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I swoon over fictional men

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August 2017

Jazz’s Top 4 Unexpected Horror Reads

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Fuck zombies. Fuck ghosts. Fuck Godzilla and d’ya know what? Fuck Mothra, too.

(can I just point out this is the metaphorical ‘fuck’ and not the, er, literal ‘fuck’. Fucking a zombie would be classed as necrophilia, I do believe, and I really don’t want you guys hanging out in cemeteries, saying Jazz from I swoon over fictional men sent you…)

But yeah, metaphorically fuck these guys because do you know what is way, way scarier than all these beings combined? Normal, everyday things being implemented as tools of horror, that’s what!

For me, a truly terrifying horror novel revolves around something that we traditionally perceive as safe or, at least, relatively harmless suddenly becoming completely and utterly unsafe and capable of killing you within the time it takes you to yelp out “No, not my intestines!” (that damned Cujo)

As a result, my top 4 unexpected horror reads are themed around seemingly mundane things such as dogs, spiders and mirrors and while some might argue that these aren’t things that strike fear in our hearts quite in the way that long-haired ghost ladies do…

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“That’s some mighty fine mascara you have on, screaming person. Mind if I…take a closer look?”

…they’re still terrifying in their realism alone. They make our blood run cold with the realization that the events contained within their pages (for now) could happen.

Let’s begin, shall we? Clocking in at number 1, we have…

Cujo by Stephen King 

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Now, a lot of people don’t agree with me, but I think Cujo is a fantastic little horror novel (perhaps novella would be a better term). It has a couple of minor supernatural elements that come into play later in the story, but the main focus of Cujo is, obviously, Cujo, a St Bernard struck down with rabies. What makes Cujo so terrifying for me is the fact that he begins life as a beloved family pet before his descent into rabies-induced madness. All of us, I imagine at some point or other, have had a pet and the thought of them turning on us with such horrific and devastating consequences is beyond scary. I picture my guinea pig lunging for my jugular and it genuinely makes the contents of my bowels move down a notch or two (more than a healthy dose of sarcasm there, just so you know). There’s themes of loss of control and identity running throughout this book and these are two of the biggest things that we as a species fear (perhaps generalizing a tad).

The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone

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For the most part, spiders are relatively harmless (at least on this little island they are). Sure, they can be horrifically big and hairy, but there’s not many of us who can say they once knew someone who met their grisly end at the legs of a spider, right? The Hatching takes something we see everyday – be it in the garden or in our bathtub – and turns it into a monster that can strip the flesh and muscle from our bones in mere minutes. The horror lies in the fact that spiders are, quite literally, everywhere. If they turn against us, there’s nowhere to run or hide…

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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I won’t reveal too much about this book (which, last time I heard, was being turned into a TV series? Are my sources wrong?), but I will say this; while it might seem the town’s resident witch is at the epicenter of all the evil and horror, the truth might just surprise you. To use an old cliche, the real horror can be found within…(is that a cliche or is that just something semi cool-sounding I made up?)

Ghost in the Mirror by R.L Stine

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I can hear certain people sniggering and I can tell you this right now; this book is genuinely really fucking scary! I might be nearing 25, but the memory of this book still haunts me and I still have difficulty looking in a mirror too long in case my reflection winks or grins at me. Mirrors are everywhere and the thought of them displaying something that isn’t standing in front of them is genuinely a massive phobia of mine. This book scared me so much as a kid, I hid it under my chest of drawers and when I accidentally pulled it out some years later, I near enough screamed. If you haven’t quite grasped just how much mirrors terrify me, perhaps the knowledge that I turn my bedroom mirror around at night, so it’s facing the wall, might convince you. I’m not having my reflection crawling out and replacing me in the real world!

What are some of your unexpected horror reads? Let me know in the comments below! 

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‘The Art of Asking’ Amanda Palmer

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Imagine standing on a box in the middle of a busy city, dressed as a white-faced bride, and silently using your eyes to ask people for money. Or touring Europe in a punk cabaret band, and finding a place to sleep each night by reaching out to strangers on Twitter. For Amanda Palmer, actions like these have gone beyond satisfying her basic needs for food and shelter – they’ve taught her how to turn strangers into friends, build communities, and discover her own giving impulses. And because she had learned how to ask, she was able to go to the world to ask for the money to make a new album and tour with it, and to raise over a million dollars in a month.

In the New York TImes bestseller The Art of Asking, Palmer expands upon her popular TED talk to reveal how ordinary people, those of us without thousands of Twitter followers and adoring fans, can use these same principles in our own lives.

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Don’t you just love a book that makes you whip out the ol’ sticky notes? I sure as hell do and The Art of Asking is one of those books.

The Art of Asking was prescribed to me (is that the right word? I kinda feel it is in this case) by my boyfriend and I’m going to be honest, prior to reading it, I literally had no idea who Amanda Palmer was. He simply gave it to me and said it was an important read…so I delved into it with literally no idea of what to expect. I don’t generally read non-fiction so I wasn’t entirely convinced it’d be my ‘thing’, but, well, I have to confess…

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Oh. My. God. I’m actually feeling slightly intimidated at the prospect of writing this review because I don’t know if I can do this incredible book justice with mere words. If there was a way to inject the sheer weight of emotion that this book hit me with into your veins, believe me, I would. It’s such an incredibly raw and poignant piece of literature. Amanda’s insights into the human race and how we function at our most basic, fundamental level is breathtaking.

We all want to be seen for who we really are and loved for it regardless. We all fall victim to the fraud police. We all fear being seen as weak and needy and, as a result, refrain from asking for the most basic of things – love, understanding, time and support – when we need it most.

Amanda addresses our shared insecurities in The Art of Asking and shares her experiences in dealing with these feelings in a book that is a multitude of things; heartwarming, heartbreaking, funny, inspiring, honest…these are to name but a few.

The tone of this book is what initially captured my attention and pulled me out of my three week reading slump. Amanda is a well-known singer-songwriter, but she’s just as down-to-earth as anyone else. We tend to put our idols – our favourite writers, singers, actors etc – on a pedestal. We see them as these god-like figures who have no interest in us mere mortals and, a lot of the time, they don’t. Amanda is different, though. She actively engages with her fans and treats them as her closest friends, reaching out to them, both through social media and in person, when they’re in need. The warm, loving tone with which this book has been carefully written made me feel like I was cocooned in the safest of embraces with my closest friend. Amanda sees me. Amanda sees you…she sees all of us. The Art of Asking was a surreal reading experience for me. It felt as though Amanda was speaking to me on a soul deep level.

I’m sure a lot of people who’ve read this book say this, but Amanda reminds me of, well, me. On page 42 (and I’m this specific with page numbers because like I said, I’ve sticky noted the fuck out of this book), she talks about the Fraud Police, an idea I’ve always referred to as ‘impostor syndrome’. It’s this crazy notion a lot of people have that others will discover that they actually have no idea what they’re doing. I feel like this a lot, both in terms of my personal life and my life as a writer. Even now, writing this review, I can feel the Fraud Police knocking on the door of my mind, whispering through the letter box “Hah! You don’t what you’re talking about, lady! We know you’re stupid and just mask that stupidity with long words and even longer sentences! Just wait ’til everyone finds out!”. I’ve been running this blog for over a year now and I still feel like that. It’s the same whenever I write a poem or a story. I feel good about it…and then I read a piece by someone else and the self doubt begins creeping in. I feel like a fraud when I see the beautiful, funny pieces that other people write, like I have no right to call myself a ‘writer’ and don’t even get me started on my personal life! If someone compliments me, it make me insanely uncomfortable because I can’t associate myself with words like “beautiful”. I struggle to believe that it’s me that’s being referred to and nothing scares me more than the thought of people realising that I’m not as cool as they thought I was and realising I’m not worth their time…but knowing that someone as well-known as Amanda Palmer suffers with these very same feelings brings me more comfort than she might have ever realised it could. Furthermore, she goes on to explain why people might have these feelings and that understanding helps people to take that first crucial step towards fighting back against the Fraud Police.

Now, let’s move onto the topic that this book revolves around; the art of asking. Amanda talks about how difficult she found it to borrow money from her husband, the famous author, Neil Gaiman, which was something of an irony for someone who could take to Twitter and ask complete strangers for a couch to sleep on. The inability to ask those closest to us for something is a universal theme.

But why?

Why do we have such difficulty in asking? Do we fear being looked down upon? Do we fear being seen as weak and vulnerable? In Amanda’s case, yes. She feared people would think she was sponging off her rich husband and would see her as a user or a golddigger. She feared judgment and judgement is something I think we all fear. When I was in my second year at university, I went through a particularly bad spell with my depression and ended up in hospital one night. The friend who came to my aid called my other friends, one of whom is one of my best friends, and, initially, I refused them entry into my cubicle. I was so scared of being judged and being seen as stupid and weak. When I eventually relented, they came bursting in in floods of tears. They weren’t angry with me. They weren’t ashamed of me. They were just sad that I hadn’t felt able to ask them for help. Reading The Art of Asking has brought that memory to the forefront of my mind and even though I only finished reading it yesterday, I think my reading of it has been a pivotal moment of my life. This book has taught me a lot of things but one of the key lessons at its core is this; asking isn’t easy but we all deserve the right to ask. The art of asking is a gift in a way. Your gifting the recipient of your question with your trust. You’re gifting them with your soul laid bare, vulnerabilities and all. Sure, they’re entitled to say no, asking isn’t about making demands after all…but the crucial point is this, how will you know unless you ask? Ask and humanity might just surprise you with its response.

Did I do this book justice? I hope I did! The Art of Asking is a must read for everyone. 

Rating: 10 out of 5…wait, I can’t do numbers. I mean, 5 out of 5!

Song: Not so much a song (although definitely check out Amanda’s music!) but here’s a link to her TED talk.

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

 

 

Thank you – a poem? A stream of consciousness?

I’m part of a writing group called ‘Mirakee’ and every day, a challenge is set or a prompt is given. Today’s challenge was to write a thank you letter to a person or object and I decided to write a thank you letter to a handful of negative people I’ve encountered in my life thus far. 

Thank you for not wanting me because even though it took a while, it taught me the value of my own sense of self worth. You don’t want me, but I want me. Others want me, and I want to thank you for making me realise that. Your treatment of me was like a beacon of light that illuminated the truth that I had been blind to. I am worth something.

Thank you for cheating on me. It hurt at the time and, dramatic as it might sound, I wondered if I’d be better off dead…but thank you, nonetheless. I comfort ate in the wake of your betrayal and filled out the bag of bones I’d become in my late teens. You hurt me, but I’d never felt more beautiful in the months that followed.

Thank you for telling me that I was nothing special. I believed it at the time and for many years following that single statement sneered with contempt. Now, though, I see just how wrong you were. People enjoy my stories and poems. I connect with people. I make a difference and I enjoy the music, art, videos, stories and poems of my friends’, every single piece of which makes a difference. We are all something special and you made me strive to want to be something, to show you just how wrong you are.

Thank you for not giving me a job in your fancy London publishing house. You derailed my plans and dented my confidence, sure…but you gave me the time to pursue my own writing and through that, I have met some incredible people and a certain someone who I want to spend the rest of my life with. Thank you deciding I wasn’t quite what your company was looking for. That decision changed my life for the good.

Thank you for the hurt. Thank you for the hate. Thank you for the rejection.

Just…thank you.

Do you have a thank you letter to share? Feel free to share it in the comments below! 

I know, I know…

…don’t say it. I know I don’t need to apologise for not being the most active blogger lately, but I just feel bad because I know I’ve been missing out on a lot of awesome posts lately!

Life’s a bit manic at the moment. I’m in the last week of my current job (and man, are they squeezing the hours out of me!) and I’ve been having to do a lot of admin, grown-up stuff in preparation for my move to Leicester, where I’ll be undertaking my masters. I have posts to catch up on, emails to reply to, reviews to do (currently reading the most amazing book ever, so super excited for the review for that and the accompanying post I want to do with it!). Additionally, I also have a job interview next week to prepare for so if you guys have any tips, please let me know!

I’ll be checking in when I can. Miss you guys!

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Moments – a poem

Those moments in which we’d simply gaze at one another

Were moments in which we became something other

We became more than partners, more than lovers

We became something indescribable with our souls uncovered.

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‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ Grady Hendrix

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The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act different. She s moody. She s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she s nearby. Abby s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist, My Best Friend s Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of 80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller.

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Now, this is a book I picked up solely based on the cover. I near enough made the decision to buy it before I’d even flipped it over to the read the blurb. It’s all shades of awesome, having been designed to look like an battered, old VHS case, and the story within is equal to the originality and creativity of its cover.

On the surface, My Best Friend’s Exorcism ticks all the boxes for a good, solid (sounds like I’m talking about poop) horror story: dark forces beyond the control and comprehension of the protagonists, blood-curdling scenes which have a reader holding their breath and turning the pages tentatively in open-mouthed horror, characters doing crazy ass things you would never, ever do in real life (c’mon, skinny dipping in the middle of night? Sheesh, that’s a literal recipe for disaster)…but beneath it all, amid all the classic 80s tunes and scenes in which tape worms slither out of people’s mouths, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is an extremely profound novel. It highlights the very real and very often misunderstood trials and tribulations that are part and parcel of being a teenager. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is not just your average run-of-the-mill horror novel. It’s a social commentary chronicling life in a lot of high schools across the world, be it in the 80s (the decade in which this novel is mostly set) or the present day. We see the fragility of friendship through Abby’s relationships with Margaret and Glee, we see how an entire community (in this case, their school) can turn against someone within a split second for the smallest perceived wrongdoing and we see the complexity of love in all its various forms.

The horror element doesn’t really kick in properly until about three quarters of the way through the book. I was wondering whether Abby’s initial assumptions about Gretchen’s behaviour were correct and that she was suffering from a form of PTSD. This initial ambiguity regarding Gretchen’s behaviour is interesting as it leaves readers guessing and demonstrates the lengths Abby will go to to help her best friend.

From a horror perspective, My Best Friend’s Exorcism rises above and beyond its contemporaries. It’s a fresh take on the traditional story of demonic possession and I can’t say too much more because it will detract from the shock value of some of the scenes should any of you guys decide to read it…but I will say this, Good Dog Max! 

I’m super excited to check out Grady Hendrix’s other books!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Michael Jackson’s Beat It (kinda what I feel Abby should have sang to Gretchen’s demon during the exorcism…)

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

Catching up

Hey, guys! I’ve been pretty quiet on the old blogosphere lately, but I promise I’ll be catching up with you all in the next day or two!

After experiencing one of the best weekends of my entire life, my head’s all over the place (in the best of ways! ❤️) so I haven’t been online too much!

500 followers!

Nothing remedies post-vacation blues better than being greeted by this upon my return.

500 followers, eh? 500 people who enjoy hearing what I have to say about books and writing…it’s beyond surreal.

I’ve met so many incredible people through blogging and I just want to take a moment to thank you all for your continued support and friendship ❤️❤️

See ya, guys!

No posts until Wednesday, guys! I’m off to Glasgow for a ‘wee’ trip!

Much love, my adoring fans 😘😘😘😘😘😘

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