Saturday, 30 March 2013

Review: 'Now is Good' by Jenny Downham

I bought this book for my friend for Christmas after my mum and sister saw the film and came back waxing lyrical about how amazing it was. My friend read it and said it left her with such an awestruck feeling that I had to read it, so she lent it to me. I begun this book on the 26th of March, and I finished it by the next morning (I pretty much read it in two sittings, the first third of the book in one day, and the final two thirds the next morning), if that gives you any idea of how fantastic it was.

This book was originally titled 'Before I Die', so I think that might give you some indication into the overall feel of this novel. It is a sad book, and there is no escaping that fact. If I was to compare it to another book, I'd describe it as a darker, and perhaps more serious (certainly less funny), version of John Green's 'The Fault in our Stars'. 

The novel is from the point of view of Tessa, a 16 year old girl who is in the latter stages of terminal leukemia when she decides to compile and complete a bucket list of 10 things she wants to do before she dies. We follow her as she attempts to fulfil all the things on her list, with the help of her best friend Zoey.

At first, I really did not like any of the characters at all - expect maybe her father who appeared to be trying his hardest to make Tessa feel as happy and as comfortable as he could. However, as the novel progressed I felt a huge fondness for Tessa (I did shed a tear at the end) and even began to like her friend Zoey (whom I hated at the start). The turn around character in this book is Adam, and there is literally no point in the novel when I wasn't on his side. Like I said, all of the characters warm on you so if you do pick this up and are reading it thinking that you hate them all - do stick with it. You will be rewarded for it by the end.

The stand out aspect of this novel was the language. Nothing Tessa said appeared contrived, which is extremely difficult to do in a cancer book. the descriptive sentences were plentiful and stunning - my favourite is when Tessa is watching the sunlight hit her body, and she describes it as congealing at her feet. I think that is simply sublime use of language.

Equally, Downham's ability to drop in and out of scenes is perfect - you get just the right sense of how much time has past and the events that fill in the gaps. This is especially well done in the final couple of chapters of the novel. 

I highly recommend this book.

Hopefully I'll get round to doing a book to film review, as I really want to see the film - now more than ever.

I give 'Now is Good' 4 sunbeams (too self indulgent as a rating system?)

Best Wishes!


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Left Wing Comedy and the BBC

The other night I was listening to BBC Radio 4's comedy Podcast Friday Night Comedy, specifically The Now Show (because I am a middle aged man, apparently). For those of you who don't know Friday Night Comedy is a weekly podcast which alternates between series' of The Now Show (hosted primarily by Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt but frequently featuring Jon Holmes (whom I will be addressing in a moment), Mitch Benn, and a whole host of other comics),  and The News Quiz (hosted by Sandi Toksvig and frequently featuring Susan Calman, Jeremy Hardy (again, more on him later), Andy Hamiliton etc etc the list goes on). Both shows are satires of the weeks news, one in the form of a quiz, the other in a series of segments (stand up, song, sketches etc).

Last week, in Jon Holmes' section, he addressed complaint which many people have with the BBC - it is too left wing. Now, this is problematic for the BBC who are meant to be a non-biased broadcasting institution. Having an partisan take on social, political and economic news stories is very much not in their job description. However, in my opinion for the most part I believe that the BBC does this very well, and in its serious news style programmes (ie, BBC Breakfast, various news programmes, and The One Show) it walks the line between entertainment and reporting very carefully. The Friday Night Comedy shows are not serious news broadcasting shows. Their sole objective is to entertain through mockery and satire. Firstly, I think many of these complaints have arisen because there is a Conservative (right wing) political party in government at the moment, so therefore there is a lot of anti-conservative jokes appearing on these shows. However, when Labour (traditionally left wing) were in government, an equal number of anti-Labour jokes were made. Therefore, I believe it is less about the BBC's political stance, and more about the requirements needed for the show.

However, I think it goes even deeper than this. In the criticism, it was especially picked up that Jeremy Hardy is a very regularly featured comic. He is also rather left wing (as Jon Holmes put it he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, in particular his left sleeve) and isn't afraid to voice his (very funny in my opinion) views. When I actually sat down to think about it I couldn't really think of any out and out right wing comics who I found funny. This got me asking a question: are the BBC putting on left wing comics because their perpetuating a political stance, or because they are trying to provide the best entertainment? Personally I think it's the later.

Comedy works at its best when you are mocking the system that we live in, when you are picking out something from society and saying 'look, this is wrong, it's funny, but we should also probably change it'. Right wing comics never portray that message. In right wing comedy all you tend to get is mockery of left wing 'utopian' ideas: unattainable dreams that can never be realised. What are these 'unattainable dreams'? Well, they tend to be the desire for equality in society, not only in a monetary sense between rich and poor, but also between men and women, black and white, lgbtq, the list goes on. Left wing comedy mocks the people in power, right wing comedy mocks the victim. I don't know about you, but I don't think that mocking the people who are worse off in society is a very funny thing to do.

Let me know if you know any right wing comics who don't do this, if there are even any right wing comics at all (I'm seriously struggling to think of any, other than Jeremy Clarkson). Tell me if you agree with me, or if you have the same issues in your country.

Oh, and give Friday Night Comedy a listen. It's really rather good.

Best Wishes!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

They See Me Haulin', They Hatin'...

Why hello there!

So it was my bonny old birthday yesterday, so I thought I'd share with you what I got!


Dictionary of Literary Terms
 and Literary Theory (Penguin, 4th ed.)
ISBN: 9780140513639
Andrew Heywood, Political Ideologies:
An Introduction (Palgrave Macmillan, 5th ed.)
Both of these books look like they're going to be really useful for my course. Right from the beginning every single lecturer I've had has told me to get my hands on a good literary dictionary, so I asked for one for my birthday. For those of you who don't know what a literary dictionary is, it is basically a cross between and dictionary and a reference book, which allows it to give really in depth definitions of literary ideas (for example, the definition for novel is 40 pages long - going into its etymology and its history), so it should be very helpful for my course. I used the 4th edition of Andy Heywood's political ideologies in the second year of A level politics, and from what I can tell, the only difference between this edition and the 4th is this version has colour (well, blue rather than grey) and occasionally pictures of particularly influential people. (If you are interested in getting a copy, I recommend either the 4th or 5th edition, the 3rd doesn't have word definition boxes, which are incredibly helpful). My course has involved a lot of politics - or rather the need for a broad view of political moments in history, which this book covers within it's overview of ideology. It's very well written, clear and easy to understand.

Zara Ethnic Print Shirt (Medium)
Sorry the picture is on the side, I uploaded it vertically, but it doesn't appear to have worked... Anyway, the shirt is very light weight, almost to the point of being see through. It's in a soft cotton, and has a long torso (it covers my butt). I had to get the medium because I find Zara clothing fits tight on my shoulders and the sleeves tend to be half an inch too short. Really looking forward to some warmer weather so I can frolic in it, as it would look cute tucked into jeans or loose over shorts. Bring on summer!!


My friends got me this 'Cake Pop' tray and recipe book! It looks adorable and I can't wait to get baking!


They also got me this tea-bag tin filled with tea! All the tea is herbal (i think) but they haven't told me what's what. It smells divine though! A gorgeous mix of ginger and peppermint and yum yum yum! It almost smells like Yogi Yogi Chai (a tea I had in a cute little tea shop called Chai Ovna in Glasgow's West End), which was the most delicious tea ever, and once I've finished working my way through these, I think I'll probably invest in some and put tat in there instead!


I'm very much looking forward to wearing these banging earrings! As you can see they were from New Look. I'd write more, but I really moustache... Hahahaha... must dash, moustache, geddit?!?


Love the animal prints on these hair clips! Hopefully they'll look really sweet with my Pocahontas style summer dress!


Rimmel Vinyl Gloss in Crystal Clear, Avon Super Shock Mascara in Black,
 Avon  SpotLight Moitsure Shimmer Gel, Avon Nailwear Pro in  Golden Dream
 and Avon Super Shock Eyeshadow Crayon in Icicle and Surf.
Can you tell one of my mates in an Avon rep? I can never afford to buy Avon make up, so I'm super chuffed she thought to get me some! I love it! I can't wait to try out the Rimmel gloss either, I'll be so shimmery if I wear all these together! Hopefully I'll review them once I've given them all a whirl!

FCUK Little Indulgent Box containing body spray, body wash,
body polish and body cream, as well as a body polisher,
 all scented with their 'signature' scent.
My Mum's best friend never forgets my birthday and always gets me lovely gifts - this year was no exception! I am super excited to try out all this stuff - especial the body polish! I'm wearing the body spray at the moment (I think I'll wear it as a perfume rather than a spray) and it smells so floral and fresh - it's lovely. Again, I'll hopefully have a review up in the near future...


Last but not least, EBO! My wonderful sister got me this card game and I cannot wait to play it! The premise of the game is that you are a Time Nanny and you got and kidnap babies who turn out to be evil when they grow up (ie, Hitler), but because they're evil babies, its not quiet as simple as you might think. There's a play through on Team Hypercube's YouTube channel ( that should be very helpful, so I'm going to give that a watch in a bit.

That's all folks! I had a wonderful Birthday, and hope your days were just as merry and love filled as mine!


Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Come Back Blog... Maybe....

Hello Munchkins! Sorry I haven't been around a lot  at all recently, but I've had a crazy amount of reading, essaying, module-choosing and general life stuff going on. So this will either be a very long post filling y'all in or a very short post that says ahhh so busy!

1) Reading. I've started doing a lot more reading outside my course, which is something I've been missing over the past 6 months or so. Every single book I picked up that wasn't on my course I'd end up feeling really guilty about and never completing, and although I enjoy most of my course books you get a totally different feeling when you read a book you want to read, rather than something you have to read. This left me in a bit of a reading rut, if you will, where I wasn't really enjoying reading at all because it felt like a task. I've never felt that way about reading before, and it made me a bit worried to say the least, especially considering my choice of degree. However, when the year started I set myself a goal on, so I'm trying to read 40 books this year. So far I'm on 10, including books for my course and (most importantly) a couple of other books I've picked up along the way, which I will be posting a review of shortly.

2) Essays. So I've had a couple of essays in since I last wrote, and have also got a mark back for one of them. I got a First!! I'm so ridiculously happy it's a little bit unreal. The only problem now is that now I know I can do it, I'm going to get really hard on myself if I don't carry on getting firsts. Which is a bit silly, as a 2.1 in your first year is frickin' good! But yay! Party time!!

3) Module Choosing. This was STRESSFUL. The actual selecting of the modules was easy enough, but the reserve choices freaked me out a bit. I really want my first choices, so I'm a tad nervous if I don't get them. Ah well, I'm sure I can sort things out at a later date if things don't turn out how I'd like them to be...
For my first choice I've picked: 18th Century, Poetry Writing, Prose Writing, Shakespeare, Three Women Writers, and Contemporary fiction. So this should be good!!

4) General Life Stuff. So, my grandmas haven't been all that well recently, and although its probably nothing to worry about, it's been stressing my folks out a bit, which in turn stresses me out. I guess that's actually the bulk of the life stuff, but it feels like a lot more. Oh, and I'm trying to book a holiday to France and nobody is communicating with me and that's unnecessarily stressful too.
In good news, I'm the new Secretary of the Creative Writing Society! Yay! i am very honoured to have be awarded the role... despite the fact it was only me in the running!

Anyway, so, new plan. I really need to write more, and here is an outlet I really should sue more often. So, here's what I'm thinking: new post, 3 times a week. Either on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Monday, Wednesday, Friday - we'll see how it goes, eh? Also, posts on a variety of things. Sometimes beauty, sometimes book, sometimes general life and sometimes a piece of creative writing. Sound like a plan? Goodo. It's in writing now...

Best Wishes!