BOOK REVIEW // A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury - click the image to go to Amazon

A Court of Mist and Fury – click the image to go to Amazon

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court, but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future, and the future of a world cleaved in two.
With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.
In my eyes, there hasn’t been a more anticipated book release in the entire year. The sequel to Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses, her latest book series, has been the holy grail of new publications for me in 2016, and might not be topped.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Sarah J. Maas fan. I think all of my friends have had to sit through my inarticulate babbling about how much I love the Throne of Glass series, or listen to me whinge about finding ACOTAR two days after it was released, reading it in a day before realising that it was a year until the next book. But A Court of Mist and Fury has certainly lived up to the expectations we all place on our favourite books.
 
A Court of Mist and Fury is set around three months after the final chapter of the first book. Developing on from the harrowing (yet phenomenal) climax, we see how Feyre copes with the events of ACOTAR, and all of our beloved characters return. Plus new favourites.
 
As I’ve said, I had ridiculously high expectations for this sequel. I adored most of the characters in the first novel, and had a ton of hopes for their developments, but Maas exceeded these dreams and added in some truly unexpected plot twists. Flawlessly written, I was sucked back into Feyre’s world once more, and I’d be happy to stay there.
 
We learn more about the history of Prythian in this novel, and as well as having a shocking finale (I mean, seriously?!), Maas was able to set up the third and final book in style. I don’t know if I can wait until next year to finish the series… I might have to sell my soul.
 
Sarah J. Maas has clearly developed since her first book was published in 2012. Throne of Glass, while thoroughly riveting, showed signs of immature writing and a gratuitous fulfilment of YA tropes. Don’t get me wrong, I am YA trash and will read the fantasy genre no matter how badly written, but through the sequels and the new series, Maas has come into her own and excelled to the forefront of her field. Both of her series have transcended the Young Adult category and become thrilling books no matter your age or gender, most of all ACOTAR.
 
One thing which I find particularly important in the ACOTAR world is the way that the females are written. Call me a flag-waving feminist, but I love being able to read a sex scene from a female perspective without it being a religious experience or a way to further the plot. In ACOMAF more than the first novel, Feyre is shown to engage in sexual activities for her own enjoyment, with someone she views as an equal rather than a pseudo-authoritative figure, because she wants to.  Sex is used in some cases, as it has been throughout history, as relief, power, blackmail… but never to put the female protagonist in a vulnerable position. Maas has recognised the bodily autonomy of her main character and proclaimed it to the world. All of the female characters are flawlessly written, whether they’re evil or good. It’s interesting to see the way that the different women, with their varied histories and life experiences, interact with Feyre. No character is two dimensional or a plot-device – the only character I would accuse of being a plot device being a minor character who appears for five minutes but may become more important in Book Three.
 
Truly, this is one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had the pleasure of getting my hands on. I’d saved a gift card from Christmas with the specific intention of buying ACOMAF and it most certainly was worth it. I can’t wait until September, when Empire of Storms is released (TOG Book 5).
 
verdict 5 of 5

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INTERVIEW // Princess Ida

I spoke to Katie Lockwood and Aled Jones about the upcoming Gilbert and Sullivan production, Princess Ida.

Many students don’t know Gilbert and Sullivan, so can you tell us a bit about the men and the shows and why the society is what it is?

Aled: Gilbert and Sullivan were Victorian composers who were famous in their day because there wasn’t much going on in the way of entertainment thanks to the war.

Their productions were essentially farcical comedies of sorts in the style of light opera called operetta,

so they aren’t meant to be as serious or tragic as opera but they are a bit more old-fashioned than musicals.

Katie: The reason why Gilbert and Sullivan is so good is because it’s clever, but it’s funny. The words we say are a very different style but it’s still understandable, but the whole air that goes along with it is really enjoyable.

Aled: It’s like Shakespeare; at first glance you can’t make any sense of it and then you read into it and you can see that it is very funny. Ida has very witty dialogue, and phenomenal music.

Katie: That’s one of the reason why we do it, we love musicals but G&S are more fun to tackle – the harmonies and the songs are so complex and intricate and so much more challenging to do so it sounds great. Some of the tongue-twisters leave no room to breathe!

Photograph courtesy of Beth Atkinson

Why should students see Princess Ida?

Aled: Opera is now seen as a dying art. It’s a magnificent thing to see but it’s become less popular. They’re much more challenging than a musical but they only really become enjoyable when you’re exposed to it more often because then you understand it.

Katie: And the chorus in G&S is so crucial, without it the shows would be boring.

In lots of musicals the chorus is an added extra but in G&S they’re a core focal part of the performance.

Why did you choose the suffragette theme for the play?

Katie: It was our director’s idea. She (Nicola Wilkes) thought it would be a really good idea to set it in a different era because it’s usually set in Medieval Hungary, and they usually have those fairy type dresses and it’s all very light-hearted.

Aled: It also shows that G&S can slowly acclimatise to different times, because most of it is set in specific time periods which is one reason why they aren’t as popular today – most musicals set their productions in modern day or thereabouts which is obviously difficult to compete with.

Katie: Also because it is set in a university so you can actually make it more about the education side of things and you can add in much more small details that you couldn’t necessarily do if it was all light-hearted medieval.

In ours, with costume and stuff, we’re using the graduation robes and hoods.

It’s just brilliant.

How challenging has it been so far and what challenges do you envisage in the next couple of weeks?

Aled: Unbelievably!

Our biggest challenge to date has been choreography.

Katie: We’ve got a lot of dance in the show. Usually we have a bit of dance but the main emphasis on singing, this year though we decided to make it more visually appealing. This year we have a ballet troupe who do their own dancing.

How much preparation goes into the show before the rehearsals start, or do you have a core idea and then adapt it as rehearsals go along?

Katie: So the committee get elected at the AGM and they decide what show they’re going to do, and then they search for the creative team. When the director came in for an interview, they had to tell us all of their ideas, and that’s where the main body comes from. Our director came in with so many new ideas back in May, and of course we got a say because we chose them, but the cast didn’t start rehearsing until October. Over the summer the show gets choreographed and staged and things like that, obviously they can’t do everything because they don’t know what set we’re getting or who we’re going to have, but they do think about it a lot and they mind map a lot of it. They do a lot of hard work before the auditions even start for the show.

How are the cast managing with the show?

Katie: We have so many rehearsals, but I think at the minute things are going really well. Some people thought they couldn’t dance, but they’ve proved that they can!

Aled: We’ve had a few very stressful rehearsals.

Katie: So many people doubted their abilities! I don’t actually have that much dancing to do, thank goodness.

Photograph courtesy of Beth Atkinson

How relevant are the shows in the modern times and are some of the themes just going to live forever?

Katie: It’s kind of feminist but is it? Is it too far? Is it not enough? It’s definitely interesting because it’s something that’s still going on – should women and men be different categories or are they all the same? It’s just so funny that it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but at the same time the themes are still relevant, they can’t be obsolete.

Aled: You do have to take it as a pinch of salt because it is a parody not a political statement. It is so much fun, but it’s not designed to have a political impact.

Katie: The characters are so exaggerated and fun to perform, that you physically cannot take them seriously. They’re so different because so musicals or operas are just a love story and there’s not much going on other than that! Should we get together, shouldn’t we…

Aled: There’s a lot of standing and pouting involved!

Katie: These performances, the G&S shows, have actual intellectual ideas.

What else do you want people to know about G&S, about Ida, about anything?

Katie: We’ve got a really talented cast, and we have so much fun doing it, and the reason why we do it is because we enjoy it so we want people to come and enjoy it with us! People should start coming to the theatre more often! People should extend their range, so they should include Gilbert and Sullivan.

Aled: There’s no point in doing a show if you don’t love it, and we really do!

Katie: There is the student standby price:

if you buy tickets on the day, they’re five pounds for students!

It’s really worth it.

 

Photograph courtesy of Beth Atkinson

The cast of Gilbert and Sullivan are excited and passionate about the show, and it’s going to come across in their performances as always. Princess Ida will be running until Saturday 13th February, and is well worth seeing.

TOP 10 // Library Study Session Essentials

Every student knows the pain of having to sit in the library for hours at a time. It can be cold, you’re stressed and there’s the temptation to leave your spot in search of food, but you’ve got too many deadlines coming up and don’t even start thinking about the exams!

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I just can’t study in my room. I’m quite possibly the best procrastinator on the planet, and as a result of that, the worst student. Instead, I load up my bag with all of my reading material, and head out to the library, or if I’m treating myself I’ll go to the local coffee shop and hook myself up.

So, thanks to my extensive experience with libraries, and the perils of procrastination and distraction, here are 10 essentials to make your study session the best it can be.

One.// All of your study materials. This one should be pretty obvious but you wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’ve forgotten half of the books I’m supposed to be reading for my essays. When you have it all on you, the stress levels you’ll be experiencing will decrease significantly. Before you start your studying, find all of the extra material you may need from around the library and bring it back to your desk. Sure, you may look like you’re building a cave from all of those politics textbooks, but it’s worth it when you don’t want to break your rhythm to find that book on the third floor!

French Revision

French Revision

Two.// Comfy clothes. I find that I work best when I’m rocking my patented hobo chic style. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I look super classy, but when I’m spending eight or more hours in the library, a band t-shirt and jeans are the best way to go. Layers are key, because the temperature will vary over the course of the day, so I usually have a cardigan, scarf and my coat with me. My super chunky scarf also serves as a pillow when I’m taking a break!

Three.// Snacks. I’m a terrible person when it comes to healthy eating. My idea of three meals a day is some toast and digestive biscuits with my tea, but when you’re revising for exams or writing essays it’s really important for you to eat well. Have a good breakfast, like porridge, before you leave your house, and take healthy snacks like fruit or breakfast bars to munch during the day. If a chocolate bar finds its way in there then it’s a treat! By taking food with you, you’re lessening the distraction of leaving your study area to find food, and dramatically cutting the cost by skipping the over-priced campus food.

Four.// Hot Drinks and Water. What’s your non-alcoholic poison? A herbal tea? Some strongly brewed Earl Grey? The biggest cup of coffee available to man? Whatever it is, put it in a flask and take it with you! I can’t remember the last time I didn’t bring my Starbucks tumbler onto campus with me, and luckily there are a couple of boiling water taps on campus I can use for free, so I make sure to bring some tea and coffee with me in small pots to refill over the day. Again, money saving! And don’t forget water – there’s no use in being dehydrated when you’re trying to crack on with your work.

My tidy library set up - it doesn't stay this way!

My tidy library set up – it doesn’t stay this way!

Five.// Lip Balm. Libraries are a nightmare! You go in, fresh-faced and lightly made up at 8am, and by 8pm you emerge looking like you’ve lived in a desert and never heard of skincare. I don’t know what it is about libraries, but my lips always get super chapped, and I know that my anxious habit of biting my lip doesn’t help. I always keep my Nivea lip balm in my pocket so I can moisturise if there’s even a hint of damage to my lips.

Six.// Life-Saving Things. One day I’m going to write out my university survival kit, which lives in my bag at all times. There are items you should never be in the library without, so I’m going to list them for you now. Highlighters, Post-It Notes, spare pens, a pencil and eraser, glasses (if you’re blind like me), hair ties (if your hair is unruly like mine), chocolate… hey, I don’t have a sweet tooth! Harry Potter has proven that chocolate makes everything better. It’s a rule to live by.

A collection of items I can't live without!

A collection of items I can’t live without!

Seven.// A Clear To Do List. Before you leave in the morning, or even the night before, write down everything you have to do in your study session, even the little things, which you might forget. By breaking larger tasks down into microtasks, it gives you a sense that you’re being more productive and spurs you on! I use the Google Chrome add-on, Momentum, which is really popular at the moment. It gives you a main task for the day, and the to-do list in the corner rolls over to the next day if you don’t get everything done. Life saver!

Eight.// Sanity. Does any student have any sanity left? If so, could they lend me some? On a serious note, if you’re going to study, you have to be somewhat rational about it. Nothing good ever comes from freaking out, and if you’re feeling worn down or emotionally drained then I wholly recommend taking a mental health day. Or a mental health morning, if you really can’t take an entire day off. Run a bath, drink some tea, sleep in a bit more. You’ll get so much more done afterwards, when you’ve let your body catch up with the hoops you’re jumping through. Then, pack up your stuff and head off to your study space, and GSD.

Nine.// A Great Playlist. I can’t study in silence. I can’t write in silence. The only thing I can really do in silence is read. This means I’ve got a pretty solid grasp of the inner workings of Spotify, and have stumbled across some great playlists. Find one which is good for you, probably not lyrical, and immerse yourself in the motivation of the scores. I recommend Calm Before the Storm or Deep Focus on Spotify.

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Ten.// Determination. This one is the most important. You have to be determined to get something done. You have to want to achieve something, or you’ll end up on Netflix, binging on some new TV show, or asleep. I’m speaking from personal experience. Make sure you’ve got an idea in your head of what you want to accomplish before you leave, and then do it!

Studying is so tough, especially when you’ve got all of the other commitments which come with general life. Don’t give up, and it will be so worth it.

What are your study essentials? Is there anything you can’t live without? Let me know!

Amy.

Am I Doing Too Much?

It’s a question I ask myself, and has definitely been asked of me many times.

When I tell people the full title of my degree, History and International Relations with French (and a Year Study Abroad), they balk. “Three subjects?” They cry. “How do you focus?”

The truth is, I absolutely thrive on being busy. Three subjects, especially three subjects I adore, means I’m never getting bored and I’m always pushing myself. Yes, it means my desk looks like it’s been in an unfortunate encounter with a tornado, but it’s definitely worth it.

If only my desk was this organised - or this pretty!

If only my desk was this organised – or this pretty!

I picked up French again at the beginning of this term because, as much as I love my degree, I need a language, and I want to spend a year abroad next year, in Paris. Whilst Sciences-Po doesn’t need fluent French speakers as it teaches in English, I do want to be able to live in Paris, not simply exist. And it’s proving to be a welcome addition to my timetable, adding 4 contact hours a week onto the measly 6 of my combined honours. I know I have less time, and I have to keep my brain functioning so it doesn’t meltdown, so I’m getting things done well in advance. As you may know, this is new, as last year I was rather a fan of the all-nighter procrastination method.

And then there’s my extra-curricular activities. I’m a member of seven different societies, I’m heavily involved with the Student’s Guild, I’m an academic representative as well as an NUS delegate. I’m writing frequently for Exepose, the student newspaper, as well as Her Campus Exeter, our chapter of the well-known American online university magazine. Oh, before I move on, I should tell you that I’m still the Press Officer for the Yacht Club at home, and am always developing the Rowing section of the website, doing the newsletter or updating the Brand Guide I made for them. And then there’s my blog.

Yes, it seems like an overwhelming amount. Really, there are times when I’m looking at my planner and I want to cry. Where is the time to go and see the amazing new films at the cinema? Oh, that’s right, I don’t have any!

This is my life now.

This is my life now.

But I wouldn’t give up what I’m doing, because I’m challenging myself and making sure I can face any challenge that’s thrown at me. When I’m out in “The Real World”, I won’t be able to choose if I want to do the extra, or if I’m overwhelmed with a variety of different work. As a future journalist I know I’m going to struggle and stress and go from having no work to too much, so by preparing myself now, with the amazing support system the university offers, I’m only taking advantage of the resources at hand.

I’m not complaining about any of this – it’s a brilliant experience, and it’s so exhilarating when I pull it off. I’ve got an interview with one of my favourite bands, The Fratellis, at 12, and I was just awarded the Young Achiever prize at the Yacht Club’s AGM.

If you have the opportunity and the time, do as much as you can. The worst that can happen is you find out where your limits lie. My limit, and biggest weakness at the moment, is my Netflix addiction. Who wants to read 140 pages of contemporary political theory when they could be watching Criminal Minds? Not me!

How do you cope with stress? Would you like to know more about how I organise myself in this maelstrom of activity? Leave a comment below.

DIY // Classy Dorm Room Pinboard

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a student in search of a good grade must be in want of a pinboard.

Last year, when I was in my university halls, I was lucky enough to have a huge noticeboard above my bed, and I put everything up there – a map of the city, postcards from my travels, even hair ties! It was perfect, and now I’m not living there I think it was one of the best things about the room.

If you don’t want to pay much money for a fancy looking pinboard, it’s simple enough to make one. I knew I needed one for bits and bobs this year, so I set about seeing how cheap it could be to make a classy looking noticeboard.

DIY CLASSY PINBOARD

How to Make a Classy Dorm Room Pinboard

Total Price:
£5.25 (Cheaper if you remember your student discount card – I didn’t!)

Time:
5 minutes (Easy Project)

You Need:
– One cheap noticeboard – cardboard and wood like mine was £3 from Wilkinsons
– Wrapping paper – I only had to use one sheet, which was £2.25 from Paperchase. I went with higher quality paper because the board is relatively small, but you could have thinner paper on a bigger board.
– Sellotape
– Scissors

  1. Take your noticeboard and measure it against the paper you’ve bought. There should be at least two inches of paper surplus on each side, to fold over.
    DIY Stage 1
  2. If you have more than two inches surplus, attempt to cut the excess in a relatively straight line, to make it easier to fold, and generally neater (however if, like me, you can’t cut in any approximation of a straight line, just go with the flow).
  3. Starting with the shorter sides, fold them over and score the edges by running a ruler, or the edge of your nail, down the side of the noticeboard in order to create a crisp fold. Tape.
    DIY Stage 2
  4. This is the part I found to be the most tricky – as if you were wrapping a present, push the middle of the fold in to touch the corner of the noticeboard. Press the triangles you’ve made on each side to make them sharp, and repeat on all four corners.

    DIY Stage 4.1
  5. Taking the top ‘triangle’, fold it upwards until it is flush against the noticeboard. Tape. Repeat on the top triangles of the four corners.
    DIY Stage 4
  6. Lastly, fold the long sides up to face the ceiling, and score. Then fold the edges over and tape, scoring them again.
    20150915_172637

And there you have it! A lovely, classy pinboard! As you can tell, I’m not the best at DIY so mine definitely doesn’t look like I’ve bought it like that, but it definitely does the job.

DIY Finished Board

P.S If you want to add a bit more flesh to the pinboard, you could staple foam or pillow stuffing to the board before you add the fabric, creating a headboard-esque board for your room!

Have you ever created a pinboard? What are your favourite university DIY projects?