1.5+0.5=2

The bible tells us Adam gave up a rib to create Eve.  Eve has been paying back ever since.  But Adam does not own Eve and Eve owes Adam nothing.

gender scales

March 8th is International Women’s Day.  Happy IWD!  I want to highlight that IWD is composed of three separate words: International – it’s a global issue; Women – irrespective of race, age or class; Day – just the one, singular, like birthday or Independence Day.

I know the negative comments this post will attract and I’d like to address some of the more popular ones here and now.

What about International Men’s Day?
Seriously?  We live in a society where, even now, in the western, liberated, ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘anything is possible’ world, women’s pay, for the exact same job, is less than men’s in the majority of cases.  The western, progressive world where employers can still stipulate ‘heels’ and ‘manicured hands’ as part of a dress code for women, but not men.  The western world is still primarily a man’s world.  1 day out of 365 when we want to bring women’s rights across the globe into focus and you want to make it about men?  For shame.

w1

I love being a stay at home mum but IWD wants me to be ashamed of that.w2
Good for you for doing what you want.  It’s great you have the choice and opportunity and that is exactly the aim – choice and opportunity, regardless of gender, race or class.  For many women, being a working mum is not an option. Every person should have the right to choose to be a stay at home parent or a working parent, without it being imposed on them by religion, society or their spouse.

I love looking sexy for my man and IWD are feminists who want me to be dowdy.
Sexy?  Great.  Look sexy, don’t look sexy.  Dress up, dress down, do your hair, don’t do your hair.  Your choice.  See that word?  Choice.  Many women do not have the freedom to dress as they please (work outfits excepted [although Hooters needs talking to]) on a day-to-day basis, not allowed to choose their own wardrobe or choose the clothes they buy.  Adult women are neither children nor dolls.  They do not need dressing.

w3

I respect men, so I don’t follow IWD.
And I respect people, irrespective of their gender assignment.  I do not respect ignorance or a stubborn resistance to acknowledging other people’s needs and circumstances.  We cannot live in this world blinkered by our own self-satisfaction.  We are intelligent beings, capable of empathy and making people’s lives better.  IWD is not anti-men.  It is about ensuring women are given a fair and equal hearing on a level platform.

w4

I don’t need IWD because I can fight for myself.w5
I respect that, but what of all the other women around the world who do not have a voice let alone the right to stand up for themselves? I am fortunate to live in a country where I can stand up for my rights and freedom, can speak up for myself.  Now, it is my turn to speak for those that cannot. Is that not what a developed world does?  When one is in a position of power it behoves one to protect the powerless.

I’m happy to have a man look after me.
And I’m happy for you.  It’s human nature to look after and be looked after.  We nurture and look for nurturing in turn.  We have parents and spouses and children and grandchildren.  We love and are loved.  It is unfortunate that there are some women who have no choice in not only whether they want to be looked after, but by whom.  No choice in whether or not they have a husband, family or lack a career.   No choice but to be regarded as only a daughter, wife and/or mother.  No identity other than that of belonging to their father or husband.  It is about being able to choose.  Yet, these are the lucky women, because there are women who live in areas of the world where they legally have no choice but have a man speak for them and if they are orphaned or unmarried or widowed or (male)childless then they effectively do not have any voice at all.

women

IWD is not about man-hating or bra burning or turning women into men.  It is not about emasculating or denying anyone the right to a decent and fair life.  It is about gender equality and, unfortunately, the scales remain tipped against women.  I am concerned primarily with the most basic and fundamental rights, such as education:

w6

The right to work and the right to a fair and equal wage:

women everyday

Many women are denied fundamental rights over their own bodies – from the use of contraception to being deemed inferior if they cannot bear children.  We still hear of FGM; of men ‘buying’ aids cures in the form of young female virgins; of women being legally raped by their husbands; of women having to live in a hut, away from the family home during their menses, all upheld under the name of religion or tradition.

Sadly, the statistics from The Independent in 2014 are still shockingly real and that is why we have to continue speaking up for those that cannot.

Only last year, I heard someone comment, ‘I hope they don’t hire a young woman; she’ll get pregnant, we’ll be stuck with maternity pay and have to get in someone else.’  See?  Even now, the expectation is that women will be the stay-at-home parent, yet the trend is changing and we have to embrace it.  Encourage it.  Make it less an accepted standard and encourage the workplace to amend its attitudes.  Encourage governments, including our own, to make childcare more affordable so women can go back to work, remove the stigma of being a bad mum when they do so and make it easier for men to be the stay-at-home dad by ensuring women have equal pay.

So, before you begin to hold up a placard that says you disagree with IWD, make sure you know what it means you are agreeing to: advocating and perpetuating the ignorance that sanctions treating women unfairly and as inferior beings.

‘I was born a woman’ is a life sentence of servitude in an embarrassingly large number of areas of the world.  Let’s change that and make it a positive statement for every woman.

Before I close off that point, I just want to say, I don’t necessarily want the statement to be, ‘I was born.  Gender irrelevant.’  I am proud to be a woman, but it shouldn’t be relevant to anyone other than my partner or my doctor.

While I’m at it, I may as well address the no-no-please-don’t-go-there God argument (from an atheist’s perspective).  Women give birth.  They create and deliver life, ergo God (creator) must be a woman.  Man is not created in the image of God, woman is, therefore the Pope should, by rights, be female.

One final quote, from the small, but determined Ms Yousafzai:

We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

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Take Off Your Shirt

I wish this post was about something juicy and raunchy, but, alas, it is about something very unsavoury and that is the way in which we are slowly stripping away our economy.  They’re not taking the shark-in-homeshirt off our backs, we are literally stripping off for them, clouded, deluded and blinded by gorgeous layouts, next day service and free delivery.

Any why not?  What is so wrong in giving in to the company that has made ‘Prime’ an uncontestable market force?  They’ve made free, next day delivery the next best thing since sliced bread, especially for those of us who live half an hour away from the nearest large shop.

Is it our fault when we have been taught from a very early age to be money-conscious?  ‘Go for the best deal’ is almost ingrained. I was brought up in an era when Saturday shopping was the highlight of the week and market day meant deal-day.  But I was also brought up to buy British, keep the economy turning, stop money flowing overseas and support our nation’s workforce.

No longer.  Now, it is about convenience and speed and now, no, now!  Everything is online and geared to make our lives as hassle-free s possible.  But there is a cost and it is a huge, ticking time-bomb that we are unwittingly nourishing.

Shopping online is not, in itself, a problem.  My issue is with taxation and subsidies and the unfairness of penalising local businesses in favour of conglomerates who tread them into the ground.  Please, invite a shark into your home to nibble on your children and insist the children give up their beds and toys to the sharks.  You won’t?

Now, we have all heard the terrible news that Amazon and Google and Starbucks, et al do not pay full UK tax.  They have managed to avoid this by putting the corporate company overseas and using the overseas tax breaks that come with it.

We are assured by HM C&E and Tax and Revenue that the amount these companies are not paying is but a small drip in a much larger bucket, but what they don’t seem to understand is that the drip is poisonous.  It is slowly eroding the plastic and before we know it, the bucket will have disintegrated and we will be left high and dry.  Can you imagine it?  We will end up borrowing from the coffers that we helped fill.

I’m not being paranoid.  It is simple economics and here is why.

Company A buys from company B and sells to us, the consumers, C.  At each sell point, we pay tax and the government gains, the money going into infrastructure, school, hospitals, etc.  Money revolves within our economy.

However, we have several issues.

One: Company A in this case, with the might of sales power, has screwed company B to the narrowest margin – let’s say 35% rather than the normal 50%.  Well, that’s a little less going into the government’s coffers, it is also less to support the company and its workers.

Company A then sells to C, including the 20% VAT.  Great.  That’s 20% C has paid to keep the nation floating.  Not so, because company A has used its loophole and only pays the government 3% tax.  17% goes straight into company A’s pockets.  Okay, well, a lot of overseas companies do that, that’s their incentive and if it was that big an issue the government would do something to halt it; so what?  I don’t know about you, but I resent that I just paid 20% tax – or what I was told was tax – but in actuality the UK government only sees 3%.  How would you feel if you gave a friend a fiver to buy your kid lunch and they only spend £1.50 and pocketed the rest?  This is out and out lying, cheating and stealing.  I don’t care what agreement the company has with the government, if you take 20% tax then pay it!

Two: companies like these are given big tax breaks to open new markets in the UK – such as tax-free sales for the first 5 years.  What?  Okay, I appreciate we have to attract new business and this is a thing, but 5 years?  UK companies are given zero tax breaks for starting up and they have to compete with big conglomerates hustling in on their patch, with a golden handshake from our own government, to do so.

Three: You must have heard recently that high street shops are going to have big tax rises.  This will be passed on to the consumer, C.  They have no choice, how else will they raise the money?  Now, they are competing against golden handshake company A who is sitting-pretty abroad with their additional 17% margin and can afford to absorb this tax hike for a year or so (maybe more), exactly the amount of time it takes C to think, ‘I can’t afford to go there.  Let’s go to A instead.’  The local shop closes because its customers have walked, A has all the custom and can now raise its prices safe in the knowledge that it has no competitors.  And it is pocketing a bigger value of the 17% you think you’re passing on to the government.

Four: We are snowballing our economy into the ground.  Company A’s greed and tax avoidance means the money is not going back into the UK economy.  It is not going to build roads and school and hospitals, it is not going into UK banks, it is not being spent in the UK to be recycled – remember the burning of Welsh houses?  DON’T burn anything!  I’m just trying to remind you what a devastation it was when money was removed from the local economy.

In addition to all this, Company A is not regulated.  It has poor staff policies – zero contract hours? Points system?  Penalties for time off?  It is subsidised by the government to ensure it does not close its doors and put workers out of jobs, when in reality it is the reason so many smaller businesses closed in the first place.  We are, literally, paying them to destroy us and doing it with a smile.  Does it remind you of an abusive relationship?

Government Grants

Corporation Tax

Paying VAT

So, what do we do?  I’m not proposing you boycott the big conglomerates – why should you?  Competition is rife and money is tight and we all lead exceedingly, increasingly busy lives.  However, it is a first step.  Get back to taking that long walk round the shopping centre with your friends and pop into a local cafe – it gets you out of the house, socialising in the old fashioned-way and brings money back into the local economy.

What we can do is petition the government to make business fair and make tax payments more transparent.  If I’m paying 20% tax on item, I want the money to go where I am being told it is going!

Petition the government to remove the destructive ‘points’ system and zero contract hours.

Petition the government to stop Amazon strong-arming publishers and music companies to give them bigger and better deals over and above smaller outlets (I have heard some horrible rumours regarding this, but they are rumours; however, when I can’t get Waterstones to tell me outright why they aren’t even allowed to advertise a forthcoming book that is already available for pre-sale on Amazon, one starts to wonder).

Petition the government to stop giving massive corporate tax incentives that undermine our own companies, which in turn shaves away at our economy.

There are no easy answers, but there are small steps we can take to bar the sharks from our own homes.

Other booksellers

Use the High Street

……………………

Addendum

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I met up with a friend in Bicester to watch a movie.  The road to Bicester has been plagued with roadworks for the longest time, so we allowed plenty of time to take into account traffic holdups, but managed to fly through and arrived half an hour early.  So, we bought a few bits in Sainsbury’s, met up with our friend, saw our movie and left to be confronted with an £80 hour parking charge as we had gone over 3 hours.

Now, you may not know Bicester, but the signs for the car park look like this:

20180610_104757

quite clearly showing parking and cinema.  In fact, the cinema is directly under the car park.  However, it turns out the car park has a 3 hour parking restriction and this is the parking restriction notice:

20180610_105522If you zoom in (and you have to go right up to it) the main points that are highlighted in big letters are the free 2 hour parking (woo hoo!), the charge for staying 3 hours, bank holiday… the 3 hour parking restriction is much smaller and almost lost in everything else.

As I’d reverse parked in a bay a little way away from this sign, I didn’t see it and the walk up to Sainsbury’s (directly ahead) showed no other signs, so you can imagine my complete shock to find I’d exceeded my parking time limit.  Bad signage aside, what I want to focus on are several other points:

1) Some movies last more than 4 hours!  A 3 hour parking restriction is ridiculous.  When I pointed this out to Vue (I wasn’t looking for compensation), I was told to direct my enquiries to the people who control the car park.  I replied and told Vue they needed to argue their case and fight to change the restriction, because this is not enough time to watch a movie, let alone watch a movie and have a meal – which is what normally happens on a typical date, but not, apparently, in Bicester.  Vue’s reply?  I need to contact the parking company!  Can I just say?  You’re idiots.  You spend time, money and effort in trying to get people through the doors (by the way it is a lovely cinema with lots of leg room and really comfy seats), only to be stymied by the fact that people won’t have time to watch a movie before being slapped with a £80 parking fine.  You may aswell just burn the money you pay in marketing.

You can be sure I have recommended that cinema goers avoid Bicester Vue and use either High Wycombe Empire/Cineworld, Aylesbury Odeon or Oxford Odeon, where they will have time to watch and perhaps even grab a bite to eat. I haven’t recommended Kassam Vue as your standard replies to my email have offered me no faith in the company.

2) Bicester Council: What is the point of offering 2 hours free parking if you’re then going to insist people leave after another hour?  What is the point of the 2 hour free parking?  Certainly for Sainsbury’s it is a wonderful win because their customers don’t need much longer than that to shop, but for the rest of the town it is a disaster.  This is why people don’t use the High Street.  When we first got to Bicester, my daughter and I thought ‘this is so nice, let’s come back another day and have mother-daughter day out: shop, mani-pedi and lunch’.  No chance of that now.  Shopping is supposed to be stress-free, but you’ve turned into a farce of supermarket sweep.

So, the council planners have enticed shoppers into the town with 2 hours free parking, but then gunned them down if they overstay their welcome, leaving them disgruntled (you can see how bitter I still am a couple of weeks later – I’m writing a blog about it FFS).  Your efforts to encourage shoppers back into town have backfired because the first thing I did when I got home was out the injustice on social media and warn everyone to avoid Bicester.  In these times, when social media can be an empowering tool, you’ve basically shot yourselves and the rest of the businesses in Pioneer Square in the foot.  My review would have been favourable and uplifting, instead it was negative.  Loved the movie, loved spending time with my daughter and friend, but the whole experience was marred and the £80 fine is the what I will always remember about Bicester.

Can you really not understand how ridiculous it is?  People have internet access and can shop 24/7, 365 days of the year, without (unreasonable) parking costs.  To encourage shoppers back to the High Street you need to make them feel welcome and wanted, not begrudge their presence like unwanted guests at Christmas. What exactly do you expect people to be able to do in those three hours?  What is your aim with the 2 hours free parking?  What is your aim with the restriction?  Why are the signs so small and obscure – are you encouraging discontent?  Is this the way you are trying to prop up your coffers, because in the end, for every £80 fine you will lose not only that shopper but their family and friends, too and create a ghost town with shuttered shop fronts.

Town planners, you need to rethink your strategies because it isn’t just the internet that is killing your town centre, it’s you.  I’m blogging and trying to encourage shoppers back onto the High Street, trying to recreate the old ‘day shopping experience.  What are you doing?

 

 

 

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Drip, drip, drip…

Image result for world dripping tap

When might overcomes right.

We are fast getting to the point where the world is being run by a few big businesses.  Each year, the division between the poor and the rich grows ever wider, the number of poor increases whereas only the wealth of the rich increases.  The middlemen become marginalised and we all bow under the pressure of government sanctioned temptations.

You might say that has been the way of the world for centuries and the big will surely fall as they always do, quoting Ozymandias and pointing to the fall of the Third Reich, Hannibal and his elephants, Rome and the Ottomans.

But we are in the midst of a subtle, pervasive threat, conducted under the smiling and beneficious arms of the law, using our own laziness to run us into the ground and bleed us dry.

Paranoia, I hear you cry.  Exaggeration and scaremongering, I hear you shout.  Not so.

I recall as a child having to run down to the shops to replace my parents’ carbonated glass bottle for a few pennies – no wastage, all recycled.  Then, a few years later, Perrier widely launched their expensive, pretty-bottled, carbonated water for sale in the UK, at an exorbitant price, and we were all bemused by the yuppies who had more money than sense, spending so much on a bottle of water just because it came from a spring.

Not long after that, ‘still’ water was launched and I distinctly recall saying, “idiots.  Why on earth would anyone in the UK, which has one of the best water supplies in the world, pay for bottled water when they can drink it from the tap?”  Now, bottled water is commonplace and if you go for a meal with friends and ask for a jug of water rather than buying a bottle, you are teased for being a cheapskate, when it is all about not buying into the hype.  It is appalling that even schools sell bottled water to the children, perpetuating the fallacy that bottled is better and encouraging them to collude unwittingly in this environmentally disastrous enterprise which does nothing but line the pockets of the conglomerates at the expense of not only our own dwindling bank balances (we’ll get onto the disparity of pay rises between the working class and the politicians another day) but also at the expense of the environment.

Now, I’ve discovered the shocking news of cases in the United States where people are being sued for harvesting rainwater, including that of a man who built a lake, preserving the beauty and richness of the landscape.  While on the other side of the fence, companies like Nestle are given the government golden-handshake to purchase a $524 permit to enable them to dry out waterbeds in drought ridden states in order to bottle water in order to make a profit at a detriment to the environment (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36161580).

This is not the only place this has occurred: there’s Africa – a continent for whose drought ridden countries we constantly have charity fundraisers (https://newint.org/blog/majority/2011/06/20/africa-water-privatization/); India and Latin America (https://www.theguardian.com/money/2006/mar/19/business.india1).

There are others, but the point is this: when companies bottle water and ruin the environment it is to supply an unnecessary demand!  The solution: stop buying bottled water, then they’ll have no-one to sell to.  Petition your schools to make bottled water a thing of the past to protect the future, teach your children to use a water fountain, or better yet, take a bottle of water into school with them.

We hear enough about plastic pollution, and bottled water is not only adding to that, but it is also destroying the watertables we have now.  More worryingly still, the head of Nestle claims that access to rainwater is not a human right (http://naturalsociety.com/nestle-ceo-water-not-human-right-should-be-privatized/).

So, we have the pervasive persuasive push to encourage us to buy water in bottles, which perpetuates the drive to bottle more and so we buy more (it’s in plentiful supply right?) and create more pollution and more drought and so the cycle keeps turning.

There’s one other trap: you know how clever BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) is?  A 50% discount only prompts you to buy 1 item, whereas with BOGOF they instantly sell twice as much.  Well, it works the same in industry but on a much larger scale.  The supplier stipulates that it will offer an additional x% if the merchant manages to sell y,000 units, otherwise they get the standard discount.  So now, we have a reseller pushing his product to ensure (s)he meets that arbitrary target, which increases each year. I’ll give you an example: at my children’s school they sell bottled water (even though there are water fountains and the children have 20 minutes between lessons to fill up).  I told my children they weren’t to waste money buying water and to fill up their bottles at the fountain.  However, the school’s catering company now has a ‘meal deal’, whereby they have put the cost of the meal up by x% and it includes a bottle of water.  The children who refuse the ‘free’ bottles of water are given funny looks.

Buying bottled water is now ‘cool’, ‘sensible’ and ‘convenient’.

How did this happen?

How did we become so gullible?

Did you know there are three different categories of bottled water?  Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water and Table Water.  Now, get this, Table water is filtered, sourced, TAP WATER.  Yes, you heard me, tap water!

Our tap water is already safe to drink – it has to follow very strict rules and guidelines.  Bizarrely, I could buy a permit and open my own company selling filtered tap water and everyone would buy it because (I want to scream) they have been encouraged to do so and we are all in the habit of drinking bottled water!

If you’re a pre-80’s child, do you remember what you used to do before bottled water became commonplace?  If the answer is ‘yes’, start doing it again!  For the rest of you, it’s really easy: when you’re thirsty, ask someone for a glass of water.  Any establishment that serves alcohol has to serve free drinking (tap) water.  It’s the law!

I would like, at this point, to give a huge shout out to The Oxford Playhouse (https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/) who have a jug of water just sitting there (no asking required) for patrons to help themselves to.

I’ll leave you one last thought.  They say a clever salesman is one who can sell snow to eskimos (and we laugh because the purchaser is so gullible).  Well, we now have companies that sell water to the populace of a country where it rains 30% of the year (on average).

nestle-ceo

Nestlé’s Chairman – laughing

Who’s laughing now?

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After Twilight

In this case, I refer to the book by Stephenie Meyer, not the time of day.

Image result for twilight

There are hundreds of websites/blogs you can go to for ideas on what to read after Twilight.  I have read several of them for the same reason (probably) that you are reading this and that is because I absolutely adored the Twilight series.  What is it about them that makes me want to dive in again and again? Certainly not the writing, but I have no issue with how well, or not, it is written as it has addressed the primary premise for a fiction book:  to capture the reader’s attention, to engage them wholly and to entertain.

For me, the obsessive romantic aspect is the real draw and while many spout such an obsession as unhealthy, to me it is as deliciously pleasurable as chocolate eclairs, only less fattening.  I felt the same pull with Fifty Shades but when I went to find ‘more books like FSOG’, I was presented with lists of books on BDSM.  Not what I wanted at all.  With the ‘after Twilight’ websites, I found more vampire novels.  Again, I’m looking for obsession and romance and twists and HEA.  So, I’ve decided to put together my own list for those of you who adored the same sappy, romantic aspects of Twilight, imbued with a little action to stop it becoming too wet.

The list is in no particular order and I only mention the first book if it’s a series.

  1. Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
  2. Immortal City by Scott Speer
  3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  4. The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan
  5. Finding Sky by Joss Stirling
  6. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  7. Glass Houses by Rachel Caine (very long series and I stopped at book 9!)
  8. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  9. The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
  10. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  11. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
  12. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  13. Angelfall by Susan Ee
  14. Need by Carrie Jones
  15. Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott
  16. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  17. Firelight by Sophie Jordan
  18. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  19. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  20. Obsidian By Jennifer Armentrout
  21. Half-Blood by Jennifer Armentrout
  22. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  23. Legend by Marie Lu
  24. Real by Katy Evans (18+)
  25. The Collector by Victoria Scott
  26. Davy Harwood by Tijan
  27. Bright Side by Kim Holden
  28. Eternal Eden by Nicole Williams
  29. Fissure by Nicole Williams
  30. Significance by Shelly Crane
  31. Relentless by Karen Lynch
  32. Thirst by Claire Farrell
  33. Slammed by Colleen Hoover (18+)
  34. Becoming Calder by Mia Sheridan
  35. Beastly by Alex Flinn
  36. Fallen Crest by Tijan
  37. This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas (18+)
  38. Introductions by C.L. Stone (reverse harem)
  39. Angelic by L.P. Swalheim (unfinished series and the writing style makes you wince)
  40. Knight’s Mistress by C.C. Gibbs (18+)
  41. Soulmates by Holly Bourne
  42. Violet Eden by Jessica Shirvington
  43. Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins (16+)
  44. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
  45. Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan (the series is let down by book 3)
  46. Release Me by J. Kenner (18+)
  47. Hope(less) by Melissa Haag
  48. Relentless by Karen lynch
  49. City In Embers by Stacey Marie Brown (18+)
  50. Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan (18+)

 

Books/series that are touted as being Twilightesque, but I really didn’t like/didn’t work:

  1. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (enjoyed first book only)
  2. Fallen by Lauren Kate (enjoyed the first book only)
  3. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia (tried to read this four times!)
  4. Evermore by Alyson Noel (The heroine drove me up the wall)
  5. A Shade Of Vampire – nothing like Twilight.
  6. My Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent – enjoyed the first book but it quickly went downhill.
  7. Matched by Ally Condie – enjoyed the first book
  8. Delirium by Lauren Oliver – enjoyed the first book
  9. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

 

Waiting to Read (because they’ve been on ‘after Twilight’ lists):

  1. I’d tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
  2. Uglies by Scott Westerfield
  3. Gone by Michael Grant (I’ve read this now and cannot see how it made those lists)
  4. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
  5. Angel Evolution by David estes
  6. Sookie Stackhouse series – I’m put off by the sheer number of books
  7. Shiver & Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
  8. House of Night by P.C. Cast
  9. Pure by Julianna Baggott
  10. Breathe by Sarah Crossan

 

Other books I’ve loved but don’t necessarily follow the Twilight obsessive romance:

  1. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
  2. Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
  3. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
  4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  5. Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  6. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  7. Maximum Ride by James Patterson
  8. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  9. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
  10. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  11. Fallen Crest High by Tijan (18+)
  12. Lovely Vicious by Sara Wolf
  13. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
  14. Supernaturals by Kelly Oram
  15. Stolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen
  16. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
  17. Deception by C.J. Redwine
  18. Runaway Mortal by Komal Kant
  19. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan
  20. Eon by Alison Goodman

 

Books on Twilight lists I probably won’t read:

  1. Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith – it’s the love triangle I can’t deal with
  2. Thoughtless by S C Stephens – ditto

 

There you have it.  I may revisit and add to these lists from time to time, but it is a testament to the enduring appeal of Twilight, that I have compiled this list years after Twilight first appeared on our shelves.  It may interest you to know that I re-read the series only last year (2016) and the film is still one of my favourites to iron to.  Although, I’m not sure I ought to admit to that particular vice as the films are a whole different ballgame.

Happy reading.

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Where wolves? Here wolves!

Last year I discovered Melissa Haag.  I know, I know, where in the heck have I been?  I honestly don’t know.  Why hadn’t I picked up her stuff before?  Because of the covers – again, I Know! Don’t judge, yada, yada…  But you have to admit, if you’re a Haagfan, the cover on Hope(less) doesn’t scream ‘read me, I’m awesome’.  It’s the food equivalent of blancmange and that stuff looks Bland (capital B).

If you like paranormal, romance, werewolves and teen fiction, then Melissa Haag’s Judgement Of The Six series ticks all these boxes. There’s no smut or foul language, the girls are ‘of appropriate age’, but we are talking mates-for-life and some horrific scenes.

Each book is set around a different female character.  These ladies have special ‘gifts’ and they are to be the deciding factor in a centuries-old war.  I love the devotion of the guys, the manner in which the lovers find each other and the basic storyline in general.  With the exception of the covers (which get better after the first book), there is nothing to dislike about these stories.  Ms Haag has also written a companion series which offers the male POV.

Other fabulous author discoveries are: Karen Lynch (Relentless series) – demons, werewolves; Stacey Marie Brown (Collector Series) – demons and fey; Mia Sheridan (Sign of Love series) – contemporary; Montana Ash (Elemental Paladins series – again, the covers are off-putting) – angels; B.L. Brunnemer (Veil Diaries series – if you can put up with poor copy editing) – necromancer/reaper.

In addition to those, you have to get your hands on: Sophie Jordan’s Reign of Shadows series – Rapunzel with a twist which you will not believe until you see it (hint, hint); Eric Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First; Tillie Cole’s A Thousand Boy Kisses; Cecilia Ahern’s Flawed (a new foray into the teen/YA market).

There you go.  Some of my fave reads of the past 12 months, not discounting Cassandra Clare, etc. for you to get your teeth into.  You’re welcome.  Just pop back and let me know if you agree.

You could always go to my bookshelves on GoodReads to see my reviews (especially the ones I did not finish so you know what to avoid).

 

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Tripe, anyone?

Image result for tripe

The best books in the world are heavily edited because, let’s face it, we tend to regurgitate a lot of rubbish.  We can’t all be R K Narayan and submit an almost immaculate work.  Even garnished with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint, tripe is still tripe.

Indeed, my mind churns mountains of spurious stuff and the trouble with blogging is there is no editor between the brain and the keyboard so you, dear Readers, tend to get a lot of chaff.  Not that that is any excuse for poor blogging, but you have to admit the whole concept is less wholesome chicken soup and more whatever’s-in-the-cupboard.  My cupboard is very disorganised, and, as such, so is my offering to the great WWW.

My best work is created while I am on the move, either in the car or walking (if any of my work could be classified as good), most especially because I know no poor soul will ever get access to it.  The reason for the inaccessibility being that I have no access to paper and pen, or, if I did have access, no way in which I could transfer my thoughts.  Several times, in the car, I have tried to dictate to my children, but that second-hand process is stifling and I would rather rely on my useless memory than go though the torture of trying to convey my thoughts via a third party, which is why this blog is so cobweb-riddled.

Earlier today, I had a long-train of insightful musings and was determined to trap them with ink, but, as usual, my train was derailed under the pressure of work and my thoughts were scattered to the four winds.

My house is a messy (but clean) clutter – like my brain – and there are umpteen slips of paper and napkins and torn-off bits of card with scribbles and quotes lying here, there and everywhere.  My husband (bless him for putting up with it) doesn’t understand why I don’t gather them up and put them all together in one place, like my hand-engraved sandalwood box, or even type them up and throw away the original.  I suppose only another writer could understand the delight of coming across a long-forgotten chitty; they are my version of the surprise twenty pound note discovered in the lining of a bag or, even better, a forgotten bar of chocolate at the back of the fridge.  Tiny snippets of joy.  Going out to buy a bar of chocolate doesn’t convey anywhere near the same delight (Husband, if you’re reading this, please feel free to cache stashes of chocolate about the house).

My bemused husband has also asked why I don’t use the voice recorder on my phone.  Is it just me or do you also find it hard to vocalise your musings?  My most recent oeuvre is all type-written, not a single word was laid to paper first (normally I would write long-hand then transfer to screen) and it was quite a task for the first few pages because I had to keep going back to correct punctuation and read the grammar suggestions, which made me lose my focus.  But, once I learnt to ignore the red and green squiggles I got on much faster and flew through the book, sending chapter after chapter to my most faithful of readers as they appeared at the end of each day.  I’m not saying I’ve been converted, but I was surprised at how easy it feels now.  Perhaps blogging has helped as I don’t write longhand for the blog – sorry, Reader, you get the unadultered, unvarnished, raw spewings, without spelling and grammar checks.

I’ll be doing another book review soon – I read a huge amount  (several books a week) but review very few.  They have to be either pretty horrendous or pretty great or have something that claws rabidly for me to get my keyboard out.

Which brings me to this book: Darren Allen’s Apocalypedia

Encyclopaedias and dictionaries are often boring, of no help when it comes to secretly filling train carriages with subversive balloons and they rarely manage to offend everyone. Lexicographers assume that language is a big machine that you need an instruction manual to use, rather than a river of silvery ribbons that bursts out of your astonished mouth, or a spectacular instant tree that grows between people in collective surrender to something bigger than the both of us, or a slow lightning strike that pins you, howling with delight, to the sky, or some peculiar paradoxical state halfway between hard cold crystal- line structures driving us to a revolutionary, world-changing point, and mad hot erupting flowers of aimless joy. People who read dictionaries rarely snort soup out their nostrils in outrage, or nod with serene recognition at far distant and long estranged ideas suddenly flung together as mysterious friends, or feel gently inspired to fall in love with waiting forever, or seriously consider the only solution to heartbreak there is or possibly could be, or leave work to master horsemanship, or leave school to get educated, or up and seize their wives about the middle, ready to embark on a week-long reality-cracking godgasm, or stroll whistling into the void. The Apocalypedia is, therefore, a scurrilous, lyrical, lunatic and friendly countercultural A-Z that satirises modern society through an original and revolutionary collection of flash-essays and comic vignettes. It presents an apocalyptically optimistic and deeply original way of understanding human nature and of living in a civilisation that is in rapid and terminal decline. Looking at a combination of common value-charged words and new words coined to give voice to the often overlooked beauties and horrors of everyday experience, The Apocalypedia is a comic revelation of the kaleidoscopic twists and turns that ordinary consciousness makes throughout the day. A delightful gift book for the radically-inclined, the romantically baffled, the psychologically broken, the fledgling creative genius, the reckless, the sensitive and the actually dying, the book is an entertaining and uncompromising satire of modern culture.

Get ready readers, for my next subversive blog is sure to be silver-lined.

 

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Me Before You (review)

me before you image

It has taken me a few days to get to this point because I was reeling and crying and just so overwhelmed by the characters in this book.

Lou was cute and managed, with Will’s help, to grow out of her fears. Will, with Lou’s help, saw the world in a different light. That is the ‘changed their lives forever’ part.  For those of you are complaining because Will’s life wasn’t ‘forever’, you have to understand that for him it was because he hadn’t loved until then.
There are so many things I want to say about this book, many of them cliché, but I shall address the most obvious points as I saw them. Please note: the only thing I will say regarding the area of giving/taking/accepting and supporting ‘life choices’ is that, to me, it is obvious. Your body=your right.
When Lou was younger, something horrific happened and it bound her to her village in a way nothing else could.  To compound this, her family’s circumstances also bound her to the village; her boyfriend and his selfish self-absorbed immersion into the world of triathlon training, constrained her even more. Despite these invisible ties, Lou is her own quirky, vibrant, open person and she is about to burst (stumble) upon Will’s world in a shower of wonder.

Unfortunately, Will is bound in his own way, and not just by the accident that keeps him in a wheelchair. His past lifestyle was somewhat selfish and shallow. It was one of high finance, luxury and power, and it blinkered him to the more subtle pleasures of life, aided greatly by the jaded, separate, lifestyles of his parents – a couple who never, ever showed or demonstrated their feelings, constrained within their self-made prisons of propriety. His mother is a successful lawyer, very proper and elegant and refined, but doesn’t know how to relate to people on a personal level, not even her own son, whom she cannot look in the eye. His father checked out of his marriage and has a love interest that consumes him to the point where he looks upon Will’s accident as a stumbling block to the future he envisioned for himself – not that he doesn’t love and empathise with Will’s plight, but it is secondary to his own. His sister is as selfish as Will ever was and, while she loves her brother, it is not with the sort of affection you see in Lou’s family (I feel as though Jojo is holding up a mirror to Will’s past with his sister).
Can you see that Lou and Will’s differences goes far beyond their personalities?  She with all the love and none of the wealth or freedom.  He with all the wealth but none of the love… and no longer any freedom.

Lou’s down-to-earth presence slowly unveils a different world for Will and he begins to see that his previous lifestyle was pretty shallow; the only real things that gave him joy were using his brains, making new discoveries and thrilling adventure sports, even his bike.

In the book, when Lou asks, ‘did you never love anything that much’, and he answers, ‘yes,’ I like to think he is referring to everything except Alicia. He loved being alive: living and laughing and sex and running and sports and pitting his brains against his colleagues. All that, but not necessarily Alicia, who is merely a prop.
Alicia: I think she was used to highlight his ‘lack’. He pushed her away, but in actuality she didn’t fight it and when she gets engaged to his friend, I think Will sees it as confirmation of his utter worthlessness, as well as the fact that he will never have that (marriage, children), never ‘move on’.  At the wedding, he also sees that, with him, Lou will never have that either.

Will and Lou do fall in love, but Will never actually tells her, because he believes it to be one more thing that will hold her back. Hearing Will say, ‘I love you’, especially for Lou who is so emotionally invested, would have made Lou feel a form of obligation and it would make it harder for her to move on ‘after’. That is also, in part, why he did not want to have sex with her. The other part is that he didn’t want her to have just a tiny ‘make do’ piece of him, he wanted to give her everything or nothing at all.  It killed him that he couldn’t ‘love’ her properly.  Again, having sex would have meant Louisa investing too much of herself and he didn’t want that for her. It is another one of his unselfish acts, like the time when they go to the wedding and he wants her to have fun, entailing drinking too much to go home, even though it meant she wouldn’t be able to change his dressings and jeopardise his health. He does things he would have never have done for anyone else. It is these little things that prove he loves her.
The question everyone keeps asking: Why didn’t he delay Dignitas? Simple: Hope. If he’d delayed it to give him and Lou time, then we go back to the scenario I have already explained above and it would have given her leave to hope that he might delay it a little more, then a little more… pushing back the inevitable, during which time she falls deeper and deeper in love with him and is tied to him, not living, not growing, which he wants for her. He doesn’t want to be something else that binds her to the village, like her family and her fear and her ex-boyfriend. He wants her to ‘live’, to spread her wings and live life to the full and see the world.  She says, on the beach, ‘she isn’t enough for him’, but what she can’t seem to grasp is that she is everything and he refuses to let her tie herself to him when she could have so much more. Refuses to let her fall more in love with him, knowing that her heartache will be all the greater when the end comes – he is being selfless in refusing to let more time go by. I like to think he would have loved to have had more time with her, but he wants her happiness above his own.

Dignitas: Will explained his reasons far better than I could here, but for Will, who was so vitally alive, to be imprisoned (he mentions claustrophobia a couple of times with Lou in mind, but I saw it as him projecting), living with near constant pain and indignity, it was unbearable.  This in no way devalues the life he has/could have, it is a personal choice based on what he feels he can live with.

Will had seen and experienced so much in the world, but never understood or felt true love until Lou. Lou understood love – the love of family and friends and simple living and was content in herself, but Will opened her eyes to the wider world.
They were both missing something and, like two parts of a jigsaw puzzle, fulfilled that missing element for each other.

The heartbreaking thing is that, had Will not had the accident and been so completely dependent, he and Lou would never have met, got together and experienced such a deep abiding affection for each other; they would have remained tied into their lifestyles – Lou in her pretty village with a selfish boyfriend, struggling to keep her family above water; Will in the world of luxury, never happy with anyone and always looking for the next thrill to replace what was missing. But, contrarily, his condition meant their time together was destined to be short.

Finally, her mother at the end of the book: I was surprised at her stance because she has accepted so much else with barely a shrug – her daughter’s teen pregnancy; next door’s infidelity; redundancy; her father’s living with them – accepted and didn’t comment on other people’s choices (insisted Lou never mention her sister’s choice), and maybe this was the last straw. But, this was Lou allowing Will to make his own choice, she was merely going there to be with him while he exercised free will (huh!).

This book! Oh, this book!

Pass the tissues, please.

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