Thursday, 29 November 2012

Is Blackrock/Appco a scam?

I have not posted in a while because I've been busy with what I thought was a new job - but what it actually turned out to be was nothing like I'd expected. A scam? Or just a very dodgy business scheme?

Appco/Cobra Group

Blackrock Advertising is a smaller franchise of Appco (formerly Cobra Group) which has branches worldwide. Now, Appco/Cobra is actually quite well known for running these dodgy schemes. Unfortunately for me, throughout the interview process I was led to believe that Blackrock was just a small and successful business that was rapidly expanding. We were told a fake story of how the office manager started up the business on his own, after selling Daft Punk tickets at university. Obviously 'this company is part of a huge corporation that deals in screwing people over' doesn't sound quite as cute. The first I heard of Appco was when it came to signing the contract, and by then it was a bit too late to do my research.

The job was advertised over at, and was admittedly very vague. But then, I'm used to applying for vague jobs. It was posted through a recruitment agency and they often only include the most basic details in their job ads, so this didn't set off any alarm bells.
Want some fun, in a lively environment whilst building a career? If so, then read on! Due to demands from our newest, exciting client we are rapidly expanding and opening new offices in 2012. We are, therefore looking for 15+ people to fulfil a number of roles in various sectors of our business, including Sales, Customer Service, Marketing and Business Development.
Now maybe I'm just stupid, but when I read that description, I do not immediately think 'door-to-door cold calling'. And I expect that's the whole point - because who would sign up for that job willingly unless they were extremely desperate? When sending off the application, they actually ask you to select which of the four different sectors you wish to work in - again, leading applicants to believe that they will be working in an office doing a specific job, not herded along with everyone else into a cold calling role. The 'lively, fun office' doesn't really count if you're only in there for an hour each day.


I was given a phone interview a few days after applying. The guy who interviewed me sounded really nice, friendly and genuine. He asked me a bit about what marketing experience I had /(all of which was irrelevant) and then told me I'd ticked all the boxes they were looking for, and would I like to come in for an interview? A few days later, sat in the office waiting to be taken through to be interviewed, I heard the same guy interviewing another candidate over the phone, and he said the exact same things, word for word, like he was reading from a script. So much for being genuine!

The interview itself was extremely brief. Again, the interviewer (who turned out to be the office manager) was very laid back and friendly, and in fact he barely asked me any questions. Never mind, I thought, as I got invited to the second interview, so obviously I was the ideal candidate! (I'm so naive)

The first day of the job, me and eight other new employees were given a brainwashing session with free sandwiches, where we were told all about the humble roots of the company and how lucky we were to be offered such a great opportunity, with earnings of £200-£600 per week, plus great bonuses, and the chance to progress to team leader and then finally to run our own office. And because we were getting SO much commission, we didn't even need to be paid a salary! Wow! No. The sandwiches were nice though. Somebody must have let on the secret of my one weakness.

Anyway, it came to signing the contract and I had a pretty bad feeling when I read that when working for this company, we would officially be considered self-employed. So no national insurance, no long-term security, no nothing. At this point we still hadn't been really told what we'd be doing. We were shown a video about the British Red Cross charity and told we'd get to run events at football matches, shows and days out. We'd get to travel and receive great rewards. I just thought, 'a job is a job. I can't really complain', and decided I'd stick it out for at least this week and see what it was like.

The 'lively office environment'

The next day, two of the new employees who were in the room with us yesterday had already disappeared. I wish I'd done the same thing, because the day that followed was the biggest waste of time and energy I will probably ever experience! Each of us was placed with an experienced employee and told we were to follow them around all day and see what they did.

Everyone in the office was loud, excitable and very friendly. The morning meeting was just the manager reading out a list of how many sales each person had made the following day, and each person would get a loud 'WEYYYYY' and a high five. They loved their high fives. It was like a parody of an office, like you'd see on TV. Everyone was so ridiculously happy and friendly, at the time I was starting to find it very annoying and thinking 'I would want to kill these people after a week'. It turns out, from reading stories online from people who stayed with the company for longer than I did, that the current employees are all told to be especially nice to the new people, and to make them feel like the office is a super fun place to work, WEYYYYY have a high five, have some banter, here's a funny nickname LOL. But that after a few days, their true colours would begin to show, all the drama and office politics.


I was put into a group with four others. We had to get a train to the next town over and knock on all the doors in a large residential area, say the rehearsed 'pitch' and try and get people to sign up to donate to charity. They seemed to love their job. Going on about how to keep their attitude up, how they were sooooo excited to make some sales today, gosh wow they loved speaking to all these people door-to-door, it was just so rewarding!! Looking back, I'm wondering if they were told to play it up for my benefit, or if they were just genuinely victims of brainwashing. Each person went off on their own to cover a specific street. Except for me and my mentor, who were obviously paired up. I worried about doing this on my own in the following week, traipsing around the streets from 12 til 8pm, being expected to go inside people's houses if invited, with nobody knowing exactly where I was. It seriously didn't feel safe at all.

I wasn't dressed for the weather either. We were told to dress office smart, so I had on a dress, tights, slip-on flats and a smart coat. It was freezing cold and raining on and off, and there wasn't even anywhere to have a break, so I was outside for eight hours. Towards the end of it, I just felt like crying. I felt humiliated talking to these people at their front doors, when they were clearly settling down for dinner and a night in, not wanting to be pressured for money by an annoying salesperson. I felt daunted by the prospect of doing this every single day. And even if I'd made the target of two sales each day, which seemed like an impossibility because who on earth actually signs up to these things? The amount I'd earn for the week would be barely scraping minimum wage. I'd be better off in McDonalds, at least then I'd be warm and safe, and actually getting paid for the work!

Back at the office, everyone high fived me and congratulated me on how well I did, how I was sure to get a shout out at the meeting the next day. As soon as I left I decided never to go back there.

So, is it a scam?

The people there seemed to genuinely enjoy what they did, but to me it just felt that they were being taken advantage of. Most of them were not much older than I was, and seemed to think they were getting a great deal out of it. I'm sure technically there must be a loophole that allows companies to make their employees do what amounts to free work, relying on generous members of the public to ever make any money. It just seems so, so dodgy. I don't think it's fair to falsely advertise a job as something completely different to what it actually is. Everyone I spoke to about what happened said I did the right thing by getting out of there. My brother said he had a similar experience with a company in New Zealand. But obviously these companies are legitimate, as they are so well known that if they were doing anything illegal they would be shut down. I guess having the employees sign a contract stating that they are self-employed means that the employer technically doesn't have to pay them anything.

Anyway, so that's my story. A word of warning to anyone thinking this type of job sounds too good to be true - it really is. If you start to get bad feelings about the legitimacy of a job, listen to your gut feeling and get out of there before they waste your time. I'm back to where I started now, unemployed, but at least I'm not being taken for a ride, and I'm not putting myself at risk.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

Budo is an imaginary friend desperate not to be forgotten, because when a child forgets about his/her imaginary friend, they disappear forever. Budo is lucky because Max isn't like other children; he 'lives mostly on the inside' and has trouble communicating and making friends, so he has relied on Budo for a long time.

One day something terrible happens to Max, and Budo is the only one who has any hope of saving him - but he can't do it alone, and soon his loyalty to Max is tested to the very limit.

Despite reading some very bad reviews of this book, I actually really enjoyed it. The idea of imaginary friends really existing, being able to interact with one another and trying to help each other not to be forgotten is a lovely concept. At first I was hoping that this wouldn't be all that happened in the story, but it did get really exciting and Max being autistic added another element of conflict.

The narrative style is very stilted and simplistic. This is on purpose to reflect Budo's interpretation of Max's autistic behaviours and speech patterns, but it does get a little irritating after a while and I feel like it could have been written more conventionally and still had the same effect. The story itself would have been enough to convey how difficult it is for everyone involved to cope with autism.

The blurb compares this book with 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' and 'Room' (click to read my review) which is actually spot-on, as it is basically a combination of the two, with the addition of imaginary friends to the mix! Although I feel that this doesn't do quite as good a job of explaining autism as 'The Curious Incident', and it is (thankfully) a lot less gut-wrenching than 'Room', although there are still some weepy moments throughout.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable read despite the voice of the narrator. What starts as a deceptively light hearted premise tackles some really big issues and towards the end will leave you frantically trying to finish it to find out whether everything is okay in the end! If you're anything like me, it will also leave you feeling very guilty for all the imaginary friends you forgot about - and inadvertently killed - when you were little.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

After witnessing the mysterious death of his grandfather, sixteen-year-old Jacob travels to a tiny Welsh island to discover the truth about the strange letters and photographs his grandfather left for him. There he discovers the old house, home to some very peculiar children who need his help, leading him on a terrifying adventure that will test him beyond anything he has experienced before.

Well it has to be said that this book isn't particularly well-written. It is a YA novel but I have very high standards as I know that writing for children and teens is no excuse to cut corners! The main character, Jacob, is a bit annoying; even before anything bad happens to him, he seems to do nothing but sulk and complain about how much he hates being rich and privileged. The narrative style is very stilted and I found my eyes drifting off the page sometimes because of how repetitive the sentences were.

However, the story itself was quite enjoyable. It was a bit slow leading up to the discovery of the old house, but after that it became fast-paced and exciting and I was eager to find out what would happen next. The best part about this book is that all the photographs scattered throughout the story are real and mostly unedited, and it seems like the author picked out some intriguing ones and pieced the story around it, which is a really nice idea. The characters and abilities of the peculiar children are great, even if their dialects sometimes seem a bit too much like an American person trying to sound quirky and British, which is a massive pet hate of mine!

The ending was very abrupt, and left them heading off in a boat to try and find somewhere else to live...which led me to think the author is probably planning to write a sequel. I don't like it much when it's this obvious, it feels like I'm not 'getting my money's worth' so to speak, if I have to read a whole other book before I find out how the story really ended!

The book is great to look at, with thick paper, wallpaper print on the chapter pages and of course the wonderfully unsettling photographs. So nice that I avoided reading it in the bath like I do with most books, as it inevitably makes the pages wavy.

All in all, this was an enjoyable novel but I never felt as invested in it as I do with most of the books I read. I think I'm definitely more into realistic stories that I can relate to. However, I will be passing this onto John as I think this sort of thing would be right up his street...monsters, time travel, etc etc!

 I think this would translate well into a film and will probably end up being made by Tim Burton with lots of black and white stripy things and Helena Bonham-Carter playing the role of Miss Peregrine, which will surprise absolutely no one.

6/10 - Not my usual cup of tea, but a fun read nonetheless!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

My second internship gets under way

This week I started my internship at the Navy News and I've settled in really nicely. On Monday I researched and wrote the 'Time of your Lives' column, which is where they publish some news stories from that month in previous decades. So I had to go through the archives and find an interesting story from November of 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2002 and then write a brief summary of each along with quotations. I also picked out a nice picture relating to one of the stories - a cat being awarded his Good Cat Badge!

Then yesterday I was given the task of writing lots of charity-related press releases into proper news stories, which I found really interesting because at my last internship with Fusion People I had to write and edit some press releases, so I now have experience of writing for both sides of the process.

Today I had the scary task of meeting the chief executive of the Mary Rose trust and interviewing him about the soon-to-be-opened museum and the whole project of building, conservation, etc. But it turned out not to be scary after all, he was very nice and eager to talk to me about it, which was great because it meant the interview ran really smoothly and I got a lot more information than I had questions for. I also hope this means I'll be less terrified the next time I go in for a job interview, because I know what it's like on the other side!

I recorded the whole interview on a voice recorder, then when I got back to the office I played it back and typed it all out. Tomorrow I am working from home to write up the article, which is looking to be very extensive. It will be fantastic to see the finished article published in the Navy News.

I'm really pleased with how many times I have stepped out of my comfort zone and taken on new challenges in the last few weeks. I feel like I'm a lot tougher and smarter than I give myself credit for.

I'll be posting some book reviews in the very near future - right now I am reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children which is way out of my usual choice of genres but it seems like a fun read so far. I have also been reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire on my train journeys, so I can pretend I'm escaping to the beautiful, wild American desert rather than travelling through grey England!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Bad Flo :(

I haven't posted in over a month! So I'm forcing myself to write something now, even if it is just a poor recap of what I've been up to over the last month.

At the start of September I went to Rome for a week! It was fantastic and one of my next posts (hopefully you won't have to wait a month for it) will be my top tips for anyone visiting Rome - dos and don'ts, that sort of thing. It was a great holiday and the first time I've been to a different country as a proper responsible grown up rather than letting my parents do all the work. I ate a lot of gelato and pasta, but I also did an awful lot of walking so it balanced out rather nicely.

I am now two weeks into my three week placement at Fusion People, where I have been working on the marketing team and doing lots of research, editing, copy writing, etc etc. It's been a great experience so far and I've learnt a lot, as well as (kind of) overcome my phone-shyness! It's gone really quickly and I will be quite sad to leave. But I've got another internship coming up on the 15th October, working in the editing office of the Navy News in Portsmouth. I've been so lucky to get all these opportunities, and experience in marketing and editing is a really valuable thing.

It's my birthday next Wednesday. I have no idea what I'm doing or what I'm getting from anybody. I hope I get brioche for breakfast, but other than that I'm not particularly fussed! I'm getting into the writing spirit again, and I'm desperate to write a book of some sort, so it's lucky that November is next month so I can take part in NaNoWriMo for once. Everyone from my university graduated today except me, because I couldn't afford to get tickets or hire a hat and robe. I didn't really feel like floating around in a cape all day anyway.

I'm planning on setting up a Facebook and Twitter account for this blog so I can post updates through those. It'll mean deleting my pre-existing 'Love from Florence' Facebook account which was for my handmade jewellery, but that seems to have dwindled over the last couple of months as I've developed a social and working life out of nowhere!

I have another couple of posts planned out, including a book review, a craft tutorial and my aforementioned Rome guide, all of which I'll write and post over the weekend, and I will continue to update regularly from now on...I promise!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Review: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Throughout their fifteen year relationship, Annie has had to put up with Duncan's obsession with the rock singer Tucker Crowe. It is like having a third person in the relationship. The only thing Duncan ever seems to talk about is Tucker Crowe's music, particularly his most famous album, 'Juliet'. He spends a lot of time on discussion forums with other Crowe fans. The story starts with him dragging Anne on a Crowe-themed sightseeing tour, and sneaking into the San Francisco house owned by the woman who was supposedly the inspiration for 'Juliet'.
Back home, while Duncan is out, a package is delivered and Anne decides to open it. It contains a pre-release copy of 'Juliet, Naked', an album of demo and acoustic versions of the songs from 'Juliet', sent with the intention that Duncan should write a review of it. Anne listens to the album before Duncan does, and whereas Duncan thinks it is an emotionally-charged work of genius, Anne isn't at all impressed by it. She decides, mainly to get at Duncan, to post a scathing review on his fan site. To her surprise, she receives an email from the elusive Tucker Crowe, and the two begin to hit it off through secret online correspondence.
This definitely wasn't my favourite of Hornby's novels. It is very bleak throughout, even more so than 'A Long Way Down'! The ending doesn't really wrap anything up, and it left me feeling depressed about all the characters. In the end, Anne (who has been wanting a baby for a long time but Duncan was never interested) ends up sleeping with Tucker and sneakily 'forgetting' contraception in order to get pregnant. I think this was meant to be seen as a win on her part, but I just found it really creepy and a bit sad.
I also found the story very slow-moving, and from the blurb it sounded like there would be a big cast of weird and wonderful characters, but we actually only meet them briefly before they're gone again and it's back to the boring relationship angst between two very neurotic and irritating people. I don't think books should be allowed to make a big deal about characters in the blurb if they only get a tiny amount of page-time!
I did enjoy the general commentary on how obsessive music fans end up overthinking the music, and how the reality to all their theories is actually very mundane - and how when Tucker finally does release a whole new album, all his fans hate it because they have built him up so much in their minds that it is impossible for him to live up to their standards.

I think my problem with this book is that, while in Hornby's other books the characters are always quite likeable despite their very serious flaws, in Juliet, Naked I didn't really find myself rooting for any of them, because if they weren't downright irritating they were just very dull. I think if you want an enjoyable, funny, music-themed read which doesn't leave you miserable, High Fidelity is the one to go for!

2.5/5 - could have been a lot worse, and I'm sure I just have bad taste in books and it's actually really good...but I just wasn't feeling it with this one.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Review: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

'Amy Curry’s year sucks. And it’s not getting any better. Her mother has decided to move, so somehow Amy has to get their car from California to the East Coast. There’s just one problem: since her father’s death Amy hasn’t been able to get behind the wheel of a car. Enter Roger, the son of a family friend, who turns out to be funny, nice… and unexpectedly cute. 
But Roger’s plans involve a more ‘scenic’ route than just driving from A to B, so suddenly Amy finds herself on the road trip of a lifetime. And, as she grows closer to Roger, Amy starts to realize that sometimes you have to get lost to find your way home…’
My mum recommended this book to me after reading it on holiday, saying that although it was very light reading, she really loved it. I have to say that I agree! The characters of Amy and Roger are really likeable, as are all the weird and wonderful people they meet along their journey. The book is laid out in a fun scrapbook style, with doodles, receipts and photographs for every chapter. There are also playlists to show you what they listened to on the road trip, so you can discover some new music while you're reading! 
The story is quite a bit heavier than it looks from the cover, as it focuses on Amy struggling to cope with the guilt and grief after her father's death three months before, and her twin brother is in rehab for his drug addiction. It's a tearjerker in parts, and there are a lot of flashbacks to Amy's life leading up to, and after, the accident. But the story that unfolds in the present is really fun and uplifting, as we see Amy and Roger's friendship grow, and desperately hope that there will be a fairytale ending. Their relationship is not only adorable with all their inside jokes and habits, but also very realistic, because both characters have their flaws and problems. 
Some parts of the story were very easy to predict, and I found myself picking up on the hints of what would happen very quickly, but I don't really think this spoiled the story at all. I felt that the ending wasn't quite satisfactory, because I was desperate to find out all the extra bits that we don't get told, but this was such a good story that I read it in just a couple of hours. Despite being a Young Adult novel, I think this is a book that anybody with a sense of adventure and a love of travel would enjoy reading. I especially liked it because I've been to a few of the places mentioned in the story - I had the exact same all-you-can-eat breakfast in Yosemite! 
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour gets 5 stars, because I've given up trying to be picky about how many stars I award things, and I really loved it! 

A long awaited update on my EXCITING life.

It's been ages since I've posted anything! I've been very busy - too busy to even read a book, which explains the lack of book reviews. (But I did finish one last night, so expect a review of that very soon!)

Every day this week I have been working with children at a Stagecoach summer school, where they do fun activities based around singing, dancing and acting, as a way of improving their skills and confidence, and of course giving them something to do during the summer holidays so they don't end up bouncing off the walls! The children range from 3 to 7 years old, which is quite a difficult age group to work with, but it's been good fun despite the hard work. Tomorrow morning they will be performing the play they've been practising ("Happy Hat Land") to their parents and relatives, and hopefully *fingers crossed* it will go smoothly!

I'm still anxiously awaiting my next lot of CVs to proofread, as it's been three weeks since I last had any. The reason is that there were staffing issues in Mumbai so it's taking a while for everything to get sorted out. But I'm impatient and I need to give my brain a workout!

My parents got back from Greece yesterday, so it's a full house again. I've been playing 'Pioneer Trail' on my friend Emma's recommendation and I'm afraid to say I'm hooked...which is why it's doubly urgent that I find something more productive to do with my life!

My social life is still at an all-time high, which is fantastic! We've been going out for drinks, meals, clubbing, and tomorrow we're having a girly night in with films and tasty food. I feel like having all these friends appear out of nowhere has made me more confident, and I'm really happy despite still not having a job because I've got all these other things in my life to distract me. I'm off to Rome in three weeks as well, which is excitingly close!

So there we go. Despite the sarcasm in the title, I think my life actually has been fairly exciting lately :)

Friday, 3 August 2012

Folksy Friday - Shells

I've picked 'shells' for this week's Folksy Friday theme. I can't really explain why, it just popped into my head out of nowhere and seemed like as good a theme as any! So, here are my top Folksy picks with a natural and nautical style :)
Sea Shells Lino Print by Esme Dodsworth Design

Starfish & Shells Card by SueParCards

Sea Shell Frame with Vintage Postcard by Wonderfully Made

Shell Earrings by Lucy Campbell
Shell Pendant by Alexander Kerrison
Spindle Shell Driftwood Mirror by Driftwood Treasures

Gold Shell & Sea Glass Necklace by SeaGlassSparkles

Beach Hut Cushion by Suzie & Me

Driftwood Boat Wall Hanging by Driftwood Boat Builders
Beach Heart Hooks by offtheshorecreations

Internship & Free Candy - What a Morning!

Well that was quick, I found out today that I have been accepted for the internship, which is great! Because I'm going to Rome for a week in September, they decided to split it into two halves so somebody else will be doing the first few weeks, and I will pick up from them once I get back from my holiday. This works out really well as it means my time there will run a lot more smoothly. Now I have to sort out a bunch of things like buying some proper grown-up clothes to wear, etc ... I'm actually really nervous!

I've also signed up to write some product descriptions for CyberCandy, which is a British website that sells foods from America and other countries, and they also have a few shops (but sadly none near me). They will be sending me some free samples of candy, soda and even a lip balm, and I have to write descriptions for each of them to appear on the website. This is a nice little bit of copy writing experience, as well as a chance to get this blog linked on their site... and of course free candy!! And from the sound of it, if your descriptions are good enough then you get a chance to do more of them.

Tonight I am going to Wetherspoons with a bunch of people (I'm not actually sure who will be turning up!) so that will be good, I still can't quite believe how much of a social life I've suddenly developed out of nowhere, but hey, it's all good :)

Thursday, 2 August 2012


My interview at FusionPeople wasn't nearly as scary as I had expected. They were very friendly and seemed genuinely interested in what I could bring to the team, having just completed a creative writing degree. They said it would be great to have a creative writer on board, as a lot of tasks they are given involve copy writing and making presentations and flyers look pretty (another of my skills!)
There are a few other candidates for the role, but I like to think I have a really good chance of being picked. Fingers crossed!
In other news, my brother is now home, I did a workout routine for the first time in months yesterday and now I can barely walk (perhaps this is a sign that I should be doing more of those!) and I've got a little job the week after next, helping out at a summer school for young children. I volunteered in an infant school while I was at university and had a great time, and I still sometimes pop into the school my Mum teaches at to help them take the children out on school trips and things. So I think this job will be right up my street :)
My life seems to be picking up the pace, even if it has just moved from 'snail' to 'tortoise'!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Review: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

A Long Way Down is the story of four very different people who all meet at the top of a building on New Years Eve whilst planning to commit suicide.
First there is Martin, a TV presenter who has recently spent time in jail and been hounded by the tabloids after the scandal of 'accidentally' sleeping with a fifteen-year-old girl. His career is in ruins and his wife and children have left him. His suicide attempt is interrupted by Maureen, a middle-aged mother and full time carer to her severely disabled son, who has been in a vegetative state since his birth nineteen years ago. Then there is Jess, an out-of-control eighteen year old who decided on the spur of the moment to commit suicide after being ignored by her ex boyfriend. As Martin and Maureen are sitting on Jess to prevent her from jumping, along comes JJ, an American pizza delivery man who has recently split from his band and his girlfriend.
Despite its morbid premise, this story is filled with dark humour and is surprisingly uplifting, in the way that these four different people come to develop a dysfunctional yet caring relationship. Each chapter is told from the point of view of each of the four characters, and through this we get to know them intimately, and  despite all of them being very flawed and not entirely likeable, we end up rooting for them and hoping that they all end up getting what they want.
I am a huge fan of Nick Hornby's novels, and this one is no exception. He manages to capture every little awkward detail about the way people interact, which makes his characters very vivid and relatable, and there are loads of little bits that make you go 'Oh! I do that too!' A Long Way Down is filled with ridiculously funny yet somehow totally plausible moments, such as them lying to the tabloid reporter that they saw an angel who looked like Matt Damon, and then getting into an argument about why Martin didn't ask it to appear on his talk show.
I've read that there might be a film of this being made soon, and I hope it is, because this book seems like it would translate very well into a film and (hopefully) wouldn't lose too much of its detail. I always have a soft spot for the film version of About a Boy so I have high hopes for this film!

Anyway, I give this book a 4/5, mainly because I feel like I'm a bit too generous with my book reviews and I have to avoid giving everything I read a 5, because otherwise there's not much point in even having a scale!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Review: Alba by Rachel King

I got this book free at the Healthy Planet free books place, so it's not something I would usually pick up and read, and to be honest I'm still not sure what to think of it.

The story follows Alba, a single albino schoolteacher who lives with her controlling, judgemental mother who does not allow her to express herself, and who checks her underwear drawer for signs that she has 'been with a man'. Alba has white hair, translucent skin and eyes the colour of rain. Her striking, unusual beauty has caught the attention of her headmaster, Kirkwood, who appears to be suave and charming, the black to Alba's white, but who really wishes to possess Alba for himself. In contrast there is Dutch, the outsider, who wishes to set Alba free. After the sudden death of her mother, Alba finds herself at once free to pursue her own interests, but at the same time trapped between these two very different men and their equally manipulative desires.

My main criticism is that I found the writing style to be a little bit too poetic, as if the author was consciously trying to be clever at all times. There are parts which are very well written and enjoyable, but sometimes I found myself having to reread a paragraph a few times just to figure out what was actually going on.

The story itself was interesting and contained enough twists and turns to keep me hooked, but I guess it just wasn't really to my taste. It was a bit too dark and twisted and I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable. However, that was just my personal preference, and this story is otherwise very unusual and powerful, and remained in my mind for a long time afterwards despite my criticisms.

Alba gets 3 out of 5


I haven't posted in over a week! What's been happening in my dull life?

  • My proofreading job has kicked off, I've done about 8 or 9 so far over the last week and I've been getting around 2 each day so it's keeping my brain cells in tip-top condition!
  • I've got an interview on Thursday for a 6 week work experience at Fusion People, which is the main company that the CV company belongs to. I'm a bit nervous but it should be fine as long as this horrible cold goes away soon.
  • I've developed a horrible cold out of nowhere (see above!)
  • My parents and Isaac are away for another two weeks in Greece, but my older brother Alexis will be coming home this Thursday from New Zealand, as his friend who he was travelling with had to go home because of a family problem. 
  • I finally got around to cleaning out the fridge and found a mouldy potato in a ziplock bag. I don't know who decided to put a single potato in a bag in the fridge.
  • My cat is seriously driving me up the wall with her incessant screechy meowing. She asks for food and then turns her nose up at it when I put it in her bowl. I've decided not to bother fussing over her, if she's that hungry she'll eat what she's given. Hmph.
  • I went out on Friday night, for a girls' night out to Babylon, which is a club that exclusively plays songs from the 90s. It was great fun and I can't wait to go out again.
  • I've been bitten by mosquitos and it's horrible. My legs are covered in pink spots and I look like I've got a disease. 
  • That's about it, to be honest. 
Here is a picture of me, Emma and Lyndsey doing our best duck faces:

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Review: One Day by David Nicholls

This book kept catching my eye in the charity shop but I put off buying it for ages, thinking it would be your usual sappy fairytale romance. Eventually I caved and I'm very glad I did. One Day was not at all what I'd expected. Rather than a warm, fuzzy love story, this is all about missed opportunities, loneliness, and the unfortunate habit life has of getting in the way of all our plans. 

The story begins with Emma and Dexter laying in bed the morning after their graduation in 1988. They've spent the night together, and will soon be leaving Edinburgh to return to their respective families and do not expect to see each other again. Despite this, they are brightly optimistic about what the future has in store for them.

Each chapter sees what Em and Dex are up to on the anniversaries of their first night together, spanning the next twenty years and revealing the ways in which their lives live up to and defy the expectations they had in their early twenties.

After leaving university, Dex and Em remain close friends, calling and writing to each other and meeting up as often as they can, despite their very different lifestyles. Em finds herself stuck in a depressing and low-paying job in a restaurant chain, whilst Dex moves up his career ladder in the media and becomes a successful TV presenter. As Dex embraces the celebrity lifestyle, he and Em drift apart as he prefers to spend time with his shallow, fashionable friends and feels that Em is no longer worthy of him. However, as his luck runs out, he realises that she is his only true friend, and that he needs her more than ever. 

Despite Dex's selfish behaviour towards Em, it is clear from the start that they will eventually get together. But this is not your typical happily-ever-after story, and life throws a lot of obstacles in their way, leaving the reader wondering what else could possibly go wrong. The changing backdrop of life from the eighties to the new millennium provides a lot of humour and poignancy as a social commentary on life in Britain and the changing fads and lifestyles, from the introduction of mobile phones (and everybody eventually caving in after swearing they would never buy one!) to the rising popularity of posh organic sandwiches.

I found myself becoming attached to both Em and Dex, who were extremely well-written, believable characters. Despite their flaws, they are both very sympathetic, and their banter (oh how I hate that word!) is so hilarious and sweet that it is clear from the start that they belong together. I also enjoyed the minor characters, such as Ian the failed comedian and the recurring appearances of Em and Dex's friends from university, and the way they changed as they grew older.

As usual after reading a good book, I kind of want to see the film adaptation, but I also kind of don't, because I'm scared it will be disappointing compared to the source material, and that they will probably have turned the film into a slushy sad romance a-la The Notebook and taken out all the other sides to the story. So I think I'll leave it for now, and simply recommend this brilliant book for its combination of humour, romance, tragedy and social commentary, all rolled up into one very enjoyable read. 

Now I'm off to go and make the most of my next twenty years and appreciate what I have before life cruelly ruins everything! 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Folksy Friday - Daisies

For this week's Folksy Friday I'm doing a 'daisy' theme to celebrate the possibly-hopefully-fingers-crossed nicer weather we'll be having soon. Also, Daisy is one of my middle names :) Take a look at these beautiful items I've picked out, perfect to put you in the mood for sitting in a summery meadow!

Daisy Daisy 8x8" Print by Lola's Room
Vintage 70s Daisy Cushion by Little Sally Waters
Sterling Silver & 18ct Gold Daisy Ring by Prooshan Blue
Cute Daisy Bow Dress by Moth
Pressed Daisy Hair Pins by Wishes onthe Wind
Daisy Hare Glass Sculpture by Rachel Elliott Glassworks
Daisy Necklace by Chikako Jewellery
Ox-Eye Daisy Cushion by Briars Designs
White Daisy Tiara by Love Little White Dove
Daisy, Daisy Necklace by Geek Chic Jewellery

Thanks to all the brilliant crafters whose items I have featured in this post, and I hope we get some nice weather - and maybe even some real daisies - very soon!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Book Things!

30 Coolest Alternative Book Covers - Redesigns of cover art for classic and popular books. I especially love the ones for The Catcher in the Rye, Alice in Wonderland and A Clockwork Orange - the simplest designs are the most iconic.

Judging a Book by its Cover - This blogger showed her six-year-old daughter the covers of some well-known novels and asked her to guess what they were about, with some very cute and funny results!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

The Lovely Bones is a rich and powerful novel about a family coping with the extreme grief and trauma of a child being abducted and murdered. It is narrated by Susie herself, who is watching from Heaven as her family and friends grow up without her. In this story, Heaven is different for each person, and you can have anything you want. Susie's Heaven is a poignant reflection of what any teenager would wish for - just like her school playground, except 'there were no teachers... We never had to go inside except for art class... The boys did not pinch our backsides or tell us we smelled; our textbooks were Seventeen and Glamour and Vogue'  She also surrounds herself with dogs, and is able to interact with other people whose Heavens are similar to hers.
What could have been a truly dark, depressing story is actually filled with hope and beauty, as it follows the lives of each member of the Salmon family, as well as Susie's friend and the boy with whom Susie had her first kiss shortly before being murdered. Susie's younger sister begins a relationship with a boy shortly after Susie's death. They stay together for years and eventually get engaged, much to Susie's delight. Her parents break up due to the immense stress Susie's death puts upon their relationship, and her mother travels to California and starts a new life. 
This is not a religious story, and Sebold does not force her view of life after death onto the reader. It is an uplifting idea of what might happen to people when they die, and the thought that they can watch us and that we will one day be reunited is a comforting one. But it can just as easily be taken as fantasy.
I found The Lovely Bones impossible to put down, as I was so invested in the lives of these characters. It is beautifully written and so, so, so much better than the film, which my mum and I both agreed got the story completely wrong and missed the point of the book! They just don't compare at all. 

Review: Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All

Everyone knows I'm a teeny bit obsessed with food - I'm an obese person trapped (thankfully) in a small body. I recently got shown this cool place in Havant where you can get free books which would otherwise be sent to landfill, so you're helping out the environment by recycling as well as getting some new books free of charge. I picked this one out because it's not the kind of book I would pay money for, but it's pretty interesting and easy to dip into rather than reading in one full sitting.
This book is a collection of his best and most controversial articles over the years. Hugh's agenda is a really positive one - rather than telling people never to eat meat and making them ashamed for being animal murderers, he encourages people to enjoy good quality meat from animals who were treated well, and to cook the meat in a delicious way so as to make the most of it. A lot of his articles are slating the fast food industry for their treatment of animals and the quality and nutrition of their products, and to be honest some parts did make me reconsider my love of McNuggets (I know, I'm disgusting...)
He also talks a lot about his personal experiences with food, from raising his own animals for meat, to unusual foods he's eaten (Fugu fish in Japan, and sheep's brains for example!), and fond memories of home cooking with his family. Scattered amongst these stories are recipes so you can try some of these foods yourself. I was actually quite tempted to make the tuna and egg sandwich filling he used to eat as a student, because it actually sounds amazing...!
As we all know, Hugh can be a bit of a food snob at times, and some of his articles did some across as quite patronising and out-of-touch with what 'normal' people can feasibly afford and have time to prepare. Supermarkets may be taking over the privately-owned butchers and emulsifying the country's food into bland mass-produced crap, but most people don't have the time or money to travel further afield and shop in multiple butchers and greengrocers to get their weekly shop, especially those with families and demanding jobs.  Still, I find this with most chefs, even the supposedly down-to-earth chummy ones like Jamie Oliver seem to think everyone has a fridge bursting with fresh local ingredients and hours to spend preparing the family meal each day!
Anyway, grumbles aside, this book was entertaining and informative, and the articles were varied enough to keep my attention. There is a bit of repetition, as these pieces were obviously written years apart and for separate publications, but you could be forgiven for thinking Hugh has a bit of an obsession with sheep's brains with the number of times he mentions them in different articles! 


I haven't posted in ages again, because I have been overworking at the charity shop and generally being too mopey to think of anything to say. I missed Folksy Friday this week because I worked 8 hours at British Heart and when I got home I wanted to curl into a ball. Anyway, life is more-or-less the same as ever: I'm completely broke, and I'm waiting to hear about this proofreading job and getting paranoid that eventually everyone will go "Aha, it's a hoax!' and shoot confetti at me or something like that...because that's the kind of thing that always happens to me. Well okay, not really.

I'm also looking into getting some work experience with the Navy News which my grandad used to work for (or knows someone who did, or something) because it seems like this whole job thing is about who you know, not what you know. So that would be really good if I could do that, because it's nearby and it would give me some much-needed experience with editing, even if it was mostly just photocopying and making cups of tea.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Good luck

The last few days have been really good - I've had two bits of good luck! Firstly, I've got a sort-of-kind-of job, thanks to my friend Marie who put my name forward at her job. The final arrangements just have to be sorted out, and then I'll be proofreading CVs for spelling and grammar mistakes, getting paid per CV and working from home. It's not going to be a huge wage but it's much better than anything else I could get right now,and it's really good editing experience to put on my CV.

The other cool thing that happened was that I got back in touch with my friends Emma and Lyndsey (Marie as well, but I was sort of in touch with her already!) who I was really close with all through school and college, but drifted out of contact when we all went to different universities. We went out for a drink and a catch up on Saturday evening, and I had such a lovely time. It's great to finally have a group of friends I can talk about girly things with!

And we all promised we wouldn't lose contact again. Em and I met up again this afternoon because we both had some errands to do in Havant. We had lunch and amazing hot chocolate, and we both booked to have our hair cut on Thursday, because mine is seriously in need of a trim even if I can't afford to have my roots redone at the moment - I'm hoping they look better when my hair is shorter and messier. Em also signed up to volunteer at British Heart with me. We got some free books from the free book place, then we went back to her house and watched Tangled. Good times all round!

So now I have a social life and a sort-of-job, things are looking a lot better than they were this time last week.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Folksy Friday - Books!

I didn't get around to doing Folksy Friday last week, because I was busy all day at the charity shop and I just plain forgot about it once I got home! I could have done it the next day instead, but 'Folksy Saturday' just doesn't have the same ring to it ... Anyway, to make up for it, this week's Folksy Friday is extra special, with a literary theme to match all the book reviews I've been writing lately. I've found some beautiful notebooks as well as some lovely book-related jewellery and accessories.

I have a thing about notebooks. I keep almost buying new ones for myself, before I remember I'm no longer at University and I don't really have a use for them any more. D'oh! Perhaps I should start sitting in coffee shops or park benches and writing in fancy notebooks so I can look all sophisticated like.

Anyway without further ado, I present to you this week's Folksy picks!

Penguin Classics Cameo Brooch by Literary Emporium

Happy Matryoshka Notebook by Handmade by Edwina

Upcycled 1985 Topper Notebook by Peony and Thistle
Harry Potter Book Charm Bracelet by KawaiiCandyCouture Jewellery

Book Locket and Key Necklace by Josephines

Butterfly Notepad by Ginger's Altered Bits

Sketchbook by Beetrootshed1

Caterpillar Bookends by Gigglewood Crafts

Sherlock Book Earrings by Bookity

Book Handbag by Pendipidy Book Bags 

Thanks to all the talented crafters whose items I have featured in this post, and I will be back next week with another Folksy Friday (no more slacking this time!)

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Review: Room, by Emma Donoghue

Wow. I seem to have a skill at picking the most depressing books at the moment. Room is possibly one of the most harrowing and disturbing stories I have ever read.

Jack is five, and he lives an an 11ft square room with his Ma. He has never been outside, and the room is the only world he knows. It is his entire universe. His only access to the outside world is through watching TV, and he is not aware that these things actually exist somewhere. Through Jack's innocent and stilted narration, and his conversations with Ma as she tries hard to explain the truth in a way that he will understand, the reader learns that Ma was kidnapped and locked in this room seven years ago, and that her captor frequently visits to rape her and to drop off food and supplies. 

Ma (we never find out her real name) is a wonderful mother and does the best she can in the horrible circumstances. She has taught Jack to read and write to a very high standard, she makes sure Jack exercises and stays healthy, and she helps Jack to make toys and games out of what little they have. She is determined to escape and has a regular schedule of flashing the lights on and off to try and attract attention, and shouting for help (which she disguises from Jack by pretending it is a game). But after their electricity is switched off for several days as punishment, Ma knows they must act fast if they want to get out alive. Together, she and Jack form a plan that will allow them to escape. This involves explaining to Jack that there is a whole world outside the room, something which he finds conceptually very difficult to understand.

The plan works, and Jack and Ma find themselves free at last, but both of them suffer horribly from the sudden change. Ma is reunited with her family, who believed she was dead and have already grieved and moved on with their lives. She struggles to adapt to normal life again after missing so much, and has a breakdown after an insensitive TV interview. For Jack on the other hand, everything is new and scary. He doesn't understand how to behave around other people, and is terrified of everything. Most of all, he wants to go back and live in the room where everything felt safe and familiar, and he can't understand why Ma doesn't feel the same. He wants all his things back, the dirty carpet and his old cutlery and damaged books, but Ma never wants to look at them again.

The whole story is told from Jack's point of view, but through his observation we see the damage this trauma has done not only to him, but to his mother and her long-lost family. It is a very thought-provoking and challenging read, and it left me feeling emotionally drained. The story ends on a fairly positive note, although it is clear that many more challenges lie ahead for Jack and Ma.

Room has to get a 5/5, because it is incredibly well written and researched, and has been the most emotionally affecting book I've read since The Book Thief. I would definitely recommend this book but I must warn you that there are some references to sexual and physical abuse which are pretty horrible despite being quite subtle. This is a book to be read in one sitting and then moped over for a few hours after, so set aside plenty of time and make sure you have a box of tissues handy, and maybe a nice Disney film or Rom-Com to watch afterwards to cheer yourself up!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


I love looking at the things people searched to get to my blog:

The fact that not one but two people felt the need to type 'hairy gross man' into Google absolutely cracks me up. And the three people who searched for 'nice guys eyebrows' must have been really disappointed when they clicked the link and found out that it was not, in fact, a blog filled with pictures of sexy eyebrows (??) but simply a collection of posts about the life of the world's most boring person.

But it is a bit creepy, making people's search terms public like that.

So! Anyway!

I have received two rejection emails from the lowest-rung jobs I have applied to. Even ASDA won't take me. They happily employed my antisocial eighty-year-old next door neighbour as a checkout lady, even though she constantly chews gum and calls her solicitor every time a leaf blows over our fence and into her garden ... but they won't even employ me - friendly, polite, hard-working me - to put yoghurts and toilet rolls onto a shelf. What is this world coming to?

I finally got around to filling in the form to start claiming Job Seeker's Allowance. It's a depressing thing to have to do, because it's basically admitting to myself, "Fuck, I can't get a job! I am literally unemployable!" Also I'll have to go to a load of meetings to prove that I'm looking for a job rather than just pretending to so I can sponge money off of them. When in fact, I would do literally anything if they'd just give me a chance  -  I would be a professional armpit-sniffer if it gave me a paycheck and something to do with my life!

Mainly I just feel useless. I'm a graduate with a 2:1 and I can't even get a job as a trolley-pusher. It's not even about the money, it's just feeling like I was lied to all through school and college when I was told I'd get a good job one day if I worked hard. Well, I could have dropped out of school and still had some chance at getting at least a job. Now, I'm considered overqualified for half the jobs and too inexperienced for the other half. I feel lazy and like I'm just leeching off of John and my parents.

So wow, this really really sucks! 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Tessa is sixteen, and has just found out that the leukaemia she has been fighting for four years is terminal. She doesn't have long left. With the help of her best friend Zoe, she sets on completing the list of things she wants to do before she dies. But these things are far from sentimental, including sex, drugs, and breaking the law. At first Zoe is enthusiastic about helping Tessa out, but when she discovers she is pregnant she finds it frustrating having to put her own life on hold for Tessa.

One day Tessa meets Adam, her next door neighbour, who is looking after his unstable mother since his father passed away. Together they form an inseparable bond and Tessa is able to cross 'fall in love' off her list. Part of what makes Tessa's story so heartbreaking is that she isn't afraid of dying, she just wishes she had more time, especially since meeting Adam: "I don't want to be dead," she says at one point, "I haven't been loved this way for long enough." She also desperately wants to meet Zoe's baby, but knows she'll die before the baby arrives.

Despite the very poignant subject, Downham manages to refrain from being overly sentimental. Tessa is far from perfect - she can be selfish, rude, and often pushes people away, just like any normal teenager. The story is told in first person and Tessa talks about everything in a very matter-of-fact way. Her thoughts on death are revealed through the descriptions of everyday things she encounters, such as her reaction to a dead bird that Adam and her brother Cal help to bury, and a hotel room she stayed in with her family when she was much younger, which has since been renovated and her name is no longer written on the inside of the wardrobe. She is afraid of being forgotten. 

There is also a lot of description of unpleasant things, which most stories of this kind would avoid for the purpose of sentimentality. The hospital visits are described with simple clarity, and in the last few pages as Tessa is passing away, Adam and Cal talk about hearing the sound of the fluid rattling in her lungs. There is no beauty in Tessa's death, but in the relationships she forms with those around her, who she has to leave behind. Adam's devotion to her, her parents' differing ways of coping, and her little brother Cal's attempts at coming to terms with her death - all of these are written very realistically, with the characters getting frustrated with each other and with Tessa, wishing they could move on with their own lives, and feeling guilty that they couldn't do more to help. 

Overall, I felt that this book was brilliantly written. It is difficult to write about such an unhappy subject without turning to sentimentality and doom and gloom, but the voice of Tessa is very genuine and at times she makes jokes and even forgets that she is ill. The final few chapters are especially well-written, and Downham tackles the dilemma of writing about a character dying in the first person very effectively. I found it difficult to put this book down, and the story stayed with me for a few days after I'd finished reading it. 

Review: We are all Made of Glue by Marina Lewycka

After her husband walks out on her, Georgie finds herself becoming involved in the life of her glamorous and eccentric neighbour, Mrs Shapiro. Mrs Shapiro lives with an army of cats in a dilapidated and filthy mansion, and when she slips on ice and breaks her wrist, the local estate agents begin sniffing around in hopes of buying the property from her. Georgie takes on the task of keeping the house safe, with the help of a Palestinian builder and his sons. Meanwhile at home, Georgie's teenage son is behaving very strangely, having turned to religion for fear that the world is going to end. 

The characters are written with great attention to detail, and Lewycka delights in describing all the horrible details such as the state of Mrs Shapiro's house, her clothes, and the disgusting food she serves. The estate agents and social workers are comically evil, like pantomime villains. However, beneath all this shock and humour is the harrowing story of Mrs Shapiro's past, narrowly escaping the Holocaust in 1940s Europe. There is also a thread focusing on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as told by Ali the builder. These two storylines sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable when placed side-by-side with the slapstick of the present events, and the sudden shift from the horrors of war to 'Wonder Boy' the cat doing something silly can be a bit jarring. I also found the storyline about Georgie's son a bit unnecessary; it didn't seem to add anything to the plot. It feels a bit like Lewycka has tried to fit too many stories into this book, and they don't fit together particularly well. 

However, Lewycka's trademark dark humour and vivid characterisation make up for the somewhat stretched plot, and I found this book enjoyable to read for the characters alone. I would say that this book feels a bit weaker than Lewycka's previous novels, but is still worth reading if you are a fan of hers.

3/5 - great characters and description, overly complex plot.

Friday, 29 June 2012

2:1 :)

So today I found out I have officially graduated with a 2:1...or will be graduating...or something. I'm not actually going to the graduation ceremony so I'm not 100% sure when I can officially tell people I've graduated! I'd much rather spend an extortionate amount of money on a nice meal out or something, with people I actually want to hang out with, and being able to wear my own clothes rather than a scary cloak and hat combo.
Anyway, so there's that! I'm really proud of my grade, especially since I put in a ton of effort and I'm glad it paid off.
I've been working at the charity shop all day, and it was enjoyable and productive as usual. There are some really great people there and I get along well with pretty much everybody. There's also the employee discount which means I got a bag and two books for about £3 in total. The books will be read and reviewed on this blog in due course!
Today I learnt how to code and price CDs, DVDs, video games and books. And I've been helping to train new volunteers on the till, which is funny since I only started about two weeks ago. I must be pretty good at my job!
So now I feel like the University chapter of my life is officially closed. It was fun while it lasted but now I'm ready to move onto better and brighter things...hopefully!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

More Writing Resources

  • Written? Kitten! The concept is simple. For every hundred words you write in the text box, you are rewarded with a new picture of a kitten, or a silly LOLcat meme. You can change the word quota to more or less, depending on how much you intend to write. It also saves your writing, so if you accidentally cross off the page you won't lose all your work. There is also a version with pictures of Tom Hiddleston if that's what gets the cogs whirring. 
  • The Best 100 Opening Lines - Okay, I don't agree with all of these selections, but this is a great reminder of what makes a good story opening and how to intrigue your readers and make them eager to read on!
  • The Phrase Finder - An archive of phrases, idioms and sayings, and their original meanings.
  • 72 of the Best Quotes About Writing - Exactly what it sounds like! I wish I had found this list back in my first year of University, because I remember a part of my first 'notebook' assignment was to find 5 quotations about writing, and explain them... and I struggled a lot more than I probably should have. 

News (ish) on the job search

Today I received two job-related phone calls. Neither were particularly exciting. The first sounded very much like a scam - somebody talking about a teaching assistant position, which I'm 99.999% sure I haven't ever applied to. The reason it felt like a scam to me is because recently I had an email that said something very similar, only it started talking about how much they charged for training fees and that I had to pay in advance ... so I postponed that conversation to tomorrow afternoon (well I was in Superdrug at the time, and I didn't fancy a telephone interview down the makeup aisle whether it was a real job opportunity or not). So anyway, when he rings back I will ask him when he received my application and who he got the details from. And then probably tell him I'm not interested, because the whole thing sounded very sketchy.

The second was a bit more of a confidence boost. A man from a copywriting internship in London that I applied for last Friday, ringing to confirm that I lived in Havant and to say that they would only be able to pay £400 a month to cover my travel expenses, which have only covered about a third of the total cost. As it is an unpaid internship, it simply wouldn't be feasible. But he said he was really impressed by my CV and that he would have really wanted to meet me for an interview otherwise. So that makes me feel really good, as I know I'm definitely qualified and experienced enough for the jobs I want - I just have to wait for the ideal opportunity to come along.

The rest of today was pretty good as well. I met up with my friend Claire, who I haven't seen in ages because our free days never seem to coincide. We went shopping for things for her holiday in Morocco which she is leaving for this Thursday. Her holiday shopping consisted mainly of Werthers Originals and magazines to read on the plane. Then we sat in her car sorting through her three Asda bags full of makeup and trying to narrow it down to fit one small makeup bag so that she could bring them on holiday.

I managed to resist buying any more nail polish - my nail polish box is seriously bulging at the seams and there are a few bottles in there that I haven't even used yet - but I did end up buying a new mascara, a cream eyeshadow in gold, a lipstick and a lip gloss which was on special offer.

Tomorrow I'm working at the charity shop all day. John is currently looking into booking us a couple of days in London to stay at a nice hotel and go shopping and maybe even watch a musical or visit the dungeons. I haven't been to London in a long time and it will be lovely to spend a few days just doing fun things and not worrying about being unemployed (me) or having a really soul-destroying job (him).

I have had a lingering headache for the past four days. John says I should see a doctor if it continues for much longer, but I think it's probably just because I'm getting so worked up about being unemployed!

Monday, 25 June 2012

A few useful links for creative writers

I seem to have reached a point where I've been away from University for just long enough to start thinking about writing stories for enjoyment again - not just jumping through hoops for a creative writing degree, but really letting my imagination lead the way. So, I'm placing these links here mainly so that I don't lose them, but also to help out any other writers who happen to stumble across my blog!

The Speech Accent Archive  - recordings and phonetic translations of people speaking in different accents. So if you want to write about how a character speaks when English is not their first language, but you're not sure of what their accent would sound like, this is a useful tool. Remember, it's best to write about what you know, and do your research when writing about a country or a culture that is unfamiliar to you, otherwise your writing can come across as uninformed and could even offend people.

34 Tips to Make You a Better Writer - some we've all heard before ("Write every day for 30 minutes!" Yeah, yeah) and some are more unusual and will really get you thinking. I'll definitely be putting some of these tips to use.

One Word - I love this. When you press 'go' you'll be presented with a random word (I got 'seeds'), a text box, and a timer counting down 60 seconds in which to write as much as you can on that topic. Great for making you think about topics that wouldn't otherwise cross your mind, and it can help you to come up with new ideas and directions to take a story or a poem you're stuck on.

(Click the 'writing' tag to see some links to similar tools that I've posted before)

Review: My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult

I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult's books, but weirdly, I hadn't ever read this one until recently, despite it being her most well-known novel. Jodi Picoult loves to write about controversial and divisive topics, in a way that shows all the different viewpoints, allowing readers to come to their own conclusion and often opening our eyes to the complexity of situations that on the surface might seem very straightforward. My Sister's Keeper is no exception, as it covers the topic of 'designer' babies and the ethics of having a child specifically for the purpose of saving the life of another.

The story follows thirteen-year-old Anna, who has always known that she was born in order to provide platelets and bone marrow for her older sister, Kate, who is dying from leukaemia. The story begins as Kate is suffering from kidney failure, and the family look to Anna as the donor. Sick of always being used for spare parts, Anna decides to file a lawsuit against her parents, suing them for the rights to her own body.

This 'medical emancipation' is the first case of its kind, and is obviously very controversial. Anna's mother is furious - how could she be so selfish as to effectively sign a death sentence for Kate? Each chapter follows a different point of view, from Anna, her lawyer, her mother, her father, and her brother Jesse, the black sheep of the family, who has tried to cope with his lifetime of neglect due to Kate's illness by turning to drink, drugs and arson. Interestingly, Kate's viewpoint has the least coverage in the story.

Having different chapters narrated by different characters is a common feature in Picoult's novels, because it allows us to sympathise with characters who would otherwise seem very cruel. At first Anna's mother seems like a bad parent who unfairly favours Kate and does not care about the wellbeing of Anna or Jesse, but her chapters move chronologically through the first diagnosis of Kate's leukaemia to the present day, and through her viewpoint we realise how difficult it has been for her to decide what to do, and how much love she has for all of her children.

The book is a full-on tearjerker throughout, and the ending hit me like a punch in the stomach. I haven't seen the film adaptation, but I do know that aside from the basic premise, the details and stories between the characters are very different, as are the endings, so lovers of the film might be surprised by a lot of the things that happen in this story. 

I liked My Sister's Keeper a lot. It made me think about what decision I would make if I was put in the position of either Anna or her parents, and it asked some very difficult questions about the ethics of conceiving 'donor babies'. This is definitely a book that will make you think, and hopefully leave you with an open mind and a deeper understanding of the different sides to the argument. It will also make you want to go around and give everyone you love a great big hug!

I give this book 4/5 - overall it was a really interesting story but some parts seemed to drag a bit, and felt unnecessary, such as the additional storyline of the lawyer trying to get back together with his ex. I found my eyes sliding off the page during some of these chapters. I guess the idea was to humanise him so that we'd relate to him as well as the other characters, but I just felt like if I'd wanted to read an angsty romance, then I would have picked up a different book! However, overall there was plenty to keep me turning the pages to find out what would happen, and I would recommend it to anybody who likes 'real life' stories that make you think.