WWW Wednesdays- March 11

WWW Wednesdays is an event hosted by Sam at SamAnneElizabeth that asks three questions:

What are you currently reading?

I have just started reading Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons for my English class assignment. The only other Brown book I’ve read before is Inferno, which was absolutely fantastic, so I have high hopes for this one. So far, the book differs quite significantly from the movie (which was a good movie until the ending ruined it), but both are equally as engaging at this point. I’m deliberately leaving The Da Vinci Code until later, because I know that book is Brown’s best and I feel as though it would be unfair to compare it to the rest of the series, which doesn’t quite meet Code‘s standards.

What did you finish reading?

The last book I was reading, I didn’t actually finish. I’ve taken a break from it and I hope to return to it later. I was reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre. I had also been reading this for English, but seeing as I hadn’t read any previous books in the series, I found it hard to follow and there was just so much jargon that would obviously make more sense if I had read the other books. When I have the time, I will return to it, because it is regarded as a modern classic in the crime genre and there’s no way I’m missing out on reading that.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Most of my books will be crime-oriented for the time being, as my focus for English this year is the crime and mystery genre. Next, I’m hoping to look at something like The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, or a classic Agatha Christie murder mystery.

What have you guys been reading? Any suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

-Christie 🙂 xx

Advertisements

With new eyes

Yesterday, I returned from a retreat with the rest of my year 12 peers. I spent three days and two nights with old friends, new friends, complete strangers, and teachers, and now I feel as though I am seeing with new eyes.

Over the course of the retreat, we completed activities and discussions both as a large group of 90, and in randomly selected small groups. We were given the chance to reflect on what we thought about ourselves, what others thought of us, our family life, where we stood on faith, and where we wanted to take ourselves in the future.

In all honesty, before we embarked on the trip, I had a few trepidations. Year 12s from previous years had given me both sides of the argument: some had said it was boring, some said it was the most amazing thing ever. Truth is, each person’s retreat is completely unique to them, and no two experiences are exactly the same. All the same, I had some skepticism.

On arrival, we were divided into dorms we chose ourselves. It’s one thing to have group discussions with complete strangers, and another to sleep with them, so I was lucky enough to share a dorm with some of my best friends, which turned out to be a party of screaming over spiders, awful singing, and going through five bags of chocolates and lollies. Good times.

In my small group however, I had actually never really met any of them before, despite being at school with two of them for nearly 7 years. The three of us had just belonged to completely different worlds and our paths had never crossed. But over the course of the retreat, we, eight of us altogether, got to know some really personal things about one another and I really felt as though we became good friends in such a small amount of time.

In the larger group discussions, I got to know a lot more about the teachers and leaders on the camp as they shared some truly heartbreaking stories about their pasts. Sometimes we forget that teachers are people too with pain and dark places and tragedy in their lives, and this camp really made me see them for who they really were; ordinary people with their own baggage to carry through life. We also were given the opportunity to explore our faith and our opinions on religion and belief. As someone who at this moment in life is unsure of where they stand in terms of faith, I had always felt a bit lost and alone. But this session made me see that there were so many people like me, standing at the crossroads of faith and still undecided on which way to turn. I felt less alone. I was also surprised by the kind of response that the group had and the variety of issues discussed. I hate to label or to impose stereotypes, but usually the “jocks” of my school aren’t really the kinds of people who have much to say about religion, so I was amazed by the amount of them who actually contributed really well and brought some incredibly insightful opinions to the table. Just shows that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

During free time and meal times, we would write little affirmation notes and letters to each other and slipped them into each person’s personalised envelopes. These were then given back to the students to read through, and I was surprised by the amount of affirmations I got. Some of mine were signed and some of them were anonymous, but all of them touched me so deeply. I have often wondered what other people thought of me, and I was amazed at the amount of positivity within each of the notes I received. They really made me feel good about myself, and I did my best to give back what I got, writing to as many people as I could over the course of the retreat.

The part that touched me the most though was the letters we received from our families. I hadn’t known beforehand, but the school had asked our families to write us letters, to be read on the last night of the retreat. I received one from my parents, and one each from my sisters. I sat there, reading in a corner next to one of my best friends, both of us crying silently as we read the beautiful words our families had written for us. I hadn’t know my sisters could write the way we did, and I was just overwhelmed with emotion.

Not all of the camp was completely deep and emotional though, and after the letter writing we spent the rest of the night singing songs and pulling pranks. It just felt so good to be completely free from school commitments and stress for a couple of days and get the opportunity to bond with our peers.

If I were to describe every detail of the retreat in-depth, I’d be here writing for days, but I really just wanted to share a little bit about how this wonderful experience really spoke to me and opened my eyes to the beauty of those around me. It’s been said that nobody except those who have been on a retreat can fully understand it, but I’ll say that how I felt about my experience cannot be expressed in words. If you ever get the opportunity to go on a retreat, be it with work, school, or just friends, I urge you to seize the chance with both hands. It’s an experience like no other and I can guarantee it will change how you see the world.

The gum tree

Gum tree at retreat camp

Sorry for such a long personal post, I just really felt the need to share this.

-Christie 🙂 xx

The Game’s Afoot…

Today’s review: The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes novel

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Cover of The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Publisher: Orion Books

Released: 2011
Number of pages: 389
Genre: Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller/ Historical
Series: Sherlock Holmes by Anthony Horowitz

In freezing London, November 1890, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a man unnerved by a scarred-face stalker with piercing eyes. A conspiracy reaches to the Boston criminal underworld. The whispered phrase ‘the House of Silk’ hints at a deadly foe. Authorized by Doyle’s estate.

Goodreads.com

Years after Sherlock Holmes’ death, Doctor John Watson once again puts his pen to paper and begins to write; one final story about his adventures with the great Sherlock Holmes. In November of 1890, London is gripped by a winter colder than any before. Through the snow and the bitter winds, a man hurries to the threshold of 221B Baker Street. Art dealer Edmund Carstairs with him a tale of stolen art and a stalker with a scarred face. In essence, this case seems to be no different to many of the others that Holmes and Watson have worked on together. But when one of Carstairs’ clients is found murdered and one of the Baker Street Irregulars disappears, the case takes a turn for the mysterious and extraordinary.

Suddenly, it seems as though Holmes and Watson are working on two different cases, each as deadly and intriguing as the other. As Holmes and Watson unravel the clues of each case, they find themselves delving deeper into London’s dirty underbelly, where the opium trade has ensnared some of London’s most influential figures and the enigmatic House of Silk is a name mentioned in whispers and cautious glances. As the mystery unfolds, Holmes and Watson must tread lightly, for they find themselves becoming entangled with some of the most dangerous characters in England, and the only way to successfully solve the cases is to proceed with utmost caution and utilise all of the deductive powers available to them… otherwise, they may find their own lives to be in terrible danger.

I have never read Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series and, unlike so many of my friends apparently, I hadn’t actually head of it before (whoops). But I did recognise, with great delight, that Horowitz was the creator of two of my favourite murder mystery shows, Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War. So when I read in the newspaper that Horowitz was releasing a series of new Sherlock Holmes novels, my reaction was a little mixed. Part of me was delighted. After over 125 years, we’re getting more Sherlock Holmes! And Horowitz’s murder mystery shows are genius, so his books must be awesome!!
But another part of me had it’s trepidations. But… this is Arthur Conan Doyle’s series. This was his legacy. Perhaps it isn’t wise for someone else to touch it…
But despite my conflicting emotions, I knew that I just had to read it and luckily enough, my mum had bought me it for Christmas. Unfortunately, I’ve only gotten round to writing the review now, due to many other school commitments, but I knew I had to get this out before I moved on completely. The next month is going to be especially hectic for me, so I’m going to try and do my best.

I enjoyed Horowitz’s use of imagery and descriptions of the settings within the story. Horowitz was true to the original landscape of the Holmes novels, with plenty of mist-shrouded streets and long dark alleys. There was a good contrast between the class of wealthy Victorian society, and the grimy, dirty lifestyle led by the Irregulars and the poverty of those living in the rougher parts of the city. Horowitz was also successful in displaying how one class was no more better off than the other, a point indicated by the conflict that unfolds within the novel. It was a good, diverse, realistic approach to life in Victorian London.

I felt that the characters were quite well-written, and I could detect a hint of the old Doyle Holmes within Horowitz’s version of the great detective. Watson, I also felt, was given a bit more life than I had felt even in the original series. When separated from Holmes, Watson did not appear completely helpless, as I sometimes felt he was in Doyle’s series. He displayed significantly more independence and initiative, with the ability to think quickly in desperate situations, instead of just being there to observe and occasionally throw in a “but Holmes, however did you deduce that!” where it was due. I was glad for this representation of Watson, as I always knew that his character had much more potential in the original series, and Horowitz reworked him to prove that my belief was true. It was also nice to see some cameos from other characters from the original series, such as Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard. He too seemed to display much more smarts and initiative than in the original series. Compared to Holmes, there was no chance that Watson and Lestrade could compete intellectually, but Horowitz recognised that this did not mean that they possessed no intelligence whatsoever. Lestrade was still subject to a few below-the-belt jibes from Holmes which were quite amusing, but he was able to prove himself as a capable and strong-willed detective.

In terms of the story, this was where I felt a little more let down. For a start, the book was far too long to be considered a reflection of Doyle’s writing, and there were parts where the pace was a bit slow and my interest would wane. As Doyle’s narrator, Watson was always sharp and to the point, more focused on narrating the events as they unfolded, whereas Horowitz’s Watson was more inclined to express his own thoughts and opinions on certain matters. There were also times when I felt that Watson’s monologues and reflections were a bit long-winded and robbed the story of its suspense in some places. Horowitz was however, quite successful in delivering what could be considered a classic whodunit story, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged for the most part and a conclusion that, as well as surprising the reader, ties up the story nicely.

Overall Anthony Horowitz has presented us with, in my mind, a rather satisfactory reboot of a series with a legacy so great that everyone still knows about it over a century after its conclusion. Doyle’s shoes are massive ones to fill, and although the novel doesn’t quite carry the essence of the original series, Horowitz has made a commendable effort to remain true to the the character of the great detective. The result is an enjoyable, mostly engaging story that salutes the legend that Doyle created, but to which Horowitz has added his own creative flair. If anyone were to write another Sherlock Holmes novel, I’m glad it was him.

Rating- 7/10