Books, Film, Gaming, Lifestyle, Music

My Decade Favourites

Happy New Year and Happy 2020! It feels so strange to be saying that, and it’s particularly strange to be going into a whole new decade! That’s why I thought I’d compile a list of my favourite pieces of entertainment throughout the decade; 2010 to 2020 has taken me from my teens to adulthood, and it is in that time that I’ve played the most games, binge watched the most TV shows and listened to the most music.

It is impossible for me to remember everything that I’ve taken in in those ten years, so I’ve noted what has stuck out for me the most or meant the most to me. I’ve tried to narrow it down too, keeping one album to each artist and whittling down my top games. I could go on forever about each thing, so I’ll summarise why a few of these are my favourites. I’m hoping that as well as me reminiscing about what I’ve discovered and loved this decade, you can find something new to read, watch, play or listen to!

Games

  • Red Dead Redemption 1&2 (Read my review here!)
  • Animal Crossing New Leaf
  • GTA V
  • Life is Strange
  • Rocket League
  • Tomb Raider Trilogy
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Read my review here!)
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Smash Bros Ultimate
  • Spyro Reignited Trilogy
  • Planet Zoo
  • Untitled Goose Game
  • Quantum Break
  • Telltale Games: The Wolf Among Us & The Walking Dead
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Read my review here!)

A lot of these games crop up in my A-Z of gaming post, so I don’t want to repeat myself all over again. However, I must give a special shout out to my absolute favourites; my favourite series of all time Red Dead Redemption for blessing both the beginning and end of the decade, The Walking Dead for making me realise games could make you sob like a baby, Animal Crossing for being the wholesome critter village I’d love to live in, and Smash Brothers for gracing us with a game in which Sans from Undertale and an Animal Crossing villager can fight to the death.

I’ve loved that games from my childhood such as Spyro, Tomb Raider, Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros have made a return or followed me through the whole decade! I think we’ve had a great mixture of nostalgia yet new and exciting games the past ten years, and I cant wait to see where gaming goes in the next ten.

My Spyro controller holder and Zelda controller that I got for Christmas!

Books

  • One of Us is Lying (Read my review here!)
  • Ready Player One
  • The Hate U Give (Read my review here!)
  • The Hunger Games
  • A Monster Calls
  • The Lie Tree
  • Uprooted

I feel like this section has been quite hard to write, as a lot of the books I’ve read in the last decade are actually from before then. However, these are my top picks from what I’ve read that are from the past ten years. The Hunger Games revolutionised the dystopian genre, so much so that similar YA books were springing up all over the place. Of course this phenomenon only grew with the release of the films, and though it’s been a while since I read them, I can remember reading them for the first time and finding the story so unique.

One of Us is Lying then gave me a completely new genre to explore, crime and murder mystery, and I have since gone on to receive Karen M. McManus’ other novel, Two Can Keep a Secret. I love that after many years of reading I’m still discovering what genres I like and what are the right books for me. A Monster Calls is also quite different from what I usually read, and utterly heartbreaking. It’s a book I’d recommend to anyone, as it really is special.

Films

  • The Imitation Game
  • Whiplash
  • Coco
  • How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy
  • Star Wars – The Force Awakens
  • Rogue One
  • Inside Out
  • Bird Box
  • Toy Story 3
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Get Out

I love my animated films, which is why they crop up in this list! I thought Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending, and though I liked Toy Story 4, it really wasn’t needed. Coco was visually stunning and tugged at the heart strings. However, How to Train Your Dragon is definitely one of my favourite film series of all time. The third one wasn’t quite as good, but I just adore Toothless and his relationship with Hiccup! I’d love my own Toothless to explore the land with.

One of my other favourite films of all time and also possibly my favourite Star Wars film, is Rogue One. Absolutely breathtaking moments (last ten minutes or so is incredible) and it has that Star Wars feel, yet also is completely different. I liked seeing a story other than exploring the Jedi, instead following men on the ground which is real and raw, not the main protagonists who escape every situation.

TV Shows

  • Game of Thrones (Read my review here!)
  • Umbrella Academy
  • Making a Murderer
  • Broadchurch
  • Altered Carbon
  • Stranger Things
  • Black Mirror
  • The Good Place
  • Sex Education
  • Ozark

Again, I talked about a lot of these in my post about my Netflix picks, so I’ll keep it short. Despite the hatred revolving around season 8 of Game of Thrones, you can’t deny what an impact it has made on TV, and it has been there throughout the decade. Most of my favourite shows revolve around fantasy or sci-fi of some kind, as I just love the escapism of a different world. I like the all out fantasy of Game of Thrones, but the dystopian element of Black Mirror and Altered Carbon.

However, I’ve also discovered some amazing dramas set in the real world, and found a love for crime documentaries and series. Broadchurch is so well done with amazing actors, and Ozark is intense but pulls you right in. Documentaries like Making a Murderer open your eyes to the criminal justice system, and I find it fascinating to explore a real life story with so many questions unanswered.

Albums

  • Wasting Light – Foo Fighters
  • Like Clockwork – Queens of the Stone Age
  • Drones – Muse
  • The Getaway – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Royal Blood (Self-titled) – Royal Blood
  • My Love is Cool – Wolf Alice
  • El Camino – The Black Keys
  • Ellipsis – Biffy Clyro
  • What Went Down – Foals
  • Future Dust – The Amazons
Here’s a Spotify Playlist with all the albums mentioned above included!

My Spotify playlist has been evergrowing this decade, and also the amount of concerts I’ve been to. I’m so grateful to see I’ve seen the majority of the list live in the last ten years, except for The Black Keys, and Foals who I will be seeing this summer! A lot of these bands have had multiple amazing albums, but I’ve had to go with the ones that mean the most. Both Wasting Light and Like Clockwork were my gateway into Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, seeing them for the first time on those respective tours. Biffy Clyro I have seen multiple times too and they never fail to disappoint, but Ellipsis was so good!

It’s also rare that you find an album where every track is great and you don’t skip any, but the albums that have done that for me are Royal Blood’s self-titled debut album, What Went Down and Future Dust. The Amazons have been a recent addition after seeing them in November, so I’m looking forward to seeing them grow. And of course, I can’t wait to see Foals at Cardiff Castle!

A picture my dad took at the end of The Amazons concert!

So those are my top favourites of the decade! I’m excited to see all the new games, films, books, TV shows and music that we’ll be getting this decade and who knows, maybe I’ll do another post like this then!

What have been your favourites of the decade? Are some the same as mine or are there others you think deserve a shout out? Let me know down in the comments and thank you for reading!

Collaborative Story, Writing

A Collaborative Story – Part 3

Welcome back to part 3 of my collaborative story project! Make sure to catch up on part 1 and part 2 before you read this next section of the story.

This week we’re joined by Shannen, which I’m super excited about as she is such a talented writer! She has written a novel and is working on a prequel, so it’s interesting to see an established writing style. Like last week, I love where the story has been taken and it’s so fun to see how the characters have developed!

You can follow Shannen at these links:

Now let’s see where Shannen takes the story!


A crumpled figure rests in the shadows of a secluded cave, shielded from the bright Mediterranean sun. A train of tattered blue gown flows across the smooth floor, dotted with bright green leaves. Sobs echo off the walls, drumming into the figure’s ears. A faint metal sound is heard, the opening and closing of scissors. Clumps of emerald hair fall to the ground and are cast away by the cool winds of Autumn. They flutter and intertwine, drifting into the water that laps at the cave’s edge.


With each section of hair cut, the sobs fade. Earth sighs deeply and lifts her skirt. She stands and examines the mess she has made. Slowly, the hair on her head regrows and falls down her back in waves. She shakes her head and pulls it back into a bun, fastens it with a glittering pin in the shape of a dolphin. Slowly she pats down her ruffled skirt, brushes her hands over the ripped and torn material. The skirt heals. The leaves become greener. Earth is glowing and colourful, renewed, but her face is dull. She ignores the tugging feeling that things are not going to get better, and sighs again, peering out into the sunshine.


At midday, Summer arrives at the cave, frowning and soaked. Earth stands toward the back of the cave, with her back to the fiery season. Without turning, she speaks.


“No boat?” she asks.


“Spring thought it would be fun to swim,” Summer replies through gritted teeth.


“Indeed I did!” chimes Spring from behind her as he climbs out of the waves, holding out his hands to be warmed by summer’s aura.


Earth turns at the sound of Spring’s voice. “I was not expecting you both.”


“I had to make sure Summer would speak to you, so I pushed her along,” says Spring, taking off his spectacles and wiping them on his yellow t-shirt.


“Well, I am glad to see you both,” Earth says, clasping her hands together. “Spring, I very much needed your presence today. Summer,” she continues, turning to the season who was ringing out her long golden hair, “why have you stayed so long this year? You know there have been fires?”


“I am trying mother, I am! I have it all under control,” Summer says impatiently.


Spring laughs, but falls silent at a cool glance from Earth.


“You clearly have lost control, Summer,” Earth says, stepping closer to her children. “Life is suffering because there is too much heat in the world. It is your time to travel South, and allow Autumn to rest in the North.”


“What if I can’t control it anymore!” Summer cries. “I cannot cope under this pressure. My strength is faltering, and the lightning keeps reaching your trees.”


“My trees and my animals are suffering greatly, and they will continue to suffer if you seasons do not work together!” Earth responds, and the power of her voice drums into the ears of Spring and Summer like thunder.


“What do you suggest?” Spring asks.


“You each have your roles to play,” Earth replies, beginning to pace, followed by the train of her gown. “Spring, you must ensure that all life continues to progress. You must ensure that many births will occur next year. Summer,” she says, reaching out to stroke her daughter’s hair, “you must relax. If you do not calm down, the world will not cool.”


“But Winter will ruin everything!” Summer cries.


“That attitude, dear, is what got you into this mess.”


I absolutely love Shannen’s depiction of Earth, particularly as it’s our first meeting with her. I could picture her perfectly, and loved the concept of her being powerful but broken. It conveys exactly the element of climate change that Charlotte introduced in the previous part.

Shannen has written some great dialogue here too, which tells us more about the characters. I like the relationship of Earth being the mother to all the seasons. Earth has authority in her words, and Summer is like the rebellious teen! Then Summer is relaxed and playful but knows when to obey Earth, respecting her.

I’d be really interested to see if Summer becomes a villanious character…however, that decision is up to you! I’m still looking for more people to take part in this project, whether you’ve published books or whether you just want to try writing creatively. Email me at chloeosborn16@gmail.com and you could decide the fate of these characters!

Thank you for reading and see you in my next blog post!

Collaborative Story, Writing

A Collaborative Story – Part 2

Collaborative Story Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of my collaborative story project! If you missed the introduction, you can check it out here, as it’s pretty crucial to understanding what’s happening in this next step of the story! As a little reminder, this story is based on the personification of the four seasons. I’m inviting you readers to take part so a new writer can carry the story on with each post. Anyone is welcome to contribute no matter how skilled at writing you are, so just drop me an email at chloeosborn16@gmail.com if you’re interested!

Today, the story is continued by the lovely Charlotte from Take a Paws. I’m so happy she took an interest in this story as what she has written is such a great addition and generates a tonne of ideas!

You can follow Charlotte’s social media at the following links:

Now, let’s get into the next part of the story…


She felt her skin cooling as Autumn approached ahead of the others. Spring and Winter stayed behind on the banking.

“Summer. I’m sorry, I had to-”

“What’s she doing here?” Summer glared at Winter, who was as equally uncomfortable in Summer’s presence.

“Summer, please. This is important. Have you felt different this time? Any changes to your aura?” The look in Autumn’s eyes told her that she should put differences aside this time.

“My energy has been higher, yes. It feels wonderful. And the Humans are loving it! You should have seen them all, right here on this beach. Every day they were here.” Summer glowed as she thought about the last three months.

“That’s the problem, Summer.” Winter called, fanning herself on a large rock. She felt uncomfortably warm. “It’s been too hot. The animals back on Antarctica have been suffering in the heat. Their homes are melting!”

Summer frowned and turned to face the sea. She didn’t feel responsible for what was happening in the South, that was Winter’s department. The Humans were happy with her. For once, they had had a season they could enjoy. Laughter was shared over barbeques, and the flowers had danced amongst a late evening breeze. Everyone had said how they didn’t want Summer to end!

“Something is wrong, Summer.” The sound of Autumn’s voice broke her trance from the rolling waves. “Storms are coming. I can feel them already in my aura. Mass floodings are going to hit the suburbs.”

The sea air hung around them as Summer thought about Autumn’s words and time seemed to stop as she pulled her eyes up to meet Autumn’s.

“You know as well as I do that we can’t predict the weather. There might be something wrong with you, but I’m the best I’ve ever been. It’s not my fault your aura is bad for the Humans.” Summer spat her words at Autumn, her aura’s glow increasing. Autumn’s hands clenched inside his jacket pockets and a wind picked up around them causing the waves to crash against the sand. He felt a hand on his shoulder and the sea air returned to a gentle breeze. The smell of fresh cut grass overcame his senses and he relaxed almost instantly.

“The whole point,” Spring said, peering over his round, pink spectacles “of Winter and I being here, is to come together as friends and figure out what’s going on.” He slapped Autumn on his back and grinned at Summer. Summer smiled unwillingly at Spring.

“Hi Spring, I’m surprised you made it. Shouldn’t you be dancing with the daffodils somewhere?”

“I couldn’t pass up the chance for a group get-together.” He winked at her and Summer rolled her eyes.

“We’re not here to party, Spring.” Autumn said firmly. “Our auras are changing and we can’t seem to control them. Earth has survived for so long because she has depended on our constant stability. We can’t let her down now.”

“It’s not just Earth either” Winter chimed in, rising from her rock. “The animals depend on us too. Their entire lives revolve around our seasonal indications.” She walked slowly towards the group, using her own aura to cool Summer’s. Summer eyed her carefully and took a step back.

“The animals will adapt, Winter. They’ve been evolving since the beginning of time and I’m sure they’ll adapt to my aura in no time.” Summer thought again of the Humans and their appreciation for her. The newspapers had said it was the hottest summer in fifty years! She can’t disappoint them next year, she must only get stronger. She thought back to last year and how unhappy they were with her. They had laughed at her and called her a joke. She had tried to glow brighter for them, but her aura could only do so much. This year, she felt connected to the sun, as if she could channel the rays herself. She hadn’t expected to radiate so much heat, but everyone loved it so why would she try to stop it? She pushed her toes into the sand beneath her and wished she could stay longer but Earth had made it clear that they must rest when their time is up.

“We need you to talk to Earth when you go back. We need to find out what’s going on.” Autumn had always been the sensible one of the group. His beautiful colouring yet melancholy temperament made him expect the worst in order to prevent the worst. Autumn was the one who kept the peace between Summer and Winter. Summer had always been hot headed, and Winter could turn frosty when the mood hit her. Spring, on the other hand, was reckless. He had the least control over his aura and yet, Earth had given him the greatest responsibility. Spring’s job was to oversee new life on Earth and for the most part, he was successful, much to everyone’s surprise.

Summer eyed them all as they stood staring at her. She wasn’t happy with this confrontation. They must be jealous, she thought. They’re trying to suppress my aura. She looked down into the water and knew her time was ending. The sands below were shifting and creating the path that she must take to return to the core. She stepped forward towards it, feeling the water rise around her legs.

“Talk to Earth, Summer. Explain that your aura has been too strong. She’ll know what to do.” At Winter’s words, Summer shot around to face the others.

“My aura is none of your business!” And with one intense surge of heat, Summer shot up into the sky, creating a yellow glow amongst the fading blue.


I absolutely love the path that Charlotte has gone down with the theme of global warming and climate change, which is obviously very topical at the moment. I love the personalities of each of the seasons and they have great dialogue together which really shows this! The introduction of the Earth character too is super interesting, as well as discussing the seasons’ auras.

I also like that Summer is a flawed character and unable to see the harm she is doing. It’ll be interesting to see where other writers take her character, and how she will redeem herself or come to realise what she is doing, that’s if she does!

I hope you’re enjoying this project so far, and remember to leave a comment or contact me via email if you’d like to get involved! Thank you again to Charlotte for taking part and thank you all for reading!

Collaborative Story, Writing

A Collaborative Story – Introduction

Collaborative Story.png

Welcome back to another blog post! Now, I’ve been feeling a bit uninspired when it comes to my blog recently. As I’m also taking a break from my novel while my friends and family read it, I’m missing writing. I wanted to write a blog post, but wanted it to be creative.

That’s when I thought of doing a collaborative story; I love seeing other people’s styles of writing and their story ideas! I want to encourage people to try their hand at writing, no matter what skill level they think they’re at. It’s a bit of creative fun, and in no way something to be judged.

How it works, is every post for the series will introduce a different writer and they will continue the story from where it left off. I’m going to write a couple of paragraphs for the beginning just to kick things off. It will be really interesting to see how other writers interpret the characters and decide where the story goes!

I decided to install a writing prompts app, where you can get overall story prompts and first line prompts. These are either created by the app, or submitted by other users. Here is the one I chose to go with, as it stuck out immediately and my mind already started to envision the characters:

“Write about the four seasons but portray them as people.”

I thought this sounded super interesting, and allowed for a multitude of stories. We will see how it goes, but if it seems like this story is coming to an end and it was successful, it could be done with another prompt!

Here’s an introduction to start things off.


 

She didn’t want to go.

Summer let the waves wash over her toes, staring at the horizon. The blazing orange sun low in the pastel sky, powered by her energy. She could feel the heat radiating off her; if a human touched her they’d be left with burns. But it didn’t hurt her. It was warm, hugging her skin.

The beach had already become more and more deserted each day. Humans huddled in their jackets, only the boldest shivering as they braved the bitter sea. Summer lifted her flowing skirt to her knees as the water lapped up her ankles.

It happened every year, yet she still felt melancholy every time. The Last Day of Summer.

Summer had tried her best to ignore her energy faltering, but it was becoming harder as the wind whipped her red hair wildly around her face. She swore it was colder than it was a moment ago.

The brisk breeze hit the back of her neck and she turned on her heel.

It was just who she expected. Autumn, his hands jammed into the pockets of his tweed jacket as he sauntered towards her.

Yes, she expected him. What she didn’t expect, who weren’t meant to be there, were Spring and Winter too.


 

I hope people enjoyed this introduction and that it’s enough to inspire some story ideas! If you want to take part, please e-mail me at chloeosborn16@gmail.com and I will organise the order that people go in. And if this flops, I’ll just continue the story myself!

To reiterate once again, this is open to absolutely anyone, whether you dream of being an author or whether you just want to have some fun. I hope to see some of you pop up in my e-mails soon, and thank you for reading!

 

Books

Getting Out of a Reading Slump

Reading Slump.png

When I was younger, you could barely catch me without a book in my hand. Visiting a relative? I needed something to read while all the adults talked, of course. Long car journey? A book was essential to pass the time. Going to a restaurant? Waiting for food food was perfect reading time. I could finish books in a matter of hours, even less sometimes.

So what has changed?

I still love reading; being able to escape from reality into an entirely new world is amazing, conjuring up characters and landscapes purely through words. However, though I did have books to read for university, my focus turned to writing. Once finishing university, I carried on with my novel, and now I’m developing my illustration, as well as running this blog! Any spare time I have, I turn to gaming or watching Netflix, because they require less effort than reading.

But reading shouldn’t be a chore, especially when I know how much I love it! It’s not just my other interests which have distracted me from reading, but I think my choice of books. Earlier this year, I read Good Omens, and because I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, I struggled through it for months. I didn’t pick up anything else until I finished it; I read both One of Us is Lying and The Hate U Give swiftly, before moving onto Beren and Luthien by Tolkien…which I still haven’t finished!

I think because this book is quite heavy material, a lot of backstory from Christopher Tolkien, with alternating passages or stories, and pages of songs, it’s a struggle to read when I want to relax. Even though I’m enjoying it, it’s intense for someone trying to get back into reading!

That’s why I want to set myself some goals, as well as give you some advice on how to get out of a reading slump if you’re in the same position as me!

Re-read a favourite book

Returning to a book that you’ve read so many times, that’s familiar and comforting, is something that I hope will ease me back into reading again. The story isn’t new to you and therefore you don’t have to be quite as switched on as reading a new book, though I do love that excitement. I’m thinking something like Prisoner of Azkaban, which is one of my favourite books in the Harry Potter series. It will be a reminder of why you love reading and the fun of it, rather than feeling like it’s a task, not a hobby. It’ll be helpful if it’s not a long book either, which leads me to my next point.

Read a book that’s short but sweet

As mentioned, I’ve been reading Beren and Luthien, which is a mixture of various writing from Tolkien, rather than a complete novel. This disrupts the flow of reading for me as there are non-fiction parts as well as the different stories. I also have the third book in the Game of Thrones series on the go, and the size of it is overwhelming and I really want to be in the right space of mind to take it all in!

This is why I think reading a shorter book, that’s not full of heavy fantasy which you need to concentrate for, may be how I can challenge this reading slump. I have many books on my book shelf, some that I haven’t read or perhaps read once a long time ago. I’m thinking of reading one of these, to have a book I can finish in a couple of days and just enjoy, rather than trying to keep up with characters.

Don’t be afraid to DNF

The thought of not finishing a book I’m reading always makes me feel so guilty, which is why with Good Omens, I was determined to finish it. I’m glad I did because I did like the overall story, but it took me so long that all other books were forgotten about. I think the right thing to do if you’re not enjoying a book is to put it down and read something else, returning to it when you’ve had a break.

However, there is no shame in stopping it completely if it’s really not the book for you. Reading is definitely going to feel like a task if you’re not enjoying and it wastes time when you could be discovering a book that you love! I’ve been guilty of not reading because the books I have on the go are heavy, but reading a light-hearted book will hopefully mean I can return to the bigger books eager to finish them. This doesn’t mean I dislike the books and want to DNF them, I just need to get back into reading them before tackling them!

Allocate time for reading

In the evening, I have so many games to play that I make time to play those, alongside any TV shows I have to watch. So why don’t I make time for my other passion, reading? I tend to scroll on my phone right before bed, so I’d like to swap this half an hour for reading instead. This is much better use of my time and will encourage me to get into a routine, as well as resting my eyes from screens for I sleep.

However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to stick to this time every day. If you feel like reading in the morning instead, go for it, or if you want to skip one night, that’s okay too. I’m going to set a reminder on my phone each night but if I don’t feel like it, I’m not going to force myself into it. I feel like this is going to help me dedicate my time to books though, and allow me to really enjoy it again!

I hope this will help anyone who is in their own reading slump, and encourage me to get out of mine! Have you got any tips for getting back into reading? Let me know down in the comments and thank you for reading!

Gaming

One Year of Red Dead Redemption 2

RDR 2

On the 26th October 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2 was released for console. It’s terrifying that it’s been a year (well, tomorrow) already as I remember the day so vividly! I had already pre-ordered the game and downloaded it ready for launch. Jordan was up early for work so I jumped up too, grabbed some breakfast and started up my Xbox. That evening we were going home for my dad’s birthday, so knowing I wouldn’t have the weekend to play, I spent the entire day playing!

I was really intrigued by starting off the game in the middle of a snowstorm, and meeting our new protagonist, Arthur Morgan, as well as revisiting characters we already know like Dutch Van der Linde. I have never anticipated a game more than Red Dead 2, so I had my volume up and the subtitles on to make sure I wasn’t missing a thing.

rdr2

Though it has been a year, I do know people who haven’t completed the story, so I won’t be giving any spoilers. However, I will say that I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, the action and the emotions that ran high. You can see more of my thoughts in my review from last year, which is also spoiler free, so I won’t repeat myself. This was actually my first blog post after making the decision to start up my blog again!

However, I do have to say the world is just beyond anything I imagined from a game. It still amazes me how you can be on one side of the map and see all the way across to the other, knowing you can visit it. It only makes me more excited for what the map could be like in GTA VI! As you can see from this post, I can spend ages exploring and taking photos, so I wish they did have an actual photo mode.

rdr2 1.jpg

So what has happened since Red Dead Redemption 2’s release?

Red Dead Online released on May 15th 2019, so quite some time after the release of the game, just like with GTA Online. You’re able to explore the open world just like on the main game, but it is set before the events of Red Dead Redemption 2. After creating a character (please can someone tell me how to create a mildly attractive female with Rockstar’s character creator?) you can play the start of the story mode.

There are also side missions in this mode, some of which you can play alone, and some you can play with random people online or as part of a posse. What missions you do and the choices you make affects your honour, like the single player mode. There are then game modes to take part in including horse races and ‘capture the flag’ type matches, earning more money the higher the position you finish in. As well as this, there are daily challenges to do with the chance of gaining some gold, and hunting is encouraged to sell the meat or pelts, so you can use these currencies to customise your character.

rdr2 2

Unfortunately, Red Dead Online is such a letdown for me when I was actually quite excited to play it. I know when a game is in beta, you expect issues, but it seemed like months after numerous updates, I was still having the same problems. Side missions weren’t starting when I spoke to NPCs and the story mode marker completely disappeared off my map, so I still have yet to finish it. I haven’t played in a while so I don’t know if these issues still persist, but it was enough for me to stop playing it.

It wasn’t just this that made me struggle to enjoy the game. Just like in GTA Online, you can’t do anything or go anywhere without someone killing you. Want to hunt in peace? No, someone will chase you down and kill you repeatedly. Trying to do a side mission to earn some money? Get attacked by an entire posse and fail the mission. Even game modes are frustrating as you get one shot by a varmint rifle as soon as you turn a corner. The game is also littered with micro transactions, and grinding for gold for a basic hat just isn’t fun.

rdr2 3.jpg

That being said, I haven’t played for a long time so I’m not sure exactly what has been updated. I’m willing to give it another chance, but I definitely haven’t enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed GTA Online. Of course, that wasn’t perfect at first either, so I do have some hope that they can get the right balance. Even so, it probably isn’t something I will play a lot of particularly as none of my friends are interested in it either.

Besides Red Dead Online, we have recently been given a release date for Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC, which is November 5th. Even though I don’t have my own gaming PC, I know just how great this news is! Though I was happy with the graphics on my Xbox One, seeing the Xbox One X graphics made me a little jealous. So being able to experience the world in even higher definition will be beautiful. It’s exciting to see the hype resurface a year after is initial console release.

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How do I feel about Red Dead Redemption 2 after a year?

Since completing the game and reviewing it, I did spend some time in the end game just exploring, before I stopped playing to try out other games. However, a couple of months after, I started up my second play through as I missed the game too much! I play it every now and again just when I want to spend some time with Arthur riding from Big Valley to Saint Denis. I love admiring the scenery as well as revisiting the story’s greatest moments.

I definitely miss the hype and enthusiasm from when it first came out, and seeing all the trailers or posters for it. However, the story and characters have definitely stayed with me. For me to want to return to a 60 hour game is quite rare, mainly because there are so many games that I have to play. But I’ll always have time for Red Dead because I know no matter what I do or how much time I have to play, it’s always enjoyable.

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I’m going to finish off this blog post with some more of my favourite photos from the game. Thank you for reading, and let me know down in the comments your thoughts on the game after its first year. Enjoy!

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Blogging

Real Neat Blog Award

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Hello and welcome back to another blog post! Today is an award nomination that I was kindly nominated for by Geraldine Talks! Thank you so much to Geraldine and all her support, it feels so nice every time to be nominated for these awards. Please go check out Geraldine’s blog! I’d actually never heard of this award before, so here are the rules:

Rules of the Real Neat Blog Award

  • Display the award logo
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog
  • Answer the questions from the blog who nominated you
  • Nominate seven to ten bloggers
  • Ask them seven questions

The First Real Neat Blog Award of Yahari Bento! – YAHARI ...

Geraldine’s Questions

1. What’s your ultimate comfort food?

Definitely a takeaway, either Domino’s or a Chinese. I haven’t had a Chinese in ages due to being on the FODMAP diet, but once I’m off it it’s going to be one of the first things I have. I also love to have Pot Noodles and Super Noodles, or a McDonalds, which I also can’t have at the moment. Yeah, you can tell my comfort food isn’t healthy!

2. What is something you like to collect?

Hmm, I don’t specifically have anything I set out to collect, but I would like to get more POP figures, especially the Harry Potter ones. I also want to start getting some more gaming related ones, or some gaming figures/plushies!

3. If you could choose any place in the world, where would you go to live?

I actually would still stay in the UK, but I’d love a place overlooking the beach that’s also close to the countryside. There are some amazing apartments by one of the beaches near me and that would be my dream home!

4. Would you rather be cold or hot?

Cold. I despise being too hot and don’t handle it well being pale/ginger, as it makes me feel sick and sweaty. I love Winter clothes and layering up!

5. What is your go to song when you need to cheer yourself up?

It’s tough to choose just one, but I think I’d go with Mountain At My Gates by Foals. Jordan likes it too so it always makes me think of us listening to it together or playing it at a party!

6. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Either loud chewing or sneezing. Or sniffing. Or someone clearing their throat. Basically human noise makes me irrationally angry even though I do it and I know we can’t help it! If it’s loud it just goes through me.

7. If you could have any animal as your pet, what would you choose?

I really want to get a reptile like a lizard, chameleon or a tortoise! I’m actually thinking of saving up for one once I get my own place. Alongside cats, of course.

My Questions

  1. What is your guilty pleasure?
  2. What is your favourite season?
  3. What places are on your travel bucket list?
  4. If you had to dye your hair another colour, what would you choose?
  5. What item in your wardrobe is your favourite?
  6. If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  7. What is your favourite blog post that you have written?

My Nominees

Be sure to check everyone out and thanks to Geraldine again for the nomination! I will catch you next week in another blog post!

Film

Disenchantment Season 1 Part 2 Review

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Disenchantment Season 1 Part 2

Genre: Animated Sitcom, Fantasy

Created by: Matt Groening

My family and I are huge fans of The Simpsons, so I was more than intrigued at the news of another series by Matt Groening, particularly because of its fantasy setting. I thoroughly enjoyed the first ten episodes (how has it been a year since then??) and couldn’t wait to get into the next ten. I enjoyed them just as much so I just had to share my thoughts!

If you don’t know much about the series, or need a little recap, the story follows Princess Bean, whose favourite hobby is drinking. She runs into both Elfo who escapes the elf realm Candy Land, and Luci the demon, originally tasked with turning Bean evil. Forming a quirky, dysfunctional friendship, they embark on a series of quests, the overall story focusing on Bean’s relationship with her father, King Zog, played by the brilliant Joe DiMaggio. Without giving too much away, we end off not knowing whether the fate of the kingdom is in danger, and if our characters will be reunited.

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This is a spoiler free review, so I’m not going to talk too much about the plot. However, like the first part of Disenchantment, each episode focuses on a particular scenario, with an overarching story. I actually really like this format, because you’ll happily be enjoying the funny and exciting situation the gang have got themselves into before they’ll hit you with a big plot point. To me, there’s a great mixture of drama alongside sort of ‘filler’, but the filler allows us to see the character interaction.

Speaking of the characters, I love all three of our main characters, as well as the side characters. Bean is rebellious but questions her morals when she makes mistakes, and is loyal to her friends, doing anything to save them. Likewise Luci is meant to be ‘evil’ as a demon from hell, but forms a friendship with Bean and ignores his task, loyal to both Bean and Elfo. Elfo and Luci have a funny relationship where they both annoy each other, but you can tell they like each other really!

I feel like every character, even if they’re only in it for an episode, are fleshed out and bring something to the story, even if it’s just an added bit of humour. We get to see scenes about King Zog and his struggle to run the kingdom or find love, or witness a villain’s evil plans.

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For me, the humour in Disenchantment is right up my street. It doesn’t rely on being offensive and shocking like some cartoons, it’s more clever and quirky. A lot of this comes from Luci with his witty and dark humour! I think it’s quite particular, and not for everyone, but it makes me chuckle a lot and I love the references to other shows like Futurama.

The animation and design is similar to The Simpsons and Futurama, but the fantasy genre gives for some amazing scenes and characters, from grand castles, to steampunk cities, to pirate ships. I really enjoy this bizarre world and unique characters or places which pop up around every corner. It’s bright and colourful, but also has its darker moments.

Though I enjoyed part 1, I think I enjoyed part 2 a little bit more, probably because the characters and their relationships are established. We get to focus more on the world and almost the politics, what lies ahead for the kingdom and how the situations affect the characters.

I’m happily going to give this season a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately I’ve seen mixed reviews online so I can understand if others don’t enjoy it as much as I have. But it’s not a show to be taken seriously, and it’s a great watch for a laugh with a solid story line too. I can’t wait to return to the characters in the next season!

Have you seen Disenchantment and if so, what are your thoughts? If you haven’t, do you think you’d enjoy it? Let me know down in the comments and thank you for reading!

Short Story Series

Part 7 Short Story Series

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Hello and welcome back to another installment of my short story series! Last time I covered historical fiction, but this time I’m going to be showing you a fantasy story that I had to write as part of my genre fiction module in second year (three years ago, wow). As you know, fantasy is my favourite genre, so when we were given this task I was excited to get into it. I can’t exactly remember how I came up with this idea, but after writing it I spent ages thinking of where the story could go and whether it could be a full novel idea. This story is called ‘The Wrong Target.’


The Wrong Target

Nayda turned around, jerking her head to flick the coppery locks out of her face. The figure of a blonde young woman on a dappled grey horse was fast approaching. Nayda faced forward again, leaning deeper into the saddle. She clutched the reins so tightly her knuckles were white, the bones ready to burst from her skin.

“Faster, Storm,” Nayda whispered into the charcoal neck of her horse. Storm obeyed without even a kick or a pull of the reins, lurching into a thundering gallop.

A lake lay ahead, glimmering in the sunlight, and Nayda was forced to bring Storm to a halt, jumping off his back. She dropped to the floor where she lay in the grass, staring up at the hyacinth blanket of sky, her chest heaving.

“I told you this was pointless!” Orla said as she approached, trotting to a stop besides Storm.

“Practice makes perfect,” Nayda smirked.

“It’s no good. I don’t think Misty will ever be as quick as Storm,” Orla said, slipping gracefully from Misty and smoothing her shuddering grey flank.

“You haven’t had her as long as I’ve had Storm,” Nayda shrugged. “You simply need to go for a ride more, bond so she’ll be more willing to push herself.”

“I don’t have as much free time as you, you know,” Orla said, sitting down next to Nayda. “It took me three days to paint a portrait of one of the Dunn boys, you know the eldest, Brenner. The handsome one.”

Nayda nodded. Of course she knew which one. The pompous young man whose family sucked up to the King, wooing all the girls with his shiny new armour for jousting competitions. Flashing his white smile and winking until they were practically hyperventilating. Pathetic, thought Nayda.

“Three days!” Orla continued, bringing Nayda back to reality. “Your job is a little more…shall we say lenient?”

Turning away from what Nayda knew would be Orla’s disapproving glare, she tore blades of grass from the ground, watching them blow away as she opened her fist.

“You are careful, aren’t you Nayda? Ever since that time with the potter I can’t help but worry.”

Goosebumps erupted over Nayda’s arms despite the sun beaming down on them. She tried to rub them away. Her stupid mistake of shuffling in her hiding spot, the vase shattering to the floor. She had no choice but to run, one hand holding her cloak over her face and the other still clinging her murder weapon, a dagger. The burly potter’s footsteps clattering on the stone floor after her, shouting in a gravelly voice. Something hard hitting the back of her head, the dizzying effect making her stumble.

It was the closest she’d ever been to being caught. Until Keaton came to her rescue like she was a damsel in distress. Nayda ripped grass up from its roots even harder, her jaw clenched.

“Of course I am. That was a long time ago.”

“I still don’t know how you do it,” Orla muttered, turning her head away. “Kill people.”

“You know why I do it. Father and Mother would be starving by now if I didn’t. Maybe I wouldn’t even be here,” Nayda snapped, attempting to push herself up off the ground. Away from Orla. Away from her judgement.

Instead Orla pulled at her arm and Nayda collapsed back down with a sigh, unable to walk away from her closest friend who gazed wisely at her with long-lashed eyes.

“I know that. It’s just after painting people, looking at their every detail…I wouldn’t be able to destroy that.”

Nayda had nothing to say to that, for she didn’t feel anything when she took someone’s life. And that scared her.

All she could think of was her mother and father a couple of years ago, struggling to provide even a loaf of bread and some broth, her father’s fletching business not making nearly enough money. With Nayda’s income, they went to bed full each night, pangs of hunger a thing of the past. If her parents were aware of what they she was doing, she was sure they’d banish her from entering the house.

A high-pitched cry made Nayda leap up immediately, her hand going straight to the dagger in her belt. She relaxed when she saw the hawk, its wings outspread and curled beak slightly open as it floated down into the grass. Nayda blinked and in the hawk’s place stood Keaton, his dark hair ruffled. He was looking down his pointed nose at Orla sprawled out on the grass, her red dress spread across the ground, standing out like a rose against the lush green.

“You know I don’t like it when you bring other people along,” Keaton said sharply.

“It’s only Orla, relax. She’s not going to tell anyone,” Nayda said, rolling her eyes.

Keaton looked as if he was about to say something else, but thought better of it and pulled a scroll tied with string from beneath his cloak. He handed it to Nayda and she took it, unravelling the string to reveal the name written scruffily inside. Underneath the name was the money she would earn if she chose to take on the target. Her eyes nearly popped out of her skull at the sum. She had never seen that much money in her life.

“So will you do it?” Keaton asked. “Of course, you don’t have to if you don’t think you’re up for the task.”

Before Nayda could answer or even shoot back some harsh words in her defence, Orla let out a gasp from over her shoulder.

“Brenner Dunn?!” Orla shouted.

“Shush Orla!”

“You know how close the Dunn family is to the King. If you so much as scratched him you’d have the Royal Guard on you! What could he have done to deserve this?”

Nayda swallowed hard, closing her eyes. She never asked why. Usually her targets had done something wrong. The potter, for example, had scammed hundreds of pounds off the man who wanted him killed. Brenner Dunn was a bit of an arse, Nayda thought, but she couldn’t see him doing anything that justified his murder.

But it wasn’t her job to ask why.

“I’ll do it,” Nayda said firmly, disregarding Orla’s screams of outrage. “How long do I have?”

“Until Friday,” Keaton said, taking the scroll back off Nayda and tearing it into a thousand pieces, letting it fly into the lake so it couldn’t be traced.

That left Nayda with five days. Five days to kill Brenner Dunn, one of the most popular men in the kingdom. She fell back into the grass, shaking a little. With a quick burst of light, Keaton turned back into a hawk and flew up into the sky.

“How can you do this?” Orla cried, her golden curls bristling with rage as she shook her head. “He’s done nothing wrong. He’s one of the nicest men I have ever met.”

“It doesn’t matter if he’s nice – or handsome,” added Nayda, ignoring the image of Brenner with his stupid chiselled jaw and hair so dark it was as black as a raven’s wing. She pushed the picture of a bag heaving with coins back into her head instead.

“Well why do you have to be bossed around by other people, do their dirty work for them?”

Nayda looked into Orla’s blue eyes, ice cold and angry.

“Because I’m an assassin. That’s what we do.”


 

As mentioned earlier, I honestly can’t remember how the story came to me but I do have some ideas of how to expand it into a novel. Maybe it will be one of my future projects one day! I liked having a protagonist who wasn’t exactly ‘good’ and was flawed. She does bad things, even if it is to provide for her family. I’d like the rest of the story to explore how she comes to terms with her morals and escape the lifestyle she is so used to. It will be interesting to be in the mind of someone like this and I hope it’s an interesting perspective for readers.

I also loved the dynamic between Nayda and Orla. Even though Orla doesn’t approve of Nayda’s job, she sticks by her side, but isn’t afraid to voice her opinion. I think they’re a great example of opposites attract, Orla wearing pretty dresses and being creative, and Nayda being, well, a ruthless killer.

I don’t usually go for a medieval setting either, which is why I wanted to bring in Keaton being a sort of shape shifter too. If I am to expand on the story, I want the world to have lots of different creatures and fantasy aspects to it. To me, that’s my favourite part about writing fantasy!

I do think Nayda being ‘I’m not like the other girls’ is kind of annoying, and I would definitely change this. I think for me growing up, a lot of books that I read had girls who claimed they were different because they didn’t like make up and girly clothes, or liked books instead of boys. As this story would be targeted at teens and young adults, I think my mind just cast itself back to what I read and tried to have a ‘different’ protagonist too. But just because she is an assassin, it doesn’t mean she can’t have a badass dress on or look down her nose at others. Which is why I’m glad I have Orla as a character too, who is more girly but not mocked for it.

I also feel like I focused way too much on eye or hair colour, as well as general colour description. I would tone down on this if I was to rewrite it, and come up with more imaginative horse names than Storm and Misty! It’s interesting to see how my writing of the fantasy genre has changed and I can immediately pick things up that I would alter now.

Overall though, I like these characters and the general story, so it would be cool to return one day and see where it goes! There are definitely many changes I would make but I can see the start of me building my own fantasy world.

What did you think of this story? Let me know down in the comments and thank you for reading!

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Lifestyle

Low FODMAP Brownies

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Hello and welcome back to another blog post! I’ve decided to do something a little bit different this time and show you a recipe that I’ve recently been using. I’ve mentioned it occasionally, but at the moment I’m on the low FODMAP diet. This means I have to be gluten free, which also means a lack of biscuits and cakes. Of course, you can buy Freefrom snacks but they are a lot more expensive.

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My mum then bought a low FODMAP recipe book called ‘The Complete Low FODMAP Diet’, and it has been really helpful in giving us more meal ideas, which is always the problem when you have to cut so much out of your diet. However it also has a lot of sweet treats, one of which are brownies. I have made these twice now and they’ve turned out great both times. I thought I’d post the recipe so that others in the same boat could try it out for themselves, or anyone who wants to try something new!

You will need:

  • 40g cornflour
  • 130g fine rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 300g brown sugar
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 250g dark chocolate chunks
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  • 125ml light whipping cream
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100g chopped pecans (optional)

Cornflour, rice flour and xanthan gum can be found in the Freefrom section of supermarkets and if not, they are also sold in Holland and Barrett’s. I’m sure you could also use milk chocolate to replace the dark chocolate if you’re not on the low FODMAP diet too or don’t like dark chocolate.

The Recipe

  1. Grease a baking tin either with butter, or line it with parchment paper and grease. The original recipe calls for a 29 x 12 cm baking tin, but you can use any depending on how thick you want your brownies to be. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.

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2. Next, melt the butter and dark chocolate chunks in a saucepan over a low heat. Once you’ve stirred until the mixture is smooth, add the brown sugar and stir constantly until it has fully dissolved (we actually didn’t wait until it had, as it didn’t seem to be dissolving much further and the mixture was getting too hot, but it didn’t affect the recipe). Pour the mixture into a large bowl and wait for it to cool.

3. Get another bowl and mix together the fine rice flour, the xanthan gum and the cornflour with a whisk.


4. Place the beaten eggs into the chocolate mixture one at a time and stir. Add the flour mixture, the pecans, the chocolate chips and the whipping cream. Then spread the mixture into the baking tin.

5. Bake for twenty minutes, then cover with foil and bake again. The original recipe says to bake for another twenty to twenty five minutes until you can stick a toothpick into the brownies and pull it out clean. However, we did it a little longer as it didn’t seem quite ready. Once you think they’re done, take them out and leave them to cool.

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6. The recipe then tells you to put the brownies in the fridge for a couple of hours until they are firm, but we left them out in the kitchen and they were fine, so it’s up to you! Then, cut the brownies into squares ready to be eaten. (I recommend warming them up and having them with ice cream!)

And that’s the recipe for low FODMAP brownies! If you end up using the recipe please let me know down in the comments how they came out or how you served them. Thank you for reading!