Graduate Life: Interviews and Beyond!

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Now for the people who have the pleasure of knowing me/following my antics in real life, you’ll have known that recently due to a friend of mine’s recommendation, I should apply to a traineeship that was hosted by HarperCollins. Now originally, this was during the  late July period, and it was only by some miraculous design (and a very good spot by my friend) that I didn’t miss the application process at all. So on the final day of the online application I decided to apply. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen, right?

So lo and behold two weeks later I find myself in the depths of London. Normally I would ecstatic, over the moon even. But after a 6AM trip and an hour of being lost, I turned up dishevelled, discouraged, and distraught 1 hour after the program had started, at the beautiful hour of halfpast 10. By this point, I thought the opportunity for my dream job had been totalled before it even had a chance to blossom. Unbelievably, I hadn’t missed my interview. Only the introductory speech by the main staff. Grinning with relief,  was then notified I had two  minutes until my interview. All good, I’ve got this.

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The self deprecation is strong in this one.

So after my somewhat hilarious interview, I was then advised to network with current executives and my fellow applicants. Whilst conversing with the former was legitimately easy and fun (they now know about my blog, my rise to fame starts here!) the latter was more difficult as while the applicants were beyond lovely and  nice, I couldn’t help but consider them as rivals to my dream job. Admittedly, I’m sure they thought the exact same thing about me.

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Afterwards, we were given a tour of HarperCollins, and it was beyond beautiful. If anything, it made me want to work there even more. I saw the rich history HarperCollins had to offer, and the future the successful applicants could have with the company. I knew I wanted more than anything to work here.

Alas, the day ended and after having the most amazing interview experience I was reassured that each and every individual applicant (all 50 of us) would know the outcome of our interview and if we would be invited back for another series of assessments and interviews in September. It is my pleasure to announce that I was one of the special 15 who made it into the final stage! I’m both nervous and excited, as this process will entail meeting some very important people. I don’t know what the future holds just yet, but more than anything I’m excited to face it head on.

This turned out to be a longer post than I thought, but I couldn’t help but share the news with you all! Have a good one guys, and I’ll be back soon.

Until next time,

Ben

Looking For Alaska by John Green: A Review

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about personal relationships and perceptions of yourself, is that you’re constantly adapting – one period of time that your sense of identity is challenged and forged is in the latter years of education: in particularly high school and university.

When I first picked up Looking For Alaska, I was at a stage of my life where I was craving for the ‘deeper’ meaning in books. Something that would make me feel like the prodigal son of enlightened literature – I had left to explore the world of books, and unfortunately, I had not kept an opened mind. (Coincidentally, the very opposite of being open to suggestion.) I had scoffed at John Green’s novel, the very ignored its acclaim and popularity, purely because it was of the Young Adult genre.

Thankfully, I was proved thoroughly wrong by John Green. We follow the role of new student and most idealistic character, Miles Halter. Hailing from Florida, he seeks to find his own ‘Great Perhaps.’ in a boarding school in the Deep South. For the uninformed, Miles is entranced with the last words of famous people before they die. In this circumstance, Miles’ words stem from French Renaissance writer and humorist, Francois Rabelais. I believe in the events of Looking for Alaska, that Miles’ Great beyond is explored and exemplified by the relationship he shares with the titular character, Alaska.

While Alaska herself is an emotionally troubled girl, the relationship between the two characters is found to be remarkably strong. However, as with all first-person narratives as readers we must express caution – we are only provided with the thoughts of of Miles – and every event that happens is recorded through Miles perspective.

I believe that within Looking for Alaska, that Miles embodies the idealistic and naive views of young adults growing up. Miles romanticises the time he spends with Alaska, which further helps the reader understand the Romantic notion of The Great Perhaps. As a whole, none of us want to live a life full of ‘maybes’ and ‘what ifs.’ John Green’s novel  completely turned the tables on my perceptions of YA literature. Instead of meeting a novel with shallow characters and forced situations, I was given a rare input into the process of an identity being made.

What are your thoughts on Looking For Alaska, or YA Lit as a whole? Let me know!

Ben

House of Mirrors: A Short Story

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Drink. This was how my days started, and how they ended. Of course, the days of looking eye to eye with the bottle were never my proudest, but of course, who was to blame? Myself? Circumstances that were outside of my control? Who knew? I sat upon the leather chair, feeling the grooves of the handle with a shaking hand, slowly but steadily reassuring that what I felt was in fact, real.

It called to me. The blood-red swill swirling in circles inside the glass, a mesmerising whirlpool of ruby nectar whispering my name. Dionysus, Bacchus, it whispered. Lose yourself, come to me. I tried to resist, to break free of the soft whisper – the evil snake that invaded and perused the very fibre of my being, but to no avail. Her face would always prove to be at the forefront of my mind. Blue eyes that sparkled with a fire that superseded St. Elmo’s, a voice soft-spoken, yet spoke with the authority and clarity that could rival a general. And her lips! Twin fruits, redder than the reddest pomegranate-

No more.

I silenced the liquid siren’s call and drank the wine. It scalded my throat, the fire trickling slowly, ever so slowly down like liquid magma, before settling warm within my stomach. I sighed, content. Perhaps, tonight my demons would flee, and the horrors would fade. Staring into the roaring fireplace, I watched the flames flicker and dance wildly, an exotic tango of shadows and fire being performed before me.

I sighed, and with a flourish downed the remainder of my wine. I savoured the warmth it gave me, craving the blissful blanket of dullness that covered my senses. I sauntered from the chair towards the window and helped myself to another glass of wine. Frowning, I looked out towards the courtyard, watching how the garden seemed to pulse in the moonlight. Perhaps with such a sight the nightmares would end.

Frowning, I squinted at the distance beyond the courtyard. Standing upon the hill of the land behind me stood a small, decrypt tree. The leaves had long withered from the branches, and yet it still stood. Perhaps it was just the alcohol, but I could have sworn that there was a flicker of movement near the trunk. With a hiccup and a pull of my coat, I set myself for the hill.

The walk to the tree was an excruciating one – as I struggled for breath, I noticed the finger my wedding ring was on had turned a slight blue. Swearing profusely, I took the final steps up the hill to face the intruder. Up close it was grotesque. The bark stank of damp and rot, the branches gnarled and twisted. Heaving, I realised that the tree would have to be removed, and soon. Turning away to leave, I paused to see a crow flutter to a halt on the tree. Darker than the night itself, the only way the crow was detected by my eyes was by the pale reflection of the moon within its eye, and the sharp clack of its beak. The very air around the bird seemed to be heavy, and the where it perched seemed to darker than the rest of the tree.

“Don’t get too comfortable there, my friend,” I said. “That thing is going down as soon as I get the chance to cut it.”

Caw! The bird answered sharply, and dived from the branch, claws extended towards my face. I swore, and lashed out at the crow. Its claws raked my skin, leaving deep bloody furrows in my forearm.

“You bloody nuisance, wait until I get the-” my words cut short as I lost my balance and the world spun. My head cracked against the ground, and spots danced in front of my eyes. I gasped as the pain in my arm throbbed, once, twice, thrice, as the crow began to peck at the trails it had left in my arm. The pain was simply too much, and I succumbed to the darkness.

 

Pain. My arm throbbed, and my chest ached. I groaned, opening my eyes to find myself surrounded by trees. Thin moonbeams peeked through the thick tangle of branches – thin enough to let me see through the darkness, and yet they were of no help. With my heart pounding and sweat trickling slowly down my brow, I inspected my surroundings even closer. Above the pounding of my heart a faint rustling could be heard within the trees.

“Hello?” I called out, mouth dry. There had to be someone nearby to explain this madness. The rustling continued, and the sharp crack of twigs snapping, as the sound got closer and closer. “Show yourself, this isn’t funny anymore.” My breath was laboured, arm still throbbing in time with my heart.

This was when a girl, no older than ten, stepped out from behind the trees. Dressed in a simple white gown, feet bare and caked with mud, she stopped and regarded me with a curious – yet cautionary interest. Her green eyes shone like a cat’s in the low light, showing nothing but wariness as she slowly circled around me. She never moved closer, but watched me as a lion may stalk its prey.

“Hello little girl,” I said. Trying to smile, I made my voice as soothing as possible. There had to be some explanation to this madness. “Can you help me find my way back home?”

She giggled, a high pitched eruption that seemed to bubble from deep down within her chest. She nodded, and held out her hand. Perhaps I would be saved from this nightmare after all. I took her hand and gasped. Her hand was like ice! It would not do to have her in the cold. As soon as we found our way out I would have words with her parents.

“Why are you out so late? Won’t your parents be worried?” I asked, baffled at her actions. Instead, she simply regarded me with a cool look, and tilted her head as we continued to walk through the forest. Ahead, I could see the light beaming through the forest, and I knew that she had found the exit. Curiously, I found that my arm ached no longer, although the wounds were deep trails in my arm. I felt a tug on the sleeve of my coat, and looked down. The girl looked at me with huge, expectant eyes and pointed to the distance. I followed her gaze and saw a beaten down house, an exhausted shack that paint was peeled and the stench of rotting wood could be smelled from where I was standing.

“Is that where you live?” I said, lip curling at the sorry-looking carcass of a house.

She nodded.

“Well, let’s get going.” And with that declaration, we set off towards the house.

Inside. The house was a sea of cobwebs and dust, and the wooden floorboards creaked with my every step. I took the child’s hand closely into mine, and held tighter. The air of the house was thick with musk, and it seemed harder to breathe with each step I took. The child squeezed my hand, and pointed. A flight of wooden stairs curled upwards to the next floor.

“Are your parents up there?” I said, eyeing the rickety stairs. My hair had stood up on my arms, my stomach churning. Something wasn’t right. A sense of unease crept through me as I stalked up the stairs, hearing the groan of the steps. The girl was right behind me, a tiny creak to the huge groan of my step. The room was empty, no doors but simply a cluster of mirrors placed upon the walls. I could see myself from one, two, three different angles and yet-

Within the mirror I beheld a horrible vision! The child I was with was no longer a child, but a creature in white tattered rags and covered in dirt. Its eyes were swarming with maggots and hair was teeming with spiders. I yelled, and looked at the child. She furrowed her brow, confused. Heart pounding, I grabbed her hand and ran towards the stairs – until a hand grabbed my coat, jerking me to a stop. I looked back, and saw that the hand protruded from the mirror and was dragging me closer. The girl giggled softly, and pointed above. I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes.

“Lutesse?” My heart pounded. With hair darker than the crow’s feathers and eyes as red as blood lay my wife, spread-eagled on the ceiling, a picture of demonic grace. She stared at me with blank, sightless eyes as slowly she raised her hand and pointed to her wedding ring.

“To death do us part” she rasped. She spoke with a tenderness that stilled my beating heart.

I felt the sharp tug of my coat again, and saw the girl giggle. The creature in the mirror pulled and pulled, the girl giggled and pointed, Lutesse whispered. My limbs were like ice, my blood frozen in my veins as I beheld the horror unfolding. The little girl prised my jaw open, and as she did I saw her throat convulse, and a spider crawled out of her maw. Taking it in a delicate hand, she pushed it towards my open jaw. I thrashed and screamed, but the creature in the mirror and the girl had a grip of iron. She pushed the spider into my jaw and-

I started, spilling my wine in the process. I was back in my study, the fire had died down. Heart pounding, I pulled my sleeve and ran my fingers along my arm. No claw marks, no wounds. Collapsing back into my chair, I sighed. No more drinking – at least for a while. It was only when my eyes closed, I felt my throat pulse.

Blog Update: Be Back Soon!

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Hey, everyone! This is just a quick blog update to tell you that due to a huuuge number of bits and pieces that need to be done in the normal non-blogosphere world I’ll be taking a very short break. All the posts for this week (Writing Wednesdays, Review Fridays) are already done and will be out at 12:30pm and 12pm on the respective day!

I will, however, be tweeting my exploits when I can, so be sure to check me out on Twitter, and I’ll be sure to update you all with a special post on Saturday!

Your fave bibliophile,

Ben

The Yellow Wallpaper: A Review

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User Pandora-inthesky’s beautiful interpretation of Charlotte Perkins’ story, The Yellow Wallpaper. Check out more masterpieces here!

Now previously, I had been spoilt for choice when it came to reading short stories. Dabbling in the creeping horrors of H.P. Lovecraft and his works, I was a bit reluctant to return to the world of the weird and normal. Thankfully, Charlotte Perkins’ story was anything but dull.

The Yellow Wallpaper illustrates one young woman’s decline into madness. We never learn the woman’s name, but the story is told within the first-person narrative. We also learn that the unnamed narrator had just given birth to a child, and her husband believes that for her safety that resting in a colonial mansion is the best way for her to recover. However, the room that the narrator stays in is damaged with torn wallpaper and the floorboards holding visible scratch marks. This leaves the narrator in a state of caution as she has no clue what had caused the damage of the room.

With every passing day the woman describes the room (in particular, the wallpaper) with more and more detail. Readers can note that through this not only is the woman entrapped in a single area, but her powers of patience and observation are being tested to the utmost limits. Eventually, she begins to see a figure in the design of the wallpaper…

I believe Charlotte Perkins’ The Yellow Wallpaper was made as a statement towards the social position of American women during the 19th century. During this period women themselves had very little standing socially, and in the presence of a patriarchal society, barely had an identity outside of the their home. Furthermore, I believe that the story is another way for women (in particular Perkins) to protest the oppression women had felt during this time – especially in the field of medical and psychological wellbeing. As the narrator of the story had just given birth, it was decided that bed rest was the most optimum cure. While the men had the best interests of women in mind, women during the 19th century were portrayed often as weak and of fragile minds. Perkins reverses this idea by illustrating what happens to a person if they’re not given the freedom they deserve.

In conclusion, I believe that The Yellow Wallpaper is a cautionary tale of what the lack of freedom can do to a person.

What do you think? Let me know!

Ben

The Blacksmith

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The Blacksmith

 

 

The fire was burning brightly in the cave, and shadows were dancing wildly along the walls. The Blacksmith looked upon his forge and bound his shock of steel-grey hair with a battered strip of leather. It was time to work once again – perhaps for the final time. His muscles ached and his bones groaned in protest every time he moved, and his breaths were laboured. Yet as a Man of Silver it was his duty to continue, to serve, and to persevere. His arms, lacerated with age-old scars and etched with thick cords of muscle reached out to take hold of a huge silver-black bar, which glittered in  the firelight and to him was as both familiar and as foreign as the moon.

How his mother had told him stories when he was a child, of strange metals that would fall from the heavens into the hands of men. How they could be crafted; used to either better mankind or to hinder. It was time for him to do the same as his ancestors and use what the heavens had provided. Picking up his hammer, the Blacksmith took the bar to the fire, and began to hammer the bar into shape. The sharp tang of heated metal reached his nostrils, and the angelic ring of the hammer striking metal echoing deep within the contours of the cave and the Blacksmith’s heart. The aches of his body faded away, the burden of his heart lifted. ‘Fire and Steel,’ The Blacksmith said, repeating his family’s words. He had been born with the fire in his blood, the natural urge to shape and create burning fiercely in his veins.

And create he did.

For seven weeks and seven hours The Blacksmith worked, neither eating nor resting. But always keeping the fire burning. And as the days went past what was once a simple metal bar became a beautiful sword, one as silver as The Blacksmith’s hair, sharper than any other sword before it, and more beautiful to behold than any woman. He marvelled at what the bar had become. A simple metal derived from the stars, now a weapon fit for a king. Alas, it is not yet time, The Blacksmith mused. The eager glee of crafting had filled him, and like a wildfire the joy had spread through his body until he could do no more but create.

He shivered. The Final Cold was fast approaching, chilling his bones and dampening his spirit. Yet he still smiled. Although his work was almost complete there was one more blessing he could depart on the sword. The Blacksmith took it upon his lap, cradling it like a new-born child and began to whisper old tales. Stories of how dragons once ruled the heavens, flying high above the heads of men. Of how the forests teemed with both faeries and elves, the woodland echoing their song during the summer solstice. And of the North itself! He whispered of the souls of the dead travelling to the North, looking for their loved ones and leaving ghostly green trails upon the night sky.

Upon finishing these tales The Blacksmith shuddered and coughed. His time was up, his fire was spent, his soul weary. He took the blade in his hand, and plunged it deep into the stone. ‘This will be your burying place, as well mine. Until one is worthy to retrieve you, remain in this stone you shall. I name thee Holy sword Caledfwlch, and you shall burn bright. But for now, sleep.’

 

 

Time passed. The fire that once burnt brightly within the cave flickered and died, and a harrowing chill descended. Caledfwlch still stood proudly, pulsing with a soft light that fought away the ice and darkness surrounding the sword. Outside the cave, voices could be heard, faint whispers that became louder and louder with every second. A boy and a girl both appeared at the mouth of the cave. The boy with dark brown hair and blue eyes, the girl with fiery red hair and dark green eyes, both clothed in lavish garments squinted into the darkness.

‘I wonder what’s in here,’ the girl said, peering into the dark expanse of the cave from the mouth. She thought that there was a faint glimmer of something at the back of the cave, yet she could not be sure.

‘It’s just another stupid cave just like any other. This isn’t as fun as you said, Lady.’ The boy sulked. He had hoped to explore the forest, not to freeze in some ridiculous cave.

‘Come on Arthur, it will be exciting,’ Lady said. And with a grin, she descended down the rocky expanse, and deeper into the stomach of the cave.

Arthur sighed, and followed close behind. ‘Are you sure this is a good idea?’ He said. ‘This cave seems endless.’ His breathing quickened and his heart pounded as the darkness of the cave seemed to squeeze the very air from his lungs.

‘I thought I saw something, I think we’re almost there,’ Lady said, as the strange glow ahead seemed to pulse with a more urgent light.

‘Wait, is that a-’

‘Quiet.’

‘But-’

‘I said quiet,’ Lady snapped as they stopped at a standstill. The sword glowed and faded with a panic, matching the heartbeat of both Lady and Arthur. Lady’s breath caught in her throat and she stood transfixed by its beauty. If only she could-

‘No don’t touch it!’ Arthur exclaimed. His heart raced. This strange sword in stone was not something to be toyed with. Somehow, a certain wrongness emanated with glow, almost as if the sword was warning him from coming any closer.

Lady jerked her hand back, astonished. ‘I didn’t mean… I thought… I didn’t want to…’ Lady’s bewildered face was pale in the glow of the sword.

‘We should go,’ Arthur said, grabbing Lady’s arm before she could protest. ‘We should have just explored the forest. Let’s leave this place.’

Lady nodded. ‘Let’s go.’ Yet she still felt the call of the sword, the sad pulsing of light still reaching out to the inner parts of her soul. With Arthur’s iron grip upon her arm, Lady decided that somehow, someday that she would return. And upon her return, she will find the rightful owner to wield that sword.

 

 

Local Treasures: Goodbye Aberystwyth

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To all my readers, I’m SO sorry for being relatively quiet on the blog front. These past few weeks have been beyond busy for me! But now, with an updated schedule and a new resolve, I’m back better than ever.Anyway.  I’ve hesitated to write this blog post purely because when this post does eventually go up, it will mean it’s real. But during the past couple of weeks I had the absolute pleasure of graduating alongside my peers. So for now, I present to you the final of the Local Treasures posts in Aberystwyth.

It has been almost three years since I had first set foot in the humble town of Aberystwyth. Three years of meeting the best people anyone could have met in university. And thankfully, during my graduation we were all able to celebrate together. Of course, it was a bittersweet affair, as with our celebrations came the knowledge that for a lot of us, our graduation would mark the end of the comforts student life had provided us.

Now I’m back in Kent and facing those post-degree blues, I look back at the times I spent with my friends at uni and wonder what’s next. Well with this blog and applying for every single graduate job under the sun, I’m certainly keeping myself busy. But when I think about it, even though Aberystwyth was full of interesting shops, beaches, and other cheery venue, ultimately I think that it was the people that made Aber the treasure.

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My friends and I, in all our graduate glory.

Tell me about your graduation/end of year celebrations, it’ll be great to hear!

Until next time,

Ben

The Name of The Wind: A Review

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Now, when I was first coerced by a friend to read the beginning of this series, I was skeptical. A 600 odd page novel anchored in a world completely foreign to my own, with no markers of familiarity? I surely thought I would struggle to read The Name of The Wind. Instead, Patrick Rothfuss gave me one of the most pleasurable reads of this year.

One of the things that I loved the most about The Name of The Wind was the layering of one narrative upon another. Readers will experience our main character, Kvothe recalls his time as a child to adolescent in the first person form, but when the readers are shifted to the present, they’re met a grown Kvothe, owner of a humble inn and retelling his story to his disciple, travelling scribe, and subsequently, the readers.

Even from a young age the readers expect great things from Kvothe, he originates from a troupe of travelling  bards, but even throughout the novel we are tantalised with more hints of Kvothe’s future greatness. One of the earliest accolades that Kvothe gains is ‘Kvothe The Bloodless.’ Interestingly, it was the simple use of such titles that drew me even further into the mystery that is Kvothe and his many misadventures.

The novel is divided into relatively reasonable sections. A particularly enjoyable fact is that the pacing for the novel was absolutely perfect; this relates back even more to Rothfuss’ form of storytelling. As he meticulously and delicately tells each element of Kvothe’s story, Kvothe himself becomes the main storyteller, and chooses which parts of his story to cover just as meticulously as Rothfuss himself. There is a distinct overlap between adventurer, legend, and storyteller, and both Rothfuss and Kvothe do a fantastic job in keeping the readers entranced by the tale.

After reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series I had believed that the high fantasy genre had found its champion. Never have I been more happy to be wrong. The Name of The Wind took me on a journey – one of mystery, heartbreak, rage, and magic. This novel is easily my most interesting read of the year so far, and I still have the second book in the series to read. I can’t wait to grab the sequel and immerse myself in the world again!

 

What books/series have changed your view on the genre? Let me know!

Until next time,

Ben

 

God Hates Us All: A Review

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Now this review deviates from the ones I’ve done before – previously I would dote upon the Romantic adventures of a simple student discovering they had magic, or generations of humans employing a supercomputer of their future. This review is infinitely more down to Earth.

One of the main reasons this review differs from the rest is God Hates Us All is actually a tie-in to Showtime’s show Californication. God Hates Us All is the hit novel written by fictional character Hank Moody (played by David Duchovny.) This novel is softer than the show Californication in tone, although it was just as heartbreaking in content.

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We follow the escapades of our 21-years-young narrator and protagonist, as he undergoes a journey of lust, love, street-level pharmaceutical abuse. This coming of age novel is written brilliantly, sometimes fooling the readers into believing its sophistication with frequent literary allusions, only to pull expectations down again with a tasteless (but often still hilarious) joke. While it is not necessary to watch Californication to understand the full scope of the novel, it would be foolish not to. If Hank Moody was a real author, this is how I would imagine he would write. My only regret that this book is a relatively easy and quick read. I would have loved to hear more about the escapades of our protagonist.

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Full of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, God Hates Us All is a novel of a man searching for meaning in his own lonely existence, and attempting to quell the destruction in his life. I’ve only encountered one other novel that has such a rich narrative, but that’ll be for post!

Until next time,

Ben

P.S. Apologies for not posting these past few weeks, have had my hands full with a holiday and graduation! More on that next time though.

 

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