Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I have just recently finished reading The Lord of the Flies with some friends. A group of about 8 us met up fortnightly to discuss a chapter, or two, of what we had read the week before. Many times I found myself sorely tempted to read ahead, so involved did I become with the plot, and intrigued with how the author showed the merciless destruction of civilisation.

This book may seem like a dark and depressing novel, and in many ways it definitely is. In fact it is deeply disturbing on many levels, but if you look past that, and instead focus on the many examples of symbolism placed throughout this book, you will find it far more interesting. Something that struck me when talking about Lord of The Flies with my friends was their different opinions on whether they would, or wouldn't, advise people to read it. One girl put it very well saying, 'who I would suggest it to would very much depend on whether they would 'get' it or not.' Basically, to really get full worth out of this book you need to see past the story, and focus instead on the underlying meanings- the whole plot is an image of how the author sees the world.

If you are at all skeptical of reading this book, maybe you could try reading it with friends and doing discussion questions. I know that it really helped me engage when I could talk about it with friends. In fact it was very interesting to see how we each thought it related to us, and how easy we could relate ourselves to the characters. In some ways I think that is the scariest thing. Without laws and 'civilisation' would we become like Jack, and Ralph, and Piggy, and Simon? Would we fall into that level of savagery? This book isn't about enjoying it, it's about acknowledging that we are all plagued by the Lord of the Flies, the beast who lives within.

Horrible Histories- Bristol Hippodrome

I grew up reading and watching Horrible Histories. In fact, all of my friends did, and it was almost constantly a topic of conversation, 'have you read this or that book yet,' 'which is your favorite?' etc. etc. It came to the point that a lot of my friends knew the theme tune to the CBBC show, although I never quite got to that point. Anyway, today all of these old memories were brought back, when I went to watch Horrible Histories at the Hippodrome in Bristol.

From the start the atmosphere was amazing. The whole theatre was packed, and with one of the liveliest audiences I think I've ever seen- possibly partly because they were all under the age of 13. As the lights dimed and the show began everyone went silent, ready for the cast to appear, from the get go they owned the stage.

The whole performance was done in a pantomime style, with the audience encouraged to join in singing along and a few members even invited up onto the stage. During the interval I had a brief conversation with two boys who were sat in front of me, asking them if they were enjoying the performance. Both said yes very adamantly, describing aspects of it as 'scary' and others as 'hilarious.' The second half was particularly entertaining, when we were all given 3D glasses so that we could confront the minatour, more realistically.

The cast was amazing, engaging and talented. All the Hippodrome staff were wonderful and helpful. I would definitely encourage others to go, especially if you are aged 7- 13, enjoy history and love pantomime, This is a perfect mix of facts and fiction, entertainment and education.

Friday, 20 May 2016

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

What an enlightening book.  Often drawn to fiction rather than biography, a delayed flight at Edinburgh airport lead me to pick up this novel rather than the others on the shelf.   I had been staying with my godmother and when she dropped me off she kindly offered to buy me a book to read whilst I waited for my plane back to Bristol.  

I am not sure why this book stood out among the others, whether it was the fact Malala was the same age as me, or the fact she stood up very vocally for things I too felt strongly about, or the intriguing blurb. Whatever it was, I am so glad I picked this book off the shelf, it is one of the most inspiring things I have ever read. Often it can be hard to see how stuff happening on the other side of the world is relevant, this brings home just how important it really is.

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.  Born in Pakistan in 1997 she was shot by the Taliban for standing up for girls in education.  She now lives in Birmingham.  This book tells her story  aswell as giving us the backdrop to her life in Pakistan and the daily battles and difficulties faced. 

One of the things I love about this book is how down to earth Malala is about her fame and the portrayal of her life. She focuses on things that are part of her normal everyday life, things that were changed by the arrival of the Taliban. She describes her love of her country, the love of her friends and family, and most of all her love of school. In the UK, school is more often complained about, than raved about, we often don't realise the value of something until it is taken away. Malala was willing to fight for what is valuable - education for all.

This is a difficult book to blog about accurately - I am aware that its contents aren't trivial, but real issues, of great sensitivity.  These are real situations that many are facing across the globe, girls and boys alike, and they should not be taken lightly, so my advice is to read this book for yourself.

Thank you Aunty Katherine for a great weekend and a wonderful book to take away with me.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Sword that Saves by Ambrose Merrell

''There is no greater courage a man can have than to show his vulnerability. All men are vulnerable. All women are vulnerable. It's crazy that some men pretend they aren't and bottle it all up. It's not strong or manly, it's stupid. Strong is revealing the vulnerability. Strong is saying, 'I have these vulnerabilities and still I embrace life with all my being.''

The Sword that Saves is a gripping novel that has many compelling twists and turns. Every page holds a new question, followed by half an answer that leads you to another question. Everytime you think you've figured something out everything changes. 

There are so many great characters and settings woven throughout the story that is almost impossible to put down. When I pick it up I can feel myself sucked into modern day Vancouver, before being flung back into 16th century Japan. The time changes are displayed through language and setting in a way that makes it clear at every moment where you are in the story and yet there are secrets still hidden about how and why this time travel is possible.

When I first thought about writing this entry I asked myself the question, 'why should people read this book?' In the end I came up with a list of reasons that you should give this book a go, since the initial list was too long here are my 3 top;

The writing style- Every writer has their own writing style and Ambrose Merrell is no different. His style captures the essence of adventure, with its speed but also manages to keep a steady underlying pace so that you never feel rushed. Some authors may have similar, or even on first glance, identical writing styles as others but they are each unique. This can be through their humour, characters, what they deem important, how they express thoughts, attitudes, changes of scene. All of what builds up the book and makes it what it is. Sometimes you can get books with wonderful plot ideas but a terrible writing style, either because the author isn't very good at writing, or they have not discovered the style that best suits them yet and keep trying to write like everyone else. Ambrose Merrell however manages from the start, to create his own engaging way of telling this great tale.

The Plot- The Sword that Saves has a very interesting plot that provides both things that relate to modern day. and the history of ancient Japan. Personally Japan is a country that I have never had the opportunity to read or study about much. The Sword that Saves brings the ancient customs of the country alive providing a new interest in things of the past.

The Characters- I can't say that I have a favourite character at the moment but there is definitely an aspect of each character that I like best. I love Sam's bravery and trust in people, even when he first meets his Sensei he is willing to follow him, even when it may seem strange. I love Zoe's unwavering faith in her brother and Sophie's ability to see people as they truly are. I love that Grace, provides Sam with some of the greatest advice, and I love that no matter what each of these characters overcomes their own struggles.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


A few days ago I was talking to one of my friends, Eleanor. She asked me what I was doing of the weekend and so I listed off the things I would be doing; my little sister’s birthday, helping out at Kids@Ken (my church’s kids group), going to my grandparents, and flying in a Chinook. Of course it was the last activity on the list that particularly caught my friend’s attention.

I am not really sure how best to put my experience into words, there are some things that can not accurately be described, but I’ll give it my best shot.

The morning started with an early rise and a hectic packing of bags, being me I hadn’t packed yet and still needed to fill in forms etc. At around 6.50am I was in my uniform, hair done, shoes polished and hoping my uniform didn’t crease too much, and that I’d got everything I needed. On arrival at the coach stop no one from my squadron was there. Thoughts along the lines of, ‘I got the wrong place,' 'wrong time,' 'wrong date'. But, no need to panic. I was on time, everyone else was late. Despite the earlier setback we somehow managed to arrive at the RAF station early. Don’t ask how that’s possible, it just happened.

Arrival, people everywhere. Fire engine, police dogs, gliders and finally the Chinook. Safety brief, brace position.  Lined up, helmets, goldfish bowls trying to speak but can’t hear anyone. Thought I was going to be blown away as I walked to the back of the Chinook. Sitting down, seat-belts. Windows, tipping side to side, open back, trying to speak, forgetting that I can’t actually hear. Landing, getting  off and then just letting it all sink in as I fall asleep on the coach- with my mouth open! 

Friday, 13 May 2016

Moscow Symphony Orchestra

This was by far the best classical concert that I have seen so far in Colston Hall. The music seemed to both lift and dull my spirits by turns and many times I found myself closing my eyes so I could just focus on the music. I'm not going to lie and say there weren't any times I found myself searching for a clock, but there was something beautiful about learning to sit through the music even when I really wanted to follow my youngest sister's example and start fidgeting in my seat. Expanding and challenging what I enjoy and experience is something that can, in-itself be very rewarding. Not only did I get to experience the world renowned Moscow Symphony Orchestra but also to widen my own taste in music.

One of the most amusing parts of the concert was that there were three encores. Yes, three. After the second half finished everyone clapped, so the conductor came back on, bowed and left again. Then everyone clapped louder, so the conductor came back, bowed and played another piece. He then bowed, left, everyone clapped and he came back. Then, he left, everyone clapped, he came back, he played a piece and left again. THEN... Anyway it took a long time and I was laughing a lot by the end, along with most of the audience, excluding my two sister who were desperate for it to be over!