I ever feel down I can get the notebook out and cheer myself up again. But now I have far too many 'favourite quotes'. Including..: "To die will be an awfully big adventure","laugh as much as you breathe, love as long as you live", "life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret ANYTHING that makes you smile", "what the world needs is a group hug", and "be so happy that when others look at you they become happy too". Oh, and also anything by Dr Seuss. Yeah, okay I like stupidly cheesy quotes too much.

So that's the end of the tag, I hope you enjoyed learning some completely uninteresting stuff about me. I'm not going to tag anyone but if you like the questions then please feel free to tag yourself and leave me a link in the comments! 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Growing Up, Peter Pan Syndrome and Roald Dahl

So I have been absolutely terrible at blogging lately, I think it's been just under a month since I last came on Blogger at all, but logging in today I found this post I wrote a while ago, unpublished, but finished. If, like me, you're feeling terrified by the realisation that you actually exist and have to figure out something you have to do with the rest of your life and quickly, or, as is more likely, you're not and have no idea what I'm talking about, please have a read. I know I'm publishing this a bit late for Halloween, but seriously finally figuring out that I'm an actual person scared me far more than anything I've seen in the last week, so if you're not ready to be done with all that is frightening this October/ November then enjoy..:

Recently I've been feeling completely confused and scared by the whole idea of growing up. Maybe it's because I'm going to be 18 and 'legally an adult' in about a month, or maybe because I've finally sent off my university application to 5 universities, the one I eventually go to determining the course of the rest of my life. What used to be Roald Dahl's 'Revolting Rhymes' has turned into Angela Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber', worrying about homework deadlines has turned into worrying about the meaning of life... actually deadlines are still there, but that's not the point. Everyone around me is having an  existential crisis and nobody has any idea what to do about it (enter Dan Howell, I'll post his amazing YouTube video below..).
And for some unknown reason I've taken comfort in Roald Dahl of all things. I've never been someone to believe in 'growing out' of things - why shouldn't a book that meant a lot to me when I was younger still mean a lot to me now? The whole idea of having to renounce things just because you're apparently 'too old' to like it anymore is just ridiculous to me. But anyway.. I saw a Roald Dahl quote the other day and it just got me thinking how much of a great writer he really was:

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”

Someone with such a vivid, wild imagination - an imagination that came up with Willy Wonka and the Witches and everything that made so many childhoods great - probably didn't ever really grow up at heart. And why should any of us? We move from being these amazing human beings, wanting to do everything we can and living completely in the moment when we're children, to depressed, scared people with little imagination, unable to live without worrying about the past or future. Obviously that's a generalisation, but seeing Roald Dahl quotes pop up on the internet every now and then always reminds me of what I should really be worrying about in my every day life, if I should be worrying about anything at all.
And then the other night, whilst having a Tim Minchin marathon on YouTube, I stumbled across 'When I Grow Up' from Matilda the musical. Oh my God this song. I can't even describe my love for it. Yes it's a happy song, but there's also an almost wistful quality to it that sums up everything I'm feeling at the moment. We go through our early childhoods believing our parents are something like invincible. We say "when I grow up I'm going to be...tall/smart/brave/etc. just like my Mum/ Dad", and then at some point, unconsciously, we let life take over and everything changes, days flying by in a blur of school, teenage arguments and homework. Until one day we actually realise what's happened. Suddenly we're reaching our late-teens, our childhood gone, and we take a look at ourselves and think that all the things we thought we would have become by now we haven't, or at least not yet. We realise that, although we always thought our Mums and Dads would never be afraid of anything, they would probably be just as scared as anyone else were someone they love to be threatened. Of course it's not a bad thing to learn that all people are just as human as ourselves, but there is something sad about the realisation that most of what you believe at a young age isn't true. So then looking at Minchin's lyrics from those two perspectives, the optimistic, child-like side and what some would depressingly call the 'realistic', they can become so profound and beautiful it just makes me want to cry...

When I grow up,
I will be tall enough to reach the branches
That I need to reach to climb the trees
You get to climb when you're grown up.

And when I grow up,
I will be smart enough to answer all
The questions that you need to know 
The answers to before you're grown up.

And when I grow up,
I will eat sweets every day,
On the way to work, and I will
Go to bed late every night.
And I will wake up
When the sun comes up, and I 
Will watch cartoons until my eyes go square,
And I won't care 'cause I'll be all grown up.

The point I'm getting to, I think, is that I don't want to be one of those people who is constantly terrified of the future. Who knows how we get out of what could become an endless cycle of fear, but it seems most people do make their way out of it at some point, or at least learn to deal with it, so fingers crossed :). Peter Pan Syndrome and existential crisis is most definitely the most scary thing I've come across this Halloween, and maybe existence and 'growing up' is just something everyone has to realise and deal with before being chucked out of the school system into a world of university, jobs, taxes and fending for yourself. Who knows? But until I do find out what the point of life is, I will try to view the world with "glittering eyes" and not be too depressed by the idea that I probably never will own a bakery called 'Valjean's', much as I want that to happen. :) Have a happy day!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Reckless Engineer

'The Reckless Engineer' really isn't the kind of book I would usually read. Actually if I saw it on the shelf in a book shop I'd probably take one look at the title and, shamefully, completely disregard it. So it was actually quite lucky that a few weeks ago Jac Wright emailed me asking me to read and review his book before it's published in a couple of months. At a time when I need to force myself to read books from different genres this was perfect...
I guess I would describe this book as a modern combination of Dickens and maybe Poirot. Actually I want to say Miss Marple because Jeremy, the protagonist, is something like an amateur detective, a bit like Marple, except he's not in his 70s... and he doesn't carry knitting. Hmmm, maybe just think Agatha Christie-type crime, detective novel with Dickensian descriptions... Anyway. It was so, so much better than I was expecting it to be, and I might even be a new convert to detective, suspense-type novels. 
The story follows engineer Jeremy Stone as his best friend, Jack, is accused of the murder of his lover Michelle (or as I and many of the characters affectionately liked to refer to her: 'the bitch'). Jeremy spends his time trying to clear Jack's name whilst the high-profile case is continuously hounded by the press, and other suspects all hinder his process while trying to save themselves. Along the way there are plenty of twists and turns and at one point there were about 9 suspects, all with plausible motives, virtually no alibis, and each equally threatening in their own right; basically you have not a clue who committed the crime until very few pages before the end.
I loved that there was actual description throughout, something which is all too often lost in contemporary novels in lieu of supposedly fast-paced plots. In this book the reader is treated to both. Although this doesn't mean that there weren't things that did annoy me at times; for example there was very little description of male characters compared to females. At the end of the novel I still had no idea what the main character looked like, while pretty much every female character had been extensively described as 'sexy' or something similar, having at least a paragraph of description each. Not that that's a bad thing, but when the male protagonist wasn't described at all I became a little desperate for a male jaw here and there... (Basically the feminist in me got angry, ugh). And if Jeremy, the protagonist, is supposed to look something like Scott Eastwood, and another character like Richard Armitage, as the author has suggested, then I can't really understand why you wouldn't want to describe them. Seriously, look at his beautiful face...
This led me to think that the book is more targeted towards a male audience, although females can clearly still enjoy it. It's the kind of book I might give to by Dad or brother for Christmas in the hope that they may actually read something - it's definitely a novel I can imagine someone becoming so engrossed in they can't put it down until they finally discover 'who dunnit'. And the ending completely took me by surprise which made me so happy. Like in a Sherlock Holmes novel the answers had gone unnoticed while subtly being there all along, and so when the killer was revealed I was left open-mouthed and completely shocked. This made me so happy since it happens so rarely. So, just, yay!
There were plenty of characters I didn't like and if Michelle hadn't been murdered at the outset I might have had to kill her myself (I'm not quite sure how that would work, but just go with it..). I saw Jack, the accused, as a dirty cheater for most of the book, although he does become more sympathetic later; and most of the suspects were of the threatening thug type you seem to find in fiction and luckily never in real life (or maybe I just live a seriously secluded life while everyone else is running around shooting each other, who knows..). But as Wuthering Heights has proved, unlikeable characters do not make for a bad book, and in cases such as this I think they actually add to the enjoyment of the book as you begin to hope that maybe somehow they'll all be arrested.
I would really recommend this book for anyone who wants to expand the genres they are reading, any men, and anybody who loves crime novels. It was also great to see the influence of Dickens throughout the book with heavier scenes interspersed with some light humour - a drunken phone call between Jeremy and his lawyer friend particularly springs to mind here - not to mention some great description throughout. So, yes, I was pleasantly surprised by this book and now I'm going to go and order J.K. Rowling's 'The Cukoo's Calling' since I think this book might have triggered a detective and crime novel fetish I had no idea I had. 7/10.

Have a Happy Saturday!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Is it possible to read too much?

“You get a little moody sometimes but I think that's because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up.” - Pat Conroy.

This quote describes me so perfectly it's actually a little depressing. It might be the completely-out-of-proportion, never-going-to-come-true expectations that pretty much everyone who reads have at some point in their lives, particularly when it comes to romance. Or maybe it's the many weird and wonderful characters who, when you read a book, can become almost like friends. But most likely for me anyway, I think it's probably the amount I get confused between what is real life and what is fiction that makes me "a little fucked up". I mean, it took me nigh on a year to convince myself that, no, Jean Valjean never existed, and will never exist. (*sob*)
I also find that I can get so completely lost in the world of a book that the lives of the characters in whichever book I might be reading start to become more important than my own. And I know I'm not alone in this, mainly because Carrie Fletcher (YouTuber and the West End's current Eponine) frequently says she has the same problem. And maybe it really is a problem. 
For example, last year, when I was supposed to be revising for exams, I decided to pick up A Tale of Two Cities, just to read a few chapters - BIG mistake. 400 pages and many, many tears later, I had no idea what to do with myself. That book destroyed my mind. I was inconsolable for LITERALLY weeks, and it's seriously not good to keep having your mind drift to complex characters like Sydney Carton when you're supposed to be writing about Plato, or the Crusades, or whatever exam that was, I can't even remember.
But then, reading is clearly a good thing to do: it develops the imagination; reading other people's writing is supposed to improve your own; and reading offers the escape from reality that everyone needs at some point in their lives. So maybe the question that really needs to be asked is this: can you become too emotionally involved in the books you read? ... and the answer to that, as much as I want to say otherwise, is probably, yes.

“Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?...As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells...and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower...both strange and familiar.” - Cornelia Funke

And then you read quotes like that; writing that is so beautiful, and so true, it makes me want to sob for a reason I'm not quite sure of. And so, maybe, yes, you can get too emotionally involved in books - and I'm sure my friends have told me too many times that nobody else cares about the book I'm reading, and I should let it go just a tad. But I don't want to. And maybe it's okay to take your chances, and read books to learn as much as you can, both about writing, and about humanity. Maybe one day I'll realise that it's better to simply live my own life, but I don't really see why I can't do both; why shouldn't I let 'The Book Thief' make me cry, or 'Crime and Punishment' make me want to throw it across the room?? And the great thing about books is that they can show you how you grow - while I HATED 'Anna Karenina' when I first read it two years ago, when I've grown up a bit maybe I'll have a different opinion. Just like a few years ago, I'm ashamed to admit it but I liked 'Twilight', and now I pretty well loathe it. 

Books will always have an important place in society and I can't really imagine life without them. And maybe I'll find out in a few years that I did become too involved in the books I read, but for now I'm going to continue to let books be a big part of my life, and be glad that I have something to be enthusiastic and fangirl about when I see people everyday who don't have anything to get excited about. And, right now, I'm going to go make some tea and carry on reading 'The Mill on the Floss'. 

Happy Monday! :)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

He is more myself than I am...

So much for becoming a regular blogger, it's been a month since my last post... oops.
Right now I should be doing history homework but I've already written two essays today and so I'm taking a break to talk about, of all things, Wuthering Heights. Hence the soppy title.
Wuthering Heights was my first re-read of 2013 (leaving it a bit late I know) and I'll be honest, I mainly picked it up because I have to study it for my English A level - I'm so happy about that I can't even explain. This book makes me fangirl an embarrassing amount, and most of the time that happens in the worst possible places - like when a friend mentions the book in the common room and I suddenly become unable to use proper words, settling instead on making noises and flapping my hands around. 
Anyway, Emily Brontë is such a brilliant writer, even though I hated pretty much every. single. character, I loved the book enough to make it one of my new favourites. I first read it when I was about 13 so I didn't really understand much of what was going on. But this time, Heathcliff completely came alive, jumping out from the pages every time he spoke, Cathy was about the most hateful character I think I've ever read about (ugh, I can't even explain how much I hate her), and lovely Edgar Linton made me want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him out of his stupid love for Cathy. 
This is the most quotable book I've read in a long time, and I think Cathy was the only character I hated the whole way through. I felt a lot of things for Heathcliff: pity when he was first taken into Mr Earnshaw's hands and mistreated by Hindley, sympathy when Cathy married another man despite her love for him, and anger when he became basically a cruel psychopath by the end of the book. 

“Be with me always - take any form - drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!”

It's definitely Brontë's beautiful writing that makes this book the classic that it is, well that and the somewhat depressing, confusing, but ultimately passionate plot. You can tell that, with all Brontë writes about the soul, and if the soul exists, her writing certainly comes from there. It's one of the most passionate books I've ever read, and it's that which makes her loathsome characters anywhere near relatable. Reading it makes you realise  that there's a part of every character you read about in books within you, even if those characters are slightly strange, like Heathcliff. And so I've come to the conclusion that Emily Brontë was a genius.
Maybe the way to judge whether a book is good or not is to decide whether or not you would re-read it. And although I'll HAVE to re-read it for my exam next year, I think I can safely say I would re-read this book out of choice, although I might leave a bit of a bigger gap in between reads if I had a choice.
There were only two characters I actually liked: Edgar Linton and Hareton Earnshaw. Both of them were lovely, and in a book with mostly nasty characters, I almost had to latch on to the 'quite nice' ones to stay sane. Mostly Hareton and Edger are the characters you feel sorry for whilst both generations of Cathys basically tear them to pieces. What I did like about Wuthering Heights was the contrast between Heathcliff and Cathy's destructive love (or should that be lust?) and the happy love presented at the end of the novel. Brontë definitely makes it clear which love she thinks the most healthy, although if she led the secluded life we are all lead to believe you can't help but wonder if she was dreaming of her own Heathcliff somewhere in the world, waiting for him to save her from the apparently boring life she was leading. 
So no, I'm not now in love with Heathcliff as many women are who read this book are, apparently. Although, having said that who wouldn't want to say that their boyfriend is "more myself than I am"? 
Wuthering Heights is such an amazing book, if you haven't read it yet, seriously go read it now, it's so, so good. But be prepared to feel like Martin Freeman at the beginning of 'The Hobbit' when you start out - i.e. yelling "I'm going on an adventure" whilst running off into the hills; you'll probably have no idea where the book is going most of the time, but it's worth it when you finally work out who everyone is, and how everyone is related to everyone else. It honestly will be one of the best books you will ever read. Have a happy Sunday! 10/10

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

I got tagged! - my 10 favourite movies...

So, I got tagged by Miss Jane Bennet over at Classic Ramblings and I think this involves me writing down my 10 favourite movies (I'm actually not sure I have 10, but we'll see as I go along) and why I like them... should be fun :)

Apparently there are some rules, so here they are: 
1. List favourite movies (in no particular order)
2. Post James Movie Tribute Video somewhere on your blog 

3. Tag other blogs (optional)

1. NOTTING HILL: Oh my goodness, this film. It's romantic, funny, and has the line "happiness isn't happiness without a violin-playing goat", which I think speaks for itself...

2. TANGLED: Flynn Ryder, dreams and great songs. This film is pretty much as perfect as any film could get. And I'm probably not as ashamed as I should be to admit that I have a pretty big crush on a cartoon character (all I'm saying is at least this one is human, and I stand by the fact that Simba is an attractive lion) moving very swiftly on...

3. LES MISERABLES: Of course this one has to be a favourite. It makes me cry EVERY time at the finale, and it brought Les Mis to a wider audience, which is nice.

4. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (25th ANNIVERSARY): does this one count as a film? I don't much care, I'm going to include it anyway because I adore it. Hadley Fraser, marry me?

5. Too many Disney films to mention: mainly TARZAN, THE LION KING and BEAUTY & THE BEAST, but pretty much most of them. It's actually quite embarrassing how much I love Disney movies, but there's something about the classics and the songs that will never get old - everyone loves a bit of nostalgia, after all... and if I ever have kids, they will watch these films, even if they don't like them.

6. FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS: Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis together in one film? It was bound to be great anyway, but then they just made it hilarious too, at the same time as being unbelievably cute. Definitely a feel good film...

7. 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU: Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt just make this film. And the "Can't take my eyes off of you" scene is perfect.

8. THE HOLIDAY: Just saying Jude Law is probably enough explanation for this one.

9. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Every Christmas this film can be found on in my house -  not because it's a family tradition, most of the time it's just me sat in front of the TV with my duvet and a big bar of chocolate, but I've made it my own tradition, because it's lovely. 

10. THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE: The spiritual hippie in me loves this film. A movie about golf really isn't that appealing on the face of it, but really it's about life. And it has Will Smith spouting life lessons, which I wouldn't miss for the world :)

And the person I'm going to tag is Jess :) Happy Wednesday!!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A Thousand Splendid Suns

"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls"

People have been telling me to read Khaled Hosseini's 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' for
years but it wasn't until recently, when I saw it staring at me from my crowded shelves of unread books, that I decided it was finally time to pick it up and start reading. 
This is the kind of book that it's virtually impossible to put down, and so you rush through the first pages until, as the end approaches, you suddenly realise that you don't want it to finish and so slow down as much as possible to take in the final 20 or so pages. 
This was such a touching book, although Hosseini does make you feel a multitude of different emotions as you read: from horror and despair, to disbelief and at some moments disgust. And then only pages later you are heartened, hopeful, and at times even joyous. 
But is this book better than The Kite Runner? Honestly, I'm not sure it is, and of course this is purely a matter of opinion and every reader will think differently, but for me there was just something more about The Kite Runner that had me thinking about it for days after I read the final page. In contrast, only days after finishing A Thousand Splendid Suns, the story is almost (almost) gone from my mind. But I did really enjoy it while I was reading it, and it's definitely a book that is difficult to put down. Also I'm not sure anyone needs to decide which book is better; they're both now favourites of mine, joining many other books which it would be so difficult to rank... basically what John Green said when asked what his favourite book was - "you want just one??!"
Hosseini really does have a way with words and there were so many 'quotable' sentences. The characters were great and I loved that the female characters ended up taking control of their own destinies, rather than waiting for men to sort everything out for them. (Hosseini even says that "a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated" - this quote makes me happy, and ironically, especially since it's written by a man). 
One of the great things about Hosseini's books is that they offer westerners an insight into Afghan society. I often feel bad at how little I know about the situation in the east with multiple wars that seem to have been taking place forever. It's even difficult to connect with the areas when disasters such as bombings are shown on the news, and so books like this will always be needed to remind us of all the atrocities that are taking place in the eastern world, and the fact that those events are just as bad there as they would be if bombings took place here. We just hear far less about it. 
There is even some much needed romance in Hosseini's book, in the form of Tariq. Although he isn't present for much of the story, you do get the feeling that he is always there in thought, and he gets to say one of the most beautiful and wonderfully soppy lines in the book: "I will follow you to the ends of the world" -- I may or may not have let out a very long (and very loud) "awwwwwwwh" at this point...

There are **SPOILERS** from this point on...

“Miriam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad, Miriam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings.”

This quote is so beautifully written and is a perfect example of the overriding message of love presented throughout the book as a conquerer of everything, even the opinions of society. For me it also reminds me of what Dr Wayne Dyer - I love this man, he's so great :) - repeats again and again: that material objects are absolutely nothing, after all when we die we can't take any 'stuff' with us, and the love you give to all those around you is everything. Miriam really was a great character and I'm not quite sure I can forgive Hosseini for killing her, although I guess he did kind of make up for it, if only a little, with Laila's pregnancy at the end. I like that he left it up to the reader to decide the gender of her baby, and I'd be willing to bet most people who read the book like to think she has a girl. 
The last sentence of the book was beautiful and finished off the novel in a way that leaves the reader satisfied, rather than annoyed at the lack of a decent ending. So often the ending of books can be wrong (I'm still annoyed about 'Before I go to Sleep', ughh) but this one was just right and Hoseini's tone remained the same until the very end.
I'm definitely looking forward to reading his next book 'And the Mountains Echoed' at some point in the near future and if his first two books are anything to go by, it'll be absolutely amazing! 9/10.

Thursday, 1 August 2013


I can officially now label myself a 'Cumberbitch', and I'm proud of that fact. I had caught a couple of episodes of 'Sherlock' here and there while they were on TV but, although I wanted to watch it, the BBC series somehow evaded me for 2 years. But then my friend offered to lend me her boxset and I'm fairly sure I'm now suitably obsessed. Since yesterday evening I've watched all 9 hours of the first two series, despite the 30 degree heat outside, meaning I'm just as pale as ever but probably not as unhappy about that as I should be. Ugh, it's just so perfect.
Every so often you find a series in which every episode is just as amazing as the one that came before it. Friends was the first. And then came 'North and South' and 'Emma' in terms of period drama. And then there was Merlin, Miranda and of course Downton Abbey (the last Christmas episode doesn't count, I've wiped that from my memory). And now we have Sherlock, and it might just be the best of the lot. There's a wonderful combination of serious drama and comedy about Sherlock that makes it a fantastic series which I hope will never become tired. And it's always nice to have a light-hearted drama on TV to counteract the increasingly depressing EastEnders. 
The reworking of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character to modernise the well-known stories and bring them into today's London, works so well I'm pretty sure it's better than the Robert Downey Jr./ Jude Law films. And I'll be honest, much of that is down to
yes, Benedict Cumberbatch will be in every picture
the brilliance of Benedict Cumberbatch. He basically makes the series and it's unlikely the whole thing would work so well without him. Additionally his pairing with Martin Freeman ('The Hobbit') as Dr. John Watson shows so much chemistry it's impossible to not believe that they're good friends. Although, having said that, I did keep shouting 'Martin' and 'Benedict' (I might have even called him 'Bennie' at some points which almost seems criminal) at the screen when something was going wrong, rather than 'Sherlock' or 'John'. Yeah... we'll forget that ever happened.

Actually it's probably a good thing I was home alone when I finally got round to watching the series because it's definitely the kind of show to get a little squealy about. Whether that's at the appearance of Benedict Cumberbatch's beautiful face on screen, or yelling at him not to jump off that building... and then later becoming a teeny bit hysterical when he appeared alive in the graveyard. 
Ever since Sherlock faked his own death in the last episode the internet has been alive with conjecture as to how he did it. Personally I have absolutely no idea. Not a clue. Perhaps Mycroft helped, perhaps he didn't. Maybe the man on the bicycle who knocked over Watson was involved, maybe he wasn't. After much wondering I've decided it's probably best to just wait for the new series to find out, although the only person I would bet on being involved is Molly. And I want her and Sherlock to get together. Ugh, there I said it. Seriously it would be so, so cute. Hmmm, maybe I'll send Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss a letter one day. 

I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with myself waiting for the next series of Sherlock - hopefully the rumours that the air date has been pushed back to 2014 are untrue as I'm not sure I can wait that long. It has been released this week that the brilliant Moriarty will be replaced by a new nemesis by the name of Charles Augustus Magnusson. I've never heard of that character before but I'm sure it will be great, even if it will be difficult to replace Andrew Scott's wonderfully mental Moriarty. And the only other clue we have about the next series are three words: Rat, wedding and bow. What the hell that means I have no idea - does it mean bow as in tying a bow?? or bow as in take a bow?? I'm guessing the last one but I can't be the only person confused, right?
Sherlock is without doubt the best series that's been on TV in a while - I can't believe I'm saying this but it might even beat Downton. And so for as long as I can I shall try to wait patiently until Sherlock returns, but meanwhile I think I might just have to order the boxset of the first two series and satisfy myself with those 6 episodes for the next few months. Seriously, 3 episodes does not constitute a series!!! 10/10

Friday, 19 July 2013

Nelson Mandela day - a day late

I started writing this post yesterday but got distracted by the weather and TV and sleep, so it's now a day late, but hopefully relevant just the same...
On Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, I decided it was time to finally find out about all the amazing things this great man has done throughout his life. At a time when Mandela's health is poor, we are all reminded just how human each and every person is; no one is exempt from the powers of nature, but each of us have health for a certain period of our lives and numbered days to make a difference. It's difficult to find positives in the very negative situation that is Mandela's ill-health. However, it does emphasise the fact that we are all human, no matter who we are or what we do, and someone like Mandela is a fantastic reminder of all that ANY human can do if we only put our minds to something and put ourselves out there. Taking a risk for the slight possibility that we might make a difference to somebody's life, no matter how small and apparently insignificant that difference may be. 
Knowing pretty much nothing about Mandela other than the fact that he was in prison for a while, I decided to start easy first and look at the BBC primary history website. From this I've found that he was in prison for 27 years after fighting through the organisation of rebel groups to overthrow the pro-apartheid government of South Africa (I'll admit I didn't know what that meant, but google tells me apartheid is a policy of segregation/ discrimination on racial grounds). While in prison, Mandela was hailed as a great man and was well respected, even by many prison guards. On release in 1990, he soon became the first black president of South Africa (1994), confirming his title as a hero in the eyes of many. I'm guessing most people know this information already so I'm going to add in some fun facts I found in the side bar: there is a spider named after Mandela; apparently while in prison and after his release Mandela rose early every morning and began exercising at 4:30am (I wish I had his level of motivation); and finally, Mandela's famous brightly coloured shirts are called 'Madiba' shirts, linking back to his nickname. 

It's probably a fair comment that most prestigious people have come out with a few pretty good quotes in their time, and Mandela certainly didn't let down. My favourite of his quotes include: "A winner is a dreamer who never gives up", "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it's opposite", and "it always seems impossible until it's done". While looking at these quotes I began to find it difficult to imagine how any mind can put together words and sentences so beautiful as to encapsulate all that any human can want and feel throughout their lives. I've certainly always found quotes a very humbling thing. However, to continue the train that Mandela is just a normal person, his quotes are interesting because, as I said before, all he is doing is putting the thoughts that are deep within each human heart into words, words which all can understand and hopefully begin to put into practice. And that's a fantastic thing to be able to do. But it also defines Mandela again as no different from all the rest of us; to put together speeches the words used must strike a cord with not only the audience but also the speaker, allowing all listeners to come together and unify in one single thought or emotion, each wanting the same thing. So just because Mandela is the speaker reaching out to his audience doesn't make him any different from the rest of us, of course he might be able to string a sentence together better, or have the bravery to put himself out there, but at his core is the exact same substance that is rooted in all of us. As long as we can all remember that, anything can be possible, just as Mandela has proved.
I'm not saying that all of us will be the next Nelson Mandela, or even could be (we all have our own strengths). But we do all have the skills to be the best version of ourselves that we can be, achieving all we are able and making any small differences possible - be it conducting a charity cake sale, or even just smiling at a stranger in the street. We should never underestimate our ability to make a difference and Mandela is a perfect example of that (even if his difference was on a much larger scale than the majority of us will achieve). And actually what has taken me a whole post to try and write about can be summed up in a couple of simple lines from the great man himself: "There is no passion to be found in playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living".