50 Shades of Grey: The Bad and The Good

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50 Shades of Grey. The Controversy. And with the film hitting cinemas yesterday (I do not understand people who think watching some morally dubious erotica with all of the erotica blurred out is a great valentine’s date, but there you go), I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and write a post about it.

Firstly, 50 Shades is not good literature. It is poorly written, and quite frankly just promotes abuse. Anyone who claims otherwise, clearly does not understand the nature of abuse.There are numerous other articles written on this, who explain the situation far more eloquently than I ever could, (my Facebook feed is literally littered with them) so I’m not going to go into the details here. If you want more information, please, please go and read them. If you think Christian Grey is a heart-throb, please, please go and read them. That said, I want to make it very clear here that I do not condone the actions in 50 Shades as they are portrayed – they are an incredibly poor representation of BDSM culture, and the entire book is really quite sinister.

That being said, I don’t think 50 Shades is entirely bad. Here are my three reasons why I think everyone (over 18) should read at least some of 50 Shades:

1. It brought erotica massively into the foreground. Suddenly its okay to read porn, as well as watch it, and an entire genre of literature has been opened up to the public. In turn this gets people talking, communicating about sex. Whilst 50 Shades of Grey is a very bad model, other erotica is not, and those better written, better researched examples can actually be incredibly educational, particularly to young people who are only just learning about sex. Many of them promote protected sex, surprisingly one of the few places where 50 Shades is not a complete train wreck. A lot of them emphasise the importance of communication in a relationship (not 50 Shades though I’m afraid.) Some focus on casual sex, others on sex in a loving relationship, and they show that both are okay. In a society where talk about sex is still fairly limited, 50 Shades has opened the way to a new avenue of discussion and communication. While it may have its issues, other books come to the foreground which present healthy attitudes to sex, and that is fantastic.

2. Similar, yet also opposite, 50 Shades has highlighted the difficulties surrounding sexual, and domestic abuse. Abuse can take a variety of forms, and is often incredibly difficult not only to identify but to deal with. Often those being abused do not themselves realise it until it is too late. Abuse goes beyond just physical violence. Emotional manipulation is abuse. Controlling someone’s life is abuse. I feel like, while certainly not her intention, EL. James has brought what has previously been a relatively shady issue, often swept under the carpet, to the foreground. 50 Shades shows us what not to do. I know that a lot of people are boycotting the book and the film altogether because of the content. I’m in favour of the opposite: promote it, because the more people who are exposed to the actions of Christian Grey in a purely fictitious setting, means hopefully the more people that are able to identify emotional and domestic abuse, and as such protect themselves and others. Just promote it in the right way.

3. It’s hilarious. Once you accept that a lot of what happens will make you incredibly uncomfortable, the awful, awful sex scenes coupled with the awful, awful writing, and the complete lack of characterisation is hysterical. It has to be said. I have read fan fiction better written than this (actually some fan fiction is amazing and I am upset that this rubbish got published instead).

It is okay to like 50 Shades of Grey. I feel like amidst all of the controversy this has been forgotten. If it turns you on that is okay. If you think its fun that is okay. If you hate everything about it: also okay. Just so long as you realise that it is fiction and don’t try to emulate it in real life. That if you can relate to it you recognise the warning signs and go do some research on abusive relationships. That if you are interested in BDSM you don’t use 50 Shades as your go to guide. It is absolutely, perfectly, 100% fine to like/love/adore 50 Shades of Grey, so long as you make sure that your own sex life is safe and consensual.

There we go; that is my very quickly typed out thoughts on the matter. I am hoping that this isn’t controversial/doesn’t upset anyone. I want to say it again, THE MAJORITY OF THE ACTIONS PORTRAYED IN FIFTY SHADES OF GREY ARE NOT OKAY. PLEASE DO NOT WISH FOR A BOYFRIEND LIKE CHRISTIAN GREY. JUST NO.

~ Becca x

The Jewel – Amy Ewing

Once again I judged a book prematurely. Thought it would be awful. Was actually really good. I am a terrible judge of book character.

 

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The blurb described it as a cross between The Selection and The Handmaid’s Tale. Having adored both, I was very dubious as to whether The Jewel could live up to it. It did and it didn’t. I completely disagree that it is like the Selection, beyond the falling in love with a servant and poor girls wearing pretty dresses part. All of which is pretty superficial. To me, The Selection is very light-hearted and sweet, despite how irritating America is, whilst The Jewel was actually incredibly dark. This was something I realised when explaining it to my sister: whilst it doesn’t feel that dark when you’re reading it, the whole premise of selling girls to have babies against their will is super, super dark. It’s human trafficking. And in this way it very much was like The Handmaid’s Tale, but I think it was a lot less confusing, and therefore more accessible to most readers. If I had to describe it is say it was more like a cross between Atwood and Lauren DeStefano’s Wither, as it had that decrepit, unsettling vibe to it.

 

The actual plot follows Violet who has been raised since she was 12 to have children for the elite who are now too inbred to do it themselves. Her control over the auguries, which allow her to manipulate shape, colour and growth mean she can undo the defects of the royal children, an ailing that makes her special, desirable, useful. But an ability that means her body, and her freedom, are no longer her own.

 

Despite the dark overtones, I liked this book. It was fast paced and all of the characters had multiple layers to them. The Duchess for example, seems bad overall but at points you get. Glimmers of something else and I feel like there’s more to her she certainly has ulterior motives. Ash as well wasn’t entirely what he seemed although that one was a bit more predictable and even Carnelian wasn’t just a spiteful, 2D character. A lot of questions were left unanswered though, so I am intrigued to know where it goes.

 

Also there is definitely something going on between Annabelle and Garnet. Or at least I really hope there is. There were too many sly looks and strange comments for me to be happy with anything else.

 

~ Becca x

Controversial Corner: I don’t like Roald Dahl

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I’m actually posting on time for a change! I’ve decided to start a new idea, which isn’t very original, but it’s still fun to do. It’s called Controversial Corner, and will basically be me ranting (because I seem to do a lot of ranting) about things that no-one else seems to agree. I’m not sure if it’ll work, or if I’ll keep it going, but I’m going to try :) Let me know what you think!

I feel like I may get shot for this one, but I really, really do not like Roald Dahl. Or his books at least. All of my friends think it’s weird, but ever since I was a child I hated them.

I was about 7 or 8 when I first came across anything by him. My mother also is not a fan and so we never read them at home, meaning I got my introduction from being forced to watch the BFG at school. I have always had an overactive imagination and as such I am terrified of Everything. Even now I can’t watch horror films and I don’t really like sleeping by myself (obviously I do, but I sleep so much better when I share a room with someone). 7 year old me was a whole lot worse. The idea that giants would break in through your windows and eat you did not go down well. I avoided Roald Dahl for most of my childhood based off of that one experience alone.

Even now that I’m older though, Roald Dahl is just not something I get on with. I’ve read a few, mostly because they’re on my big read list, and they’re just so sinister! How is this children’s fiction?! I was going to review George’s Marvelous Medicine but I was just so grossed out by it that I couldn’t. This is what you get instead. But seriously, if you feed your grandmother flea powder and shoe polish and paint she will die. Or at least be very very ill. I just had images of small children copying what they’d read. Not okay. Nope.

And I don’t think many of the others are much better, at least not the ones I’ve read. They’re just so dark. They still kinda scare me. Maybe I just never got over that initial experience, but Roald Dahl is definitely not for me, even if it is controversial.

~ Becca x

(image courtesy of roalddahl.com)

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Aaah, sorry this post is so late! I’ve been awful at actually posting on time recently… I’ve started writing on my phone, but the formatting’s really difficult so I always forget that they’re not actually finished and scheduled… Excuses. Anyway, The Rosie Project. A book I was pleasantly surprised by.

The concept of this book intrigued me from the beginning. The Rosie Project is the account of brilliant geneticist Don Tillman, who decides to look for a wife through the unorthodox method of questionnaire. Certain that it will find him the most compatible woman, Don doesn’t bargain on Rosie, an outspoken bartender who is altogether incompatible. But could it possibly be love?

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What I realised about half way through this book is that I often like contemporary fiction a damn side less than fantasy. A lot of it I think has to do with the fact that I read for escapism, and so reading about the real world just doesn’t take me far enough away. Starting it on the train home, by the time I arrived at my station I’d reached that point where I was a bit unimpressed. The premise was good yes, but everything was a bit slow, Gene was infuriating and nothing has really gotten anywhere. A bit like life really. I got home and took the evening off to pick up my sister, stock the house with food and watch bad tv. It just hadn’t drawn me in that much. Or so I thought.

It didn’t actually take long however before I had to know what happened. And the second half of the book was great. Suddenly the pace picked up, Rosie and Don developed as characters and I was really invested in what was happening. It’s pretty clear from the beginning. That the two of them will end up together and I was just desperate for them to realise it
Too. Preferably both at the same time. I don’t know what changed but it went from being a fairly average contemporary book, possibly even a pretty good one if that’s your scene, to one of the most endearing books I’ve read in a long time. No fight scenes. No magicians. No love triangles (thank god). Just pure, adorable romance. And it wasn’t idealised either. I’ve even found myself searching Amazon for the next one.

Don as a character, was wonderful. He was sweet, and funny, and in a lot of ways reminded me of a lot of the guys I know, albeit with the awkwardness level exaggerated to a huge extent. Rosie I was less keen on: she was brash and impetuous and made rash decisions without thinking. But that was kind of the point. That his questionnaire would have found him the perfect woman, someone exactly like him. And yet that isn’t what love is is it? And it needed Rosie to really show him that.

Sweet, funny and adorable, in the end the Rosie Project wasn’t like every other contemporary romance I’ve ever read. And it’s definitely not just chick lit. If you want something to lift your spirits in the gloom of winter, this might just do the job.

~ Becca x

Reading Challenges

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Since discovering the wonderful literary world here on the internet, I have also discovered the number of book challenges that exist. You can aim to read a certain number of books a year, do a bingo card, or even a 24 hour readathon. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and you can entirely tailor it to whatever you want to do. Which is amazing- it both gives you something to work for, and makes you part of this community who are all working towards the same thing. And I’m not doing any of them.

Part of it is that time thing I keep going on about, but a large part is that I’ve always had my own reading challenge going on. One it turns out I’m just not very good at. Back in 2003 the BCC carried out a survey called The Big Read, in which they got UK residents to vote on the top 200 books available at the time. It’s a particularly good list because it’s not just classics, but also kids books, contemporary fiction and a whole bunch of Terry Pratchet. YA didn’t really exist as a genre back then, so it’s pretty lacking, but I was still pretty impressed by what they had a produced.  And so, a few years later, when I was maybe 14 or 15, I decided I was going to read all of the books on the list. All of them. It turned out it was harder than I thought it was going to be.

Nearly 7 years later I have read a grand total of 36 books on that list… Which is quite frankly appalling. The problem I keep having is that I get distracted. Whilst I appreciate the literary greatness of a number of classics, I actually find them incredibly difficult to get into, which means I’ve read about half of another 30 or so books on that list. I just get sidetracked by other books, i.e.: The One, which I read in the middle of Flowers in the Attic. There’s also a bunch that I started and just really, really failed at. I just cannot get on with Pride and Prejudice, and I never got beyond the overly long description of the Vicar’s candlesticks at the beginning of Les Miserables.

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But other than how much I suck at it, it’s something I’m determined to keep going with. At some point in my life I will read all of these books. I’m already incredibly glad that I started, despite how little I’ve actually managed to achieve. There’s always an immense satisfaction in finishing a book, but with certain books that is amplified ten-fold. Gone With the Wind took me about four months of solid reading, it was so long and dense, and I often had absolutely no motivation to pick it up. It manages to condense the entire Civil War into about a quarter of the book. But I loved Scarlett O’Hara, and by the time I got to the end of the story I was so proud of myself for not giving up. And it was totally worth it just for Rhett Butler’s closing line. I’ve also found some of my favourite books from this list, and because I know I struggle to read classics I would never have picked them up otherwise. (I’m not entirely sure they actually count as classics, but still). A Town Like Alice and I Capture the Castle really resonated with me and are two of my favourite books of all time.capture

So yeah, I might not do any current reading challenges (I still have until January to decide if I’m going to set myself a number of books to read in 2015…) but I have my own, and I’m bloody proud of myself for still going.

How many have you read?

~ Becca x

P.S. I’m thinking about maybe making a page with the list on so I can track how many I’ve read. Ideas?

A Thousand Pieces of You – Claudia Gray

Let’s start with the obvious: the beautiful cover. Isn’t it just one of the most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen? And totally relevant to the story which doesn’t always happen with pretty cover art. Swoon.

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A Thousand Pieces of You is about a teenage girl called Marguerite who, following the death of her father, uses the technology invented by her parents to chase his murderer through different dimensions. But everything isn’t as it seems. – well obviously otherwise it would be a pretty rubbish book. And just to warn anyone who hasn’t read any other posts by me, there will be spoilers. Mild ones, granted, but if you want to go in knowing nothing more than what is officially on the blurb, you probably don’t want to read any more. Soz.

Once again we have a book that I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. I mean I basically only bought it for the cover. And I accidentally dropped it in the sink, and didn’t really mind. That is how little I expected to be wowed by this book. But, whilst it does have quite a lot of that stereotypical YA vibe, I was once again wrong. I think I just need to realise that I actually really like trashy YA lit and stop being so hard on them when the blurb looks generic. It’s basically all I read. Maybe I’m just too cynical prior to opening them :P

To be fair though, what I actually enjoyed about this book was the whole section set in Russia, which I think was probably some of the most original stuff. The rest of it I could take or leave, but the Russia stuff. Oh my gosh. I don’t know why but I was completely enthralled. And I actually liked how her relationship with Paul developed here as it was a lot more complicated than just teen romance. The descriptions were beautiful, there was action and drama and romance and I ate it up. I also loved how all of the relationships in this section developed really well, and yet for the most part it was Marguerite who was able to take the most away from them and apply it to her own life. It was such an interesting was of exploring the bonds between people, and the way we view those around us. It was also so sad :(

There were two fairly major objections I had though. The first was the love triangle. I mean really? Aren’t we over those already? I don’t feel like it added anything at all. Usually the love triangle serves to provide the main character with inner turmoil and confusion, as well as adding drama and angst. But this book just didn’t need it. Marguerite actually had a personality without relying on love triangles for character development and the inner confusion was suitably provided by the multiple different versions of Paul. She was already conflicted over exactly who she was in love with; it really didn’t need Theo thrown into the mix. Also, she’d basically made her decision by about a quarter of the way in, and then it was just kinda… there. Being annoying. Even the plot didn’t really need it- I think it would have worked just as well if it was a brotherly love from Theo rather than a romantic one. Eurgh. Love triangles. Rant over.

The second issue I had was a lot more arbitrary. It involved lasagna noodles. And please someone help me out here because I really feel like I’m missing something. Who makes lasagna with noodles? At least three times in this book they discuss the making of lasagna and the struggle to keep the curly noodles from coming out of the pan. What happened to lasagna sheets? Which are flat? Are they just a British thing? Is it a lexical thing? I am so confused guys! Help.

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All in all though it was enjoyable. Not necessarily spectacular but pretty decent reading for that lazy period after Christmas.

~ Becca x


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A Christmas Haul

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I got books for Christmas! They make me very happy. They also mean I am going to do the obligatory book haul for y’all.

My parents bought me three books this Christmas:

UnknownFables 1 & 2: These are graphic novels which I was really interested by as it’s not a format I read a lot of. I used to read a lot of manga when I was younger, but I don’t think I’ve read anything outside of the classic novel for at least three or four years. I’d heard a lot of good things about the series, which centres around a bunch of fairytale characters, or ‘Fables’ who have been forced to flee their homeland after it was invaded and are now living in New York. I’ve already read the first volume, which is a murder mystery, and I have to say I’m undecided on it at this point. I’ll probably post a review after I’ve read the second one. It is nice to read something different though, not just in format, but in genre completely, and I think it’s the type of thing that will be great when I need a break from my standard YA lit.


RubinThe Happiness Project: Written by Gretchen Rubin, this book is a non-fiction account of her quest for happiness and what she learn along the way. I have no idea where I came across this book, but I thought it would be a good one to read at university. As I have said many a time, I don’t get a lot of time to read, so I’m hoping that having something that isn’t a novel on offer will be easier to dip in and out of. Also, a guide to being happier? Yes please.

I also got an amazon voucher from my aunt which I had spent by the end of boxing day… Here are my choices, a lot of which I bought second hand:

51QWbccdUdL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Is It Just Me: Miranda Hart’s biography type thing. I love Miranda Hart. Who doesn’t. And I’m looking at it in much the same way as the Happiness Project. Easy to dip into, and hopefully full of hilarity.


514EsmYX8jLThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender: I have heard amazing things about this book. It has been on my wish list for an absolute age, pretty much since it was released, and I finally caved. I don’t actually know that much about the plot except that it’s based around a girl with wings and intertwines the life of her, her mother and her grandmother. It looks to be not only interesting, but incredibly thought-provoking. I have also heard that it is wonderfully beautiful: it’s probably one of the ones I am most looking forwards to reading.


20877332A Thousand Pieces of You: I was between this and Snow Like Ashes, but went with this one because it was available in paperback. I’ve never read anything by Claudia Gray before, but it seems a fairly typical YA fantasy-cross-sci-fi idea. The cover however, is absolutely stunning.


Girl-Who-Circumnavigated-Fairyland-The-20The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: I know it’s a kids book but I am completely fascinated by the idea, and fairytales are wonderful. It sounds almost like Alice in Wonderland which I love, and the illustrations are strange but almost hauntingly lovely. Also it has dragons.


109579922Terrier: I read so much Tamora Pierce when I was a teenager I was basically obsessed. I loved pretty much everything she wrote, but I never actually read the Beka Cooper trilogy. Seeing as I am only now realising how difficult to get hold of the Tortall books are, I decided to remedy the gap in my reading. This is one of the ones I bought second hand because the new ones are bloody expensive.


22586252The Jewel: This is the first book I bought for my kindle because I wanted instant gratification. I usually buy books I really want in hard copy and those I’m less sure about on kindle, and I felt like this would be a fairly typical YA dystopian. I have already read it, and actually really enjoyed it. Review to follow.


11921067Lab Rat One: The second book in the Touchstone trilogy by Andrea Höst. I’ve already reviewed the first one, which was pretty good considering it was free but not spectacular. For some reason though, I couldn’t get the idea of it out of my head. At really random points I would think of it, wondering where the story was going. I’m still just really intrigued about the world, even four months on, which I never thought I would be. So for a grand total of 77p, I bought the second one. And I’m looking forwards to it.

So yeah, that’s it! For now anyway… I’ve managed to curtail my book buying for the past few months but I doubt that will last much longer. Also sorry for the uber long post. Because of said curtailing I went a bit crazy… What did y’all get for Christmas and what are you excited to read in the New Year?

~ Becca x

P.S: I suck at formatting and can’t for the life of me figure out how to make everything stay in a straight, organised line. So sorry about that. Please someone help me…

The Christmas Tag

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So I’m going to do this post regardless of the fact that I haven’t actually been tagged. Because I want to and it’s Christmas in half an hour and I don’t actually feel all that Christmassy yet… I stole it from Appletaile so I hope she won’t mind :)

Without further ado, the Christmas tag!

1. What is your favourite Christmas movie?
I’m not sure I actually have one. I think this might be the answer to a lot of these questions unfortunately, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found I have less and less time to just sit down and be Christmassy… I do remember a film I absolutely loved when I was younger though. It’s called The Greatest Store in the World, and was about a family who lost their home, so ended up living in a department store over Christmas. I think it was a CBBC special, and I’m fairly sure it had S Club 7 in it. It was great, but barely ever aired, so I was always so happy when it was actually on. Basically no-one else actually remembers it though.

2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Christmas morning. Stockings first, then the presents under the tree.

3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?
When we were little we all used to pile onto my parents bed at stupid o’clock in the morning to open stockings. We still do it, although now it’s more like 10 o’clock and it’s a lot harder to fit 5 grown adults onto one bed…

4. Favorite festive food?
Guylian chocolates. They’re my favourite and we only ever used to have them at Christmas. Even though I can buy my own whenever though, they still remind me of Christmas, and there’s something wonderful about ploughing your way through an entire box. I have also recently found my love for brussel sprouts. I know they’re almost universally hated, but for me, roasted brussel sprouts are divine.

5. Favorite Christmas gift ?

I know this is kind of shallow, but probably that Pokémon Black DS game I got one year. I lay in my bed Christmas Eve planning out my whole journey and stuff; I was SO excited. I still haven’t finished the game, but I’m (in theory) just about to beat the Elite Four for the last time.


6. Favorite Christmas scent?

That mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, ginger and clove smell that you find in Christmas baking and mulled wine and just, mmmmmmm.


7. Favourite Christmas song?

Baby it’s Cold Outside. Particularly the Glee one, because Darren Criss.

8. What tops your tree?

We used to have an angel. Then my sister and I got hold of it, stuck on Robert Pattinson’s faces and a yellow ribbon decorated with sharpie and now Cedric Diggory sits on top of the tree.

9. As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always asked for but never received?
What do you mean as a kid? We still ask for a bunny every year, and every time my father says only if its going in a stew. He’s mean and we still don’t have a bunny :(


10. What’s the best part about Christmas for you?

Not having to do any work, not being expected to do any work, and not feeling guilty about not doing work. Also chocolate. And Christmas Jumpers. And pretty much all Christmas paraphernalia. And family, obvs.

I’m also not really going to tag anyone, partly since I stole it, and partly since it’s now a bit late. I mostly just fancied doing it. I would be interested to see Nirvana‘s answers though if she sees this :)

~ Becca x

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Cress – Marissa Meyer

So I finally finished it! Having started Cress about two months ago, and only having made it a third of the way through by the end of last week, I was determined to finish it before I came home. Partly because I only had room for one book in my suitcase, and partly because two and a half months to finish it was getting ridiculous. And can I just say, the length of time had absolutely nothing to do with the book itself, but rather my complete lack of free reading time at university. But I’ve ranted about that before.

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Cress however, was fab. I’m not sure whether I necessarily liked it better than the over two, but it was still pretty great. I’m not going to put in a blurb for it, as it would basically give away the entirety of the first two books. And while I have no issue with spoilers, as you’ll know if you read anything I’ve ever written, I think that might be taking it a bit far. So just accept that I’m right when I say it was fab.

It was fast paced, a bunch of questions got answered, and a bunch more got asked. The Lunars remain terrifying. I think that’s one of the best bits about the book, that the bad guys, with the exception of Levana, aren’t 100% bad, but they’re still terrifying. And it’s because it’s something you see over and over when you study history. Not the mind control powers, granted, but to an extent I feel that it’s just an over-exaggerated form of propaganda and fear. Propoganda and fear do much the same, making people feel like they don’t have a choice but to conform, or act in a certain way, and I saw a lot of that in the way the Lunars are portrayed. I mean, the bit with Scarlett on Lunar really made my skin crawl. On the other hand, the all accepting pocket of people in Farafrah made me happy :)

I was also really impressed with Thorne’s character development. Looking back on the past books, which to be fair I read a while ago, I feel like we never really got to know Thorne. He was stuck behind his arrogant bravado, and Cinder and Scarlett were far more interesting characters to explore. Meaning he kinda got left behind as a side-character who was necessary to progress the plot. But I feel that Cress was Thorne’s book. Even though it was called Cress. He really came into his own, not only taking on responsibility, and showing his true maturity, but also how visible the chinks in his armour became. Throughout the book Cress was breaking them down and you saw him become vulnerable, and caring, and just altogether sweet. I mean, the escort droid. <3 And I think we needed this from Thorne, we needed to see him as a real person, not just a facade, and I think Meyer did a smashing job through his time with Cress.

Bravo. It was great. I want Winter.

~ Becca x


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An Interview in Oxford

Sorry this post is late – I was ill and then spent all of yesterday in London being fancy at the Ritz. It was chaotic, but that’s a story for another time. Today’s post is on interviews. Specifically Oxford interviews as I know admissions is this week, but as I know that probably doesn’t apply to most of you I’m hoping at least some of it will be applicable to interviews in general. I did really want to make this post though because I know when I went through it, my college didn’t really know much and information wasn’t really available. If you’re lucky enough to be at a school which drills you until you can barely put a foot wrong, lucky you; if not, then hopefully I can be of at least some use, even if it just puts you more at ease.

1. Be you. It’s you that they want to see, not Mr High-and-Mighty who is trying to mimic what he thinks an Oxford student is. It’s really obvious. Their going to have to spend the next three years trying to teach you so you want them to like you. Be friendly. Smile. Be comfortable. Their not trying to trick you or confuse or bully you into submission. Tutor’s are just people, and to be honest this period is just as stressful for them as it is for you. You might well be the fifth person they’ve seen that day, and if you come across and friendly and chatty after a bunch of interviews which were akin to drawing blood from a stone, you’ll be the one they remember. Believe me, when they’ve seen you cry and you’ve seen them drunk they’re a lot less scary.

2. Dress well. But be comfortable. Despite what you might think you definitely don’t have to wear a suit. Unless you’re one of those people who wears a suit every day, you’re just not going to feel like yourself and that means you’ll probably come across as awkward as well. That doesn’t go to say that you should turn up in joggers and the oldest hoody you own. Whilst I know some people that it’s worked for, most of us just look like we couldn’t be bothered to put in any effort. Try and look presentable if you can; a clean tshirt, a nice skirt, chinos etc etc, but something that you’d actually choose to wear if you were going out somewhere nice with friends. Not something your mother told you would make you look like an excellent candidate.

3. Don’t be intimidated by the other candidates. When you turn up a bunch of people you meet will show off all of the things they know that you don’t know for no good reason. Because they can. Don’t worry about it. The fact that they know more useless facts than you on one particular topic is irrelevant and doesn’t make them more qualified for a place. When I turned up at least three people started having akin depth discussion about the details of Nebuchadnezzar. I knew nothing about Nebuchadnezzar. Knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar did not help them get a place. I still know nothing about Nebuchadnezzar and I just had to look up the spelling on Wikipedia.

4. It’s okay to be wrong. Similarly to the last one, the tutors don’t care if you don’t know the answer. You haven’t gone through 7+ years of higher education – they can hardly expect you to. It’s a darn sight better to just say you don’t know than to spend five minutes of your interview making something up and ending up looking an even bigger fool. They wan’t to see your thought process, to know if you’ll fit in at Oxford. If you can’t be honest, open and communicative in an interview, then it’s unlikely you’ll be honest, open and communicative in a tutorial – and seeing as thats the primary form of teaching at Oxford, it’s really important that they feel they can work with you. Chill out. Show them what you do know, don’t lie about what you don’t. It’ll be fine.

5. Know your personal statement. And what you wrote in whatever sample work you handed in. There is a high chance they will ask you on it, and, contrary to the last point, here you look a lot more genuine if you can expand on what you’ve written, rather than having to quickly think of a way to talk about that thing that you near-enough made up… They have a lot of people to see, and they don’t know very much about anyone, so that statement is all they have to work with. In my personal statement I wrote that I admired strong women such as Ariadne and Medea, which they completely pulled me up on in my interview. Now if you don’t know the story of Medea, she murders both of her children in a jealous rage, in order to get back at her husband for marrying another wife. So I basically had to justify why I had said I admired a crazy person. If you can’t talk about something you’ve written they’ll wonder why you bothered putting it in in the first place. Be prepared.

6. Enjoy it. Regardless of whether you actually get a place or not, most people will only go through the experience once. And it’s a really unique experience. Enjoy being in Oxford – at my college at least there’s a bunch of stuff put on by the students in the evenings to entertain you, so go. make new friends even if you never see them again. Visit the museums, the parks, the other colleges. Don’t spend the entire time stressing over one interview that didn’t go exactly as you planned. You literally cannot know how well you’ve done, or how well anyone else did. Relax and have fun with it!

So that was a bit of a different post to usual but it was something that I really wanted to write. It felt a lot more serious than I thought it was going to be, so sorry if it intimidated anyone! Honestly, interviews are nothing to worry about, and the more you can relax and enjoy the process the easier you’ll find it.

~ Becca

P.S: I really just want to get this up as its so so late already, so I’m going to come back and add pictures later when I actually have time.

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