April Book Haul

It's that time again for a nice, new book haul. I thought it was about time to share which books I've read this previous month, and what I've thought of them. Yet again, I've been getting into bed at half past eight (despite the mocking of my friends), and reading for an hour or two. So, here goes, enjoy.

1, Along For The Ride - Sarah Dessen

Along For The Ride was the first book I read this month, and it was the book I enjoyed the most. I had read this previously, around 3 years ago, and after a while it completely slipped my mind. It wasn't until recently I began to think about it once more, to think about how much I enjoyed it. For me, love stories can go one of two ways. They can be really exciting and leave you longing for more, or they can be overly soppy and unrealistic; and truth be told- leaving you feeling slightly queasy.

Fortunately, Along For The Ride is not like that. The novel focuses on the lifestyle of Auden West, a teenage girl spending her last summer before college with her newly re-married father and step-sister. Both her mother and father being workaholics, she never experienced much of a childhood. Auden soon finds that Heidi, her fathers new wife is experiencing her fathers work over family priorities and steps into help throughout the day. But throughout the night, being an insomniac she is unable to sleep. She likes to go out and spend her nights alone, that is until she meets the brooding Eli, who, after loosing his best friend Abe in a car accident, hasn't been friendly with anyone in so long. Both unable to sleep, they spend their nights re-living Audens childhood. This is in the form of bowling, cycling and eating pie. You see both characters grow into new people, learning a new meaning to affection.

My favourite types of books are the ones that take you out of reality completely, and when you are quickly snapped back into the real world you are left bewildered and confused, wondering why you are no longer in the book. This is what I love about this book, for the next few days I felt absolutely lost without it. I really enjoy Sarah Dessen's writing. Although it is nice to have a challenge, I find her books so very comfortable to read and they flow along so easily.

Throughout this book, I'm sure many others would agree that the strongest factor is Dessen's completely believable characters.. Each one is so well developed and fleshed-out as the storyline takes it's course. I find myself being able to relate to certain aspects in each of the characters and that is always good in a book. People will read a book, and if the one of the characters has similarities to you, or even suffering with something that you are currently going through it helps you realise that there are other people like you in the world.

The only reason I haven't awarded it the full 5/5 is I thought that certain parts of the storyline were unnecessarily dragged out, and if this had been the case in a more challenging book it would have made more of a struggling read. Fortunately Sarah Dessen seems to write work that can be read so easily which is a nice reward every once and a while when you want to put your feet up and relax.  

2, Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl is a book which had a slightly discomforting start. Knowing about everyone else's overwhelming love and high praise for this book, and really struggling to get into it made me feel slightly awkward. It felt like when you are in a class, and everyone seems to understand yet you don't have a single clue what's going on. You sit there and convince yourself that you do understand, and that it's not possible for you to be the only one sat there in your own silent awkwardness. That's the only way I could describe the start to Fangirl, I felt almost as if I was convincing myself to enjoy it due to the love everyone else had seemed to give it.

Yes, I did enjoy reading it, but I truly didn't love it. This does happen every once and a while, getting sucked into the world of a book so quickly by the fans supporting it that you don't have a chance to really take in what's going on. To start with, the background behind Fangirl interested me- a girl [
Cath] overcome with shyness and the urge to stay in her dorm who survived by surrounding herself with writing during her first year at University. I liked the idea behind Cath, she was dealing with being socially awkward and introverted which is something that many people live with all over the world, realistic traits for a principle character to have. Unfortunately, she became one of my least favourite characters. I found she was very under-developed in comparison to other characters and it was more about how her love-life grew rather than how she grew as a person. There was no real recognition of the fact she had overcome her fear of socialising and finally became a person she wanted to be. For this reason I found my self reading purely because I could start a new, more enjoyable book as soon as I'd finally made my way to the end. 

However, a book, that in my view lacks a storyline and just seems to become an over explained account of a romance, the story started to pull me as I got further in. Every few chapters I would find a new reason to actually enjoy what I was reading. I was a massive fan of how the book consisted of around seven main characters, each one well fleshed-out from the start. Each character began to make it's mark on me, Rainbow Rowell giving each one it's own personality and their own easily distinguishable characteristics.

Sluggish is the only word I can think of to describe how this book started, it just felt forced and the whole story line wasn't quite fitting together properly in my head.

But ignoring the fact the ending did come about so quickly I had to check I hadn't missed a chapter as it didn't quite feel complete, the last few chapters left me with a raw sense of happiness that only comes about from a book that has a sense of reality all the way throughout.

Overall, the book did get more readable as you worked your way through what was just a sludge-filled start, each character was loveable and I started to find myself laughing all the more as I went through.
I just didn't feel as if this book was completely whole, the foundations to a story, yes, but not fully together. Enjoyable all the same.

3, Submarine - Joe Dunthorne

Before I begin my review of Submarine, I should probably say that yes, I did watch the film before I read the book- I know, what a crime on my behalf! I was introduced to the novel through friends recommendations of Richard Ayoade's magnificent film adaptation.

Submarine is the story of Oliver Tate, our narrator, a soon to be fifteen-year-old Welsh teenager who is awkward, intelligent, quirky, overthinks everything and a large fan of complicated words. This book tells the story of Oliver giving his best shot at surviving school, attempting to unravel the equally overcomplicated and captivating Jordana Bevan and experiencing the unknown territory that is adolescence - all whilst trying to save the marriage of his parents. 

But this is not like most coming of age stories. Joe Dunthorne gives Oliver a very unique voice, and the story is full of black humour. The character of Oliver is very well developed, to such an extent that you finish the book feeling as if you've known him your whole life. But alike most coming of age tales, you don't quite feel there is a message to this story. Oliver hasn't learnt anything on his adventure through adolescence, other than the meaning to a wide variety of complicated new words. He remains the same from beginning all the way throughout the story.

The one factor of the book that I did like over the film, was the large amounts of black humour. I was in the mood for a book that would make me laugh and Submarine really does do the trick. It was said in such seriousness on Olivers behalf it couldn't not be funny. Though some things that went on through Olivers mind did reach the extent of being slightly disturbing, you were still manipulated by Dunthorne to somehow still like and feel for Oliver at the end of the book. Whether that's because he is so well-developed or not I don't know.

"One night, it cried intermittently between the hours of midnight and four in the morning. I had one of Mrs Gri´Čâths’s maths tests the next day and I wanted to let him know that, in our community, this behaviour is not acceptable. So I came home at lunchtime – having performed poorly in the test –went into the street and made myself sick on the bonnet of his Lotus. It was mostly blueberry Pop-Tart." -Oliver describing the Yellow Lotus Car belonging to a man on his road.

The book is told through various means of storytelling: diary entries, straightforward storytelling, emails and pamphlets which all gave the book a more interesting interpretation on teenage life.

Overall, Submarine is candid, humorous and had the right amount of abnormal without becoming pretentious. 
It is a well-known fact that books tend to outshine their film, and yes, this was a fantastic piece of literature, but it didn't seem to recreate the spark I felt, and still feel every time I watch Richard Ayoades adaptation of a teenage boy with such an abnormal mind. [Film review will most likely follow this in the near future as it is a film that I enjoy to a huge extent.]
But nonetheless, I really did enjoy Submarine and I feel like the book has a completely different feel to the film, and in my opinion it is wrong to compare one to the other. 4/5.

Work Experience - North Devon Gazette

As I write this, i'm sitting at my very own desk at the local newspaper and looking back on the last four days I've spent here. I've just hit 1,100 views on this blog, and instead of crying with happiness in front of the room I will take quick drastic action to distract myself in the form of a new blog post in my last free hour. I've got my peach ice tea, and I am content enough to just write about what comes to mind. Unlike the last four days where I've had to write about the news, now I can just let myself lose, write whatever comes to mind and go with how I feel most comfortable; to over explain everything. The one thing that is fresh on my mind, mainly because it's still taking place was this weeks work experience. 

The stress of exams will be piled on so high next year, my school decided that having time to experience going into a work place will just not be possible. Therefore, each year, the Year 10's have from four days to a week experiencing working outside school.

Being an indecisive person, deciding the right place for work experience in somewhere as limited as North Devon was a difficult process. I was torn between the theatre and the local newspaper, both of which incorporate factors of the career path I want to go down; a magazine based reviewer of either books, theatre or film- that part I am yet to decide.

So after a long thought process and endless advice lessons in school, I whittled it down and sent off an email to the Gazette. It was then confirmed with school in early January, and I had plenty of time to prepare.

At this point, after finally having the guts to move from my private blog, to one available to the public - which is a decision I'm very happy I made - I was starting to write all of the time. As soon as I'd get home I'd sit down and start writing. I would start a new blog post at half 6, and in what felt like five minutes I would look up and it was already half past eight. It was mental. It was then I knew, that I was really looking forward to spending whole days in my own little writing bubble.

The Gazette is available to the public on a Wednesday, so when I first arrived, the editorial team were hands on making sure the next days paper would be printable, and something that would keep the public interested. I was perfectly happy to spend the day re-writing press releases that needed sorting through, it was quite nice to stick to myself as most people around me know, my confidence level is zero. Thinking nothing of it, I did my research, read some information and wrote three press releases into what I thought was my best shot at a news article. Having no previous experience on articles, and being the elaborate story writer that I am, a piece of writing that was meant to be 100 to 200 words long became around 700 words long. This, of course, would never interest someone reading it, loss of attention being a major factor in that. 

The next morning, with editor Andy's help, I was able to cut down, and re-write two of my articles thinking nothing of it. As many people know, having my own byline has been something I have aimed for for a long time. I was certain an opportunity that big wouldn't come around until long into the future. So when I saw my first article, published on a website with my name under it I didn't know how to react. Then, to hear my articles would be in next weeks paper, I began to secretly worry it was some form of day late April Fools. To my delight, it wasn't, and over the week I have had around six articles published which is incredible. (So thanks again Gazette, I am sorry if I was a little shy and didn't quite express my delight as much as I wish I had!

I took a screen shot of my byline on
one of my articles via the Gazette website!

A tradition I highly approved of was their weekly meetings, which occur every Wednesday in Mcdonalds. In fact, they go their so often they have managed to blag themselves free drinks. 

Over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I wrote 6 articles, interviewed 1 London Marathon runner and her mother, had 1 coke in Mcdonalds, took 6 photos on a camera much higher quality than my own and had 6 hours total time on a bus - 8 over the whole week.

On Friday, I got to experience something that scared, but excited me at the same time. Court. Court has never been a subject I've looked into often- I knew it existed, and I understood the rough outline of it but I'd never gone into any detail, and had certainly never been to one. Other than making the mistake of wearing the most itchy jumper possible, it was a really interesting input into Court life in general, and how Journalists approach that. Although Sarah said it wasn't the best of days to go, I thoroughly enjoyed it and did find it really interesting. I also got some great advice during the car journey which I have written down in my notebook for reading back in the near future.

So, now as I write this, and have one more hour left on my work experience, that feeling of nerve at the start of the week has been replaced by a disappointing feeling, the feeling you get when something good slowly but surely draws to an end.

Since they may be reading this, and it's the polite thing to do I should probably make the effort to thank Andy, Sarah, Elliot and Tony, you were all alright I suppose- joking!
In all seriousness, thank you so much for having me, I have learnt tonnes more and can officially say that I can walk out at the end of the week having learnt so much information I don't truly understand how I can still remember it. I can even recall the definition of a pleonasm, which I haven't quite worked out how I'll use it to my advantage but I'm sure it'll come in useful all the same.
Thank you so much, and I do hope to see you again sometime, if you'll have me of course!

If you would like to visit the Gazette website, click here.
You can also read any of my articles by clicking on the following links, or picking up the Gazette dated 09/04/14.

100 Days of Happiness [Days 1 to 10]

Recently, my friend Beth has been going on about taking part in a 100 days of happiness challenge. I've always noticed I can get down right moody, and hearing that it can improve peoples moods, and life in general, I decided to give it a shot. But, unfortunately, a blog post describing in some detail different parts of 100 days, could go on forever! So I have to decided to share the start of this challenge with you. Here we have the first 10 days!

Day 1: Quay Jumping- If you can't tell from the  video, this consisted of walking down to the quay in  our wetsuits, and jumping into the water. The fact it was March meant it was ridiculously cold, but so  much fun! In the video you can see the group of us,  Lucy, Beth, Frances, Harry and Me jump of the  side, screaming, into the cold below. Anyone who  fancies doing the same, definitely do it, but perhaps  go in the summer! The water made my feet and  hands completely numb!

The lovely sunny view from
Mmmm Chocolate Cake! Shame
I couldn't finish.
Day 2: A bike ride- Just as a last minute decision, me and my mum decided to cycle from Bideford to Fremington and back today. After such a long season of rain, I was ready to take any opportunity to get out in the sun and get a large dose of the vitamin D I have been lacking for so long! We stopped off at Fremington Cafe, where I naughtily had eyes bigger than my stomach and ate a whole mint choc chip ice cream, before failing to finish a slice of chocolate cake! The weather was so beautiful the only natural thing to do was take some photos to remember it. 

Day 3: A BBQ at Amy's- Seen as the sun has recently decided to make an appearance, my group have friends have been doing all things possible to appreciate it whilst it's around. Amy has the best house out of the lot of us, an amazing view, woods and of course a trampoline! Some of us spent the evening there, alongside some sausages, crisps, digestives and of course, cheesecake! Altogether it was just lovely to sit in the daffodils with my friends and watch the sun go down, with the wondrous soundtrack of Arctic Monkeys and Bob Marley in the background. 

Day 4: Don't Worry Be Happy & English: This morning, as I put on my uniform for school, I could here a faint song coming from my parents room that I recognised. In year 7, I went on a French Exchange, and me and my friend Beth would sing Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin. It's the one song that is guaranteed to put a smile on anybody's face. In fact, as I write this post I am playing it again, and it's almost like that period when you wake up in the morning- you can't remember anything bad in your life, and everything seems ok, until you remember. This song has the same effect on me, anything bad seems to fly out the window. Finally, in English we started reading An Inspector Calls in preparation for our GCSE's. I was reading the part of Sheila, and seeing that my favourite lessons are Drama and English it was the perfect collaboration. English is always a laugh and I have always loved it.

Day 5: Pretty Little Liars- As much as I watch Pretty Little Liars every single week, and I know deep down it can't be my excuse for a happy event after watching it every Wednesday- but I can't just leave it out! This episode just really managed to cheer me up, and the cliffhanger ending has frustrated me beyond belief! But one of the feelings I enjoy most in life is the feeling of anticipation and excitement. That wobbly feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you have something exciting to look forward to. So, without ruining any of the storyline, thank you Pretty Little Liars for making my brain work overdrive until next Wednesday!

Looking very chuffed
at my makeover!
Day 6: Festival Fiesta- This year at school we are given the opportunity to take part in Enrichment&Intervention every Thursday, lesson 5. Here we can pick from a large variety of courses. I, along with 3 other friends picked Festival Fiesta. We are currently getting ready for a carnival in May, and because we are the 4 oldest, we are in charge of a group each. Me and my friend Mollie's group came together, and whilst planning, we decided to make the most of the weather and take the group outside. Here we did some yoga in the sun. It's really nice to interact with people from different year groups.

Spending some quality time
with Beth's dog Jock.
Day 7: Come Dine With Me [Part 3]- Me and my friends made the decision to have our own little Come Dine With Me between us. Last night was Beth's turn, and she was the third to cook for us. After school we went around her house and her theme was Mexican. After dressing appropriately and drawing moustaches on our faces, we sat down for Beth's food. For starter we had Nacho's and dips, Enchiladas for main course and she had made the most delicious Oreo Cheesecake for desert. We then stayed the night, I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Beth also did our makeup, and I felt very nice, which was a good change!

Day 8:
Appledore with Frank- After coming home from Beth's house, and feeling completely under the weather due to having jabs the day before, It took some will power to leave the house. I managed though! Although I didn't quite feel up to quay jumping again with her, I went down and watched! All I have to say is the fresh air really did do me more good than lying in bed, and Frank is such a laugh to be around! So I was very glad to get out of the house and spend some time with her- even if she did shake freezing cold water over me every now and then!
I can't work out whether this is a photograph or painting,
but whichever it's absolutely incredible! I am pretty
sure it's a painting- Clovelly really is beautiful.

Day 9: Coffee Outing- Other than opening the cupboard door to six bottles of Lipton's peach ice tea (cheers Tesco!!) I also went shopping and for a coffee with my mum. We went to our favourite coffee shop Presto, and sat at our usual table opposite a large picture of Clovelly. Clovelly is one of my favourite places to visit, and to look at it whilst having my drink brings back some great memories and doesn't fail to make me smile. I had a delicious chocolate brownie, covered in chocolate chunks. I must say, it was absolutely mouth watering to look at! Also, not being a fan of hot drinks I opted out of coffee with my mum and drank a gorgeously fruity orange and mango juice. As I get on with my mum really well I do love to spend time with her.

Day 10: Happiness&Humour- First thing in the morning, we received an assembly about how humour and laughter effects our lives. It was accompanied by a funny video, and it triggered a very humorous mood in me throughout the rest of the day. I was constantly in fits of laughter, and there was nothing I could do to stop it! It was also amazing to see how contagious laughter is, I could set off a tidal wave of laughter, everyone can't help but join in! So overall, there wasn't just one thing that made my day happy, other than the feeling of laughter which meant my happiness lasted throughout the whole day.