Sunday, 30 December 2012

What's in My Bag Tag!

It hit youtube hard, with lots of girls living in hot countries showing off their Gucci umbrellas, but I'm bringing 'What's in My Bag?' to the blogosphere! I've recruited three lovely bloggy ladies who are going to bare the real contents of their bags to the world, you know, the practical world. There will be links to their blogs at the end of the post, so please check them out. Let's get going, here's what's in my bag today:

The Bag:
My handbag at the moment is this Fossil, brown leather, shoulder bag that I got for christmas. It is a really good satchel as it has loads and loads of pockets and a good comfortable strap which doesn't hurt my shoulder. It keeps out of the way so I can work Laila well without scaring her with a slipping bag.




Keys:
You may laugh, but my keys are caribbean clipped to the strap of my bag because they would simply run away if they were anywhere else. A large purple turtle and a tiny lego man wearing a bandana keep guard of my RADAR and house key.

Front:
In the front compartments of my bag I have two of my tear duct replacement treatments, a tiny spring pen, a little flick out magnifier and my bus pass.



Second Pocket:
More of my portable pharmacy, a bottle of 'morning energy' moisturiser which I hardly ever use but like the idea of using. A packet of mentos just because they are yummy. Carbomer gel (another tear thing), paracetamol, antihistamine for my pathetic allergies and vocal zone throat pastels for choir.

Main Compartment:
Kindle - always the reader-, earphones, and a high visibility vest for when I'm out before the sun has woken up (how long is this winter lark going to go on for?!) or when I go for a wander in the dark.

Various Pockets in the Middle:
My purse, which contains various bits and bobs, a ring which I love and aspire to wear but I get frustrated with it quite quickly and take it off. My iPod is in here too, I used the cash machine yesterday so the earphones are in another pocket separately. And my phone, but I am taking the photos with that!

Back Pocket:
Black and red, rather old, fingerless gloves. Spending bags for Laila (ever practical) and some Carex refreshing wipes.



So in summary my bag is very full, very practical and is basically my survival kit for any situation I may come across. 

Check out my fellow participants:

And why don't you join in?







Friday, 21 December 2012

Seriously I'm Kidding - Ellen Degeneres

Blurb:
"Oh, hi. I'm so glad you decided to turn the book over. Inside you will find an assortment of wonderful things - words, pictures, advice, tidbits, morsels, shenanigans, and, in some copies, four hundred dollars cash. So you might want to buy a few."

Many know Ellen as a witty talk show host with hilarious monologues and a tendency to dance. Not many will know that she also writes, and compelling reads they are too. I bought the audio download of 'Seriously I'm Kidding' from itunes for £11.95- but it was well worth the steep price. This book is the most addictive thing since angry birds, with a mixture of advice, anecdotes, and just outright hilarity. 

The audiobook, I get the impression, is very different from the paper copy. In the audio edition Ellen openly addresses the listener similar to the way she does in her show, this works a treat. She also makes several references to the fact that readers are 'listening' to her. The audiobook is read by Ellen herself, which is a bonus in the autobiography scene. But this isn't just an autobiography, in fact I'm not sure if it even is, it is more an audio production and a must see play. The informal style makes it a light hearted read, but you most certainly will not be putting it down or pressing pause. I listened to this book months ago, yet still at night I will pick out chapters to listen to. 

Ellen's third book has made a huge impact, so what's next? What a fantastic achievement for her to have produced such a unique and spellbinding book. The only criticism I can find is the itunes price, though it was well worth it. 


Book cover

Friday, 14 December 2012

Perfect People - Peter James


This book is a thriller which will keep you gripped from the very start. John and Naomi are still mourning the loss of their young son Hallie, who died of a rare hereditary disease caused by a complication in their gene pools. They long for a family but daren’t take the risk of losing another child. That’s until they meet scientist Dr Leo Detorre, who can make children who are not only perfect, but invincible too. Facing bankruptcy and debts, John and Naomi set off on a journey to create their perfect son, one that could live and experience what their deceased son couldn’t. However, Dr Detorre’s controversial practice causes a stir throughout the world, a religious group- Disciples of the Third Millennium are rising against his techniques in the name of God; and they will not stop until they gain justice. No matter what it takes.
I think this book covers such an interesting topic, and all through the book I kept thinking ‘is this really what we should fear for the future?’. Genetically modified or designer babies could leave natural children at a major disadvantage intellectually, making them second class citizens. Plus, if designer babies become a regular occrance what can we expect from life? Death would become an anomaly because everyone is immune to everything, everyone becomes equal intellectually so no progress can ever be gained, and everyone would want the same positive characteristics, so everyone would be the same.
I found John and Naomi particularly powerful characters who really jumped out of the page, their emotions were so realistic and deep. At first they are filled with delight and naivety as they realise their dream child can become a reality, turning to shock and exhausted adrenaline as things rapidly fall apart. So read this book, get your clone to read it, and design your children to like it too!
Four stars
* * * *
Book Cover

Thursday, 13 December 2012

In my stocking... Christmas Book Haul

Every year at christmas I get through a fair amount of books. Also, due to the general generosity of the season I feel I can indulge myself with a few good titles (after I've managed to get everyone's presents sorted of course)! Recently I've been ill and off school for a few weeks (long story) and have read and listened to everything I own, so it is all the more reason to get buying!

A beautiful old fashioned book cover with green swirls entitled 'dolly' with a lifeless doll beneath the title.

1) Dolly by Susan Hill
I was so excited to see that Susan Hill (author of The Women in Black and The Small Hand) has a new book out. It was brought to my attention when my ever loving Father started boasting about how beautiful the hardback is, with such a beautiful dust wrapper. Sure- a hardback copy would be little to no use to me, but I do love books. I bought it for my kindle for £4.74 at Amazon.

"The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer. At Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper. At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses appear simply spiteful, calculated to destroy Edward's equanimity. But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life destroying, consequences for everyone."


Dolly's Book Trailer - 




A door knokker is on the cover2) The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert
I usually would decide against reading a book when I know what happens at the end, especially in ghost/mystery genres. However after watching the recent serial drama on BBC 1 based on this book I was head over heels in love with the plot and needed to know more. I bought The Secrets of Crickley Hall as an unabridged audiobook from Audible for one audible credit, but it retails for non-members at £15.74.


"There is an old, empty house in Devil's Cleave, a deep gorge that leads from the high moors down to the harbour village of Hollow Bay. The house is Crickley Hall and it's large and grim, somehow foreboding. It's rumoured to be haunted. It's thought to hold a secret. Despite some reservations, the Caleighs move in, searching for respite in this beautiful part of North Devon, seeking peace and perhaps to come to terms with what's happened to them as a family.
But all is not well with the house. They hear unaccountable noises. A cellar door they shut every night is always open again in the morning. They see things that cannot be real. The house is the last place the Caleighs should have come to, for the terror that unfolds is beyond belief. Soon they will discover the secret horror of Crickley Hall...."



The Secret of Crickley Hall's Television Advert (from the serial drama): 



A planet with a tongue sticking out, and a hitchhiking thumb on the cover3) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I know I know, how on earth have I got to this point in my life (at 15 years and 7 months) without reading this book?! Not only as a book reviewer but as a general human being? I can't wait to get stuck into this award winning read, so I can finally put a story behind the quotes I know (somehow) from here. I got a download from Audible with a credit, and it retails at £8.92.

"One Thursday lunchtime, the Earth gets unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the galaxy is a very strange and startling place."







Two figures embracing underwater, one male and one female. The female wearing a long white dress and the man a shirt and black trousers with the shirt sleeves rolled up.4) The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
This book has had more hype surrounding it than a grandparent at a birthday party. I am nervous to read this book in case it doesn't live up to my seriously high hopes for it. I bought it for Kindle at £4.99.

"Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger. She wakes from a coma in hospital with no memory of how she got there or of the bizarre accident that caused the deaths of her best friends and her boyfriend, yet left her mysteriously unharmed. The doctors suggest that starting over in a new city, a new school, would be good for her and just to let the memories gradually come back on their own. But Mara's new start is anything but comforting. She sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere, and when she suddenly begins to see other people's deaths right before they happen, Mara wonders whether she's going crazy! And if dealing with all this wasn't enough, Noah Shaw, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen can't seem to leave her alone… but as her life unravels around her, Mara can't help but wonder if Noah has another agenda altogether…"


The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer's Book Trailer- 





5) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Three faces with three different back grounds are above the title 'Good Omens' This was something that, like Hitchhikers, I HAD to be exposed to. My best friend is on the verge of killing me for claiming that "I am not a fan of Neil Gaiman" after reviewing Coraline as 'Disappointing'. Apparently his children's and adults books are worlds apart and I simply must persevere. So I shall... to protect our friendship. I bought an audible download for one membership credit and it retails at £11.02. As not a big fan of fantasy, and a pessimist, I am sceptical about this one.

"According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch - the world's only totally reliable guide to the future - the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea...The armies of Good and Evil are amassing, the Four Bikers of the apocalypse are revving up, and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not particularly looking forward to the coming rapture - having thoroughly enjoyed life on earth amongst the mortals.

If Crowley and Aziraphale are going to stop it from happening, they've got to find and kill the Antichrist. There's just one glitch: someone seems to have misplaced him..."


A merry holiday book shopping to you all! 
What is in your winter reads? 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Wildthorn - Jane Eagland

Betrayal is deeply riddled within this story, and the plot just keeps twisting. Louisa Cosgrove is from a high class Victorian family, her father is a doctor, her brother is his apprentice and her mother is a lady of leisure. But Louisa is unhappy, she wants more from her future than just marriage and children and refuses to be like her mother. What nobody knows is that she studies medicine in her free time, reading her father’s books, and longs to become a doctor. But sometimes the most powerful thing to stand in your way are those who supposedly support you, and when an unexpected death occurs Louisa’s life begins spiralling out of control…


This book admittedly took a lot of determination to finish, I believe I started reading it close to a year ago and have only just finished it today, I think maybe this is because the plot can be very slow moving in some places and tends to drag on a bit. However, it is nicely put together and well researched. The romance aspect of the book is quite tiring by the end, and the plot very exhausting and highly depressing. I find the idea interesting: being falsely placed in an asylum and how to go about  proving your sanity in such a maddening situation.
Overall, a not too interesting read, be prepared to make a commitment.
One star.
*
Wildthorn Cover

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Faults in Our Stars - John Green


Blurb:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never beenanything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. 
Synopsis:
Hazel has cancer, but she wouldn’t want you to trouble yourselves with it. In her opinion she was fine, watching America’s Next Top Model and reading all day. Not going to school because, being pulled out of education is a side affect of cancer- and (alas) a symptom of dying. That’s when her Mum puts her foot down, and insists on her cynical sixteen year old going to a kids with cancer support group. Long dull meetings about fighting and winning and living and being grateful for what little they have. Well that’s until she met Augustus Waters at the group, they become friends quickly and when Hazel shares with him her favourite book, ’An Imperial Affliction’ it will lead them on a journey which will change everything.
Notes:
This book is something to be treasured and kept close to the heart. It holds messages which we could all use in life, nothing lasts for ever and love is everything. John Green’s use of language is something that makes him so appealing, the correct use of the word ‘literally’ and the effortless comedy in the book is faultless. The characters have such personality and the quirks of their personality are so amazing you would think they were real people who John met one day and wrote a book about. For example Augustus holding an unlit cigarette in his mouth as a metaphor of power. It remaining unlit means you aren’t giving the killing thing the power to kill. Also I adore how the whole book is based on a book, and even more amazingly (to my disappointment) the book the plot is based on doesn’t actually exist anywhere else but in Mr Green’s head. I now long for ‘An Imperial Affliction’ to exist because I would love Hazel’s whole-hearted devotion to the book and the way it shapes her thoughts. I think the use of this fictional book in this fictional novel is a clever way of John Green slotting in thoughts and morals without it twisting the original plot. One of such quotes (which I can use regularly in a morbid fashion) is: “That’s the thing about pain- it demands to be felt.” Much praise for a fantastic book.
Cover: The cover is a bright blue colour with a handwritten title in a black cloud shape, the authors name in a similar style in a white cloud and references to John Green’s literary success faded in the back ground.
Five Stars.
(Audiobook- Audible)
* * * * *
The faults in our stars cover

Monday, 26 November 2012

Transexual Teen, Beauty Queen - Body Beautiful Season


First Shown: Tue 20 Nov 2012, 21:00, BBC Three
Online (available until 27 Nov): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00w09yg/Transsexual_Teen_Beauty_Queen/

'Transexual teen, beauty queen' was one of these programmes that I probably didn't really need to watch, as it had dominated my Facebook newsfeed like wildfire. So, out of curiosity, I got it up on iplayer and watched for myself.

The hour long film follows the story of Jackie Green, age nineteen, who was born as Jack Green. Jackie is a gutsy, confident average teenage girl by all accounts, but her expression shifts as she explains how things used to be. Jackie, like many transgender children, knew who she was and what was wrong. As she said in the programme: "It's like a birth defect". Throughout the documentary there was a large focus on the past, how she had attempted suicide several times as a child and when she told her Mum for the first time at age four that "God has made a mistake, I should be a girl.". Jackie was started on hormone treatment at the age of just 14, preventing her going through male puberty and meaning that her voice remained high. To Jackie these puberty blockers gave her hope for the future, and (she admits) saved her life.

It wasn't easy though, to get this controversial treatment at age 14 she needed to get treatment in the Boston Children's Hospital, where they could legally administer the treatment. Jackie suffered constant, malicious bullying from her peers at school, which eventually caused her to steal a packet of paracetamol and overdose. This made it clear in her Mother's mind that she couldn't go on being physically a boy. At 16 Jackie pushed the boundaries again by becoming the youngest person in the UK to have gender reassignment surgery,  by travelling to Thailand where a surgeon was willing to operate on her on her sixteenth birthday.

Now 19, and comfortable in her rightful gender, Jackie Green wants to be a beauty queen. The documentary follows Jackie and her Mum through two heats of 'Miss England' and then onto the semi finals. In the first heat Jackie chose to tell the judges in the interview round about her past, a brave choice, but the judges didn't seem to respond anything but supportively. However she unfortunately did not get through to the next round in this heat. The BBC producer seemed persistent in asking her if she felt that telling the judges about being transgender had disadvantaged her in the competition. She was, frustratingly, asked the same ignorant question throughout the programme but her answer remained the same. It seemed that the interviewer wanted some admission that being transgender was a disadvantage- but he wasn't going to get one. I admired Jackie enormously as she smiled and replied that; no, it shouldn't do, because she is a girl like all the other contestants.

One thing I actively disliked in this documentary was the post production, the voiceover in particular was increasingly irritating. For example after the judges verdict was delivered we follow Jackie as she silently cries in her beautiful dress, and her Mum consoles her. When they turn to go back inside the voiceover announces "We decided to give Jackie and her Mum some privacy". I don't feel, that in fly on the wall documentaries this is a very good thing to say. We are blood thirsty viewers! We want emotion, tears, screams, we want to know what next! The next thing we hear is "When we join Jackie again she is on stage". Woah, if you are filming a documentary on an event, you need to actually be at the event to capture what happens. Surely that is just simple logic? The BBC director actually has to ask someone what's going on. Turns out that the lovely Miss Jackie Green had won 'Miss Personality' while the BBC were kicking their heels. How wonderful it would have been to see her amazed reaction as her name was announced. *sigh*. She seemed delighted with the result of 'Miss Personality' but was still disappointed not to make it through to the next round.

The second heat was a second chance and Jackie chose not to tell the judges about her past during the interview round. Naturally, she was sprung upon by the BBC producer as to why. She patiently explained that it is one thing for people to know her story and accept her, however she wants to be accepted as just Jackie. Not transgender Jackie or anything else. I think this is a great attitude to have and she even gained an all important place in the semi-finals in this heat. Strangely, the shortest part of the film was when Jackie was in the semi finals, a bizarre editing move, but sadly she didn't get through to the finals.

Overall, I think this was a very inspiring story and it really full filled Jackie's aim- to raise awareness of transgender people. However I think the writing, interviewing and post production was just generally clunky and inadequate.





Friday, 23 November 2012

Noughts and Crosses - Malorie Blackman


Blurb:
Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a nought – a ‘colourless’ member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Cross schools…Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…
Synopsis:
A taboo romance is never a good thing for the daughter of the deputy Prime Minister, but for her to go out with a cross boy? It just can’t go on. Persephone Hadley is irreversibly in love with her childhood best friend Callum, growing up together in a child’s world of make believe where race and politics were irrelevant. Sadly they grow up and have to face the music, where Callum is no longer a suitable friend. In fact, he’s not suitable to be or do anything. Crosses run the country, take the top spots and Noughts pick up what’s left. And that is how Persephone Hadley and Callum McGregor (rather forcibly) grew apart.
Notes:
I love this book, it reminds me strongly of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ but reversed. The fear and taboo around race is so sureal compared to the mostly accepting society we live in. In the book it takes a while to figure out that noughts are white people and crosses black. Noughts are second class citizens to the crosses. The book is timeless, it is hard to tell if it is set in the future, past or present or an imaginary country far far away. Another thing that this book has done for me is made me absolutely fall in love with the name Persephone! Noughts and Crosses is also now a play, which I can imagine really well and would love the opportunity to see it if it ever came near me. I think the plot is so intricate yet seamless and lots of hidden meanings (which I love)! For example, Noughts and Crosses in the game, if a nought and cross are in the same line neither can win. They are always destined to be at loggerheads. Heart wrenching, heart warming and heart breaking.
Cover:
A simple but affective cover, half black and half white with a firm split in the middle. In the black section is a white nought (representing the white people known as noughts) and in the white part a black cross. ‘Malorie Blackman Noughts and Crosses’.
Four stars.
(Audiobook)
* * * *
Noughts and Crosses cover

I Want to Change My Body - Body Beautiful Season

The Body Beautiful Season Programme Banner
First Shown: Monday 19th of November, 21:00pm, BBC Three
Iplayer (available to 26th November): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00tt4fr/I_Want_to_Change_My_Body/

Being the documentary nerd that I am, and someone who is passionate about encouraging self acceptance, BBC Three's new 'Body Beautiful' season seemed right up my street. So with my recorder set, I vowed to review and share my thoughts on each episode of the season. The series began with "I want to change my body". 

A girl with dark hair holds an orange card with 'Is it Normal?' written on it. BBC Three told thirty body conscious young people to film themselves as they make attempts to change their bodies forever. From boob jobs, to nose jobs, to diets, to hair transplants - this 1.5 hour insight was set to be an eye opener. What stood out to me instantly was the variety in the personalities of the contributors, some were stereotypically vain, whilst others were shy. I think that this, for me certainly, hit home that these days cosmetic surgery is not just for the rich and the vain, it is available to just about anyone with their payback plans and endless lists of performable procedures. Whether this is a good thing or not is another matter, statistics show that Britain is in body confidence crisis- and the amount of surgery available means that if you want it, you can have it. Raising the question: is it OK to be aesthetically real anymore?

One of the more unusual procedures that the programme covered was hair implantation, I had never heard of this before but I think it is great that it was featured in the film. Hair loss can really knock people's confidence, as we saw in contributor Matt. Matt's implantation was very successful and he described a huge boost in his self esteem. Awareness of these minor procedures could radically improve somebodies quality of life, and let them gain the self esteem they need to enjoy life like they used to. 

However it wasn't all merry and fine. One point I had to question the programme on was the inclusion of two young ladies, Chloe (19) and Alice (16). Chloe's hair caught alight in a traumatic accident earlier this year and since she has been confined to wear pressure garments 23 hours a day. I find her story really upsetting, and I admire her bravery enormously, but I don't understand what her role in the film was supposed to be. She wasn't wanting to change her body like her fellow contributors, she wanted to get it back. It wasn't a 'want' or a 'tweak' it was a medical and physical need. Perhaps her role in the film was to be a reminder that we should be grateful in our own skin, but if it was then this moral was put across very poorly. Likewise, Alice suffers with Alopecia, a medical condition which in her case has caused total hair loss. If Alice and Chloe went through a journey like the others did, such as seeing specialists, then it would of been nice to see that in the episode. These two brave girls seemed to be the odd ones out in this film. 

Another contributor who concerned me was 18 year old Chloe, who wanted to lose weight in order to be able to pursue her career as an actor. To do this Chloe was going to be going on a liquid diet in an attempt to lose four stone in four months. Liquid diets are highly discouraged by dietitians, due to the lack of nutrients in the drinks and the affect it has on the body's metabolism. However, they do cause fast, but temporary, weight loss. I was worried that if the film only showed Chloe losing weight successfully, and didn't show that very often when the liquid fast is stopped the weight is rapidly gained again, it would encourage this unhealthy lifestyle. I needn't have worried though, Chloe gave up on the diet after a few weeks and chose a healthier option of eating less and exercising more, and we even saw it work for her! It's great to see that the healthiest dieting technique was promoted.

A selection of images from the programme, including Chloe in her purple facial pressure garment.


Overall I found this programme very interesting, but I can't help questioning some of the BBC's choices regarding contributors. I think it is a great start to a, hopefully, eye opening season of insights into Britain's body confidence crisis.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Kiss - Jacqueline Wilson


Blurb:
Sylvie and Carl have been friends since they were tiny. They’ve always played together, eaten with each other’s families, called each other boyfriend and girlfriend… They even have a fantasy world that belongs to them alone. But as they become teenagers, things are starting to change. They each have different friends. Sylvie would still rather spend all her time with Carl. But Carl has a new friend, Paul, who is taking all his attention. And he seems much less happy to be called Sylvie’s boyfriend. Sylvie can tell his feelings have changed, but can she guess at the true reasons behind it all?

Synopsis:
Sylvie and Carl like many other pre-teens are finding their feet romantically. Though they have only ever been close friends they have always called each other ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’. This had never been put to the test until Sylvie finds herself telling white lies in the girls toilet, and soon she realises that she wants nothing more than that lie to be true and Carl to be her real boyfriend. Then Miranda -despite their startlingly different personalities- becomes Sylvie’s best friend, and she’s after Carl too- despite believing Sylvie and Carl are together. Carl has a new friend too, Paul likes football and bowling and is nothing like Carl either. The everything comes to a head in a game of spin the bottle, but will anyone’s dreams come true, or will they all be smashed to smithereens?

Notes:
I think that this book is a great example of feeding kids some good morals through reading, it’s accurate, interesting, hard-hitting and emotional. However I do believe that for anyone over the age of twelve this book may get you cringing like nothing you have read before. Sylvie’s obsession with Carl is frankly toe-curling at times and in some places she is hopelessly naive. I think with homophobic bullying at an all time high, it is great for pre-teens but to see another book on a similar subject aimed at a higher age group would be fantastic. Bringing sexuality into a pre-teen/children’s book was a daring move but in this case it really did pay off well. Overall I found it enjoyable, but not the best book i’ve clapped eyes on.

Cover:
The cover is classic of Jaqueline Wilson’s books, brightly coloured with a prominent title. On an orange background a red heart shape is surrounded by broken glass, above it ‘kiss’ is written in large red letters.

Two stars
(audiobook)
* *Kiss by Jaqueline wilson

Teatime Reads Weekly

I am writing to you from the past... *ghost face*... just kidding, I am but there's nothing paranormal about it - I just discovered post scheduling. I have decided (as I said in my 7,000 views post) that I will put book reviews up on this blog, so everything is in one place. But, so as not to spam my lovely followers, I have set up a timer that once a week a book review will be uploaded here. The timer is set for Friday's at 6:30pm hence the name 'Teatime reads'. I am quite pleased with myself because now I can just add books to the feed as I go along and there is less pressure.
Lets see how it goes shall we?

Ladies and Gentleman, you will receive a review in exactly half an hour...


A hot chocolate in a delicate cup

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Before I Die - Jenny Downham


Here is a classic Young Adult novel – Before I Die. The miserable title is enough to make any teen want to flick through the pages. It has a lovely saddening cover of a girl lying morbidly in a field which will most certainy appeal to the target market.
Tessa has leukemia, a cancer of the blood. It is fatal in most cases and to live, agonising chemotherapy is needed. Tessa is like any other teen, she lies in bed most of the day – but she is held down by pain not laziness. She quit her hospital treatments and has made a list of things she wants to do before she dies. So the book follows her as she works through her list which includes: shoplifting, sex, going back to a family holiday home, driving, falling in love, riding a motorbike, drugs and alcohol. There are high’s and lows, and the book faces a lot of issues head on.
The ending is incredibly sad, well… the title gives it a way some what. This book makes your heart flutter and your tears flow! I give it a five star rating for it's brilliant plot, excellent characters and amazingness from the first to the last page!
Don't miss "Before I Die", which is now in cinema's as a motion picture entitled: "Now is Good". 
* * * * *
cover

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Blog Ideas :) 7,000 BLOG VIEWS!! *Party Popper*

Hello!
We did it guys, 7,000 blog views :) YAY!
So to celebrate I thought I would attempt to step things up a little here on Small Print Larger to get the most out of all of your support.

Some of you may be aware that I have a book reviewing website- www.blurbcatcher.net - where I review books for both freelance and publisher's requests. I am toying with the idea of slowly, emphasise the slowly, moving blurb catcher over here to small print larger. It came to me while I was writing an Advanced Reading Copy request to a publisher, and typed: 'Blurb catcher demonstrates all that books have to offer, showing only books that can be enjoyed by everyone'. I stopped and thought for a bit: "Hmmmm... isn't that sounding a bit small print larger-ish?" and yes, it really was. So I am going to schedule a feed of book reviews to be sent from blurb catcher and published onto here (a schedule will stop me forgetting!). Then I possibly will carry on reviewing here, or on blurb catcher- who knows.

Next comments, comments are now screenreader accessible everyone!! They are also so much easier to publish as you don't need an openID anymore. I am ashamed that I failed to notice that commenting on my blog was so difficult, but it's all fixed. So forgive me please?

More Audioboo imbeds coming up, lots of crazy stuff is happening over at audioboo and I am lucky enough to be involved! I will post about that shortly, but I am very excited! I am passionate about accessible media so why not fit the two together? Blogger and audioboo go hand in hand nicely, and being able to boo my posts will help me upload more.

Q&A's, ah good old question and answers. I am thinking of doing some of these on several topics to attempt to boost my audience participation and readers. I'll let you know when I'm up for starting that.

If you have any ideas, do let me know in my NOW ACCESSIBLE comments :D
And thank you all so much for getting me here!

Imi :)

Work Experience Audio Diary!

I had a wonderful week at the Guide Dogs Office in Beverley, follow this audio diary to see what I got up to!













I'd like to also say a huge thank you to everyone at the Guide Dogs Office (dogs included) for making me and Laila so welcome. Also thank you to everyone who liked my Facebook page, and it's not too late to get involved in my awareness raising page!

Friday, 19 October 2012

My Big Bowl of Self Esteem.

Pink bowl, with 'BIG BOWLOF SELF ESTEEM' handwritten onto the side, a golden dog's paw rests on it.

I have so so so much to blog about, but it's late so I can only say one thing. It's going to be this. I set myself a little thinking task tonight, I wrote on a pink bowl "Big bowl of self esteem". Well actually that's not true, I wrote it twice- but it rubbed off the first time due to incorrect pen usage. So am I mad? Yes, very possibly. Is there meaning to the madness? Of course. I was sitting here in my room repeatedly face palming (for those not in the know, 'face palming' or the act: 'To face palm' is the action of holding your head in your hands as a general sign of defeat to the world). As I did this I was thinking many things, most beginning with "Why am I so..." and completed with a negative phrase of my own choosing. Then- Boom- insane brainwave. I went to the kitchen, consulted Mother on logistics, and then inscribed on this bright pink bowl "Big Bowl of Self Esteem". It's a symbol (I like symbols), every time I'm feeling negative I'm going to counteract it by mentally putting a good thought about myself into the bowl. It will also be nice to eat cheerios out of.

This is a creative, somewhat unique idea- I admit. I'm tired, so it is mostly just a spontaneous burst of directionless creativity. But maybe, just maybe it will help. I might be able to accept compliments a bit more than I do normally through this exercise by using them to put in the bowl. It has all sorts of meanings to me. As Laila is symbolising by putting her paw in the picture above, 'things are a-foot!'.

What would be in your bowl of self esteem?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

It's a Calcutastrophe!

Today I have had to leave an internal maths exam half finished once again, due to issues with calculators. But these aren't normal calculator problems, oh no my friend, these seem to be incredible feats of electrical fault. So if you feel like something a bit spooky and geeky, here it is:

Ok, last week I was off ill from school a fair bit with a horrible stress thing that seemed to turn me into an angry, sleepy, snivelling, vomitting monster. I rose out of my duvet this monday morning feeling a lot better and ready to face school again. During my absence I missed an internal maths exam. 'Hey ho' I thought. 're-sit'. Not so easy!

The first hour of my exam went well, despite it being a very difficult paper I was pleased with my progress. I was using my popular make of talking calculator which had accompanied me to maths lessons and exams the whole of the last academic year. It's when I moved on to use my extra time (100%) that the trouble started. A whole eight minutes into my time my talking calculator made the most amazing high frequency, top volume, continuous squeal in my ear and proceeded to continue for the next ten minutes as both of my teaching assistants, after stopping my time, rapidly tried to bring it back into normal, mathematical life. They turned it on, they turned it off, they replaced the ear phones- nothing could stop it. When the buzzing did eventually die the speech on the calculator was silent, with random unprompted out bursts of "7 Trillion 300 and 1".

Two Identicle blue calculators on a desk with a woman's hand unravelling new headphones to try in them.

Moving onto a new tac, and my time still stopped, one of my TA's ran out of the classroom that had been booked specially and to the maths department to collect another VI girls calculator- one that was hardly ever used as the other pupil can use normal calculators. She put the new calculator down, takes a seat next to my other TA and tells me I can reopen my paper. I type in the first number and... BEEEEEEP... exactly the same thing. This time a nice little error message that wasn't written in the manual as even existing came up too. The poor calculator was screaming like I had shoved a knife through it, if it wasn't inanimate of course (because I do like personification). We called it a day at that point, presuming (however odd) it was some kind of signal interruption.

That brings us onto today, Wednesday. After many phone calls to the visual impairment service technicians the two; identical, seemingly broken, calculators were picked up and replaced with another calculator, also identical, but which I was assured was brand new and would work. Guess what? It didn't! I had barely started where I'd left off when the deafening screech piped up again, so loud that the whole room turned in alarm at the noise protruding from my headphones. My TA looked bewildered, and I was too frustrated and confused to be anything else really. I went back with her to the VI office where she made yet another call to the technicians who guided her through several steps to make the calculator shut up. All the time my other teaching assistant, who witnessed calculator saga one and two, could only say "How?!". At this point I was becoming mildly perplexed that at some point, someone might accuse me of purposely doing something to them. But I couldn't be, it was a perfectly normal calculation, the kind i'd used done on this kind of calculator for years.

A picture of my Dad looking bankly at my red home calculator
My Dad trying to work out how to stop my
calculator screaming.
Everyone was pretty confused at this point, and my SENCO was away, so the best plan we could think of was for my parents to invigilate the exam and for me to use my own, personal, calculator of the same make to do the exam. These calculators cost £500 each, and with it being my own calculator bought by my parents, we didn't want to risk taking it to school. My Dad sits down next to me, passes over my paper (really enjoying playing as an invigilator) and the clock had barely started when... BEEEEEP. "I don't BELIEVE it!" We both say at the same time. Same saga: screeching, changing headphones- still screeching, turning on and off, speech disappears. This went on for half an hour, alternating between high pitch wails from the calculator and eerie silence from the headphones. At this point I show my Dad the calculation- "That's not unreasonable is it? I'm not overloading it?" Dad assures me that any calculator should be able to do that sum, and tells me that it can't be the equation. He asks questions about the other calculators, and also asks me if I've noticed getting a lot of static shocks recently.

That must be it- I have magical hands of mathematical destruction. So there is a lot to sort out tomorrow, such as calling the company to ask if it is some kind of suicide chip in all of the calculators we've tried, and working out what to do. So there you have it- four calculators which had never had a single fault before, including one new out of the box, broken at the same time. I don't believe I am being hasty in calling this a calcutastrophe!


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Written with a dog across my feet...

Ok I am going to be honest, the starting of school hasn't been the best. I've damaged my back from an unavoidably heavy backpack, the lessons are picking up momentum and stress is at an all time high. However, throw a dog into the mix and you get an unusual result. No panic attacks in lessons, which I used to be very prone to, and develop a way of being able to forget things temporarily and focus on studies. However when things were at their worst last week Laila got a bit strange, she did several woof's in lessons and other public places (I think its an over exaggeration to call it barking) and was very tense on the school field as a cat went by. This made me even more stressed- on top of all this is my beloved dog going crackers?! Tracey, our guide dog trainer came to school one morning to help us out, and after a talk with my SENCO came to the conclusion that I was stressed, so Laila was stressed. She also explained that unfortunately 'putting a brave face on' doesn't work with dogs, so there's no fooling her. Thinking back, it's a rather cute concept that the barking and tenseness around the cat was just her trying to look after me and not let anything stress me out more. Also her total trust in my emotions is rather worrying, if I'm stressing, she's stressing, simple as.

So we've been working together on that one, but that's not what I'm writing this about. I'm writing about the link between my messed up teenage brain and whatever is going on in her little canine skull.  Laila is a queen of procrastination, food time? - Guaranteed she will want a huge drink. I can most certainly relate to this (I should be doing shakespeare work right now). Also she is not a big fan of eating, another definite similarity to myself.

Secondly she is very stubborn, just like me. If she wants to make a point she will, if I miss feeding time by a minute she runs to me, runs to the kitchen and repeats until I get the message.

Caring, If I'm upset she will find a way to get as close to me as possible. Even if i'm in bed she will find my foot under the duvet and lick it until I get out and onto the floor to give her a proper hug.

Dependent, I was trying to explain this the other day without sounding like a control freak and failed miserably. But I will try again. It's a bit like when you are a little child and get a present at christmas and it is all yours, you know how it works, how to play with it, and what it's imaginary voice sounds like. I know Laila, and I know how she works and she knows how I work. I like being the one that she listens to, and that she doesn't care what anyone else is doing much. It's nice to be needed and wanted basically.

She is also eternally grateful for near enough everything. Just now we were playing in the garden and after she had collected her toy from the other end of the garden a few times she dropped it mid-run and came up to me and nuzzled against my leg to tell me how good it is that we're playing and thank you. See there I go again... she is probably just thinking woof woof woof but I give her a voice, it's a connection you see.

We do everything together, I just love her I really really do.

I know it's only been a tiny time that I've had her but it's made just such an immense difference. I've just realised as well that these things aren't necessarily guide dog things, nothing about independence in there. Of course I love her in her working capacity also, but she's a dog with a job and I love that dog. This article was inspired by this video that I was pointed towards today:




Let me know what you think in the comments and I would love to hear your guide dog stories too (or just stories).

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

VICTA Weekend

This summer holidays I went into VICTA ambassador mode for a fantastic long weekend at Swindon PGL. VICTA, a charity for visually impaired children and young people, held a family weekend which was fun for all ages. The parents and children had a fun filled activity timetable, the kids split into age appropriate groups, the adults had a separate timetable and so did the 18-25's. The rooms were simple but comfy and myself and my friend from beforehand, Tiri, settled in right away. The food was delicious, with a wide variety of hot meals and salad.

I only took part in a few of the activities, spending the rest of the time helping in the creche, but my favourite activity would have to be aeroball, jumping around on a trampoline chucking a ball at your opponent and aiming at a net (but mostly failing)- what's not to like? The weekend was a fantastic chance to meet visually impaired young people and children from all over the country, and friends were made quickly through the activities.

All the PGL staff were fantastic and very helpful, they were good fun, enthusiastic and made sure everyone could take part in the activities by making them accessible. Other activities to take part in were; raft building, vertical challenge, rock climbing, survival and zip wire. There was also a creche for children under five, so their parents could take part in their own activity and talk timetable. I helped out in the creche and it was great with lots of:  toys, singing and toy story watching!

The weekend ended with a pirate themed evening, prizes were awarded to the best dressed family and the VICTA mole mascot was officially named 'Truffles'. As all the families said their goodbye's it was obvious that the weekend had been a great success, friends were made, fun was had and advice was swapped. A very valuable experience- roll on next year!




Tuesday, 4 September 2012

There's a Dog!! - Dear all BHS girls :)

This post is directed at anyone at my school who is probably not looking forward to tomorrow very much.

Hi everyone,
I hope you had a good summer, and are feeling alright about going back tomorrow. I won't keep you long- I just have an important message for all of you. Most of you know that I am visually impaired (I'm blinder than what you'd expect partially sighted people to see, but not completely blind) and you've probably seen me walking around with my white cane, or stick. I can't see where I am going, so I depended on that cane and my wonderful friends to get around school, until now. I have a guide dog called Laila who will be coming to school everyday with me- and will be the first canine member of BHS. It's really exciting and I can't wait to be able to move around the school easily.

There's certain things you need to know:
  • Please do not stroke or talk to Laila. This is not because I am mean or nasty, it's just she is a working dog and works very hard at her job. Stroking her will distract her and could potentially damage her training. The no stroking rule (i'm afraid) is going to have to apply all the time in school, whether she is physically guiding me or just sitting by me. There are a lot of you and only one of her, so I'm sorry but that's how it has to be.
  • If you see us moving about please just step out of the way. If you are directly in front of us Laila will try and steer me around you, but she is yet to learn the ability to fly. I know accidents will happen but if you see or hear her (she has a bell on her collar) I'd really appreciate it if you could just step to the side.
  • Be accepting, at the end of the day she is an amazing dog, but she is exactly that- a dog. She will get rained on and possibly smell of wet dog (I'm putting a towel in my locker) and she may well snore or do occasionally strange things. I try my best to sort stuff like that out but she is an animal and always will be. We're both learning. 
  • Come see me! If you want to chat about anything, dog related or not you can always talk to me. I'm happy to talk about Laila and I'd like to get to know more people. I'm afraid you still can't stroke her, but if you want to know more come see me. 
Thank you :) I'll see you tomorrow! 
Imi and Laila
xo

(Please share this, the more people know the better!)

Cybermentors Training

On the 24th of August I took part in some training by beat bullying to become a cybermentor. A cybermentor sounds like something out of a scifi movie, but no, we are just young people making a stand against bullying. CM's are online peer mentors for teenagers ages 11-17 who are bullied or have problems at home. We keep a chat forum busy and are there if anyone needs to talk. We are the first point of call for bullied children and can refer them to online counsellors if they start talking about serious issues in their lives- like abuse, drugs or alcohol. If non of these topics come up we can chat to them privately and help come up with solutions to any problems they may be facing.

The training took place at Leeds Met University Library and myself and Laila rolled up there ridiculously early in order to locate the best spending spot in the grounds and all of the other necessities for any guide dog on a long trip away from home. Later we were joined by the trainers from beatbullying, Matt and Claire, and seven other young cybermentors to be. During the training we got to grips with the website, discussed causes, effects and reasons of bullying and what kind of things we might encounter on the website. Also the difficult things, situations we should look out for and we need to refer to the counsellors if encountered. It was really good fun with Matt and Claire and the group became quite close. Every training group has a 'tag' on the website to put on the end of their username so everyone knows where you were trained. We chose 'Bear' so for example 'abc@bear'.

Eight young people including Imi hold certificates Laila also has a certificate which is being held by spiky haired Matt next to Imi. The day finished with graduation, everyone received a badge, a certificate and a pile of business cards- including Laila! During the training Matt and Claire expressed that referrals were very rare- they may have been ridiculously optimistic or very unpopular on the site as I've had to refer at least three people to counsellors, and speaking to other people in my group so have they! However, the training was a really great experience with some amazing people and I am finding being a mentor very rewarding indeed.

Summer with Laila

I'm going to get all emotional now... never mind. This summer from the outside looked like the calmest I've ever had. No action for blind people vacation scheme and not being abandoned in a field with girl guides. However I can honestly say this summer has been one of the best ever. I have done more of the things I've always wanted to do around home, like I went to costa coffee with a friend and went places that usually I felt to awkward and unstable to go. The reason? My beautiful newly acquired guide dog Laila. Yesterday we went to the Deep aquarium- a place which is usually a nightmare- it is packed with families, tourists and dark areas. Instead of using my cane in a self defence style I just walked in with Laila. I was able to focus on the fish rather than where I was going and I was happy to sit out in the sun for lunch because my eyes weren't painful from the basics of navigation.

Golden Laila sits nose to nose with a large fish tank with tropical fish inside.

I just feel so much happier and more confident with her around. I think I under estimated the sheer frustration a guide dog can put you through sometimes- refusing to eat and having desperate desires to lead you into wheelie bins- but I blooming know now! She can be a pain, but I love her. Despite her stealing my morning lie ins, I actually quite enjoy our early mornings together, putting the kettle on and if the weather is nice sitting out in the garden together. It's just been a fantastic summer, and a fantastic experience which is going to stretch on for a long time to come. I've got so much to look forward to sharing with her: going to guides, her meeting the brownies, hopefully travelling, and the sense of independence I get from her seems to increase constantly. I don't feel like I have a dog with a job anymore, it feels like she is there to look after me. I understand her and she definitely understands me. 

Laila is on Facebook if you wish to add her her name is Laila Godwin

Laila and Imi smiling into the camera

Imi standing on a trampoline in purple skinny jeans and a band t-shirt with her red hair in her face looking down at Laila who is mid jump.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

A Quick Thought on Channel 4's Paralympic Advertising

Why are the Paralympians being described as 'superhuman' on channel 4? In a way they are more human than the olympians we saw recently. All humans have faults and flaws, it's just that Paralympian's faults are physical and are barriers they have inspirationally overcome. C4 they are not 'Superhuman' they are human in the most realistic sense and we should be proud to call them that. 


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Handle with Care Review

Have you ever heard of Chatback Productions? Chatback is a group of fostered teenagers and foster carer’s birth children, aged between 11-16 years-old in Dudley, England. The group, after receiving funding, put together a feature length film called 'Handle With Care' in which they tucked messages about the truths of being in care that they felt everyone needed to hear. 


I approached Chatback to ask for a review copy of the film because I find the project idea amazing and incredible in so many ways, and I wondered how they would ever portray such important messages in an entertaining way. I was overjoyed to have my request accepted and watched the film as soon as it arrived, and I was blown away by the talent of these young people. 


If I am honest, I expected the film to be very powerful and quite depressing. However this is not the case, the film is a tight composition of heart warming and hard hitting emotion. It gets the message across loud and clear and opened my eyes to the issues that young people in foster care sometimes face. The film, shot in snowy February was filmed on location in Dudley and featured actress, Josie Lawrence. The film follows two teenagers- Emma and Danny. Danny lives with his foster carer, played by Josie Lawrence, and Emma lives with her alcoholic and abusive parents and brother. Through the screaming and abuse Emma creates herself an imaginary world of escapism inside a cardboard box with medieval dancing and singing. One day Danny notices that Emma hasn't been in school for a while and tries to enlist the help of their other friends to try and find out whats going on. They are all reluctant, but Danny doesn't give up. With dramatic and hard hitting scenes, this film is a must see. 


I found it simply unbelievable the talent of the young people and how professional the film was, considering the group; planned, researched, produced, scripted, acted, filmed and edited the film themselves. A stunning film, and I would like to thank Chatback Productions for sharing their work with me.  


To find out more about Chatback Productions and find out more about Handle With Care go to:
http://www.chatback.org.uk/handle-with-care.htm