525,600 – A Year in the Life

These things are sent to try us.

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What a year. A lot of people are saying that 2016 has been the worst, and just needs to die already. In some ways I agree, but this simply isn’t accurate for how my year has actually been.

Truth is, the year started out better than I could ever have imagined. The first six months were amazing. I spent them in my home, my Aberystwyth, surrounded by wonderful people and made some wonderful memories. My last year in Aberystwyth couldn’t have been better, and it was those 6 months that made it – I have so many people to thank for that. I appreciate you all so much and can’t quite believe that such amazing people spent time with a slightly drunk loser like myself.

It wasn’t until I graduated in July that things took a turn for the worst for me personally. Leaving Aberystwyth was, and still is, an incredibly difficult experience. In the last 5 months I think all of my worst fears have been realised (except dying or being forced onto a rollercoaster), and yet if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from it all it’s this…

I’m still here.

We’re still here.

We are currently surviving, even if it feels like the world is falling apart. A massive bag of racist satsumas stuffed into a suit is about to become the most powerful man in the world and make our already fragile political situation a million times worse, and we don’t even have Princess Leia around to fix it; but humans are tough as hell. We might not always thrive in the face of adversity, but we muddle on. We survive.

I know myself a little better. I know that I am freaking strong, man. I’m not scared any more. Careful but not scared. I can survive, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to take silly risks. I think that would be good advice for politicians, if I do say so myself.

3 Things I Learnt This Year:

-Vote. First Brexit, then Trump occurred because no one thought they would. No one bothered voting, or protest voted for options they didn’t want, and the world is far worse off as a result.

– Think. Stay Grounded. Don’t lose sight of who you are. No matter what happens, you can’t go wrong if you’re true to yourself.

– Work hard, but don’t be afraid to quit. In the last few months, I’ve moved from a job I could do but hated to a job I can do and love. I feel incredibly lucky to have found something that I truly enjoy, even if it’s only temporary; this never would’ve happened if I hadn’t have left my last job. I don’t like quitting; but this was the best thing I could’ve done.

Let’s bookend this post with musical quotes, shall we? 2016, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

Bring on 2017.

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Last Post: Review Wednesday | Book Review – A Monster Calls

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Count the musical references in this post.

 


Review Wednesday | Book Review – A Monster Calls

Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.


A Monster Calls is a novel by Patrick Ness, based on the late Siobhan Dowd’s last book idea. I first heard of this book on a radio show in which they completely butchered the name ‘Siobhan’ (it’s pronounced Shove-orn or Shove-on!). Other than that they described the book beautifully and I must admit that they did do it justice. I’d read Dowd’s A Swift, Pure Cry before, but never any of Patrick Ness’ work.  I was worried that Ness would try and imitate Dowd’s voice, however this was quickly put to bed once I actually began reading the novel. The tone of the novel is sharply defined; this is not an imitation, but a unique novel with a clear voice. Indeed, on researching (okay, googling) the novel in order to find an appropriate quote (I really need to start marking quotes in the books I review!) I stumbled upon this quote from Ness himself;

“She [Siobhan] would have set it free, let it grow and change, and so I wasn’t trying to guess what she might have written, I was merely following the same process she would have followed, which is a different thing.”

When I read this book, I was not aware that it was aimed at children (I also found this out upon googling it) – although this makes perfect sense. The novel teaches important life lessons, both for children and more mature audiences, in a way that doesn’t sugar coat or patronise. Conor, our protagonist, is dealing with his mother’s illness. As her condition gets worse, he accidentally calls upon ‘The Monster’ – a humanoid yew tree – for help. ‘The Monster’ and indeed the messages he brings, add an element of magic to the story, as well as providing a moral guide for Conor.

‘The Monster’ is modelled after the Green Man, and indeed names this as one of his many identities. Green Man is a distinctly folkloric and magical motif, with unknown and ancient origins. This is fitting for ‘The Monster’ as the guide. He appears to Conor a total of five times I believe – the original apparition has obvious Dickensian roots, proposing that ‘The Monster’ will tell three stories; however Conor must then tell him a fourth. It is in this last apparition that the lessons Conor has learnt from ‘The Monster’ allow him to tell his own story, and fully accept his situation and emotions. The storytelling involved is highly moral, again reflecting the ancient tropes ‘The Monster’ embodies, but this doesn’t read as some kind of strict rulebook. ‘The Monster’s parables teach Conor -and of course by extension the readers -about the duality of humans, life and the mind; as the quote I’ve used to start this post shows. ‘The Monster’ shows Conor that everything isn’t what it seems, nothing is black and white and that that’s okay. He teaches Conor that his thoughts and feelings are valid and natural, allowing him to tell the final story.

I felt that the book was immensely moving and provides a wonderful yet real take on what it means to handle such heavy circumstances, particularly at such a young age. When I was 13, the age Conor was in the book, my granny underwent a triple bypass heart surgery that went wrong. She was severely ill for an awful long time and a lot of the feelings Ness encapsulates in the book are ones that I had a personal experience with at that age, and have often felt since. I wish I’d had this book then, and it is certainly one I would recommend anyone, but especially older children, read; particularly if they are handling the illness or passing of a loved one. Intensely powerful yet heartwarming, Dowd’s last idea has been executed brilliantly.

See you soon,

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Last Post: Spot The Difference – Why There’s No Review Today

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I also didn’t know there was a film coming out! [x]


Spot The Difference – Why There’s No Review Today

So unfortunately there will be no review this week (booo – look out for my review of A Monster Calls next week though!). This is because I have some very exciting news instead!

We’ve had an upgrade!!

Okay, so you’ve probably already seen the new domain/the inevitable mountain of tweets I’ll make on the subject, but I upgraded the blog! I was super excited to be able to put money into this once I got a job and today was the day I decided to do that. I won’t be posting a review today for that reason – the blog will be a little temperamental for the next few days (according to WordPress, anyway) and I want to spend what little free time I have at the moment exploring the new features, tweaking the colour scheme to properly match my logo palette etc. Also I spent my blogging time today trying to get past a really hard level on Best Fiends.

Sorry this is kind of a rubbish update but these are exciting times for Always in the Write so watch out! Now to go and update all of my social media accounts – oy vey.

See you soon,

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Last Post: Me Monday | Creative Piece: Commuter Conundrum

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Me right now. [x]


Me Monday | Creative Piece: Commuter Conundrum

So I got this idea on the train (unsurprisingly) this morning. I haven’t done more than a cursory initial edit so apologies for any spelling mistakes/grammatical errors! The image of the two doing puzzles has been bubbling away in my head all day, and while I did consider lengthening it and giving them a proper story I quite like the snapshot as is right now. It’s been a while since I’ve posted something creative, so I hope you enjoy!

Tim looked up as someone sat down heavily opposite him. A young woman was going through her bag, a dark green headscarf wrapped neatly around her hair. She must’ve only been in her 20s, he thought, and reddened as he considered how he may appear to her. An older, white male with the Daily Mail in front of him – he was surprised that she’d even considered sitting there; he certainly wouldn’t have.
‘Rough day?’ He said with a smile, noticing the stressed look on her face.
‘You could say that.’ She smiled back meekly. She looked down at her hands, and by extension his newspaper, on the table.
‘I don’t read this drivel, for the record. Unfortunately it seems to have the best crossword; I suppose there’s no need for fact checking there.’
Some fellow commuters turned to stare at them as she laughed.
‘I’m a Sudoku fan myself.’
‘That’s on the opposite page, if you’d like to take a look? I’m awful with numbers, could never get my head around them.’
‘I’d love to, if you don’t mind.’
‘Of course not, it’d only on the fire with the rest of it otherwise.’ He tore the page, handing her half of the newspaper to lean on.
‘Thank you. I’m Aliya, by the way.’
‘Tim.’

See you soon,

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Last Post – Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Night Circus

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[x]


Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Night Circus

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.

The Night Circus is, as you might have guessed, about a circus that opens at night. Le Cirque du Rêves (the circus of dreams) travels around the world, appearing in unknown places at unknown times. The main story, however, starts long before the circus’ inception. Prospero the Enchanter, a magician, and a man known only as A. H-, pit their students against each other regularly in competitions that can last over 30 years. As the story opens they are beginning a new contest with much higher stakes for Prospero than ever before – his contestant is his only daughter, Celia. The story starts years before the competition, with the circus proving to be a worthy arena for such a contest.

The book is written beautifully, with the incredible attention to detail needed to bring such an extraordinary setting to life. I did however find the timeline confusing at times – the story jumps around a lot. As well as Celia and her opponent Marco, the main story also follows twins Poppet and Widget, who are born on the circus’ opening night, and their friend Bailey. Because of this the narrative also jumps perspectives, and does follow other characters for shorter periods, but it manages to flow wonderfully and still make sense even if you’re not sure when you are in the timeline of the circus or the competition.

From the description of the novel, it sounds almost like a children’s book, but this is not the case – it is a novel that, much like the circus itself, I believe would be mesmerising to anyone who picked it up. The world is sophisticated and multifaceted, and Morgenstern clearly put a huge amount of thought and work into creating such a world; this definitely paid off.

**~SPOILERS START HERE~**

For me personally, the only thing I really disliked about the book were the inevitable romantic subplots. I mean, how oblivious did Celia and Marco have to be? Of course the competition was a fight to the death, of course they’d be star-cross’d lovers and of course they would have to go through the Hunger Games style “we both eat the berries so no one wins” trope. I think I’m just tired of star-crossed lovers and romantic subplots that just don’t feel entirely necessary. I didn’t mind the ending, but the romantic aspect did feel slightly rushed and tacked on. I felt the same with the implication of romance between Bailey and Poppet, in fairness. Maybe it’s just me. Also, can we talk about Tara please?! A woman dies suspiciously and this is just forgotten about after a while?? I want to know more about why this happened, as while at the time it felt like a nice twist, now that I’ve finished the book and it hasn’t been resolved it feels like it was only intended to be something to shake the plot up, not a story in itself – which it was set up to be.

**~ SPOILERS END HERE~**

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The end wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it did tie most things up. I was completely sucked into the world of the circus and its occupants. The book has been hyped up a lot, but I can see why. This is a wonderful example of magical realism/fantasy, and you can certainly consider me a newly converted “rêveur”.

See you soon,

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(PS Get me getting two posts out on time in a row!!)

Last Post: Me Monday | Rapid Fire Book Tag!

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DA DA DADADADA AFRO CIRCUS. [x]


Me Monday | Rapid Fire Book Tag!

First things first. I’m baaack..

katya

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve properly posted (reviews excluded) – things are crazy and I work full time with a long commute (I’ve never sounded so grown up, it’s very scary!) so I don’t have much time or energy, but this is changing! I have to wait around for an hour or so after work every day for my dad, so I’m taking to bringing my iPad with me to get some writing done. Hoping this gets my arse into gear and gets some more posts out!

Today’s post is one I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I was tagged in the Rapid Fire book tag by the wonderful Sophie at Blame Chocolate! I should say that this seems like an awfully long tag for one that’s supposed to be rapid fire, but some of the questions are really piqued my interest and it’s a little more in depth than the last reading tag I did (see here)! So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in! (My new job isn’t as a cheesy tv presenter, I promise!)
eBook or Physical Copy?

 

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Either – both have their merits for me. I find it easier to shop physical books, and since I’ve taken to only buying books from charity shops it’s also often cheaper. Saying that, ebooks allow me to read almost anywhere – reading Alora’s Tear on my kindle allowed me to read it in the car to/from work even though it was still dark out (my dad drives, I don’t read at the wheel!). I recently went through a period where I struggled sleeping and it was useful to be able to pick up my book without turning the light on. The Kindle has revolutionised reading under the covers – kids these days will never understand the struggle of reading with nothing but a crappy 90s McDonalds toy for light!

Paper or hardback?

Again, either. I read paperbacks more but there’s nothing like a fancy hardback edition of your favourites. One of my prized books is a gorgeous Art Deco style hardback copy of Grimms Fairy Tales (the originals, none of this censored bullshit) one of my best uni friends gave to me. Saying that, you can’t very well fit a 600 page hardback into a clutch – paperbacks are much more conducive to bringing a book everywhere you go!

Online or in store book shopping?

As I’ve mentioned above, I only seem to buy books from charity shops now – they’re much cheaper, and there’s a huge variety even at a glance – no having to decide which section to start with! So in that respect I’d have to say in store, but as a student I definitely felt the benefits of shopping online – if you want/have to buy 25 odd books at a time you may need a wheelbarrow if you go to a physical shop!

Trilogies or series?

It depends on the story. I think 3 is a nice round number, but some stories need longer or don’t need that long. I don’t really think about it if I’m honest, but I can see why some people might not want more than 3 books – it’s a lot of energy to put into just one story, and getting into a series with over 3 is daunting (I’m looking at you, ASOIAF).

Heroes or Villains?

Is it a cop out to say I like books that blur the lines? I like a sympathetic villain and an unsympathetic hero sometimes. Again it does depend on the story, but I do love an underdog so I think I do prefer villains a lot, maybe because I have a tendency to want to know the other side – it’s a writer thing!

A Book You Want Everyone To Read?

JUST ONE? There are so many, but of the ones I’ve recently read I’d have to say Reasons to Stay Alive. It’s so perfect and has really left a mark on me.

Recommend an underrated author.

Again, so many! The first one that came into my head was Shannon Hale. She writes beautiful YA fantasy novels, such as The Goose Girl, Enna Burning and Book of a Thousand Days. She writes powerful women who have stayed in my heart, but I feel like she is written off (get it) and her works could be presumed to be substanceless princess novels – when this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Last book you finished?

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (concept by Siobhan Dowd). I intend to review this next week, but to summarise – I loved it. It was emotional and clever, funny in parts and heartbreaking in others.

Weirdest thing you’ve used as a bookmark?

Literally everything. Sweet wrappers, train tickets, hair clips, rubber bands. You name it, I’ve probably tried to use it as a bookmark. Hint: cats don’t appreciate their paws being used as bookmarks.

Used books: yes or no?

Nah mate. Just kidding. I love used books – all of the books I’ve bought since graduating are used, obviously excluding ebooks. Most books in charity shops (yes I will keep going on about this) are near perfect quality anyway – and if they’re not then they’ve been well loved; nothing wrong with that!

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Top 3 favourite genres

Literary realism, magical realism, fantasy.

Borrow or buy?

Now before I answer this I should say that I love libraries and the idea of libraries…but I prefer to own books. I’m happy to lend them out and I do borrow them but when a book really touches me I like to own it. I can’t really explain why though! I think I’m just possessive. And a hoarder.

Character or plot? 

Well I mean, you need both for a good story. I like character based stories more than big plots I think, but I’ve loved both.

Long or short books?

Again, either, and again it depends on the story! Some long books drag and some short books aren’t long enough. Lately I’ve preferred short books, as I can get through them quicker and this is better for reviewing purposes, but as I’m currently ahead of my review reading I might go for a longer one soon.

Name the first 3 books you think of.

Harry Potter, Going Postal, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?

Both. If you can do both in your writing, you’ll win me over.

Our world or fictional worlds?

Again, I like both! 2 of my favourite genres are realism though, so I suppose it’ll have to be our world. Definitely fictionalised though, please keep me as far away from the real world as possible!

Audiobooks: Yes or No?

Not for me, but I definitely see the merits of them. I did like the radio dramatised version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but that doesn’t really count. I just get bored hearing someone else read it, and I find that they don’t go fast enough!

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

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Not judge per se, but I definitely tend to pick up books with interesting/pretty covers.

Book to movie or book to TV?

Another one that depends on a lot! Sometimes films do adaptation really well, sometimes TV does. I do think the TV format generally works best, as there’s more time to play with, but then film franchises can often have a bigger budget, which can be more beneficial.

A movie or TV show you preferred to its book?

Okay this is going to sound silly, but Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging. I loved the books, but there’s just something about the film.

Series or standalones?

I don’t know! Again, it depends. At the moment I prefer standalones, again for reviewing purposes they’re better and as I don’t have as much time to read it’s nice to not feel like I’m stuck in the same story for an age.

I can’t think who to tag right now and I’m absolutely exhausted so if you haven’t done it and would like to, then TAG! You’re it.

See you soon,

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Last Post: Review Wednesday | Book Review – Alora’s Tear Volume 1: Fragments (Blog Tour)

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