My First Blogger Event: #NEBookSwap

Last Thursday, around 12pm, I discovered there was to be a book swap held in Newcastle, that very evening. I asked the organisers for a few details and decided to go – ‘cause why not?

I turned up at Waterstones in intu Metrocentre about six hours later, a canvas tote filled with books to swap and excited to meet some other bloggers from the Newcastle area.

Rhiân, blogger at Chapter and Circle, was the mastermind behind the event, and had collaborated with Fiona, blogger at North East Nerd, to set it up at the book shop – one of the best possible locations, really, for a book swap!

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We had been told to bring five to ten books, as well as one wrapped up with a few keywords on the paper relating to the story (by means of providing blind dates with books!). For each unwrapped book we were given a token which we then could put into the books we wanted. At the end of the evening Rhiân and Fiona sorted through the books: if your token was the only one in a book – lucky! And the book was yours. If there were multiple tokens in one book, they were put in a cup and one was pulled out at random.

There was a lot of chatter throughout the evening and we were supplied with sweets, biscuits, a #NEBookSwap cake and tea, coffee and hot chocolate! It was lovely getting to meet new people, discuss the DSC01556books that were going around the table and even playing a few games of 20 Questions and Pictionary (but with book titles of course). There was also a raffle – five tickets could be bought for £4 and all proceeds are going
to Lumos – and I even won one of the prizes: a lovely clutch bag made by Zoe Elizabeth Bags!

The evening ended at 8pm after we’d all chosen our blind book-date and had been given a goody bag. Overall, I had a great time! If you’re into blogging/vlogging and like to meet like-minded people, I would thoroughly recommend going to an event like this if it is ever held in your area.

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Big thanks to Rhiân and Fiona for organising the event – and an equally big thanks to UpSide Down Presents, That Gent Mark, Zoe Elizabeth Bags and Inpress Books who were the sponsors of the event and provided the goody bags and raffle gifts.

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Love,

Christa

PS. In case you’re curious about the treasures I brought home, check out the video I made of the event:

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Top 5: Books I Wish I’d Read While Growing Up

Having been born and raised in The Netherlands, I discovered I had missed out on a great deal of good children’s literature when I moved to the UK in 2013 and learned what my British peers had read when growing up (or what children’s books were around). Therefore, I have decided to make up a list of books that I wish I’d read while growing up – some of these I now have read, most of these I still haven’t gotten round to, but hope to get my hands on soon!

chronicles of narnia

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Four adventurous siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change… and a great sacrifice.

As a child, I’d never read The Chronicles of Narnia. At some point I did see the BBC adaptation, and later the film adaptations by Walden Media, but it wasn’t until I was about fifteen years old that I read the books. I enjoyed them, but didn’t think a whole lot of them. As I write this, I have just finished reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for a second time as we’ll be discussing it in my Children’s Literature module at university. I definitely enjoyed and appreciated it more this time round, but I can’t help but feel I would have loved the series, had I read them as a child.

The blurb above is of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – officially this is the second book in the seven-part series, but it was the first that was actually written and published.

  1. the wizard of ozThe Wizard of Oz (and its sequels) by L. Frank Baum

Dorothy thinks she is lost forever when a terrifying tornado crashes through Kansas and whisks her and her dog, Toto, far away to the magical land of Oz. To get home Dorothy must follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City and find the wonderfully mysterious Wizard of Oz. Together with her companions the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion whom she meets on the way, Dorothy embarks on a strange and enchanting adventure.

I am a huge fan of the musical Wicked – a musical that is based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire. A novel which, in turn, has been based on The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I’ve read the novel Wicked, and have seen the film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, but am yet to delve into the pages of the novel that started all of it. And although I think I might be able to that soon, I think it would’ve been even better had I read it when growing up!

  1. anne of green gablesAnne of Green Gables (and its sequels) by L. M. Montgomery

The Cuthberts are in for a shock. They are expecting an orphan boy to help with the work at Green Gables – but a skinny red-haired girl turns up instead. Highly spirited Anne Shirley charms her way into the Cuthberts’ affection with her vivid imagination and constant chatter, and soon it’s impossible to imagine life without her.

To be honest, I don’t know an awful lot about this book and its sequels, but I know it’s a British children’s classic. For my birthday this year I received a box set of all four books, so I’m sure I’ll read it soon (though ‘soon’ might not be soon at all, what with me having to read a lot of books for uni as well).

  1. alice in wonderlandAlice in Wonderland (and its sequel) by Lewis Carroll

On an ordinary summer’s afternoon, Alice tumbles down a hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world with even stranger characters, she meets a rabbit with a pocket watch, joins a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and plays croquet with the Queen! Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more and more curious by the minute…

I don’t know why, but I just have never read Alice. I’ve seen the Disney animation once or twice, the live action Disney adaptation a fair few times, but I’ve never read the book. I promise it’ll change within a year, though! I’ve got my hands on a gorgeous edition this year – one that is, I believe, almost exactly like the original manuscript – and I look forward to reading it.

  1. sabrielSabriel (and its sequels) by Garth Nix

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny…

Like with Anne of Green Gables, I don’t know an awful lot about this series, but it sounds intriguing. I know recently Garth Nix published two new books in this series (Clariel and To Hold The Bridge) with Hot Key Books – something from which I only can deduce these novels are still very well-loved and definitely worth a read.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these or if you think there are some books that are missing on this list!

Love,

Christa

My Topdeck Trip – Part IV: Aswan to Luxor

On the 19th of August, we had a wake-up call at 2.45am. It was horrendous. When we’d managed to drag ourselves out of bed, we were given ‘breakfast boxes’ (juice, some sandwiches and a banana in a paper bag) and got into the van for a drive that was almost 300km and lasted for over three and a half hours and would take us to Abu Simbel. We drove in a small convoy of several other tourist vans and two police cars: apparently this was a requirement when going that far South – I think Abu Simbel is about 45km from the Sudanese border – because that would make it safer for us, tourists, to go there. Our convoy wasn’t very big, but from what I’ve heard there can be sixty cars in one convoy (though I doubt that’s happened a lot since the 2010/2011 revolutions).

We arrived at Abu Simbel after a long drive and met our guide for the day. We were shown Lake Nasser, which apparently it’s so big that it’s larger than my home country of The Netherlands – mental! We then visited both temples: the temple that was built in honour of King Ramesses II (and was ordered to be built by him), as well as the temple Ramesses had built in honour of one of his wives: Nefertari.

Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temples, so you’ll have to do with these of the outside! The insides were, however, amazing to look at. Some of the carvings had been painted and the colours were still visible very well. The outsides were just as impressive: huge statues of Ramesses and Nefertari guarded the temples (in front of her temple there were six statues – two of her, four of her husband…).

DSC01154 DSC01111 DSC01140 DSC01098 DSC01145After perusing the temples we headed back to the van and by 12pm we were back at the cruise ship! We were given some time off to enjoy the sun and the pool, and met up with Ahmed again around 4pm. He took us to a gallery where essences are made. Essences are the base of perfumes, before alcohol is mixed in, but can be used on their own in a multitude of ways, and they won’t evaporate. Apparently they found lotus essences Tutankhamon used – i.e. 3000 years ago – and you can still use it! We spent a long time trying out different essences and sniffing our own, and each other’s, body parts to decide which of the essences we liked best. In the end, we all came away with more than we had intended – I personally got four different essences of 25ml, which I think will last me quite a while!

When we’d finished smelling all the scents, we went to the market in Aswan. We walked around for just over an hour, bought a few magnets and keyrings (and haggled about the prices to pay for them – something I really didn’t enjoy having to do) and returned to the ship.

DSC01169 DSC01171 DSC01181 DSC01204 DSC01214 DSC01216 DSC01252Upon awakening at 6.30am the next day, the ship had sailed down the Nile and we’d arrived at the Kom Ombo Temple – the place where about twenty crocodile mummies have been found. The temple honoured both Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horus the Elder, the falcon god. We spent some time admiring the carvings and hieroglyphics, after which we went to see the mummified crocodiles and went back to the ship. It would be a few more hours until our next stop, so we went back up to the pool to relax.

Our next port of call was at the Temple of Edfu. When we docked, we were taken to the temple by horse and carriage (which, had it been up to me, I would have preferred not to do as all the horses are visibly underfed). It was a very large and impressive temple, and was dedicated to Horus (who is related to Horus the Elder). When we once more returned to the ship, we turned out to be one of the first groups that had come back. We utilised this opportunity the best way we knew how to: by claiming some sunbeds again and enjoying the pool some more.

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That evening we spent some time in the bar area of the ship, as the it continued to sail down the Nile, and we were offered a one of a kind deal by Ahmed: because we’d already booked all the available optional activities, the local Topdeck office decided to offer us a hot air balloon flight over Luxor ($120), an upgrade in our hotel in Hurghada to full-board and unlimited drinks ($20) and an extra day trip in Cairo ($40) for the price of the hot air balloon flight! Although we had to decide as a group, the decision was made within seconds: of course we’d do it.

Love,

Christa

The Next Together by Lauren James

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Pinched the image off Lauren‘s website!

How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…

The Next Together, written by YA debut author Lauren James, was published by Walker Books last week Thursday, on the 3rd of September. As I mentioned in my Anticipated Releases post, I was excited about getting my hands on this book and made sure to have it pre-ordered. Part of my excitement is due to Lauren’s age – I can’t help but find it incredibly inspiring that people around my age have published books – but also due to the premise of the book and the love it’s been receiving from many other YA authors and book reviewers.

As for my thoughts on the book: I really enjoyed it. I didn’t adore it, but I did really like it. As is mentioned in the summary, the novel spans four different timelines – one of which, namely 2019, is solely told through snippets of communication between Katherine and Matthew (imagine fridge notes, emails, texts, etc.). Each chapter contains a part of each timeline, which, for me, made it a bit difficult to get attached to the story at the beginning. However, once I’d gotten used to it, the transitions were smooth enough and I began looking forward to reading my favourite timelines (which I think were 1854 and 2039 – the latter being my favourite because it contained the most suspense).

Throughout the novel an unknown being tracks Kate and Matt’s ‘progress’ in their relationship. I thought this was a really interesting touch. It also added another layer of suspense and invited the reader to ask more questions: what is this thing and why is it tracking, and sometimes influencing, the lives of these characters? At the end, a bit more information is given, but it remains vague, so hopefully it’ll be explained more in-depth in the sequel The Last Beginning!

Something to appraise this book for, is the amount of work that’s gone into the usage of different fonts, visualising of newspaper clippings, websites, and messages between characters. This added a great dimension to the novel and, in all honesty, is a lot more fun that just putting the text in italics. These snippets were not only fun, but also included a lot of detail surrounding the text.

There are two points that made me give this a 4/5 stars on Goodreads, the first one being is that I really would’ve appreciated the precise dates to be included at the start of each new section. Right now, the start of each section mentions where the characters are and in what year, but I would have liked to know the exact dates as well (don’t ask me why – I just feel that way!) The second point is that all four storylines, at their centre, revolve around Kate and Matt. There are not many side characters who have a lot of effect in what’s happening. I understand that the whole premise of the novel is that for some unknown reason Kate and Matt are destined to be reborn and fall in love with each other, but at times it got a bit much for me.

Over all though, Kate and Matt were two fun characters to read about and it was interesting to see how Lauren has woven the different timelines together. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves stories involving romance, time-warpy elements and pieces of both historical and futuristic fiction – because this book has it all!

The Next Together is the first in a duology, the second of which is called The Last Beginning and will be published in Autumn 2016.

Love,

Christa

Ps. You might have noticed in the tags that I tagged this post/book as science fiction – that is because that seemed to be the most appropriate genre in my eyes at this moment. If I find something more suitable, I’ll change it!

Pps. If you enjoyed the book, I really recommend checking out Lauren’s website, as in the run-up to the release she’s posted lots of extras about the characters and the novel!

My Topdeck Trip – Part III: Aswan

When it came to our journey from Cairo to Aswan, I think maybe it was a good thing our group was only four Topdeckers and a trip leader strong. The journey was about 1000 km long, which equalled to a good 12 hours in the Topdeck van. We left Cairo on the 17th around 7.30pm and arrived in Aswan the next morning around 8am, having stopped twice on our way to fill up on gas and have a wee and stretch break.

Upon arrival in Aswan we made our way straight to the M.S. Princess Sarah, which was docked on the Nile. We got about twenty minutes to rest, stretch the legs, and drink our welcome drink (typically cold hibiscus tea, which is very nice and typically given everywhere!), before we got back in the van and drove to a small harbour filled with boats ready to take the tourists (of which there weren’t very many at all, but that might be because it was so early) to the Philae Temple.

The boat ride was short, but sweet, and we were soon on the island where the Philae Temple stands. We had an amazing guide for the day, called Noubi, who had a great sense of humour, knew lots of English synonyms and loved using them, and had a great deal of knowledge about the sights of the day. The Philae Temple itself was quite an interesting temple – there are three different parts to it, all built at different times. There is a tiny bit that was built by Egyptian, and uses concave carvings and hieroglyphs. A huge part of the temple was built by Grecians and uses convex carvings and hieroglyphs (these two might be the other way around – I can’t remember exactly). And then the final part of the temple, its size in between the two others, was built by Romans. Apparently the Grecians and Romans wanted to build temples to honour Egyptians Gods to show that they too were appreciative and honouring of these Gods and thus could make good rules (or something along those lines…)

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Upon return to the cruise ship, we quickly ate a lunch and changed into our swim gear and spent an hour or two on the top deck, dipping in and out of the small pool. Around 4pm we got on another boat that took us to the other West side of the Nile. There we got about ten minutes to swim in the Nile – it’s crazy to realise I’ve done that! – which was quite a bit colder than anticipated. After the swim, we dried off the best we could, slipped our clothes back on and mounted a camel (another one of those crazy things I’ve done!).DSC01004

The start of the camel-ride was quite… scary. First of all, these animals, when standing up, are huge! Second of all, in order to get them to stand up, you need to lean backwards and sort of pull on the saddle. And then the standing up is a bit wibbly wobbly as well. There were
a few guides walking along with our little group, guiding the camels, but after a while my guide handed me the rope that was used as reins and began focussing on chatting with the other guides instead. Yikes. Now, I’ve ridden horses before, but they aren’t quite as tall as camels. Luckily, I managed to not let the camel ride of the track – mainly because it quite enjoyed following the others – and we soon arrived in a Nubian village.

Here, we got shown around a Nubian house, were given some mint tea (not quite my cuppa tea) and some more hibiscus tea (yum!). We also got to hold a small crocodile – which was really surreal and it felt so strange! – and for a fee of only L.E. 20 we all got some henna done. We returned to our cruise ship by boat as the sun was setting, which offered some beautiful sights.

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Love,

Christa

Diverse Fiction

Being a child of the Internet and following loads of bookish people on Twitter, the call for more diverse books (diverse in every which way possible) has certainly not gone unnoticed by me.

There is even an entire organisation dedicated to the finding and creating of diverse fiction for children and Young Adults: We Need Diverse Books. On their website they state the following as their mission:

We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

How we define diversity:

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Since noticing this movement (if that’s what you want to call it) I have been more aware of the texts I’m reading and whether they offer anything diversity-wise.

I must admit that I can be a bit apprehensive, or scared even, to talk about issues such as the need for diversity in fiction, out of fear of saying the wrong thing or not having thought what I’m saying through enough. However, I still want to recognise that I understand the need for diverse fiction and I want to aid in raising awareness for that need and books that fulfil that.

Therefore, I have decided to use the tag ‘diverse fiction’ on my blog. Any posts on this blog that discuss or review books that offer (major) characters that are different from the cis-gender heterosexual white people that for some reason seem to be the standard, will be tagged with ‘diverse fiction’. That way if you, the reader of this blog, are interested in seeking out diverse fiction, it will be easier for you. I will discuss the diverse aspects more in-depth if they are of importance to the course of the story (say, if discrimination is a big part of the storyline). If you would like me to add to book reviews what sort of elements of diversity the book in question entails, please tell me in the comments and I could do that.

Please let me know what you think of my decision down below, and if you have any tips for discussing matters as these in a thoughtful manner I’d appreciate whatever you have to offer.

Love,

Christa
#WeNeedDiverseBooks

My Topdeck Trip – Part II: Cairo

It’s been a few days since my return to the dreary and wet lowlands and the heat and sand of Egypt already feel like a lifetime ago.

Following Part I in this series detailing my Topdeck Trip (which in case you’re interested, was the Spirit of Egypt one), here is Part II – the start of my journey around Egypt, beginning in the capital: Cairo.

One the 16th of August, around 4am I was awake after a night of three hours barely-slept sleep. By 5am, I was in the car on my way to the bus stop where a bus would take me to the airport. About 10 hours, two flights, a lay-over in Frankfurt Airport (which, by the way, is HUGE!), and an in-flight meal (which was surprisingly tasty – thanks Lufthansa!) later, I arrived in Egypt.

Immediately, I was completely blown away by the amount of sand everywhere. I mean, it is well-known that 97% of Egypt is made up of desert, but it’s an entirely different thing to suddenly be faced with that.

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I was picked up by Topdeck representatives and driven to a hotel in Cairo where we would be staying for one night. That drive was as mind-blowing as the desert, if not more. I’d always thought Paris had crazy traffic – until I went to Marseille, after which that city’s traffic was the craziest I’d ever experienced. But both cities and their driving styles pale in comparison to what I witnessed on the streets of Cairo. On the side of the road there were people walking, donkeys pulling carts, people selling tyres, drinks and a plethora of other things I wouldn’t think about selling on the literal side road in any of the more Western countries I’ve been to. Then there’s the case of people just driving where they want, when they want and how fast they want. People pass you left and right and our driver at one point even reversed on the middle of the road because he’d taken a wrong turn!

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Upon arrival at the hotel (where the view from our window was of the Great Pyramid!), I met our trip leader, Ahmed, and spent a few hours dozing off in the hotel room, waiting for my roommate and the others to arrive. By 7pm, my roommate, a lovely Australian gal named Meg, had arrived and we made our way to the hotel restaurant where we met the rest of our group. As it turned out, our group was the smallest Ahmed had ever had, with only four people in it (there were supposed to be six of us, but two never made it to Egypt – we don’t know why/how). The other two were Australian as well, Luke and Arnold.

We spent the night chatting about the trip, went for food, stocked up on water at the supermarket, before hitting the sack, ready for an early start the next day.

On the 17th, we were up and ready by 7.45am. Our first port of call was the Egyptian Museum – unfortunately you were only allowed to take pictures of the outside, so I can’t show you any of the mummies, Tut’s 15kg solid golden mask or the statues displayed there. The museum itself is very close to Tahrir Square (where in 2011 a lot of the demonstrations happened during the Revolution) and right next to it was an army tank – which was a very surreal sight. It’s a very big museum (and they’re actually planning to complete the building of an even bigger one) with over 100,000 pieces of several different dynasties, as well as two rooms dedicated to mummies – one holds mummified animals, the other the mummified pharaohs.

After the admiration of the artefacts of several dynasties and saying hello to the remains of Ramesses II, Hatshepsut and a few other Kings and Queens of long ago, we had a brief lunch and continued our journey to the plateau of Giza.


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We were driven to a part a little bit away from the pyramids, so that we could get some good pictures of the three big pyramids together. We took this opportunity to also do some pyramid jumping, take some selfies and pose in that typical Egyptian way.

After we’d filled our camera roll a bit more, we got back into the van and drove closer to the pyramids. For an extra L.E. 40 (about €4.55 or £3.32), we got to enter the pyramid of Menkaure (our tour guide suggested going into this one instead of the Great Pyramid, because the insides are basically the same, but entering the Great Pyramid would cost L.E. 200). Truthfully, there wasn’t a lot to see on the insides, but it was nonetheless interesting to crouch down as we walked through those corridors and down to the chambers where the mummy, sarcophagus and possessions would have been stored so many years ago.

Once again outside, we spent some more time admiring the different pyramids, all amazed by the technique, craftsmanship and calculations that must’ve gone into the constructing and building of each of them – and all that without any of the technology we know today.

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After gazing at the pyramids, avoiding people offering camel rides and all sorts of trinkets, and a few more selfies, we made our way back to the hotel to gather our bags, got as comfortable as possible in the Topdeck van and mentally prepared ourselves for a 12 hour ride of 1000 km all the way up to Aswan!

I’ll be back soon with the next instalment in my Egyptian adventures.

Love,

Christa

The Riot Club

the riot club

This review, written by me, was first published in Newcastle University’s newspaper, The Courier, and has been slightly altered for the purpose of this blog post.

Based on Laura Wade’s play Posh, The Riot Club is about ten students at the University of Oxford who have been carefully selected to join an age old, prestigious and slightly infamous club, which is speculated to be based on Oxford University’s real Bullingdon Club.

Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) and Miles Richards (Max Irons) are two freshers at the university who have been chosen to become The Riot Club’s newest members. From the moment Alistair and Miles meet they become unspoken rivals. Throughout the film each character shows their good and bad sides as they get more involved with the club, making it difficult for the audience to choose who they empathize with and who they want to do better than the other.

Overall, I thought the film was really impressive: the convincing acting of all cast members creates a foreboding atmosphere that lures the watcher right in. I had one main issue with the film: instead of showing several big events that then lead to the ‘big scene’ where things traditionally go wrong – after which traditionally the problem is resolved and the characters learn and become better people – there are only a few events leading up to the ‘big scene’, which is then stretched out and used to its full extent. As a whole, the film is quite static: there are not very many different settings. However, after discovering that the film was based on a play, this structure makes a lot more sense to me, allowing me to appreciate it more. Wade, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, appears to have decided to maintain the story’s original theatrical structure and use of sets. It is a somewhat unusual way of giving form to a medium like film and one that certainly wouldn’t work for every film but I feel like for The Riot Club, it does work.

I must add: if you are someone who does not like the flat-out portrayal of violence, you might want to skip this film as it does not shy away from the monstrosity of a drunken fight.

This film is great if you enjoy watching films that are intriguing, shocking, yet realistic and that makes you question how far someone would go to belong.

Love,

Christa

Fool me once, shame on you.

I used to write short stories a lot more often than I do now – the ‘Novel’ is my main focus right now – but I quite liked having this change. The story flowed out onto the page and didn’t even require that much editing. Again, very different from the ‘Novel’ I’m working on.

The video above is of me reading a short story called Fool me once, shame on you. I originally wrote this story to submit for the Wicked Young Writers’ Awards – which is the main reason it is this short as the word limit was 750 words – and, having received no prize but still liking it a lot, I decided to make this video with it.

It is certainly very different from anything I’ve ever made before, but I quite like it a lot. Having said that, part of me is just a teeny weeny bit nervous about this video because it’s so different – I also don’t read out loud a lot, so there’s that. But I have decided to just going to roll with it. Wanting to make more ‘film’-like videos, but not really knowing how or what, perhaps this is a good start. And who knows – I might try something like this again in the future.

Love,

Christa

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

Pinched the image off Louise's website!

Pinched the image off Louise‘s website!

freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate. But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril. And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known…

I can’t exactly remember when I first heard of Only Ever Yours, which was the debut novel of Irish author Louise O’Neill, but I know I wanted to read it ever since I’ve known about its existence. I even mentioned it in my Bookish Wish List a few weeks ago.

Having since obtained it, I read it during this year’s Booktube-A-Thon. And I loved it. Throughout the novel, I feel like not a whole lot of information is given about the, somewhat dystopian, world it’s set in – there is especially not a lot of information about what goes on beyond the walls of the School. We, as readers, know as much about her world as freida does, which is intriguing. Rather than lots of things being explained by freida, they just are. We don’t know why they’re the way they are, or how the world has developed to be like it is in the novel, because freida doesn’t know. All she knows, and we know, is that she needs to perfect – she needs to constantly improve herself so she can fulfil her life’s goal to become a companion and bear sons.

The lengths these girls go to in order to improve themselves and upkeep these impossible standards are frightening. What’s perhaps even scarier is the fact that at times freida would be talking herself or others down, in a way that reminded me of ways I’ve thought about myself and/or others, as well as how I’ve heard others speak of themselves and each other. It’s appalling that we feel the need to think and speak so badly of ourselves and others – we’re only human and flaws are a part of our existence.

As for the novel itself – it was great. It fascinated me to read from freida’s perspective as she struggles to maintain the desired standards. Furthermore, I also feel Louise O’Neill portrayed a very plausible cast of characters, and I would be eager to learn more about each individual. For example, I would have loved to know more about the outside world – for example what the girls’ lives would be like after becoming companions, concubines and chastities. Or even how the boys felt in their roles as Inheritants.

The manner in which this story was told, as well as the themes that are prevalent throughout it, reminded me of both Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Which, let’s be honest, are far from terrible stories to be reminded of when reading something.

So if you like those two novels, or generally enjoy calm and somewhat eerie dystopian reads, I would highly recommend Only Ever Yours. I will definitely be picking up her upcoming novel Asking For It when it’s released (though I might wait until the paperback comes out), and I can’t wait to see what else Louise O’Neill will write in the future!

Love,

Christa