Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Ex Machina

Films!!! I love them. Aren't they just the perfect way to end a stressful day? A way of ignoring your own problems, you can put yourself in someone else's shoes and think about their problems instead.

As my brain is always buzzing with ideas and thoughts (seriously, that thing is never quiet) I find films the perfect way to switch it off through means of distraction. It's perfect. While my brain is occupied with someone else's life, I can wind down and relax.

For that reason, when I watch films, I tend to choose comedy or romance. Ones that have endearing likeable characters, but are not too much effort to follow and I don't have to think about them too hard.

Ex Machina couldn't be any more different to that.

Sure, I didn't expect a chick flick but somehow I didn't expect that either! Like WHATTTTT? Seriously. What happened?

Ok so I am going to assume at this point that you, dear reader, have watched Ex Machina. Because that means I can fill this mini discussion with loads of spoilers and I don't have to talk through what happened. So if you haven't watched it I will place the SPOILER ALERT here, and urge you to go see it. Right now. It's brilliant and I would really recommend it.

But, oh my days. For want of a better phrase (and sorry to anyone who does not like cursing) - what a total mind fuck.

That ending though. Shall I flout tradition and begin with the end? Why not?

This freaked me out a lot. Ava's brutality was ever so slightly horrifying. And her betrayal of Caleb - the one good person who you could be certain of his moral niceness - was completely unforgivable. We had spent two hours falling in love with him and watching him fall in love with her because he thought she was worthy of it. To have him so suddenly and so completely let down was heart breaking beyond words.

But how evil was she actually? Ava didn't kill Caleb yet she did. It was pretty certain that Caleb was going to die anyway at the hands of Nathan...would that have been better because it wasn't unexpected? And because Nathan's form of evil was so much more straightforward.

Ava only thought the way she did because she had been programmed to do so by a maniac (and however bad she is at the end, there's no taking away from the fact that Nathan is a complete and utter nutter) driven by greed and money and insanity! She did what she had to do, because she thought this was the only way she would be able to get where she wanted. And she probably did have to behave that way to achieve that. If Caleb had left with her, what sort of life would she honestly have had? How likely was it that Caleb would have performed more tests on her and ultimately destroyed any chance she had of total freedom? The only way she would be completely free was to be alone -- something that Nathan must have inadvertently drummed into her due to his love of seclusion.  

This film was a study of humanity more than a study of AI! And my goodness it did not put us in a good light. But do you know what else is freaky beyond belief - that there could be robots all over the world that we don't even know about. Or, scarier still, maybe we are in fact are the robots.

(Photo of DVD cover courtesy of amazon.co.uk)

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Big Book Questionnaire

I love books. And, almost as much as I love books, I love talking about books. So when I spotted this blogging tag on twitter, I just had to take part in it. I haven't done a tag in absolutely forever either so that was even more of a reason. Let's get right down to it, shall we?

1. Do you get sick while reading in the car?
I do! Which is really irritating but I don't actually spend much time traveling around by car. I prefer the train and will quite happily read for hours while zooming through the English countryside. I was once on a coach for 7 hours travelling up to Durham and I was determined to read. I couldn't just sit there, doing nothing all day. Because it was mostly motorways, I was ok for the majority of the time. However in the last couple of hours, I was feeling horrendous. I would spend 10 minutes reading then 20 staring ahead and trying not to puke!

2. Which author's writing style do you feel to be completely unique?
Probably Roddy Doyle - he is a wonderfully laidback Irish author, who is so readable and funny. Try him.

3. Harry Potter Series or the Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer.
Harry Potter - no contest. Anybody who says different is just plain wrong. I don't really need to defend myself but --
1. It has such a wonderful bunch of unique characters who all have such depth in them and they are a joy to read. I grew up with them and I want to be friends with them all! Yes even Draco.
2. Hogwarts - that place!!! As a child I would have given anything to go there.
3. Quidditch -  doesn't it sound like such fun??

4. Do you carry a book bag? If so, what is in it (besides books...)?
I have a handbag which always always has a book in. Obviously. Other than that it holds my purse, oyster card, railcard, passport, spare pair of glasses, lip balm, a notebook, about 30 pens, hairbrush, a compact mirror, an eyeliner pencil, a smattering of change and old receipts...and all manner of other rubbish - you know what it's like. I genuinely buy bags based on whether they can fit books in or not.

5. Do you smell your books?
If they're new...yes I most certainly do. Especially text books or those brochures that are on the shiny paper - they smell the best.

6. Books with or without little illustrations?
Without I think. I have nothing against illustrated books, but I don't really read them anymore. I have some gorgeous ones from my childhood though - a Beatrix Potter treasury among them. I hope to pass them on to my children one day.

7. What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn't quality writing? 
 Probably Harry Potter. Hell of a story though, so I will forgive it.   

8. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!
I honestly can't think of any!! I will get back to you.

9. What is the thinnest book on your shelf?
I have three of those little 80p Penguin Classics that they released for their 80th birthday. If you didn't see them, they are basically short stories in book form. Other than that, I have Heart of Darkness which is a very slim little book - absolutely impossible to read though. I attempted it last month and ended up skimming it.

10. What is the thickest book on your shelf?
I own Les Mis by Victor Hugo. Eeeeeesh that is a long book. My version is actually in two volumes, but it still counts, right?

11. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as being an author?
I do indeed. It is my ultimate ambition to become a published author and I am very determined. Watch this space.

12. When did you get into reading?
There was 'no getting into reading' for me. I have always been into it. My Dad read to me as a kid but I very soon wanted to read on my own and I was always ahead of the expected reading age when I was in primary school. I still devour books with a hunger that many people take the piss out of me for.

13. What is your favourite classic book?
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. A beautifully written book and the character progression was wonderful too.

14. In school what was your best subject?
 English, surprise surprise. Did it for A level and studied it at uni.

15. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated...what would you do?
I doubt this would happen for two reasons- one: my friends/family know that I buy books on almost a daily basis so wouldn't bother to try and find one I hadn't read. Two: I rarely hate books that strongly. Apart from Heart of Darkness apparently. But if it did happen, I would have no shame in taking it back to waterstones and swapping it or giving it away to a charity shop. I have so many books, I would not waste time/space on a rubbish one.

16. What is a lesser known series that you know of that is similar to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games?
The series I am writing and attempting to get published right now. It's brilliant and one day you will see it everywhere...promise. ;) While you are waiting try The Wind Singer series. I read it when I was like 12, and loved it but don't really hear much about it!

17. What is a bad habit you always do?
Ummm probably refusing company of friends to stay in and read instead. That happens occasionally...

18. What is your favourite word?
Splendid. It's just a splendid word.

19. Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above?
 Nope...I am awesome. Obviously.

20. What Hogwarts house would you want to be in?
 I did the test on Pottermore and came out as a Hufflepuff which didn't surprise me one little bit. Even on reading the books I thought Hufflepuff were the kindest, and most fun to be in. We were conditioned not to like Slytherin, Gryffindor was always way too arrogant/showy-offy for me and I am nowhere near smart enough for Ravenclaw. So Hufflepuff it was.

21. Which Faction would you be in?
I have never actually read the Divergent books but I have seen the films so I can answer this question. I'd probably be in Candor and always speak the truth because I am way too outspoken for my own good sometimes. Definitely wouldn't be in Abnegation or Dauntless, Amity is far too happy-clappy and I am not intelligent for Erudite.

22. Which District would you want to live in?
I wouldn't do very well if I was that poor and I would certainly be one of the first to die in the Hunger Games. So I choose the Capitol where I would be safe.

23. Wizards or Vampires?
Wizards all the way. What can vampires do other than kill people and sparkle?? And move really fast I guess...but wizards have brooms for that. I would love love love to have magic.

24. Love Triangle or Forbidden Love?
Love triangles I think. They always inspire such interesting character dynamics. Katniss' little love triangle was the best. Gah I just loved both of them and didn't know who to pick until right at the very end of the series. Naughty Gale!!!

25. AND FINALLY: Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?
I am soppy but I find romantic fiction can be a little bit...well...rubbish. In other genres, particularly fantasy, the characters are a lot more in-depth so I feel more deeply for them. Therefore, I think I would probably prefer to keep the romance to a section rather than be overwhelmed with lovey-dovey stuff.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Ambitions VS Dreams

I was having a conversation with someone recently about writing (what else??) and how I was trying to get my novel published at the moment. And she said something along the lines of  'Oh yes...that has always been your dream, hasn't it?'

Now, this was a very old friend of mine. One who I hadn't seen in a while so I didn't feel like I could correct her. But she was quite wrong. Becoming a published author never has and never will be a dream of mine. It is an ambition. And that is extremely different.

Maybe I was being unfair. She knew me when I was a child and when I was 7 or 8 years old I probably did think of writing as a dream. I dreamt of being a published author because I knew it was a long way off and wouldn't happen for a very long time (until I was grown up and sensible and could do whatever I wanted).

Because that's what a dream is. It has a degree of unattainability about it. The word dream is just too...well...dreamy. It evokes a mystical quality where the idea shimmers ahead of you; always in the forefront of your mind certainly but you are never quite able to grab it.

There's nothing dreamy or shimmery or magical about an ambition. An ambition requires determination, every little brain cell you possess and a hell of a lot of hard work. And if you lack any of those things, there is no way you are going to achieve your goal. There is no point in dreaming of the day it is going to happen - that's just a waste of time. Instead you need to put every free second you have, towards achieving the goal. And you don't stop until you get there.

So while I might be dreaming of one day marrying Prince Harry or winning the lottery and going on a round-the-world cruise, I know in my heart of hearts that this will never happen. Writing though is one thing I am never going to put into my dreams. Because I know for certain that one day I will see my name staring up at me from the bookshelves of Waterstones. And the sooner that happens the better.

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Friday, 8 January 2016

The Gloss on Life

We live in a funny age. With the internet still a fairly new phenomenon and growing all the time, each person's presence online is growing by the year. Photos, thoughts, videos and more can be published in a variety of different channels which is brilliant for those of us who want to get our name out there. But is it actually so brilliant?

Humans, essentially, are quite vain creatures. You want your life (and your looks) to appear as perfect as they can. And social media is the perfect place to produce this perfect life - you can add filters, and project an image that everything is going fabulously and shouldn't you all be jealous of this amazing life I have. While, in fact, you are hiding behind the screen and covering up all the bad bits.

I do it myself. Take my Instagram, for example, where there are pictures of me in pretty dresses, or visiting beautiful places or snapping stunning sunsets. They are all accurate representations of what I am doing at the time (and actually I barely edit my Instagram pics!!) but what they don't show is me sitting around in my pyjamas with greasy hair. Or getting restless at work. Or crying about the fact the things I want, don't ever seem to happen.

And if you go one step further there are the bloggers and vloggers. Now these areas of the internet are meant to be our very own, where we can write whatever we want. A kind of cross between an online magazine and a diary, you can have all the exciting fashion and travel and beauty routines and events and all that jazzy stuff. But with a dash of comforting homely reality. The problem is -- that little dash of reality is becoming squashed out. And replaced by glitzy clothes hauls, flawless eye make up tutorials and descriptions of glamorous cruises around the Caribbean.

But it's not real. That eye make up, which is done in 10 minutes, might have actually taken 3 hours to shoot. To go on those cruises, those bloggers may have had to save up for three years. You don't know what really went on behind the scenes, because that isn't what the blogger wants to project.

You should never look at someone's Twitter or Instagram and go 'That's the life I want to lead'; 'Why isn't my life like that?' or 'I'm jealous.' It isn't something which is actually attainable. Which is actually pretty sad as that is not the aim of many bloggers. It certainly isn't my aim and I have always tried to stay true to myself throughout my three and a half years of blogging. As I believe that my downs are so common that I may be able to help other people by talking about them and get helped in return.

But even if you don't have the confidence to exhibit your downs out there in the world for all to see, my parting advice is this -- try not to look at other people's social media lives with envy. Instead, be content with what you have and strive for what you don't because you actually want it (rather than because someone else has it). Don't waste time or effort being jealous of other people who have made themselves look shinier than they actually are. It's just not worth it and life is too short.

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