The Wonders of WordPress

Today Ed and I went to an art and poetry exhibition in my home-town. I’m not usually into poetry, I’m personally more into novels, but this exhibition was one of the few exceptions,as the entire thing was based around Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a collection of stories and poems during the reign of Augustus and it talks about the creation of the Earth and other stories of change and transformation such as Apollo and Daphne, the tale of Hecuba (the Trojan woman who turned into a dog) and much more. I haven’t read the entirety of the work, but I do know the stories through research, so Ed and I chose to check it out.

We were originally planning on making it in time for the poetry reading at two o’ clock in the afternoon but we didn’t make it because we were hungry. It wasn’t too big of a deal though as we could just read the poetry ourselves. We turned up, perhaps around three o’ clock and we were welcomed by a very small exhibition space that comprised of perhaps eight square shaped stands that you could walk around. The panels of the squares each contained one painting and two or three poems (depending on how long they were) based off of stories in Metamorphoses, in chronological order. The first poem I read was on the ‘Age’ system as it talked of the Golden Age and the demise of humanity through to the Iron Age. There was also the stories of Narcissus and Echo, one of my favourite myths, about a girl cursed to repeat the words of whoever spoke and the man who was cursed to fall in love with himself and die, gazing at his reflection, at the bank of a pond where he would wither away and turn into a daffodil. There was poems based on Pyrasmus and Thisbe (the tale said to inspire Romeo and Juliet about forbidden lovers). In the story Pyrasmus and Thisbe are planning to meet but Thisbe is chased away by a mountain Lion. Pyrasmus, thinking she is dead kills himself, but Thisbe is not, and in discovering his stabbed body takes her lovers sword and plunges it into her own heart. There were also poems on the old couple who died together and turned into trees. They were beautiful poems, I have to say, and all of them were well written. My favourite being the one of the old couple as it was a dialogue between the two.

More people were turning up and looking around and we gathered together in the centre where the curator told us that people from my high school had came the day before to see and asked if we were in school. Incidentally all of us were from the same school. One of us was in GCSE studying Classics, Ed is at A-Level studying Classics, and I have left school and am studying Archaeology and Ancient History at university, there were others but the curator was asking us younger generation as her aim was to make works of literature such as ancient works and myths, accessible to younger people and we were her demographic of people that she was aiming to please. Thus it spurred on an impromptu poetry reading by the curator and her mother who read the poems and talked about the art with such passion and enthusiasm for the creativity and the stories and what they all mean, it was lovely.

From thereon I read more poems based on the myth of Medea and Jason, of whom I had seen Euripides play just the week before as a live stream at the local cinema. I read poems on the Trojan War and the damage it caused, the tale of Hecuba. There were poems based on Orpheus, who went into the underworld in an attempt to save his dead wife from the underworld, and there was a hilarious poem about Actaeon who found Diana and her nymphs in the woods as he hunted one day, was caught, and was turned into a stag by the goddess and torn to pieces by his own dogs. The exhibition achieved it’s goal, to say at the least, with excellency and really, it deserved more recognition than it had. It was magnificent.

The woman, after the reading and before we all left, talked to us about how the exhibition was made and how it came to be. She declared, proudly, that it was all done via Twitter and WordPress! I was amazed at the accomplishment that one woman had managed to gather writers and artists from all corners of the World, from Brighton in the United Kingdom, to California in the United States to France and to India and more. It was nothing short of a wonder. I believe you can find them at artipeeps.wordpress.com because they are, at some point, planning an exhibition on Norse myths and obviously would like people to get involved.  Sometimes I forget that the internet can be more powerful than kitten photographs and Facebook statuses and this exhibition was, not only superb, but an amazing example of what we can do simply via a blog. It was inspiring.

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What I’m Reading | Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I’m going to start simply by saying this:

YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! *deep breaths*

Beautiful Ruins according to Nick Hornby is “a novel unlike any other you’re likely to read this year.” the New York Times says it is a “monument to crazy love” and the Times calls it “an ambitious, large-hearted, exhilarating novel” and they are right. The book itself is about a man who lives in Italy and he falls in love with an American movie actress (with cancer) when she comes to stay at his hotel. Fifty years later he travels to California to find this woman who he lost way back in 1962 and embarks on an epic journey to find his love. 

beautifulruins

I first bought it initially because it is set, sort of, in Italy which is my favourite country and the blurb sounded incredibly sweet, how could I not want to read something so cute!? It’s also about California and actresses which is also what made me drawn. Normally I wouldn’t read something like this (I tend to go for more ‘dark’ stuff) but I had been drawn to it for a while- probably partly because the cover was all bright colours- and I gave in.

At first I couldn’t get into it. I admit that, but having came out of reading ‘Divergent’ which is a pretty easy read for someone my age, the writing style seemed a bit difficult and slow. Since I normally like to devour books I took the slow pace as a sign of it being bad and left it on my bookshelf unread from page 21 for three or four months and I picked it up again last week when, looking through my books, I realised I had not finished a few and this was one so I resumed reading. 

Once you come at it having taken a break from reading the style of the book is actually magnificent, if anything the slow pace helps you to contemplate everything that the book throws at you and therefore makes every word feel significant. And every word is significant. If there’s one thing I like it is when a novel uses words eloquently to create a story, where no word out of thousands is wasted and it is definitely a feel I get with Beautiful Ruins. 

The chapters are also well set out following the ‘points of view’ (though not in first person- thank god) of multiple people. It starts in Italy, 1962 and then jumps to California in a time simply known as ‘recently’ to 2008, and so forth, as the story unravels not only in the ‘present’ day Los Angeles but also in the past, in Italy and America, and it tells the story of how Pasquale fell in love with a woman, and how he found her. Every time a new character is introduced the next chapter is about them, it tells their part of the story. Though I’m not going to give examples because I want you to find it out for yourself. 

I love it. Beautiful Ruins is, I have to say, Beautiful. I’m only a little over a half way, if not more, and although I’m still reading it and do not know what is going to happen yet I could not recommend it enough. This book feels like it matters. I root for the protagonist- which is rare- I adore all the characters and how they all unwittingly held a significance. It’s a book that is uplifting and devastating at the same time, a tribute to love and cinema and so much more. If there’s one book you read this year it has to be this one. 

Digging Into the Past

A few hours ago Ed came back from his archaeological dig. It was only in Sedgeford, a measly fifteen minutes away by car but I was still not able to see him for a week, which felt weird, considering I was still staying in his house, with his family.

Sedgeford offers a ‘BERT’ course for archaeological beginners to gain the Basic Excavation and Recording Techniques, for a week, which is what Ed was doing there this week, but of course as part of the programme they also have to do presentations to the public on a Friday. Jem, Pookie and I decided to go and see. I personally was looking forward to seeing Sedgeford as I had dug there two years ago and was eager to see how it had progressed since my being there.

“We’ll leave at three o clock.” Jem said. But really what I learned is that when someone says a time they’ll leave at they really mean fifteen minutes later. The thing that stalled us was that Pookie had left her school bag at school and needed to go back and get it, which added ten minutes to the leaving time already. However. At quarter past three all the schools are done for the day and there’s an abundance of cars picking up kids and taking them places that we got stuck in traffic coming out of town. We decided it must be because the schools are done either for summer, or for the weekend that everyone is going off to the beach (doesn’t help that today was meant to be the hottest day). The traffic was so awful it was at a standstill so we didn’t even get out of town until twenty seven past three, just three minutes before the presentation started.

We were frantically trying to call and text Ed to say we were going to be late and to see if he could stall the presentation a little bit, alas no. The presentation has already started. Luckily, the traffic eased up considerably once we left the town and we were quick enough getting there, even if we were twenty minutes late. But it was fine. We made it JUST in time for the BERTs to speak. Ed was first.

The presentation was great. Though the funny thing is that Ed did just about the same thing I did. He dug a trench that was the shape of a quarter circle on the edge of the trench and found…….

nothing. Just a sliver of bone near the top.

Two years ago I also dug a quarter circle (I’m very sorry, my archaeological lingo is a bit rusty at the minute) on the edge of a trench and found nothing but a shard of bone. The only difference is that Ed didn’t lose his bone.

(On my behalf it was not MY fault I lost it. We were called to lunch just as I found it and I asked what I should do with it to which they told me to leave it on the bucket of a lid next to my trench as they couldn’t get a finds tray at that exact moment, and when I came back from lunch the lid, and the bone, was gone. It was fixed, however, because the supervisors told me to write on the context sheet that it went through to enviro because then there’s a scapegoat)

It’s funny though, that Ed and I are dating, and we have done our digs on the same weeks (or just about) that he is two years younger than me and is doing his dig in the same year of school as me and has ended up digging the exact same hole (sort of) and finding next to nothing. However, none of the other BERTs found anything either, unlike when I dug and the people next to me where uncovering cow skulls and bits of metal working.What was the conclusion about the area the BERTs were digging this year is that a lot of it is just natural features from the glacial period (approx 12,000 years ago) which, even though not as cool as a burial or anything is still exciting. Ed did theorise that, because a lot of the deposited rocks were iron rich thought that perhaps it was actually an iron deposit or somewhere in which iron would be dug up and worked which would explain, partly, why there is a settlement.

However, in the next trench (or context, as we like to call it) they found what looks like a house. There was a hearth with what could be a clay floor, some hook thing that they suspect is a door latch and post-holes. Empirical evidence that there is a house. However the coolest find was a piece of daub from a wattle and daub house which had an imprint of the woven wattle on one side and the hand-print of a seven year old[?] on the other. HOW COOL IS THAT! I can’t say it’s every day that mud used to build a house in the Anglo-Saxon period survives.

Of course, while I was there I wanted to find my hole and go through nostalgia, but I think I may have missed that part of the tour. Of course, just being there and seeing familiar people made me nostalgic over Sedgeford, and I think being there again made me realise exactly how much I miss being there and how much I miss digging, and now I am itching to join one again (if I can wrangle some money out of my family Ed and I were going to try and come back as volunteers some time this summer- *hinting towards mum*).

What’s more, is that Sedgeford are actually publishing a book about the archaeology there, called “Digging Sedgeford – A People’s Archaeology”, which is an editorial on the site, which reflects and input on all who have been associated with it, so you never know, you might be able to see my name somewhere, again, HOW COOL IS THAT! The book si being published on the 15th of August this year and will be available in bookshops as of that same date for £19.95 which really isn’t badly priced for an archaeology book. And you can also order it online. They, I believe, are currently doing a pre-publication offer to those who order before the publication date at just £15, and can be delivered outside of the UK too. I’m very sorry if this promotion has bugged you, but you see, Archaeology is a passion of mine and Sedgeford is a site that will remain dear to me for as long as I live, so I would like to share these things with you.

Afterwards we went home, and bought Ed back with us, who is now very happy to be back in a normal bed and have a good shower in a more private setting, and then we went to the beach for fish and chips and to make ourselves even more muddy, probably making this day perhaps one of the nicest I’ve had in a while.

What I’m Reading | ‘Four’ by Veronica Roth

Earlier in the year I read the Divergent series, following the story of the character Tris Prior on an adventure through a divided Chicago as she comes to terms with what, and who she is. My review on the series was a bit mixed, but I have actually came to the conclusion that I do actually really like the books, which is great (because I’d hate to have wasted my money)! It is for this fact that when I walked into Waterstones, the book shop, yesterday and discovered that Veronica Roth has released a new book I was ecstatic and bought it immediately. 

‘Four’ by Veronica Roth is a ‘prequel’ to the Divergent series, set two years in the past, however is not written in the voice of Tris Prior but in the voice of ‘Four’ or Tobias Eaton, a former Abnegation citizen who, on the date of the choosing ceremony, decided to transfer over to the Dauntless faction. The background of the story, as I read in the introduction, is that Veronica Roth started writing Divergent in the voice of Tobias but stopped thirty pages in because she didn’t think it was right, and then chose to write in Tris’ perspective for the most part (apart from half of Allegiant). Tobias is perhaps my favourite character in the series which is why I was excited to read it. I am currently halfway through. 

The story of ‘Four’ is written in four parts, wonderfully enough, as Four in the series only has four fears, hence his name, so it is only fitting to write it in four parts (and I do like a good play on words). After the story of Four, however, there are also three deleted ‘scenes’ which Veronica had changed or omitted and this intrigued me to see how these scenes may have played into the story. Great, my curiosity is held. The names of the four sections are:

The Transfer

The Initiate

The Son and

The Traitor and essentially follow Tobias as he chooses to leave abnegation, go through the initiation stages in Dauntless, settle into his new life and then find his place in Dauntless and become one of the most powerful members of the faction. The final quarter, The Traitor, then documents meeting Tris, though is not the first moment they meet as that is contained in the deleted scenes under the title ‘First Jumper, Tris’. Ah, it seems confusing. 

Reading it I am currently halfway through ‘The Son’ which the name itself intrigues me (I won’t say why that will spoil everything) but judging from the other titles I can only take a guess at the contents on the pages. The story itself is great. As I said, I adore Tobias Eaton and his voice as he is a strong and well developed character which comes across well in these short stories, which may be due to being the earliest developed character that Veronica Created. He almost, almost puts Tris to shame. At points the voice of Tris and the voice of Tobias sort of blend, as they compete with the authors own writing style but they’re still distinguishable enough to see them as separate characters. 

The story itself is a little bit repetitive as the training processes and initiation are just the same as Tris’, only less detailed and in a slightly different order, however that is understandable given the background to the story, it therefore is not quite Hunger Games repetitive with the multiple games. Also, the story sees behind the scenes of Tobias starting a career which is not talked about as much which is where I am at the moment in the book, and this is roughly where the repetitiveness ends and Tobias becomes more his own. I can only assume there will be a little bit more repetition as we here about him meeting Tris, as obviously both of the characters were there at the time, but of course they lead different lives and talk to different people so it won’t be too samey in the end. I would call this book ‘un-put-downable’ but I have been doing other things since I last read this book. 

I can normally testify how good a book is when I choose it over sleep, and last night I was battling with my eyelids into the early hours, just to keep reading, despite the similar early plots. If you are a Divergent fan then I truly recommend this book (but if you are a fan you most likely don’t need my instruction). If you are a fan of Dystopian futures (like me) and have not read the Divergent series yet, but want to, I also recommend it. Four’s character is more dramatic and developed than Tris, and is therefore a good way to introduce yourself to the fandom. You could also play around with the chronology of the stories and read Four before you read Divergent, and so forth, in an almost Star-Wars-esque fashion, or not. Just a suggestion. If, however, you have already read Divergent and was not a huge fan at all then I would not recommend it as the repetition may irritate or bore you a bit. However I personally love it and would solidly rate this book a 7/10. 

What I’m Reading | The ‘Divergent’ Series (Veronica Roth)

I’m very much aware that I am late on this bandwagon. You’d have thought I’d be on it like a moth to a flame given the fact that I am obsessed with books about dystopian futures. But the books were HUGE last year and has been turned into a film that was in cinemas just a couple of months ago, I am reading the Divergent series by Veronica Roth (if you couldn’t tell by the title). I admittedly watched the film before I read the books which is sure to earn a horrified gasp from a few people. I didn’t love the film all that much, it was good, but not brilliant, still the movie made me want to read the books to see how they compared, so I did. I read Divergent a couple of weeks ago, Insurgent no less than five days ago and I have started Allegiant today.

Divergent_UK_cover

Divergent, compared to the film, was a lot better in the book. If you’ve seen the film you might share my opinion that it felt like a one and a half run-up to the second one, with the most action happening in the last twenty minutes, but in the book there actually seems to be a point behind riding a zip-wire, eating hamburgers for the first time, and playing capture the flag, more of a point than is made in the film. Instantly the book was better than the film. On it’s own I still like it, it’s genuinely exciting and well written and is fun to read.

INSURGENT

Insurgent was better than the first book, by far, which is surprising, usually the second book is favoured as the worst in a series (see: Catching Fire in the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy and New Moon in the ‘Twilight’ saga) by popular opinion. It started with action and had thrill in just about every chapter and I was genuinely immersed in the story as it all unravelled. It was a lot heavier than the first book also, which made it feel less ‘teenage’ than the first book, which I liked. If I was to go all pretentious-literature-A-level-student-mode I would say it reflected Tris’ maturing in the aftermath of what happened at the end of Divergent, but perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

allegiant

Allegiant is the one I’m unsure of. For a starter I don’t like how it’s a hard-back while the other two are paper-backs, which is a very fussy thing to pick apart, but now it just looks weird. I also saw in the blurb that, unlike the other two, it is written in a dual perspective. For a starters it now ruins the consistency of the series, like Stephanie Meyer did with Breaking Dawn. Personally I dislike different perspectives, I often find that the structure is less fluid, often jaunted, opposed to if there was just one voice, but also they can sometimes be badly written if the author doesn’t manage to create separate the characters personal voices. I’m currently only four chapters into Allegiant, and at the minute am finding the dual-perspective a bit pointless and am finding it really hard to get into, but we’ll see.

Over-all I think the Divergent series is a bit of a tricky one. Divergent was mediocre, Insurgent was great and Allegiant I am really not sure of right now, but the concept is magnificent and if you are also obsessed with the dystopian worlds like I am then I think you definitely should read it once as it makes some particularly good points about human nature and the world as a whole.

***UPDATE***

Having now read over 100 pages I have no gotten into Allegiant  and am enjoying it. I still find the dual-perspective-thing a bit jaunty and at points hard to keep track of who’s talking, and get a little bit irritated when I’m really enjoying reading a perspective but then it suddenly stops and goes to the next person, but I’m getting over it. The storyline is none the less superb.

***

What I’m Reading | More Than This by Patrick Ness

What the popular author John Green said about this book was ‘just read it’ and it is emblazoned on the front cover for all to see. It was the black and yellow that caught my eye when I saw it in the local book-shop and then I saw that I was being ordered to read it. So I turned it over to the blurb and read what it was about, and it seemed curious. I have a system at choosing whether to buy a book. First of all it needs to catch my eye, then the blurb needs to sound interesting, then I read the first page and if I am not drawn in I put it back down. If I am I buy the book…or continue reading propping myself up against the book-shelf until I feel like I’ve been there to long…and then I buy the book. But I didn’t follow my rules for this. I was already captivated. 

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This is where I try to tell you about the plot without giving away any spoilers so that you can read the book and be surprised yourself, so stop reading, if you don’t trust me, and skip to the end.It’s about this boy who drowns one day on a beach (I can tell you this, it says it on the blurb) and then finds himself in a different world and he has to navigate his way around it trying to figure out what it all is and if he is on his own or not and if it is real or a dream he has while he’s dying in the ocean waves. It’s safe for you to read again here.   

I tell you this now, plain and simple: More Than This is perhaps one of the best and most imaginative stories I have read in a long time. It’s everything that I like and, for once, I do not find myself irritated by the protagonist of the story like I have so many times, which is one of the instant plus sides. It’s eloquently written, it connected me so deeply with the protagonist that I had to check it wasn’t written in first person a multitude of times, and while I would find myself rolling my eyes at a flashback if I read it in an average story, they have a paramount significance with the rest of the story and they, while helping you unravel the story yourself, don’t give too much away. But this isn’t an average book, by no means. It is an intricate story that unravels more and more mystery the more you read. The second one question is answered there’s another that needs to be solved, and I think that’s what makes it so good. It makes you curious the more you delve deeper into this insane world that the boy is in, and you want to know these answers that lead onto more… more than this. 

While I was reading it I found myself mesmerised, curious, thrilled, and tense as drama finds its way onto every single page. I could not put this down the book and have only put it down because Ed wanted to sleep and I can’t read with no light (perhaps I should invest some money into a little reading light you attach to books) but if I was on my own I would have easily chosen to stay awake all night to finish it and be utterly mind-blown, I found myself pausing with absolute stun as the events occurred, and had to pause just to gasp and exclaim to Ed that it was “such a good book” So I tell you now exactly what John Green said about it JUST READ IT. Go to your local book shop, pick up a copy and clear your calendar to sit down and be immersed by what is perhaps one of the most captivating reads I have read in a long time.  You will not regret it.