Guildford Book Festival – Anthony Horowitz

Every year Guildford hosts a book festival at a variety of locations with a whole range of authors and events. This year I managed to get tickets to two events at the Electric Theatre, the first of which being Anthony Horowitz.

The Anthony Horowitz event was in the evening of the 10th October and was hosted by Professor Bran Nicol. The room was filled with all kinds of people who were eager to see Horowitz and hear what his novel Magpie Murders has in store. Anthony Horowtiz was fascinating to listen to – he was so passionate and enthusiastic about writing and his stories, I felt such a sense of joy listening to him.

He both did and didn’t say too much in regards to Magpie Murders, to avoid spoilers of course, however I was really interested in listening to him and Nicol discuss the relationship between creators and their creations – especially in relation to Doyle and Sherlock, and Fleming and Bond – and how this was explored in Horowitz’s new novel. It was also amusing to witness a debate of what constitutes as ‘nice’ or ‘cheerful’ murders, which again is explored in the novel. He did reveal that a clue to one of the murders is on the very first page and so far no one has worked out what this is, although if you have an idea he encourages you to tweet him! As well as Magpie Murders he also spoke about how much he enjoyed writing Moriarty, even if a little daunting at first, and how much it meant to him to write.

Personally, my introduction to Horowitz was through his Alex Rider series – so I was thrilled to hear him talk about the series and that Rider will be back for (at least) another two books. It was wonderful to hear Horowitz on the subject of children’s literature and how he loves being involved in a child’s love of reading or simply being an introduction to reading in general.

During his discussion of the Alex Rider series, Horowitz told of his interest in names of characters and making them amusing (using Herod Sayle as one of his examples and one of his previous editors as another). He also revealed how he would be inspired to write a whole book because he’s either thought of an image he finds particularly amusing and wants to incorporate it somewhere, or because he’s thought of a great first line that he wants to use.

Towards the end of the event there was a Q&A session where we found out how he began writing and storytelling (at a young age to other children at boarding school); that he never says “never” to an idea and he seemed particularly delighted when someone referenced his play The Handbag. We also discovered that Horowtiz writes his first drafts in fountain pen to feel closer to two of his literary heroes, Dickens and Trollope.

I think the most important thing I took away from the event was that writing shouldn’t be seen as “difficult” but as a “challenge” and an “adventure”. Horowitz offered the advice of you should live life and have your own unique adventures to draw on for your stories instead of always telling someone else’s story (like Horowitz himself causing him slight jealousy of Alex Rider). And when asked why he writes what he writes – either genre, form or characters – he responded because it makes him smile, which I think is the most honest and satisfying answer he could have given which was a great note to end the evening on.

Next week I will be writing about my experience at the Keith Stuart event so stay tuned!

Y3 – Semester One, Week Three

Whilst this week may not have been as busy, socially, as last week I still definitely had a lot to keep me busy.

I had a fairly late start on Monday, choosing to spend the morning resting in bed instead of doing anything productive as I had all my work ready for my Victorian Poetry class. This week we were looking at Robert Browning, I was really eager to see how we would be analysing his poetry as I studied him at GCSE level and was curious to see if there was anything we didn’t consider back then in our analysis. I really enjoy Browning’s poetry, however that class really summed up Literature (as a subject) for me… As I went in there pretty certain Porphyria’s Lover was about a man murdering his lover and came out of the class thinking the speaker had a hair fetish and was into asphyxiation.

I spent my entire Tuesday reading The Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson. I was determined to get it read for three reasons:

  1. I wanted to get my work done for Friday as soon as possible so I had time to do other things;
  2. I was intrigued as to where to book was going and wanted answers to all the questions the book was offering;
  3. I wanted to spend my evening playing the Pokémon Sun and Moon Special Demo which was released that morning and I refused to let myself download it until I had done the reading.

The Brown Girl in the Ring was a really interesting read and it wasn’t anything like I was expecting… There were a lot more spirits than I thought there would be for a book on my Health module, haha!

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On Wednesday I finally had my dissertation meeting as I felt ready for it. What I thought would be a half an hour meeting solely focused on my dissertation turned into an hour and a half chat about my dissertation, the course in general and other bookish things. Although it wasn’t completely focused on my dissertation the meeting was really useful and I feel more confident in my idea and I’m pleased I’m now at a stage where I can start doing some research.

In the evening my university celebrated it’s 50th anniversary with a night of music (from a university band, GSA ensemble and a Beatles tribute band) and fireworks. It was a really fun evening and the fireworks were great to watch, I’m really pleased that I got to be a part of that.

On Thursday I had my last dissertation workshop for this month where we spoke about the literature review part of the project. To me, this sounds like the best place to start my dissertation and will tie in nicely with the research which I plan on starting with. So not only will I be able to start my dissertation by researching it, I’ll be able to start writing my literature review too. Afterwards I met up with one of my old housemates and we had a catch up for a couple of hours which was nice.

My Friday class, where we discussed The Brown Girl in the Ring went, well I think. I seemed to talk a lot in that class for some reason. Perhaps I understood the book more than I thought I did…! Or at least, I certainly had a lot more to say about it than I thought I would have.

From next week I think I’m going to start to be more strict with my time and plan my days better; as I will be getting my assessment questions for both my classes which means I can finally start them. I’m quite looking forward to doing work other than reading for my classes as I haven’t written an essay on literature for over a year now!

Y3 – First Semester, Week Two

I had a very packed week last week, which is why this post is a little later than I had planned it to be…

On Monday we discussed Tennyson’s In Memoriam in our Victorian Poetry class, and although I like Tennyson, this certainly isn’t one of my favourites of his but it does have some great lines and stanzas which makes it worthwhile. Afterwards I headed into town with one of my friends as we were going to be attending the Anthony Horowitz event (where he was going to be talking about his latest book, Magpie Murders) later that evening. We met one of our other friends for dinner in Franco Manca (which was great!) before the event started.

I have another, longer, post lined up talking about the Anthony Horowitz event so I won’t go into it in detail here. All I will say is that it was amazing to be there and listen to him speak about his work and writing in general. It was encouraging and motivating with some interesting in depth discussion on characters and crime fiction.

As Tuesday is a day off for me I took a trip to Chantry Woods with my friend and her dog, Blue, to do something different and to get out of the house. I don’t think I’ve been into woods for quite a few years so it was nice to get around and take some photos.

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On Wednesday there was the careers fair which was quite interesting to look around, however I didn’t find many jobs or organisations that I was particularly interested in. A lot of them seemed to revolve around finance, engineering and HR. But I did sign up for some more information about some graduate schemes and also got some more information about postgraduate studies. Afterwards I met up with a friend who is doing a PhD and got to talk to her about postgraduate study too, which was really helpful.

I spent my Thursday reading Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals ahead of my Friday class of Health, Illness and Technological Imaginaries (I think I’m going to start shortening that…). The class itself was really interesting and it seemed like a lot of people had things to say about this text which prompted some great discussions. After the class I grabbed some lunch with a friend before going to another event at the Guildford Book Festival. This time we saw Keith Stuart (author of A Boy Made of Blocks) talk about his book, autism and gaming which was fascinating. Again, like with the Anthony Horowitz event a longer post will be coming soon going into more detail about this event. I would have liked to have had a chat with him after the event however, unfortunately, I had to rush off to catch a train but I was still pleased I was able to go at all.

Overall I had a great week doing things that I wouldn’t normally get to do and visiting new places, I hope this is a theme that will be continuing throughout my final year of university!

Y3 – First Semester, Week One

This week was my first week back in classes. I loved being back in classes, although it’s odd to go to two-hour classes after being used to just one hour lectures.

I had quite a long afternoon on Monday, I had my 2-4pm Victorian Poetry class which was great and the lecturer even brought biscuits. We’re a small class which is nice, and a mix of students who went on a placement year and students who didn’t so there were some new faces amongst the familiar ones. After my lecture I went to town with one of my friends to kill some time before we had to be back on campus for our evening welcome talk and reception. I’m pretty certain the general welcome talk is the same one we get every year, haha! It was quite interesting though, I’m now considering doing a Masters but I’m not completely certain yet.

On Wednesday I met up with another friend and got to meet her service dog who is wonderful and had dinner round her flat whilst she introduced me to Gravity Falls. When I got in I did my reading for my class on Friday which I enjoyed more than I thought I would (as usually introductory reading can be a little dry). As I got all my work done on Wednesday, after my dissertation lecture on Thursday (which was really interesting and reassuring as hardly anyone seems to have a concrete argument for their topic yet) I had the rest of the afternoon off. Which resulted in another trip into town for tea and lunch…!

Friday morning I was up earlier than expected and went onto campus before my lecture to grab a drink and do some work before the lecture, although not a lot of work ended up being done…! I had my 11am-1pm Health, Illness and Technological Imaginaries class which was really interesting and it sounds like we’re going to be studying a range of great texts! They seemed to have kept everyone who did a placement year separate from those who didn’t for this class, which felt like we hadn’t been away at all!

Overall, I had a great first week back and I think I’m really going to enjoy my classes! We’ll see how everything goes in week two, which is already looking busier than week one…

Book Review – Happily Ever After

by Harriet Evans
Started: 10 September 2016
Finished: 11 September 2016

It’s been a while since I last picked up a Harriet Evans book so I was really looking forward to reading Happily Ever After. However I was left quite disappointed with the novel which I wasn’t expecting.

The novel focuses on the life of Eleanor “Elle” Bee from when she was a child with her parents on the verge of divorce to when she is a successful career woman. We see her grow from a young socially awkward bookworm, to a confident and driven editor who has no time to read for pleasure. She spends her time editing other people’s happy endings, but will she ever have her own?

For most of the novel I really struggled to like Elle, there were times when I found her adorable, likeable and just the right amount of feisty. But then there were many other times where I found her quite frustrating, who would run away from her problems or just pretend they weren’t happening. Sometimes it would be understandable but other times you would just want to see her tackle them head on. Personally, I didn’t find many of the characters in the novel particularly likeable, he only two that stood out to me were Tom (and I even had a love-hate relationship with him) and Felicity (although you don’t get to see a whole lot of her). Although I didn’t like Elle’s family, I would have liked to have seen more of her family, as I found them and their interactions interesting.

I think part of the reason I struggled to like Elle was the way the novel was structured – each chapter took place in a different year, sometimes with fairly large gaps between the last. This made it so you didn’t see Elle develop as such, you saw her change. The Elle you would read about in one chapter sometimes felt completely different from the Elle in the next chapter. This wasn’t just true of Elle but other recurring characters too. Despite the gaps between chapters and changes in the characters, you would be aware of what prompted this change/development but it didn’t feel like it was happening organically as it would have done had you seen the situation fully unfold rather than jump to the next one.

As there were gaps anywhere between a couple of months to a couple of years between chapters, this meant that the chapters themselves would vary in size but would generally be quite long. Personally, I struggle to read longer chapters as it can begin to feel overwhelming and a bit of a chore at times. However this is just a personal preference for me and the plot itself was interesting and something different was always happening, albeit it was a little predictable at times.

Overall, the novel wasn’t bad and the plot was enough to keep me reading. It wasn’t my favourite Evans book however it hasn’t put me off buying more of her books in the future.

Rating: 2.5/5

 

Y3 – First Semester, Fresher’s Week

This week I officially moved back to uni for my final year (I still haven’t fully come to terms with the fact this is my final year, I’m in a permanent state of questioning how time has gone this quickly). As this week was fresher’s week I didn’t have any classes, however I wanted to come back this week so I had the time to move into my new house and settle down before classes start.

In my last university update I had just started house hunting for my final year and I think that was the most stressful thing I’ve had to do for uni. It took a couple of months before I found a room close to campus which is also a nice size, which is great as I’ll be spending 80% of my week working in it. In total they’ll be five of us in the house, just waiting on a couple of the last housemates to move in but everyone seems really nice so far!

I moved back on Monday and spent most of the day unpacking with my parents before having a late lunch with them at T.G.I Friday’s in town. Tuesday I met up with two of my housemates from my second year for coffee in town, it was lovely to see them again and we went to a nice cafe which had a comfy and cozy upstairs surrounded by books (naturally, this will be my go-to in town from now on). As it had been a while since I had walked into town I had forgotten how awful it is to walk back… So many hills!

On Wednesday I met up with a couple of other friends at one of their houses to catch up and see how all our placement’s went, and thoughts about doing our final year. This somehow ended up with another trip into town, which was fine until I took a wrong turn on my way back home and ended up on the other side of the road, facing the opposite direction (no, I still don’t know how I managed that either). I spent the rest of Thursday recovering from the 8+ miles that I had walked in the past two days and decided it would be best if I didn’t leave the house!

I went home for the weekend on Friday as I had a driving lesson on Saturday and had a lot of things to pick up that I’d forgotten (or got partly through the week and realised I needed it). On Friday I was also given my timetable which consists of a 2-4pm Victorian Poetry class on a Monday, a 11am-1pm Health, Illness and Technological Imaginaries class on a Friday and occasionally a 11am-1pm dissertation workshop on a Thursday.

Really looking forward to the coming week to get back into the swing of things (although I probably won’t feel as excited when I am actually back into the swing of things… Haha!).

Rosie xx

Book Review – The Best Thing That Never Happened to Me

by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice
Started: 6 September 2016
Finished: 8 September 2016

I remember seeing this book everywhere when it was first released and I was dying to read it. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to read it but it definitely didn’t take me long to finish it because I was hooked from the beginning.

The book features best friends Holly and Alex who have drifted apart and not spoken in eleven years despite being inseparable in school. After Holly’s failed attempt to tell Alex how she really feels about him she leaves Yorkshire and eventually ends up in London as a PA and in a secret relationship with her boss. Alex on the other hand didn’t leave Yorkshire and became a literature teacher. After years of being apart will Holly and Alex get another chance once Alex decides to move to London?

I really liked Holly and Alex as characters (apart from the frustrating lack of communication!) and found them enjoyable protagonists. They were interesting characters by themselves and didn’t need other characters, such as their friends or even each other, to make them likeable or intriguing. I felt quite bad for Holly with her situation with Richard (her boss and lover) and although I wanted her to stand up for herself more in telling him what she wanted out of their relationship, you could understand and appreciate the complexity of why she holds back at times as he is her boss. I could also easily see why Holly was in love with Alex, I fell in love with him myself in a matter of pages! Like Holly, there were times where I wanted him to assert himself more but it didn’t seem to be in his nature. He was loyal, smart and funny who wanted to try and change the world one troubled pupil at a time. They complemented each other really well in their friendship and I was constantly rooting for them to actually talk and get together. You just really wanted them to be happy with each other because you really felt that they deserved it.

There are a few other recurring characters, most of who I found difficult to like, however I get the distinct impression Richard and Melissa weren’t written to be liked! And although I didn’t like them, I did like the drama their characters brought to Holly and Alex’s lives. As for the friends, I couldn’t understand why Alex was friends with Kev he was amusing at times but that didn’t feel like enough for me. However towards the end of the novel I began to like Kev more and found some redeeming qualities about him. Jemma on the other hand didn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities (aside her from her funny snide comments about Melissa) and for the most part seemed very self absorbed.

The plot itself was a joy to read, I liked how things weren’t easy for the two characters and how not everything was solved as soon as Alex moved to London. Both Holly and Alex were established well in the space of the opening chapters, so you grew to like them apart rather than depend on their interactions with each other. There was also a lot going on for each of them, which made their individual chapters fun to read rather than just enduring them until something happened. This was the case for both the present day chapters and the chapters set in the 1990s, I didn’t find myself bored and was eager to read everything. Despite loving the plot and development of characters, I would have loved to have had an epilogue to the novel. I was excited when I got to the end however I was quite disappointed with how abrupt the ending was.

I found the novel well written with each character having their own distinct personality. I liked how the novel had alternating chapters between Holly and Alex’s perspectives both in the past and present. These were clearly laid out so there wasn’t any confusion which there sometimes can be with a narrative like this. By having this constant change this kept the novel well paced and fun to read throughout.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I’m pleased I’ve finally got round to reading it and seeing why people loved it so much! I would definitely recommend this novel and won’t wait this long to read the next book Tait and Rice release.

Rating: 4/5