Books

Quarterly Book Review 2019 #3

Where has the time gone?! I’m already on the third part of this year’s Quarterly Book Reviews, this quarter I will be reviewing books from July – September. This month has been full of biographies, I re-read This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay which I reviewed last year and found some brilliant thrillers that kept me guessing.

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

“Being nice is a good thing. You can be strong and nice. You don’t have to be one or the other”

Tiffy Moore has broken up with her boyfriend (well, ex) and now needs a cheap flat, quick. Leon Twomey needs some cash to help his incarcerated brother. They agree on a flatshare, Tiffy runs the the one-bedroom flat in the evenings then when she’s at work Leon occupies the flat in the day. Tiffy and Leon haven’t met, however they get to know each other through sticky notes left around the flat and their lives start to intertwine more than they could ever have imaged.

This book was beyond great, I was hooked from the first page. Although the book seemed ctuesy and fluffy on the outside, deep down the book had quite a serious undertone. Both characters had issues going on in their lives, Tiffy with an abusive ex-boyfriend and Leon with his falsely accused, incarcerated brother.

Each chapter was narrated by either Tiffy or Leon, the format of the typing changed with each character too. The supporting characters were all very unique and had interesting back stories, they tied into the story really well.

For anyone that loves a good rom-com story with a twist!

★★★☆

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Vox by Christina Dalcher

“Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better”

Set in a near-future dystopian America where the rise of an extremist religious group have become to power. They have stopped woman working, reading and have shackled them to a word counter ‘bracelet’ that limits their speech to 100 words per day. Dr. Jean McClellan ignored the signs that this day was coming, now it’s time for her to stand up for herself, her daughter and all the woman in America.

Vox was hailed as a new version of The Handmaid’s Tale but honestly, I have little good feedback about this title. The concept was a very interesting concept, considering what is happening in America right now with Women’s Bodily Autonomy being taken away bit by bit. However, it fell super flat for me.

The whole story seemed rushed and every issue was sorted out too quickly.. it wasn’t realistic at all. The characters all fell super flat too, they were all just stereotypical characters with no substance and depth. The worst part of this novel was how random it was, the narration by Jean was all over the place, a lot of the time I struggled to keep up with what was going on as nothing was explained in a linear way.

Disappointed with Vox, it could have been the new Handmaid’s Tale with a more modern edge, however it ended up being boring, flat and rushed.

★☆☆☆

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She Chose Me by Tracey Emerson

“Grace is a Sinner”

Grace has returned to London after twenty years teaching abroad to look after her ill Mother. However, when Grace starts receiving blank Mother’s Day cards and the feeling she is being watched, she realises that the past is catching up with her and she can’t keep running forever.

She Chose Me is a powerful thriller that keeps you guessing. The duel narrative wasn’t confusing even when we were unsure on who the second narrator was and all characters were engaging even though we, as the readers, weren’t meant to like all of them. It was easy to have empathy for all characters involved in the book and I could easily picture the scenes as I read them. Out of all the characters Cassie was the most interesting, Emerson really delved into her inner psych and explored why she acts the way she does. I thought I had the story sussed the whole way through the book but the last few chapters showcased an amazing twist that I didn’t see coming.

A story for all fans of Psychological Thrillers.

★★★☆

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Just a Child: Britain’s Biggest Child Abuse Scandal Exposed by Sammy Woodhouse

“Most of us forget exactly how we felt as a child, and don’t understand how our developing minds worked, but unfortunately those who groom children do not. They are masters of getting inside a child’s head and finding out what make’s them tick, and they know exactly how to abuse that knowledge for their own gratification, stealing childhoods and wrecking lives as they go.

Sometimes the best books are written not by professional writers, but by those that have been through the ringer yet are determined to help themselves and others in the same situation.

Just a Child is the heartbreaking autobiography of Sammy Woodhouse, who from the age of 14 was groomed by a group of men in one of the UK’s biggest child exploitation cases. Sammy met Arshid Hussain, who was 10 years older than her, and instantly fell in love. What followed was decades of abuse at the hands of Arshid and his gang, who ran one of the biggest child sex trafficking rings in the country, all under the nose of the authorities who were meant to protect her.

Books about those subject matter are always going to be hard to read and digest. Although Sammy isn’t a professional writer, her account of this ordeal is written so well and really draws you in. This book is very educating and showcases the life long question of “why do they stay with their abuser?”. There is moments that are unbearable to read and you will want to scream “Get out of there!” at young Sammy. However, you see through the story how one brave woman stood up to the abusers and the authorities and changed the law, and saved many young lives in the process.

A hard read, but one that should be read by all, I would honestly campaign for this book to be used in schools to educate children on the signs of exploitation and domestic abuse.

★★★★

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Educated by Tara Westover

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”

I’m really digging biographies this quarter, I’ve read 3 already!

Educated follows the life of Tara Westover who was brought up in a Survivalist, Mormon family in rural Idaho. She didn’t have a birth certificate, go to school or get to participate in normal childhood activities. Instead her father insisted on preparing for the end of days – spending days canning foods, scrapping, hording armed weapons and making escape plans. By the age of 16, Tara was craving an escape from her radical Father and abuse Brother, so she finally decided to go to school and have an education.

I always find books about religious extremism very interesting, mostly because I’m not at all religious, and Educated was no exception. Told over many years, Tara has a captivating way of telling her story and no stone was un-turned in re-telling her memories. Although, some parts of the story seemed a little far-fetched, even for a biography about survivalists – either Tara was very lucky in her quest for an education or she left a lot of details out of the book.

Despite this, Educated was an interesting read about a community that doesn’t receive a lot of attention and a girl who was willing to risk it all for a chance in education.

★★☆☆

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Down Among The Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Assistant by Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams is your average young woman, however her career choice is a little unusual.. she is a mortuary technician.

Down Among The Dead men follows Michelle as she navigates the fascinating world underneath most hospitals. We get a glimpse of all the interesting characters that make up the staff: the cooky pathologists, caring undertakers and the technicians themselves. The stories that unfold from the dead that come into the Mortuary are shocking, some so ridiculous you wouldn’t have thought it could happen and other’s so sad and heartbreaking.

This biography was interesting, telling and educating.. before this novel I had no idea how a mortuary worked. The only let down was that Michelle had a habit of adding a lot of details about her life outside of work, which wasn’t always that interesting.

An interesting book to pick up for one of the most underrated parts of life and death.

★★☆☆

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The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

“Sometimes things happen and you have no way of understanding them. You try to find a reason to justify it, but there isn’t always an answer. It’s just life”

After reading a few Biographies I jumped back on to the thriller train, The Other Woman was a great book to get me re-introduced to the genre.

The Other Woman follows Emily who meets the man her dreams, Adam. Her new whirlwind romance seems like the start of a wonderful new chapter, however lurking in the shadows is Adam’s obsessive mother Pammie, vying with Emily for every bit of Adam’s attention… but how far will Pammie go to have Adam all to herself?

This book sucked me right in, I was hooked from the first page. I found Emily to be a very real character, I empathised with her immensely. Emily’s friends and family were all interesting characters with their own quirks, but Adam and his family were something else. Pammie was the epitome of the ‘evil mother in law’, very manipulative and always had a trick up her sleeve. Adam was a very interesting character, he wasn’t the typical ‘prince charming’ and had a very dark side to him.

All fans of thrillers should pick up this book, it was immersive, emotional and had a great twist at the end.

★★★☆

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The Holiday by T.M Logan

“No one thought anything of it if you had your phone out – because everyone did. Everyone was doing it, all the time, so no one thought it out of the ordinary. And that meant you could take pictures of literally anything. Anything at all.”

Wow this novel really kept me guessing!  The Holiday follows a group of four woman, friends from their college days, as they travel to France on a vacation with their families. Kate finds texts on her husbands phone from another woman using a fake name.. however one of the woman is one of Kate’s four best friends. Kate uses the week away to uncover her Husband’s secret affair but someone else is trying to hide their secret.. even if they take it to their grave.

The Holiday is a book I wasn’t really looking forward to reading but I’m glad I gave it a go as it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. One minute I thought I had it sussed then the next moment I changed my mind. All the characters were unique and had their own personal dramas which linked to the other characters issues.. T.M Logan thoroughly mapped out this book. However, don’t read this book expecting to like any of the characters, they were all horribly flawed but this made them very life like.

For fans of thrillers that keep you guessing!

★★★☆

Other Books Read but Not Reviewed:

  • Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
  • What Red Was by Sophie Price
  • This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (2nd time reading)
  • Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

Books I Did Not Finish:

  • Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E Thomas – Book was boring and the narrator wasn’t at all likeable or approachable

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge read so far: 38

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Where has the time gone?! I'm already on the third part of this year's Quarterly Book Reviews, this quarter I will be reviewing books from July - September. This month has been full of biographies, I re-read This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay which I reviewed last year and found some brilliant thrillers… Continue reading Quarterly Book Review 2019 #3

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Travel

A Geeky Trip to New York City

I write this now sat at my desk with a lovely dose of post-holiday flu and the need to jump on a plane and go back to New York City. New York was crazy, it really is the city that never sleeps, with it’s illuminating lights and whirring noises. This city is everything you’ll need and more – it has amazing history, beautiful architecture, interesting residents, lots to see and do and amazing shops.

I was in New York from the 1st September to 6th, flew from Heathrow Terminal 5 around 9.30am (UK time) and landed in JFK around 11.30am (east coast USA time). 5 hours difference doesn’t seem like a lot, until you basically go back in time and end up having a 19 hour day because of it. We were lucky enough to jump straight off the plane, into the customs and immigration queue and in a taxi all in about 25 minutes. One word of warning though.. the customs/immigration people are SCARY. I read that they grill you to and inch of your life because they are trying to catch people out who are trying to get in the country of illegal reasons.. however, it’s a bit overwhelming for normal people who aren’t used to such formal and slightly unnerving regulations. We were picked up just outside the terminal from the taxi rank, we had a very chatty driver from the Bronx who made us totally at ease and were dropped off right outside our hotel in Times Square – The Marriott Marquis Hotel. FYI, don’t let the taxis overcharge you, there should be a set fair of around $54 plus tip!

I’ve never been inside a three star hotel let alone a nearly five star one, the Marriott Marquis was absolutely beautiful with it’s marble floor lobby, glass elevators and views of Times Square. If you want to have a more Gossip Girl-esque trip I seriously suggest staying here, although it isn’t cheap, room service of a pizza and a coffee cost us over $30 (it was amazing pizza though)! Although the hotel has over 40 floors (the lobby is on floor 8 by the way), the lifts were so efficient and were super speedy, it actually gave me slight motion sickness as they were so fast. Staff are very helpful, they put up with all my dumb questions after all, the rooms were cleaned every day to a great standard and the drinks were amazing at the bar.

First stop was Times Square as the hotel was right in the middle of all the screens and lights, we didn’t plan this very well as it was Labour Day Weekend plus Brazil Day so Midtown was super busy. We (very slowly due to all the crowds) made our way to the Rockefeller Plaza which houses a bunch of fun shops plus the Rockefeller Center. Our first stop was the Nintendo Store which I was SUPER excited about, the store wasn’t as big as I thought but was spread out over two floors, with Mario and genera; Nintendo merchandise downstairs and Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda and other games upstairs. Upstairs was my favourite as stood right in the centre is my boy Link in all of his glory, with his master sword located in glass behind him – a slightly besotted photo shoot between me and him began then I made my way over to the left side of the store which is the Pokemon Center. The Pokemon Center was tiny compared to the stores in Japan but it was full of cute plushies and other Pokemon merchandise, I ended up picking up an Eeevee, Espeon and Umbreon, I would have bought a Slyveon too but they didn’t seem to put that one on show that day. After half an hour of gawking and fighting the Nintendo crowds we popped on over to the Rockefeller Center as we had tickets booked, by this point I was so tired and was not feeling shooting up 90 odd floors to oversee New York but I’m so glad I pushed through the sleepiness.

The Rockefeller Center was way more amazing than I thought it would be, same with the Empire State Building, I thought it would just be a giant lift and a view top roof, but it was so much more. There was a tonne of information about the planning and building of the Rockefeller, plus a photo op with the famous photo of the group of builders sitting on the steel block in midair. I was least looking forward to the lift, I hate heights and I get motion sickness but there was an animation displayed on the ceiling of the lift which you could watch as you go up the floors which distracted me so I wasn’t floor counting. The views on top of the Rockefeller was worth the sleep exhaustion though, it was absolutely beautiful up there. There is perfect views of Central Park, The Empire State Building and all the Boroughs. I was beyond tired after this, so we headed back to the hotel and got pizza room service and watched Gossip Girl.

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The next day was our longest one yet, I ended up waking up at 4am (NY time, damn you jet lag!) so I had plenty of time to get ready, have Gluten Free banana pancakes in the hotel restaurant and slowly walk and explore our way to The Empire State Building. Similar to The Rockefeller Center, The Empire State Building had a lot of interesting things to read and do on the way to the lift. There was in depth detail about how the building was made, how long it took (only 13 months!) and pictures of celebrities who have visited the building – including The Simpsons and Berry the Strawberry from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. The King Kong exhibit was the best, there was a photo opportunity where you could take a picture with an interactive King Kong which looks like he’s smashed his hands through the building and peering in. Considering the observatory is over 100 floors up, the lift ride only took around 20 seconds with an interactive ceiling too. The views over New York were incredible up there, with clear views of Manhattan plus it’s surrounding Boroughs, it is also the best place to view the One World Trade Centre in all it’s tall glory. The weather took a turn for the worse so to avoid the rain we walked over to 34th St to do a touch of shopping, we checked out Macy’s which was HUGE, went to Target, Sephora and Uniqlo. Although cloudy the rain decided to hold off for a moment so we headed over to Grand Central Station as it was on my list of Gossip Girl locations to check out. I wish we spent more time there as it is one of the most beautiful train stations I’ve ever seen, it has gold and marble interior and a beautiful star constellation on the ceiling. I wanted to get food here but it was super busy due to it being Labour Day, so we popped over the road to Bravo Pizza which serves the tastiest, biggest, slices of pizza I have ever seen – I will forever crave those pizzas. I’m a  huge fan of Halloween so we trecked over to Spirit Halloween which was on W 25th St and I bought way too much merchandise as I was so excited about the store. I’m from England, Halloween is pants over here, I wish we did it like America does. I finally managed to get my hands on the Lock, Shock and Barrel masks from The Nightmare Before Christmas too! Then began our epic voyage back to the hotel in the pouring rain, New York weather is just as un-predictable as English weather! We also did over 25,000 steps this day.

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The next day was my favourite, the rain storm dispersed as quick as it came and we were left with brilliant weather. We started our day in Juniors in Times Square as they are famous for their breakfasts. It was delicious and the waiters were lovely, but it was far too much food and I felt very full for the rest of the morning. As the weather was so gorgeous we walked straight up 7th Ave to Central Park, which did not disappoint. A lot of Manhattan is grimmer then what it seems on TV but not Central Park, it was a literal breath of fresh air after being in busy Midtown for 3 days. We walked the whole way around the park starting with the east side, we saw the Bow Bridge which is featured in the film Uptown Girls, had pictures taken next to Bethesda Building and saw the beautiful Loeb Boathouse. As I’m a huge Gossip Girl fan we stepped out of Central Park to go see the MET (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) on the Upper East Side, I got my ‘sitting on the MET like Blair Waldorf’ picture and off we went back in to Central Park to walk around the Great Lawn and down to see Belvedere Castle. This is castle is a small gothic building built on the highest point of the park, it’s free to explore and has great views of the park and city landscape from the top. It’s also right next to the Turtle Pond which is literally the home of a dozen or so turtles basking in the New York sunshine. Our final stop was the Strawberry Fields John Lennon Memorial, it was pretty busy so we didn’t stay long, but we got to see the Imagine mosaic dedicated to him. Central Park was way bigger than I anticipated so we didn’t get to do everything but I’d love to go back one day in Spring or Autumn and explore more.

As the sun was shining we got a taxi over to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum as it is really open so you can see most of the exhibitions in the sunshine. The museum over looked The Hudson River and the New Jersey cityscape which looked so beautiful in the glistening sun. This museum holds the USS Intrepid – an aircraft carrier, USS Growler – a submarine and the Enterprise Space Shuttle, it’s not often you can say you’ve seen a space shuttle up close! Our final stop for the day was the Chelsea Market which is an indoor market in West of New York. Chelsea Market is a much cleaner, posher version of Camden Market, there is loads of fresh produce stores, book shops, many eateries and an Asian market inside where I found many anime items. For dinner in the evening we stopped at Bond 45 in Times Square, it is a beautiful Italian restaurant with a NFSW theme, you walk inside and the first thing you see is a bent over bum with the words ‘rub me for luck’ written on it. The food was amazing I had the homemade tordelli ravioli bolognese, a glass of Pinot and the best NY Cheesecake I’ve ever eaten. They also came around with free, straight out of the oven chocolate chip cookies! The only downside was that it was so expensive, I honestly nearly fell over when the bill came.

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We got up early on the Thursday, popped over the road to McDonald’s to grab a Southern Fried Chicken McGriddle (honestly, these were my favourite food item from the whole trip!) and grabbed a taxi to the 9/11 Memorial. The taxi went all the way along the coast so we got to see both the Manhattan Bride and Brooklyn Bridge. The memorial was absolutely beautiful, the whole area was spotless and very serene. The North pool where the North Tower once stood was our first stop and was right in front of the Oculus Building, it was a very sombre moment reading the names of everyone on the plagues. I was unsure at first if I wanted to enter the actual 9/11 museum but I’m so glad I did, it was so very sad and I cried the the whole way round but it was good to remember the lives of those from the tragedy.

As it was a beautiful day we walked down to Battery Park and hopped on their Statue of Liberty cruise, we bought the tickets online for cheaper 5 minutes before boarding. We booked the express cruise which was 1 hour and 30 mins, the boat went all along the Hudson River stopping at Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty then went past Staten Island, Brooklyn, under the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. The boat stopped and turned around next to the Statue of Liberty so all sides of the boat could see the statue close up which I thought was really thoughtful of them, also there was a tour guide on board giving us loads of facts about New York – this boat ride was well worth the money and was one of my favourite things from this trip.

I was desperate to walk over Brooklyn Bridge and see a smidgen of Brooklyn so that’s what we did next. We walked the weird way round so it took a lot longer than expected but we saw some amazing art, graffiti and the memorial for the Firefighters Precinct that helped in the 9/11 attacks. Brooklyn Bridge was a lot shorter than I thought it would be, it only took around 15 – 20 mins to walk across but the sights were beautiful and it’s always nice to be next to (or on top!) of the ocean. I wanted to explore more of Brooklyn but unfortunately we only had time for DUMBO, Main Street Park and Empire Fulton Ferry Park, but these sites had amazing views of Manhattan and the bridges.

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Friday was a chilled out shopping day as it was the day we were to leave, first stop was Image Anime as the store had amazing reviews online. Image Anime is located on 28 West 37th Street, it looks like a little shop from the outside but as you walk in it is full to the brim with all the anime merch you could ever need. I could have walked out with $1000 worth of stuff easily but as I was low on funds and suitcase space, I opted for a Nendroid of Atsuko Kagari from Little Witch Academia. Next stop was GameStop/ThinkGeek on Broadway where I picked up Spyro Reignited Trilogy and a Funko Pop Vinyl of the Witch from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

New York City has been on my bucket list for years, it was amazing to finally experience a part of America that has always fascinated me. What I go back? Hell yeah. Now I’ve done all the touristy things I would love to go back and explore the different parts of the city: venture down more into Brooklyn, see more of Queens, go to Staten Island and even explore more of Central Park. NYC was great but I’m glad to be home for now, although I’m already planning my next trip.. stay tuned.

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I write this now sat at my desk with a lovely dose of post-holiday flu and the need to jump on a plane and go back to New York City. New York was crazy, it really is the city that never sleeps, with it's illuminating lights and whirring noises. This city is everything you'll need… Continue reading A Geeky Trip to New York City

monthly favourites

Monthly Favourites! September 2019

It’s finally Autumn and the leaves are starting to fall. The first half of September was taken up by travelling and recovering from travelling, however coming home has made me so excited for Halloween and Christmas time! Also I’ve found a new app on my phone which will help me with my featured images so they will all be updated soon for the past months 🙂

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Once Upon A Time:

This series first came out in 2011 and follows Emma Swan as she is reintroduced to the son she gave up a decade prior. He is convinced the town he lives in (Storybrooke, Maine) is full of inhabitants from Fairy-Tales including Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Prince Charming, Rumpelstiltskin and the Evil Queen. Emma decides to stay in Storybrooke to get closer to her long-lost son and she might even realise her true destiny.

I love this show, it’s a mix of all the fairytales we grew up reading with a modern day twist. This show is also filled to the brim with strong female characters, all of which have interesting background stories and are willing to fight for the greater good of their town.

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New York City:

I’ve already wrote a post about my trip to NYC (which will be posted soon) so this will be brief. New York City was everything I expected and more.. it was full of lights/colour, busy and never dull. But NYC is so much more than that, once you venture outside Midtown, the city transforms in to a beautiful metropolis with tonnes history, beautiful architecture and interesting inhabitants. I advise everyone to check out NYC at least once in their lifetime.. what a city!

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Code Geass:

I can’t begin to explain how much I love this anime, this is the 4th or 5th time re-watching it and I am still obsessed!

Code Geass starts after The Holy Empire of Britannia conquers the country of Japan and renames it Area 11, it’s original inhabitants are stripped of their rights and are now called ‘Elevens’. Lelouch Vi Britannia and his sister are sent to Area 11 as political pawns after their mother is brutally murdered.. Lelouch vows to destroy Britannia one day. Seven years later Lelouch is accidentally involved in a terrorist attack and meets a mysterious girl with extraordinary powers who saves his life by bestowing the power to command anyone he pleases. With this new found power Lelouch orchestrates a rival to Britannia and tries to change the world into somewhere safe for his sister.

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Spyro Reignited Trilogy (Switch):

I have been patiently waiting for a remaster of the first three Spyro games (originally on Playstation 1) since they announced the remasters of Crash Bandicoot. My prays to the Gaming God’s were answered while in New York so I rushed to the local GameStop and snapped it up quick.

The reignited trilogy is a remaster of the first three Spyro games, Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Playing all three games is highly nostalgic and the graphics look amazing on the Switch, so bright and colourful.

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Halloween Prepping:

Spooky season is almost upon us and I am so darn excited! As we have our own place now we are hosting a Halloween party and I’ve already started getting items ready for it. I bought Lock, Shock and Barrel masks while in New York so my costume is sorted as Barrel wears a skeleton top which I already own, I also won a Caft Pros face and bodypaint pallet so drawing his signature, creepy smile will be easy now. I’ve also been Halloween Bargain hunting and have picked up cheap Halloween themed cookie cutters form Wish, a cauldron to fit lots of sweets and goodies in, pumpkin and skeleton light holders and a pumpkin cake tin. Going to be hunting for more Halloween on a budget items this month, might do a post next month to show you all.

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Blue Exorcist:

Blue Exorcist is an anime that I didn’t hear much about until it came onto Netflix but I’m so glad I gave it a shot. The show revolves around Rin Okumura who, with his twin brother Yukio, find out they are the sons of Satan with Rin (being the older twin) gaining some of Satan’s powers. While trying to protect his adoptive father, Shiro Fujimoto, Rin manages to draw the demon slaying sword, Kurikara, which restrains his demon-powers. Determined to learn how to become and exorcist and defeat his true father, Rin enrolls in True Cross Academy, an exorcist cram school, that his brother is already a teacher at.

The more episodes we get through the more I am hooked on Blue Exorcist. The characters all have so much depth and great backstories, the animation styles blend well together and the animators have added the so many details to make the characters and the locations feel so real.

Catch,ya next month!

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xox

It's finally Autumn and the leaves are starting to fall. The first half of September was taken up by travelling and recovering from travelling, however coming home has made me so excited for Halloween and Christmas time! Also I've found a new app on my phone which will help me with my featured images so… Continue reading Monthly Favourites! September 2019

monthly favourites

Monthly Favourites! August 2019

It’s the end of Summer and thing’s are starting to cool down, I’m going to New York at the beginning of September so August was a month to chill out month catching up with loved ones and watching a lot of animated TV shows:

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Fate/Stay Night: Ultimate Blade Works:

Ultimate Blade Works is the anime series based on the visual novel Fate/Stay Night, it’s also the sequel to Fate/Zero. The series follows Shirou Emiya, a high school student and amateur mage living in Fuyuki City, Japan, is dragged into the Fifth Holy Grail War, a secret magical tournament. The Holy Grail Wars are when seven mages called ‘Masters’ summon a ‘Servent’, a re-incarnated personification of legendary heroes of history, to compete in winning the war to get granted a wish/desire from the Holy Grail. I personally really like this series, it’s quite a short series so there is limited filler episodes, the characters all all very interesting and have complicated personalities, and it’s fun to guess which servant is which legendary hero.

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D&D (Dungeons & Dragons):

I’ve been interested in playing D&D for years, a game which focuses on fantasy and imagination is right up my street. We gave it a good go at the end of last year, but unfortunately we couldn’t get a group together that could play regularly. Luckily, my friend from aerial and her partner are regular D&D players and also run their own sessions, so me and my partner have been heading over to theirs bi-monthly to play and eat pizza.

My first character was a Witch called Ophelia, but as a Witch isn’t a proper class, it was very hard to give her the correct stats and magic elements. On our next game we made the characters from scratch using official races and classes, I tried out a Tiefling called Kallista (or Kali for short – inspired by the Indian Goddess of Death) and honestly think it’s one of my favourites and a character I will definitely be using again!

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Holiday Planning:

On my birthday in February, my Dad and I planned our trip to New York for September. Time flew and most of August was spent organising the trip and researching places to visit. I’ll do a post about New York or it will be in my next Monthly Favourites for anyone interested! I used a lot of blogs like Hannah Gale and the Gluten Free Blogger to research New York and also used Trip Adviser and good ol’ Google Maps a lot. Travelling for Geeks was a great website to find Geeky places to visit, it includes comic book shops, anime stores and iconic places to see from shows and movies.

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Daria:

Daria follows the life of Daria Morgendorffer, a smart and often misanthropic teenager. The show is set in a typical but fictional Suburban town that fuels a lot of Daria, and her best friend Jane Lane’s, sardonic cynicism. Daria is full of satire of high school life and suburban life, it also criticises popular culture and social classes.

I wish I watched it way before now as it was first broadcast in 1997. The animation is a little janky as it is over 20 years old but honestly, the themes really hold up to modern day. The show is simple, low key funny and relatable.. and the theme song sung by Splendora is an anthem.

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Madoka Magica for short):

Madoka Magica isn’t your average, lighthearted, magical girl anime. It’s central themes are very dark, consisting of loss, grief, depression, loneliness and anguish.

The series originally aired in 2011 and follows Madoka Kaname, a middle schooler who gets caught up in the Magical Girl’s fight against ‘Witches’ (dark beings born from despair that are responsible for accidents, disease and suicide). Madoka and her friend Sayaka run into a cat-like creature named Kyubey, who offers them a contract to being a magical girl and also get a wish of their choosing granted. However, a mysterious exchange student soon arrives at Madoka and Sayaka’s school called Homura who tries everything in her power to stop Madoka making a contract with Kyubey.

This is the second time I’ve watched this series and it is just as heartbreaking and gut wrenching as the first. The cute character design of all the characters mixed with the erratic art style of the Witches is iconic, there is so many hidden gems throughout the fight scenes too.

Catch ‘ya next month!

xox

 

It's the end of Summer and thing's are starting to cool down, I'm going to New York at the beginning of September so August was a month to chill out month catching up with loved ones and watching a lot of animated TV shows: Fate/Stay Night: Ultimate Blade Works: Ultimate Blade Works is the anime… Continue reading Monthly Favourites! August 2019

Health

A Proper Diagnosis..

I briefly mentioned in one of my monthly favourite posts that I was going through a diet change to determine what on Earth is going on with my digestive system. Two months later and everything is finally sorted and I feel better than I have in a looong time (hooray)!

My digestive issues story started back in 2017, I did write a post about it here so please read this first. To summarise: I felt pretty shit for around 6 months, went to the doctors to have a couple of blood tests, found out I was sensitive to gluten and was advised to cut it down a bit. Did I cut down on the gluten though? Of course bloody not. Fast forward to present day and I decided enough is enough and off I went back to the doctors. The doctor told me to go back on a gluten diet then after a month book in for a blood test, then come back to her for the results.

One word to sum up that month: shit. Shitty shit shit. If it wasn’t obvious before that something was wrong with my body when I eat gluten products, then my god did this diet kick it in to overdrive. I felt constantly bloated, sometimes even felt like I was a few months pregnant (not like I know what that feels like, but I’m damn sure this was a close enough feeling!), was constantly going to the loo, felt super tired and lethargic.. but the worst symptom was the gluten induced depression. I might be making fun of it now, but at the time I felt the worst that I’ve felt in a long, long time. A week and a bit into the diet and I became a complete shell of myself, I spent weeks not seeing anyone, just staying at home and playing Pokemon, I went to my exercise classes but that was only because I paid for them beforehand. I had no motivation at work, no motivation to see anyone, I dreaded having to leave the flat in general. I just simply couldn’t cope, I became a ball of anxiety, any little thing that went wrong was a HUGE issue and I basically cried myself to sleep every night.. it was hell.

The only plus side to being a hermit was I learnt to bake lots of different gluten free cakes and deserts, I wrote about that on my June Monthly Favourites post, I always thought I was a terrible cook/baker, but they all tasted great.. and I didn’t give anyone Salmonella, bonus.

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My specialty, Gluten-Free Banana Cake

Fast forward 2 months, as I had to wait a couple of weeks for the blood test and another couple of weeks for my appointment with the doctor.. and -drum roll please- I have IBS. My IBS is triggered by food products that have gluten in them, so.. basically all my favourite foods. For anyone unsure, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a disorder of the Large Intestine, it causes stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and sometimes depression.

Now I actually have a proper diagnoses rather than “you are just sensitive to gluten”, I feel kind of free in a way. Although it’s annoying having to think about every little thing I eat and plan meals way in advance, I’m not hating a more gluten free lifestyle. I give myself a free pass on weekends to have a meal or two with gluten in, I’m not a glutton for punishment and I really don’t want to get back in to disordered eating. With a bit of research and stalking The Gluten Free blogger’s blog, I’ve found lots of gluten free alternatives to my favourite foods (banana bread, fish fingers, breaded chicken, bread rolls, pasta products, biscuits etc).

This time I had a much more understanding doctor and felt my diagnosis was properly understood, rather than a “lay off the gluten, BYE”. This current doctor really understood how I was feeling and also gave me tips on how to handle my IBS rather than just laying all this information on me without some guidance. She advised to keep hydrated (which I’m still working on as I’m a terrible drinker), take multi-vitamins and good gut bacteria yogurt drinks, take Peppermint capsules to ease IBS symptoms and when I do eat something that doesn’t agree with me – take Buscopan.

I did open up to my doctor about my mental health worries and she referred me to a couple of services, it was so easy to talk to her about it all and she was very understanding.. please see your doctor if you have similar worries, they are there to help (and if they aren’t, change doctor as that isn’t very professional). She referred me to Steps2WellBeing, a mental health service in my area that is free. It was a bit of a ball ache trying to get through to them over the phone as all mental health services in the UK are running on empty, however once I emailed them they were very prompt in giving me a phone call when I was available and then setting me up with a phone assessment the week after.

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The phone call went really well, they sent me a questionnaire to fill out the night before with questions like “On a scale to 1 – 10 how anxious have you felt the last 2 weeks”, so the doctor went through all that with me and told me how well or how bad (depends if you are a glass half empty kinda person) I scored. We briefly went through my worries and concerns, a small background on worrying past behaviors, risk assessment and general chit-chat. The phone call lasted around 45-50 mins and let me tell you, I was so emotionally exhausted after that, can’t image what an hour session would feel like! After that assessment I scored mild for depression but severe for anxiety, she diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (or GAD for short). GAD is a form of anxiety that can vary from person to person which mostly involves bouts of extreme worrying about aspects of life and not feeling in control of situations. GAD is quite a big spectrum so my experiences of it can be completely different to another person’s experience.

After the diagnosis was found, the doctor went through a lot of options for my next steps in this wellness journey. First was that she will send me a booklet of exercises to do at home with my partner, this will help me find ways to manage my excessive worrying. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the next step, this will be a mix of phone therapy and 1-1. She also asked if I’d like to attend a group session at a local space that they organise, but I didn’t feel ready for that so I will be joining in on a Webinar they are organising instead.

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Worry management booklet and worry diary

Deep down I always knew I was holding on to a lot of anxiety, but I hadn’t really accepted it until recently. I think I was always worried about being the typical, cliche young woman with issues – the stigma of mental health did in some way, push me away from getting help. I’m glad a found a sliver of courage to take the first steps in to getting help, I feel pretty hopeful for the first time in forever. I just wish I did it way sooner!

Helpful Links:

For urgent help: Samaritans on 116 123Mind – call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (9am to 6pm on weekdays). Call 111 out of hours – they will help you find the support and help you need, 999 if it’s an emergency.

To find Psychological therapies in your area: Here

Mental Health app list: Here

xox

I briefly mentioned in one of my monthly favourite posts that I was going through a diet change to determine what on Earth is going on with my digestive system. Two months later and everything is finally sorted and I feel better than I have in a looong time (hooray)! My digestive issues story started… Continue reading A Proper Diagnosis..

monthly favourites

Monthly Favourites! July 2019

It’s the middle of Summer and England has been some of the best weather we’ve ever had. I’ve finally got out of my funk and I’m ready to take the world on again!

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Gamecube:

Out of all the consoles I’ve ever owned, I think the Gamecube is one of my favourites. Now I’ve moved out and have free reign of the TV I can game whenever I want to so the other week I dusted off the Gamecube and played Super Mario Sunshine and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness. For a console that came out in 2002 (for UK anyway), the Gamecube has great graphics and the wide selection of games makes it a console for everyone.

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Weymouth, UK:

Around a 45 minute drive from my town is Weymouth, it’s a seaside town in the South of the UK which has beautiful beaches, a harbour and a Sea Life Centre full of sharks, turtles and other exotic sea life. I try to venture down to Weymouth every Summer as I absolutely love it down there. If you ever come to the South of UK, please check this sea side town out!

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Family Time:

Since moving out I’ve seen how important it is to have family time. My grandparents are getting older now, although I still see them as the energetic 50 year olds they were when I was little, and my relationship with my Mum has been great since I moved out. I booked a week off at the end of July to spend time with my family, I saw Lion King with my mum, went out for dinner with my Grandparents and went to the beach with them too, it was a great bonding experience and it’s made me realise how lucky I am to have them all in my life.

 

 

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The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask:

Since we’ve been together, me and Dan have been working our way (very slowly) through the Legend of Zelda series. We completed Wind Waker and Twilight Princess a while back and we sort of gave up on Skyward Sword as we weren’t enjoying it has much as it’s predecessors. To get back in to the Zelda groove, we started playing Majora’s Mask on my Gamecube. I haven’t played this title since I was super young, and even then I just watched my Dad play it, I’m surprised it didn’t give me nightmares back then. Majora’s Mask follows Link a few months after the ending to Ocarina of Time. Link is out in the woods search for Navi, when a Skull Kid steals both Epona and Link’s ocarina and then puts a curse on Link. Link then find himself in a parallel Hyrule, called Termina where, in 72 hours, the Moon will fall on to the Kingdom. Majora’s Mask is definitely the most errie of the Zelda titles but this just adds to it’s appeal. The 3 day time limit is a bit frustrating as I’m a bit crap at finding my way around so I easily loose 3 days. It’s a great game though, with really interesting characters and I great story.

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Night Out with Friends:

Since I was a bit of a hermit the last couple of months, it’s been great to get out for the night, have some cocktails and hang out with my friends. We ended up going to two bars, one of them serves the most amazing cocktails (and for cheap too!) and then we went to our local rock bar at like 1am to finish the night off. However we did end the night on greasy chips and burgers at the local burger bar at 3am, felt like I was 18 again.

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Detective Pikachu:

I really discredited this movie without even bothering to see it. As soon as the trailer came out I was on the bashing hate train, I thought the Pokemon looked gross and thought they could have used a better source material other than the Detective Pikachu game. Well.. I was wrong, so very very wrong. Detective Pikachu follows 21 years old Tim who teams up with his Father’s Pikachu to uncover the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Ryan Reynolds does an amazing job voicing Pikachu, Justice Smith, who plays Tim, Kathryn Newton, who plays Lucy, and Lucy’s Psyduck have great acting chemistry and the story was actually very interesting. Would watch again!

Catch ‘ya next month!

xox

It's the middle of Summer and England has been some of the best weather we've ever had. I've finally got out of my funk and I'm ready to take the world on again! Gamecube: Out of all the consoles I've ever owned, I think the Gamecube is one of my favourites. Now I've moved out… Continue reading Monthly Favourites! July 2019

Gaming

Re-Igniting My Love For Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released in the Autumn of 2017, from the moment I downloaded that game on to my phone I was HOOKED. But everything must come to an end and I ended up loosing interest in the game after a few months. I then only played Pocket Camp intermittently, mostly only having a hardcore session when the Halloween events were on (I love the Halloween events in AC).

Since Nintendo announced that the new Switch instalment of the franchise won’t be released until March next year, I’ve had a hankering to play Animal Crossing. I don’t think I can bring myself to go back onto New Leaf and de-weed my town that’s been abandoned since 2016, so Pocket Camp is all I have left to kill the time until March. It also helped that a received a notification that Pocket Camp has a Sanrio and Hello Kitty event on right now, I took this as a sign from the gaming Gods to get my arse back on to the game.

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Part of my hilariously over-filled campsite

So much has been added since I last played properly, I used to find the game a bit boring after you’ve exhausted talking to every character you could and probably fished so much that the in-game ecosystem is crying out for you to stop.

New characters to invite to your camp and befriend have been added, more fruit on trees has been added too – you get a local produce now like in previous AC games, so you can trade these items with friends who have other local produce (mine’s a Lychee in case anyone want’s to be my AC friend). They’ve also added Gyroidite Scavenger Hunts for certain events running at the time, right now you can go around all areas of your camp and collect Hello Kitty shaped Gyroidites to unlock special items. Another area to decorate and make your own was added, the Cabin. This can be used to host up to eight of your campers with a high enough friendship level, I mostly just use it to store all the nice furniture that I love but can’t squeeze in to my already busy camp site.

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Look how cute these Hello Kitty Gyroidites are

My favourite update has to be Pete’s Parcel Service, instead of running around all over your campsite to give your campers the item they are requesting, Pete does it all for you at the touch of a button without all the chatting and waffling. Unfortunately he doesn’t send requested items to campers you haven’t met yet, you still have to do the awkward greetings before they are added to Pete’s list. Just like on AC: Happy Home Designer that came out in 2015, Pocket Camp have added a section where you can earn items and money by creating a camper’s ideal room using specific themed items they’ve requested. It’s a cute, little side game but it doesn’t let you be that creative as all you have to do is pick the correctly themed furniture and it puts the item in the correct place for you (I might have to jump back on Home Designer for all my creative needs). Last on the update list is Blather’s Treasure Trek, it’s a mini-game that allows you to collect maps which unravel like a board game, you roll a dice which moves Blathers along the board as he collects items from the spaces he lands on. It’s a unique way to collect items, unlock new characters and money, however each roll of the dice will cost you, sometimes it could be Essence, Friend Powder, Cotton.. but then it get’s more expensive with you having to use Bells and even Leaf Tickets which gets expensive real quick.

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Blathers’ Treasure Trek

Unlike other mobile games, it’s slightly easier to earn in game money. You don’t have to sell a kidney to Nintendo to get some Leaf Tickets to buy the more exclusive in-game items and this has only got easier with the new update. I used all my Leaf Tickets buying some new Fortune Cookies (they randomly give you an exclusive piece of clothing or furniture) yesterday and I’m already back up to 50. With the extra missions, Blathers’ Treasure Trek and some patience it’s much easier to collect a high amount of Leaf Tickets.

No matter how long time passes in between gaming sessions, I will always have time for Animal Crossing (even though I never complete the games, because let’s be honest, who has that much spare time and bells – Tom Nook is a crook, honestly). You bet I’ll be pre-ordering Animal Crossing: New Horizons soon, I need a more meatier AC game in my life. In the mean time, please add me on Pocket Camp, I’ll post my code below!

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xox

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released in the Autumn of 2017, from the moment I downloaded that game on to my phone I was HOOKED. But everything must come to an end and I ended up loosing interest in the game after a few months. I then only played Pocket Camp intermittently, mostly only having… Continue reading Re-Igniting My Love For Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp