Top 15 Favourite Books

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At the age of (almost) 25, I have read a lot of books. I have read books I’ve loved, books I’ve hated, books that left me feeling ‘meh’, and books that I’ve abandoned. In my first quarter of a century, I’ve accumulated many books that I declare among my favourites, but these are the fifteen most loved ones that I want to share with you.

These books are in no particular order.

1

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

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I’m seven years old, accompanying Lucy Pevensie through the wardrobe and into the Western Wood. I try to reason with Edmund as we walk towards the Witch’s castle. I sharpen my blade with Peter as we prepare for battle, and I fight alongside Susan, shooting my arrow through the hearts of Narnian traitors. As I grow older, I ride alongside Shasta and Aravis as we made the journey across the desert into Archenland. I’ll see Narnia come to life, hearing the sweet sound of Aslan’s song, singing the world into creation with Digory and Polly.

2

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

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I’m eleven years old, getting my Hogwarts letter with Harry in the cupboard under the stairs. We get the train together at 11 o’clock on the 1st September, and meet Ron and Hermione along the way. I defeat Voldemort with Harry, once, twice and three times. I escape to the Burrow with the Weasley’s way too often, and tag along to the Quidditch World Cup. I stand by Harry through the rise of Voldemort and fight along side him in the Battle of Hogwarts.

3

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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It’s 2011 and I’m in Treehugger Dan’s bookshop in Budapest, Hungary. I’m 19 years old, nearly no longer a teenager, my childhood soon to be over, marked by an epic InterRail experience before university. I’m in the sale section, I see a book called Looking for Alaska by John Green for 200F, equivalent to about 50p. What draws me in is… well, everything about it. I buy it and head back to my hostel, a cute, quirky loft converted from an old town house. I sit in the bay window and devour Looking for Alaska in one sitting. I realise why I want to be a writer. I realise that grief will never leave me. I continue to seek my Great Perhaps.

4

The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth

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I have now “become” an adult. I’m twenty years old. I’m in my first semester of university and I have just been exposed to The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, both of which I’ve read. Somewhere online, I find that the Phantom of Manhattan is the unofficial sequel to Gaston Leroux’s original novel and I fly through it in one sitting. It becomes my guilty pleasure, and much to my enjoyment, enables the musical-sequel Love Never Dies to come to fruition.

5

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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It’s the summer of 2012 and I’ve just completed my first year at university so I head into Waterstones to celebrate. I browse the shelves, when this book catches my eye. I’ve heard it’s being made into a movie, and once I read the synopsis I’m sold. I buy this in a two for one deal along with Fifty Shades of Grey, which I soon regret, but this novel serves as a reminder why picking Creative Writing as my degree is a good decision.

6

Paper Towns by John Green

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After I realise John Green has written not one, but four other books, I head to Amazon and go on a book binge buy spree. I buy An Abundance of Katherine’s, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and The Fault in Our Stars, his latest novel. Paper Towns arrives first, and on that first page, John Green becomes my second Auto-Buy author. Sitting in my porch/bedroom, as Spring turns to Summer in 2013, I delve into Q’s world, sitting next to him in the mini van as we make our way along the East Coast to find Margo.

7

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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It’s Christmas 2013 and I’m in New York. I head into Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue and browse the shelves aimlessly. Outside it’s snowing, and I know we have to get the Croton-Harmon train back before peak times but I can’t tear myself away. Most people are gazing up at the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center, but I’m gazing up at the rows of books before me. I’ve always wanted to read The Bell Jar, and so I buy it there and then before I could talk myself out of it. I read it on the train all the way to Tarrytown.

8

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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It’s 2014 and I’m in my final semester of university. In our Creative Visions module, we’re exploring futuristic words and thus my love for dystopian fiction is born. I spend my time trying to escape the pain of assignments and dissertation talk by curling up with this book, finding a whole new definition of the word escapism. As I read, Tally and I hover board along the skyline, wondering what exactly it is that makes a person “pretty”.

9

Flowers in the Attic and the Dollanganger Saga by VC Andrews

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Despite trying to escape talk of my pending dissertation, I can’t, but I find respite in “reading for research”. Flowers in the Attic is the first book in the Dollanganger Saga, and fills my head with rich, luxurious, gothic mansions, plot twists and betrayal. I lap it up, and am reminded that my final piece for my degree is MINE, and take notes on delicious description from Ms Andrews.

10

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

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I’ve finally left university. My dissertation is handed in and now I’m waiting on my results. Now I can read whatever books I choose, and the thought of that alone is so liberating. When I hear that Divergent is to be made into a movie, I figure it’s just another book series jumping on the coat tails of The Hunger Games, but after I decide to read the series, I realise it’s so much more. Tris goes on a journey unlike any other. She questions what it means to be selfless and brave, and questions her identity along the way. The ending to the Divergent series is heartbreaking, but proves it’s not just another book series. It’s a social commentary on human nature.

11

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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Three years worth of assigned reading stopped me from buying any new books, so as my graduation fast approaches in the Autumn of 2014, I look for exciting books to catch my eye. Rediscovering authors seems to be a habit of mine. Many years ago when I was in secondary school I read a booked called The Boyfriend List, now nearly ten years later I find We Were Liars by the very same E Lockhart. It’s my first trip into psychological thrillers and I LOVE it. I don’t realise the twist and it blows my mind.

12

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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I’m at my very first Writing Weekend as an alumni of the University of Winchester, and Belzhar has been my most anticipated read of 2014. A YA novel, inspired by The Bell Jar, set at boarding school, and it’s right up my street. Sometimes I wish I could go back to school, just so that I could choose to go to boarding school. Or sometimes I wish I could move back into Halls of Residence, where life was much more simple.

13

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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My graduation has come and gone. I really am a full fledged graduate, so I retreat to a place that makes me feel safe. I’ve spent much of the past ten years online. Not just online but ONLINE, participating in forums and chat rooms, writing in online journals, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought anyone would understand my “life online”, and I didn’t know how to communicate to anyone what that time in my life meant to me, but Rainbow Rowell does it with one swift novel: Fangirl.

14

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks… by Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs

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It’s almost Christmas again and I’ve just finished watching Kill Your Darlings with Daniel Radcliffe. I quickly become obsessed with the Beat Generation and haul a tonne of books from that era. This book is the fictional account, similar to the Kill Your Darlings, of the murder of David Krammerer and the Beat Poets growing up in the underbelly of New York City. I adore this book the moment I read the first page and the moment I read the last.

15

Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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I’m twenty three going on ten years old again. I’m scouting the scrapyard for junk metal with Cinder and Peony when she gets taken. I’m running with Cinder to warn Prince Kai about Levana. I’m sitting in the cell with Dr Erland when he tells her she’s the lost Princess Selene. I’m reminded that you’re never too old for fairy tales.

Did I mention any books in this list that you love too? Let me know in the comments.

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Promises and Wishes.

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In my first semester of university, in Autumn 2011, I made a list of goals I wanted to achieve by the end of my graduation year. I didn’t find this list again until early 2014, so I kept it safely knowing that come December I would have to sit down and have a good look at what I could tick off from my list of promises and wishes.

I’m a third generation Virgo, and we all have lived up to the name. From as early as I can remember my ambition had been to go to university, which I have now reached. So that’s a 100% success rate, right? I’m not sure that’s something I’ll be able to maintain, but I’ll go for over 50. One of the many attributes of a Virgo is list making, and for me it’s the perfect way to clear my head. So let’s have a look at what I promised to have accomplished by the end of 2014.

A 2:1 or First in Creative Writing BA.
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A copy of my dissertation marks that overall gave me 70.
TICK. I achieved a 2:1 overall and a First class mark on my dissertation – which I count as covering both areas. My dissertation was actually an idea that I’d been working on since the end of my first year so to have it be valued at a First class mark was beyond a dream.

To have learnt to drive/be learning.
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This picture was taken on one of my driving lessons.
TICK. I am currently learning to drive and I really enjoy it. I have a great instructor named Paul who is really understanding and helpful. I need to get my arse in gear and do my theory test and then I’ll really be on my way to passing. (Perhaps I will put that on my list for 2015)

To know where I want to take the next stage of my life.
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A book. One of my favourites. Just ’cause.
TICK. Sort of. I know that I want to work in the publishing industry, whether that be literary agency or editorial, I know I want to help other people’s book-dreams come true. As I can’t stop myself from editing a book as I’m reading it, I owe it to myself. In most recent events, my life has been turned (almost) upside down so I have been slightly shaken on the “future” category. Having said this, I still want to maintain my direction, although anything in the creative sector will suit me just fine.

To have visited another country I haven’t visited before.
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The Falls – which are as breathtaking as they are in this photograph.
TICK. I did the Camp America experience in Summer 2013 which was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and met some amazing people.

To have written a novel – 50,000 words or more.
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This is a picture of writing a very early draft.
TICK. Ish. THE NOVEL (as there is only one) currently stands at 20,000 and about 1,234 notebook notes. I decided not too long ago that I wanted to try the story as a film script which proved to be really successful. So I’m not sure what way it is going to best present itself… which leads me onto nicely…

To have sent a script premise to the BBC.
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Not so much of a TICK. I’ve always aspired to write a sitcom but sadly other areas of my writing have overtaken that wish. One day I will, but at the moment I’m happy to be focusing on my poetry and my novel/film-confused hybrid baby.

To have the implant reinstated.
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TICK. This form of birth control suits me nicely and had it reinstated before I went to America circa 2013.

To get another piercing
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My clip on piercings.
Sort of TICK? I decided not so long ago to buy clip on piercings that suit me fine. That means I can try out the look before going through the pain and spending the money. At the moment I’m not set on getting snakebites permanently but could be persuaded by a septum ring.

To get another tattoo
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X. Still got lots of ideas that I would like but never got around to them. I will put this on my list for 2015.

Find my style
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My punk style.
TICK. I’ve come to accept that on a day to day basis I really cannot be asked to wear make up, but occasionally when I go out for a smart/casual evening or just a smart one, I do like to accessorize my outfit with something on my face. One thing I have come to accept is that I will always have a grungy style. I just love the punk rock look that I have been inspired by for the last ten years. (All thanks to Hayley Williams. GIRL POWER.) Even if I’m wearing something not so punk-rock-y, I like to jazz it up in my own style that suits me. I will always be a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl at heart.

So I would like to think that my three years at university ended on a pretty strong note, and I’m still living up to my Virgo status. So, to continue onward and upward, here are my promises and wishes for 2015. (Because three years is too long to get your arse ’round to something.)

Learn to manage my depression and anxiety.
Thus, the subject of the world-turning I mentioned earlier. I’m still in the early stages of my recovery but I aim to get myself on track at least enough to start participating in society again. I will be taking steps to do so like..

Buy some trainers and taking up running.
I had an epiphany. Said epiphany occurred when I ran for a train and instantly felt better.

Do something that scares me.
Not sure quite what that THING is yet. I’ll keep you posted on this one.

Learn to knit.
I’ve always wanted to knit, so I endeavor to learn this year. It may help my anxiety too.

Get better at French.
I don’t expect to be fluent and I certainly don’t expect to be better overnight, but I would like to get better at French with the help of Duolingo.

Pass my driving test!
Speaks for itself.

These are the ones I have thought of so far. The list may (and probably will) grow, especially once I start to get my confidence back. Look out for the update this time next year and many more poetry and prose updates throughout the year!

The art of chilling out.

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crisis definition

Having an existential crisis does not mean putting your head between your legs. It also does not mean breathing heavily into a brown paper bag. It does, however, mean that a certain amount of your thought process goes into thinking, wondering, and wishing.

I’m doing a bachelor degree in Creative Writing, and I’m about to become a graduate. The weeks are counting down as the word count on my dissertation goes up, and it’s safe to say I’m not enjoying it. In fact, I don’t actually know many people who are enjoying it.

Currently I’m sitting in the university library, surrounded by stressed third years sweating over a mountain of job applications, dissertation chapters and academic diaries. Scribble, strike, repeat. Scribble, strike, repeat. Highlight. Highlight. Scrunch. Throw. I’m sure the library staff are sick of seeing it. In fact, they’re probably placing bets on who is going to burst into tears first.

I’m sure there is at least one person reading this who has graduated, and you might say it’s not as bad we’re making it out. But let me tell you: Yes it is. Shut up.

I’m joking. You’re right obviously. All of this worry and stress does nothing except worry and stress us out more. Eventually we forget that although we need to work hard during the final push, we should also be celebrating. Sticking at something for three years, in times of great uncertainty and doubt, is a great achievement. Throughout the arguments with housemates and bad assessment grades, hopefully all of us will agree that it was completely worth it.

Cue cheesy, feel good, mantra: The end doesn’t always mean the end, it’s the beginning of a new chapter.

So upon leaving university, you’re expected to know what you want to do with your life, right? Wrong. No one knows. I guarantee that many people who have graduated end up down a completely different career path to the one they set out for themselves. Not from being misguided but because things change, life changes, people change.

Nobody expects you in the beginning of your twenties to have it all planned out. Take opportunities, have new experiences, meet new people and build a life for yourself.

So what am I going to do? Hand me the paper bag, please.

But really. I know I want to work in publishing and literary agency, and I have the rest of my life to do that so why not enjoy the journey getting there. It look me a good four months because I snapped out of my existential crisis and realised that actually it didn’t matter what I thought now, because that might change in a few months time. I might decide I want to become a heavyweight champion of the world by March.

Unlikely, because that involves going to the gym, but an example none the less!

So here is my advice to you, graduates of the world, who like me sweated and stressed over scribbled on bits of paper: chill out.