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September 2020

Books

What I’ve Been Reading In September

September has felt like such a long month for some reason. I’m not sure why but it has just dragged along. To try and pass the time (and ignore the new lockdown measures), I’ve been reading some new books. If you hadn’t guessed, the majority of my reading in September has come from the library.

The librarians (like most people) have been struggling with cuts and lack of a job for months. Even though I could buy all of these, I wanted to support my local library in the best way I knew. I was shocked to see so many new books there but I guess there was a backlog that they needed to go through.

No complaints from me!

Reading in September

Sword Art Online: Progressive

Yuuki Asuna was a top student who spent her days studying at cram school and preparing for her high school entrance exams–but that was before she borrowed her brother’s virtual reality game system and wound up trapped in Sword Art Online with ten thousand other frightened players. As time passes, Asuna fears what will become of her life outside the fantasy realm–the failure she might be seen as in the eyes of her peers and parents.

Let me introduce you to one of my favourite animes of all time: Sword Art Online!

I’ve been a fan of this series ever since 2012! It’s stunning, heart-breaking and makes me wish I could play the game…without getting stuck there for 2 years. I’ve slowly been making my way through the mangas and was so excited to discover that Reki Kawahara had written a POV for Asuna! I always wanted to know what she’d been like before entering the game since she was a mystery at the start.

I’ve gotten Vol 2 and 3 ordered and just heard that they’re turning this into an anime!!

Good Girl, Bad Blood (Holly Jackson)

Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective anymore. With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her. But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing.

Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

If you haven’t read the first book to the Good Girl series, then you don’t necessarily need to but it would help! I adored The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder which is a surprise! I don’t usually love crime YA but this and its sequel were just so well-written! Holly has an incredible way with words! I have a bunch of review for most of these books coming soon so I’ll go into more detail then!

The best way to read Good Girl, Bad Blood? Listen to a true crime podcast while you read! It adds an extra chill!

Clap When You Land (Elizabeth Acevedo)

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

I vowed to myself that I would read more books by black authors and this was one that had been on my list since last year! I’ve heard so many amazing things about it and know that it won the Carnegie Medal. After reading The Black Flamingo last month, I really gained an interest in reading other novels in verse form. It’s such an interesting concept and surprised me by adding an element.

I’ll be honest and admit that poetry/verse tends to bore me, but Elizabeth Acevedo made it less of a chore! I loved Camino and Yahaira as characters and it broke my heart reading the plane crash chapter. You don’t read many YA novels dealing with mass grief like this but this was perfect!

Wonderland (Juno Dawson)

Alice lives in a world of stifling privilege and luxury – but none of it means anything when your own head plays tricks on your reality. When her troubled friend Bunny goes missing, Alice becomes obsessed with finding her. On the trail of her last movements, Alice discovers a mysterious invitation to ‘Wonderland’: the party to end all parties – three days of hedonistic excess to which only the elite are welcome.

Will she find Bunny there? Or is this really a case of finding herself? Because Alice has secrets of her own, and ruthless socialite queen Paisley Hart is determined to uncover them, whatever it takes.

Alice is all alone, miles from home and without her essential medication. She can trust no-one, least of all herself, and now she has a new enemy who wants her head…

I first heard of Juno Dawson after reading a Doctor Who novel she wrote called The Good Doctor. Her writing style caught my interest so I checked out Margot & Me, Torchwood: The Doll House (audiobook) and What’s The T. She seems to really have a great knowledge of how teenagers with struggles work. If you hadn’t guessed, Wonderland is a unique twist on Alice in Wonderland and focuses on very difficult subjects such as mental health, drug use and more.

Don’t let that put you off though!

You may have to read this in multiple sittings due to some graphic elements, but it really makes you think. I was triggered a few times and thought I wouldn’t be able to finish but I’m really glad I did! I love that Juno wrote Alice as a trans character to look at the way that the trans community can be treated. It ripped my heart a few times to read and made me to hug all of my friends!

Where The Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens)

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say.

Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

I’ll be honest: Where The Crawdads Sing wasn’t my favourite book to read. I know that it has incredible reviews from readers such as Reese Witherspoon but I wanted to give it a go. The main character Kya has such a difficult time growing up from her mother abandoning her and her siblings, dealing with her drunk father and is left to look after herself. Things turn from back to worse when she is blamed for the death of a man due to the prejudices of her being both poor, a little different and female.

Delia brings to life what Kya goes through and you do really feel for her. I just wish it could have clicked with me more.

RWBY: Fairy Tales of Remnant (E.C Myers)

Fans of Rooster Teeth’s hit animated series RWBY will want to pore over every page of this gorgeously illustrated collection of twelve short fairy tales! In addition to classic tales from the show, such as The Story of the Seasons and The Tale of the Two Brothers, readers can immerse themselves in eight never-before-told stories from RWBY’s show writers.

It will be no surprise that I have the latest book based on RWBY on this list!

What can I say? I’m a fangirl to the franchise!!

This book is a must-have for any fan of the show. As mentioned above, it contains a bunch of short fairytales from the World of Remnant. It looks at two stories that we already know such as one about The Maidens and the Two Brothers. It also looks at stories that are completely new to us with helpful little mentions from Professor Ozpin.

My review for this is coming tomorrow so stay tuned!!

What books have you been reading in September?

Books

The ‘Educate Yourself’ Reading List (inspired by ChaptersofMay)

One of my guilty pleasures on Youtube is watching teacher vlogs. It’s super interesting seeing how teachers in other countries educate their students, especially the young ones. You get to see them set up their classrooms, watch how they do distance learning and lots of hauls.

I’ve got so much respect for teachers and what they’ve been trying to do over recent month. Helping kids stay on track in their education and keeping things fun is vital. One of the ways they’ve been doing that for the younger years is through reading books. As always, the talented Anika has inspired this post with her own ‘Educate Yourself’ Stack.

Books seem to be slowly fading out of our lives and onto technology. I have so many great memories of storytime at nursery and primary school where we would subtly learn important things. Elmer taught me not to be mean to someone who looked different than me and there were so many more. No matter what generation, books help educate us all!

educatePhoto by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Rosa Parks (Little People, Big Dreams)

I might be in my 30s but I love this little book series! If I had a kid I would totally buy all of these books for them. I’m even tempted to get some for myself. If you haven’t heard of this particular series, they’re all based on the incredible lives of inspirational figures. You have Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking, Anne Frank and Josephine Baker.

They’re such a fun yet informative way to educate kids on the important things these people did.

I picked Rosa Parks because she shows how one powerful moment in times can snowball into a strong movement for change. It’s a shame that the world still isn’t getting it but we will one day!

While We Can’t Hug (Eoin McLaughlin & Polly Dunbar)

Living through this pandemic is something that none of us expected this time last year. we had only heard about things like this in movies and in other countries. I certainly didn’t expect the world to be fighting such a terrible virus. If grown-ups are finding all this confusing, imagine what it’s like for the little ones.

I heard a little girl the other day chatting to a friend over their fence and not understanding why she can’t go and hug that friend. Part of me was tempted to buy this book for them to help. It’s such an adorable way to teach children other ways to show that they care. They can write letters, blow kisses and sing songs!

The Proudest Blue (Ibtihaj Muhammad)

Having come from Birmingham and been brought up with friends from different backgrounds, I saw people from other religions. I had a Jewish friend at nursery school and others who were Muslim so it never bothered me. However I know that so many kids have to face adversity because they look different to others. Whether they wear a hijab or a kippah, kids can be very cruel.

Books like The Proudest Blue are perfect for teaching them a little of Islam, the importance of siblings and being yourself. I had a glance of the book in Waterstones and the illustrations are gorgeous!

Quiet Power: Growing Up In A World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)

If only this book had existed when I was still at school!

These last couple of decades have made the world very, very loud. With social media, technology booming and news hitting you from every side, it can sometimes be extremely difficult to be heard. While some people genuinely don’t want to talk, there are others that actually really struggle with self-doubt and insecurity.

This book may be for teenagers but I reckon it could help adults too! Let the introverts thrive please and turn the volume down a notch!

Related Post: How I Felt Being Diagnosed with ASD

educate

All Cats Are On The Autism Spectrum (Kathy Hoopmann)

Look for any books about autism and you’ll find the same thing. They’re boring, very scientific and literally have no personality. They’re informative but too medical! I’m always looking for ways to explain to my family about being autistic in my own kind of way and this book looks perfect!!

It has cats explaining about the spectrum!!

THIS BOOK IS ME!!

I really wish people understood the challenges of autism and didn’t keep repeating that we’re ‘all a little autistic’. Believe me…if we all were, the world would not be able to cope!

This doesn’t come out until late October but check it out anyway!!

Phoenix Goes To School (Michelle & Phoenix Finch)

During my research for books to recommend, I kept being drawn to the little picture book about gender identity. I’ve got a few friends who are transgender and non-binary. When I was doing a work placement in a primary school, I started to notice how vital it was to educate children about how others identify.

There was a little girl who had two daddies and she was so shy. I literally wanted to hug her! I’ve also watched videos of children who are trying to understand the world and their identity. This book seems adorable and is actually a memoir of Pheonix’s experiences of transitioning. She was scared that her school friends would still see her as a boy and not a girl.

This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (Not Disability) (Aaron Philip)

The final book on my ‘educate yourself’ reading list is this one by Aaron Philip! I hadn’t heard of him before this post but, after checking out his story, he is freaking amazing!! Not only does he chat about his experiences with cerebal palsy BUT he is also the first black, transgender and physically disabled model to be represented by an elite modelling agency!!

He’s only 19, people!

This guy is the best person to give all of us a kick up the backside whenever we see we can’t do it. I say this so often and I haven’t experienced an inkling of anything he has gone through.

What books would you recommend to educate people?

Lifestyle Mental Health

5 Survival Tips For Living With Noisy Neighbours

If you have followed me on Twitter for the last couple of years, then you may have read tweets about my noisy neighbours. I was told that the area I lived in was lovely and quiet and, for the most part, it was. Except for the two sets of neighbours downstairs.

The people down below me were alcoholics and their neighbours were drug addicts.

You can imagine some of the fun I had with them. From loud music until midnight to windows being smashed and constant daily yelling matches. My mental health really took a massive down turn especially when lockdown started. Not being able to escape the noise was a nightmare!!

That’s why I needed to find ways to stay sane.

noisy neighboursPhoto by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

Purchase noise-cancelling headphones

This might seem a tad over the top but I literally would have snapped if I didn’t have my headphones/ear protectors. Whenever the yelling started or went on for too long, I just grabbed these and distracted myself. I popped on my ‘Music That Makes Me Feel Better’ playlist on Spotify and prayed that they would eventually stop.

I’ll be honest and say that these didn’t always work.

Sometimes I just didn’t want to put them on and ended up in tears. Why did I have to put up with 6 hours of music blaring through my floor?

Knowing I wouldn’t be escaping them for a long time, I bought myself some BEATS Studio 3 Noise-Cancelling Earphones. These were pretty expensive but I needed them to work!

Keep a diary

This was a tip given to me by my local council.

If I was to have any chance of complaining about my noisy neighbours in future, I had to keep evidence of what they did and when they did it. The things they told me to jot down were:

  • How loud is the noise? Is it annoying?
  • When does the noise occur? Is it early morning or late at night?
  • How long does the noise occur?
  • How often does it happen?
  • Would an average person find the noise disruptive? Do you have a sensitivity to noise?

It was irritating that I had to jot down these since it happened so often but I needed proof. The most annoying thing was that you could only just hear it on recordings I took. You had to be there to hear how loud they were being.

Talk to your neighbours

The first thing your local council will probably get you to do is chat to your neighbours first.

As someone who hates any kind of confrontation, this was extremely difficult. I didn’t want to be the one causing a problem to them. It sounds dumb but that’s just me. If your noisy neighbours are generally okay to chat to, then just chat with them about it. You’d be surprised how many people don’t even realise that their music/TV is that loud, especially if they have hearing problems.

Only do this if it’s safe to do though.

There was no chance in hell of talking to the addicts. They were too violitile and honestly terrified me! A lot of the people on my street are elderly and were too scared to report in fear of retaliation.

Related post: 5 Frustrating Habits I’ve Developed While In Lockdown

Call the police

I lost count the amount of times I secretly called the police on the addicts. You know when you see clips of people crouched in a ball and whispering into their phone in case they were heard? That was me at least 5 times this year. You literally can hear everything through my walls and floors. Since I knew the people below me chatted with the people next door, I was scared that they would tell them who called.

Thankfully the 101/999 call handlers were really understanding.

Never be scared to call the police if you feel like a situation is getting out-of-hand and/or dangerous. When I heard full-on yelling outside, I didn’t immediately react because it wasn’t new to me. However I did get scared when they started banging on windows, doors and then smashing the window.

I found out recently that these calls helped in getting them evicted.

Talk to someone

Everyone in lockdown has felt trapped in their own homes.

It doesn’t matter if you live alone or with family, you’re still dealing with the same problem. As much as we’d love empathy to be real, people don’t always know what you’re feeling unless you tell them. If you’re living alone, chat to friends or family you feel close to about the situation. They might not have experience of what you’re going through but they might be able to give advice you didn’t think about.

What advice would you give for surviving noisy neighbours?

noisy neighbours

Lifestyle

The Charities That Mean A Lot To Me (inspired by Lucy Mary Taylor)

I love reading posts by some of my favourite bloggers and being inspired to write a similar post. After I reading Lucy Mary Taylor’s (I love her!!) post about the charities special to her, I knew I had to write one of my own.

There have been so many charities I’ve been involved with throughout my life and have meant a great deal to me personally. Don’t worry…I won’t be pushing you to donate. I just wanted to share my story with them. I’d love to know any charities that you feel connected to.

charitiesPhoto by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

Diabetes UK

My first charity is Diabetes UK! This charity is very important to both myself and my dad’s side of the family. Diabetes has touched us in so many ways. A bunch of family members have had diabetes: two uncles, a cousin and both of my parents. I have to occasionally have my own blood sugar tested to keep an eye out. It doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily develop diabetes but there’s a higher chance of maybe Type 2 diabetes.

The reason why I try to donate is because of my Uncle David. Back in the 50s/60s, not much was really known about the condition and it really showed. My grandma used to have massive needles that she used to sterilise in boiling hot water. Unfortunately diabetes made him go blind and I never got the chance to meet him. If I can do anything in his memory, it would be this!

British Heart Foundation

I discovered this charity not long after my daddy died from a heart attack.

He had had a massive heart attack 3 years prior to him passing and it really taught me the importance of your heart. There is nothing scarier than seeing your dad being wheeled out of your home on an orange wheelchair and on oxygen. That and visiting him on the coronary care unit! Way too many wires!

I’ve always donated any unwanted clothes and items to my local BHF shop, but try to donate a little straight to the charity when I can. You can learn some really interesting information and helpful tips on what to look out for.

The Brain Tumour Charity

Wow…never has a charity like this meant a lot to me.

After Mum was diagnosed with her Grade 4 glioblastoma, I automatically went into research mode. I wanted to understand what the heck a glioblastoma was and how I could help her. I’ll admit that I was absolutely devastated when I heard my mum had cancer. It had been my biggest nightmare and seeing it happening before me broke me.

I was able to use the information from the site to chat to my family and the doctors and get a better understanding. When Mum had her radiotherapy and ended up having a seizure in a taxi, I looked for support. Mum always told people that I saved her life spotting the signs of a tumour, but the doctors/nurses were the real heroes!

Childline

Out of all the charities that I got involved with, Childline was one of the first.

I first learned about this counselling service while I was at primary school. I had already been bullied for 4 years by this time and, being able to realise that I was wired a little differently to others, I needed someone to talk to.

As an 8 year old I was too scared to talk to my parents (didn’t want to bother them) and was too scared to tell a teacher (the bullies would find out). Knowing that there was a special number I could call made things a little easier. Sometimes I would call from a payphone (90s life before mobiles!) or would do a short call at home. Talking to anyone was extremely difficult but I tried.

Knowing that there is someone out there who will listen and won’t judge is so reassuring for a child.

Weston Park Cancer Charity

The final choice on my charities list is the Weston Park Cancer Charity.

Weston Park became a daily occurance during my mum’s cancer. We travelled by local ambulance/taxi every day for 13 weeks to Weston Park so she could have radiotherapy and talk to her oncologist. I may have been in my 20s when this was all happening but I felt like a child. They allowed me to come with her to keep her company while we waited and it was like a little home.

There were calm waiting rooms, a shop, mini cafe and even a restuarant upstairs. Everyone was so lovely to talk to which I thought was super important for Mum. She needed to chat with other cancer warriors. Not only did that look after her, they looked after me too. They explained everything they were doing for her, take part in a therapy group of other family members and even did spa treatments!

When Mum passed away, they still looked after me and that’s why Weston Park Cancer Charity deserves so much support in return.

What charities mean a great deal to you?

Mental Health

How Therapy Sessions Have Helped My Mental Health

TRIGGER WARNING: This therapy post will touch upon issues of depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

As of last week I finished my therapy sessions with my clinical psychologist. She was still in training and coming to the end of her placement so couldn’t continue. She told me that she was sending me a summary of everything we’d been up to over the last few months at the end. I thought this would be a great opportunity to look back on my little therapy journey and chat about the different techniques we tried.

Some of this was both super interesting and very difficult.

Taking part in these kinds of situations and bringing up your past can be almost impossible to do. I’ll admit that I had a handful of weeks where I just couldn’t talk…at all. The thought of communicating hurt. That said, I don’t regret doing it at all and have taken steps on what to do next.

Hopefully this post will help you decide on whether therapy is the right choice for you or not.

therapyPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

According to my summary, we used the early sessions to try and make sense of how my ‘current difficulties’ might link back to the experiences I went through as a kid. It was incredible to see just how much I’d been affected by my childhood. We chatted about my severe bullying, the sexual harrassment I went through aged 11. That and losing my dad at 14.

It might not sound a lot but each of these experiences shattered me over and over again.

I told my therapist that they had left me feeling like I was different, worthless and unlovable. It’s probably why I really struggle connecting with or trusting other people. I’ve been trying to keep myself safe over the years by hiding myself away from others and wearing baggy clothes. I never realised how much of a bully I’d become to myself. Taking over from the school bullies and making my own life a misery.

As messed up as it sounds, these were my ways of coping. Obviously they had serious consequences: social isolation, depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.

Therapy taught me some really interesting theories regarding these issues such as the Set Point Theory. According to that, our bodies are controlled by genetics. Our parents gave us our looks, metabolism and apparently the possibility of weight gain/loss. My family weren’t necessarily the skinniest of people so it isn’t that surprising that I’m also plus-size.

Doesn’t mean I have to like though!!

We did a confidental questionnaire with questions we’d created and sent out to both her colleagues and some of my friends. I didn’t know who answered what but it shocked me that so many people had the same thought process as me. Knowing that I wasn’t alone did make me feel less weird. I was even concerned about a couple of people!

Other methods that we did to help were:

  • Doing a form of aversion therapy (looking at myself into a mirror, using Instagram filters and keeping a selfie on my phone).
  • Keeping a food diary
  • Reading documents in between sessions

To be honest I think this therapy only scratched the surface of what’s going on inside my head. It’s going to take me at least a decade of help. I’m currently on a waiting list for an Occupational Therapist to help me with my social issues and another list with an eating disorder clinic as an outpatient.

This pandemic has left me on the very edge but I’m still fighting.

If you want some of the documents that I received, I’ll leave a link to a couple of them below. Don’t be afraid to try therapy. It’s extremely difficult but it helps.

It’s different for everyone so what helped me might not help you. You and your therapist will figure out a plan together. I can’t wait to carry on my journey and to build on what I’ve learned over the last few months.

Have you ever done therapy? What were your thoughts?

Fandom

Review | Domino: Strays by Tristan Palmgren

Marvel

I received an advance copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: 12th November 2020

You guys know that I’m a massive Marvel fan! You can’t not love heroic ladies like Black Widow, Captain Marvel and more. When I discovered that I would be reading ‘Domino: Strays‘ about one of these ladies, I may have squealed a little.

I’ll be honest that I didn’t know who Domino was at first, but after learning about Domino from ‘Deadpool 2’ , I knew that I needed to learn more about Neena aka Domino. She seemed so sassy, sarcastic and I honestly wanted to know why. I never thought that she had had such a difficult life growing up. I know that most Marvel characters have traumatic childhoods but this really was something.

Not only was she experimented on for Project Armageddon to become the perfect soldier, but she was emotionally/physically tortured. The idea of this happening to even a fictional child was difficult to read! Domino developed a mutant power where luck was on her side. The way she explained it was that she could survive life-and-death situations but that her power had a sense of humour. She could jump from high up without serious injury and yet sprain both of her ankles.

The time-line skips took me a while to get into. One minute you were in present day, then during her captivity and then when she’d escaped. I was trying to keep track of everything that was going on! Once I got the hang of it, I really appreciated how well-written everything was from the action-packed fights (a staple in the Marvel Universe), the dramatic moments when she discovered who was in charge of Project Armageddon and then how she tackled present day.

She was hired by a distraught mother whose twins had gone missing. She believed that they had been enticed into a dangerous cult and she needed Domino to find them. What I loved about Domino was that she was brutally honest about a situation. If it didn’t meet her expectations, she flat-out denied. It wasn’t until she learned more about the cult leader from her friends that she took the job.

If you’re a fan of the Marvel Universe, then you will love the mentions of familiar characters! You have Deadpool (of course!), Charles Xavier, The Avengers and Black Widow. The latter actually joins in with the rescue mission!

The only thing that I didn’t like about this book were the footnotes. I appreciated them explained a little of Domino’s thought process but they were always at the end of a chapter. You literally had to look for each number and skip to the end to see what she was saying. Other than that, a book for every mutant to adore!!

Who is your favourite Marvel heroine and why?

About Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media for over eighty years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing, publishing, games, and digital media.

For more information visit marvel.com. © 2020 MARVEL