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I swoon over fictional men

Meat Feast (as in the pizza) – flash fiction

I promise the Meat Feast referenced is the actual pizza. I thought I was being all clever with the double meaning, but I think it genuinely just sounds like she’s having an affair with the pizza fella? Anyway, here’s a 100 worder (103 if we’re gonna be pedantic)…

She brushed a finger against the screen of her phone, disappointment an ache that found its origins in her very soul. No missed calls. She bit her bottom lip as she stared at the softly illuminated screen.

9:16pm.

One minute late. She moaned softly and leaned back into the pillows behind her, her toes curling at the thought of the illicit pleasure that had been promised and had, as yet, been denied.

Bzzt bzzt bzzt.

Finally. She leapt from the bed and pounded down the stairs, flinging the front door open.

“Meat feast?” the Dominoes’ guy said.

She sighed.

“Give it to me.”

 

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‘Dracula’ Bram Stoker

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Bram Stoker’s peerless tale of desperate battle against a powerful, ancient vampire, the Penguin Classics edition of ‘Dracula’ is edited with notes and an introduction by Maurice Hindle, as well as a preface by Christopher Frayling.

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client’s castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: a ship runs aground on the shores of Whitby, its crew vanished; beautiful Lucy Westenra slowly succumbs to a mysterious, wasting illness, her blood drained away; and the lunatic Renfield raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘master’. In the ensuing battle of wills between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries – led by the intrepid vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing – Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

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Does a novel that’s 120 years old really need a spoiler alert notice stamping across its review? Hmm probably not, but I was once famed for my spoilers and I refuse to ruin yet more books for my adoring fans. There are just so many elements of this book that I want to discuss and it would be impossible to do so without letting slip major plot points.

So, Dracula, eh? My last encounter with the titular character was during my reading of a horrifically bad paranormal romance trilogy in which Dracula (or Vlad, c’mon, let’s use first names here, no point in being shy…I mean, I did read a graphic description of his, ahem, manhood), but I had this deep rooted desire to read about the actual Dracula, the original Dracula, the Dracula who has inspired generations of people in everything from music to art, from movies to Halloween costumes.

I will confess; I did try and read this book some years ago but Jonathan Harker’s fifty page account of travelling through the Carpathians proved too much for my 17 year old self (may or may not have exaggerated just slightly there). However, having seen this pretty Penguin English Library edition sitting on a shelf in Waterstones, I felt compelled to give Jonathan one more chance. Just one more single chance, though. Life’s too short for boring books after all.

But Dracula is far from boring. The issue, it seems, lay more with my impatient teenage self, who disliked the lengthy descriptions so often found in Victorian literature. The thing with Victorian literature is this; the readers whose eyes first read the words we’re still reading today didn’t have the likes of Google at the literal tips of their fingers. They didn’t have £40 EasyJet flights into central Europe. They didn’t have Netflix streaming movies from all over the globe. Their world was their home, their street and their town. Places such as Transylvania were far off places of almost mythical proportions. The overly lengthy descriptions were essential. How could a writer immerse their readers in a story if the place in which it was set was unimaginable?

Dracula struck me as a Victorian novel that’s very…well, unVictorian. In a time when a woman’s place was deemed as the kitchen and more than two decades before women won the right to vote (that right with many conditions placed upon it), the character of Mina Murray is a breath of fresh air. Sure, she’s annoyingly dramatic in places (well, I guess most people would be if their best friend had to be beheaded because they’d become a god damned shit sucking vampire), but she’s treated as an equal among the men. Towards the end of the novel, when they’re off gallivanting in hot pursuit of the boxed up Dracula, Mina accompanies them and she’s recognised as the valuable asset asset that she is. She’s brave, intelligent and resourceful.  She’s never treated as a hindrance and her opinion is always, always taken into consideration. Jonathan is initially reluctant for her to travel to Dracula’s castle (for obvious reasons), but he hears her out and eventually understands that it’s her right to exact revenge against Dracula.

In regards to Dracula himself, I initially assumed that I’d been desensitised to horror books. I read The Shining when I was 12 and figured nothing would ever scare or creep me out again in regards to a horror novel…but that moment when Jonathan sees Dracula freaking crawling down the castle walls? Eugh! That’s a scene that had shudders wracking my body! Creeeeeeeepy! My only issues with Dracula himself were a) how little he appears in a book with his name gracing the cover and b) how easily he was defeated. I won’t go into details for those who haven’t read it, but that scene is near enough over and done with in five pages. For such a feared, centuries-old being, it didn’t seem feasible that he’d be taken down so easily.

I can see why this book has endured for as long as it has and, minor faults aside, it’s one that should be read by all horror fans. The book itself is the forefather of modern horror and Dracula is the forefather of the modern vampire.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Song: HIM’s Vampire Heart (RIP HIM, the first band to ever capture my heart)

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format…and the Kindle version is free!

 

 

Jazz dabbles in spoken word poetry

Why do I always title my posts in the third person, like my non-existent PA drafts them up for me?

Anyway, here’s a short ten minute recording of me attempting spoken word poetry and a bit of general chit chat (excuse the naughty words, I’m not the squeaky clean, sweet and innocent persona I exude in my writing)

Have any of you guys dabbled (love that word) in spoken word poetry? Tell me about your experiences!

Check out my attempt here.

Jazz’s moment of brag

Okay…so I know I shouldn’t brag, but I know some of you are aware of my struggles with my university course, so I have some good news! After literally crying over my grammar classes and having to do a shit ton of extra revision…I passed the exam! I only got 55% but for something I struggled with so badly, I’m really super happy! I would say I’ll be happy to never see another grammar book again but I’m currently surrounded by three hefty tomes of grammar for my next assignment 😛

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‘Wild Embers’ Nikita Gill

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WILD EMBERS explores the fire that lies within every soul, weaving words around ideas of feeling at home in your own skin, allowing yourself to heal and learning to embrace your uniqueness with love from the universe.

Featuring rewritten fairytale heroines, goddess wisdom and poetry that burns with revolution, this collection is an explosion of femininity, empowerment and personal growth.

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First and foremost, I’d like to thank Nikita Gill and her wonderful collection for presenting me with a great opportunity to whip out my adorable panda and kitty page markers that I received over Christmas…

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Asda Living if you’re wanting to get your own space kitty bedding.

I’ve read a lot of poetry over the past year and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said Nikita’s Wild Embers is by far my favourite collection yet.

Compared with a lot of other poetry that I’ve read, I found the poems within this collection to be…simple. ‘Simple’ is a word that carries often negative connotations, but I use the description in this instance in the most positive of ways. I find it’s common for poets – myself included – to use overly fancy metaphors which, while beautiful, can detract from the message that the poet is trying to convey. The focus becomes the cleverness of the metaphor and not the importance of the meaning it carries. Nikita’s poetry is beautifully written but, at the same time, gets straight to the heart of the matter.

One of the running themes throughout Wild Embers is this idea that pain is normal and that we’re allowed to feel it. Very often, well meaning poets write things like “Don’t let anyone bring you down!” and it can almost make you, as a reader, feel weak for allowing negative feelings to attach themselves to you. Nikita assures each of her readers that feeling like this is normal and that it’s okay to feel sad when reflecting on the past, but at the same time she gently encourages us to move forward…to almost thank the pain for what it has taught us and use the strength it has bestowed upon us to move forward. One such example of this can be found within the piece Graveyards and Gardens, in which Nikita talks about the graveyards we harbour inside of us, graveyards which are made up of the people that hurt us and the memories that go along with these people. She talks about us making gardens from these graveyards, using the nutrient-rich ground under which these memories are buried to build afresh. She doesn’t tell us to eradicate those bad memories; she simply tells us to use them as a base upon which to create happier ones.

One of my favourite parts of this collection was the poems dedicated to fairy tale princesses, such as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. We’ve all heard retellings of these famed stories, but Nikita puts a completely unique spin on them, writing about how Cinderella’s godmother was, in fact, a lawyer who took her stepmother and stepsisters to court because they had unlawfully evicted her from a house that was legally hers. Taking some of the magic and miracles out of these fairytales and reimagining these women as resourceful, pragmatic individuals is refreshing and each of Nikita’s readers will be able to see a little of themselves in these characters.

I can’t recommend Wild Embers enough!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Two Steps from Hell’s Victory 

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

Vent

It’s 21:53. I’m home alone…and my mind is loud. My mind is screaming at me and my thoughts need out.

First off, I’m sorry for being shit. I haven’t blogged or looked at any blogs in nearly a month. I’ve been busy. I’ve been depressed and I’m not sure if I even feel like a real person anymore.

There are moments and sometimes even days of happiness; when I go up to Glasgow to see my boyfriend, when I see my friends for lunch or coffee and a catch up, when I see my family and have some good home-cooked food…but in between all of that, I feel like nothing.

I never expected my course to be easy. I like a challenge and I’ve tried to tackle this one head on. I’m doing all the reading and the feedback I’ve received for my practise assignments has been promising. From a social standpoint too, life at uni is great. I’ve made some great friends, one of whom is coming over for Christmas.

But I don’t want to be at uni anymore. I feel like it’s consuming who I am as a person. Everything that I enjoyed doing – everything that made me me – has taken a back burner. I barely have time to read and when I do, I’m too exhausted to read more than ten pages at a time it seems. I only have time to jot down the odd poem here and there; the short story collection I wanted to work on has come to nothing. I don’t have time to blog on a regular basis and while it’s not the end of the world, I miss the community I became a part of over the course of a year and a half. I feel isolated from everything that I love doing. I don’t feel like me anymore and it scares me.

I’m worried about money as well. Although I only did part time hours at the hotel, I had a monthly income that I could rely on. I could pay my rent and still have enough left over for other things and suddenly not having that anymore has left me feeling financially insecure. I’ve been sticking to a budget these past three months, but I’ve been trying to work out the figures for my second semester and I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to manage. I tried finding a part time job but the places that I applied to didn’t get back to me and a lot of places that I wanted to work in offered too many hours or weren’t flexible enough. I figured I’d leave it until maybe my second or third semester but now I’m worrying about not finding work when I actually really need it.

I’m feeling anxious too and I’m not even 100% sure why. I think it’s an accumulation of everything weighing on my mind, but I find myself waking up early in the morning, my heart pounding as all my irrational worries begin to wake up as well. I’m anxious about the things I’ve previously mentioned, but I’m anxious about a lot of other stuff too and the thing that makes me so angry with myself is that most of the stuff I’m anxious about aren’t even real things. They’re things my mind imagines happening. I get anxious at the thought of my boyfriend leaving me because he’ll get sick of me. I get anxious at the thought of becoming homeless because I can’t afford to cover the expenses of my studies. I get anxious at the thought of leaving my course (even though I want to) and my family being ashamed and disappointed in me. I get anxious at the thought of those I love and care for getting sick or getting hurt and being unable to help them or do anything about it. I get anxious at the thought of 2018. I get anxious at the thought of being in my mid twenties and still not being 100% sure of what I want to do in terms of a career despite doing a fucking MA.

I was relatively happy before uni and now I’m not. I know it sounds pathetic and like I’m ungrateful because not everyone gets the opportunity to do this. It’s my own fault. I applied for this and I’ve got no one to blame but myself.

 

 

DNF: ‘The Dark Ones’ Rachel van Dyken

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Okay, okay…I know some of you will question what exactly I was expecting when the book has a cover like this, but for those of you who have been with me since I swoon over fictional men’s birth, you’ll remember that, initially, I reviewed nothing but paranormal romance.

I guess my DNFing (it’s a word, shut up) of this book maybe shows just how much I’ve grown as a reader throughout the duration of 2017; life’s too short to read books you’re not enjoying! At the tail end of 2016, I realized reading was becoming something of a chore because I was hesitant to read outside of my ‘preferred’ genre…and it dawned on me that with many of the books that I was reading, I was essentially rereading the same story over and over again, just with different characters in different locations.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but on 1st January 2017, I pledged to read more widely and boy, have I read more widely since then. I’ve been reading drama, horror, sci fi, non-fiction, poetry…

…but I still enjoy the odd bit of romance now and again and following my reading of Archangel’s Viper, I felt my romance fix hadn’t been entirely satisfactory, so I decided to browse the Kindle store for some new titles.

And that’s where I stumbled upon The Dark Ones. On paper (or on screen, I should say) it sounded like your average, run-of-the-mill paranormal romance. Vampires, immortal kings, conflicts, drama, the ‘chosen one‘…The Dark Ones has it all and as I’m your stereotypical poor student, when I saw it was free, I hit ‘Download’ quicker than I make a cup of tea when I wake up in the morning (which is pretty fucking quick).

As I settled into my reading of it, though, I found myself becoming increasingly uneasy and it was when I hit the 35% mark that I realized I just couldn’t read anymore. It was depressing me and I’m depressed enough as it is without my method of escapism making me feel even worse. It wasn’t just the superficial, archetypal characters that very often populate the realms of paranormal romance (y’know, the darkly troubled, brooding asshole that everyone lusts after etc)…it was more the sheer oppression of the female protagonist that was bothering me.

The Dark One’s protagonist is a woman called Genesis and despite her being a two dimensional, annoyingly whiny character, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. The author’s treatment of her epitomizes everything that I hate about this genre when it’s done wrong. Let me explain:

1. She has no free will. The moment she steps through the door that leads her to the immortals, Genesis is stripped of the scraps of free will she’d possessed in her previous life. The male immortals barter for her ‘services’ like she’s nothing more than a slab of meat, all while she stands, shaking as terror naturally courses through her body. If that doesn’t sound horrific enough, Ethan then ‘has to’ forcibly ‘mark’ Genesis to make her his ‘mate’ because it’s so obviously the only way to save her from Cassius….she has literally known Ethan for about half an hour by this point. Oh, and the greatest thing about all of this? She doesn’t understand the implications of his actions until afterwards, which leads me quite nicely onto my second point…

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Me when I read this entire section

2. Being an immortal’s mate is quite literally a life or death situation and not because the immortal world is teeming with blood-thirsty vampires and rabid werewolves. Oh no. The actual process of becoming an immortal’s mate is life-threatening. Genesis’ life hangs in the balance through no decision of her own and why, you might ask, do the immortals need humans? Well, conveniently to the plot…

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I’ve seen this disturbing plot play out one too many times

3. …immortals can only have offspring with humans. She’s essentially being forced into sexual slavery. Cassius wants Genesis so he can breed with her and, at one point, she’s actually referred to as ‘a breeder’.

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Me around 10% in

4. Ethan treats Genesis like shit. I dunno, maybe their relationship improves later in the book but certainly in the 35% that I read, he was a class A dick to her. One minute, he’s leaning forward about to kiss her, the next he’s throwing a temper tantrum and stomping around downstairs because she doesn’t truly ‘love’ him (calm it, buddy, she’s not even known you 24 hours!). His emotions are about as predictable as a forest fire (which I imagine aren’t very predictable? Correct me if I’m wrong) and while I’m not a psychologist, I can imagine being subjected to that kind of behavior would make a person extremely frightened and insecure.

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Me when it comes to archetypal characters in paranormal romance

5. Soul-consuming lust. This is something that kinda ties in with my first point; Genesis not only loses free will over her life, but she loses free will over her body too. Her mind is literally fighting against her body’s yearning for Ethan and this yearning is something that, initially (because no doubt she’ll realize she does actually love him later in the book), is a result of his forced ‘marking’ of her. I don’t even need to explain how many shades of creepy and messed up that is.

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“Did I actually just read that?”

So there we have it. Rant over, guys. What books have you recently DNFed? 

 

 

Blank – a poem

One of my latest pieces (originally published on Mirakee).

‘Archangel’s Viper’ Nalini Singh

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Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy grey underground of the city for the angels. But it’s not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman – it’s the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalised by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerise her prey, and a poisonous bite.

Now, someone has put a bounty on her head . . .

Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael’s private guard, and he’s as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly’s. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself – because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening . . .

No one is safe.

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Potential spoilers!

Considering the Guildhunter series is one of my favourites and Archangel’s Viper was released back in September, it has taken me a hell of a long time to get around to reading it…was the wait worth it?

Yes and no. Let me explain.

The Guildhunter series began way back in 2009 and the first book is the book in which we, the readers, first meet Holly. I was a bit of a latecomer to the series, reading Angel’s Blood in 2014, but throughout the next eight books, I always found myself wondering about Holly and Venom. There was just something beneath the taunts that they threw at one another, something other than simple contempt and resignation in being lumped with one another for Holly’s training.

And in Archangel’s Viper, the truth is revealed. These are two people unlike anyone else in the brutal Guildhunter universe. Venom, a vampire with snake-like eyes and impossible speed and agility and Holly, a not-quite-vampire cursed by the tainted essence of Uram, an archangel gone mad (understatement of the year *laughs nervously*)…these are two individuals who both captivate and horrify those around them, but find understanding and acceptance with one another, even if it is begrudgingly prior to this book.

The storyline itself is great. Holly may be a fictional character, but seeing her evolve from the broken, self-named Sorrow into the rainbow-haired, badass woman that she is now has been incredible. Strong female characters are often lacking in paranormal romance fiction, but the Guildhunter series is full of them…from Elena to Honor, from Ashwini to Mahiya, from Michaela (whose a bitch, but is still amazing) to Lijuan (who you can go on a date with here). There isn’t a single woman in these books – mortal, angel or vampire – who isn’t powerful in her own right and what makes these books even better is that the men in this series support them 100% and don’t feel ’emasculated’ by the fact that their female friends and partners can stand their own ground.

However.

The romantic element to Holly and Venom’s relationship was an ember that didn’t get stoked into a raging fire until about 80% of the way through the book (I was reading on Kindle). There was a lot of teasing and a lot of suggestive comments, but Venom didn’t start making her samosas or chai tea from scratch until the near end and while these scenes were touching in all their sweetness and cuteness…it just felt a bit rushed. Venom letting down his defenses and telling Holly about his past and about his Making seemed to come out of nowhere. I just feel that if Archangel’s Viper had been maybe fifty pages longer, I could have believed in their relationship more.

I felt the same about a specific plot element; the bounty on Holly’s head seems to play an integral role in the story as she and Venom prowl the dark underbelly of New York, searching for information regarding the person offering five million for her. They get sidetracked by other things (which I won’t reveal because it’d be a major spoiler), and the whole thing is forgotten about until the end of the book, when it’s quickly explained that it was merely a ‘flunky’ in Charisemnon’s court taking a shine to her because of her connection to Uram. What initially began as a major plot element devolved into nothing and was explained away in the space of two pages.

Archangel’s Viper isn’t my favourite, but it’s a good addition to a fantastic series.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Song: Nine Inch Nails’ Dead Souls (the lyrics just fit perfectly with Holly, plus it’s on the soundtrack of one of my favourite movies)

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This book is available on Amazon in both paperback and e-reader format.

 

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