Thursday, 28 June 2018

Exploring Greek Mythology

Anyone who knows me, knows I love stories, and I adore English Literature and fairytales  (in general), almost as much as I love adaptations of them. Until recently, I wasn't too bothered by other areas of mythology and literature (aka Norse or Greek mythology). However, recently I read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. While in the process, I was able to attend an event at which she was going to be interviewed at the University of East Anglia. There she talked about her passion for the Greek Mythology, and other mythology alike. This was definitely evident from her début novel. I had heard of some during my High School years, ranging from history classes to my parents dragging me to Greece and other places, but I'd never willingly dived into these tales and characters as a young adult (endlessly watching Troy to admire Orlando Bloom left aside). Before my introduction to Greek character, I'd bought a book on Norse Mythology, but mainly because it was written by Neil Gaiman.

So my journey began with Madeline Miller and her passion for these characters. I'd heard of The Song of Achilles somewhere, though I don't remember when or where exactly, and it was put on my list of novels I need/want to read (which is getting out of control). As I realised Miller was to attend UEA for an event, I decided to sit down and read it. I expected a tale I knew of death, in which Achilles looks like Brad Pitt. Subsequently, I expected it to be about Achilles. In my opinion, it is neither. Here's the synopsis:
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfil his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
My initial review: This book is the definition of 'less is more'. It's a captivating story. I love the well-developed characters, what drives them, their emotions. Some things are as clear as day while not described in the book, others take some time to process. I'm really happy I finally got around to reading this book. And I am glad I already purchased Circe, because Miller's writing is pleasantly professional and intriguing.

I completely stand by my impression. While it was not the tale I remembered, nor did it hold a lot of names I recognised due to my unfamiliarity with the original source material, I was blown away by their vivid characters. While there was such cruelty, death, pain and violence, it was not hard to understand the characters and feel with them. So I didn't hesitate about purchasing Circe. Unlike Achilles, I didn't remember her from anything. All I know of her comes from Madeline Miller (I will surely be disappointed when I read Hómēros' texts and don't recognise her). I soon realised I wasn't the only one who didn't remember her. When I spoke of her, to my friends, they were often at a loss as well (or referred to Cersei Lannister) as she plays such a small part in The Odyssey. I only recently finished Circe and it wildly different from The Song of Achilles, but in my opinion just as good, if not better. Here's the synopsis:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child — not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power — the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
I absolutely adored this book. In a lot of ways, I prefer it over The Song of Achilles. To me it was rather clear that Miller has grown as a writer, but I understand why it is less compelling to some people. Circe is complicated, stubborn, resilient and stunning. She is by no means perfect, especially in the eyes of her family, yet this is what makes her such an engaging character.

What I love about the book is how it is relatively uneventful. It is not about the adventurous plot or intense climax (which I felt hung over me as I read TSOA), but rather about the character development of the protagonist. Her journey from Goddess to Witch (and beyond) is the focus of the book. Yet it was never boring, despite the lack of obvious excitement. I was not reading to get to a certain point (though I admit I was waiting for one particular character to appear), I was reading to understand Circe. To experience her journey.

While the gods are wicked, their cruelty did not make this a depressing read either. It is what I expected from the gods (or Greek mythology as a whole). I didn't expect empathy or kindness among them, which is what makes Circe compelling. She's relatively human for a goddess. It makes the character and the story accessible to us mortal readers.


Miller also wrote a short story named Galatea in 2013 (between the previously mentioned novels). Synopsis: In Ancient Greece, a skilled marble sculptor has been blessed by a goddess who has given his masterpiece – the most beautiful woman the town has ever seen – the gift of life. Now his wife, Galatea is expected to be obedience and humility personified, but it is not long before she learns to use her beauty as a form of manipulation. In a desperate bid by her obsessive husband to keep her under control, she is locked away under the constant supervision of doctors and nurses. But with a daughter to rescue, she is determined to break free, whatever the cost.

It's no The Song of Achilles or Circe, but it is definitely Miller, master of 'less is more'. I really enjoyed this short story. Part of me wishes it would have been longer, but then again it's pretty good as it is. I do wish she'd write more short stories like this one and create a book with them all. I think her interpretation of characters such as Achilles and Circe would make for fascinating short stories. I cannot wait for Miller's next novel. I've also finally purchased The Odyssey and aim to read it some time soon (but with me I really never know because there's a loooot I want to read as soon as possible, and it's just not possible), because I want to explore more of these novels, such as Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad (not only because it's Atwood, also because I'm curious how her interpretation of the character might differ from that of Miller).

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

New Worlds: Science Fiction & Beyond

To be honest, I've always had a difficult time differentiating Science Fiction and Fantasy. There are a lot of overlapping themes, so where does the one end and the other begin? This was a recurring question for me while writing my BA dissertation, as one particular article referred to Fantasy as a sub-genre of Science-Fiction (which I don't necessarily think is true). So when I took on a Science-Fiction course at UEA, I didn't really know what to expect. Once I started though, all my conventions were completely destroyed.

Previously I always categorised shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek, or films like Star Wars, as sci-fi, and most of the other stuff, such as The Handmaid's Tale as fantasy. But that's not really how it works. That being said there's not a very clear division between the two. Some, or most, novels could be classified as both, or at least contain elements of both genres. Interestingly enough, I was unfamiliar with most of the texts included as primary reading for this course, with the exception of a few films and text here and there. Unfortunately, I found that most of them were really disappointing, boring or just plain annoying (in my opinion).

Firstly, H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. I understand that it's the first of its kind (as in time travel/machine narrative) which somewhat gives it a high status within sci-fi; however, that being said, I did not enjoy it. It's only about 100 pages long, but I just could not commit to it. The first 10 pages were interesting enough, but the next 90ish pages consist of a (stuck-up) character talking about his travelling ... No dialogue, just an endless narration of the events. It was like reading a biased summary of a book. That's where Wells lost me. That's not to say that the stories he tells aren't interesting, I just didn't like the writing style. Had Wells created a story in which the reader is able to experience the story/adventures with the main character, I might have enjoyed it, but I just got really frustrated by the way it's written that I decided to not finish reading it (I know ... shame on me). Afterwards I talked to a friend of mine who read Wells' War of the Worlds for a sci-fi course at her university, and she had similar issues. So it's completely put me off Wells as a whole.

The other assigned books included Food of the Gods by Wells (so I didn't read it); The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (1959); Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin, published in 1937 (though it was originally published under a different name); Memoirs of a Survivor (1974); 'Metamorphosis' by Franz Kafka (1915); The Bees by Laline Paull (2014); The City & The City by China Miéville (2009). We also watched a bunch of films in accordance with the theme of the books, such as The Terminator, La Jetée, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Children of Men, The Fly, Alphaville, an episode of The Handmaid's Tale. Most of these I wouldn't have classified as sci-fi i the past, but that's mainly due to my misconception of the genre's. Unfortunately, due to a month long strike in February/March, we were unable to discuss a large amount of the previously mentioned novels and films. So instead, I'd like to discuss the two books I loved, namely Swastika Night and The City & The City.


With Swastika Night I didn't quite expect to enjoy the novel as much as I did (due to the subject matter, as illustrated by the title and cover). But it's such an interesting experience. Especially when you think about the fact that it was published in 1937, which effectively means that some details she includes in the novel are somewhat predictions of historical events surrounding the second world war (such as involvement of specific countries). Some of my classmates compared the novel to Orwell's books, but as I can't say much about that as I haven't read them (yet! I know ... they are all on my list and in my collection). It also somewhat resembles ideas of The Handmaid's Tale in terms of treatment of women, but it is a lot more extreme. I definitely recommend it! It is frustrating to read at times due to the extreme sexism and racism, but that's also what makes it so relevant (still!). That being said, when looking at the novel from it's 1937 perspective, it is quite sci-fi as it discusses the possible future; however, it is difficult to view it as such now. Yet, it is unclear how much time has passed as they no longer have access to the history of the world. It is mentioned that about 700 years have passed since the war, but the time is counted differently so that really doesn't say much.


The City & The City is also a novel I would have classified as fantasy rather than science fiction, due to the subject matter, lack of space, time travel and the like, and the inclusion of what seems like supernatural entities/abilities. Though this book was incredibly confusing, I really enjoyed reading it. The mix of crime and science-fiction/fantasy makes for an interesting environment. It's also really confusing to the characters, they are not entirely sure who Breach is, what they do. The lack of knowledge on the murder case increases the general confusion. The only problem I have with this book is the odd writing at times. Some times China really drags on, while in other parts he rushes through it. Especially near the end. I was hoping to get some answers to the general questions about Breach, the supernatural entities, the differences between the cities, the confusion, but that doesn't really happen. It might have been better had this book been divided into a series as it often felt like too much was happening to cover merely one novel. That being said, the reason my teacher classifies it as sci-fi, is due to the fact that it supposedly located in our future. This is noticable in the weapons and technology used in the novel, but not so much in other areas. This novel is a classic case of overlap between sci-fi and fantasy (at least in my opinion). 


For my final project, I discussed time travel and its consequences within popular culture, and specifically looked at The Terminator, an episode of Doctor Who, and an episode of Gravity Falls. Regardless of his lessons, the teacher still asked me if Gravity Falls shouldn't be considered rather as fantasy rather than sci-fi (which I thought was ironic but also understandable). Gravity Falls is another show I would not have considered to be sci-fi before, but in hindsight it is definitely both. For example, there is an episode in which Dipper and Mabel hunt their local Loch Ness monster. It turns out (spoiler alert) it's a machine rather than a monster! It is for that reason (and a bunch of other reasons) I decided to include it in my final project for my sci-fi course (and also because I really love the show!). Though time travel is often considered as sci-fi due to its scientific components, this might not necessarily be the case for GF, as the tools and reasoning behind it could be considered as fantastical; however, I felt it was both and discussed it as such (like most of the novels, films and stuff I had to read/watch for this course). I will look at novels I read for pleasure at a different time! Hope you enjoyed this blog entry!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Favourite Poetry Books

Recently, I've started reading poetry, more than I used to before. This was mainly inspired by the many evenings I've spend at Waterstones for Poetry readings with my friend Lea. Prior to all that, I was of course exposed to a fair amount of poetry during my first year of my BA English Language and Culture (especially with the English Literature courses). Since then I've purchased and read a number of poetry books and collections. I felt that it was about time for me to list the ones I've enjoyed the most, in order to introduce you to poetry as well. And maybe, even, to inspire you to purchase some poetry books too. Who knows. For this list I will mainly look at recent poets/poetry. I haven't completely delved into classic poetry yet, so I'll discuss those at a later time.


Instagram pic by yours truly
1. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur. "Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms." I found an early edition of the book (as soon in the picture on the right) in a secondhand bookstore in London. I thoroughly enjoyed it too! Maybe it's because the sunflower is my favourite flower, which made some of the symbolism really approachable. But usually I enjoy a few poems in a book like this, but in this case it's really hard for me to pinpoint poems I didn't like. I read Milk & Honey afterwards, but it didn't feel quite the same, as I already read her newer book beforehand.

this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
fall
root
rise
in order to bloom


Instagram pic by yours truly
2. The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace. It is divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. It wasn't quite what I expected, but still very enjoyable. The layout was a tat irritating at times, words all over the page and what not. She used a lot of one word sentences, and in my opinion, they somewhat lose their power when used too often. That is not to say that they don't carry a lot of weight at times (otherwise this novel wouldn't be on my list). The book is part of a trilogy: The Witch Doesn't Burn in This One came out this year (it's also really good but I didn't enjoy it as much as this one), and The Mermaid's Voice Returns in This One (set  to come out next year). 

i had a
big smile on my face
as i burned
the bridges
to all the things
i could not
repair
- does the smokes till choke you?

Instagram pic by yours truly
3. Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty by Nikita Gill. I really enjoyed this book and it's style; however, most of the poems come across as prose, in a sense that they are, more or less, neatly organised text that could be interpreted as advice, or an inspirational quote. I enjoyed the references to space, but also to Fairy Tales and Greek mythology. In all honesty, this was one of the earlier books I read. I doubt I'd feel exactly the same upon re-reading the book now (an issue I had with Lang Leav's Lullabies, which I greatly enjoyed upon first read, but less so once I re-read it later).

We are the descendants
of the wild women you forgot.
We are the stories you thought
would never be taught.

They should have checked the ashes
of the women they burned alive.
Because it takes a single wild ember
to bring a whole wildfire to life.


Other noteworthy books are Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell, doll eyes. by Jessyca 
Thibault (the poems are more like daydreams, very enjoyable), Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim, and I, too, dislike it by Mia You. I hope you enjoyed this post. I will continue my journey into poetry as a genre. I hope to read the following books in the near future. If you've read some of them, do you recommend them?

Friday, 1 June 2018

My Erasmus Exchange

December/January: The big leap
A while back, I announced that I was starting to lower my medication. I hoped this would be an easy process, one I'd be able to finish before going to England. But that didn't happen. With half the dose, the awful thoughts found their way back to me. And while I'm pretty good at shutting them out now, it's still difficult. Especially while dealing with two theses, the prospect of going aboard, and winter weather (I hate that this has such impact, but it does). So I'm still on half the dose, and I won't go lower until I'm back, as both the doctor and myself were not comfortable with lowering the dose while I'm abroad. 

So now I'm in England, far away from the people I love. Far away from my boyfriend, who has been my rock in this whole process. I can't count all the times he dropped everything to come to my house, feed me chocolate and drag me out of bed. But here I am, all by myself. I don't know if it was a smart move to do this so quickly after everything, before even being off my meds completely. But it is a challenge. It hasn't been easy, especially in the beginning when I didn't have much going on, but it is an challenge I need to experience. Now I have to do it myself. No one is going to drag me out of bed, or buy me chocolate. And that's tough. Another complication I hadn't thought about was the fact that, for the first time since I started my meds, I was in possession of all my meds. Previously I always gave Fabian half of the pills just so I couldn't get any crazy impulsive ideas, as they have sedatives in them. But now I was in England with 90 pills, all by myself. Lonely and vulnerable.

Right
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Just another challenge. The fact that I trusted myself enough to take this step, already says a lot about how far I've come. But it doesn't help that I still had some things I needed to finish. The problem was that the semester back home didn't finish until the end of January. So I still had a paper to write for a Celtic course I took. Plus I still needed to submit my final version of my second thesis. And while I really enjoyed writing it, the final steps were really difficult. Especially as there was a lot of pressure surrounding both papers. I need to get a good grade (for one of them) because I need to hand it in with my MA application, which is super selective. So, if it's not good enough that might mean I will not be selected for the master I want to do. Needless to say, with everything else, this made the process difficult and stressful. Luckily for me, I received a 9.3 for my celtic paper (thanks to my gigantic obsession with A Court of Thorns and Roses and Sarah J Maas her usage of celtic myths and legends in her novels). This eliminated the pressure I put on myself and made it possible for me to finish my second thesis with pleasure.

March: In the middle
Looking back on what I wrote, about two months ago (aka the text above) is scary but also nostalgic (already). The Alyssa that went to England and had zero clue of what to expect and how she was going to deal with living all by herself in a country she didn't know, without her support system. I've now somewhat become my own support system. Obviously Fabian is still my rock, but he's not here to help me with the little things. He can't hug me or drag me out of bed. And I thought this was a recipe for disaster, because I hadn't been able to drag myself out of bed when I was in NL and in the middle whatever it was I was going through: so I how was I supposed to be able to do it now in England? It doesn't matter how, all that matters is that I did it.


The experience so far, in terms of personal development, is exactly what I hoped it would be. It has made me independent. That's not to say that I'm not still somewhat introverted sometimes. It just means I'm not terrified anymore. I've stepped out of my comfort-zone, by myself. And I'm doing it. I'm not as homesick as I thought I would be. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm happy. Happy with my choices and very happy with my progress. I didn't think I might be able to pull through, but I have! 

April: Break
Going back home was an interesting experience. Not only in the sense that I had four weeks off, but my friends and family didn't. Cycling was an issue, I once accidentally cycled on the wrong side of the road. Luckily I realised what I was doing before I had an accident or whatever, but still. That was an interesting development, as I'd cycled that road so many times before I left. Yet my 2,5 months abroad had altered how I viewed the road and on which side I should be.

I've also noticed that people expect me to have a lot of awesome stories about my life here. Like, I'm supposed to have a lot of adventures. But that's not what it's like for me. I'm here for classes, and experiencing the university. But I'm not here to travel, or to party. Sure, I've been to a few places, I went to Hull and London (and plan on going back again in May) and I plan on going to the coast some time soon, but it's not like I've been travelling all over England since I got here. Mostly because I want to do that with Fabian, and he's not here. But also because I came here to experience the English life. I didn't come here for adventures, I came to be a student. So that's what I'm doing. Including just spending a lot of time with myself and reading books.

After Easter, classes started again and it felt like they never stopped to begin with. Even though my science-fiction course is a tat awkward to be honest, as our teacher hasn't really contacted us over the strike, while my other teachers were very apologetic and helpful. They e-mailed us with a lot of information when they could. So with that particular course, it feels like we never really started, which is problematic for me.  The weather is really good right now (19th of April). It's interesting how everyone (especially students) starts to show a lot of skin as soon as the sun is out. They are in short dresses and hot-pants. Even though it's not that hot. It's like they are trying to get as much sun as possible because they are not used to it at all.

May: Hindsight
Here we are. I've been back in the Netherlands since Sunday night. The last month was hard. In all honesty, I didn't want to leave. It felt like I'd only just moved there! Couldn't believe 5 months had passed. It was tough as well due to the major deadlines I was facing, most of which were 100% of my final grade. Especially because that meant I wasn't quite sure what the teacher were expecting (as I'm used to UU standards). But I made it through! Finished my deadlines, and now all I can do is wait for the results (fingers crossed). 

The last few days were very nice. My parents were in England and we did a bit of sightseeing, which was the best. We went to Burghley House (were parts of The Da Vinci Code and Pride and Prejudice were filmed), we went to the beach, though it was really foggy so we didn't see much for most of the day, and saw real life seals! We didn't get close because we didn't want to disturbed them, but my mom did get a few good pictures!

Saying goodbye to my housemates was hard. I keep expecting to run into them, in the kitchen or something, not fully realising that I won't see them every day. Still. But they're not here and it's odd. But then I felt the same way when I left! It's just different this time, because I knew when I moved to England that it was going to be temporary, and I would see everyone again. But this move isn't temporary and that's difficult.

I am so happy with and proud of myself, even if that sounds a bit self-absorbed. In the beginning I couldn't deal with it, as I expected, because I've never been completely on my own. And throwing myself into this situation was tough, especially with my birthday in Feb. Gradually, I started to learn to be on my own. In the beginning, and this is going to sound so childish, I was a bit hesitant and scared to go out the door by myself. I'd call Fabian a lot. But at the end of it, I went to London to see Wicked by myself. That is not to say that I'm no longer shy, because that will never change. But I've grown, I'm a lot stronger than I was before, which is exactly what I hoped would happen. It's been an amazing experience, even if it wasn't quite what I expected (due to the strike and all that). I'd definitely recommend going on an exchange, as well as UEA and Norwich in general. I'm really going to miss that cute quiet town, filled with literature, tea and pubs. 

I'm excited about my next steps. I can't wait to graduate (even though I'm a bit anxious as well, so fast!) and to start my master degree in September! Excited to get off my meds as well. But for now, I'm just happy to relax and spend time with Fabian (which is why I'm only posting this now).

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Brief Trip to NL

Dear Reader,
As some of you might know, I was able to go back to the Netherlands for a few weeks due to the fact that I had four weeks off for Easter break. I flew back home on the 26th of March, and flew back on the 16th of April. So that's quite some time to visit my family and friends. Things I hadn't taken into account before I left? I'm an anxious flyer and I hadn't flown by myself since I went to Australia (about 5 years ago, which was the first time I flew by myself). It's not that I have issues with flying itself. It's merely the hassle of going to the airport and getting through security and all (potentially being late and missing my flight if my bus is delayed or whatever). But it's also landing. I don't know why, but going down makes me anxious. Especially right before touch down. I woke up nauseous (that's what stress does to my body) and it didn't go away until I was safely on the ground again (after flying).

The first day was so nice. Fabian picked me up at the airport and we couldn't stop hugging, kissing, and just looking at each other. Just holding his hand while walking to the train, was something I'd missed so much. As soon as we got to his place, I insisted that we'd go to the supermarket. It's not that I have anything against English supermarkets, but there's just a lot of stuff they don't sell, or sell in a different manner (for the life of me, I do not understand why they wrap everything, even the vegetables and fruit, in (layers of) plastic). Being able to purchase groceries in a manner I'm used to was a lovely experience. At night my youngest brother came over and we watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix and just talked and laughed. It was easy, and normal, but very pleasant.

Visiting my parents was also very pleasant. I never realised how expensive the train is. What usually doesn't cost so much, now cost me €36 to see them. It was worth it though. Afterwards, from Thursday till Monday, I was away on Easter Camp with my brothers, boyfriend and some of my closest friends. It was so much fun, even if it wasn't my intention, initially, to go this year. I said my goodbyes last year as it is a learning-experience, we're not really supposed to stay on for such a long time (I've been a counsellor for 7 years now). It was easy and we had a lot of fun, especially because I could mostly be found behind the scenes. Which means I was still able to finish Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson and help with the meal preparations.

Most of the time after that was spent meeting up with friends, celebrating birthdays, spending a lot of time with Fabian, going to party's. All of that. Fabian turned 23 over Easter, so we celebrated that on the 8th. My grandfather turned 80, so we celebrated that on the 15th. My twin cousins turned six so we celebrated that on the 14th. It was amazing to see them again, and hold them, and hug my family. But I think three weeks was too long. I had grown accustomed to being home again, which made leaving very hard. Especially when Fabian dropped me off at the airport. I don't know why but I didn't want to go. I was crying while we hugged and kissed goodbye, even though I knew I was going to see him again in two weeks (when I go back home for a family reunion to see my Australian relatives).  But I just didn't want to go. However, as soon as I got back to my place in Norwich, I was oké again. It didn't necessarily feel like coming home, but it felt familiar and safe.

See you soon!
Alyssa

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

TV Shows I Gave Up On

Over the years, we all know, I've binged a lot of TV shows, much like Riverdale of late. And though I'm usually easily entertained when it comes to films and shows (I don't have particularly high expectations, when they don't need to be), that doesn't mean I'll accept everything. Far from it. So while I've given all of the shows listed below a fair chance, I was unable to finish or continue watching them. Even if some of them are really popular among other viewers. Were there any shows you couldn't get in to? That you gave up on? Let me know!

Firstly, I'd like to address Pretty Little Liars. I was inclined to give it a chance due to its popularity; however, I decided to drop it after the first two season. I stopped somewhere in season 3. Why? I couldn't deal with the drama. Every step they take, they are always 10 steps behind "A". Every win turns into a major setback. And while that keeps the show going, it was a bit too much for me. It's not that its that unlike other shows I've enjoyed in that, or other, areas. It is just that the characters and plot twists made it less enjoyable to me. It's just my personal preference. I did not want to spent my time on this particular show and all its seasons. That being said, I really like some characters, among which Aria and Caleb.

Next up, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I mentioned that I was going to watch this in a previous update. And I gave it a chance, I watched the first four episodes. I was really excited about it due to the cast, and my experience with the film years ago (which I loved). But boy, this show was really boring and cringe-worthy if you ask me. I really hoped Patrick Harris would be able to pull it off, but it's just annoying, which might explain why we haven't heard anything about a second season. It was just really tough to sit through, so I decided to stop wasting my time on it.


Which brings me to Revenge. I don't remember if I wrote about this show before, but in the beginning I was a faithful watcher. I even, at one point, got Fabian to watch it with me. But the problem I faced with Pretty Little Liars was also an issue I had with Revenge. It just went on and on, the same issue never finding a conclusion. For example, with Riverdale, they deal with a murder in the first season and move on to other issues in the second season. In Revenge, we have the same issue until the very end of he show. A daughter seeking vengeance, as her father was framed and murdered. My issue is that it goes on for four seasons and there aren't an awful lot of 'wins' or resolutions. In the end, I just read the wiki page for the summary of the last season because I couldn't be bothered to watch it all. And I'm happy that I didn't waste more time on it than I already did. That's not to say that the plot wasn't promising and cool in the first season or so, it just dragged on for longer than I could stomach.


Scream Queens is one of those shows that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's meant to be comedic, and over the top, which it certainly is. It reminded me a lot of the Scream movies (which was kinda the idea I think). I enjoyed the first season, it wasn't my favourite, but it was enjoyable. The premise was interesting in the first season, but I think I would have liked it more if it hadn't been as comedic as it was. I liked the drama of it, just not the extreme exaggeration of it. I expected a bit more with the cast, as it features a few well-known actors. So it was a tat disappointing when it didn't go where I hoped it would. I finished the first season, because I needed to know (as I said, I liked the plot), but after that I was done with it. I watched the first two episodes of the second season and left it at that. It was just a tat too much.


Next up is American Horror Story. While I enjoyed the first season (Murder House), I heard the second season wasn't as good. But that's not the reason I didn't watch it. I watched the first episode of Asylum, but it is just a tat too freaky for me. I moved on to the third season, Coven, which I also have some difficulty with, for different reasons. I haven't quite given up on it yet, but I think I might have expected a tat too much of this show. I expected more drama, but it also has a slight exaggerated undertone. And while there is nothing wrong with that, it is not what I was expecting or hoping for. I will finish Coven and probably move on to Hotel (because I really want to see Lady Gaga in the role she won a golden globe for), but thus far I'm not impressed. Might also be due to the fact that people kept telling me how great the show is. Maybe I'm just missing what they saw.


For years I was a big fan of The Vampire Diaries. And while I struggled with the last few seasons, I did enjoy and finish it. When they announced they were going to do a spin-off on The Originals, I wasn't too excited. I'm not sure why, as I loved some of the characters. Yet I didn't quite give it a chance when it first came out. I gave it a chance, however, once TVD concluded. But, much like I expected, I wasn't impressed by it. I think that TVD was enough, especially as I struggled with the last few seasons. At some point, you gotta quit while you're ahead. I think TVD waited too long, dragged on for too long. I didn't feel the need to continue watching The Originals, regardless of the characters.

Now, The Office is a special case. I haven't really met anyone who didn't like the office (other than Fabian, but we watched it together so that doesn't really count). Which caused me to be very hopeful, and I might have had high expectations because of it. Nevertheless, we did not enjoy it. I don't know if it's just not my kind of humour, but I just couldn't get into it. We got bored watching the episodes, waiting for it to have impact, waiting for some kind of spark. But that didn't happen. So we ended up deciding to give up. We much rather watch something else. I was really sad about it at first because of my high expectations, but sometimes things just aren't for me. And this was one of those situations. We gave it a good go, but it just didn't click. Ah well. That's it for today!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Riverdale Review: Season 1

So, what have I been up to the last 24 hours? I might have binged the first season of Riverdale ... I'd apologise, but then I'd be lying as I'm not really sorry. I've been toying with the idea of watching the show for a while, but the trailer kinda made me hesitant to give it a shot. It reminded me too much of Scream Queens, Pretty Little Liars or The Vampire Diaries, and though I loved The Vampire Diaries (and the first season of Scream Queens), I wasn't really interested in more high school drama, where people fight 24/7 and they never catch a break. Too much drama, unrealistic drama. At this point in my life, I'm more interested in shows that might somewhat show humanity. Something that's real. I know what you're thinking: isn't Young Adult your fav book genre? And while that may be true, that does not take away from the real connections I'm looking for. Especially as I usually prefer YA fantasy novels, in which High School doesn't necessarily exist. I just do not connect with the gossiping, manipulation, mind-games, and the like in teenagers in High School. That's not humanity. Just a head's up, this post might contain minor spoilers.


Now. Riverdale is not that, but it's not exactly what I expected either. The drama is intense, honestly. BUT it's not high school drama like I thought it would be. It is however, very typically, the teens who take responsibility. And the parents who are crazy, dishonest, weird. All that. It's very typical in that sense, rebelling against the figures of authority, against the system. That's what it feels like.When parents don't act like parents. But it's not as annoying as it was in Scream Queens, or Pretty Little Liars (both of which I never finished because I couldn't be bothered, got annoyed by the characters always bitching each other like they've made mistakes themselves). I like the dynamic between the characters (and actors). Maybe also because the group of friends, Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica, stick together. There's not an awful lot of drama between them. And I like that. Because you've got to stick together.

Similarly, unlike other YA shows I've watched before, the mystery isn't as dramatic. Evidence doesn't mysteriously go missing (like it sometimes does in other shows). Some times things turn out ok, and it that sense it's more realistic, but it also makes me more inclined to continue watching. Because drama on drama on drama, gets boring when it's too staged. In this case, a popular kid in high school goes missing and it eventually turns out he was killed. It's a big mystery and the show tries to push you in different directions by providing the audience with information the characters aren't necessarily aware off. But what I always hated about other shows is how people don't talk to each other, especially those close to each other, and how that creates friction between them. Or creates a problematic environment because they all have pieces to the puzzle, but no one has access to the whole picture because they don't talk (like in Stranger Things). The teens are a lot more mature and don't necessarily expect to be included in everything. There's forgiveness for mistakes. The same cannot be said about the feud between the different parents or between kids and their parents. But it's a start.

I've been told it's based on comics I've never read or even heard of, but that's its really different. They didn't necessarily adapt the plot, just the characters and their relationships. Which is another thing I can appreciate. Creating their own story rather than trying to transform plot to TV. I'm not going to tell you that it's worth watching, because it's just one of those shows. It's not that special. I just really enjoy the relationships between characters, the kindness and the loyalty. Something that other popular shows often lack. That's what relates to me. Particularly the character of Jughead. The underdog, but then that's kinda my type. Not to mention he's the writer, and well, that's just really sexy. I just hope he doesn't make any stupid choices in season two ... but I'm sure he will. End of my rant, on to season two. Cheers.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Liselotte in Norwich

Dear Reader,
Another joyous update on my life in Norwich. Unfortunately, I'll have to start it off with a bit of bad news. The strike still hasn't stopped, which means I won't have classes again until after Easter break. In other words, I hope to have classes again in the week of April 16th. Yes, I realise that's in about a month, and by that time I'll only have attended one class in 8 weeks. It sucks, to say the least. But I'm keeping myself busy. I'm just reading books (I've already read 35 books in 2018, so far), working on the assignments that are due in May, meeting with classmates to discuss our assignments, and most of all just chilling with my housemates and going to Disney Society meetings.

On a happier note: Liselotte came to visit me in Norwich! We had a lot of fun, even if the weekend didn't quite go as we had planned or anticipated. She arrived here on Friday afternoon and we immediately started off by walking through town (as you have to walk through town to get from the station to my house). We had lunch in a café I've been excited to visit since I got here, called Bistro Britannia, which is located in the centre of town, next to the market. A beautiful spot. But that's not the reason I wanted to go to this particular cafe. As mentioned on the website, the cafe "is staffed by category D low risk prisoners, most of whom have limited catering experience but have volunteered to learn new skills, improve their lives and make a fresh start." To be honest, you would never know from walking into the cafe and having coffee or lunch there. It's absolutely lovely.

In the evening we made brownies, because why not, and food. After which we just chilled in the kitchen until some people came over to have a chill night in. But when I say chill night in, I mean that originally some of us were going clubbing, but they ended up just coming to our house and having drinks there. Like most of the time, we started with beer pong, but it eventually progressed to other games. It was a lot of fun, especially because Lies really started to connect with my friends here as well, especially during beer pong (though Niall might disagree hehe). It was nice to be able to share this experience with her. It was a lot of fun. I'm not entirely sure when we decided to go to bed, but it was pretty late.


On Saturday we explored the city some more, she already saw some things the day before, but we took more time on Saturday to explore. We had a much needed brunch in a typical English pub (one I hadn't been to before either) near the market, went into some thrift stores, and what not. I ended up with candles and Lush products (as often happens when I walk passed a Lush store, for which I completely blame Lea). We watched two guys put on a show in front of the Primark, they got a lot of attention and it was pretty interesting. With a drum set, a few buckets and some background music. It was an act that took quite a while. In the end two young boys decided to interact with the performers by dancing to their music.


In the evening, as promised, we made typical Dutch pancakes for my friends here (or at least a few of them). This was also absolutely lovely, mainly because watching Lies as she was busy with, very smoothly, making pancakes, reminded me of home, and Easter (this might not make sense, but I promise it's a lovely memory). Fabian brought over Dutch cheese last time he visited because the cheese here isn't ... well, let's just say it makes me appreciate the variety of cheese we have back home. So we made pancakes witch cheese, bacon, and just natural ones with sugar and syrup (though these weren't Dutch). And they loved it! We sat around the table with six people just eating and appreciating Dutch pancakes for different reasons. 

Afterwards we went to a place called Funkys, for disco roller-skating. It was quite obvious from the start that Lies was excellent, while the rest of us were struggling a bit. However, we all fell so I guess that makes it better. We had a lot of fun, especially because they make it interesting at the rink. There was racing, games, changing direction (yes backwards as well), and a lot of other things. We might go again some time on a 18+ night, because it is quite demotivating and depressing to see 4 year old skate like it's a second nature while you're struggling to stay upright. Who knows.


Sunday was mostly just chilling for us. We initially planned to go to another town near the beach but we decided against it as we both needed to get in some work for uni, and because it would take us about 1,5 to get there. We did, however, go out for breakfast to a cute little waffle place. It's quite popular as it always has a queue that often even starts outside. In the evening, we joined Heather, Niall (roommates), Conor and Arielle for a pub quiz in the SU bar (on campus). This was the first time I attended, but it was also the first time I ever went into the bar on campus. It's gigantic. Some parts of the quiz were a tat uninteresting, as I'm not that schooled in Irish towns, names of famous ships, Religious Easter celebrations, and stuff. But, that was all forgotten once we got to the last round: the Musical round. Boy, were we excited (or, most of us). Singing along and what not. All in all, it was a lovely weekend. It was really nice to see Liselotte again, spend time together, show her around, spend time with my friends. And it was especially lovely because they seemed to like each other (Lies and the people here). It was weird to say goodbye, but I'll see her again soon!

Until next time 
Love,
Alyssa

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Cruel Prince Review

For the past year, I've often bought a monthly book box, called Fairyloot, filled with book related goodies and a newly released novel. The items are secret and often have an overlapping theme, such as Twisted Tales (last month's theme). I've come to really appreciate this monthly surprise, not only because it supplies me with new novels I wouldn't necessarily hear about otherwise, but also because they often include gorgeous art work surrounding some of my favourite stories (such as A Court of Thorns and Roses, Harry Potter, The Mortal Instruments, Fairy Tales, and other fantasy novels. I was gifted The Cruel Prince in January's book box, which theme was "Talk Faerie To Me", written by Holly Black. Usually it takes me a while to get around to reading the books, simply because there's a lot I have to read for uni; however, Holly Black is coming to Waterstones in Norwich, so I decided to read the novel so I could attend the reading. Here's the synopsis (just because I'm hesitant to summarising it myself for fear of spoiling things). 
Illustration byMerwild. Photo by myself.
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

I have to say that the synopsis (as provided on the cover as well as on Goodreads) is quite deceiving. The way it's presented it seems as if the whole novel surrounds Jude and her deception of Cardan, but really that's not even close to the truth. It's also deceiving in the sense that this synopsis gave me the impression that Jude might be the eldest and her two sister her junior. This is not the case. Instead Jude has a twin, Taryn, and a sister who is two years their senior, Vivi or Vivienne, who is part fey, part human. I expected Vivi to be the main focus of the tale as she is the reason they are taken to the land of the fey, but this is not the case. I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I was engaged from the first page, as it starts so brutally, but mainly due to the choice of protagonist and narrator. 

Some elements of the tale were quite predictable, while others were completely unexpected (though, I do have to say, I should have known better by now). I am not entirely sure if I particularly like or trust any of the characters (not even Jude), but that they are relatable in their situations. I feel like Holly Black tried to make a strong case for the fact that fey (and by extension those who wish to be like or among them) often engage in inhuman activities. I finished the novel within a day as I quite enjoyed reading it and didn't feel the need to stop reading. It's engaging and the writing style kept me on the edge of my seat. But I really enjoy YA novels, strong willed female characters, and (lets be honest) attractive Fae, or fey in this case. However, these are not the kind of Fae I'm used to. The ones I've come to adore in Sarah J Maas' world are good and kind (or at least, most of them). These more closely resemble Cassandra Clare's faeries, which partially explains the dedication of The Cruel Prince (as it is dedicated to Clare). 

Some elements were very predictable, while others were unexpected (though I should have known better). Nevertheless, I finished the novel within a day and I quite enjoyed doing so. It's engaging, and the writing style kept me on the edge of my seat. But then I really enjoy YA novels, strong female characters, and Fae, though these aren't the good kind of Fae like Sarah J Maas' her characters, no they are rather like Clare's faeries (which partially explains the dedication of the book).