Fact Or Fiction

Thoughts

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‘Fake news’. I by no means mean to quote Trump here, but certainly much of the ‘truth’ has been contorted by journalists and social media in recent years.

We have, now, got most information at our finger tips. With thanks to the internet we can find out the breaking news and the height of your favourite celebrity; any kind of information that will satisfy your curiosity and allow you to figure out how to build that Ikea coffee table. The internet has been an incredible invention that I doubt many of us can imagine life without. However, as with all things, it has its downsides. We can get brand new information quicker then ever before which means journalists are biting at the bit to get out the next news story; this often means that much of the information has not been backed up and that it could, in fact, be just a rumour. And it’s not just the information we are given, it’s the information that news broadcasters can choose not to give us. After all, as Sir Francis Bacon once said ‘ipsa scientia potestas est’ – Knowledge itself is power.

I recently read an article from a couple of years ago by Katherine Viner (editor in chief at The Guardian) entitled ‘how technology disrupted the truth’ it was a fascinating read and really got me thinking about the society we live in now and our dependance on technology.

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Viner talked about how “In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true”. Not only does this mean that some of the information is censored but that rumours can be quickly spread just like in high school movies. She is referring to the use of social media. It is easy for anyone to read a post and share it to let everyone they know about this information, or for anyone to make up information and share it without any evidence. And with our busy lives we tend not to have the time to check the facts, we just assume and trust that the information we are provided with is true.

Social media is not only a place to spread information but according to many articles the companies can censor what information we are presented with online. So unless we are actively searching for a piece of information, it won’t be shown on our social media feeds. Viner writes about how “Algorithms such as the one that powers Facebook’s news feed are designed to give us more of what they think we want – which means that the version of the world we encounter every day in our own personal stream has been invisibly curated to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs.” This can be particularly an issue in Politics. If we are given information about a campaign or about someone running for prime minister then that information may sway our decisions about what or who we vote for, if after the decisions have been made and we find out that that information was in fact false then we may look back on our vote and regret it – then we have the issue of whether there needs to be a revote. (Just like we are having now on the Brexit ‘vote leave’ allegations.)

Facebook has pledged to begin to do something about this ‘filter bubble’ (as Eli Pariser, the co-founder of Upworthy, coins it). Although some think even this is ‘Fake news’ too. (Facebook ‘fake news’ article here)

Many people now rely on social media to gain information on current affairs and to help construct opinions but how can we do that if that information may just be a rumour? We are unlikely to check these ‘facts’ and just regard them as the truth without any further investigation, after all the news should be something we can trust in.

Many writers in the past have talked about issues with misinformation, the most famous of all being George Orwell in his novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. The phrase Orwell uses to sum this up is “Freedom is the freedom to say 2 plus 2 equals four” in other words, freedom only exists if all the information we are given is actually true. He comments on how easy it is for those in power or those we trust to say that “two plus two equals 5”. The sales of his best selling novel he wrote in 1948 shot up when Trump ran for president, with people making links between society now and the dystopian world Orwell presents for us.

Also in Margaret Atwood’s ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ she writes that ‘there are 2 kinds of freedom, Freedom to and freedom from’.

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Im not saying that all the information we are told is false only that perhaps we need to be wary of what allegations being made by the media are true. This can only be done by checking on the sources and by reading around – To ask ourselves if the information we are being provided with is Fact or Fiction?

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10 REVISION TIPS from an A level student

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Revision sometimes can feel like a huge mountain to climb as you look at the piles of notes you’ve made throughout the year (hopefully!) and wonder where on earth to begin. Here are a few of my tips I have acquired from years of revising for GCSE and A level that hopefully may help you take the first steps to tackling that mountain.

  1. Download a free app to help you focus and not get distracted from the notifications pinging up or your own temptation to have a “little” scroll on your instagram feed! – One of my favourites which I recently discovered from a friend is Flora, an app which you can set the time you want to spend revising and will block any notifications from coming on your phone. You are also ‘growing’ a tree whilst you focus, if you break your target focus time the tree will die – you can even put money on it as extra motivation for you not to break focus! It’s even great for the environment because the money you loose goes to planting real trees around the world. This app is also great because you are creating a competition with yourself, the more you focus the more trees you will ‘grow’ and the further you can ‘travel’ around the world. Perhaps not the best of descriptions but download the app for free and you can discover for yourself what I mean.

2. Start with the subject/topic you are WORST at. Tackle the most difficult topics first by making summaries, drawing diagrams if it is a difficult concept or creating mind maps that you can plaster all over your wall. If you aren’t sure which topics to begin with do a whole bunch of practice questions then mark it yourself to see where there are areas you aren’t picking up the marks and make a list with a tally beside it – often you may see a pattern begin to form, the one with the highest tally is the topic to start with!

3. Snacks. You need fuel when revising so choose a snack of choice (like peanuts, fruit or these incredible Biscuiteers biscuits which my Mum Kindly gave me to wish me good luck (a great gift if you know someone going through exams in the near future)). Obviously, healthier snacks are better for your brain but lets be honest, when slaving away over your revision notes fruit and veg isn’t often the snack thats going to keep us going is it? Sometimes id even use food as a work and reward system – so I’d set maybe 40 minutes on my timer (refer to my first tip), then once I had completed it reward myself with a slice of cake or a biscuit – I didn’t do this all the time but sometimes when you really need a motivational boost this would really help. Similarly id do this with other things I love like revise for 5 hours then id allow myself to watch a film or go to the cinema. Try out whatever works for you and motivates you to keep going!

4. Keep your big WHY in your mind at all times.

Maybe create a vision board for you to look at to remind you exactly WHY you are putting yourself through this. Your ‘BIG WHY’ can be anything from a dream career, or to get into your dream university or simply to give you more options in your life. Collect images of everything you love or want from your future and stick them in a notebook or on a big piece of paper and figure out exactly what you want from your life – this doesn’t mean you have to have your whole life figured out! Who knows where we are going to be in 5, 10, 20 years time – we don’t know where life will take us or what we will want then, but we can figure out what we love now and have a few ideas of things we might want then. For me, I would gather pictures of travelling, of books (because I want to study English literature) of art, of films and writers, of inspiring quotes, of the sky (because it makes me feel calm), of clothes I wish I could afford, of places I would dream of living in etc. We are all different and have different things that drive us to do the things we do – do you want to be wealthy, do you want to lead a creative life, do you want to lead a stress-free life, do you want to own your own business, do you want to make a change? There are so many questions to ask yourself about what YOU want from life. And the answers to these questions will help you figure out your ‘why’ and this should help motivate you to keep going through your studies.

5. Test yourself frequently.

This may sound obvious but often this is the step we forget, we end up bogged down by all our revision notes that we don’t really know what we know and we don’t. What I did was revise a topic, make notes on a mind map, watch a ‘Snaprevise video’ then sit with a blank piece of paper and my spec and write out all that I can remember. Where there are areas I know I have forgotten i’d put a line or write in a different colour ‘something about….’ then go back to it at the end saying the pieces of information over and over in my head and rewriting it out. Its also a good idea to do past paper questions so that you can think like the examiner and feel more prepared, Snap revise is really good for this too because after going over a topic they will guide you through some potential past paper questions showing how they got to their answer and how to approach different kinds of questions. (I only used Snaprevise for Biology though, so I wouldn’t be able to say how useful it is for any other subject – I chose not to use it for English Lit because English is more of an ‘opinion forming’ subject, as in there is no definitive answer.

A few Subject Specific tips…

I studied English Literature, Biology and Art at A level, three very different subjects I know, and each required very different revision methods.

For English I found it useful watching adaptations for the plays, the more the better particularly as for our exam board we got marked for our wider reading, and also summary videos (the best ones I found were by Crash Course literature on YouTube – they also gave you critical opinions which were really useful). My second tip would be to talk to some of your classmates, talking to other people about the books you are studying means you can share ideas and gain some you hadn’t though of or be able to argue their opinion – a line of argument you could potentially use in your exam. My third and final tip would be to do as many past paper questions as you can, even if you just do essay plans, just so you can get to grips with quickly forming ideas and a line of argument.

For Biology, Its all about ensuring you really understand and remember the content and that you are able to know exactly what the examiner wants from the questions in your answers. For me, my best friend was Snaprevise as they went through example questions and really quickly summarised all the topics linking them to all the other topics at the same time. I also went to a SnapRevise course in London at Imperial Collage earlier this year for some extra revision – they were really long days but I do feel that it was real helpful although it wasn’t exam board specific like the videos so occasionally I did find myself thinking ‘Do I need to know this? I don’t think I’ve heard of that before’ so I did have to clarify a few things with my teacher after.

Art is mostly coursework so the biggest piece of advice I have is to keep on top of it – i’m a fairly fast worker so for me it was mostly about keeping up a certain standard of quality in my work but so many others struggled with the sheer volume of work to do.

So that is my top 5 tips (with a few extra!), I hope they were helpful, if you have any specific questions then feel free to leave them in the comments below 🙂

And if you are doing exams or are expecting results this summer – Good Luck!!!

Do we & Should we have Freedom Of Speech?

Thoughts, Uncategorized

Scrolling through Twitter earlier this month I saw this tweet from Stig Abell which Comedian Ricky Gervais replied to, and after having seen the video of the ‘nazi’ comments being shouted at to one of our MP’s, It really got me thinking about freedom of speech. Gervais, in this scenario, seems to be an advocate for this freedom whereas Abell does not. And this situation with this MP certainly does add to the argument of the latter, as it is awful that someone can be bombarded with such insults on live TV or on Social media.

This is a topic which is widely debated, freedom of speech means that we are free to make any comments we like without there being any sort of punishment if we go against the consensus; in short, it allows us to openly share our opinions.

So do we have Freedom of Speech now?

I don’t think we do. Yes, we have this freedom to a certain extent, however, increasingly there are campaigns for certain topics or phrases to be banned. Such as talking about ‘Hitler’ as Abell mentioned or racist words, parts of history that we can reflect on and learn from the past.

Should we have freedom of Speech?

I think we should. Being able to express our own individual opinions is part of it and weather we think someones opinion is right or wrong it is completely subjective and so we can either have the freedom or not have the freedom. Personally, I cannot think of a world worse than one in which we cannot express what we think.

In my opinion, banning words and phrases – even if they have negative connotations should never be banned as otherwise we are banning certain aspects of history, it is a respect which we should be trying to cultivate so that this kind of bullying does not occur. For example with the Hitler comments, there will always be other ways to insult somebody – if talking about Hitler and Nazi regime is banned then there will only be another person that they will be compared to. In other words, it should not be freedom of speech which is restricted but freedom of individuality which needs to be accepted.

One of the campaigns I have seen recently is to get phrases like ‘Bringing home the bacon’ banned – a vegan perspective that meat should not be used in our language like this. But these kinds of phrases have been used for such a long time, they should not be simply banned with people needing to consciously remember which common phrases are not allowed to be used anymore. And this particular phrase is not hurting anybody. To me, when I hear of these kinds of campaigns, It makes me think of ‘Newspeak’ in Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ which was used by ‘the party’ to constrict peoples thoughts by making it impossible for people to have the words to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

By banning parts of our language we are essentially restricting it, yes, many phrases are offensive to people – no matter who you are, we all often experience bullying, whether that is for your race, your gender, your hair colour or anything else, unless we are all identical bullying is likely to always exist – bullies pick the part of you that makes you unique and different and spin that quality on its head. Bullying is difficult to prevent, it has always been around and restricting our language will only make it worse.

People come up with new phrases all the time to express something they want to say, sometimes it’s a different meaning of a word, sometimes it’s a new word entirely – expanding language is an amazing thing, if Shakespeare never made up all those new words and phrases, imagine how different our world would be now, Restricting language is restricting our freedom.

What do you think? Should we have freedom of speech? Do you feel as though you have freedom of speech? Are the issues we are talking about with freedom of speech actually about bullying in general?

A Chat About Shakespeare

Book Club

In the spirit of the new Shakespeare drama written by Ben Elton, starring Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian Mckellen (Also known as the epitome of thespians) called ‘All is true’ which is out today, here is a little chat about the famous bard himself. Shakespeare is a playwright and poet we all know about, some know of ‘Yorrick’s skull’ in Hamlet, or ‘to be or not to be’. Others know of his plays in more depth having studied them at school, and all English speakers use phrases from his plays in everyday life. But the question many ask is of the relevance of his plays today.

At the Globe!

I love Shakespeare’s plays, I revere his craft and the storytelling; the way in which the plays really capture human nature – the ways in which we think, our own hypocrisy, our flaws, our tendencies and the multifaceted sides of all of our personalities. I find that when I watch or read one of the plays, each time you get a new insight into what it means to be human. I think the quote that really sums it up is from Hamlet when Ophelia in her supposed madness says ‘we know who we are, but not what we may be.’

Shakespeare, in my opinion, is often a little bit like marmite – you either love it or you hate it. However, if you are currently one of the haters I urge you to give the plays another try. Go in with an open mind and if it’s a play done by great actors you will understand it.

My personal recommendation is Henry IV as part of The Hollow Crown series of Shakespeare’s histories with Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal, Jeremy Irons as Henry IV and Simon Russel Beale who plays a brilliant Falstaff, or Branagh’s ‘Much ado about nothing’ with Emma Thompson is very funny and was the film that got me into loving Shakespeare’s plays. (You can find both of these on amazon)

Other favourite performances…

My favourite adaptation of ‘Hamlet’ is Andrew Scotts performance – if you get the chance to watch it, his performance is so clever with little actions really emphasising the themes of the play even if you don’t completely understand the language.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to The Globe, there really is nothing quite like seeing the plays in a replica of what it would have been like watching his plays in the Elizabethan / Jacobean era.

I saw Almeida Theatres Richard II starring Simon Russel Beale a couple of weeks ago, The national theatre often record many of the live performances which makes it so much easier to see theatre in your home town.

Shakespeare with all its old English and metaphor can make it seem completely inaccessible but I urge you to watch some of these adaptations focusing on all the incredible themes focusing on the human capacity to be multiple beings and how he captures human nature. So many scholars have taken Shakespeare over but his plays are something everybody can enjoy.

This new film focuses on Shakespeares later life in his final years and I can’t wait to watch it, I have heard it is quite emotional.

What are your favourite adaptations?

January 2019 Favourites

Favourites

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I hope everyone has had a good start to the New Year (even if you have had a few cheat days on your resolutions!), I can’t believe January is over already, I always find that January is such a sad month, Christmas decorations have come down (Bournemouth gardens almost looks like a war zone!) and everyone is either really motivated to start afresh or a little saddened because the new year isn’t as they had hoped. Its all just a bit cold and wet really. Anyway, despite some January blues, here are a few of my favourites from film and books to clothes and beauty from this month…

Lets start with movies as due the cold and wetness mentioned above there have been quite a few cosy days snuggled up watching a movie whenever I can get the chance…

  1. I watched ‘The Favourite’. Overall it was a cleverly done film, a very alternative take on the period drama – certainly not something I had ever seen before! Some people will love it and others will hate it – it was a bit weird and wacky so if thats your thing I would definitely urge you to go and watch it. Emma Stone and Olivia Coleman were superb in it; definitely worth all the nominations.
  2. NT Live: The Tragedy of King Richard II – this really is theatre rather than a movie but I saw it in the cinema as I couldn’t get up to London to see it. I am a huge fan of Shakespeare’s plays – particularly the histories- and so it may not be to everyones tastes but I loved it. Simon Russell Beale gave a sublime performance as Richard, I thought he was also incredible as Falstaff in The Hollow Crown. It was a different, more modern take on Richard II, really emphasising the timeless themes of the play.
  3. Mary Queen of Scots – I actually really enjoyed it although it has not had the best reviews from critics (scoring 63% on RottenTomatoes), I thought Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie were excellent as Mary and Elizabeth, respectively,  playing the roles as ambitious women who were torn between their heads and their hearts. I have not yet seen such an action packed period movie with female leads in it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When I was not quite in the mood for a movie, these were the books I read…

  1. The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller – I cannot rave about this book enough. I read it in just over two days, it was incredibly captivating and a really fascinating take on the Iliad story telling the tale of love between Achilles and Patroclus. (For a full review see my last blog post)
  2. I finished The Handmaid’s Tale; I would recommend it for what it is about but not really for it as an enjoyable or captivating read. It’s dystopian so it is supposed to make you feel a bit uncomfortable and make you question where society is heading.

I have now started reading Millers second book ‘Circe’ which I am really enjoying so far.

I have also had the opportunity to go to the theatre this month and saw Hamilton! Everyone has been raving about this musical from its debut on broadway and the musical was amazing in London – I learnt so much about American history that I might otherwise never had known whilst listening to rather catchy songs.

Talking about songs, here are the new music releases that my ears have been loving…

  1. Florence + the machine, Moderation.
  2. I’ll come to, James Blake
  3. By the way I forgive you, Brandi Carlisle

On to what I have been wearing…

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I LOVE these Office Boots, they add a bit of ‘rock & roll’ to what my sister likes to call my ‘Victorian ghost’ outfit.  They are relatively comfortable but certainly not a shoe I would like to be walking around all day in (they have a pointy toe and have a slight high heel after all!)

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Beauty…

I haven’t really tried out anything new in beauty this month, I am, however, continuing to love the Origins Face mask I mentioned in my 2018 favourites.

Food:

Had a delicious lunch whilst in London at Tom Kerridge’s restaurant – my family didn’t love it so much, they say you can judge any restaurant by the taste of their chips and they weren’t up to their standards! However I really enjoyed my fancy English breakfast style dinner – if breakfast is on the dinner menu, then it is a great restaurant in my eyes!

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Thanks for reading! What were your favourites from January?

Book Club: The Song of Achilles

Book Club

I think I am off to a good start with my resolutions; of reading the books on my ever growing list. This was one of them –

“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller.

The story was so captivating I couldn’t wait to pick it back up again and I finished it in just over two days! I know very little of Greek mythology and had no idea about this love story perhaps overlooked by the tales of war in Troy. It is such a tragic but beautiful love story between Achilles and Patroclus, all written in the perspective of the latter. Of the little I knew in Greek mythology, I had heard that Achilles was arrogant and selfish, Miller’s story tells a very different, sensitive side to this legend really examining the ways of human nature, about our motivations, fears and hopes and how they drive us to our fates. It is almost paralleled with Shakespeare, following a similar course to Romeo and Juliet and examining the complexities of human nature.

Overall I would highly recommend this book whether you are a Greek mythology newbie like me, or have a passion and are well read in it, I think that you would enjoy this book if you want a story of love, of pride, of fate, of what it means to be a ‘man’ and of war, this is for you. I have, however, come away with a renewed interest in wanting to learn more about Greek mythology and this part of history.

I am now about to read her second book ‘Circe’ which so many people have been raving about recently – apparently it’s a feminist take on this Greek myth. Have you read it? What did you think?

Join my #bookclub on Instagram and let me know what you are currently reading on instagram 👇

UCAS: What I wish I had known

Advice

The UCAS deadline was last Tuesday, and a week on from that deadline I thought I would share my journey applying to university – from choosing the course, choosing the uni’s, the revision and other things to look out for, but before I begin the biggest thing I wish I had known before applying is to look around universities much sooner. I started looking at the end of year 12 but doing this made me realise that perhaps the course wasn’t for me and I had to frantically look around uni’s in the autumn. I would really recommend going to an open day, you really get to sense the ‘vibe’ of the place and see if you could see yourself there. Having in mind where you want to go to university well in advance gives you motivation in your studies too, particularly if you want to do a competitive course or get into a prestigious university. I know some people who had in mind where they wanted to go from year 10, and universities really encourage you visiting from this year too as you can get involved with events they hold or apply to a summer school (which may help make the uni offer you a place).

The courses I have applied for is English Literature and English with politics, the latter is probably my preferred choice as it gives me the flexibility to follow two of my passions but I could only find one university which offered it (Surrey). The other universities I have applied for are…

  • Kings Collage, University of London (I really loved the course and their involvement with The Globe as Shakespeare is the module I love most)
  • Royal Holloway, University of London (Like Surrey, it is just half an hour from London which is close to all the galleries, theatres and buzz – the best of both worlds)
  • Oxford Brookes University (in the heart of a university city, it is easy for me to get home or visit London, the entry requirements are also based on UCAS tariff so there is not as much pressure on me to get a high grade in Biology!)
  • University of Birmingham (I absolutely love the course and they are involved with the RSC, however I have never been to Birmingham and it is much further away)

Initially, in year 12, I aspired to go to the RVC and study Veterinary medicine, however I realised that English was the subject I most loved and enjoyed and that biology and chemistry were subjects that although I enjoyed were not ones I was naturally gifted in.

I don’t know where I will go after (hopefully) completing my degree as there is no obvious route so I’m just going to see where life takes me and continue to do what I love.

My top 5 tips for choosing the right uni:

  • Start looking around as soon as possible
  • go to a summer school
  • Check out the area, this is where you are going to be spending 3 or more years of your life.
  • check the ‘value for money’, check the costs compared to what you are going to get out of your course (for example; whether they offer placements, the number of teaching hours etc)
  • Make sure the course is right for you.

My top 5 tips if you can’t decide what to study:

  • Make an inspiration board / jot down all your passions, interests, what you would like to learn more about, where you want to be in the future, who you want to be etc. (there is a great post about this on lifemoreectrodinary.com)
  • try out MOOC’S and other online courses relating to some areas of interest (future learn is really good or there are a few courses available on the open university website)
  • Try work experience – If there are a couple of career paths you are interested in, try them out and see which one you enjoy most.
  • Talk to friends and family to see if they can give you any ideas about what they can see you doing in the future.
  • Look around universities and talk to subject lecturers, they may enthuse you to want to do a particular course or dissuade you from doing it.

Different universities are looking for different things from you to offer you a place; some are all about the grades only, some are more than happy to except you if you show a real enthusiasm, passion and commitment to your chosen field of study – if the universities you are looking at look for the later then I would recommend really reading around your subject – reading magazines / newspapers, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, visiting museums, watching plays etc. These are all things you can include in your personal statement to impress your chosen universities.

If you are reading this and thinking about going to uni, feel free to ask about the application process and If you would like to keep updated with more things Uni and study related please sign up to my email list.

Thanks so much for reading :))

Book Club: 2018 in review and 2019 goals

Book Club

At the beginning of this year I set myself the goal to read 7 books (you can read the post here)

I know it is not very many books but In reality when setting this goal I knew it was going to be a little unrealistic as school work does end up getting in the way.

This year I read:

  1. The da Vinci Code
  2. Origin
  3. A Dolls House
  4. A streetcar Named Desire
  5. A Handmaids Tale
  6. Kane and Abel

However half of those books are ones that are compulsory for me to read for my English literature A level so I am a little disappointed I hadn’t read more in my own time (particularly as only one of these were on that list I set myself). Nevertheless I will continue my ambition to read more.

I loved all the books I read, my favourite however was probably either Origin or Kane and Abel as they are both fantastic thrillers and overall much more enjoyable reading. I am a little unsure about The Handmaid’s Tale to be honest, I actually much prefer Nineteen eighty-four.

Here are the books I plan on reading next year (I will set myself the goal of 5, although I imagine I will have more time for reading as I have a longer summer after I have done my A level exams).

  1. Frankenstein By Mary Shelley
  2. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  3. Weathering Heights by Emily Bronte
  4. The prodigal daughter by Jeffrey Archer (sequel to Kane and Abel)

Then the 5th one I am unsure about because there are some more classics that I would love to read however there are some really great new books I’d love to read to – particularly maybe the A Discovery Of Witches books as I watched the first series of the adaptation and I was hooked. I would also love to read ‘Circe’ or ‘Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller as I have heard they are amazing.