Legend 100 Club

So I’ve been lucky enough to be asked by the lovely publishing company, Legend Press, to be part of their Legend 100 Club. This is a book club for other people who get way way too excited whilst wondering around in book shops breathing in that sweet book smell and spending all their monthly wages on the latest novels. No? Just me? Ok then. Coolz!

Anyway the way it works is Legend Press send me a beautiful, new, unpublished book every month for me to devour whilst on the train, in bed, chilling on the sofa…you get the general gist. After which I just have to review what I thought about the book and send them the link ūüôā

So at the beginning of this week, much to my excitement I opened my postbox to find a copy of Clar Ni Chonghaile’s debut book, ‘Fractured’, which focuses on a kidnapping of a journalist in Somalia. Now my normal go-to with books is a classic, juicy murder. Yes I have far too much Miss Marple on my bookshelves. But I have to say I was hooked! I started it on the train from Warwick to Birmingham and pretty much almost missed my stop. Three days later and I was done!

So yes I¬†definitely would recommend a cheeky trip to Waterstones or opening up your laptop and downloading this book onto your kindle. It’s gripping, tense and thought-provoking! What’s not to like?

Anyhoo review is below….

”What I loved about this stunningly tense novel is the way in which Chonghaile puts a face and a story to the horrors of war and despair that we hear about every day yet are so far removed from. Through her incredibly convincing characters, all of whom embody the flaws, hopes and regrets we have on a regular basis, Chonghaile paints a picture of the complexity of humanity in a country torn apart by war, ideology and foreign intervention. From the opening line Chonghaile draws you into the story of Peter Maguire, a journalist captured and imprisoned whilst on assignment in Somalia. From then onwards we are caught up in a spiralling tale of survival and redemption through the eyes of Peter, his mother, Nina, and Abdi (the Somalian teenager who delivers food to Peter in his cell).

At times I felt that the novel did lose some of its gritty realism and veered a bit towards the clich√© when it switched to Nina’s story, however it worked well as a plot device and was a nice interlude to the tension that otherwise dominates the novel.

The most remarkable component of Chonghaile’s writing, however, is the way in which she creates a fantastic anti-hero with Peter. She does not portray him as the classic victim but as a severely flawed, often selfish individual with a self-confessed inability to love as other people do. It is through his story that Chonghaile brings to life the intricacies of human nature and challenges our assumptions of what good and evil truly mean.”


Why I no longer drink

Hi guys,

So today I wanted to write a post about the¬†fairly recent tee-total me because it’s been strange to see people’s reactions to this. After all I’m a 23 year old who isn’t super religious and doesn’t have any objections to alcohol. If you’d have told the 17 year old me that I would be pretty much tee-total by the age of 23 I would have laughed in your face, or thrown an alcoholic beverage in your face! Lolz, totally happened before! So why the no drinking?

Well, it’s because of health reasons. Before you stop reading and think ahhh boring another health nutter, I don’t mean I’m not drinking because I want to loose weight or because I’m obsessed with my liver. My health reasons are due to the fact that I have interstitial cystitis which basically makes your bladder and kidneys feel like you’ve poured acid on them after having even half a glass of something alcoholic!

This all started at the tender age of 18 but symptoms didn’t really manifest until I was around 22. So now that’s that really. So yea bye bye yummy gin and tonic on a hot summer’s day! So long prossecco on a birthday evening!

And do you know what. It’s ok. Seriously. Yes at first I pined. I pined because I loved the taste. I pined because I loved being sociable with my friends meeting up for cocktails on a Friday night. But most of all the reason I pined and had a strop about how unfair life was was because of people’s reactions to my non-drinking. I don’t really mean specific people. I mean more British society in general.

We use alcohol in every situation. To celebrate when good things happen, to commiserate when bad things happen. We use it as a social lubricant and as an excuse when we fuck up. And do you know what, when you don’t drink you come to realise this. Yes I knew it before but I wasn’t quite aware of how much alcohol played a part in my life. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Believe me I understand that alcohol is not solely bad. I’ve had some hell of good times with that bad boy! But maybe we need to think about how¬†we use it and our reactions to it.

When I tell people I don’t know that I don’t drink there is always the same response: ‘oh how come?’ People need a reason. I feel I need a reason to justify it and yes I definitely have a reason. If you know the pain then you will understand, but sometimes I feel that I shouldn’t have to have a reason. I should just be able to say ‘I just don’t like it’ and that should be enough but for most people it’s not. It’s so ingrained in our culture that it’s weird or boring if we don’t drink and believe me I’m not boring!! Although I couldn’t comment on my weirdness, I am obsessed with Miss Marple after all!

I can party til 4am and have a laugh all on no alcohol, and do you know what I have a freakin’great time! Some of my best nights have been this. Some of my worst night’s have been like this. I’ve also had great nights when drinking. I’ve also had bad nights when I’ve been drinking.

So that’s it. I’m 23 years old and I don’t drink.

I’m 23 years old and I’ll go out partying til 4am.

I’m 23 years old and I’m just me.


Dementors and Depression

I chose this title, partly because JK Rowling is one of my all-time heroes but partly because I believe she just summed up this subject so damn right!

‘Dementors are amongst the foulest things that walk this earth, they glory in decay and despair. Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory, will be sucked out of you’.

Yep. JK Rowling was bang on with this fictional creature!¬†It’s difficult to describe the type of vulnerability that depression brings and I don’t want to sum up anybody else’s experiences because it is very personal but from my experience this is what I came up with: Depression is like continually being naked in front of people. That is how vulnerable and terrified you are. When you’re not depressed you have your armour on, your protection that stops small blows becoming bigger. With depression though your armour is not there and therefore every small scratch to the arm becomes an axe wound to the head that makes it impossible to get up.

So it’s all very well and good to come up with a metaphor or summary of depression but that’s not really the issue is it? The issue is curing it. With 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health issue EACH YEAR, this is not something that can be glossed over with fancy phrases. It’s serious. We all know that. We don’t have to have statistics shouted at us to understand the devastating reality of this illness. In my eyes this still takes us back to two questions: why is there still a stigma behind mental illness? And what is the cure? And I believe that these two questions interlink completely. The cure is to remove the stigma.

Yes I would agree that the stigma has got better over the past few years, with campaigns and media campaigns helping to get people talking about it but it is still more acceptable to call in sick to work with a physical illness than a mental one! Despite the fact that depression leaves you feeling anxious, sick, exhausted, unable to concentrate etc etc.I’m sure any employer and any human would agree that if you are feeling like this you are unfit for work and yet whilst 77% of people are happy to call in sick for a physical illness, this number drops drastically to¬†only 39% when calling in sick for a mental illness. This needs to stop! We already have a mental health crisis in this country and if depression continues to hold this stigma of being weak, unable to cope or just ‘copping off’ then this crisis will continue to grow and explode.

I watched a fantastic TED talk the other day by Guy Winch called ‘why we all need to practice emotional first aid’, which summed up for me our need to treat mental illness the same as physical illness. See the link below!

In it he makes an obvious yet¬†fascinating point in my eyes ‘We wouldn’t get a knife and make a cut deeper but we do this with psychological injuries all the time’. He is SO right and I am completely guilty of it. Why? Because it still carries a stigma. Because the¬†strength it takes to walk into a doctor’s surgery and say ‘I need help. I can no longer carry on living my life like this’ is DAMN BLOODY HARD. But it is not impossible.

I don’t have a cure. If I did I would be rich and famous, but if I can encourage even one person to seek help then this blog post will have been worth it. It can be cured but we need to not be afraid of asking for help. We need to not be afraid of practising emotional first aid!


Why I’m worried about bringing up kids in this world

I’m 23. I don’t want to have children for about 10 years, but I’m already worried. Is that weird? Probably! I know loads of my friends are really excited to have kids but every time I think about it it fills me with dread. Why? I’m worried about bringing them up in a world with all of today’s¬†pressures bearing down on them. Stupid I know! There have always been pressures and bad things going on in the world but then it wasn’t that long ago that I was a teenager and dealt with all those things and now I feel that this¬†has tripled in the past 5 years or so.

Social Media brings easy contact, photos and news articles but it also brings loneliness, more pressure to conform and more comparison, as hours are spent every day looking at other people’s fabulous lives and wondering why yours is not quite so amazing. Hey, how come I haven’t been on 3 holidays this year?! ¬†How does she manage to juggle three kids, a fantastic carer and a husband who looks like George Clooney all at once and still look fresh as a daisy. Answer: You never see the photos of the messy kitchen, the arguments, or the tired circles under her eyes!

Wars battle on throughout the world and meanwhile our government happily sells arms to the majority of these countries whilst wearing a poppy to grieve for the millions who died during WW1 – slightly ironic no?! I think it really hit me around Halloween time this year when the run up was filled with warnings from the police about not distressing and scaring elderly people who live alone. Surely this shouldn’t have to be a warning? It just makes sense doesn’t it. Have fun on Halloween but don’t frighten and upset vulnerable people? Or any people for that matter! Meanwhile the costumes in the supermarkets sum up society’s views on women. As Miranda from Sex and the City quite rightly summed up: ‘The only two choices for women; witch and sexy kitten’. Great. Cheers society for that wonderful and varied choice.

That’s what used to annoy me at uni actually. Whenever there was a dress up night it ALWAYS involved the girls dressing in some kind of sexy way…’Nurses and Doctors’, ‘Back to School’, ‘Baywatch’…I forget many of them but they all pretty much centred around this generic theme. And yes ok you could make your own costume and try to wear something where you didn’t freeze your ass off or get pinched/cat-called or worse by the ‘lads’, but at the end of the day that’s incredibly difficult to do when as a teenager all you want to do is conform! You have to be pretty damn confident to not go with the majority at that age and I bet there’s a minimum percentage of people who would classify as that. I know I didn’t!

So to get back to the point, what do you do when you’re bringing up kids in this modern society? How do you bring up confident, kind and intelligent children in a society that tells them to grow up too quickly, to be unsatisfied with everything they have and to accept everything that society/Rupert Murdoch tells them as binding? I wish I had the answer but I don’t and that’s what terrifies me. But I do have some hope. After all, people do it. I like to think my parents managed to turn out a couple of half-decent children, despite everything and likewise there are many fabulous people in the world despite what you hear in the media. So yes I know it is possible but that doesn’t stop me from worrying already about being a bad parent because I won’t be able to protect them from everything bad in this world, but I guess I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope!

Happiness VS Contentment

Happiness. One word, but a word that is googled so often. A word that magazines, books, courses, make up artists, restaurants and fosters adverts use liberally to advertise their products and claim to improve your chances in getting it. It has now gone from an emotion to a commodity despite the fact that there have been countless studies concluding that you cannot buy happiness. But I would have to disagree. In my eyes the problem is that people confuse happiness with contentment but these are actually two different things entirely.

Happiness for me is a mixture of feelings. It is a mixture of joy, excitement, lust, passion…(insert other positive adjectives here), whereas¬†contentment is that feeling of complete satisfaction, not necessarily because everything in your life is perfect but because at that moment you have no more desires, and as Buddhism suggests, desire is the root to human suffering because with desire comes a feeling of never being satisfied, always wanting the next thing, whatever that may be. Hence why happiness can be sold, because it focuses on fulfilling a desire. A desire is fleetingly satisfied once you have purchased said product but soon that rush wears off and the next desire takes its place. For example, you see an advert for a new dress and you desire to own it so you buy it and for however long, depending on your personality, you are happy. You have fulfilled that particular desire. But then you see another nice dress you want this one too. The desire, in short, has come back.

With contentment however there is no desire to be sold or bought. Therefore it cannot be transformed into a commodity. How do you sell a sense of satisfaction? You can’t because you can’t even begin to describe it, let alone form it into a product.

10 Life Lessons Harry Potter has taught me…

  1. That I would really struggle to chose between owning an owl, a cat or a toad.
  2. That ‘muggle’ clothing is actually quite confusing to outsiders.
  3. That an invisibility cloak is possibly one of the coolest things you could own and that Harry definitely doesn’t use it to his advantage (does he not want to see Cho in the shower?)
  4. That ‘happiness can be found in the darkest of places, if only one remembers to turn on the lights’.
  5. That I must always be suspicious of my pets, just in case they turn out to actually be humans at a later date and do their best to murder me.
  6. That love really is the best magic of all.
  7. That if you’re a witch or wizard you can eat and eat and eat and do no exercise and still not gain any weight (Halloween feast anyone???) but sadly the same does not apply to me.
  8. That I should never follow handwritten instructions in a book, even if they help me with my next essay. You can’t trust anyone these days.
  9. That ‘being unfailingly kind’ is a trait ‘people never fail to undervalue’ (thank you Dumbledore).
  10. That being in a friendship group of 3 causes immeasurable amounts of problems, especially if two of you fancy each other!

Porn: What’s the deal?

Until a couple of days ago I had never watched porn. I don’t know if that’s weird…I am only speaking from my own¬†experience. Maybe most people have. It’s just never really been a thing for me. It was never an issue and to be perfectly honest I never really had much of an opinion on it, that is until recently when somebody I know, who works as a teacher, told me that a 10 year old boy was caught watching porn on his phone. I was dumbfounded. Maybe I was naive but it had never occurred to me that children that age would want to access and watch that kind of material. Did they even understand it? At the age of 10 I had my head¬†in Jacqueline Wilson books, not videos of threesomes!

So then I became interested. I started looking into the statistics and according to a survey published in Psychologies magazine in 2010¬†, one third of 14-16 year old boys had admitted to viewing pornographic images when they were aged 10 or younger. That was five years ago, so with the increase in technology in these past 5 years making it even easier to access porn I can’t imagine the statistics now. I’m sure somebody has written about them but honestly I think it would make me too depressed to read them.

From my brief experience, I have to admit that I was pretty amazed at how easy it is to access, not just what I would call softcore porn but some seriously violent stuff that seemed to just be the norm, including teenage pornography, which is something I wasn’t even aware existed!¬†I even thought I’d start light – a friend had told me about an erotic fiction website that was more badly written than 50 shades of grey…I was intrigued. I thought it would be a laugh like when we played the 50 shades of grey drinking game. But I was wrong. Even the stories were pretty hardcore and when I clicked on one it took me to a porn sight, thus proving that you really are¬†just¬†one click away from endless videos, images and comments. I suppose this shouldn’t have shocked me. After all, in this technology era aren’t we all one click away from anything we desire? But one click away from extremely violent and sexual images and one click away from, say, a Tescos shop, is a little bit different in my eyes! Even when I download films now I’m surrounded by ads for local women who apparently ‘want to fuck’. You can’t get away from it. One of them came up with what looked like cartoon porn! Seriously?! So now you don’t even have to watch ‘real’ women. This just seems a step too far. The world has gone mad.

I know you can’t automatically link the rise in easy access pornography to a rise in sexual assault but surely people have to understand that if you are exposed to anything from an early age it helps to form your ideas and beliefs? Young people are taught when they watch violent movies and play video games, such as Grand Theft Auto, that these aren’t real. That the violence is fake, constructed for entertainment purposes. But does anybody ever teach young people that about porn? Does anybody ever say that actually this isn’t what real sex is? That it is not ok to treat women as objects and victims of violence? No! Sex Education centres around the main issue of the birds and the bees. We perhaps can’t do anything about easy access to pornography, what with technology becoming increasingly used by younger and younger people, but perhaps we can do something about teaching young people about porn. Lets not make it a taboo subject in schools. Let’s talk about the problems with it, the unrealistic expectations and the violence. Hell, kids are continually droned on to about the problems with drugs and unwanted pregnancy but growing up surrounded by sexually explicit and violent images all around you, it is surely more important to teach young people to have respect for themselves and other people?

Perhaps we don’t need to get rid of porn but we do have to start being aware of the effects of it and¬†not be scared to voice an opinion.