Monthly Archives: January 2016

Maintaining Resolution Momentum


Resolutions1-712x378 (1)

If you’re like me and you like making New Year’s Resolutions, then probably like me you’ve started to lose a little bit of momentum by the end of January in maintaining what you want to achieve. You make have even given up already, and first thing’s first, do not blame yourself or call yourself a failure because if you were a perfect human being you wouldn’t of had to make resolutions in the first.

Also just because you had given up doesn’t mean you can’t start again today. I know they are called New Year’s Resolutions, but take away the adjective phrase ‘New Year’s’, and your resolutions can be started at any time of the year not just at the beginning of January.

I realised last week that I was losing traction on some of my goals but not on my others. I have in the past been able to complete New Year’s Resolutions. One of mine for last year was to complete my blog series ‘The Key to a Great Story‘ and I did. I mean it was in December when the last post went out but I did it.

I know that the reason I did was because writing and writing about writing is something that I really love doing. I had set myself an attainable goal to achieve in something that I love. I had set it simply to focus myself, not because I wanted to be strict with myself and punish myself for not being good enough, but because I had an aim that I wanted to achieve and I set a time period/deadline to propel myself forward.

And here in lies why I think I’ve been failing at the resolution I had been making for the last few years now and is a common one; I would like to lose a little bit of weight. I was punishing myself for having gained weight in the first place and I was punishing myself even harder for failing to be able to do anything about it.

Until last week when I had a bit of a revelation about myself; I really like lists, in particular to-do lists. I started to keep a week by week diary this year where I was writing everything that I needed to do for my blog and by various online learning courses, and for some reason I added a couple of personal ones like go to the gym and record what you eat. And then I ticked them off.


Honestly, I find it really satisfying ticking something off a list. I do it at work all the time, and in fact I’m quite obsessive about it. Every project I approach I divide into small achievable chunks of activity which I when I’ve completed I tick off. It stops me from forgetting to do things and I have a record of what I’ve done.

I don’t know why I had never thought about doing this for achieving my personal goals as well. So I’m going to use one of my resolutions as an example of how I plan on keeping up my momentum, and it is a common one;

Get physically fitter for an upcoming holiday

I have a time frame and I have an objective. Great, this is the overall objective and quite frankly it means very little. I could start full steam ahead and go to the swimming pool five times a week, and in two weeks time I will have given up.

So I have to break this down into daily and weekly tasks, small achievable chunks that I can call daily and weekly resolutions.


  • So each day I want to record what I eat, not necessary to make sure I cut down calories but to actually look at what I eat and where I can improve.


  • I also want to improve my muscle tone, as this will help build muscle and burn fat, so I’ve identified some kettlebell exercises I like doing and I’ll do 5 reps a day. It will take less than 10 minutes in total. For future days I will increase this.



  • To go to the gym and/swimming pool. At the minute just going at all is going to improve my fitness. In future weeks I might set the number of times I go, or determine the length of times I go, but I want to develop this as a habit. If I’m strict with myself at first my brain is going to be stubborn and whine ‘I don’t want to’, and I’l listen to it and never get around to it.


  • Measure myself. I’ve tried weight-loss in the past where the only thing I’ve looked at is how much I weight. That really doesn’t work for me at all; I’m very heavy for my physical size because while I do have excess fat I do also have quite a lot of muscle as well. I’m a bit like a rugby player when it comes to BMI; I’m small and while I certainly have fat weight, it doesn’t take into account I have denser muscle weight as well. Measuring myself shows the improvements in muscle definition and loss of fat. Weighting myself might show me getting heavier as I develop muscle before I start to burn off the fat. I have a vague idea of how much I weight but I’m not tracking it obsessively, because I will only get disheartened. I also only measure myself once a week at the same time every week (Saturday morning) because otherwise I won’t see improvement.


Overall having broken it down into smaller chunks I will achieve my objective. Maybe not as much as I would like but with only the objective I know I won’t achieve anything.

This approach can be applied to any goal; I have one objective where I want to improve my skin regime, so routines of cleansing and scrubbing have been added to my daily and weekly list. I have writing aims so I’m adding that to my weekly lists, but very small chunks of it only so as to not trigger the stubborn side of my brain; I’m doing a lot of personal development learning as well, small chunks weekly tasks.

I also have one objective, become a better morning person which I have as a monthly task. This month I have a new alarm clock and a strict rule of reduced snoozing. Next month I’ll be setting it earlier with no snoozing allowed.

Also if I fail to do anything one day or one week, I don’t beat myself up about it. I just make sure I do it for certain the next day or make it a priority for the next week. That way I keep the momentum going but don’t just give up when I slip up. To err is to be human.




Book Review – Off The Map by Prof Alastair Bonnett



I absolutely loved this non-fiction book, ‘Off the Map – Lost Spaces, Invisible Cities, Forgotten Islands, Feral Places and What they tell us about the World’, by Prof Alastair Bonnett. As an alumni of Newcastle University where Bonnett works, I’m now rather put out with myself that I had never considered looking at what social geography I could have studied as a student. This book more than made up for that though because I found this book hard to put down and I have had an incredible journey of my own reading it.

Quite a lot of my identity has been tied up to place, probably because I have moved around a lot in my life. I picked up this interesting book because the idea of different types of place peaked my interest. It also interested me that Bonnett lives and works in Newcastle, where I live and have developed an understanding of much of my own identity.

I have a very strong connection to the North East of England; I was born here, but I haven’t lived most of my life here. I’ve been here for nearly ten years now as an adult because I have chosen to stay here.  As a child though I lived elsewhere, ranging from Yorkshire to Virginia in the USA. I always identified back to the North East. I call myself a Northumbrian, and I call myself British.

I get a little prickly about calling myself English though, and that comes from having lived in America. I tried to say British, but the children I knew understood English better and then I got constantly teased and bullied for it, because in history we were always taught about how the English were the enemies and in one very painful lesson in history, talking about clothing about how the English didn’t wear underwear. Looking back now as an adult, no wonder lots of people in America claim Scottish and Irish descent, but you hear little about those of English descent.

On reading ‘Off the Map’ though and reflecting quite a lot on my own associations with place, I find myself quite lucky that my identity in terms of nationality is quite simple really. I’d heard of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog, the village of enclaves in Northern Europe; a quaint little place of many borders made obsolete by European Union regulations. A quirk I believed I learned about on QI, the popular interesting fact-based British quiz show, which very much sugar-coated the idea of enclaves. Compare it to Chitmahals in Indian and Bangladesh, and all the quaintness disappears and transformed into being horror-struck at the abandonment they suffer.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are some very interesting little snippets of history in here as well. The Underground Cities of Cappadocia is fascinating, to the point that I now want to include something similar in a book. North Sentinel Island also appeals to my love of the history of exploration, by being one of those islands that are still isolated from the wider world. For all the claims and counterclaims, and territorial disputes I’ve learnt about when I studied trade routes and colonialism hearing of a place unaffected by all that is enlightening. The world is not as global connected as the media would have you believe.

There were also three other very similar places that were thought provoking for me. Gutterspaces in New York were fascinating to me and how little spaces, the cracks between developments can become something to people, when otherwise they would be abandoned nothing-spaces. The other two are local to me, Fox Den and Traffic Island, while I suspect would not be the most interesting parts of the book to the majority were incredibly thought provoking for me, because I have one of those spaces near me that I have a very deep emotional connection towards.

At the back of the train platform where I commute from each morning, there is a line of trees planted into an embankment, which are there to help muffle the noise of the trains. There is a variety of species and lots of tiny birds, none of which I know the proper names of, that I love to watch whenever I get the chance. I’ve also observed the trees as they change seasons and I photograph them when the light is particularly good or if the fog has made them eerie. And without them I quite genuinely don’t know where I would be today in terms of my mental health.

I was playing with my filters one morning and I took this photo.

Tree noir filter

The minute I saw it I realised what the hell was wrong with me; I had depression. This realisation of what was wrong with me and has been wrong with me on and off for years has been a massive realisation and relief for me. I honestly thought I was just going crazy. You might not think it looking at the photo – it’s just a dreary noir photo. Except you weren’t there with me on the day; the sun was shining brightly and it just didn’t register. I could relate more strongly with the black and white then I could with the sunlight. Part of my problems with depression include symptoms of Anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities. This was what I realised on looking at the photo.

Until I read ‘Off the Map’ I hadn’t really realised I had such a strong connection to that small strip of trees, which I’ll dub The Platform Trees. I maybe should have done because I have a print copy of the photo in my desk drawer to remind myself how far I’d come after seeking help, but now I have, I smile a little bit more each morning as I take my place on the platform to commute to work, as I understand my connection to this place even better.

You might not end up having as thought provoking an experience with the book as I did, but it will provoke your thought and make you re-think what you think you know about geography. Highly recommended to anyone interested in world-building for fiction and for anyone who likes a book to filter into all the nooks and crevies of your mind and prd at the thoughts lurking there.

Film Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens



Warning: Spoilers

I wanted to wait over a month before I posted about the new Star Wars film for two reasons: I didn’t want to spoil it for anyone, and I wanted to have seen it a few times myself so I could reflect on it as much as possible before I voice my opinion. Apart from waiting so as to not spoil it for anyone, I could have posted long ago about it because my opinion hasn’t changed from my initial reaction: the film is awesome!

I think my reaction hasn’t changed because of one thing, and it is isn’t in the film but it is a reaction I heard from a little girl who had been in the cinema with me when I went to see it the first time: “You never see girls with lightsabers, that’s so cool!”. It is very much the character of Rey that makes the film for me. She is a strong female lead, to complement the history of strong female leads like Leia and Padme (from episode 1 and 2), but she is also more than either of them ever were. She isn’t someone’s future wife, is isn’t someone’s potential other half, she isn’t there to be a mother of characters we know will exist in the future. Rey is just someone!

I know that there has been a lot of speculation by fans on the internet wondering whose daughter she is, but can I point out that it is fan speculation only that is trying to make this female character belong to someone. At no point in the film is she seen as anyone but her own person. She saves BB-8; she defends herself when BB-8 is being taken from her; she is a pilot and a mechanic; she holds her own against Kylo Ren when he’s interrogating her; she escapes from the prison cell on her own; and while Kylo Ren must have been seriously injured during the lightsaber fight (after Chewbacca shot him with his crossbow that sent everyone else hit with it flying ten foot back and likely as not they were dead before they hit the ground) she managed to hold him back long enough and dig deep enough to even get a few swipes at him.

There has also been a lot of talk on the web that none of the characters are particularly deep and are a bit two dimensional, to which I would like to ask, have you watched the film, and by watched I mean not just the special effects and the super cool sequence where the Millennium Falcon flies again and through a crashed Star Destroyer no less?


Rey has been accused by some of being a bit of a ‘Mary-Sue’, a character that is too good at everything too quickly. Well watching the film what she is good at is defending herself – judging on what we see of Jakku it isn’t the nicest place in the galaxy and a young woman would either have to learn to defend herself or risk goodness knows what happening to her. She repeatedly tells Finn to not touch her. Its only when Chewbacca tells her that the rescue plan was Finn’s idea that she willingly hugs him because she has learnt that she can trust him and that he has her back.

The other time is Leia, a woman she doesn’t know, but a ‘woman’; generally women trust other women instinctively, and Rey would be able to feel Leia’s connection to the force. But she doesn’t know Leia like she did Finn, and the fact she was willing to hug a perfect stranger (a woman) screams a hell of a lot about why she is more than capable of fighting, because she has been fighting to protect herself ever since she was left on Jakku.

Rey being left on Jakku is mysterious, and it obviously has something to do with her being force sensitive and the massacre of Luke’s students. Whether she was a student or not, or what her past was doesn’t really matter at the moment (well it does because I’m intensely curious but rather than speculate I’d just rather be surprised), what is interesting about her ability to use the force is Kylo Ren’s reaction to her.

He, the only trained user of the force that you see in the entire film until the end, is wary of her developing her skills too quickly without his guidance. What it implies is something the audience can’t feel but that Kylo as a character can; just how powerful she is capable of being as a Jedi. He wants to be her teacher and guide her so that she doesn’t end up as his enemy, which she proves moments later when she leaves him sprawled on the ground after having properly focused. And anyone who can use a Jedi mind trick on James Bond is definitely not to be messed with.

And then there is her skills with machinery as well. I’ve seen a lot of rubbish on the internet questioning how this girl can be so good at mechanics and figure out how to fix things so quickly, which is where a lot of the ‘Mary-Sue’ accusations really come from. And this is properly why I’ve ended up writing several paragraphs deconstructing just how brilliant Rey is as a character because sexism about a female character being unbelievably good with mechanics has annoyed me.

The reason she is good with mechanics is because if she hadn’t of been, she would have starved to death long before BB-8 rolled into her life. She would have grown up learning about various different components and what they did, and which were the most valuable to exchange for FOOD! You know that thing we all need; Jedi’s are not an exception to this rule. Yoda might not have been a great cook in Luke’s opinion, but he ate. Rey spent years climbing around the inside of crashed Star Destroyers scavenging for parts, and learning everything that she needed to know to fix machines. DUH!

Also, combined with the fact she can use the force, while the majority of the film echoes back to the original trilogy, her skills with machines reflect Anakin’s skills with fixing machinery. A lot of his skill comes from growing up and working in a junkyard (Han describes Jakku as a junkyard as well and I doubt it’s a coincidence) and I suspect a lot of his skill came from his intuition and skill with the force.

Rey had this upbringing as well, and it’s not clear in the film what her relationship is with Unkar Plutt, but he doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as nice to her as Watto was to Anakin which is why she is so self-sufficient; she had to prove herself to survive. Also, what else annoys me is that I don’t really remember anyone questioning Anakin’s ability with mechanics, I assume because he’s a boy and people think girls should only play with dolls. Judging on the brief glimpse of a rebel pilot fighter doll you see in Rey’s AT-AT, she did both, but she played with what would be traditionally seen as a boy’s doll (oh sorry action figure).


I love Finn’s character, because while his intention with helping Poe escape is to do with his own desire to escape and he needs a pilot, this very selfish action is actually incredibly human. He is desperate to run away from the First Order, which considering he was raised and brain-washed by them shows a very strong minded character. He broke free from the First Order and is desperate to escape them. As Maz Kanata says as she looks into his eyes, he is a man who wants to run. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, because as Finn says she doesn’t know a thing about him and what he has seen. The same can be said about the audience as well, but the horror in his face as he defends himself says it all; he has seen the First Order do many terrible things and quite naturally he wants nothing to do with them.

He’s also ashamed that he was ever part of that, even though it wasn’t by choice, to the point that he latches onto the lie that he’s a member of the Resistance when he’s not. He’s willing to lie to Rey, and Han (who admittedly doesn’t believe him) just because he doesn’t want to be judged for having once been a Stormtrooper. He doesn’t have enough confidence in other people being good hearted to believe that they would still want to be associated with him. He feels he is tarnished by the reputation of the First Order and isn’t a person they would judge in his own right. This shows the complexity of his character, because that’s exactly what the First Order would have raised him to be; a faceless Stormtrooper, a cog in the great machinery of the Order.

He wasn’t raised to be an individual, and his character arc in the film is him learning to be one. At first he is running with his own instincts to run as far away as possible, because his own intuition is all he’s attuned to at the moment. As he develops friendships with people, in particular Rey, Finn begins to learn that helping others can be a part of his life as well. His moment is when he sees that the First Order has used Starkiller Base to destroy the senate of the new Republic. It’s the kick that he needs to stop running. I think a lot of that motivation comes from him wanting to protect his friend Rey, not because I think he’s in love with her, but because he’s still insecure and wants to protect the one person he knows who looks at him as if he is a person, and not just another Stormtrooper.


I have less to say about Poe than I do about Rey and Finn, but that is mostly because he gets less screen time. The time you get with him though shows that he is charismatic, tough, a very talented pilot and dedicated not just to his friends but also to the resistance. Poe is a combination of the three of the original characters, Luke, Han and Leia. He has Han’s charm, Luke’s protective qualities (which extends to BB-8, like Luke does with C3PO and R2-D2) and Leia’s grit and determination to win against an opposing force.

I really like his character, and I can’t wait to see more of him in the upcoming films, and the reason I like him is because even in the short time you see him, he has a great rapport with Finn and he’s great fun to watch in action. There is a less serious side to him but when it truly matters he’s there for Finn, who he barely knows, in helping to convince Leia to let them go and rescue Rey.

Speaking of Rey, they are never introduced and only share the screen for a brief moment as Chewbacca carries an injured Finn from the Millennium Falcon. I didn’t actually realise this until I sat and thought about how his character and hers got on with each other. The only link between them is Finn, their skills as pilots and the fact Kylo Ren interrogates them both. They have similar plots, but the only thing they have in common is that they hug Finn on seeing him again.

I can’t wait to see how Poe and Rey work together; I suspect her seriousness and his charisma would clash in the same way Han and Leia clash, but again I can’t see Rey ending up as anything other than a friend with Poe, like with Finn. In fact I’d be disappointed if she does.


Hands down to Dominic Gleeson, because his performance as General Hux, is absolutely flawless. From the moment you see him on the screen you know he is a strong and imposing leader. When he is rallying the troops just before they use the weapon, you can just tell that he is someone who strikes fear into the hearts of his troops. He’s even willing to confront Kylo Ren, which I think is brave considering he’s got a tendency to get angry and hit things with his lightsaber.

However, when you’ve watched the film a few times, you realise that Hux is a puppet. His speech is classic rhetoric, and he does nothing of any significance without consulting Commander Snoke first. His is conditioned to be the general, but kept on a tight lease by Snoke to the point that he doesn’t leave Starkiller Base as it is breaking apart without consulting Snoke first and getting permission to save himself (as long as he takes Kylo Ren with him though).

Commander Snoke is  the true villain of the trilogy, and he has trained his puppets well to do only what he tells them. It’s a stark contrast to General Tarkin in A New Hope, who makes the decision to destroy Alderaan without seemingly consulting the Emperor first and it would be interesting to see just how far Snoke can push Hux in the future films. After all Finn broke his conditioning, which seems to be a massive concern for Hux; what if others including himself can as well?


After Rey, Kylo Ren is easily my favourite character, purely because he’s conflicted and I have a soft spot for conflicted characters. What I really love about him is that he is a very odd combination of someone falling into the Dark Side and someone falling into the Light Side. The effects on him are clear. He is moody when he doesn’t get his way, showing an uncontrollable rage over very little, that you never really saw either when Anakin fights Obi-wan, or when Luke is taunted by Darth Vader about his sister.

Anakin and Luke had really good solid reasons to be angry, whereas Kylo’s destruction seems to be so normal that the officer reporting to him has reason to look very scared and the Stormtroopers know not to get in the way of his anger. Their reactions show its normal, but it is interesting to see that in the film the only time you see this reaction is when Rey is concerned. “What girl?”, is the answer that I am most looking forward to having answered by the future films, because she really gets under Kylo’s skin and not just when she hits him with a lightsaber.

His intrigue about her, and his interrogation of her is the best scene in the film because you learn his weakness. You learn to question why he wears a mask when he really doesn’t need to, and you learn his deepest fear; that he will never live up to his grandfather’s reputation. Where does that come from? Han and Leia think it is because he has too much Vader in him and in his monologue seemingly to his grandfather, shows he’s conflicted about being able to live up to his name. And therein lies the question, the audience knows that Vader destroyed the Emperor in the end in order to save his son – who else knows that? Is Kylo trying to be Darth Vader or Anakin Skywalker? I’m hoping that what he’s trying to be is a better version of either of them. Whether he is to be redeemed or his character is descended for tragedy it genuinely doesn’t matter to me.

The good and decent character of Anakin Skywalker was a bit of a disappointment in the prequels and his descent into darkness, while it made sense because he fears loss, just suddenly happened. He defies Mace Windu one moment and then suddenly turns on younglings in the next. Where does the idea that the Jedi are evil even come from? Quite frankly because it’s a prequel and you know it was supposed to happen, I very much just got the impression that Anakin’s descent into darkness and how they could make it good was over looked. “Oh he just does”, has always been the impression I got of the discussion that went into it.

Admittedly Darth Vader is much better in comparison to Anakin, but the extent of his conflict is only ever found in words and the occasion downwards glance that looks like he’s pondering. The rest of the time he just walks around large and imposing, with his only weakness being his loud breathing which made sneaking up on people hard. Then again in the prequels Anakin isn’t sublte then either, so maybe that was just a character flaw. With Kylo they’ve solved this, because he just appears in the forest, leaving Rey, Finn and the audience wonder just how he managed to get there.

What I’m hoping with Kylo is that his character is going to wrench out our hearts. Most would argue that killing his father has already done that, but what I’m hoping is that Han did that to him. The last thing he ever did was show his son compassion, even after he skewered him with a lightsaber, by tenderly cupping his cheek. I wonder whether that would end up haunting Kylo, and it would be great if it does, because remorse is very damaging for a character, and Darth Vader never seemed very remorseful.

han and leia

I loved seeing these Han and Leia come back to the films. Harrison Ford, while he’s always been a great actor, has grown in strength and made Han Solo more than just a loveable rogue. The character might still be conning people, but he’s got a world of woes on his shoulders. You see from the moment Finn mentions Luke; all of his torment comes back to him, and the bounce he had in his step on seeing the Falcon again after years of it being gone, melts away, and he carries it with him for the rest of the film.

I also like that the filmmakers weren’t frightened of showing that Han and Leia’s relationship isn’t perfect. A lot of their relationship I think has been romanticised over the years into something that is perfect. They love each other, and that is still apparent, but couples do have problems, and sometimes love is not enough. They had the trauma of Ben (Kylo Ren) betraying them. No wonder they escaped into what they are good at; conning people and smuggling, or being a prominent leader in the fight against a fascist force.

I loved Leia in this film. She might not get same amount of screen time, but she also has the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders, and while she’s still strong and fighting, she has cares now she didn’t have in youth. It’s a beautiful portrayal of a character who has seen too much and have far too much to lose; bearing in mind she has already lost her home planet, the loss of her son has taken its toll on her. It will be great to see how her character fairs in the future films; I suspect Leia will just take it all in her stride and it would be fantastic if she does. If she just turns into a weepy woman, at any point other than on her deathbed or for more a few moments in a corner on her own before striding back into the room as General Organa I will seriously hate it.


And then there was Luke: my first reaction was “really is that it, not even a word?”, and then about five seconds later I thought “OMG that is amazing.” Seriously his cameo is perfect. In a few seconds you see a damaged character and you start asking more questions about what happens next then you do with anything in the rest of the film. Ten seconds of utter brilliance, and then the credits start and you immediately want episode eight. Cliff-hanger perfection.

In summary, in absolutely love the film and I have a whole load of reasons why, two of them are called Rey and Kylo Ren. They certainly aren’t alone, but they are definitely the reasons why I will wait with baited breathe for the next film.

Film Review – The Imitation Game



I absolutely adore the history behind Bletchley Park and the cracking of the enigma code, because it is a demonstration in history that winning a war is not just about how many guns you have and how much brute force and bravery is involved. It is a tale within military history of some very clever people using their brains to fight their enemies. I was disappointed by the 2001 film ‘Enigma’ as it was just a drama that I felt trivialised the entire story.

‘The Imitation Game’ though just a great deal of justice to the history that took place in Bletchley Park, but also to the life of Alan Turing, one of the members of the team who succeeded in their challenge, who was condemned after the war for being a homosexual. I don’t know much details about the life of Alan Turing, but I had been aware of his brief post-war life, and horror he ended up enduring. If nothing else the film, whether it is historical accurate about Turing or not, is an example for all to see just how far some of us in the world have progressed and just how important it is for us to continue to fight for basic human rights.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing is a performance that has to be seen to be believed. Cumberbatch is so good it was hard to see where the actor ended and the character begin. The weaving of the story of the cracking of enigma interwoven with Turing’s own personal tragedies is amazing. The academy award the film won for Best Adapted Screenplay was very well deserved by Graham Moore.

The writing is brilliant, cinematography is beautiful and the heart wrenching performance by Cumberbatch is a marvel. He has a great supporting cast, and I say they are a supporting cast only, because he completely stole the show. Even if you’re not interested in the history being portrayed the film is an absolute must-see.

The Liebster Award



First and foremost a huge thanks to Kelly from thebookshelfblog for nominating me for the Liebster Award. I’ve had a lot of fun answering her questions, and I very rarely talk about myself on this blog, it’s nice to have been given the chance to open up a little bit more.

The Liebster Award is an award for bloggers. It helps to discover new blogs and to build a sense of community in the blogging world!

Okay, so here are the rules:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you
  • Nominate 11 bloggers that you think are deserving of the award
  • Let the bloggers know you nominated them
  • Give them 11 questions of your own


So here are my answers to the questions Kelly asked me:

If you could only read one genre for the rest of your life, what genre would you choose?

Fantasy, no question about that. I have read it forever and I write it now. I love it and I wouldn’t be who I was now without it.

What are your blogging goals for 2016?

I’ve drawn up a plan for ‘Young Writer’s Review’, particularly in relation to films that are being released this year that will expand my fandoms. I also have some plans for ‘A Key to a Great Story’ and exploring how to expand upon that, but I haven’t made any concrete plans yet.

What is your favourite book and why?

This question has had many different answers over the years; Benedict Jacka and Trudi Canavan have been go to authors for years; Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings once took up so much of my heart I couldn’t find room for other works.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley once had the honour of being my favourite as it was the first book I read that didn’t have a happy ending.

I think though a book I will always go back to and read again and again is Little Lord Fauntleroy by Francis Hodgson Burnett. It’s not her best known work, but it is pure escapism. It is a lovely book about a lovely child who makes the world a better place

How did you come up with your blog name?

At the time I created my blog, A Young Doctor’s Notebook had been produced starring Daniel Radcliffe and John Hamm, and it inspired the title. What I base it on though is how an artist I know used a sketchbook to work out her ideas for larger pieces. The work within it isn’t perfect, they are examples of a work in progress, which is where I always seem to be at with my writing. The subsection Young Writer’s Review came about after I started to utilise the skills I had learnt at a masterclass on writing reviews.

What was your favourite subject at school and why?

History; I find the past infinitely fascinating. I loved it in school, and I now have two degrees in it. I especially like medieval Europe history and the beginnings of Europe exploring the rest of the world, with an emphasis on the luxury commodities they encountered, such as spices.

What are your favourite hobbies? (other than reading hehe)

Writing naturally, but I also love crocheting and swimming. I also like baking and cooking –  the swimming developed as a hobby after the baking and cooking started to have an effect.

Which author inspires you the most?

J.R.R Tolkien: his approach to world building and the creation of the Middle Earth histories and languages was what first inspired me to be a writer.

Tell me a random fact about you!

I once did some sound bites for a Chinese Radio station. I don’t know if they ever got used, but that was certainly a random day when I got asked by a student who lived at the accommodation I worked at whether I’d be willing to do it.

What was the first book you ever read?

My Dad used to read Roald Dahl to me as a child to help teach me how to read. The one I have the strongest memory of is Matilda.

What is your guilty pleasure?

At the minute buying new crochet patterns and yarn.

If someone wrote a story about your life what would the title be?

The Constant Northern Dreamer – I have been imaginative all my life and I’m very proud to be from the North East of England. I’ve carried that identity with me wherever I’ve lived in the world.

So that’s a little bit more about me here are my nominees:

I have an eclectic taste in blogs, some of these are reviews, some poetry and some prose. – Byford’s Books – Flaming Colours – J.W. Kurtz – The Silver Screen Savant – Melanie Moxon – MardanneouSuberb Writing – Inevitable Mind – Floating Epiphany  – Franklenstein – Movie Authority – The Dystopian Nation of City-State

Questions for my Nominees

  1. If you could only read one genre for the rest of your life, what genre would you choose?
  2. What is your favourite book and why?
  3. Which writer inspires you the most?
  4. What was the first book you ever read?
  5. Who is your favourite character from any book, movie, tv show etc. and why?
  6. What is your favourite literary/poetic quote?
  7. What’s your favourite movie?
  8. Which book/poem/tv show/movie do you wish you’d written?
  9. Ebook, audiobook, hardcover or paperback?
  10. Beyond blogging, what other hobbies do you have?
  11. Tell me a random fact about you!

Film Review – Monsters University



I love Monsters Inc., and because of that given Hollywood’s trend for sequels at the moment, I was a bit worried because the reason I love the original film is because, well it’s highly original. I shouldn’t have been too worried, and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Admittedly enjoying the film and it being as good as the original is not the same thing.

It still has the original story-world of the Monster Realm, but other than that it was a pretty typical university setting for a story, where the two protagonists that you know end up being friends go on a journey together learning to appreciate each other’s talents, and like most people at university growing up into mature adults as they try and prove themselves. And on this journey they bring along a lot of misfits who aren’t considered scary, and therefore less valuable to contributing to bringing scream power to society proving themselves. It was all a bit of a cliché, but I’ll give Pixar credit they did it well.

However, the best bit of the film by far is near the end when Mike and Scully are in a cabin in the woods, and Mike is setting up the perfect scare using Sully’s skills and his knowledge. And they aren’t scaring children then are targeting adults that are hunting them. The scene is a beautifully constructed scare tactic using a lot of horror movie clichés that end in a hair raising scream from the adults that literally blow up the energy canisters. It’s a perfect scene of two characters coordinating together to show up the antagonist. I loved it.

And I loved the film, but while it is certainly a very good Pixar film, it doesn’t compete on the same level as Monster Inc.

Film Review – Monster Inc.



Monster Inc. is easily one of my favourite Pixar films, the reason being that at the time, and even now years later, it is a highly original film. Unlike Toy Story or Finding Nemo it isn’t just a story set in our world but from a different perspective; it is isn’t just a superhero film like The Incredibles. In my opinion only Inside Out can really compete with Monsters Inc. in terms of its originality.

For the film Pixar actually created an entirely new world; admittedly there are a lot of similarities between our world and the Monster’s world, but in the monster’s world there is a lot of diversity and that diversity isn’t questioned or discriminated. There’s some discussion about scariness, but as that is a vital part of the energy supply of the monster’s world and a central topic in Mike and Sully’s careers, it’s understandable that it comes up. I love watching the film just to spot how similar and how different our two worlds are, and how the interaction between the two is a vital cog for the monsters.

The entire premise though is that although it is vital cog, it is a very dangerous. Children are believed to be toxic, so when a door to a child’s room breaks and doesn’t shut down properly, resulting in Boo coming through to the Monster World, where they are more scared of children then children are ever likely to be scared of Monsters, the results are hilarious. The tender relationship that develops between Sully and Boo is great to see develop, and the tensions between Mike and Sully because of Boo make for great comedy.

Monsters Inc. is a brilliant film because of the originality and the great friendships you get to watch, as they battle a competitive villain.

Book Review -Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami


colorless tsukuru

I’m not familiar with Japanese literature but I had always heard great things about it and I wanted to see what it was like. I’d come across Haruki Murakami before when I’ve been exploring book stores, so when this book caught my eye I knew I’s found a great book to introduce myself to Japanese literature.

I will say now that unlike most western fiction I’ve read, not all of the plots within the story or resolved or explained – I know this would irritate some and I’m not sure if this is typical of Japanese literature but I will admit that I absolutely loved this about the book. Not everything is explained in life, and I’ve seen so many great stories rushed at the end to tie up all the plots that in life might remain mysteries forever.

The plot of the book is Tsukuru Tazaki, a man without a colour in his name, finally being persuaded to find out why his group of school friends, who were as close as a groups of teenagers can when everything stays platonic, suddenly cut him out of his life.

I read the book when I was struggling with a bout of depression, and reading the first chapter where the character is talking about it feels to come close to death because the life has been drained out of him by depression was a bit difficult, but did make me very grateful that I have never been that bad and that I’ve always had support.

The plot is very delicately unwound and I loved the polite atmosphere of the book, which I know is very reflective of Japanese society. I loved the character of Sara though, who gave a great deal of sparky personality to the book, who is a very good role model for anyone who suffers and needs to be supported as they find out why their life has turned out as it has in order for them to heal and move on.

Tazuki’s pilgrammage takes him through a reflective journey of the happiest and most traumatic events of his past, journeying through music, lost friendships, back to his hometown and eventually all the way to Finland in order to seek answers.

The tale is beautiful and a great story to read of someone journeying towards healing themselves after hurt. I loved the book; it is a great introduction to Japanese literature and an inspiration to take your own journey towards a better acceptance of yourself.

Book Review – Lingo: A Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe’ by Gaston Dorren



I fell in love with linguistics when I was studying for my A-levels. I might have ended up as a historian but I still love reading up on linguistics and exploring the topic every now and then. When Gaston Dorren’s ‘Lingo – A Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe’ came out I was over the moon as it is the perfect little book for anyone who loves languages but has little time to dedicate themselves to the subject properly.

The premise of the book is an exploration of the majority of the languages used in Europe and exploring an interesting little quirk of each. The book is absolutely jam-packed with fascinating information. The book is great for dipping in and out or sitting with for a long period of time completely engrossed. I certainly enjoyed continuing the reading from my commute to my sofa with a good cup of tea.

The thing I learnt from this book overall is the sheer diversity of languages spoken on our small continent. I loved this as a writer, especially a one who creates fantasy worlds, because I hadn’t realised until I read this book just how limiting I had been in creating languages for my world. While I don’t dig deep into the nitty gritty and actually create words and grammar, I do generally hint at the different languages and their names. I’d already grasped the idea that in the majority what is referred to is the standardised language and that there are regional differences that most are un-aware of, what I hadn’t clued up on is that for the size of the world I am planning on creating I hadn’t created anywhere near enough diversity.

This is a lovely little book full of fascinating facts about Europe’s languages which will interest even complete novices and is a vital resource for writer’s planning on building fantasy story-worlds.

Book Review – Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro



I love the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro, but at the time of reading this book I was quite busy and I struggled to concentrate on reading for long period of time. On learning Ishiguro had a collection of short stories, themed around the ideas of music and nightfall, I knew I had found the perfect book to get me through times when I wasn’t able to dedicate as much time to reading as I normally like.

There are five stories in the book. There are some interconnections and come character crossovers but they are mostly stand-alone stories that you can dip in and out of very easily. ‘Crooner’ and ‘Nocturne’ are two such examples where there is some character crossover. The first is set in Venice and the second in a Beverley Hills Hotel, and both are concerned with the vanity of mainstream music, especially in America. The stories were definitely relatable to most people, and certainly make you evaluate your own values and priorities.

‘Cellists’ and ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’, were much more about the people involved and the emotional connections that people can make with one another and certain types of music. The latter of these two stories was my least favourite in the book, mainly because I felt the constraint of the plot was restricted by the length of the story and I felt that the two antagonists within the story were very condescending and snobbish, which are traits I can’t stand in people.

‘Cellists’ though I wanted to lose myself in the music that was being played and the passion that the characters have for the cello. Admittedly that might come from my preference for the cello as a instrument in general, but there is undeniable atmosphere in this story and a great twist that will make you question every passion and talent you have.

‘Malvern Hills’ was my favourite purely because I felt I could relate the most with a struggling musician who wants success in his difficult industry, like I do as a writer in my own. The atmosphere of the hills and playing music out of doors was great to imagine and escape into as well. I didn’t like everything about the plot or the protagonist, but I certainly liked reading his story on the road to success. Whether the guy would ever get to success is questionable, but his determined was to be admired.

Overall the book is a lovely little collection of Ishiguro’s work to dip into – I don’t think it is his best work, but it certainly worthy of your time if you’re looking for a little something to read, especially if you like music.