Mental Health

I haven’t posted anything to this site in bloomin’ ages, and the main reason for that is that so far this year I have read like, 4 books…my mental health has been up and down and I’m adjusting to a new found social life and it’s exhausting.

Anyway, I made a decision. I’m gonna start making some more personal posts on this site, most likely about mental health and trans stuff, if for no other reason than it gives me somewhere to vent and explore things. So, look forward to that.

In the spirit of that, here’s a quick list of things about me I might post about:

  • Being trans / queer
  • Being plural
  • Depression / anxiety
  • Autism

And so on and so fourth…hopefully I’ll make a post soon.

I’m back!

A belated Happy New Year to all of y’all. As you may, or may not, have noticed, I’ve been away since…basically the back end of December. Christmas is a personal nightmare for me what with my mental health and all so it’s taken me a while to recover…but I’m back now and I’m gonna try and start posting again regularly.

So let’s have a quick look at what I’ve been doing during my hiatus.

I did a whole bunch of socialising, and more-or-less survived it.

I read three books – which is pathetic, but I haven’t really felt up to it. I did set myself a challenge to finish all the discworld books this year. I’d already read 29 of them, so I’m finishing the rest and starting the audiobooks from book 1.

I lost a whole bunch of weight which was pretty cool. Got a long way to go before I’m considered a ‘healthy’ weight, but its a step in the right direction. I’ve been taking my dog for much longer walks and I’m even going to try swimming again, so that’s exciting!

I started a Year In Pixels / diary to keep track of how I’m feeling day-to-day, which has been weird. I’ve also started a thing on twitter where I list a couple of things I like about me per day, which has been a challenge and I’ve only been doing it a week!

So now some bookish goals for the year.

As I said, I’m gonna finish the discworld series. Pratchett is my favourite author so this is an exciting goal for me.

I’m reading first drafts of a couple of authors works, which I’m so excited about.

I’m starting a new writing project. It’s gonna be more light-hearted than my current WIP, about a fish-girl who goes on some sort of adventure. I’m not sure what reading age it’s gonna be aimed at, but I kinda want it to be a kids/teen book, so that should be fun.

So there we are…things happened, things are happening, I’ll try and update sometimes and there we are.

 

Book of the Month (Dec 2018)

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This just in!!

The Ragdoll Reads Book of the Month pick for December 2018 (better late than never) is:

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Queen of Zazzau

by J.S. Enuakpor (2018)

TL;DR – A smashing tale of war, love, magic and gods, with seriously strong female characters

See the full review here: Queen of Zazzau (J.S. Emuakpor)

See the full Book of the Month list here: Book of the Month

Study J(OU)rnal

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This week was probably the worst week I’ve had so far for studying. There are several reasons for this.

  1. I somehow got really behind, and didn’t even start work until Monday! (I usually start on Saturday and try to get it mostly done by Sunday evening)
  2. I had to do an experiment, and I hate it SO MUCH3
  3. Christmas is coming, and I hate it.

Fortunately, I managed to pull it around. Wednesday proved to be immensely productive, and I got not only my normal uni work done, but the extension work (learning about mammals) done too!

Now to the experiment. I had to find out the percentage of water in potatoes, by drying them out in a microwave and weighing them. Simple enough, no?

Apparently not. One set of scales adds an extra 40g to any weight over 700g, the other seems to take 10 minutes to decide exactly what number it feels like stopping on. Point is, I spent over an hour doing this stupid experiment and I hated every single minute of it.

Today I managed to get a little extra work done before the holidays, focussing on Maths for Science, which started off easy and then got insanely hard towards the end, and now my head hurts.

Writing Journal

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This week was a bit hectic for writing, what with it being so close to Christmas. I was seriously behind on my studying too, so I had to prioritise – hence I didn’t do a lot this week. HOWEVER.

This week I wrote somewhere into the region of 7000 words, which I’m dead pleased with, thanks in no small part to a mammoth writing session in my local library yesterday afternoon. I also managed to complete my week’s writing goal, which was pretty sweet.

Last week’s writing challenge: Write the final chapters.

I totally wrote them. I hate the prologue, and I’m not sure about the content and pacing of the chapters, but that’s a problem for first-draft editing. I also started work on the few chapters I wanted to slot into earlier parts of the story, so it’s all starting to come together.

With that in mind, let’s set a new writing challenge, shall we:

This week’s writing challenge: Complete draft 0.5

In other words, finish off the few remaining chapters to give me a complete story, by the end of the week. Then I can have a week or so off, and then I start the monumental task of editing!! Scary stuff!

Book Review: Fringe War (Rachel Aukes)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Interesting, but a little overwhelming.

TL;DR – Freedom fighters kick back against the government that oppresses them, war ensues. Full of plotting, politics and spaceships.

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Ragdoll Rating: 3.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of sci-fi

About the Book…

Fringe War is the fourth book in a series I haven’t read. It follows the story of a group of freedom fighters in their struggle to wrestle control and a better life from the hands of a corrupt – and evil – government. It’s your classic space-based underdog story.

What I thought…

I’ve given this book 4 stars, although if I’m honest I feel I should give it three. I’ll explain that first and then move on to the book itself. I personally felt that there were too many characters and names being thrown about it this book – I really, really struggled to keep track of who was who, and even now I could only name two characters, and I only really know who one of them is. For this reason, I would have rated this book a three – however, I am erring on the side of caution, as this could just be my own issue rather than a genuine problem with the book so I would encourage you to make up your own mind on that front.

The story itself – or at least, the bits I could keep track of – were very interesting. I enjoyed reading about the political landscape of The Collective, and the unpleasant motivations of Heid, who seems to run the parliament. There were a lot of references to things that must have happened earlier in the series that influenced a lot of the decisions made by the characters, and I would definitely consider picking up the rest of the series to learn about them.

I think the story had a good balance of action and political thought, which made for an easy read, aside from the issues addressed above.

Final Thoughts…

This book definitely seems to have the potential to be really enjoyed by someone who can get their head around all the characters. So if that sort of thing isn’t a problem for you, I’d recommend you give it a try.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Study J(OU)rnal

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This week can be summarised quite vividly. If you imagine being punched repeatedly in the face, for a whole week, then getting rewarded with a nice cake on the seventh day, you should have some idea of how my week has gone academically.

The big thing this week is that I have hit my first big issue with the Open University (shock horror). Now, I’m no stranger to being online – I have, in fact, spent most of my life on the internet, so the idea of having my study materials presented online shouldn’t cause me too many problems, right?

WRONG.

As it turns out, you break up my study into webpage size chunks and what you’ve given me is an instruction to switch off my brain. I take NOTHING in. I can pages and pages of websites and not have the faintest idea what I’ve spent the last hour doing! As search, I have had to spend a considerable amount of time working around this, which has been a massive pain in the backside.

I have figured out how to download each week’s worth of work into a PDF file, which I work from (which means I can take notes) and flick back to the webpage for any interactive elements. It’s a pain, and I absolutely hate it. So that’s fun.

I’ve also come across some accessibility issues. The course has started linking to videos on YouTube, which is fair enough, but I have found they don’t bother to provide any guidance as to how to find a transcript of these videos. I found one by accident, and after 20 minutes of searching, discovered the other didn’t have dialogue at all! I think it’s pretty terrible that this isn’t considered in the course materials, and it’s really annoying me.

Now moving away from the fury and on to the good stuff.

I have started doing OpenLearn courses on top of my regular uni work, and this week I began a multi-part course entitled The Life of Mammals. It uses the David Attenborough documentary and book of the same name as the teaching basis, and so I spent most of yesterday learning about marsupials and monotremes. It was AWESOME.

Finally, I have officially requested to change my degree pathway from a BSc Computing and IT, to a BSc Natural Sciences (Earth Sciences specialism). So that’s SUPER exciting.

Writing Journal

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This week was not productive – I failed to do any writing until today, which obviously wasn’t ideal. Fortunately, today was extremely productive.

So today, I took myself off to my local library (woo!) and sat with my laptop and wrote for about 5 hours, with periodic breaks to browse Twitter and procrastinate.

I managed to get three full chapters finished, which means I beat last weeks challenge (which was 2 chapters). That means that I have roughly 3 chapters to finish the book, and then a few to slot in during editing. About 6 or 7 in total. So I think I’m on my way to getting a draft done by the end of the year – but it might be draft 0.5 rather than a proper first draft.

This week’s writing challenge: Write the final chapters.

Writing Journal

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(This was supposed to be posted a week ago, but apparently it didn’t! OMG!)

The end is in sight! Or, it was until I moved the goalposts.

My NaNo project only has 10 chapters left for me to write, which is somewhere in the region of 15-20k words, which sounds like a heck of a lot if I’m honest. Then I’ll have to go through chapter by chapter, refining and rewriting and hopefully, I’ll have the first draft and I can let people see it. Or not.

Also, I’m going to be setting myself goals in the future. Little manageable writing tasks for me to complete over the course of the week, and I’ll be keeping a record of if I manage to complete them. So in that spirit, here is my first goal:

Goal: Write 2 chapters / 3000ish words

Book Review: Nighthawks (Jeremy Flagg)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

I wanted to enjoy this more than I did.

TL;DR – A book about super-humans, government oppression and revenge. An enjoyable concept I just couldn’t get in to.

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Ragdoll Rating: 3/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of X-men type novels

About the Book…

In the world of Nighthawks, super-powers exist and are heavily resisted by the American government. Powered humans (or, Children of Nostrodamus) are locked up, killed or forced to live in an uninhabitable wasteland – shunned by society. A powerful psychic made sends out a number of letters before her death, letters that bring together a group of Children who find themselves working together to fight back against their oppressors.

What I thought…

Nighthawks follows a fairly classic formula that I personally really enjoy. Powered humans are oppressed by somebody and spend the rest of the book fighting back. This is exactly my kind of plot, and because of this, I had high hopes for this book which unfortunately weren’t met.

My first issue, which admittedly was the smaller of the two, is that the action sequences, particularly the fight scenes felt a little sterile. I’m not sure if it was a language or a pacing issue, but for whatever reason, I felt distinctly underwhelmed after the various fight scenes.

The bigger issue came from the fact the I really – and I mean really – struggled to follow the story as it moved along. The story uses multiple points of view which I found a little confusing at times given the authors tendency to switch POV and then spend a little while using impersonal pronouns (she/he) instead of names. In addition, I struggled to follow the plot from one point to another. At times it seemed to leap ahead – the final section of the book, where the characters invade a prison seemed to come out of nowhere and left me wondering if I’d skipped several chapters by accident. If I’m honest, I would struggle to give more than an extremely broad-strokes recap of the plot of this book.

Oh yeah, and one final thing. This book also contained the phrase “Conthan stood up and Dwayne gave him an awkward male-on-male hug.” A sentence I hate so much I almost knocked a Button off the rating for.

That said, I did enjoy elements of the book. I particularly enjoyed the way the Children’s powers work. They are each unique, and range from the mundane to the devastating. I liked that the powers had a downside to them, that prevented their over-use, the characters had to be careful using their powers or they would lose control. It was an interesting mechanic. I also enjoyed learning about the way society treats the Children of Nostradamus, and the interplay between government thugs and civil rights groups, something I would like to see explored further.

Final Thoughts…

I’m not sure, personally, if I would continue reading the series. My reason for this is that I’m not sure I could deal with the writing style, rather than the content itself. As such, you might find the writing suits you perfectly and enjoy this book a great deal, so I suppose you should give it a shot and find out.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!