Immediate To-Read List

Immediate To-Read List

I feel as if I have not been to the library forever, so today on this splendid sunny morning my family and I departed for the town library and withdrew a vast multitude of books. I took out quite a lot more than I expected (almost exceeding the limit), and I feared the carrier bag would break on the journey outside, but judgement aside I’m excited to get stuck into reading some print-copy books!

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Here is my immediate reading list, some of which are on the The Ultimate Reading Challenge List (which are in bold below). I’ll edit as I go along when I have read the books here, and which rating I gave each book!

Progress: 5/17 books completed

  1. How I Live Now // Meg Rosoff A unique masterpiece: 5 stars!
  2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children // Ransom Riggs Brilliant writing, but weak plot: 3 stars 
  3. The Monstrous Child // Francesca Simon One of the most original books I have read, ever: 5 stars!
  4. The Good Liar // Nicholas Searle  A brilliant thriller set across decades: 4 stars
  5. Warm Bodies // Isaac Marion
  6. Dream Thieves // Maggie Stiefvater 
  7. Blue Lily, Lily Blue // Maggie Stiefvater 
  8. Insurgent // Veronica Roth
  9. Lament // Maggie Stiefvater 
  10. Am I Normal Yet? // Holly Bourne
  11. Half Wild // Sally Green
  12. The Trap // Alan Gibbons Important and relevant in today’s world: 4 stars
  13. The Edge of Everything // Jeff Giles
  14. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece // Annabel Pitcher
  15. The Fault in Our Stars // John Green
  16. Cain // Luke Kennard
  17. The Chemist // Stephanie Meyer

 

Thoughts On: Arrival (2016)

Thoughts On: Arrival (2016)

Hands down, this film is one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen. It offers a refreshing lens to the alien first-contact sub-genre, with some brilliant acting from the main cast, a beautiful soundtrack, and an epic glance at the nature of language and its conceptual reality.

In Arrival, one average day twelve giant metallic-looking pods appear in seemingly random places across the world, levitating above the ground and defying the laws of gravity. Already, this foreshadows some of the later parts of the film by introducing the defiance of everything we know to be real and possible. We follow a prominent lecturer in the field of linguistics, Amy Banks, who leads a team to try to find a way to communicate with the aliens within the pod that hovers over the US. The film daringly explores the nature of communication and unlike many similar films which depict the aliens as creatures wanting to crush humanity, their motive is strikingly different: the aliens want to give our planet a gift.

Since the aliens communicate with inky circle-like shapes, Banks must try to decipher a series a of symbols and determine whether the aliens will be a threat. However, the clock is ticking and other nations lead by China are threatening to start a war with the aliens if they do not leave their territory within twenty-four hours.

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My favourite aspect of the film is the way in which it portrays the conceptual realities that language imposes upon (and restricts) us. For the aliens, time passes in a non-linear format, which is eventually revealed to be the gift they wish to give to humans: the transcendence to greater meanings and experiences. Therefore, their arrival into time and our reality is simply another place, as they appear to be highly developed multi-dimensional beings. The film directly references the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: our language determines, defines and potentially restricts our every day experiences. Banks gives an excellent example, if one taught language in the relation to the rules of chess, every word and its meaning would be linked to victory and defeat. This is a lot like Wittgenstein’s idea of language games and the potential inability to conceptually grasp what is meant by the meanings of  a language beyond our own.

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Ultimately, this film is a beautiful look at what it means to communicate and presents the sheer fear of an unknown species with potentially greater power but unknown intentions. A breath-taking film and massively overrated!

10 Quotes For When You Feel Like Giving Up On Your Novel

10 Quotes For When You Feel Like Giving Up On Your Novel

Earlier today I finished writing my third book (I’m still not quite sure how, exactly). It’s in a magnificent need of an edit, but it’s complete at around 70K and I’m sure some of you can relate (or will soon relate) to the satisfaction of closing your story with a great ending. For those of you like me who struggle with procrastination when writing, here are ten brilliant quotes to motivate you to finish that story!

  1. “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” — Anne Tyler
  2. “The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday.” — David Schlosser
  3. “The professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” — Richard Bach
  4. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” — Octavia Butler
  5. “You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” — Jodi Picoult
  6. “You only fail if you stop writing.” — Ray Bradbury
  7. “If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.” — Margaret Atwood
  8. “If a story is in you, it has got to come out.” — William Faulkner
  9. “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” — Joseph Heller
  10. “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” — Martin Luther

(#10 is my personal favourite!)

Hopefully you will feel inspired, and if not, what are you waiting for? Go and work on your next story, or finish that edit, or pick up that book!

And also have a lovely Easter.

To Read: April

To Read: April

April? Already? How time has flown by, and I’m certainly not looking forward to my upcoming exams… Anyhow, hopefully these gorgeous books will distract us all from the impending doom of A-Levels.

As well as finishing the books I am currently reading, I would like to read in April (all from The Ultimate Reading Challenge List):

  1. The Sun Also Rises // Ernest Hemingway
  2. Gone Girl // Gillian Flynn
  3. Far From the Madding Crowd // Thomas Hardy
  4. Memoirs of a Geisha // Arthur Golden
  5. Fahrenheit 451 // Ray Bradbury
  6. Great Expectations // Charles Dickens
  7. Wool // Hugh Howey
  8. Slated // Terri Terry

What are you planning to read this month?

PS: Who else is hyped to see 13 Reason Why, released yesterday?

Reading Challenge Progress: End of March

Reading Challenge Progress: End of March

Since the last update I’ve been reading a lot more than I actually realised, I’m stunned to discover that I’ve actually read three times more books over the last month and a half than I did the same time period before! It looks like this year might be the most successful reading year yet as I’m well on track to completing my Goodreads reading challenge!

Current progress, as of 26/03/17

I have read 39% of my overall challenge of 100 books, which means that I am 16 books ahead of schedule!

My last update recorded 10 books, but in the same time period this time I’ve read quite a number more, many of my reads correlating to The Ultimate Reading Challenge List. Therefore, I can definitely say that this last month or so has been the most successful update to date!


Books I’ve read since the last update:

Underlined Books that are part of The Ultimate Reading Challenge List

[I also added on a rating out of five stars for each of the books I read.]

  1. Elizabeth Is Missing // Emma Healey 5 stars
  2. All the Bright Places // Jennifer Niven 5 stars
  3. The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die // April Henry 3 stars
  4. This Is Where It Ends // Marieke Nijkamp 5 stars
  5. The Infinite Sea // Rick Yancey 5 stars
  6. Eagle Strike // Anthony Horowitz 5 stars
  7. Abducted // Evangeline Anderson 4 stars
  8. The Raven Boys // Maggie Stiefvater 3 stars
  9. The Giver // Lois Lowry 3 stars
  10. Sabriel // Garth Nix 4 stars
  11. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be // Paul Arden 4 stars
  12. Me Before You // Jojo Moyes 4 stars
  13. The Last Star // Rick Yancey 5 stars
  14. The Little Book of Clarity // Jamie Smart 4 stars
  15. Confessions From An Arranged Marriage // Miranda Neville 2 stars
  16. Not That Kind of Girl // Lena Dunham 4 stars
  17. The Alien’s Abduction // C. K. Roxanne 2 stars
  18. Captured by the Sweet Alien // Ruth Anne Scott 3 stars
  19. Taken for the Alien Prince // Ruth Anna Scott 3 stars
  20. Mine to Tarnish // Jeneal Falor 3 stars
  21. Defaced // Marissa Farrar 4 stars
  22. The Knife of Never Letting Go // Patrick Ness 5 stars
  23. The New World // Patrick Ness 3 stars
  24. The Miserable Mill // Lemony Snicket 3 stars
  25. Owned By the Hitman // Alexis Abbott 1 star
  26. A Monster Calls // Patrick Ness 5 stars
  27. The Power // Naomi Alderman 4 stars
  28. The Extra // Kathryn Lasky 2 stars
  29. The One // Keira Cass 3 stars

The Highlights

  • Overall, I’m really glad to have finished The Fifth Wave trilogy; it’s truly unlike any YA trilogy I’ve read before and I definitely recommend for anyone looking for some brilliant characters and thrilling plot.
  • As always, anything by Patrick Ness. The film adaptation of A Monster Calls is also just as amazing as the book.
  • Sabriel was a brilliant read. I went into it blind not sure quite what I would find. I was pleasantly excited to discover a fantastically-constructed world with memorable characters and a badass heroine.
  • Abducted. While it seemed another awful romance on the surface, it was a surprisingly great read blending humour, drama and sci-fi elements.
  • I added in some non-fiction books which I don’t usually read, my favourite of which is Not That Kind of Girl.

The Low-lights

  • Me Before You. Admittedly this was a good read, but it wasn’t as mind-blowing and polished as I wanted it to be. I finished the book feeling that something was lacking.
  • The One. The third instalment of the series was the middle ground between what I hated about the first book and what I loved about the second.

Currently reading and plan to finish soon…

Quicksand // Malin Persson Giolito // 20%
Hunchback of Notre-Dame
// Victor Hugo // 12%
Daring Greatly // Brene Brown // 10%
Tess of D’Urbervilles // Thomas Hardy // 4%
Betrayal’s Price // Lisa Blackwood // 0%
Ketchup Clouds // Annabel Pitcher // 0%


What are you all reading at the moment? Do you have any great reads to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Why Claude Frollo is Disney’s Most Twisted Villain

Why Claude Frollo is Disney’s Most Twisted Villain

I recently rewatched Disney’s brilliant and vastly underrated The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and realised how greatly developed and intriguing Frollo is as a Disney villain. Compared to more recent Disney antagonists such as Hans in Frozen, or traditional antagonists such as Scar in The Lion King, Frollo seems to transcend upon the usual archetype of a Disney villain in a way that isn’t typical in Disney films, or children’s films in general, because it’s only when you’re older when you realise just how twisted Frollo’s motivations really are.

It doesn’t take more than the opening scene to convince the audience of Frollo’s evil nature. From the beginning, there’s a suggestion that Frollo’s motivations are power and control. He immediately chases after a gypsy woman who carries what he perceives as “stolen goods”, and eventually murders her on the steps of Notre Dame without as much as a flinch. He is shortly stopped from murdering her child, young Quasimodo, by the Archdeacon who seems to remind Frollo that there is a greater judge than him. Frollo has become so fixated upon his desire to purge sin from the world that he has become paranoid, resorting to murder and even justifying it (as well as the promise for murdering an infant- “an unholy demon” – too) by his quest to strike out evil. In his own mind, Frollo probably thinks himself as the hero rather than the villain: “I am guiltless, she ran, I pursued.”

It’s interesting, during the opening song, because it’s one of four times in the film where Frollo seems in genuine fear. The first is when the Archdeacon suggests that Frollo, so consumed by his power due to his position as a judge, cannot hide from the “very eyes of Notre Dame”, and of ultimately God. Frollo realises that he has gone to far, displaying genuine fear at the prospect that he has overstepped the line of his ability as a judge.

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Cue The Dark Knight: You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain.

However, Frollo doesn’t learn his lesson. Despite having the option to save his soul, he does not take it – he cannot bring himself to raise Quasimodo as his own son which inevitably leads to his own downfall. He considers himself above justice, which is his fatal flaw.

Another way that Frollo shows just how deluded he is, is by the way he dehumanises anything that is a threat to the righteousness of his conscience. Ironically, this contradicts to Catholic ideas about forgiveness and love.

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He degrades gypsies to ants as they represent everything he wishes to wipe out, and reduces them to a scapegoat group. He lowers Quasimodo to a deformed, demonic monster to disguise Frollo’s inner guilt about the fact that he murdered his mother. He vilifies Esmeralda to a witch when he starts to develop sexual desires for her, all the time placing on the blame on everything but himself. He refuses to accept himself as a villain but instead as a holy man fighting a war.

Despite isolating Quasimodo for twenty years and emotionally reducing him to a monster, Frollo is able to justify this abuse by presenting himself again as a protector: “The world is wicked… I am your only friend”. Even calling twenty-year-old Quasimodo a “boy” keeps him in a state of emotional dependency.

Claude Frollo certainly has a hero complex.

While other Disney villains like Ursula and Cruella De Vil want something from the protagonists, it’s the other way around for Frollo – he presents himself as the hero and Esmeralda as an evil entity that wants something from him and a direct threat to his holy conscience. Frollo’s obsession with purging evil costs him his life: instead of dealing with the rebellion in the streets, he heads up to the bell-tower and stands out on the ledge, which cracks, sending him into the fiery pits of hell.

Frollo’s obsessive nature is entirely evident in the contrast between the two songs: Heaven’s Light (sang by Quasimodo) and Hellfire (sang by Frollo). Both immediately after each other, they serve as a direct dichotomy: two conflicting versions of love both evoking religious imagery.

Quasimodo is innocent in his affections, he only dares to hope that Esmeralda might share his affections and bring him happiness. The semantic field of heaven creates a beautiful image for his affections: “heaven’s light”, “glow”, “angel” and ultimately he sees her as a gift from God. The soft blue light and the dark shadows show the slightest inch of hope and light that Esmeralda has brought into his life. Overall, his song is like a melody, a prayer of contentment and hope. Even though he doesn’t get-the-girl at the end, he still manages to find hope and happiness in the fact that she finds somebody who she can love and be happy with.

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For Frollo on the other hand, there is a direct opposite response to his feelings about the girl. Sang as a prayer, Frollo fears for the safety of his soul. He praises himself for his lack of vulgarity and uses hellish imagery to blame the girl for his attachment towards her: “smouldering eyes”, “sun”, “blazing” , “scorch”, “burning desire” which results in thoughts of “sin”. Immediately he rejects her as a “witch” and suggests his weakness is only because of the power of the devil compared to the inferior power of man. Unlike Quasimodo, he cannot stand the thought of her with another man: “be mine or you will burn!”

Way to bring on the charm.

Most of all, Frollo fears Esmeralda’s power over him, because it threatens his control. Throughout the film he is portrayed as calm and calculated, but his lust blurs the objectivity of his actions which eventually turns the people against him.

Ultimately, Frollo is such an interesting and memorable villain, and well worthy of watching again to notice the little things that you never realised before, if you watched the film growing up. I do wish that Disney would stop rebooting old classics and start coming up with fresh, darker ideas again, taking new risks.

Do you agree? Do you have other ideas about the character? Please let me know in the comments!

Six Easy Ways to Get Inspired

Six Easy Ways to Get Inspired

Everybody struggles with a lack of inspiration now and again, or a crippling sense of writer’s block that makes you want to tear up every page (or delete every word of the manuscript file). Hopefully these six ideas might help you feel more inspired in your writing journey when you feel like the empty white page is going to swallow you up whole.

1. Nature. Yes it’s cliche, and no, I won’t preach to you about the wonder of the sublime, but a simple walk through a field or a forest is one of the best places to arouse mental stimulation. Walking is also a good exercise!

2. Other modes of creativity. Do you like art? Head down to a local gallery, or try image-sharing sites such as Weheartit or Tumblr. You could even take some photography of your own. Or, you could check out some half-finished novels on your shelf, or pop in a DVD and let your mind be filled with creative stimulation.

3. Take a break. Sometimes you just need to let your mind clear a little, so that the next time you take a seat with your story, you’ll be able to think more clearly about where you want to go next in your story. Meditate, do some yoga.

4. Talk to people. Friends, family, or even just eavesdrop in other people’s conversations. You never know what inspiration you might draw from snippets of dialogue and observation – who knew that one of your friends has an uncle that used to be a spy?

5. Read some inspiring writing quotes. Relate with other writers about how difficult the process is. You could check out some great books on writing or memoirs by successful authors about how they also tackle a lack of inspiration.

6. Like #3, go and do something else completely different. Tidy your room, do some homework, head out for a run, bake a cake. Do something completely different so that by the time you return to your work-in-progress you’ll be itching to get stuck right back in with a fresh mindset.

If it’s a problem with a specific scene, you could also skip past that particular scene and draft a later one. Write the climax of the story, or the ending, so that you’ll have a better sense of direction that might help inspire you for the scene you’re struggling on.

Best of luck folks!

Do you agree with these points? Let me know how you guys cope with finding inspiration when you’re struggling with your writing.