Tuesday, 31 July 2018

REVIEW: If You Love Me I'm Yours, Lizzie Chantree




I won't lie, when I agreed to take part in this book tour, reviewing If You Love Me I'm Yours by Lizzie Chantree, I expected to hate it. I signed up last minute because I was between books and wanted something to do that felt vaguely productive. Downloading it onto my iPad, I started it this weekend with little to no expectations, thinking it would be nothing more than a smushy chick-lit that would make me roll my eyes so far back in my head they'd detach and get stuck somewhere beneath my eyebrows.

Oh, how wrong I was.

For the first time in a very long time, I connected with the character I was reading about. Maud is a cripplingly insecure school teacher with incredible artistic talent that she hides from the world as a result of her family's disapproval. She tries and tries to get them to understand her passion for art but it falls on deaf and discouraging, ears. To release her inner Georgia O'Keefe, she starts leaving paintings around her local town with the signature 'If you love me, I'm yours' scribbled on the bottom. She doesn't want anyone to see her art, but she doesn't want it to go unnoticed either.

As a child and teenager, I was always artistic. Making things, drawing things, burning things - I did everything I could to unleash the noise in my head, even if at times it wasn't very healthy (entire sketchbook based on my eating disorder anyone?). This all ended when I turned 19 and my friend told me I couldn't draw. I still had bursts of creativity, but I stopped drawing, and I've barely picked up a pencil since.

The idea of having to hide what you're passionate about because of fear of rejection, not to mention the way she feels about her appearance and those around her, struck a chord with me that I never expected. The gorgeous guy she's into and who flirts back? Clearly not interested. The belief that if someone hits on her they must be doing so as a joke? As a teenager, I often assumed that anyone who spoke to me was mid-way through a game of "Pull the Pig". Teasing me, mocking me and playing a joke at the expense of my self-esteem.

Of course, it all works okay in the end. Her career soars, she connects with her parents and (obviously) gets the guy. All things that would normally have me scoffing in disgust, but instead, I found myself tearing up.

I'm not going to say that I burst into sobs thinking that just because this one character in a work of fiction found love and success it automatically means I will too, in fact, it was quite the opposite. Even at the end, her constant worry about her love life and self-deprecation was a MASSIVE pain in the balls. Reading it was like reading my thoughts in book form and made me realise how irritating, and wrong, my thinking process really is.

The other books I've read have been quite diverse. I've discovered complete surprises, unknown genres, and things that I'd happily forget I'd ever read. As with Without a Hitch, this is great for someone who loves a bit of chick-lit, but, luckily, it has far more depth. 9/10

xXx

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Jessica, you're being a fucktard




I'm in a situation at the moment that's draining my confidence faster than cum leaving a virgin's penis when he first ejaculates on his high school girlfriend. I'm crying in the middle of the day, drowning in anxiety and altogether I'm just fucking miserable.

It's shit.

Thing is, I'm ALLOWING this bs to happen. I'm sitting back and accepting the world making me feel like this when, in reality, I shouldn't be. If I can put a rapist in prison, I can mother fucking well stand up for my cunting self. I'm so so done with feeling like this.

When it comes to self-confidence, my high score has never been great. Hours spent as a teenager screeching at my reflection begging for an answer to why I was so ugly, carving the word fat into my arm, getting cunted and fucking random strangers in exchange for a shred of recognition that would up my esteem nothing more than a hair. It's not something I'm used to having but now I've had it, I miss it.

I don't remember the last time I felt so insecure. Of all the amazing things I've done this one has me on the tip of relapse central. I even had some fun abusing laxatives yesterday, thankfully I managed to avoid shitting myself but the risk was there.

My point is, I'm not doing this anymore, I refuse to do this. I'm an amazing woman who has conquered so much, fuck off am I going to let this shit beat me.

Stay tuned.

xXx 

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Why I'm Always Tired




I went on a couple of dates with a guy recently who kept commenting on the fact that I'm always tired, and he's right, I am always tired. If I'm yawning in your face or looking dozy af in front of you it's not because I'm bored (well it sometimes is) but because I'm exhausted, but I swear I have very good reasons.

My meds 

Whilst there are few connections between the medication I take and tiredness, the combination of the two drives me balls deep into exhaustion 24 hours a day. I take a lot of very strong medication, I take it regularly, and it drains the life out of me like a mother bitch, but this really isn't something I can control. I've been on far stronger medication in the past that made it even worse (16 hours of sleep a day is pretty impressive) but I'd choose to be able to semi-function as a member of society over tiredness every day of the week.


Pain

Thanks to my dad's side of the family, I have very severe hypermobility. This coupled with scoliosis and a trapped nerve to the left of my lower back, means I spend a lot of my time in extreme pain. This not only means that, when I do sleep, I don't sleep well because lying on my side hurts my joints, but also that being in pain all the time is really fucking draining. I take regular painkillers and bath myself in pain-killing gel when it gets really bad but, understandably, my doctor doesn't want to prescribe me anything stronger. Unfortunately, I just have to suck it up and get on with things.

BPD

You know how slow your laptop runs when you have 85 million tabs open at once? That's how my brain works. Constantly jumping from one emotion to the other means my brain is constantly working on overdrive and it sucks the life out of me. One of the classic symptoms of depression is not being able to get out of bed in the mornings, while a classic symptom of having BPD is having an emotional compass that runs a mile a minute. Sometimes it calms down enabling me to feel relatively normal, and sometimes I have to sleep for 24 hours in a row. No amount of medication is going to fix this, so I just have to let it live.

So really, as you can see, being tired is one of the few things in life that really isn't my fault.

Honest.

xXx



Sunday, 22 July 2018

Foreign settings – pitfalls to avoid, Guest Post by Katharine Johnson




This will be the third book tour I'm taking part in, and I'm still really enjoying them. Instead of writing my own review, I've been sent a guest post by Kathrine Johnson, author of The Secret. Here's what she had to say about writing about different countries.

***


Foreign settings – pitfalls to avoid

As a reader, I’m often drawn to books set in other countries. I love to feel transported somewhere different, whether it’s revisiting a place I’ve been to or discovering more about one I haven’t.
In some ways having an exotic location can be a gift for the writer. 
But when I decided to set two of my books in Italy I found it also presented a number of challenges. 

Make sure it’s accurate
How realistically can you depict a country that’s not your own? I worried about this quite a lot as I’m not Italian so what qualified me to write about it? 
On the other hand, I think sometimes it helps to be an outsider because you observe things in a different way, noticing things that people who are used to their surroundings might not notice. Also, I love history and it was the wartime history of Tuscany that drew me to writing The Secret, sparked by conversations I had with locals but backed up by a lot of reading.
If you’re going to mention real places you need to make sure readers who know these well won’t be able to catch you out on things like how long it takes to walk from the station to the cathedral or what scenery you pass on your way from the airport. If you haven’t been or can’t remember it’s worth asking in an online group.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Italy and have had a home in the Lucca province for 15 years. We spend as much time there as we can and always speak Italian with our neighbours. 
For me, it helped that The Silence and The Secret which has just been published (June 2018) are both set in a fictional village. While Santa Zita isn’t based on any single real location it’s inspired by many of the mountain villages close to my home. I’ve taken lots of photos and videos when exploring and made notes to help me with descriptions later for my fictional village.
But even then you have to be careful to remember where things are – you can’t have buildings moving about. I sketched a map of the village with the bar, restaurant, school, church, different characters’ homes and Villa Leonida so I could remember where they were.
What if you haven’t been to the country? I’ve read books written by people who’ve never been to the location they write about or who’ve only been for a short holiday but are nonetheless totally convincing. I think this is partly because of the strength of the story but must also be due to research. We’re very lucky these days to be able to do so much research online. Watching videos and old film clips can also be very helpful.

Too much description
But how much description should you include? How do you bring the setting alive without making the story sound like a guidebook? I’m sure there are lots of different views on this and it’s impossible to please everyone. People read for different reasons – some buy a book because of its location whereas others are more interested in the story and are less interested in where it’s set.
My feeling is that a book that’s marketed for its setting can carry a bit more description than usual but the really hard thing is making it feel incidental. An early draft of the opening for The Secret which I had critiqued had too much exposition so I’ve cut this down as much as I could and tried to convey the setting in a few words here and there to anchor a scene rather than long passages which take people out of the story.

Get the language right
We’ve probably all winced at a wrongly spelled word or inaccurate foreign phrase in a novel. Apart from looking unprofessional, it undermines the reader’s confidence in the storyteller. If you don’t know a native speaker to check your language you’re sure to find one in an online writers or readers group. 
But how many foreign words should you include? This is another really hard one because if you use too much it can just look like you’re showing off and put off readers who don’t have time to look up a translation. Some readers would also feel patronized if translations were given for words they consider obvious so it’s worth testing these out on friends. I decided to use foreign words such as ‘piazza’ and ‘gelateria’ which are easily understood and give a sense of place but keep the Italian speech to a minimum.
Something I find it quite odd as a reader is when a character delivers a speech in perfect English and ends with si? As though they wouldn’t know such a basic word as ‘yes’.
And then there’s the foreign accent – do you need it? Again people will have different opinions but as a reader, I don’t generally like accents to be written down – I’d rather imagine them myself. While an Italian speakinga likea thees might work in a funny book or scene, it can sound a bit ridiculous or even offensive in a more serious story which is why I decided against using accents in my books.

Avoiding cultural clich├ęs 
Another difficult line to tread – you want to make your book feel real and you want to give your readers a flavour of the country but without resorting to stereotypes, which might even appear racist. 
So there are dozens of potential hazards to avoid when writing about another country but I’ve really enjoyed writing about the secrets of Villa Leonida and I hope people enjoy reading about them. 



***
You can find Katherine and her books here: 

Website/blog Katy’s Writing Coffee Shop  katyjohnsonblog.wordpress.com
Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings mybook.to/LiesMM

xXx

Saturday, 21 July 2018

I'm sorry, it seems I've lost my hard on




Fight Club is one of those films that everyone watches once and then feels the need to inexplicably quote for the rest of time, myself included. Watching Edward Norton and Brad Pitt have at it in a display of early noughties masculine despair is one of my favorite hobbies, particularly when you throw in the abandonment issue infested/suicidal train wreck female lead. It makes people happy to feel like they're fighting against Chuck Palahniuk's self-penned establishment, and so it remains the kind of film that will never go out of style.

I even have a quote from the book tattooed on my ribs, how's that for dedication.

Now, this post isn't a review of what is arguably one of Brad Pitt's finest pieces of work, despite the two obvious flaws it is undeniably a great film (Meatloaf where's a shirt when the third rule of Fight Club is no shirts and no shoes and you can die from insomnia.) Instead, it's a conversation about one of its more iconic quotes, mostly because people like to feel scandalous every once in a while.

I know I'm self-bashing harder than a teenager with a Victoria Secret catalog here, so calm your tits with the eye-rolling and the claims of hypocrisy for a moment.

The line is 'self-improvement is masturbation" which, by default, in my opinion, means that self-deprecation is a massive boner killer, and this is what's on my mind today.

We all have insecurities, in the same way, we all breathe, its part of how being human works, but nothing is cringing me out more atm than people creaming their pants over someone else's success by putting themselves down. "Oh you did this amazing thing today when all I did was XYZ" or "Oh my God I wish I had a figure like yours." Seriously, people, you're making my clit shrink.

The thing with these kinds of posts is that, aside from being as common on social media as a bottle blonde in Primark, they are so fucking embarrassing. What exactly are these posters expecting to happen? That they'll be miraculously thrown a compliment that they can jizz over for years to come? Or that they'll magically transform into the person who's ass they're sucking and therefore all their cringe-worthy comments will become irrelevant. Everyone has issues, stop acting like you're special and play along like everyone else, you're giving me frown lines.

Perhaps it's time for more coffee...
xXx

Monday, 16 July 2018

Things to do in... Nottingham


Towards the end of the month, I'd planned to take a few days out to travel around central Europe. Switzerland, Berlin, Barcelona. Eager to grab my passport and go, I had it all organized but was unfortunately unable to get the time off of work.

To ease my wanderlust, I've been planning a few staycations instead. This weekend I had an amazing time celebrating pride in Bristol, and next up I plan on spending a few days in Nottingham. Here's what I plan on getting up to while I'm away.

Travel

Lately, I've been traveling primarily by coach. It's inexpensive, easy and usually involves far less thinking than the great British rail system. To find my journeys I've been using GoEuro which has been incredibly helpful. Simply type in your location and destination into their website or app, find the dates you want to visit and away you go.

Sleep

When I travel I tend to stay in hostels. I find you meet the most interesting people there and, providing you don't care about crashing in a bunk bed, they're pretty good places to sleep. I've been working with Pebble Magazine who offer great information on eco friendly things to do in their city guides.  It was on their site that I stumbled across Igloo. Slightly different from your traditional hostel, it gives you opportunity to spend the night in your very own annex or pod, so it's perfect if don't want to share a room with a group of strangers.

Eat

After a friend at worked turned vegan, I've been eager to expand my diet to make it more plant-based. I'm not saying a switch to veganism is on the cards, but I'd like to try out a few recipes that are 100% animal-friendly.

Another hot tip from Pebble Magazine, I stumbled across the menu for Cartwheel Cafe and Roastery and I must say I'm intrigued. With a great range of vegan options available including scrambled tofu in place of traditional scrambled eggs and vegan lunch specials, I'll definitely be checking it out when I visit.

Drink

Always a fan of a good drink, I'm far happier sat in a pub sipping a pint of ale than in anywhere with decibels loud enough to break the sound barrier. Don't get me wrong, girl loves a good dance, but I need my down time too.

Within the Pebbles City guide to Nottingham, I've found a couple of pubs I'd really like to check out. One is Junkyard,  a place that claims to combine laid-back Californian vibes with craft beer which I am totally here for, and the other Jamcafe, which seems to blend my love of IPA with live music once a week during their Wednesday open mic night, which I'd also love to try out.

I was pretty heartbroken when I couldn't travel to Europe this summer, but by planning a few staycations, I'm getting the time away that my inner nomad so desperately needs. Next stop, Notts!

xXx

Friday, 6 July 2018

Somebody that I used to know



When I'm happy, I write, when I'm unhappy, I write and when there are enough thoughts going through my mind to confuse C.S. Lewis, I mother fucking write.

Today is the latter.

Wounds have been opening lately. I found a piece of information out about my ex last weekend that made ZERO difference to our break up but still made me think of him. My best friend ran into her ex and a guy I thought I was in love with when I was 18 announced on Facebook today that he'd had a baby.

My old fuck buddy, who I once had anal sex with under a lamp post in the back of my Ford Fiesta, had a baby.

It freaked me the fuck out.

When I messaged a mutual friend explaining how my brain was imploding he was, understandably, a tad confused. He couldn't work out why I was so thrown by someone I haven't had a conversation with since I was 19 reproducing, couldn't understand why I gave a fuck.

And he's right, I shouldn't give a fuck. There really is no need for me to feel anything towards this event. We don't talk anymore, it's in the past, we've both moved on.

The thing is that, even if you don't love someone anymore, you have loved them once, and that never goes away. Loving someone isn't a single thought, you imagine yourself together, have hopes for your future and believe that that person will always be in your life. When they leave your life and then move on with their own, it burns.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want this guy in my life anymore. He wasn't a good guy. From telling me during sex that I shouldn't tell my best friend we'd hooked up to pretending that he'd only messaged me because he'd skimmed through his phone and accidentally landed on my name. He was vile to me, and we could never have been together. But that doesn't mean I didn't love him at the time, didn't want him at the time, didn't need him at the time.

This situation is slightly different in that the person led me to the first person I ever really, really, fell in love with. He was the key to so much pain that I'm still healing from. But in essence, it's still the same. They've moved on, their lives have moved on, and me? I'm still alone.

I guess that's what's hurting the most.

xXx

In The Wake - Book tour review



My new favourite way of snagging free shit, I recently took part in another book tour, this time going balls deep in In the Wake by Helen Trevorrow.

A 'deliciously dark and beautifully written' thriller, In the Wake is written from the perspective of a female protagonist named Kay*. With a few snippets of backstory involving her late mother, the present day novel begins upon the discovery of a dead body at the location of a PR event.

After the discovery, Kay ends up balls deep in the situation, mysteriously knowing the deceased, having a drunk father who was meant to be in charge of security, and for some reason losing her job despite the only thing I felt she could even possibly be blamed for is turning up shit faced to her girlfriends book launch. A lot of hate is thrown around to certain male characters which I still don't understand and she ends up having an affair with a police officer - who for some reason proceeds to steal her DNA from a hairbrush. 

Eventually, we get an explanation of a) why she knew the deceased and b) why she hated him. I won't give it away but it rang pretty close to home and struck my 'well you should have gone to the fucking police' nerve. One wedding, a severed ear and the discovery of a missing nurse later, and all our questions are answered. There's a lot going on, but we get there. 

As a whole, it's a good book, a really good book. There's a great plot line, semi-likeable characters and a backstory that doesn't suck the life out of it quicker than I can down a round of jaeger bombs. My only problem was the pace and strength that makes it so good doesn't run continuously throughout the novel and some parts seem to get lost in names, details, back stories and emotions. Its a strong and dark piece that I'm glad I read and will definitely be passing on to someone else, but my greedy ass wanted more. 

Not being something I'd pick up again, I'd give it a solid 7/10. A good choice for feminist thriller lovers, I'd definitly recommend it if you're The Girl on the Train was your jam. 

xXx

*According to Dan Dalton, author of Johnny Ruin

Monday, 2 July 2018

Pukka Tea Review and Giveaway




One of the reason's I love what I do other than I get to spend my entire life doing what makes me euphorically happy, is that I occasionally get free shit. Books, competitions, discounts, affiliate links etc, all contribute to the many many reasons I love my job. Most recently, without any memory of doing so, I entered and won a competition through Pebble Magazine and was sent a box of goodies from Pukka tea - and they're pretty fucking lush.

In a box that appeared mysteriously on my kitchen counter, Pukka was kind enough to send me a box of their Tumeric Active and Lean Matcha Green tea, along with a Green Collection selection box containing Supreme Matcha, Clean Matcha, Mint Matcha, Ginseng Matcha and Wild Berry, as well as a couple of extras.

I won't lie, anything that even hints any form of detoxing makes me baulk a little. Horrifying memories of stomach spasms, chronic bloating and shitting myself mean that anything that even suggests that it could clear out my system sends me running in the opposite direction of the kettle faster than you can say "black no sugar", but I'm trying to be a little less cynical and so thought I'd give this one a chance. 




I've never tried Matcha tea until now. A friend at work drinks it but, owing to some very questionable memories from my youth involving Apple Sourz, I tend to avoid consuming green liquids that don't come in smoothie form. But, never a quitter, I decided that I needed to overcome this aversion and give it a go.


There are a number of ways to drink matcha, including in latte form, but the idea of green liquids and milk seemed like something Dr Seuss would write about so I gave it a miss. Pukka advise infusing it in freshly boiled water for 15 minutes so that's what I did, handing a cup to my landlady in the process. 

First off, it doesn't really smell of anything. I'm used to herbal teas smelling like sugar-filled squash on crack so this was a new one. 15 minutes is also a bit of an awkward time to wait so I settled on ten while I jumped in the shower.

Verdict? Doesn't really taste of anything, but then I prefer my drinks quite strong. It's not bad, it has a slight fenelly taste that I like, other than that it's a bit underwhelming. It's something I'll most likely share around at work, or keep for when I've pumped my body full of enough coffee to put Starbucks out of business.

Now, that's not to say that you won't love it, and another benefit of my job is that I get to run giveaways. Pukka also sent me a travel mug that I won't use owing to my tendency to break EVERYTHING, so I'm going to send it your way, along with a few sachets of tea.

I had intended to give away a full box, but Bonnie decided it needed to be moved and it's now got dog tooth marks in it.

Simply enter by using the Rafflecopter below and following me on Twitter. The giveaway will run until midnight Sunday and I'll announce the winner next week. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


xXx

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Without a Hitch




Ironically, I read Without a Hitch by Bettina Hunt on the day of the Royal wedding. Always one for a bit of trashy chick, lit I devoured it in one sitting while sunbathing through a window on my friend's bed.

The general plot revolves around three women who are getting married. One of them is a stereotypical career woman, one is portrayed as a bit of a brat and one has a baby and a fiance that her mother can't stand. So far, not much out of the ordinary.

Now, I love a chick lit, but a chick lit with a storyline. I don't care if it's running off to Vegas and outing a famous heartthrob or reading a million emails back and forth from HR rep and a man babysitting a Great Dane, I adore it.

The problem with the storylines in this book is that they weren't substantial enough for me to get involved in. Yes, we get that the three women are getting married, and have three very different lives, but that's it. I wanted to know more. There is a thinly veiled attempt at constructing a meaty plotline, but nothing overly enticing.  There were suggestions, but nothing interesting enough to get me hooked.

Bride number one was so stereotypical it hurt and did nothing to remind people that being a bride doesn't necessarily make you a diva.  The second was better, but once again cliche (I'm sorry but there needs to be a law banning books that go for the 'follow your heart or your head' bs, it's over). The third was my favourite, and an entire novel could have been written around her, but instead, we got three half stories that are loosely joined together by a wedding chat room.

As a whole, the book is good, and a perfect beach read for when you want to flick through a few pages in the sun. The thing is, it's been done, a hundred times over. When you write chick lit, you need to stretch further than the traditional gets-everything-she-wants bride or the career woman torn between her heart and her head. The final couple has slightly more depth, but one out of three does not a great book make. Not something I'd pick up again, but not terrible either.

xXx