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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Blog Tour Stop: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott


 Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen


DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.
CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.
MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.
WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.
When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.




Victoria Scott is the acclaimed author of eight books for young adults. Her novels are sold in fourteen different countries, and she loves receiving fan mail from across the world. Victoria loves high fashion, big cities, and pink cotton candy. You can find her online at VictoriaScott.com.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instragram | Goodreads


As soon as I saw the title and cover of Violet Grenade, before I even knew what it was about, I wanted to read it. We're taught not to judge a book by its cover, but the cover of this book is a thing of beauty, I couldn't wait. The only thing I'd say is that the premise gives away far too much of the story. I was quite shocked when I started to read, and realised that I already knew quite a bit of the direction the story would go in, so my advice would be to avoid reading too much about this book before you read it! Except for my review, you should read this, obviously. 

Domino - she is such a strong main character, her voice is clear from the first page. There is some mystery to her, with information drip fed in a way that gives you just enough, and keeps it interesting. I still could never have imagined the darkness this story gets into, which is some of its brilliance. Although Violet Grenade seems to be contemporary, it has a timeless air about it, it could be set at any time in some ways. In a similar aspect, there is a hint of magic, although technically there aren't any supernatural elements, it feels like there's something under the surface. 

The characters are overall very well written, and strong. In terms of interesting villains, there are few better than Madam Karina and Mr. Hodge. Until the very end I couldn't decide whether Madam Karina was genuinely a vulnerable, sympathetic person who was a little unhinged, or whether she was a manipulative, terrible person. We follow Domino through this journey of not knowing either, seeing everything through her eyes. 

As I mentioned earlier, Domino has a mysterious backstory that we find out along the way. The dark, brooding, love interest carries some dark secrets too, with a story that complements Domino's well, without being too similar. Sometimes Cain does seem a little too...romance hero-y, especially in Domine's descriptions of him, though it does sort of fit here.

When it comes down to it though, what I loved most about this book, and what really kept me hooked, is Wilson. I don't want to give anything away about Wilson, I'll just say that I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who/what I thought he exactly is. I love his voice, and I think now that possibly we all have a little bit of Wilson inside of us.

So if you want an easy, simple romance try something else, however, if you want something more intense, with moments of serious darkness, that make you wonder what you would do in some extreme situations, read Violet Grenade. 




Friday, 12 May 2017

An Unusual Analogy

A couple of years ago, I did a 10K race. I walked it (I never got the hang of running!) but I got off to a bad start. There was a lot of build-up and excitement at the beginning of the event, they got everyone really psyched up and then everyone took off at a run. I didn't want to be alone, walking passed all the people cheering us on, so I ran too. It was a very bad idea.

Since I wasn't prepared for it, and I started off way too fast, in shoes not at all suited to running, my right leg began to hurt early on. From my right knee down to my toes, it hurt. It's easy to look back and know I should have stopped for five minutes, but I cared about my finishing time. Even though I wasn't running, and was barely racing against anyone else, I wanted it to be my best.

After a while, my leg went numb. It didn't feel like a bad thing, although I'm sure there is nothing healthy about it. It was sort of like dragging a moderate weight along with me, but it was better than the pain. When the feeling came back, with about 2 miles to go, it was hell. I longed for the numbness to return. By the time I finished, I was OK.

I tell this story because today I got to thinking about the cycle of depression, numbness, and cutting. I noticed a lot of similarities to what happened at the race. When I'm depressed (sad/tired depressed rather than numb/anhedonia depressed) I don't actually get many urges, in terms of my addiction it's probably the easiest time. The thoughts don't come the way they do at other times, and I feel so bad that I know it wouldn't make a difference anyway, along with the fact that it's hard o find the energy. As terrible as it is to feel that way, it's so much better than being constantly triggered and tortured by urges. It's a relief just as much as it's horrible.

Then that feeling begins to pass, after however long, and usually the first hint that I get that I'm feeling better is that thoughts of cutting begin to return.

Much like the pain in my leg, followed by the blissful numbness that still wasn't quite right, followed by the sharp pain - my body feels the same way. The cycle isn't quite constant. I do get breaks from it all, where I feel OK, I get to be happy, without being triggered, although that's is a rare combination. That just seems like an illusion when the cycle is going on.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Quietness

My whole life I've been described as quiet. Sometimes when I was younger, it was interchangeable with shy but mostly, it was quiet. From my first school parents evening until the last, (with only one exception when I finally had a teacher who understood and while she agreed, she didn't call it a negative as every single other teacher had), I was described as quiet. It reached the point where my Mum would often open with 'We know, she's quiet' and they would laugh or just agree. My parents found it funny because in their words 'At home she never shuts up'. Often during these parents evenings, the teachers would try to give me tips on how to improve. It was without a doubt a failing to most of them. They'd ask me to 'simply' put my hand up just once per class. They'd try and make me laugh about it. They'd try to appeal to me, say that if I didn't talk, how would they know how I was doing? (It didn't take long for me to think 'Not my problem, find a way, accept that every student isn't exactly the same). None of it worked, and by the time I left school, I'd long accepted that I wasn't going to change, mainly because I had no desire to. I'd stressed myself out plenty over the years trying to change because everyone told me I should, because it suited them better. I wish I'd realised earlier that it really wasn't my problem.

Even now I'm described as quiet at work. It's less often said as a negative now, luckily. I've come to realise that a big part of why people say that is basically because I don't talk about myself much. I don't feel the need to blather on about my life to anyone that will listen. Once I realised that, I realised just how many people do do that. It isn't always a bad thing. I mean, sometimes I do listen to people talk, the ones who really do go on and on about their lives, every tiny detail of every 'drama' going on in their lives, and I wonder how they have the confidence to do it. I'm not jealous, because I often find it boring, but I wonder how they can do it. If I talk even a bit to most people, there's a commentary in my head telling me no-one wants to hear it, it's a shock when they do. This isn't just a case of low self-esteem, often it does seem to be the case. Anyone who's fairly quiet, and plenty of people who aren't, can tell you that people who are loud or talk a lot will just happily interrupt and talk over you like they are the only person worth listening to. (They usually aren't.) I've also been called boring to my face, although that was because that person thinks someone who doesn't drink or do drugs is boring, and it made it really easy to remove her from my life.

It's also because I really don't enjoy small talk. I'm incapable of talking about the weather for more than a sentence. The things I am good at talking about, writing, certain TV shows that aren't crappy reality ones, mental health, basically what I write about here, most people don't want to talk about. I'm also just comfortable with silence, I don't have a need for conversation or to fill the silence, I'd rather sit quietly than have the stress of talking.

People make a lot of assumptions when you don't say a lot. A lot of people do assume I must be a boring person who has nothing to say. Like the time when I mentioned to my then-Manager that we'd had Indian take out the night before and I'd had a Korma (first one in ten years). He laughed and said 'Of course you had a Korma, I knew that's what you'd like.' Translation: 'You must only eat mild food because you don't brag all the time about eating spicy stuff like I do'. Or the time when one of my colleagues said that he couldn't get his head around all of my tattoos, they didn't fit with his image of me. Or when someone on a training course with me asked about my writing, and the next day he said he thought he found my stuff, but there was no way it could be me because there were stories about a lesbian biker gang. The room came to a goddamn standstill because no-one could believe it. He was expecting boring literary crap instead.

So, if you're a quiet person, don't take any crap from other people. It's OK to be quiet, no matter what the reason. You should only make changes if you're unhappy, and experiencing distress.
If you're one of the people who gives crap to quiet people, no matter how minor the crap, I hope you'll reconsider that now.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Lost Sense of Pride

I've been on a diet for a while now, I know, pretty much one of the most boring topics there is! It's something I really hate talking about, because I just have no interest at all in it. When I have friends or family that are doing weight loss programmes, it feels like they've joined a cult when it's all they can talk about.

I'm not doing anything like that, just your standard eating less and exercising. In theory. The fact is, it's a lot harder than I expected, and I've been putting this off a long time because I thought it would be too hard. For the first few weeks, I did well. I cut my food intake down to a healthy amount, got up early to exercise four days a week, it was going well. It was something I thought about pretty much all the time, which sounds bad but it was sort of a healthy distraction from other stuff.

Then it all fell apart. I watched 13 Reasons Why, got severely triggered, and suddenly all my mind and body were doing all day was telling me all the things they wanted, that I couldn't give them. It didn't take long for me to cave a little, and the diet just kind of evaporated.

And now it's so hard to get back into it. The main problem I have, along with everything else that gets in the way, is that I rarely feel a sense of pride in restricting myself. It seems like most people have that and it helps keep them going. At first I did feel pretty proud, especially once I started to lose weight. Then when I started getting constant urges to cut, it really wore me down, and I started to lose that pride. So far, that hasn't really come back, though I know it will. I'll have to find some other way to stay motivated until then, after all, I have a ten mile walk coming up and it would be a lot easier to do with less weight on me!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Inevitable Backlash of 13 Reasons Why


From IMDB.com 

I've mentioned before how much I love 13 Reasons Why, both book and show. It definitely isn't an easy watch by any stretch but it's an important one. It has sparked so many conversations that we as a society desperately need to be having.

Unfortunately, some people still aren't ready to have any of those discussions. Some people are afraid of the subjects raised by the show, and as people will do when they are scared, they attack, and pick fault. Is 13 Reasons Why a perfect show? Of course not, there's no such thing. The fact is that this is the very first TV show that has done what this one has. Other shows have touched on the topics of suicide and rape but none have gone as far as this one. Often we only get an episode or two of a character feeling extremely sad, they may contemplate suicide, then something happens and they have that 'Oh my God, what did I almost do?' moment, and then everything's OK again. I've always found it frustrating how few shows are willing to go the whole way and show the aftermath. Degrassi is an example of a show doing a pretty good job of that, quite a few years ago, but it isn't well known here.

I've seen quite a bit of criticism about 13 Reasons Why, and that's fair enough, I've seen plenty of praise too. Then today, I read an article that just frustrated the hell out of me. So I want to address it directly. The article is here, definitely worth a read if you want to share in my frustration (and make sense of the rest of this post).

In short, the article was written by a psychotherapist, Brooke Fox, on the website of Fox, Levine and Associates. After reading the article, it sort of terrifies me that she is a therapist within an association that deals with not only adults but adolescents and children, because she has a pretty patronising opinion of teens, but we'll get to that. The article presents the main points as a list, so I'll respond the same way:
  • Nobody is responsible for our mental health: Of course not, I won't argue with that on its own, and I know a lot of people had a problem with this aspect of the show. But this idea that Fox has that all Hannah needed to do was 'dig deep' and 'find her power' shows a lack of empathy and understanding. Hannah believed that she had tried everything. That might not necessarily be correct, but when a person is severely depressed, worn down by their environment/situation, they don't see things as they are. This is something a lot of people seem to be ignorant of when they criticise the show, Hannah was not in her right mind. She believed she'd done everything she could and that she was worthless, that things wouldn't get better. And I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't encourage people to find the power within themselves to defeat these things, although that certainly wouldn't work for everyone, but the fact is, Hannah didn't have anyone around her helping her to do that. So as much as Fox believes that's important, none of the other characters did. I've also heard it said a few times that they failed in not outright telling the viewers that she was ill. Maybe it wouldn't have been such a bad idea, to help people to know the right kinds of terminology, but otherwise, I thought it was because it was so obvious?
  • It's a suicide revenge fantasy: Maybe this is a matter of perspective? I mean, that isn't what it is at all. It's about many things, this is not one of them. Also, suggesting that a teenager is incapable of processing the concept of death? That's what really made my blood boil as I read the article. I sincerely hope this woman doesn't actually work with teens, because I can only imagine how she talks to them. Not all teens are out of this world smart, but neither are plenty of adults. Most teens can perfectly process the idea as much as any adult. It is highly unlikely that teens are going to watch this show, and then kill themselves in an effort to exact revenge upon people who have hurt them, believing they will then be loved and worshiped. If that's something a parent is worried about, that's when it's a good time to make sure you have good communication with your kid. If your kid tells you they are uncomfortable having a conversation about this with you (*cough*) seriously consider why they are uncomfortable talking to you. It's important. 
  • Girls are depicted as dis-empowered: Yes, they are, that's one of the best things about the show is it really shows how some boys believe they can treat girls and get away with it. I also loved how it broke down the way that a group of people will stick together over something they all know is wrong, given the right set of circumstances. This isn't a bad thing, it's showing something terrible that goes on in real life, to start a discussion and also educate people. 
  • The suicide scene is cause for outrage: Now, as I've said before, I couldn't watch this scene. However, I've heard/read quite a bit about it and by all accounts it's brutal, harrowing. No-one can realistically complain about it being 'instructional' because we all know how if we wanted to. If you see the pain she's in, you see how horrible and gory the act is, that does not make it appealing, it shows the truth. It isn't a case of nicely falling asleep, it's bloody and painful. 
  • Its glamorises suicide: As I said in my previous point, that isn't at all the case. As for this list of rules, I haven't read them before but my God, they are terrible. It basically amounts to - don't talk about it, ignore it, let's all pretend it isn't a real thing that can happen so people don't get any ideas. 
From IMDB.com
There are many reasons that people become suicidal, and because they saw it on TV is not one of them. It isn't a bad idea for a parent to watch it with their kid, but it should be as a way to facilitate conversations that should happen anyway. If your kid doesn't want to talk to you, you are probably the reason. And if they, or anyone you know, says something like 'I feel that way'/'I want to do what Hannah did'/'I relate to that' for God's sake, do not tell them that that's not an option. Talk to them about it, ignoring it will not make it go away, and see how you can best help them to get help. It is one of the worst things to hear, and really hard to deal with, but if someone chooses to share it with you, they are asking for help. That is one of the lessons to take away from the show, figure out how to help people, and remember everyone has something going on most of the time. As Ellen says 'Be kind to one another'. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Glass of Water

About eight or nine years ago, back before I met my wife, and my Mum patiently accompanied me everywhere, we went to a talk by the authors, and couple, Joanna Briscoe and Charlotte Mendelson. Things like this don't happen outside of London often, so it was brilliant to attend that kind of event and hear two writers talking.

Since in my family it's rude not to show up ridiculously early everywhere we go, we got front row seats and watched the little space be set up. It was a small room, only around twenty of us in the 'audience' sitting on these really comfy sofas. The two talks were one after the other, rather than talking together, so there was only one seat at the front, and a little table. On the table, one of the people setting up placed two bottles of water, and two glasses with ice.

I remember quite a bit of both talks, they were both funny, and brilliant in different ways. There's one small detail that I remember and think of often (even though it's really silly and kind of embarrassing to admit but for some reason I can't help myself), and that's the glass of water.

Joanna gave her talk first, I remember her being quite nervous. Charlotte sat at the side, encouraging her. Joanna poured the bottle of water into the glass and sipped it throughout. Then when her talk was over, and they switched places, Charlotte didn't pour anything into the second glass, she continued where Joanna had left the first one.

Like I said, a really tiny detail, but I remember it because I noticed and thought it was adorable for one thing. There was something so sweet about it. And I wanted that. At that point I'd never been in a relationship, so I wasn't familiar with these kinds of details in my own life. Watching the two of them together, noticing that, I felt so warm inside. And I wanted someone to share a glass of water with, in the casual way they did.

Now I have that, and it's seriously awesome. We share everything, and when I think of this memory, I feel blessed.  

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Art of Forgetting

I've been on and off submitting various types of writing for years now, but this year I'm doing it a lot more seriously - which basically just means submitting a lot! Last year was the year of sorting out my day job. I'd been in one that I hated for years, and the job hunt really wears you down after a while. I'd go months without applying for anything because I just didn't have it in me to put myself through it. Unfortunately I was so depressed in that job that I often found it difficult to write. I still did, but everything took a long time. The gaps between projects could be long. So I took a tiny, what felt like a final, little spark of energy, and threw myself into every application I could think off. A grad scheme, university, jobs I didn't think I stood a chance of getting. Thankfully, I did get one of those jobs. It's made my life a million times easier, and now I'm writing all the time.

That makes this year (and I expect many, many years to come) the year of writing a lot and sending it to many places. Before, I'd rarely had more than one piece out in the world for consideration at a time. Not because that's all I thought it took, like some people, but because I didn't have good enough work often. That means I never realised how important it is to just forget what you have out there. Especially since half the time you don't get any response at all, which is somehow worse than a rejection e-mail. I have to say though, I've found this with magazines and non-fiction sites. I'm building up a nice collection of rejections from publishers, which I appreciate.

If you know there's a set date when the decision will be made by, it isn't so bad. You either get your rejection by then, or nothing, but at least the date passes and you can move on to the next thing. If there isn't, you just wait a very long time, and hope for far too long. Right now I only have two things out in the world, and no idea when I'm supposed to hear, but on the plus side, it's definitely motivating me to forget them and keep writing more.