Top 10 Films of 2015

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Going to the cinema is one of my favourite pastimes. So loved, in fact, that I have recently purchased a Cineworld card. I saw lots of films in 2015, some I had planned to see and some were spontaneous surprises, but which films made it to my short list? As usual, I will only list films that I’ve seen and can vouch for.

10

Far From the Madding Crowd

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I was excited for this film for two reasons. One, Carey Mulligan. Need I say more? Two, I thoroughly enjoyed the adaptation of the adaption of this book… I am, of course, talking about Tamara Drewe, which was based off of a graphic novel, based off of the original book Far From the Madding Crowd written by Thomas Hardy. I wouldn’t say this film was my brand new favourite period drama, but it was certainly entertaining to watch.

9

Paddington

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Ever since Paddington THE MOVIE was announced, I had been on the edge of my seat waiting for a release date. I got even more excited when Colin Firth was announced as the voice of Paddington, and deflated when I heard he had parted from the project. Having seen the movie, and being blessed with hindsight, I can see that his voice would have been a bit too mature for an endearingly naive bear like Paddington. This film was always going to be a win for me, and even now I still wish I had my very own Paddington. (Although as long as he stays out of my bathroom, we’re alright.)

8

Pitch Perfect 2

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I don’t think this has ever been said before, but, I enjoyed Pitch Perfect 2 more than the first Pitch Perfect movie. There. I said it. The first movie for me was good but the second installment, of what will now apparently be a trilogy, was much more entertaining. I’m not sure whether it was the growth of the characters, the depth of the dynamic between the girls, or the rags to riches… to rags again, and back to riches, story of the Barden Bellas, but something about this movie did more than just click.

7

Cinderella

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After the success of Maleficent, Disney’s announcement of more live-action-remakes made me feel a bit on edge. Disney had it so right with original animated classics, that a lot of them felt untouchable, but when Cinderella became first on the list, I felt warmed to the idea. Cinderella is the quintessential Princess story, but on review the original story seemed to lack depth, something which the new live-action-remake totally makes up for. We see more of a back story to Cinderella’s past and are blessed with a new moral-of-the-story mantra, “have courage and be kind.” 

6

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

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One of my most anticipated films of the year falls outside the top five? Yes, unfortunately it does. I wasn’t totally disappointed by the last film in the Hunger Games quartet, but I did have some problems with it. Another thing that I never thought I would say: it was too closely adapted from the book. Yes, I know that sounds ludicrous, and that’s what book-to-movie-adaptation fans yearn for, but the Mockingjay book was a complete let down for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books and the three films that were conceived as a result. I actually thought, dare I say it, the films were better, so my expectations for Mockingjay Part 2 were high, and unfortunately weren’t met. Having said that, I did really enjoy watching the film and it was really sad to have the series come to the end. I’m still in denial that there’s not going to be another Hunger Games film. Don’t touch me. I’m grieving.

5

Insurgent

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Another one of my most anticipated films of 2015 was the second installment to the Divergent series. This set of books really got me well and truly into the dystopian funk and Divergent the movie was an absolute cracker. Insurgent, in my eyes, was a very strong but complicated book and I didn’t envy the screenwriters when the time came to adapt it. Trying to repack a book into a film is like getting a leopard to change it’s spots, and when the negative reviews for Insurgent came flooding in, I wasn’t totally surprised. However, I do feel as though all of the changes made in the translation were for the good of the story. They weren’t changing things just because they could, the writers tried to make a complicated book into a streamlined visual narrative. I admire their effort, but this film wasn’t up to the standard of it’s predecessor.

4

Inside Out

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I didn’t know about this film until my great friend GracieActually told me how amazing it was, and we took my Mum along to revel in the joy (literally) of this film. What stood out most for me was Joy and Sadness’ relationship, and how closely it mirrored my own relationship with my Mum. As many of you know I’m currently battling depression, so to see a character like Sadness be sad, and yet completely lovable and charming, was so amazing for me and my self esteem.

3

Paper Towns

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Picture the scene. I have just recovered from the emotional roller-coaster that was The Fault in Our Stars, and almost immediately afterwards it is announced that Paper Towns, another of John Green’s books, it due to be adapted to the big screen. Well, it took me a long time to stop screaming with excitement. Once again, this was one of my most anticipated films of the year and I was lucky enough to attend the Paper Towns Movie event in London ahead of it’s release and see twenty minutes of the finished movie before anyone else. I knew from those twenty minutes that I was going to love the movie, and when I finally got to see it in it’s fullest form, I was not disappointed. Many people said the film was “anticlimactic” which to me was kind of the point. Q had made Margo up in his head to be this wild and precious being, when really she was, in fact, a girl. The fact that the producers chose to end the film in that way, rather than have Q and Margo drive off to New York City as the sun sets, and keep the original themes of the book shows a massive step forward for future adaptations.

2

The D.U.F.F

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Is it surprising that this is another YA book-to-movie adaptation? Probably not, but I actually didn’t like the novel The D.U.F.F written by Kody Keplinger. I gave it one whole extra star on Goodreads.com because I was SO HAPPY that someone had coined the term. I have spent my whole life feeling like I was The D.U.F.F and to potentially have some strong YA female bad-ass characters to commiserate with made excited. The book was a let down, but luckily the film was everything the book was not. Mae Whitman was the perfect choice for Bianca and Robbie Amell’s charisma oozed from the screen. He was the Wes I’d been waiting for, and his and Whitman’s double act type chemistry made this an amazing film.

This leaves the top spot, the number one film I watched this year, which was…

1

Into the Woods

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Disney. Musical. Fairy Tale Retelling. James Corden. Meryl Streep. Emily Blunt. Anna Kendrick. The list titled “Why I Love This Film” is endless. When I heard that Sondheim’s classic Into The Woods was going to be made into a film, not just a film, but a film with an all-star cast, I was ecstatic. I had seen a version of the stage show that did not paint the story in a very flattering light, so I had high hopes for the film, and I was no disappointed. This film was so well crafted, with talented all-around performers and was nothing short of perfect in my eyes. It was everything I wanted it to be and more!

And that concludes my top ten list. Did you get a chance to see any of these this year? And did any of them make it to your top ten? Let me know in the comments down below what you think.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2015 (2 & 1)

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Finally, we’ve made it. Here is the last post in my series Top 10 Books of 2015, and at number two we have The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.

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Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, with a nearly magical grin. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But the two can’t collide without Lennie’s world exploding… – from Goodreads.com 

I’ll start by saying this, before reading The Sky is Everywhere I had only cried at two books. The first was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (who didn’t cry?), and the second being The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (again, who didn’t cry?). I didn’t expect to feel as much for this book as I did, but I found myself effortlessly swept up in Lennie’s story. Although the love triangle didn’t do much for me, I felt the real love story was the relationship between Lennie and her sister Bailey. Their relationship transcended off the page and into my heart, and as Lennie learnt to heal with the passing of her sister, I felt myself heal a little bit more as well. For young adult who is dealing with grief, I would recommend Jandy Nelson’s writing wholeheartedly. I gave this book a four out of five stars.

And finally, the number one book, the boss, the big cheese, the one that takes the cake. The book I am placing at number one is… Cinder by Marissa Meyer. 

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I curse myself for not having read this sooner! When people tell me that they have had physical reactions to books, like hitting it, punching it etc, I’m not inclined to believe them. I’ve never had a reaction like that to a book before… until I read Cinder. This book was so good, the end scene so on point, that I actually threw it across my bedroom. Yes, the love story between Cinder and Kai might have been slightly predicable, and yes many may have felt the fairy tale elements made the narrative a bit forced, but for me, this book just worked. The thing I love about a fairy tale retelling, is that you already have an established structure and characters, from there, you can be as creative with the narrative/world/dynamics as you like, and Marissa Meyer certainly went to town with those. I didn’t know I wanted a book like Cinder until I read it, and then I binge-read Scarlet and Cress soon after (both of which receive honourable mentions in this list), and having not read a lot of Science Fiction before, this book really opened me up to a whole different genre. For the record, I gave Cinder five stars, and The Lunar Chronicles, collectively, have been my most enjoyable reads of 2015, which is why I am naming Cinder my top book of 2015.

So there you have it, my top ten books of 2015. I had so much fun compiling this list and so much fun reliving all those emotions I felt when I first read them. I can’t wait till December 2016, and I’m excited to think about all the amazing books I’ll be reading next year.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2015 (4 & 3)

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It was so difficult to narrow down ten books which I consider to be the best I’d read this year, but it was even more difficult to narrow down a top five. All of the books I’ve picked are so different, that really they all deserve the top spot.

But let’s continue, at number four, we have The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart. 

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Fifteen-year-old Frankie Landau-Banks has grown up a lot over the summer. She’s no longer daddy’s little girl – and almost immediately after starting the new semester at her highly prestigious school, she bags goofy-but-gorgeous Matthew Livingston as her boyfriend. They get along great but then Frankie discovers that Matthew is a member of a boys-only secret society that specialise in ‘hilarious’ pranks. Which hardly seems fair… especially when Frankie knows she’s smarter than any of its members. And to prove this, she’s going to teach them a lesson. – from Goodreads.com 

Having read The Boyfriend List when I was in college, and the incredibly popular We Were Liars last year, E Lockhart is fast becoming one of my auto-buy authors. (along with the likes of JK Rowling and John Green), and Frankie Landau-Banks did not disappoint. This book was thrilling, exciting and gripping from the get go and really made a stand against gender inequality. Frankie strives to prove that girls are just as good as boys, especially as the story is set in a prestigious private school, filled with dated traditions that provide a backdrop against entitled students who dare not break the mould. Frankie Landau-Banks leapt off the page, and became a firm favourite in my character catalogue.

Then, we have Far From You by Lisa Schroeder, at number three.

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Lost and alone…down the rabbit hole. Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn’t quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can by writing her music, losing herself in her love for her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife. But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she’ll face issues she’s been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful. – from Goodreads.com

Another book written in verse has found it’s way into my top ten and into my heart. As a young adult dealing with grief, specifically the loss of a parent, this book struck such a chord with me. Not only was it told via one of my favourite mediums, but the story was conveyed so perfectly and in such a unique way. As I struggle to gel with my own step-family sometimes, Alice was so relatable and I admired her honesty. Once again, this book was unlike anything I’d ever read before and that alone was enough to make it one of my favourite reads of 2015.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the final of my favourite reads of 2015 and see which book takes the top spot!

Top 10 Books I Read in 2015 (6 & 5)

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Let’s inspect the two books that narrowly missed out on top five status. The first at number six being, Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.

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As a midwife, Lacy Houghton brings lives into the world. She didn’t expect her son to take them away. But that’s what he did one March morning, when he walked into his high school with guns instead of books and killed ten people. Along with the rest of the shocked and grief-stricken town, Lacy is left wondering when her shy 17-year-old boy turned into a monster. – from Goodreads.com 

This marked my first ever experience of reading a Jodi Picoult book. I’d seen My Sister’s Keeper at the cinema, and was bowled over by the rich narrative and moral complexity that the book-to-film adaptation presented. (Author note: I am aware of the massive changes that were made as a result of the film adaptation.) Nineteen Minutes was recommended to me by a good friend, and the subject of school shootings was something that interested me ever since that episode of One Tree Hill that aired in March 2006. This book was incredible well crafted and stayed with me long after I finished the last page. I gave this book five stars.

Then, at number five, we have Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

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I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling. – from Goodreads.com

When I originally read this book, I gave it a pretty harsh review. So why is it so high on my list? I hear you ask. I in no way hated this book (I’d like to make that very clear. I did NOT hate this book), but I do believe that hate, being a strong and powerful emotion, is very close to love. I was frustrated with this book at first, but I found that the reason I was so frustrated with it was because I actually really enjoyed it, and spent at great length thinking about this book after I finished it. The ending was so out of this world, and so impactful, that I couldn’t wait to read the second book in the series The Wicked Will Rise. It made me realise, all over again, that books aren’t always as simple as beginning, middle and end. Books need light and shade, depth and complexity, morality and emotional concepts, and if they have all of that combined, you usually end up with a pretty awesome end product. I gave this book four out of five stars.

Tomorrow we’ll examine the next two books on my top ten list of 2015.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2015 (8 & 7)

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Today I’ll be detailing the books that came eighth and seventh in my top ten list of books I read in 2015.

First up, at number eight is Size Doesn’t Matter by Meg Cabot.

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(Author’s Note: In some countries, this book is titled Big Boned)

Life is reasonably rosy for plus-size ex-pop star turned Assistant Dormitory Director and sometime sleuth Heather Wells. Her freeloading ex-con dad is finally moving out. She still yearns for her hot landlord, Cooper Cartwright, but her relationship with “rebound beau,” vigorous vegan math professor Tad Tocco, is more than satisfactory. Best of all, nobody has died lately in “Death Dorm,” the aptly nicknamed student residence that Heather assistant-directs. Of course every silver lining ultimately has some black cloud attached. And when the latest murdered corpse to clutter up her jurisdiction turns out to be her exceedingly unlovable boss, Heather finds herself on the shortlist of prime suspects. – from Goodreads.com 

I read the first two books in the Heather Wells mysteries in 2010 whilst I was travelling on my gap year, and only read the third, fourth and fifth books in the series recently. What originally drew me to Size 12 is Not Fat, the first book in the series, was it’s body positive attitude, and also the murder mystery style themes of the narrative. This set of books is a prime example of the mantra ‘never judge a book by it’s cover‘, as the installments seem to be represented as romance novels, rather than of the crime genre. Although there is romance a-plenty in this quintet, what really sold the book to me was Heather Wells’ character and ammeter sleuthing, something that all crime fans probably aspire to. I gave this book four out of five stars.

(Honourable mention goes to Size 12 and Ready to Rock and The Bride Wore Size 12, both of which I read on Kindle and do not have physical copies of just yet.)

Next, we have Lorali by Laura Dockrill at number seven.

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Colourful, raw, brave, rich and fantastical – this mermaid tale is not for the faint-hearted. Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn’t exactly how Rory had imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place is discovering where she has come from. – from Goodreads.com 

What I loved about Lorali was the fact it was set in Hastings, which is the town over from where I live in Bexhill. Hastings is a town full of history, rich with depth and mystique, perfect, in fact, for a fantasy novel. Couple this with some vivid poetic description and lyrical narration, and you’ve got yourself a winner in my eyes. This charming book was a joy to read, and presented story-telling at it’s finest. I gave this book five stars.

Tomorrow I’ll have a look at numbers six and five of my top ten list, and we’ll see which books narrowly missed out on top five status.

Promises and Wishes: 2015 Edition

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On Christmas Eve 2014, I wrote a blog post titled Promises and Wishes, where I looked back on my university bucket list that I’d written three years prior. In the same post, I also made a 2015 to-do list of things I wanted to achieve by the end of the year.

As most of you know, the past year and a half has been very difficult for me. A year ago when I first wrote my Promises and Wishes post, I was five months into my recovery having been diagnosed with severe depression and an anxiety disorder. Since that post, I have completed 16 weeks of talking therapy and have just begun a cognitive behavioural therapy-based support group. I’m still on medication, I’m still struggling, but I’m winning the battle every day, and am that step closer to winning the war against my disorders and illness.

That being said, let’s look back and see what I wanted to achieve this year and whether I did or not.

  • Learn to manage my depression and anxiety.

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Sometimes meditating on a candle can be all you need to relax.

TICK. Although this is quite a difficult thing to measure, I’m beginning to know my own mind, know my triggers, not rely on safety seeking behaviours and find the courage to be more assertive, both emotionally and mentally. To be able to say that, and mean it, is a massive achievement for me.

  • Buy some trainers and take up running. 

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A photograph of the haul where I bought my trainers.

TICK. Well, half a tick. I bought some trainers and I TRIED to take up running, but unfortunately after my first run I conveniently had a panic attack afterwards. My energy levels are something I struggle with on a day to day basis, and I don’t think I’m at the stage of my recovery where I can successfully go for a run without doing some major damage. Regardless, I bought some trainers, gave it a go and saved the idea for when I’m a bit further down the road. (see what I did there?)

  • Do something that scares me. 

Wake up every day? Adult successfully? Do things by myself? Yes, I do things that scare me everyday. Once again, this one is hard to measure. Not sure if I have, or haven’t achieved it.

  • Learn to Knit.

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Mum’s scarf.

TICK. I actually learnt to knit. I knitted a whole scarf for my Mum who wears it with pride, especially now it’s winter.

  • Get better at French.

No tick. Don’t ask.

  • Pass my driving test.

Still, no. I have paused my driving lessons for the time being because my coordination isn’t good as a result of my medication (and is kind of a fundamental skill for driving), so once I am figuratively and literally further down the road of recovery, I shall pass and go on a road trip… probably… maybe not.

  • To finish The Last Four Years.

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The last day of progress on The Last Four Years.

TICK. BIG TICK. BIGGEST TICK EVER. Not only did I structure my story as a screenplay, I also completed NaNoWriMo and achieved 50,000. Doing NaNo was such an amazing tool to explore my story more and I found that I was really writing my best work. You can read about my progress here.

  • Get another piercing.

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The day I got my piercing done.

TICK. I got a labret piercing in February.

  • Get another tattoo.

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The day I got my tattoo done. 

TICK. I got a semi colon tattoo which donated money and services in aid of Mental Health charities and for the Mental Health Awareness Campaign.


So, I think it’s safe to say I had a pretty successful year in terms of goals. Now, let’s start as we mean to go on and look at what I hope to achieve by the end of 2016.

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.
  • GET BETTER AT FRENCH.
  • Start sending The Last Four Years out to literary agents.
  • Finishing structuring/plotting the next big idea.
  • Begin volunteering somewhere, even if it’s just an hour a week.
  • Come down on my medication dosage, as I think it’s contributing, at least some, towards my lack of energy. (Although a hefty dose of depression is enough…)
  • Write more blogs.

I’ll probably make some more along the way, but for now that seems like a decent, achievable amount of goals to have. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday season and has a fantastic time full of food, family and frivolities!

#NaNoWriMo – Week 2

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It’s official, we are half way through NaNoWriMo 2015. I’ve really struggled this week as I’ve not been feeling good mentally, however, with the help of my WriMos I’ve pushed on through and managed to have a really productive week. Let’s see how I did:

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I struggled to keep up with my original goal of two thousand words each session, but managed to keep an average of around seventeen hundred most days. The second week took me right through to the end of part two of my story, which was around nine thousand words in total. Not quite as much as I had hoped, but I’m eager to go back and expand it further once I’ve finished part three, which I have just begun.

Having said that, I aimed to pass twenty-five thousand words by the end of this week and I managed to surpass that. All in all, I’m pretty happy with my progress and how I’ve got on this week, and I’m looking forward to hopefully having part three finished by the end of week three.

Another thing I’ve really been enjoying is exploring my story more. I struggle to think about how many drafts exactly I’ve written of this story, but I really feel like I am producing some of my best work. Working from my last draft helps me to streamline the plot points and dialogue, and expand on other areas of description. So regardless of whether this is last draft I do, or one of fifty, I’m happy. Bring on week three!