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Hey, guys!

So, a quick update on things seen as my last post was mega depressing.

Things are looking up! I’ve officially passed the taught part of my course and I’m now onto my dissertation…which also means I have way more free time! I’ve been having way more time to read and have some fantastic book recommendations for you all. I’m hoping to delve back into the blogosphere at some point this week and have a catch up too.

It really has been too long. I was making myself feel really guilty about neglecting my blog and you guys, some of whom I’d made good friends with prior to uni. I decided it was maybe best to just leave it completely alone until I knew I had time to both post and interact. I think that time is just about here ūüėĀ

Also, on the update front, I have some exciting news! I’m moving up to Glasgow in Scotland on 10th August to live with my boyfriend! So all in all, things are well and truly looking up for me. Also, if any of you blogging peeps are Scottish natives, let me know! I literally know no-one here aside from my boyfriend ūüėā

Thank you to everyone here for continuing to support me throughout the past 8 or so months ‚̧ԳŹ

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I know I’m hardly active and I know I hardly interact much anymore either and I’m sorry for that. I promise I’ll get better when I finish at uni. I know I maybe post about my feelings too much but I don’t have many places left to turn now. I’m nearing the end of my university counselling sessions and I’ve been on medication for nearly two months and I can feel all those old feelings creeping back in again. I hear the weariness in people’s voices when I tell them I’m not feeling so good and I hate myself for it. I hate myself for everything. I hate myself for being unable to feel better. I hate myself for letting everyone down. I hate myself for the things I get down and anxious about because I know they’re fucking stupid. I just hate myself full stop. I’m ugly and stupid. I’m nothing.

‘The witch doesn’t burn in this one’ Amanda Lovelace

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2016 Goodreads Choice Award-winning poet Amanda Lovelace returns in ‘the witch doesn’t burn in this one’ ‚ÄĒ¬†the bold¬†second book in her “women are some kind of magic” series.¬†

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now‚ÄĒindestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn‚Äôt burn in this one.

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Check out my review for the princess saves herself in this one here!

There seems to be this general rule that the¬†second one¬†– be it a movie or book in a series or a band’s second album – is never as good as the first. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule (actually, a lot of exceptions…maybe I made that ‘general rule’ up) and Amanda Lovelace’s second collection is one such exception. Unlike the witch, her creative energy most certainly burns and burns yet brighter in¬†the witch doesn’t burn in this one.¬†

The thing I adore about Amanda’s work is that I always feel like I’m being addressed directly. There are so many of her poems that just speak to me on a soul level, one such poem being:

say it / with me / now: / “i am a woman. / i am a human. / & i matter with / no conditions / attached / you may not / see my worth / but i do. / i do.”¬† (page 120)

(and countless others, I’ve folded over so many page corners, forgive me, Amanda)

I think everybody interprets poetry differently and the meaning they derive is the meaning that brings them the most solace. For me, this poem reminded me of the non-relationship I have with my father. I’ve been rejected by him twice as an adult and despite telling myself I’m ‘over’ it, that wound has never quite healed. I ask myself things like “How much am I worth if my own flesh and blood doesn’t want me?” or “If my own father doesn’t like me, what chance do I stand with anyone else?”. In a few lines, Amanda reminded me that as long as I see my worth, fuck what my father thinks or doesn’t think of me. I matter even if I don’t matter to him.

the witch doesn’t burn in this one implores¬†us women to support¬†all¬†of our fellow women, regardless of how they identify, regardless of their skin colour, regardless of their age, regardless of their sexual orientation, regardless of their religion, regardless of their education. They are¬†all¬†our sisters. ¬†Some people naively believe that the fight for women’s rights is ‘over’ just because things are okay for them and the women in their inner circle, but Amanda reminds us that globally – and sometimes not even that, sometimes it can be the woman next door or the woman we see everyday on the bus on the way to work – there are women being stripped of their rights; they’re stripped of their bodily autonomy, they’re stripped of their voices and they’re stripped of their dignity. These are the women we must lift “above the flames”. These are the women we must continue to fight for.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Two Steps From Hell’s¬†The Fire in Her Eyes¬†

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

‘New Fears’ edited by Mark Morris

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The horror genre’s greatest living practitioners drag our darkest fears kicking and screaming into the light in this collection of nineteen brand-new stories. In “The Boggle Hole” by Alison Littlewood an ancient folk tale leads to irrevocable loss. In Josh Malerman’s “The House of the Head” a dollhouse becomes the focus for an incident both violent and inexplicable. In “Speaking Still” Ramsey Campbell suggests that beyond death there may be far worse things waiting than we can ever imagine… Numinous, surreal and gut wrenching, New Fears is a vibrant collection showcasing the very best fiction modern horror has to offer.

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Okay, so I initially went into Waterstones hunting for the final installment in Ezekiel Boone’s¬†Hatching¬†trilogy (check out my reviews for the first two books here and here) and came out instead with¬†New Fears.¬†My quest for¬†Zero Day¬†ended in failure (I eventually ordered it and am now happily devouring it), but the cover for¬†New Fears¬†pulled me in simply because it put me in mind of the covers of¬†The Hatching¬†and¬†Skitter.¬†I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions in my reviews of Boone’s books that I’m prone to night terrors that revolve solely around bugs so any horror book that has such things adorning its cover is guaranteed to be a book that’ll scare the living crap out of me (metaphorically, of course).

There were a couple of stories within¬†New Fears¬†that genuinely creeped me out, namely¬†The House of the Head,¬†which is unique take on the traditional haunted house story in the respect that it’s about a haunting that takes place inside a¬†dolls¬†house. We witness the events unfolding through the eyes of a young girl, who’s reflecting upon it many years later as a grown woman. The description of the creepy ass doll’s head which seems to be at the epicenter of the haunting genuinely chilled me and don’t even get me started on the scene where the girl can see its reflection in the dolls house bathroom mirror…despite not actually seeing it in the bathroom! Also, somewhat ironically, this story was written by Josh Malerman whose novella¬†A House at the Bottom of a Lake¬†I didn’t get on with overly well.

However, I found a majority of the stories somewhat anticlimactic.¬†The Salter Collection,¬†for example, had a great premise. Imagine having an immense collection of phonograph cylinders dating back to more than a century ago, only to find undiscovered¬†secret¬†cylinders hidden beneath the outer wax coating, cylinders that contain sound recordings of a mysterious language and haunting screams. That’s pretty cool, right? Well, yeah, it would have been if the ending hadn’t fallen so flat. It’s sometimes good to leave the conclusion of a story open ended, but I have to confess and say that I didn’t understand it at all. I don’t know, maybe I’m a bit stupid and not good at reading between the lines. I mean, I don’t need things spoon feeding to me but I just found it didn’t seem to make sense.

An intriguing collection of horror stories nonetheless and well worth a read. Amazon informs me that a second collection is due out later this year!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Song: Eels’¬†Fresh Blood

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

Anxiety update

Hey, guys. How’s everyone doing?

I’m not sure how many people stop by my blog anymore because I hardly post anymore, but I figured it might be good to post an update. I was once a very active member of the book blogging community and, truth be told, I miss it so much it hurts.

I haven’t been blogging for a few reasons, but the main reason has been my mental health. My anxiety has been gradually worsening over the past three or four months and things came to a head about a month ago when I had an episode which saw me having to have a week of university to go home because I’d called my grandparents, hysterical, having been unable to both sleep or eat because I was so anxious.

Long story short, I’ve been trying to get back on my feet and trying to take care of myself. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was prescribed some SSRIs (a specific type of antidepressant which can also help with anxiety disorders) to trial for a month. I also had my first counselling appointment last week. I’m hoping I might finally start being on the up soon. I really, really hope so. I’m exhausted if I’m honest.

These are probably details people aren’t interested in but it’s my blog and I want to be honest about my mental health. Too often people feel ashamed to talk about their mental health out of fear of judgment, but illnesses such as anxiety and depression are just as real and as valid as any other.

When I’ll be back to regular blogging I can’t say, but I do miss you guys. I know I’m not the podcast-making, book-blogging, flash fiction-writing annoying person that I used to be but that person is still here somewhere, underneath everything that’s happening at the moment. If anyone wants a catch up or anything, feel free to drop me a message, either on Facebook or on Instagram.

Jazz x

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.

‚ÄúMeat feast?‚ÄĚ the Dominoes‚Äô guy said.

She sighed.

‚ÄúGive it to me.‚ÄĚ

 

‘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 ūüėõ

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