Reader’s Block? Don’t fret.

Once upon a time, you were devouring book after book, almost in parallel to your unlimited supply of Easter Eggs. Everything was grand: your mother just called up the stairs to see if you wanted another cup of tea, your bed has never been more inviting and you’re blissfully ignoring that essay that’s due when you start University again.

However, one day, as you put down “The Versions of Us” by Laura Barnett (I enjoyed that one), and you stare up at your shelves and your still half-unpacked suitcase filled with books, you feel a sense of emptiness, and your attention span has diminished. One might even call it a block.

You know it, it’s the dreaded Reader’s Block.

Nothing is particularly standing out to you. You’ve either read it before, it’s too similar to what you’ve previously read, it’s too out of your comfort zone to read right now or my most-used excuse, you just can’t commit to reading a whole series.

Are you particularly busy? No. Have you lost an interest in reading altogether? Definitely not. Have you gotten into… the film versions instead???? Of course not.

So here’s the thing. You want to get back into reading, but your brain has completely shut down all interest in books. So I’ve compiled a list of the 5 things you need to do to get back in the zone. You’re welcome.

  • Get recommendations from a friend. The fresh perspective and the incentive of definitely having someone to discuss the book with may spur you on to have an interest and also finish it. It helps if you have a friend (or even a family member, actually) that has the same interests as you.
  • Go online or to your nearest book store and find something random. Despite the fact you’ll be leaving the cosy and inviting comfort zone you were fretting about earlier, you need a breath of fresh air- why not have it in the form of a new book?
  • Download a free book! There are so many free books out there for you to read that you can get out of the horrible Block without having to spend a penny! Then you can buy in bulk when you’re reading game is stronger than ever before. Also on kindles they tend to tell you how many pages you have left and how long it will take for you to finish books these days, so maybe that’ll keep you motivated. The first one is always the hardest.
  • Get a book you know you’ll enjoy- maybe read a book you read a few years ago, or a different book from one of your favourite authors. It’d be like having a pizza you know you love just with some different toppings. With Rainbow Rowell, even though she writes about many different things and she targets them to slightly different audiences, I’ve enjoyed everything she’s written. I even got to meet her two years ago, that was cool.
  • If you really can’t bring yourself to pick up a book right now, just hang around in the book community. Join a forum, or go caveman style and communicate in the outside world. Maybe do what I did and set up a blog of your own so you can write about books. Or join The Student Room. Or stop procrastinating by surfing the internet, make another cup of tea and read a book. Books are inanimate objects, so they literally cannot move. They’ll always be there. Unmoving. Waiting for you.

Like the famous Writer’s Block, at the end of the day it’s just a hiatus, and hiatuses end. There is hope for every single one of you.

Cheaters Suck // The Versions of Us inspired rant

I’ve been sick since Friday, so naturally I’ve given myself a perfectly valid excuse to ignore all my work and just read.

I’ve finally got around to reading The Versions of Us, which so far I’m enjoying. I was surprised to see that there wasn’t two, but THREE running parallels throughout the story. I was also surprised that I wasn’t hopelessly lost, but somehow I’m managing. I love it.

One thing I don’t love though is the recurring trope of the mysterious yet enticing love affair that authors so often use in more romantic novels. It’s not rare to have a character with more than one love interest, and although monogamy is almost dead is this recurring theme making people think it’s okay to betray the person you love?

I wonder how much people are influenced by characters in novels. I mentioned in a previous post how people seem to want to mimic mental illnesses because their favourite characters have them, purposely endangering them and others around them.

I understand that people will see what is right and what is wrong, and the majority of people aren’t idiots, which is great. Good job, world. However, I’ve noticed in novels how often the cheater gets forgiven, or the one who is cheated on decides to retaliate by “cheating back”, or they seem to brush off the shame like I brushed biscuit crumbs off my pyjamas when I was marathoning Game of Thrones on the sofa earlier. I feel like this kind of betrayal isn’t being taken that seriously, or is being played down to an almost normal occurrence.

Then again, these kinds of things aren’t rare any more. Love isn’t seen as this true eternal flame anymore- it’s fleeting, and changing, and easily broken. In my opinion, that sucks quite a bit. We live in a world where people think it’s fine to lust over someone when they’re supposed to be in love with another, or if you’re drunk and you kiss someone it’s fine, or if they weren’t happy in their current relationship it’s fine.

It’s never fine.

As a result, more people are unwilling to commit to long term relationships. Less people want to get married. People are scared to have children because they don’t want to raise them alone, regardless of whether they would be the mother or the father. Call me paranoid, but these situations authors create in books don’t seem to be having that much of a negative impact on the rest of their lives. At worst, they seem to feel guilty for a while and then shake it off, and then the other person seems to be showing great strength of character by taking them back. Is it me, or surely it would take more strength to metaphorically throw them out into the trash? Beats me.

I mean, sure, these dramatic affairs do add excitement to a book in a weird way, as no relationship is perfect and obviously it isn’t all going to be gumdrops and roses. Surely there’s other ways to present conflict? Surely there’s a more diverse range of issues one can write about in a relationship other than how it appears to be so easy to turn a blind eye and salvage any honour they may have had?

I may be overreacting here, but it seems so easy for people to still hero-worship characters that have cheated in romantic novels especially. Do people not see this as a bad thing anymore?

Maybe I’m just a buzzkill. We’ll see, I guess. I’m just going to sneeze out my feelings and take a nap.

Ten things I’ve learned since being at University

Hi! I’m terrible at starting things. Essays, blogs, conversations, you name it.

Anyway, although I plan on this being predominantly a book blog, part of me wants things to be a little more personal, too. In September I started studying Spanish, and although there were some things I expected to change drastically, there are many things that you never even think of until you move out of the comfortable little nest under the roof of your parents. So, without further ado, here’s some things I’ve learned and/or noticed since leaving, and maybe if you’re also a student you’ll know where I’m coming from.

  1. This applies more to students who are moving to a different country, but even so, you become a good 70% more patriotic. I have noticed this more now that the Six Nations has started, but moving from Wales to England has made me more fiercely proud of my country. Especially since we’re such a tiny weeny little country that some people don’t even know exists (I’m looking at you, the rest of Europe).
  2. Nobody will be bothered to clean. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a day where somebody cracks under the pressure of a messy kitchen and cleans everything. Other than that, nobody has a mother to tell them to wash the dishes after them, or a father to tell them to stop leaving things lying around, so no one cares.
  3. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve moved up to the north, or if it’s winter, but University Halls are cold. It’s got to the point where I need a good half an hour to warm up before I leave to go to University, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I keep my thick duvet all year round. It’s not that much warmer at home, but I have radiators, and the heating is on more frequently.
  4. If you don’t want to drink, or don’t drink at all, it’s okay. Although drinking is embedded into the life of a typical University student, if you’re not up for it that night, or you don’t drink for whatever reason, people just let it go and carry on. Sure, they might try and persuade you otherwise, but there’s no real pressure.
  5. Sleeping patterns are non-existent. Time has always been merely a concept, but you will go to bed at odd hours, and eat at odd hours, and everything is a hot mess of lectures and sleep deprivation until you come home and wonder why you’re incapable of leaving your bed before 1pm at the very earliest.
  6. There’s no point in telling people the exact place where you live. I recommend the nearest major city. It’s also fun later on when you get to know people more and you say suddenly “So you’re not from Manchester after all?”. Don’t even bother trying to get people to pronounce cities correctly, it’s not worth it, unless you’re easily amused, and you have the time.
  7. Conversations will be mainly food related. Never have I had so many conversations about what’s in the clearance section of Tesco, or special offers on pasta sauce, or how we all wish we were nearer an Aldi. Other fun conversation topics include the fact that you need to do washing but can’t be bothered and is it acceptable to have cereal at 5pm (the answer is yes)
  8. Your google searches will be really weird. I don’t mean creepy, I mean you’ll be searching things like “What can I make with (insert three obscure and unrelated items of food here)”, various fancy dress costumes for society socials and just things that you want to ask your mother but can’t bring yourself to so she can’t say “you should have thought about this before you left”. Google is your next best option.
  9. You walk a lot more. Catching the bus costs money, and unless you’re lucky enough to have your car (which I doubt) you probably won’t set foot into a car until you’re home. I was able to navigate my way around Chester after moving in for only a week just because I had to get everywhere by foot. Then again, Chester is only a small city so maybe I’m not the best one to judge.
  10. Bin Jenga is a thing, and Sink Jenga is also a thing. Unless you want to be the one that cleans it, or be the one who complains about it and causes a flat bitching session, you’re better off just dealing with it until you’re lucky enough to have a spontaneous 1am cleaning session. We’re all lazy teenagers here, not just you.

I’ve probably missed a lot of things out, but I’m sure there’s plenty of these lists on Buzzfeed, so knock yourselves out.

The Precarious Topic of Mental Illness

This is another blog post I wrote for Wordery, which you can also view here:

I’m going to dive straight in: mental illnesses are delicate.

I finished All the Bright Places the other day, and I loved it. Part of me loves how authors are trying so hard to include more diversity in mentality, thus making people more aware of “illnesses” such as Anxiety, Depression, OCD and a gazillion other things on the gigantic spectrum.

It also terrifies me.

What I loved about All the Bright Places is that it was almost brutally realistic. It’s so easy to romanticise these issues which leads to people thinking they’re “cool” and “in fashion”. If you are suffering, or have suffered, you would know that you would never want to wish something like this on your worst enemy. We see that in Finch. We see how he will isolate himself in order to protect other people. We see, as readers, that there’s only so much friends and family can do to help, no matter how close to them they might think they are.

As I said before- it’s delicate.

Another book I believe addresses mental illnesses well is “The Rest of us Just Live Here”. The fact that Ness shows the problems that come with supporting someone with a mental illness as well as the comfort makes us see both sides of the story. Mikey has OCD, and you can see how he gets more and more frustrated by the pity, and how he pushes people away, and how people in return get bored or frustrated by the vicious cycle embedded in his brain. It’s not a competition as to “who has it worse”, but it must be understood that it’s not all about sudden explosive breakdowns and your many best friends obediently trotting to your side every single time. Otherwise, there would definitely not be as many people suffering today.

I worry that certain illnesses are going to suddenly have even more stereotypes and labels, due to authors describing them in a certain way. A point I want to illustrate is that EVERY MENTAL ILLNESS IS UNIQUE. You may see two people with an anxiety disorder, but those two people may think very differently, and may get triggered by different things. Therefore they need to be dealt with very differently. In general, some people like to be comforted whereas others like to be left alone, and more serious mental illnesses are no different. How you- as a friend, parent, or even sufferer, addresses this depends on YOUR BRAIN. Not everyone with depression is always grumpy, not everyone with anxiety is a constant jittery mess, not everyone with a social disorder is almost crippled with shyness.

I worry that people are going to try too hard to relate to the issues the characters are going through. As someone who has never lost anyone close to me at an age where I can comprehend it, I will never be able to truly relate to a character who’s lost a sibling, or their mother, or a best friend, and I’m okay with that. (I’m thinking of Jandy Nelson’s books “I’ll Give you the Sun” and “The Sky is Everywhere“, which are also books I’d recommend) You can continue to sympathise with them, but people try too hard to pick out random symptoms and then sloppily diagnose themselves with something. If you think you do have a mental illness, see a doctor, or talk to someone close to you. You are not a character. You are real. (As much as it pains me to say characters in books are purely fictitious)

Like characters as a story progresses, you are growing older, and you are changing, and as Dumbledore once said: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.

World Book Nay? That’s World Book Okay.

Happy World Book Day! My gifts to myself to celebrate were The Martian by Andy Weir, The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett and Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller.

However, I want to talk about the people who don’t read.

Some people struggle to read. They may have dyslexia, they may struggle to see, or they may have never been encouraged to read so they’re out of practice. That’s okay. Some people just don’t like reading. They have other hobbies, maybe they’re more into energetic activities, and maybe they can’t focus on a book for hours on end. That’s okay. Some people are fed up of books. Maybe they’ve had to study far too many tedious books in school, or maybe, like if I was forced to run 5 miles each day, they’ve been made to read to the point where they’ve lost the passion for it. That’s okay.

Today is a day of encouraging people to read. Today is a day of celebrating authors, and enjoying your favourite books. Maybe, like me, you’ve treated yourself to some new ones. Maybe you’ve recommended a book you love to a friend. Maybe you went to school dressed up as your favourite character. Heck, maybe you went to WORK dressed as your favourite book character. Who says today is a day just for children?

It does make me sad that less people read and more people just stare at a screen. I love TV shows as much as the next person, but there’s so much more to the world- and by so much more I mean more books. Books are fun. I do feel disheartened when I hear that less parents are reading to their children before bedtime. I always found it to be good for me psychologically because I could wind down, and it would always signify the end of the day. Even if Mum wasn’t there, I remember having those read along tape cassettes where the book would be read aloud and I would follow on with my copy. I was a cool kid.

Also, if you prefer reading on a Kindle because you like the lighting and the portability, that’s okay. If you prefer to feel the book in your hand as you cwtch up on the sofa after a long day at University, that’s okay. However, there are other ways to wind down. Some people just don’t read.

I always strive to encourage people to read, because it is so good for you. However people have their own reasons for not doing so, and we must respect that. If you have children, PLEASE READ TO THEM. Stories have a sense of freedom that TV shows can never provide.

Some people don’t read. And that’s okay.

The Book is not the TV Series // The 100 Review

As soon as I discover a TV series is adapted from the book, I will get my hands on it as soon as possible. I’ve nearly always believed the books are better than the on-screen adaptions (there are one or two exceptions).

The 100, by Kass Morgan, is a whole different ball game.

I usually prefer to read the book before I watch the corresponding TV show, usually because I see it as the “original” version. Before, I was adamant that nothing would compare to the book but as I’ve grown up I’ve understood that TV shows are ADAPTIONS, not IMITATIONS. Somehow, I’d managed to convince myself that the book was always right, and because events in the TV shows would be “incorrect” it would mean it wasn’t good, and obviously that’s not the case.

Shock horror, right?

As book lovers, I think we’ve all been in the situation where you’re watching a film and playing a very loud game of ‘spot the difference’ which only served to irritate all your friends. The joy of “The 100” series is that the books are completely different to the series.

Both the books and the series have the basic idea that 100 criminals under the age of 18 have been sent to earth to find a way to live and see if it is safe for everyone to return home. From there, the similarities are sparse, to the point where I love them both equally.

I love how I can enjoy the storylines in the book AND in the film. I love how I CAN’T compare them because they are so unique. I love how I don’t have to worry about reading the books before a new season comes out, and I love that people can enjoy the concept of the book if they struggle to read. I love how it shows that society is crumbling, yet adults are still trying to cling onto the fragments of the delicate democracy that they know and love. I love a good dystopian novel, and I love how it is shown that children CAN look after themselves, and although children aren’t always right, neither are adults.

It’s also interesting to see how the TV series introduces characters that don’t exist in the books, and how they fit into Kass Morgan’s society. It adds more depth to the rather straightforward predictable relationships in the books, and although they appear to have fights and issues they seem to be easily resolved, almost to the point where they seem cheesy. In the TV series not only do the characters have more strength but they explore different sexualities, where there is more experimentation rather than definitive labels.

I love the freedom in books. I can imagine the characters and situations however I want to, and anything the author doesn’t set in stone (or ink in this case) is up to me. As soon as I watch the TV series, their appearances are set in stone and that luxury has gone. I also find it easier to understand the storylines in books. If I miss something, I can turn back a couple of pages and reread it, but once the moment has passed in a show, there’s no going back. Sure, I can rewind it, but it’s not the same.

What do you all think?