I read lots of books, from mythology retellings to literary fiction and I love to reread books from childhood, this is a place to voice my thoughts for fun. I also like to ramble about things such as art or nature every now and again.
In thinking about ways to support the black lives matter movement, I made a wee etsy to sell some things I’ve painted or drawn. 100% of the proceeds from anything I sell will be donated to Black Visions Collective, a charitable organisation that supports this movement. Since I just paint for fun they aren’t the best and might not sell, but I thought it would be a start to helping as much as I can. 🙂 I tend to like to paint on a larger scale but I’m unsure if I’m allowed to send huge canvases so I need to figure that out. The link to etsy is below:
I find it relaxing to make little line drawings at times, so I’m going to do more of these as a simple easy thing to send to anyone interested.
I love Japanese style art and hope to look at more examples to recreate beautiful Japanese art.
I painted a mini version of The Wave off Kanagawa with a little collage. I enjoy painting this wave due to the abstract quality and I hope to paint more of these.
This has been quite a struggle and is something I need far more practise in so it’s looking a bit messy, but I found some old vinyl records and after picking the ones I want to keep, I’m left with lots to practise painting. Hopefully this will become more fun and less frustrating haha and I’ll keep trying new designs 🙂
I love sunflowers, they are always a go to when I’m painting.
this is a lot simpler than the paintings I like to do and I struggled to stop here, however, I know that lots of people prefer more simplistic or minimalist paintings (and they take less time if I want to make more) so I managed to control myself haha.
I’m always very critical of things I paint so I feel strange about potential selling them, but I feel better in the knowledge that any proceeds (if any crazy people buy anything) would be going towards an excellent cause. I am very aware of my position of privilege as a white person and I would appreciate any feedback on the ways in which I can actively promote anti-racism. I hope you’re all doing well, thank you for reading.
I think it’s extremely important that we finally decide to actively counter racism. I’ve seen lots of white people expressing shock and horror about what has happened, however little is being done by these people to create change. Unfortunately whilst I was horrified I was not shocked, and the fact that so many were shocked shows how ignorant we are. I am ashamed racism and inequality still exist, and I am ashamed that I have not personally done more to stop it outside of challenging acts of racism i have witnessed. As I go into my first year of teaching, I will educate the children on racism, inequality and segregation, not with the aim of countering prejudice but with the hope that the children never learn to become intolerant of anyone. I believe that children are kind, accepting and good (far more so than adults) and the disgusting racism and prejudice is taught. I will do more with my privilege to affect present and future change and express to extremely ignorant people why black lives matter as opposed to the selfish and ignorant statement that all lives matter. I’m not very eloquent and I’m certainly not the most important person to discuss this issue, but white people have to take steps to be actively anti-racist and listen to those whose voices are often silenced. If there is anything that you feel I can do for this movement please tell me and educate me further. #blacklivesmatter
I started watching this programme just before season 3 came out and I just absolutely love it. I was so glad when it became so popular because it was getting hard to convince my friends to watch a programme that features incest and a child being thrown out a window in episode one hahaha. This show is so incredibly well written- it obviously went downhill after the writers ran out of GRRM’s book material, but even so I’ll forgive it it’s many flaws. The characters are so intriguing, well rounded and realistic (most of the time) and the fact that GRRM has no problem killing and torturing makes you root for the characters and watch in fear when your favourites are in danger. With the exceptions of Ramsay and Joffrey, there are no definitively ‘bad’ characters that I hate. The Starks are obviously the ‘good’ family that the audience can grow with and root for, but the Lannister’s are incredibly interesting. I don’t think I can pick favourites; I love them all. I also love the character development throughout the story, characters often lose what is essential to their makeup for example, (SPOILERS!:)
Cersei’s constant fear of losing her children, Jaime his hand which represents his safety, pride and arrogance, Sansa her idealistic view of the world and so on. Jaime and his redemption arc (kind of ruined at the end by the writers but ah well) is a good representation of the extremely rich, well written arcs in this programme. Even the minor characters who I typically wouldn’t find interesting such as Tywin have depth to their character and an intrigue (made even better by the exceptional acting). The power dynamics and different geographical locations are incredibly interesting, and I love the politics (Littlefinger and Varys are amazing). I also love the fantasy elements and I think they are so well woven into the plot; this is a political, character driven story overall and I think that is so important. I was going to talk about a few of my favourite characters but in trying I’ve realised that I honestly love them all, it’s too hard. Most of my thanks goes to GRRM because his source material definitely makes the programme what it is, but the acting, costume design, special effects and so many things that come together make this an amazing programme. The writers made mistakes and I feel that the show would have benefitted from another season or two, but I’m happy they pitched the idea of a tv programme, or we might never have had the chance to watch this. If you were let down by the last couple of seasons, I’d recommend reading the books, they are absolutely amazing and don’t feature any of the issues within the tv show (such as the unnecessary horrific rape between Daenerys and Khal Drogo and Cersei and Jaime). The books also have time to add depth to the minor plot points and are so so intricate. I’m now going to rewatch Game of Thrones immediately.
This is such an unusual programme and the relationship between Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer really make it. The mystery and music are used so well to create an intense and intoxicating atmosphere that keeps you really intrigued. I think season two has been my favourite so far, but I love the different plot points and elements of focus that each season brings, as well as the ever-changing dynamics between Eve and Villanelle. The characters in this programme are amazing, I love Carolyn and Constantine, and I’m so interested in Villanelle and Constantine’s relationship. I don’t want to say too much about the show, I think it’s better to watch it not knowing too much but it’s so intriguing and very addictive (however, I do think it might be a love it or hate it type of show). This is also one of the rare instances where I’ve liked the programme better than the book it’s based on, the writers have developed the story so well, and the actors are exceptional (Jodie is the queen of accents). The fact that this is a female driven story that steers away from gender stereotypes and positively represents sexualities (this is a hard one to explain because the story is written in a way that promotes good gay and bisexual representation, however, Villanelles relationships or rather fixations are definitely not okay hahaha, I hope you get what I mean).
Gavin and Stacey
I love programmes that focus on everyday events and ‘normal’ relatable characters that focus on ‘British humour’. The characters in Gavin and Stacey are obviously slightly characterised for humour but I relate to so many aspects of the events and both families are incredibly relatable (I agree with Smithy, food is not for sharing and I will always get my own hahaha). It is the ability to empathise with the characters that make this programme so funny and heart-warming, this is such a good programme to watch if you feel a bit down or in need of comfort. The Christmas special just reaffirmed how well loved this programme is and created a sense of community with everyone else watching. James and Ruth are incredibly good writers and extremely funny actors, what a skill to write a show where the title characters are the least interesting. I would love to hear from anyone outside of the UK who has watched this programme, I’d be really interested in how it comes across. 😊 p.s the catch phrases will stay in your mind forever, I find myself saying ‘Oh my Christ!’ constantly hahaha.
This is another programme with this type of British humour, the caricatured personalities are still incredibly (and depressingly haha) relatable and lots of the joy of this programme is cringing at the misfortunates as you decide what character you are most like. I’ve probably seen each episode 20 times and I still find is so funny, I’ve never really watched anything from the same genre that lives up to it. I think my favourite episodes are maybe Caravan club, and Will’s birthday with the French guy. I think I might be a mixture of Neil and Simon, but as long as I don’t become Jay I can deal with it.
This is the type of programme that I will always find funny and comforting, and I probably know 90% of the words to every episode. The characters are incredibly likeable (although I’m still not sure how to feel about being compared to Phoebe more than once hahaha, I think I’m her with a lil bit of Chandlers sarcasm and self-loathing thrown in) and it’s overall just a classic, I’m not even sure what to say about it because everyone has seen it! I think Ross is probably very underrated (although he does have many MANY issues), so many of his moments are the best (holiday armadillo, sandwich, english accent at uni, FRONT AND BACK), but I love every character. I also appreciate the minor characters, Gunther’s hair, Mike’s piano miming and Janice’s laugh will stay with me forever. I just rewatched Friends in order and strangely season one and ten are my least favourites. In saying this, I’ll watch any episode that’s on forever and feel instantly comforted.
Orange is the new black
I haven’t seen this since the final season came out, so my memory has faded a little bit, but this is such an incredible programme. I love the time that has been spent developing each character’s arc and creating everyone’s voice and story, and the way that the writer’s use the plot to highlight social justice issues. I would define this as a drama/dark comedy, and I think there is an incredible balance between each of these elements. This is another example of a tv show that I have enjoyed more than the book it’s based on (although the book is good), and it was such a good decision to move on from Piper’s story to represent the less privileged characters that make up the majority of the prison system. I have so many issues with the prison systems and justice system in general (particularly America’s, the gun crime and corruption between police officers and POC is horrific), and this programme does such a good job of emphasising that woman in prison are people before they are criminals, so many crimes are related to addiction and mental health issues, and the lack of rehabilitation and prison conditions are doing nothing positive to counter the cycle of deprivation and lack of opportunity. I would definitely recommend this programme to all and think it has something to offer everyone, please do be prepared to cry (although you will laugh lots too). 😊
This is a programme that I watched around two years ago and haven’t seen since, I’ve still to watch the last season but I’m really not in the place to be crying at 3am just now haha. This programme is not realistic, both in terms of the number of main characters to die horrific deaths and- as my nurse friend has informed me- examples of the medical treatments administered. My memory is a little bit fuzzy as to what exactly makes this so addictive (and has made me stay up until 5am on many a night), but I think it’s the interesting characters and melodramatic yet easy to watch plots that create an addictive combination (interestingly, I find Meredith incredibly annoying and yet that doesn’t put me off the programme). I think the earlier seasons are slightly more enjoyable as everything felt new and the many MANY character deaths felt slightly more realistic, and I preferred the programme before (SPOILERS!):
Sandra Oh left (I love her), and most of the main characters died or left the show. Lexie’s death got me most of all, that was one of the few that wasn’t spoiled for me and I SOBBED at 3am, that whole episode was so intense and haunting. I may eventually re-watch Grey’s (when I want to torture myself haha) and return to the crazy world. 😊
Misfits– this programme is incredibly unique and funny, I love the black humour, characters, and crazy plotlines. The music in this show is also amazing, I created many an angsty playlist based on this show in my teenage years. I preferred Misfits before Nathan left (he was an incredible character), but it stayed original throughout.
Peaky blinders– this would probably be in my favourites, but it’s another show I haven’t seen for ages so I can’t remember much about it (and I haven’t seen the last season, please no spoilers). I really enjoy the suspense and atmosphere, I love a programme that can feel relatively slowly paced but keep me intrigued, and I of course love Tommy Shelby and the outfits. I will also always be thankful to Peaky Blinders for sparking my love of Arctic Monkeys (I’m starting to realise that music has a large part to play in my enjoyment of a tv show or film).
You– a good example of black humour, my old favourite. This is such an interesting concept for a show and every time I watch it, I binge it within a day. Somehow despite the incredibly annoying characters (Joe’s a psychopath, Beck is so irritating, and I despise Love), this is amazing. I think the characters are actually meant to be annoying to parallel society and reflect Joe’s perception (I hope so anyway because it’s quite a talent to write such intensely irritating characters). Based on this list I think I’m drawn to a good psychopath now and again.
Black mirror– another incredibly interesting concept, I love this programme. If you haven’t seen it, I will advise that it’s very dark and maybe not ideal for these crazy pandemic times haha, but it’s so so interesting. I also love that each episode is standalone (although that didn’t stop me from binging it), though there are little linking features throughout, such as that one song that comes up in most episodes. This was another show that made me look a bit like a psychopath when I recommended it to family and friends, given that the first episode really sets the tone with the prime minister/pig scenario (I actually think they’ve swapped the Netflix order so that that episode doesn’t put people off haha).
Girls/broad city– every so often I like a self-involved parody of twenty something year olds in New York. I really enjoyed watching Girls, however, I’m vaguely aware that there is controversy surrounding Lena Dunham and Girls has a number of issues, such as the lack of representation of POC in the early seasons. These characters are incredibly selfish and very unlikable towards the end haha, but this is almost the point of the programme and it’s well written. Broad City has the same humour and satirical vibe (sorry for saying vibe hahaha I can’t think of another word), but a far better representation of issues of feminism, racism and discrimination throughout- although it is predominantly a satirical comedy.
Vampire diaries– this is such a guilty pleasure; I haven’t watched this in a couple of years and I’m so tempted to rewatch it during lockdown. Elena is incredibly whiney, and Stefan irritates me (as do many of the characters) but there are surprisingly touching elements and I love the melodrama (I love Damon hahaha). I did stop watching when Nina left, I don’t think it was the same after this point. The programme has many problems but for its teen angsty vampire genre, it is not the worst I’ve seen.
Overall, I think my favourites are character driven, heart-warming addictive tv shows, with a few psychopaths and eccentric characters thrown in. I also like to torture myself with programmes that will make me cry at 3am. Please let me know some of your favourite programmes and feel free to recommend! Thank you for reading, I hope you’re well! 😊
If you’ve read this book and loved it, I would maybe suggest reading another blog post hahaha. I wrote a blog post last week about how much I absolutely love The Hunger Games trilogy, that’s a far more positive post about one of my favourite series’. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way at all about this book. I’ll say in advance, I tend not to like books out with the original series and often I don’t read them, for example, I hate the Fantastic Beasts films and I refuse to even read The Cursed Child, it doesn’t exist in my mind haha. It’s probably unfair for me to write about this book knowing this, however, I did find the premise intriguing, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ll also say, I don’t think I’ll go too in depth, but this will probably spoil parts of the book if you haven’t read it yet.
I’ll start with a positive; while rereading the Hunger Games last week I was happy to note that it is consistently amazing regardless of how many times I’ve read it, and the impact it has on me never fades. If anything this book made me appreciate the Hunger Games and Katniss as a heroine even more in comparison, Katniss is an exceptional character (I won’t talk about her though, I did enough of that in my dissertation-like hunger games blog post ramble). My favourite books are character driven stories (as I’ve mentioned many times haha), and while I don’t necessarily have to like the main character, I like characters to feel complex or show development or be written in a way where I love to hate them (ASOIAF is excellent for complex characters). I didn’t really connect Snow as being the same character as in the Hunger Games and whilst I despise his character, I didn’t find him very compelling throughout this story or really feel anything at all. I feel Lucy Grey is supposed to intrigue us and balance some of Snow’s more horrible instincts to drive his character development and allow us to see a ‘softer’ side of him. Unfortunately I didn’t really connect with Lucy either as I found her character to be quite cheesy and she was not given enough time to feel like a real person, she felt like a caricature at times (these are all my own opinions, and I probably feel strongly about this book because I’m so connected to the Hunger Games). I think the songs felt forced at times and I found Lucy’s character to be a bit one dimensional and annoying. I feel that the pacing of the book caused a lot of the issues I had with it; this story is missing my favourite elements of Collin’s writing in the Hunger Games trilogy. There is a strong sense of Katniss’ personality and identity coming through her narration, and the love story elements with Peeta feel very realistic and make sense within the book’s context. The Ballad of Songbird’s and Snakes feels like an ‘insta-love’ in comparison and I found it quite jarring:
‘She was his girl, she had saved his life, and he had to do everything he could to save hers’. (The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, pg. 190)
The characters had only met a few times, and whilst the heightened circumstances may have developed their feelings more quickly, I just didn’t believe their ‘love’. The pace of this love story is entirely opposite to the slower development in the Hungers Games and felt very rushed. This book felt a bit vague at times, as though trying to cover too many events, yet I paradoxically felt bored. After around 200 pages I considered not reading the rest, but I feel it’s only fair that I finish a book if I’m going to discuss it or write about it. There were elements of the story that I personally didn’t like such as the circus theme and the way Dr Gaul rhymed constantly; her character just annoyed me overall, as did many. I feel that the ‘vague’ plot may reflect Snows uncertainty around his own character and future, however, it resulted in a lack of character development. I’d be interested to read a review by someone who has never read the Hunger Games, to observe how this book reads as a standalone; it may be an interesting concept, however, in knowing what Snow becomes, I felt that anything ‘decent’ that he did lost a lot of it’s meaning. This did not work (for me) as a character driven novel because I know how Snow ‘turns out’. I’ve also just realised that the Hunger Games are first person whereas this story uses a third person narrator, which may be a reason for the disconnect I felt.
On a positive note though, I did enjoy Collin’s attempts to show the moral ambiguity felt by some people who lived in the Capitol, or even some of the mentors, with discussion around the morality and purpose of the games. I also found the concept of the design of the games interesting: how the games were constructed to become an ‘entertainment’ form that appeared to alter the purpose of the games. For those who read Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes first, I think it will be very interesting (if dark and horrifying) to read about these changes and read about the modern games from the perspective of Katniss as a tribute. Overall, I think that this book would probably be more interesting if read prior to reading the Hunger Games.
Despite the overall tone and pace of this book feeling very different to the Hunger Games, some of the little phrases were very similar and I found this to be a bit jarring, for example, the consistent use of the phrase ‘rooting for you’ and ‘put as much distance as you can between you and the others’. I feel that I’m being very picky and probably wouldn’t have found this as annoying if I hadn’t just read the trilogy, however, it stuck in my head whilst reading and took me out of the story. I feel that the inclusion of the hanging tree song and the meadow song are referencing the Hunger Games in a nostalgic way, and some comments are made in an ironic nod to the reader of events to come in the Hunger Games, which many readers will love. I, however, appear to be in a moaning mood haha, and I didn’t really like these references. They felt almost like breaking the fourth wall in a way and I didn’t really like how self-aware this book was, for example, when discussing the mockingjays:
‘If they can, what’s one more songbird?’ She said. Coriolanus agreed they were probably harmless.’ (pg. 417)
‘Some people call them swamp potatoes, but I like Katniss better. Has a nice ring to it.’ (pg. 436)
I’d like to end on a somewhat positive note, so I’d say I liked Snow’s internal dialogue surrounding identity; it nicely parallels the identity theme I rambled on about in my Hunger Games blog post:
‘And what on earth would they do with themselves, when the challenges of obtaining food and shelter had been met? Her with no music. Him with no school, military, or anything. Have a family? It seemed to bleak an existence to condemn a child to. Any child let alone one of his own. What was there to aspire to once wealth, fame and power had been eliminated? Was the goal of survival further survival and nothing more?’ (pg. 495)
I find it interesting that Snow and Katniss’ environment, upbringing and personality result in entirely opposite perspectives of life and meaning. The woods and running away represent freedom and happiness to Katniss, whilst Snow associates this ‘freedom’ as feeling trapped and losing out on the life of structure that the capitol can offer. There is also an interesting disconnect between Snow’s experiences, emotions and the choices he makes in later life. He acknowledges the innocence of children, the terrible experience of life in the districts, he himself has experienced the sever punishment and corruption within the capitol and has been in the games himself. However, these experiences are not enough for Snow to care about those suffering, and when he is in the most powerful position rather than making a positive difference, he uses his position as president to maintain this state of oppression, inequality, cruelty and suffering (what kind of president would do that?!). I think we are supposed to make our own decisions as to the factors that led Snow to become such a terrible man and think about the age-old debate of nature/nurture.
I’m so sorry that I was no negative towards this book, as I’ve mentioned, these are only my opinions and I am biased towards prequels. Please let me know how you felt about this book and don’t let my rambling put you off if you’re interested😊 I love how different the experience of reading is for everyone and I hope you enjoyed this book. Thank you for reading, I hope you’re well. 😊
The last part, thank you if you’ve read them all! 😊 I love challenges (and use list challenges) and it’s always fun to think about the way that you read and the way reviews and advertising can influence reading choices.
67. The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’m convinced there’s a ghost in my house haha because I distinctly remembering reading half of this book in the bath then it genuinely disappeared- my whole house has been cleared out since then and it’s nowhere to be seen. I enjoyed what I read before the ghost stole it so I’ll definitely finish it soon.
68. The Handmaid’s Tale- Margaret Atwood
I took a while to finally read this book because it was just everywhere and I didn’t want to expect to much, but I really enjoyed it! I listened to the audiobook and I feel that the emotion within the narration (by Elisabeth Moss) added to the storytelling. This book is written in quite a plain style which is deliberate and works well to transport the reader into the dystopian setting. Overall, I found the concept of this book very interesting and really enjoyed it! I will say though, I went on to listen to The Testaments and it felt a bit unnecessary, I personally feel that this is more powerful as a stand alone novel.
69. The House at Pooh Corner- A. A. Milne
I was given the entire collection of Winnie the Pooh stories when I was born and still have the book, I love the stories that I’ve read, and I’ll definitely read them to any children I have. I feel like Winnie the Pooh created philosophy for children and the messages in the stories and incredibly touching and at times emotional.
70. The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
I recently reread and discussed this series; I just think it’s perfect.
71. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
72. The Liar’s Club: A memoir- Mary Karr
73. The Lightening Thief- Rick Riordan
74. The Little Prince- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
75. The Long Goodbye- Raymond Chandler
76. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11- Lawrence Wright
77. The Lord of the Rings- J.R.R. Tolkein
I recently read this book for the first time, however, it wasn’t my favourite. Whilst I love Tolkein’s writing style and appreciate the influence of this saga on fantasy as a genre, I unfortunately wasn’t very interested in the story or the characters.
78. The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tale- Oliver Sacks
I started this book because it sounded really interesting, but I never finished it. I think lots of people would love it, but after studying Psychology at Uni I’m a bit sick of clinical science terms haha. For academic non-fiction I think I’m more interested in books about philosophy (although I haven’t read many, so please feel free to recommend). 😊
79. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals- Michael Pollan
80. The Phantom Tollbooth- Norton Juster
81. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver
82. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York- Robert A. Caro
83. The Right Stuff- Tom Wolfe
84. The Road- Cormac McCarthy
85. The Secret History- Donna Tart
86. The Shining- Stephen King
87. The Stranger- Albert Camus
88. The Sun Also Rises- Ernest Hemingway
89. The Things They Carried- Tim O’Brien
90. The Very Hungry Caterpillar- Eric Carle
Who hasn’t read this classic in nursery haha (at least in the UK, I’m not sure about elsewhere). I remember my nursery teacher read us this story then we looked after little caterpillars and watched them turn to butterflies.
91. The Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Grahame
92. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle- Haruki Murakami
93. The World According to Garp- John Irving
94. The Year of Magical Thinking- Joan Didion
95. Things Fall Apart- Chinua Achebe
I read this book in school so I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I could due to the stressful exams etc haha. I do actually still remember quotes from it because I drilled them into my head so much, and I can’t remember if I even wrote about this book. I remember liking Ikemefuna and Okonknwo’s dad, but I don’t remember any other characters. I’d be interested to read this again now to see if I take it any more elements of the story and it’s themes.
96. To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
97. Unbroken: A World War 2 Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption- Laura Hillenbrand
98. Valley of the Dolls- Jacqueline Susann
99. Where the Sidewalk Ends- Shel Silverstein
100. Where the Wild Things Are- Maurice Sendak
I’ve read 18 out of 100 oh dear hahaha. Ah well, maybe it means I’ve got a while to live yet (I always get strangely worried to complete lists like this in case I jinx it and get struck down by lightening). There are a few on this list that I’d love to read, please let me know if you’d recommend any in particular! 😊
Convenience Store Woman- Sayaka Murata (audiobook, new read)
‘Keiko is 36 years old. She’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.Keiko’s family wishes she’d get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won’t get married. But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she’s not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store…’ (convenience Store Woman synopsis)
This is one of those books that I have no idea how I found haha, I just remember reading about it somehow and I listened to the audiobook straight away. I like to read translated books every so often to learn about different environments and cultures. The main character Keiko is by self-definition- or rather by definition of those around her- unusual and does not conform to the norms of societies. The plot covers Keiko’s time working in the store; however, this book is a social commentary on the pressures of society and expectations based on factors including age and gender. Keiko is a very interesting character; she absolutely does her own thing despite a lot of pressure to conform. She is very black and white, literal and at times appears to lack empathy with a preference for logic. The plot itself is not necessarily very interesting but I loved the unusual presence and interesting discussions. I love books that focus on elements of diversity and discrimination of difference, and I think everybody universally has at some point felt pressure to ‘fit into society’ or feel some sort of time constraint. I turned 24 at January and I have to remind myself how young I am because I instantly felt extreme pressure from friends and family (extended family, my close family are amazing), social media and society in general to ‘get my life together’. I am already constantly asked why I’m single or feel in some ways ‘odd’ for enjoying being single, and this pressure definitely comes from the expectations of society. I think it can be difficult (and these are first world problems, I am very privileged compared to some people) not to compare yourself to others, not to think about age and time and ‘what you’re doing with your life’, but it’s important to remember that our life is our own and there are so many people who feel the way we do.
I loved reading about the relationship between Keiko and her sister, it cleverly addresses that way that even those closest to us feel the need to understand us or ‘fix’ things that we are not doing right according to their own value of a meaningful life. This may be explicit as is the case in this book or can be an unconscious desire or pressure that we place on those around us. If we do not think about these expectations, it is likely that we are deciding what makes someone happy and therefore assuming that they must be mistaken if their ideas do not align with our own.
“She’s far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems, than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine.”
Feminism is also a theme throughout this story, addressing negative gender stereotypes; specifically, that men and women should get married and have children, men should have high earning jobs and women should support their husbands as a homeowner. This is not to say that choosing to marry, have children and take on these roles as a couple are in anyway wrong, but it is wrong and shocking that these are still the expectations and often deemed the only ‘acceptable’ way to life your life. Interestingly, a male character in this story acts as though he is countering such stereotypes, however, he is doing this in an attempt to manipulate Keiko into becoming a woman who can ‘serve’ him in a way that he deems to be appropriate. I think this book raises some very interesting points and whilst it is a short book with a basic plot, I will definitely be thinking about the social justice issues in Convenience Store Woman for a long time. This would be such a fun book to analyse in depth, but I think I’d need to spend more time thinking about it to do this. I strongly believe that if an individual has free will to make their own choices and is not hurting anyone, they are doing absolutely nothing wrong. The world is incredibly judgemental, and we spend so much time comparing ourselves that we cannot truly focus on being happy.
I suppose the message to end with is do what you want to do and remember no matter how different you feel, someone else is feeling this way. 😊
“You eliminate the parts of your life that others find strange–maybe that’s what everyone means when they say they want to ‘cure” me.”
“This society hasn’t changed one bit. People who don’t fit into the village are expelled: men who don’t hunt, women who don’t give birth to children. For all we talk about modern society and individualism, anyone who doesn’t try to fit in can expect to be meddled with, coerced, and ultimately banished from the village.”
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan (physical book, new read)
‘Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God.
I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. Now I spend my time battling monsters and generally trying to stay alive. This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I’ve stolen his lightning bolt – and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea.’ (Lightning thief synopsis)
I never read this series as a child so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel reading them now as they are middle grade, but decided to give them ago for the mythology (and I know that those who’ve read the books hate the film so I thought it’d be an injustice to never give the books a try haha). I loved this! I needed something quick and cheerful after Mockingjay and this was really entertaining and funny. The characters reminded me of the golden trio in Harry Potter– in a very positive way, they still felt original, and I loved the nostalgic feeling that only middle grade Harry Potter style books bring. I forgot how much I love reading characters who are slightly younger than the typical 16-year-old YA protagonist, Percy is funny, cheeky and sarcastic and reminded me of how much I love sassy young Harry. I also loved the innocent friendship dynamic between the three characters (although I assume something will happen between Percy and Annabeth at some point). The three are very strong characters, I love Annabeth’s kindness and wisdom that never borders on arrogance. I also loved the depiction of a satyr, Grover’s hippy nature and the environmental elements were one of my favourite parts, I’d love to see more of them throughout the books. Riordan is very good at simple messages such as kindness to animals, acceptance of difference, environmental issues, and I really liked the way he touches on ADHD and dyslexia, I think children experiencing either of these will relate to these characters,
I also felt that the myths fit into the story naturally and didn’t feel forced or too ‘educational’. I enjoyed the balance of traditional Greek tragedy and comedy, and Percy’s complete confusion at all times in the world that the other half bloods accept as normal (again reminds me of my favourite lil Harry, they’re very similar in the best way). Before reading I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the story, however, the humour and elements of pop culture (such as Grover playing Hilary Duff which is even now slightly outdated but funny) make these stories fun to read for children and adults. This joke gives a good example of the humour:
‘The surfer screamed something about bad mushrooms and paddled away from us as fast as he could.’
I complained that I didn’t like the cheesy representation of the Gods in Lovely War, however, I enjoyed their ‘human’ portrayals in this book because this was a funny light-hearted representation. I feel that Lovely War tried to portray cheesy characters within a serious book which didn’t work for me. Overall, I’d really recommend this book for people of all ages! 😊
“Once I got over the fact that my Latin teacher was a horse, we had a nice tour, though I was careful not to walk behind him. I’d done pooper-scooper patrol in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a few times, and, I’m sorry, I did not trust Chiron’s back the way I trusted his front. ”
“Percy, meet Gladiola. Gladiola, Percy.” I stared at Annabeth, figuring she’d crack up at this practical joke they were playing on me, but she looked deadly serious. “I’m not saying hello to a pink poodle,” I said. “Forget it.” “Percy,” Annabeth said. “I said hello to the poodle. You say hello to the poodle.” The poodle growled. “I said hello to the poodle.”
Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters- Rick Riordan (physical book, new read)
‘You can’t tell by looking at me that my dad is Poseidon, God of the Sea.
It’s not easy being a half-blood these days. Even a simple game of dodgeball becomes a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants – and that was only the beginning. Now Camp Half-Blood is under attack, and unless I can get my hands on the Golden Fleece, the whole camp will be invaded by monsters. Big ones..’ (Sea of Monsters synopsis)
Again, this was a great book! I did start to think about Percy and Annabeth halfway through though. Initially I worried that they are cousins (because I’m sure something will end up happening between them) but after looking it up (I’m still bad at remembering lots about the titans haha) I learned that Athena is Poseidon’s niece therefore Percy and Annabeth are removed cousins or something? So I guess it’s fine but I wonder if they’ll address that at some point (unless they do just remain friends or one of them dies, it’s a miracle that I’ve lived my life having none of this spoiled haha). Anyway, I found the story is this book really interesting as they kind of replicated Odysseus’ journey in a way and I love parts of that story, particularly meeting Circe and the sirens. I’m honestly like a child reading these, I was so excited to figure out who Medusa, Chiron, Dionysus and Circe were before being told hahaha. I love that Percy is not the original Perseus and that the characters are able to use the myths and his namesake to inform their quests and get out of danger, I think it makes the story more interesting and gives Percy his own personality (kind of sounds like a pun). I also enjoyed learning more about Jason and the golden fleece because this is a myth I am less familiar with; I’d say I now have a good knowledge of the trojan war, Odysseys and Circe but my memory is still not great with a lot of the Gods and stories prior to the War, which is something I aim to change in the next year or so. I also liked the introduction of Tyson and discussions surrounding difference and discrimination.
I would say I liked the first book more in the sense that everything was new, and I liked being introduced to the half blood camp and reading about the Underworld, but I enjoyed elements of this story more. I will say though, I’ve mentioned before that I’m very lazy when it comes to action scenes in books and I really can’t be bothered with Luke haha. I like the mini plots and encounters with monsters, but I’d be happy if Luke would just disappear hahaha. I know this is just my own strange problem though, and a book series does need to have an overarching plot. I’ll definitely keep reading this series (I will have a break to read The Ballad ofSongbirds and Snakes whenever it comes).
“You weren’t able to talk sense into him?” Well, we kind of tried to kill each other in a duel to the death.” I see. You tried the diplomatic approach.”
Again, I’m going to highlight the books I’ve read and write a lil bit/ramble about them. 😊
34. Kitchen Confidential- Anthony Bourdain
35. Life After Life- Kate Atkinson
36. Little House of the Prairie- Laura Inglass Wilder
37. Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov
I think I read this when I was 17, it was definitely a while ago. Whilst disturbing and an unsettling subject matter, I did find this book interesting. I think Nabokov’s beautiful descriptive writing style and elements of black humour from the narrator contrast with the horrific themes to make this an incredibly engaging and unusual book. These contrasts create an unsettling atmosphere that matches the story. It’s hard to think of examples because I read it so long ago, but I remember this contrast standing out, and I’d like to read more by Nabokov to see if these elements are included in the writing style of his other novels.
38. Love in the Time of Cholera- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
39. Love Medicine- Louise Erdrich
40. Man’s Search for Meaning- Viktor E. Frankl
41. Me Talk Pretty One Day- David Sedaris
42. Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides
43. Midnight’s Children- Salman Rushdie
44. Moneyball: The Art of Winning and Unfair Game- Michael Lewis
45. Of Human Bondage- W. Somerset Maugham
46. On the Road- Jack Kerouac
47. Out of Africa- Isak Dinesen
48. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood- Marjane Satrapi
49. Portnoy’s Complaint- Philip Roth
50. Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
This wasn’t my favourite classic to read- I preferred Jane Eyre and Little Women- but I loved the story and the majority of characters. I LOVE Lizzies character and the way the romance is built up through small significant elements and almost suspense rather than dialogue and large gestures. I also love the distinct personality of each sister and the relationships between them, as well as the overarching feminist themes in the book. Also, I do moan when people talk about films over books, but I love the 2005 film, if you don’t have time to read the book I’d recommend this. 😊
51. Silent Spring- Rachel Carson
52. Slaughterhouse-five- Kurt Vonnegut
53. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
54. The Age of Innocence- Edith Wharton
55. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay- Michael Chabon
56. The Autobiography of Malcom X: As Told to Alex Haley- Malcom X and Alex Haley
57. The Book Thief- Marcus Zusak
I love this book, I love the unusual narration and the decision to focus on Liesel’s story rather than an adult’s perspective- it brought certain elements of light, hope and positivity that the book needed (I love the positive kind spirit that children have that I sometimes feel can sadly be lost a little bit by adulthood). That said, this book is incredibly touching and sad, but it’s beautiful too. I love Liesel’s relationships with the other characters (all of them, but particularly with Papa).
58. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao- Junot Diaz
59. The Catcher in the Rye- J. D. Salinger
I read this book most recently in one sitting and I loved it- although enjoyed is not the word for this story. I found that this book flowed very well and it was easy to get into Holden’s mind/see things through his perspective throughout the story. The subject, characters and angst reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I feel like Chbosky must have been influenced by this book because it doesn’t feel coincidental. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is probably one of my favourite books, so I was undoubtedly going to enjoy this. I’d like to read more by Salinger as I enjoyed how easy this reading experience was.
60. The Colour of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother- James McBride
61. The Corrections- Jonathan Franzen
62. The Devil in the White City- Erik Larson
63. The Diary of a Young Girl- Anne Frank
I doubt there are many readers who haven’t read this book, or at least heard of it. It’s incredibly touching, heart-warming in many ways despite its extremely sad subject matter. I feel like young people now reading Anne’s diary will relate to elements of her feelings and thoughts process throughout this story despite the incredibly different circumstances, and this might reflect the popularity of this exceptional story. I hope to visit Anne Franks house one day and experience this part of history.
64. The Fault in Our Stars- John Green
I’m not sure what it is about John Green but I don’t really like his books and I didn’t like the Fault in Our Stars when it came out. I understand why Green’s books are so popular, but I feel that the writing style is quite pretentious which puts me off the story. I also had similar concerns with this book as with A Little Life (which I ranted about quite a lot haha)- I often read stories about harrowing subjects such as loss and grief as I feel they are important, however, The Fault in Our Stars felt a little bit exploitative to me, maybe because of the pretentious writing style.
65. The Giver- Lois Lowry
66. The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman
I still haven’t read these books; I feel like I’m missing out on a childhood experience! I do own this book so I’ll read it soon (there is literally no better time).
12 out of 66 so far, still not the best- although a few are classics so I’m giving myself credit for that haha. Have you read any of these, and if so would you recommend them? 😊
I decided to reread the Hunger Games this month for a number of reasons- I reread my favourite book series’ around every two years (I love rereading, it’s a problem haha), The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is causing a lot of Hunger Games discussions which really made me want to reread, and I’ve found that there is something strangely entertaining about reading dystopian during a lockdown (in a very odd, dark way). I first read this series when I was around 14 or 15, without any expectations as I hadn’t heard about the series until my friend recommended it (thank you)- it’s strange to think about the extent to which a film franchise can influence the popularity of a book. I definitely think reading this series before the film came out gave me an advantage; I was able to objectively form opinions and I was unprepared for the depth of emotion and the attachment I developed to these characters whilst reading. I’d just like to say that this is not an academic analysis or review or these books, more so a stream of consciousness so that I can ramble about my thoughts and the emotions I experienced whilst reading. I’ll also say here that I typically do not like YA books and a number of their tropes, however, I would class this series as a favourite, and I think it’s beautiful. P.s. sorry this is a long one, also there will be spoilers.
I think I should first address the love triangle: it’s a standard trope in YA that I usually hate, but I think it works in this story. The format of the story and the situations that drive the characters actions and decisions allow the ‘love triangle’ to feel natural and true. A large part of Katniss’ story arc is initially feeling like a pawn of the capital with the burden that is thrust upon her. Katniss’ relationship arcs with both Gale and Peeta make sense within the context of the story and are very interesting in understanding Katniss’ character and the influence of this dystopian society. When I read the Hunger Games for the first time, I was ‘team Gale’ due to the similarities between Gale and Katniss, their pre-hunger games connection and I just liked him more overall. However, I think this was just to get away from the popular opinion haha, and even on first read, the love triangle was definitely not the forefront of my mind; these books are about character and identity, with love and relationships developing as a natural outcome of these themes. I love that the ‘romance’ has been written in this way and I’ll talk more about this when I think about Mockingjay. I love the metaphors and illusions to hope, life and future that are associated with Peeta, creating a subtle (in comparison to a number of YA books) depiction of Katniss’ connection to Peeta before their relationship begins. Peeta personifies safety, warmth and assurance for Katniss who would have been open to these qualities had she not been forced into such a horrific situation.
‘No one has held me like this in such a long time. Since my father died and I stopped trusting my mother, no one else’s arms have made me feel this safe.’ (Hunger Games pg. 363)
Characterisation and themes of grief/loss:
I don’t know if I feel more sensitive or ‘connected’ to books during this time of lockdown, but I instantly felt a strange sense of emotion and nostalgia when I started reading this book. I’ve spent a lot of time in woods and forests, and whilst I’ve definitely not been hunting or sleeping in trees, I’ve felt more connected to nature (I’ve always loved nature but a benefit of this time is experiencing it more deeply). I love birdsongs and I’ve been thinking and the importance of birds and nature within this story. I recently read Jen Campbells Instagram story (she’s a writer and talks about books on youtube), where she filmed a beautiful 5am sunrise in an isolated forest with birdsong and wildlife. Jen heard a bird mimicking an ambulance siren in a haunting and sad moment. This contrast of beautiful untouched nature, and the difficult experiences of human life was very emotional and reminded me of The Hunger Games, where the environment creates a peaceful escape for Katniss even within the confines and struggles of her lifestyle. I think in character I’m closer to Peeta than Katniss, and even more so Prim (although I’m not as kind, I think it’d be hard to be), however, I identify with Katniss’ independence and almost closed off nature that has been heavily influenced by the loss of her father (in writing a collection of my thoughts, this may become a bit deep at times). My dad passed away when I was 11 and the portrayal of grief and loss throughout this series is one of the main reasons it resonates so closely with me; I find Collins depiction of grief to be incredibly realistic and allows me to identify with the very real characters, even in such a dramatic story. I relate to Katniss’ sense of independence and extremely close relationship to her family (as well as her drive to look after and protect them)- I think it is extremely realistic to assume that these qualities would drive Katniss after the death of her father. Katniss’ sense of identity is primarily focused on her adoption of her father’s role as a hunter and provider for the family. Collins often emphasises the similarities between Prim and her mother, whilst Katniss has her father’s traits and favours her father. I think this is important is understanding her actions and sense of identity. This is also very important in understand Katniss’ relationship with Gale. Gale’s own grief is expressed as anger and rooted in the past. I feel that Katniss ultimately could not find peace in the future if she was to be with Gale, his anger has become so that it makes a large part of who he is- evident in Mockingjay during the rebellion without the confines of the Capitol.
‘I glance over at Gales face, still smouldering underneath his stony expression. His rage seems pointless to me, although I never say so. It’s not that I don’t agree with him. I do. But what good is yelling about the Capitol in the middle of the woods? It doesn’t change anything.. I let him yell though. Better he does it in the woods that in the district.’ (Hunger Games pg. 17)
I feel that several books, particularly in the ‘chosen one’ genre have the loss of a parent or carer as an adverse experience driving the main character, however, this loss is never mentioned again. Similarly, the main character will often experience a loss in the middle of a series, to move the plot forward and create character development. I feel that The Hunger Games deals with grief more authentically and Katniss’ memories of her dad are interwoven into the story in a very natural way, influencing her sense of identity and relationships (Katniss’ somewhat unconscious struggle to feel safe and let people in is a very important aspect in her dynamic with Peeta throughout the trilogy). I’ll reflect more on the themes on loss and grief in Mockingjay (after I cry for several hours haha) but I truly admire Collins ability to create a perfect, authentic tone.
I really enjoy the simple writing style and structured format of these books. It can’t be described as calming due to the subject matter, however, I find the format almost satisfying: Katniss deals with the immediate problem, breaks it down and finds a solution. This format ensures that the book is fast paced, interesting and easy to read. I also feel that this approach to problem solving matches Katniss’ instincts as a hunter, and therefore feels like the narration is personalised; it feels like the writing structure is reflective of Katniss’ character and role specifically, rather than a generic narrator. This writing style also creates fast paced storytelling and gets across the message of the story quickly and powerfully.
I noticed in rereading that identity appears to be the key theme and is driven by the element’s safety vs. rebellion and family/relationships. Another element of this series that makes it a favourite for me is the fact that these characters are real multi-dimensional people aiming to find a purpose and dealing with the emotions that life brings; the dystopian setting and plot of the games feels secondary to me, but this setting has been used as a device to reflect upon the influence of society, culture and safety on a person’s identity and happiness. I find this incredibly interesting, and coupled with the attachment to the characters, this story is one that really stays with the reader (for the most part any way, I’m sure some people don’t like these books). I think themes of identity are set up in the Hunger Games and are explored more deeply in the next two books.
‘For the first time, I allow myself to truly think about the possibility that I might make it home.. No fear of hunger. A new kind of freedom. But then…what? Most of it has been consumed with the acquisition of food. Take that away and I’m not really sure who I am, what my identity is.’ (Hunger Games pg. 378)
‘As I slowly, thoroughly wash the makeup from my face and put my hair in it’s braid, I begin transforming into myself.. I stare in the mirror as I try to remember who I am and who I am not. By the time I join the others, the pressure of Peeta’s arm around my shoulders feels alien.’ (Hunger Games pg. 450)
After the games, Katniss (and all of the people in her life) is impacted by more loss and trauma. Katniss has lost the sense of identity she has worked hard to create with the money (and notoriety) she has gained, and I was very interested in the ways in which this perceived freedom and ironically increased restriction impacted Katniss’ sense of identity. Katniss begins to try and align her identity with one that can exist within a state of rebellion. For Katniss, rebellion represents a shift from survival instincts to fighting for Peeta’s life.
‘Now a new kind of confidence is lighting up inside of me, because I think I finally know who Haymitch is. And I’m beginning to know who I am. And surely, two people who have caused the Capitol so much trouble can think of a way to get Peeta home alive.’ (Catching Fire pg. 244)
Katniss is still treated as a ‘pawn’ in catching fire, passive in the events and rebellious opportunities that have been created. Gale and Peeta represent interest in the building rebellion more so that Katniss, and throughout this story the shift can be observed. I liked Katniss’ uncertainty and shifts in attitude that continued throughout Catching Fire and Mockingjay with regards to rebellion, I think this uncertainty matches Katniss’ identity and is more realistic than the enthusiastic ‘chosen one’ arc that several main characters in dystopian or YA books take on. Again, these shifts and Katniss’ part in the rebellion feel more nuanced and realistic than the sudden and bold character changes I’ve observed in some books.
‘The berries. I realise the answer to who I am lies in that handful of poisonous fruit. If I held them out to save Peeta because I knew I would be shunned if I came back without him, then I am despicable. If I held them out because I loved him, I am still self-centred but forgivable. But if I held them out to defy the Capitol, I am someone of worth. The trouble is, I don’t know what exactly was going on inside me at that moment.’ (Catching Fire pg. 143)
I should probably say that I’ve been writing this in chunks, and I’m writing this part directly after finishing Mockingjay- well, an hour after because I couldn’t see the keyboard through my tears (it’s 2am, I’m definitely a night owl). Thank you if you’ve made it this far, I’ve loved writing and reflecting in this way even though I know I’m going to post this and think of so many things I’ve forgotten to mention haha.
The first thing it strikes me that I want to think about is Haymitch and his relationship with Katniss. Haymitch represents so many things: I see him as an equal to Katniss in a sense, they are very similar and mirror each other in personality, spirit and logic, however, he has a number of roles to play in Katniss’ life- almost a brother or an uncle and in some ways even a father figure (not in a traditional sense, but in the way that Katniss requires him to be and to the extent that she can accept). Relationships and character are the most important elements of a book for me, and I love Katniss’ relationship with Haymitch. At the end of Catching Fire, Katniss is left reflecting upon her own rage and the anger at Haymitch’s betrayal, the way that he has used her as she is consistently used. Katniss is continuously used by the rebellion, individuals, and the Capitol representing the war and politics around her. In this sense, Katniss is a pawn in the rebellion. I was, however, interested to note that Katniss’ instinctual actions in times of agency ‘spark’ the instances where she becomes- as she perceives herself- a pawn. The tribute for Rue, the berries, and Katniss decision to confide in- and therefore trust- Haymitch in her plan to rebel (during Catching Fire). As a side note, this quote represents important growth in Katniss’ transition from pawn:
‘It just goes around and around, and who wins? Not us. Not the districts. Always the capitol. But I’m tired of being a piece in their games.’ Peeta. On the rooftop the night before out first Hunger Games. He understood it all before we’d even set foot in the arena.’ (Mockingjay, pg. 252)
Katniss truly understands her connection to Haymitch and feels like she is observing in him the qualities her own qualities that she does not like. I believe that this is why Katniss is incredibly intolerant of his drinking and depression, she cannot abide by weakness and is exceptionally hard on herself when she feels weak. Haymitch potentially represents the reality of the future Katniss could face. In saying this, I love the subtle but essential character development throughout the books as Katniss’ perception of weakness, grief and loss changes to become far more accepting and less black and white. In seeing herself in Haymitch, he is the character Katniss ends up confiding in and displaying vulnerability towards; this results in so many of the cutting remarks that create frustration or a sense of betrayal when Katniss or Haymitch inevitably hurt each other and ‘put up their walls’ to mask their pain. I find their relationship very interesting and touching. I also appreciate their ending in Mockingjay and the way it reflects their relationship and personalities- they are quietly and steadily there for each other even in the times where grief and illness create a need for solitude. Their relationship is consistently steadied by Peeta.
‘He looks yellow and has lost a lot of weight, giving him a shrunken appearance. For a second, I’m afraid he’s dying. I have to remind myself that I don’t care.’ (Mockingjay, pg.87)
‘Several sets of arms would embrace me. But in the end, the only person I truly want to comfort me is Haymitch, because he loves Peeta too. I reach out for him and say something like his name and he’s there holding me and patting my back.’ (Mockingjay, pg. 191)
‘A furious Peeta hammers Haymitch with the atrocity he could become party to, but I can feel Haymitch watching me. This is the moment then. When we find out exactly how alike we are, and how much he understands me. ‘I’m with the Mockingjay’ he says.’ (Mockingjay pg. 432, deciding upon a final games)
I’d also like to mention that I love Katniss’ relationship with Finnick. Finnick’s death is always a strange one for me. I feel that it’s a good example of the point about narration that I rambled about earlier. Finnick’s death is exceptionally sad but I never really feel it and this is because it’s over quickly and I feel numb. In writing this way, the reader experiences the numbness that Katniss feels at this moment, the lethargy and horror of War (I also feel that the volume of events and horror happening in this relatively short story are written to represent the strange mixture of lethargy and adrenaline felt in War. That sounds very dramatic, but I just mean I think Collins may be trying to engage us in the setting and tone, as she does throughout the series through the writing style. Then again, I always somehow end up reading this book in almost one go, ending in the middle of the night haha, so that might contribute to this feeling). I feel Finnick’s death more in rereading Catching Fire and Mockingjay as we see the elements of his personality. Some of my favourite quotes:
‘Really, the combination of the scabs and the ointment looks hideous. I can’t help enjoying his distress. “Poor Finnick. Is this the first time in your life you haven’t looked pretty?” I say. “It must be. The sensation’s completely new. How have you managed it all these years?” he asks.’ (Catching Fire)
‘Finnick grasps my hand to give me an anchor, and I try to hang on.’ (Mockingjay pg. 155)
‘It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.’ (Mockingjay pg. 183)
I was going to say that I also love hearing Finnick recall his story, however, I realised that I just love his character and entire storyline including his humour and persona in Catching Fire. I love his relationship with Mags, Annie and Joanna, I love his reaction after he saves Peeta’s life and contemplates Katniss’ reaction, I just love his character. I’d also like to spend time thinking about Prim but this is going to become an entire dissertation in a minute so I won’t haha.
There is just so much to say about Peeta that it’s almost making me not want to touch on his character in a way haha, because I wouldn’t do it justice. I didn’t appreciate Peeta’s character the first time I read this series, I think he needed to grow on me because on first read as a teenager he’s not the most ‘exciting’ in comparison to characters like Gale, however, now I appreciate that he’s exceptional. As I mentioned, I love the mirroring of this series and I appreciate that Peeta’s traits, values and qualities align with Prim. Peeta therefore has the ability to recall Prim’s memory and he can support Katniss to process her grief in a positive healthy way.
While I was reading today, I began to consider that Katniss became close to Gale due to the connection in the grief for their fathers, however, Katniss subconsciously associates Gale with her own supressed grief and his rage. Peeta’s memories of Katniss’ father are distanced from the loss and grief, and Peeta therefore brings life to her father in the way he recalls his singing. In having this ability, Peeta creates an opportunity for Katniss to think of a way forward through her grief and create a sense of peace in her memories for her father (and sister). This is almost a metaphor for Katniss’ entire relationship with both Gale and Peeta and represents the way Peeta helps Katniss to live and grow and overall represents life.
This is the first time music is referenced in the story. Katniss is in character here with her roles driven by a need to survive and her hunter instincts not allowing time for anything that is not a necessity.
‘Because when he sings.. even the birds stop to listen.’.. It strikes me that my own reluctance to sing, my own dismissal of music might not really be that it’s a waste of time. It might be because it reminds me too much of my father.’ (Hunger Games pg. 366)
Even as Katniss and Peeta are just getting to know each other, and within such extreme life threatening circumstances, Peeta is the one to draw out memories of Katniss’ father and allow Katniss to process her grief in subtle ways.
‘A hush in the trees. Just the rustle of leaves in the breeze. But no birds, mockingjay or other. Peeta’s right. They do fall silent when I sing. Just as they did for my father.’ (Mockingjay pg. 145)
‘He couldn’t Haymitch. He never heard me sing that song.’ ‘Not you, your father. He heard him singing it one day when he came to trade at the bakery. Peeta was small, probably six or seven, but he remembered it because he was specially listening to see if the birds stopped singing.’ (Mockingjay pg. 246)
Peeta and Rue allow Katniss to think about singing again, representing a healthy outlet for grief and the time to remember her father as he lived. I find this incredibly poignant. I’ve always felt deeply connected to music and singing, and I remember my Dad through his favourite songs. This can be painful but it’s very healthy and allows me to feel connected and feel the emotions that are important to experience. I can also feel incredibly happy when I sing a song that reminds me of childhood, or a funny memory associated with my dad. The moment that I really start to cry whilst reading Mockingjay is without fail always this one:
‘something unexpected happens. I begin to sing.. Hour after hour of ballads, love songs, mountain airs. All the songs my father taught me before he died, for certainly there has been very little music in my life since.. a voice that would make the mockingjays fall silent and then tumble over themselves to join in.’ (Mockingjay pg. 439)
I’d like to reflect upon the ending of the story now. Because I love character driven stories, I’m actually quite lazy with plot and while I find action scenes interesting, I prefer them to be short to I can get to the impact of these events. This may be the reason that I was very happy with the decision to stay with Katniss and her recovery and discover the conclusion of the war as Katniss does. For one, Katniss has a strong presence as a narrator, and I hate when books turn to a different narrator nearing the end of a story as I find it very jarring. This is a story about characters (particularly Katniss) and the impact of War and loss. This is not a story about a rebellion or War, rather those who are impacted by the War and politics they had no intention to be involved in or no power to avoid. At no point did I want the story to become one of action and rebellion, and at no point did I feel I missed anything by staying with Katniss. I wouldn’t have brought this up, but I made the mistake of reading a number of Mockingjay reviews after reading it for the first time and I was shocked to read so many angry reviews that felt cheated out of the action. This is just my opinion, but I feel that this is missing the point of the series and I don’t know what readers are getting out of this story if after three books they do not feel close to the main character. I interpret the purpose of Mockingjay as being a story to reflect upon the themes of meaning, choice and identity within a society that limits free will through it’s constructs that confine the lifestyle people can have.
This leads on to another point that I saw several readers make- reviewers expressed anger or confusion about the way the romance ends. Some people commented that they expected Katniss and Peeta to be together immediately after the War, to be more ‘passionately’ in love. Again, in my opinion, I feel that this distance and time is the only realistic portrayal of love in a setting where the characters are experiencing so much grief and PTSD. After overcoming the initial trauma, Katniss is finally free to build her life, rediscover who she is out with the confines of the capitol and think about the future she wants- or even just the future she can cope with. This is also true for Peeta. To have these characters gravitate towards each other through choice after a period of time portrays (in my opinion) the depth of their relationship and is the only realistic way to express that Katniss loves Peeta- she chooses him, he is not chosen for her, she does not have to be with Peeta or see him ever again, she chooses him freely (as does Peeta). I absolutely love the way this happens even though it is heart-breaking. I also love the writing decision to rebuild their relationship by supporting each other through grief, this is again realistic and emphasises the love they feel (I also love that Haymitch continues to be in their lives as the three resume their roles in their relationship dynamics).
Lastly in my seemingly endless ramble, the epilogue. In general, I hate book epilogues, I don’t even like Harry Potters, I tolerate it. I think it’s the time element that can feel a bit jarring and makes me feel distanced from characters I love. I do, however, think Mockingjay did it well by keeping it brief, sentimental but with purpose. I’ve read reviews where readers were unhappy that we did not read more detail such as the children’s names. I’m very happy these details were not included; they don’t need to be and would take away from the ending of the story in my opinion. I’ve also seen reviews where people express anger that Katniss has children. I understand these more, however, I think the point within the story is not that Katniss doesn’t want children, but instead that she is afraid to raise them in a society where they could be involved in the games. Katniss is incredibly nurturing towards Prim and Rue and I personally believe that her actions express that she would like to be a mother, she has just never allowed herself to think about this.
‘As I drift off, I try to imagine that world, somewhere in the future, with no games, no Capitol. A place like the meadow in the song I sang to Rue as she died. Where Peeta’s child could be safe.’ (Catching Fire pg. 427)
I was going to go into grief a little bit more, but I’d rather leave it where it is in a somewhat happier note. I do, however, as I’ve mentioned appreciate the portrayal of grief in this series, I find it very realistic (and therefore very hard to read at the end of Mockingjay). I’m sure this is going to sound dramatic, but I feel like books can be an outlet for grief. I’m constantly brought back to the comfort and nostalgia of rereading my old favourites, but ironically a lot of my favourite books feature elements of grief, for example, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and The Time Travellers Wife. These book also feature friendship, love and characters that I feel connected to, and I think I’ve therefore come to associate these characters and consequently reading as a safe and comforting way to cope with grief and anxieties in life. That sounds very depressing and morbid, but I think it’s quite magical in a way. That someone can write a story, create a fictional character that can resonate with your personality, experiences, interests, emotions and even grief, and that this work of fiction can comfort and potentially heal. This is why I think writers are incredible and why I read.
Thank you for reading, I hope you’re well. Please let me know what you think about this series.
A bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner- Chris Atkins (new read, audiobook)
‘Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Where is it easier to get ‘spice’ than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?
Welcome to Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Like most people, documentary-maker Chris Atkins didn’t spend much time thinking about prisons. But after becoming embroiled in a dodgy scheme to fund his latest film, he was sent down for five years. His new home would be HMP Wandsworth, one of the largest and most dysfunctional prisons in Europe. With a cast of characters ranging from wily drug dealers to senior officials bent on endless reform, this powerful memoir uncovers the horrifying reality behind the locked gates. Filled with dark humour and shocking stories, A Bit of a Stretch reveals why our creaking prison system is sorely costing us all – and why you should care.’ (A Bit of a Stretch synopsis)
I don’t read very much non-fiction (I need to read more), but memoirs are my favourite genre to read via audiobook, I think they work really well and can be brought to life- particularly because they’re usually narrated by the author. I particularly seem to enjoy memoirs about institutions such as hospitals and prison (I’d recommend This is Going to Hurt, and the Confessions series). I enjoyed this book, felt for the people and I think it has a great balance of humour. I really felt enveloped in the setting and the stories were told in a way that brought the individuals and setting to life. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite prison memoir, and I probably enjoyed Orange is the New Black more (I will say here, Orange is the New Black is one of the rare tv shows that is better than the book, they have done so much with the characters and I can’t recommend it highly enough). Throughout this book, I thought about the crime committed by Atkins and his place in prison- as a white male who has not experienced mental illness, poverty or trauma, the writer’s prison experience is not reflective of the majority. However, I was extremely happy when Atkins acknowledged this himself and reflected upon the privilege that he experienced even within prison; this awareness made the memoir and narrator more likeable. Atkins also used the memoir to emphasise some of the struggles of other men within the prison and used his time to become a better person, as well as highlighting the issues within the prison system. I personally agree that prison is not working, people are dehumanised and there should be far more done to support those with mental health issues and rehabilitate. Overall, this was an enjoyable insightful book and I would really recommend it if you like this genre! 😊 Please let me know if you’ve read any memoirs about the prison system, I find them so interesting.
I always forget to note quotes for audiobooks haha but there were lots!
Perfect- Cecelia Ahern (new read, physical book)
‘Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with the complicated, powerfully attractive Carrick, the only person she can trust. But Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground.
Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save only herself, or risk her life to save all the Flawed. And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…?’ (Perfect synopsis)
I enjoyed the first book in this series (Flawed), however, I didn’t really like this book, I mainly kept reading because I have an annoying irrational need to finish books haha, and my friend gave me it to borrow. I don’t really like love triangles, and whilst this wasn’t as bad as some it did still annoy me a little bit. I thought the pace was a little bit strange sometimes and a little rushed at the end, however, there were strong parts and I’m glad the Ahern decided to go with two books instead of the typical trilogy as I don’t feel that another book would have been necessary. I have to admit I’m struggling to remember too much about this book, but I wrote a couple of tiny notes: at times I felt that there were instant connections between Celestine and new characters who were introduced. This is a heightened, dystopian world; however, these relationships didn’t feel very realistic. This book still has elements of the Hunger Games and more of Divergent. There were also some unsettling parallels to concentration camps within the book. Overall, despite whingeing about this book I did enjoy the idea of a dystopian story based on ethics and moral dilemmas, and I think the message of anti-discrimination is amazing, I just personally didn’t like elements of the writing style. You may like this book if you enjoy Divergent or if you’ve read Flawed in the past. 😊
‘Maybe the strongest fighters are the nurturers because they’re connected to something deep in their core, they’ve got something to fight for, they’ve got something worth saving.’
The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins (reread, physical book) and Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins (reread, physical book)
I’m writing a separate blog post for my hunger games reread when I finish Mockingjay, this is one of my absolute favourite series.
Thank you for reading, please recommend non-fiction, I’d like to read more of it! Also, memoirs and books set in institutions. 😊
I’m always interested in lists like this and the extent to which they impact what I decide to read. I have a very bad habit of constantly rereading my favourite books meaning there are lots of amazing books that I’ve yet to read. I’m intrigued to look at this list and see what it includes. 😊 I’m going to highlight the books I’ve read and write a lil bit/ramble about them.
1984- George Orwell
I definitely started this book a good few years ago, I’m unsure why I forgot to finish it but I’ll try it again at some point! (Maybe soon,because strangely lockdown has put me in a dystopian mood)
2. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius- Dave Eggers
3. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier- Ishmael Beah
4. The Bad Beginning- Lemony Snicket
I love A Series of Unfortunate Events, such childhood favourites. I remember my uncle bought one for me and my sister, but accidentally got us the 3rd and 5th in the series. I read these and loved them before eventually reading the series from the start. The Bad Beginning isn’t my favourite but I’d definitely give these series a try. 😊 These books are also good for children as they include lots of vocab, grammar, latin and general life lessons in an interesting way (although maybe a little pretentious at times haha). I love the quirky writing style of this series.
5. A Wrinkle in Time- Madeline L’Engle
6. Selected Stories, 1968-1994- Alice Munro
7. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass- Lewis Carroll
I’m unsure why I felt this way because I love absurd, dreamy almost psychedelic stories, but I didn’t like Alice in Wonderland very much when I read it. It almost felt a little bit annoying at the time. However, it maybe just wasn’t what I was expecting at the time, so I’d like to reread these books in the future to see if my opinion changes.
8. All the President’s Men- Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
9. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir- Frank McCourt
10. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret- Judy Blume
11. Bel Canto- Ann Pratchett
12. Beloved- Toni Morrison
13. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen- Christopher McDougall
14. Breath, Eyes, Memory- Edwidge Danticat
15. Catch-22- Joseph Heller
This is another book I started, but this is a book I definitely have to be in the right frame of mind to read.
16. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- Roald Dahl
I love Roald Dahl, his stories are interesting, imaginative, full of dark sarcastic humour and feel very original. I also love the sense of justice and meaning these stories create for children in an adult dominated world where children are often seen as passive beings. I’d recommend Roald Dahl if you haven’t read any of his books before. 😊
17. Charlotte’s Web- E.B. White
I definitely read this book when I was wee, although the cartoon film sticks in my mind more (probably because I made my poor Gran watch it with me at least once a week haha). From what I remember, this is a powerful story with themes of friendship and loss (and I might now have to rewatch it for nostalgia’s sake).
18. Cutting for Stone- Abraham Verghese
19. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead- Brene Brown
20. Diary of a Wimpy Kid- Jeff Kinney
21. Dune- Frank Herbert
22. Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
23. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream- Hunter S. Thompson
24. Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn
This was a book that I was definitely influenced to read by all of the reviews, discussions and advertising surrounding it. Mystery/crime/thrillers aren’t my favourite genre but I loved this book! It’s very easy to read, engaging, has good twists and I’ve reread it a couple of times. This book would also be a thought-provoking one to think about from a feminist perspective, and the dynamics between the characters are very interesting.
25. Goodnight Moon- Margaret Wise Brown
26. Great Expectations- Charles Dickens
27. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies- Jared Diamon, Ph.D.
28. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone- J.K Rowling
One of my favourite books of all time, this is just so nostalgic, funny, touching and really does feel like coming home (cheesy stereotype but it’s true). I appreciate Harry Potter and its incredible impact so much and I reread this series every single year. There’s not much to say about Harry Potter because I’m yet to find someone who hasn’t read it (or at least seen the films).
29. In Cold Blood- Truman Capote
30. Interpreter of Maladies- Jhumpa Lahiri
31. Invisible Man- Ralph Ellison
32. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth- Chris Ware
33. A Brief History of Time- Stephen Hawking (this is actually number 2, I mixed up the list haha)
So far I’ve read 6 out of 33 haha, oh dear. I can never decide if not reading popular books and classics means I’m missing out and uncultured, or if it’s a good thing in that I’m not really influenced to read books unless I feel like it. Either way, there are some I’ve never heard of on this list, some that don’t appeal to me, and some I would like to try in the future. Have you read any that you would recommend? 😊