May 2020

Time has become utterly meaningless to me.

It doesn’t feel like another month has passed, and I can’t tell if this month has sped past or crawled along.

This entire year so far has been insane. I can’t even compare it to anything because it defies explanation. If this was a story, people would’ve abandoned it for being too unrealistic, yet here we are, living through whatever weird nightmare we’ve all stumbled into.

I hope you’re all staying safe and sticking to the lockdown guidelines.

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All That She Can See Book Review

All That She Can See by Carrie Fletcher

I began reading All The She Can See shortly after it had been published, and I got about halfway through and just stopped. I never actually finished it. Of all four of Carrie’s books that I own, this was the one I was yearning to read and finish because the premise really appealed to me.

Synopsis

All her life, Cherry Redgrave has been able to see other people’s negative feelings as monsters lingering behind them, and she discovers through her baking, she can help lessen the monsters they lug around with them.

However, when she meets Chase Masters, a similar person who can only see other people’s positive feelings, the pair clash over their gift. But their turf war attracts unwanted attention, and a battle for what’s easy and what’s right ensues.

Will Cherry and Chase find the peace they’ve been searching for their whole lives?

First Impressions

I love the concept behind this story! It’s just such an interesting idea to think about, which I definitely have. Cherry and Chase have such a dynamic relationship, but the way they balance each other is what makes the relationship, and screw the obstacles that got in their way.

What I Like

  • Meddlums are an extension of you – I loved the way Cherry never invalidated hers or anyone else’s feelings, and instead saw how her and her Meddlums worked in tandem, rather than worked against one another
  • Cherry Redgrave is a precious bean who deserves the best – I mean, she figured out how to utilise baking to help other people and gave Chase the benefit of the doubt, despite probably not needing to
  • Chase Masters changing for the better – thanks to Cherry, Chase felt less alone and actually wanted to help instead of being a dick, and I love good character growth
  • The secondary characters – I loved how, since Cherry helped them, they helped her whenever she needed it, and offered her support and friendship, as well as her friends being a range of people rather than just her own age

What I Didn’t Like

  • The Guild and Velina and Danior felt too two-dimensional – I would’ve liked a little more character growth for Velina and Danior, and a little more humanity/mistakes with The Guild
  • How Cherry wasn’t allowed to continue with her baking – she caused chaos once, but she helped a lot of people with her gift, and she should’ve been allowed to continue

Writing Element Thoughts

SPOILER WARNING! This entire portion has spoilers, so skip this section if you want to avoid spoilers.

The characterisation is the main focus of the story, with a sleuth of characters to indulge in and enjoy. However, the problem with having too many characters is that you then can’t develop them all. In this case, I think the antagonists’ could’ve done with some more development. Velina and Danior were Chase’s family, and yet all we saw was how manipulative they were. Now, granted, they were more of a secondary obstacle, but it might’ve been nice to see a small amount of character growth from them.

But where Velina and Danior could do with some more character growth, I can see why The Guild were this lifeless, two-dimensional corporation. People removed their feelings, therefore they lacked empathy and couldn’t feel anything. Understandable if you’re going that extreme. Even still, it might’ve been nice to see a little more humanity in some of the workers? Or a moment where this lack of feeling failed?

Otherwise, the other characters were brilliant. They were complex because we learnt about their issues and how that fed their Meddlums, and we saw their character growth as they embraced both their positive and negative feelings. Plus, since Cherry helped them all, they then in turn helped her when she needed it most, and I appreciate that her friends were of different ages and genders, instead of being all like her. It was refreshing and nice to see.

Despite him being a bit of a dick, I do appreciate Chase. While Chase brought out the worst in Cherry, Cherry brought out the best in Chase, which was nice to see. Since their gifts are literally polar opposites, it was also nice to see how they balanced each other out, and grew together by going outside their comfort zones and trusting one another.

In general, the story flowed quite well from beginning to end, but I didn’t feel like the prologue was necessary, and while I appreciated Peter’s chapter for giving us important information, a bit more of a lead in would’ve been nice. We left Cherry at the lowest point in the story, and while Peter’s chapter leads to the taking stock point, it was a bit unnerving to be yanked out of the story and put back in afterwards. It just seemed to come out of nowhere.

Overall Thoughts

The concept is such an interesting idea, especially this idea of Meddlums, but it was Cherry’s and Chase’s character growth that kept me reading until the end. The pair balance each other out really well, and I’d recommend it for that alone. The baking is an added bonus.

The Flat Share Book Review

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

Trigger warning: this book mentions elements of an abusive relationship, so if this is a difficult topic for you, don’t read this book.

I’d heard about The Flat Share through Carrie Fletcher, who had read the book and recommended it. Normally, if someone recommends me a book, I’ll scope it out on the internet and read the blurb myself, or read the first few pages if I can. However, from the blurb alone, my curiosity was piqued and I had to know how this story would unfold. It’s such an interesting idea!

Although, I don’t know if I could ever share a bed with someone I’d never met before.

Synopsis

Tiffy needs to move out from her ex-boyfriend’s flat, once and for all, but her only options are a rundown flat, or share a bed with another man with one fatal catch: they’ll never be in the flat at the same time. Leon works as a night nurse and only needs the flat during normal working hours, which is perfect Tiffy, and Leon can go elsewhere during the weekends.

But with the constant post-it notes being passed between them, their dynamic begins to change from strangers who never meet to something more. Will they get a chance at romance?

First Impressions

Oh my god, I love the premise so much! The post-it notes, their dynamic, the way the story unfolded – it was such a unique story from start to finish. I’m also a sucker for a good romance, especially if it’s a slow burn romance, so this ticked all the boxes.

What I Like

  • Tiffy & Leon – I mean, how can you not love the pair? They might be quite different people, but they complement each other so well, and I just love them
  • How their relationship blossomed – the post-it notes were such a creative way to interact with one another, and I loved that they were able to open up to one another cos of them
  • Most the supportive characters were great – they were all developed into complex characters who supported Tiffy and Leon, and I appreciated them all (except Martin and Kay)

What I Didn’t Like

  • The slow burn romance – I do love slow burn romances, but I also get (understandably) frustrated with them, so take this as a love/hate thing
  • I mean, it goes without saying I hate Justin – without giving any spoilers, he’s just the absolute worst and I’m so glad Tiffy left him once and for all
  • Martin is a sleaze bag – I understand where he’s coming from, but I never had any reason to like him, and after what he did, I had no sympathy for him

Writing Element Thoughts

I like how Beth O’Leary wrote in two separate styles for both Tiffy and Leon, but I will say, it took a few chapters to adjust to Leon’s writing style. The fragmented sentences and the way he presented dialogue were disconcerting to begin with, but once you adjusted, it actually suited his personality so well. It made sense for Tiffy to write as the default writing style since she worked in publishing.

The story followed the traditional story narrative, almost seamlessly. Since the story centres around Tiffy coming to a realisation about her ex-boyfriend, it makes sense why he’s the main obstacle, especially for the lowest point and the climax of the story. It was as equally frustrating as it was handled realistically, so I can appreciate that.

I adore the characterisation. Each character had their own individual reason to be in the story, whether they were a total sleaze bag (Martin) or a supportive friend (Mo, Gerty, Rachel) or a charming brother (Richie). Tiffy, as a quirky outspoken person, and Leon, as a patient, humble person, made for quite the interesting couple, but I’m so glad they got together. At no point did I think Tiffy or Leon deserved better, and I was rooting for them the entire time.

Overall Thoughts

The premise hooked me but it was the sleuth of characters that kept me invested until the very end. I loved the idea of using post-it notes to communicate with one another (that was genius!) and I was rooting for them throughout the entire story.

I’d recommend this story for the premise alone and seeing how the story unfolds, as well as seeing how Tiffy and Leon’s relationship blossoms, and for the sleuth of interesting side characters too.

April 2020

I was debating when to post this since I’ll still have five days left of April after this is posted, but simultaneously, if I waited until next Friday, we’d officially be into May. I made the decision to post it today, and if anything needs updating, I’ll do it.

We’ve officially been in quarantine for over a month, although not by much. I wrote my personal account of it as a documented account for future historians in case they want it. I might write more, depending what happens, although I suspect nothing much is gonna happen.

I hope everyone is staying safe by staying home!

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His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass

His Dark Materials (three-in-one edition) by Philip Pullman

This book was a struggle to read, partially because my copy of the book is so big and bulky to actually read, partially because it got weird as hell, and partially because of the constant perspective changes (trying to remember what happened to each character was hard). But the wonderful descriptions and how the story was told kept me invested until the very end.

Synopsis

Lyra and Will now understand the importance of the task ahead, but with plenty of obstacles standing in their way, they’ll need the help of everyone they’ve encountered so far, and new characters, to beat the odds and fulfil the prophecy. But will they succeed, or will the obstacles prove too difficult to overcome?

First Impressions

Oh my god! This book gets so weird! I’m still confused about what happened, but also it was tied up so nicely, despite all the tragedy and drama. Jesus, Lyra and Will deserve some happiness after this, especially after that ending. Those poor kids!

What I Like

  • Lyra and Will’s friendship blossoming into something more – I appreciate how they handled the relationship changing because they’re kids discovering their feelings for the first time and that’s beautiful
  • Lyra’s parents character growth – they still love each other! I don’t know to what extent Lord Asriel does, but Mrs Coulter cared for Lyra! They sacrificed themselves for Lyra! They were such cold hearted people before, but they changed because of Lyra
  • Seeing all the characters come together to help Lyra and Will – whether they were introduced in this book or earlier, it was so great to see everyone band together to help the two kids fulfil the prophecy
  • Everything was actually explained – Dust, the Spectres, all of it actually had a reasonable explanation, and also had a reasonable solution to fix it all

What I Don’t Like

  • [SPOILER] How could you do that to Will and Lyra?! – they discovered they loved each other and you’re telling me they can never see each other again? Just rip out my heart! It’d be less painful
  • Mary Malone as the ‘tempter’ – maybe I’m just dumb, but I had to resort to Google to figure out how Mary Malone was the serpent/’tempter’ cos it wasn’t actually explained properly
  • The constant perspective changes confused me – I had to constantly remember what happened to each character and pay attention to see how it all tied together

Writing Element Thoughts

I can’t fault Philip Pullman on his writing style because it’s truly excellent. His descriptions were magnificent until the very end, although even with his brilliant descriptions, I struggled to visualise certain things (mulefa, intention craft) that I had to resort to Google. The descriptions helped enhance the story and really visualise what was happening (mostly).

The characterisation was still brilliant. The character growth with the previously introduced characters made me feel sympathetic towards them, even if their actions weren’t always the right thing to do. Mrs Coulter, for instance, went through some good character growth, from being a cold hearted woman to caring deeply about her daughter. Also, the characters actually felt the effects of what they were doing: Lyra and Will got injured, muddy and fatigued after going on their epic quest, and other characters lost their lives. It gave the story a sense of realism.

The story structure was still present throughout, but it didn’t seem to flow as seamlessly as in the first book. Even the second book struggled with this. The reason being, once you try to change the perspective from each chapter, you have to remember what happened with each character, and sometimes you lose their plot thread along the way. However, that being said, the explanations for everything and why it had happened tied together the story nicely and ended in a somewhat satisfying way (nope, I’m not over what he did to Lyra and Will).

Overall Thoughts

I can see why religious people wouldn’t like this series, and I now understand exactly what people meant when they called this series weird. But for the descriptions alone, the series is well worth reading. Or at least, the first book is. It can be quite hard to keep track of what’s going on at times.

Coronavirus: My Personal Account

Kingston Town Centre

We’re now a month into the official quarantine due to a pandemic that has swept the globe and forced us into lockdown for the sake of humanity.

A tweet suggested we should write down our accounts of the coronavirus for future historians, so take this as mine.

In mid March, we were advised to start social distancing if we could, but it’d take a further week for the quarantine to be imposed. Even still, people ignored the lockdown and flocked to the parks or the beaches for one last time, which could’ve infected plenty of people, or hung out in social places in large groups, which also didn’t help. But at least now people seem to be abiding by the rules and staying inside, as they’re supposed to. Partially because all the social places are now closed and the public spaces are being monitored, but not heavily.

I will admit, during the advisory stage, I did still pop out for a few short hours to see a friend, but town was basically dead, shops already closing in preparation, and I did visit a friend at his house because I thought that might not be so bad. I know my mistake now, even though neither of us got it. I also took a bit of a risk with my mum and my brother by going to Zizzi’s two nights before the official quarantine began, especially since we could’ve gotten the coronavirus ourselves, but we all had a craving, and knowing what was to come, I can’t deny it was good to have a last dinner out.

Personally, the quarantine started out as a gift. I was unemployed and had no reason to go searching for a job now, so I could just live in the moment and do as I pleased without feeling the guilt and anxiety gnawing away at me. I could live day by day, as I had been doing, in peace and allow life to go on as it needed to. I could do writing all day everyday, uninterrupted. Hallelujah!

However, I began to struggle within a few days. Popping to the supermarkets filled me with a genuine despair and full blown hyperventilation (side effect of anxiety/panic attacks) as I saw empty shelf upon empty shelf. I began to freak out that there wouldn’t be enough food for us to survive, but thankfully mum had stocked up on what she could. I ended up going to three different supermarkets on one occasion to grab as much meat for myself as I could, and any other essentials I needed, but I never bulk bought anything, except chocolate, which nobody was going for. You’d think a sweet treat is exactly what people would want right now, but I guess if you’re panic buying, chocolate won’t be near the top of your priority list.

Whenever I returned home from the supermarkets, I needed to recharge. I’d get so stressed and irritated by people getting in my way, especially when we were supposed to be keeping our distance, and all my energy would be drained thanks to my anxiety and borderline depression I felt. I’d meditate to calm myself back down, or else find something to distract me that would also relax me. I dreaded going back to the supermarket because I was filled with dread every single time, knowing exactly how I’d feel once I got inside and saw the empty shelves.

I realised quite quickly how dependent I had become on going to concerts/musical theatre shows and socialising with other humans, which was a very subconscious coping mechanism. They acted as a nice distraction from my lack of a life, and they helped stop my mental health from spiralling into negative self-talk, which would inevitably lead to depression. Also, whenever my mental health gets that bad, I feel the urge to escape for a while, whether to a local park, or a museum, or wishing I could just hop on a train and start somewhere new. But in this circumstance, I’m literally not allowed to do so.

I’m very hit and miss with socialising anyway, and I’ve purposefully spent the past couple of months making an effort to actually see people because being unemployed can make you very isolated and lonely. Once the lockdown began, I immediately messaged my friends, almost begging to chat to them, because I needed socialisation. I needed to be distracted, which I really shouldn’t rely on other people for, and to alleviate my crushing loneliness, which on a number of occasions has nearly brought me to tears. Usually then followed by depression. My mum and my brother are both busy, as they have been for months, so socialising with them just hasn’t really happened, and nothing has changed. Mum does worry I’m not socialising enough, which is why I’d made such an effort before. Who knew that’d come to slap me in the face?

By the third week, the supermarkets had implemented measures to prevent bulk buying. They restricted certain items to only three per customer, and a set number of people are allowed in the shop at any given time. The tills have glass panels to separate the server from the customer, and there are footprints stuck to the floor on where to stand while queuing to pay. Toilet paper is starting to stay on the shelves and the shelves don’t look so bare anymore, so going to the supermarket feels like it always has done: a mindless chore you just get on with, except now you’ve gotta remember the restrictions too.

When the gorgeous sunny weather arrived, I struggled again. I’d go outside, feel the sun on my face, and long to go on a relaxing holiday to the beach, then feel depressed that it’s not likely to happen, and even when the restrictions are lifted, everyone’s gonna have the same idea. Additionally, when my anxiety becomes too overwhelming, I get restless and the best remedy I’ve found is to go for a long walk, but I have to be cautious nowadays about when and where. Most people go out during the day, but the night time? Only a few people actually want to. I’m one of them, preferring the peace and quiet of wandering the streets alone, not having to worry about how I’m gonna avoid people.

At one stage, my anxiety spiked whenever I went outside because I was terrified I’d get coronavirus and spread it to my mum or my brother, or worse still, the elderly people living in our flat complex. Thanks to this, I didn’t feel the need to go outside. I felt perfectly content to be inside because it was safer and way less stressful, and I have nearly everything I need inside. As Sheldon Cooper once said, ‘if outside is so good, why has mankind spent thousands of years trying to perfect inside?’

Nowadays, I’m settling into quarantine life. I’ve actually still been getting dressed everyday, although whether I wear a bra or not is decided day by day (usually I don’t bother), and I’ve found enough to keep me preoccupied. I’m still reading, socialising with others, and occasionally watching a TV episode or so. I’ve somehow only managed to play The Sims 4 once this entire month, which is a good thing because I get way too obsessed with it otherwise. Currently, I’m doing a daily poetry challenge, and considering poetry isn’t my forte, it’s been a struggle, but people actually seem to like my poems. I’ve given up on my writing project, and once this poetry challenge is over, I’ll focus on writing little snippets again and hopefully find one I want to flesh out into a full story.

However, I notice when my mental health fluctuates, I struggle very badly. When I spiral downwards, I tend to go for long walks, ranging between an hour to an hour and a half. Anymore than that and I feel guilty. Additionally, I’m trying to take this time to face my mental health head on, which has been a struggle, but it’s been good to identify issues I’m having and trying to find healthy coping mechanisms. I’m trying to stay in the present moment and allow life to go as it needs to, which is helping by not freaking out over whether my Publishing MA will still go ahead in September. I’m also trying to keep my self esteem at a healthy level by feeling what I need to, then releasing the feelings and carry on living.

I’ll be honest, at this moment in time, I have no idea what’s gonna happen next, or even when. My mum seems to think we’ll start lifting the restrictions by the end of May, but realistically, I think it’ll be the end of June. Any longer than that, we’ll face massive financial difficulties, alongside a myriad of other problems.

Stay home and stay safe.

March 2020

Well, this month certainly took an unexpected turn!

Coronavirus. Need I say more? With the world shutting down and going into lockdown, it really does make you see how the world functioned before, and it’s eye opening. It makes you realise how much we rely upon other people daily for interaction, and despite what society says, how important ‘low paid workers’ are. We’ve been relying on nurses, doctors, teachers, supermarket staff and delivery drivers to function during this social distancing, so when this is all over, be more appreciative of these people. Because lord knows, the nurses and doctors need all the praise they can get.

Here’s what else March had in store for me…

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