Uncategorized

Northern Lights – Book Review

A lot of you out there have probably already ventured into Lyra’s world, as the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series was published in 1995! I have actually read Northern Lights before, as part of a course syllabus in university. However, I felt as if I didn’t get enough time to enjoy it and read it for pleasure, so I asked for a copy for Christmas. And what a beautiful copy it is!

If you haven’t heard about Northern Lights, it follows a young girl named Lyra, an orphan at Jordan college in London. But this isn’t your usual London, as this is not set in our world. In Lyra’s world, everyone has a daemon, an animal who they are connected to; if a human dies, so does their daemon, and vice versa. They can switch between various forms, before settling into one once you become an adult. Lyra’s daemon, Pan, likes to be in an ermine form for example, but changes into a bird, a wildcat and even a small dragon.

Lyra’s uncle, Lord Asriel, seems to think it has something to do with Dust, which Lyra is intrigued by. When children start disappearing, thought to be snatched by the Gobblers, Lyra is eager to find the missing children. With the help of an alethiometer, a truth telling device, she is taken on an adventure, uncovering the truth about Dust and travelling all the way North, meeting friend and foe along the way.

The whole world in His Dark Materials has always excited me, ever since I saw The Golden Compass film when I was younger. The thought of having an animal companion with an unbreakable bond, who would follow you any where, was something I dreamed of! Philip Pullman has done an excellent job of creating an immersive world, which is so similar to ours yet so different, almost making it real and plausible. He describes each setting wonderfully, from the architecture of Jordan college to Mrs Coulter’s lavish home to the harsh cold of the North.

I loved the steampunk atmosphere too with the airships, and it’s a world which can be easily imagined with Pullman’s descriptions, my favourite in particular being his description of the Northern Lights. They’re so vivid that I never had a hard time imagining what was happening. The same could be said for the characters too.

Lyra as a protagonist works so well; she is feisty and loyal, but you never forget that she is also just a child with something great thrust upon her. Her emotions are always made aware, and though she is incredibly brave, we get to see when she feels terrified. This is often shown through Pan too, which is a great technique. However she pushes on regardless, which is what makes Lyra, Lyra.

The dialectal dialogue is a fantastic way of bringing the characters to life. You can hear Lyra’s cockney accent in your head as you read, and the Gyptians such as Ma Costa have a different voice to Lord Asriel for example. One of my favourite characters, besides Lyra and Pan, has to be Iorek Byrnison. The whole race of the armoured bears or panserbjorn are so cool and unique, just one of the fantasy elements that add to the atmosphere of this world!

A quick sketch of how I imagine Lyra and Pan

It’s hard to comment on the plot when I already know it from previous reading and the films (plus the recent BBC adaptation which is excellent), but I can say that it is exciting with some great twists. What makes it so exciting is the change of scenery as Lyra travels, and the sense of danger as she is pretty much on the run. Not to mention, the Gobblers’ intentions…

Philip Pullman’s writing style is easy to read, and wonderfully descriptive as I’ve mentioned. It isn’t over-complicated as it’s worth remembering this is a children’s novel after all, and a great read for any fantasy lovers at that. What I have noticed though, not just in Northern Lights but in general with books that were written a while ago, is that there are some sentences that feel a little off to me. They will be quite basic or something I’d ask to be reworded if I was reading it in a writer’s workshop today. For example, it will be something like “Lyra went to sleep. When she woke up…”, which sounds a little too simple for me.

I’m not saying this is bad writing or makes the book un-enjoyable, it’s just interesting to see how writing has evolved to what authors write like today. There can be the flip side of being overly descriptive too! But overall, Pullman’s writing is ideal for children getting into fantasy or established fantasy fans, but also easily enjoyable to adults as well.

It was a pleasure to read Northern Lights again, and notice things I hadn’t the first time round. I’m excited to read the rest of the series as I have no idea what happens in them, and I’m hoping to get the matching covers!

My Rating

If you’ve read the Northern Lights, let me know what you thought in the comments!

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Gaming

Life is Strange 2 Review

Life is Strange is a franchise that I love very dearly. After playing Telltale Games, such as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, I was intrigued by its similar choice making aspect. I didn’t know just how attached I’d become to the characters… I cried at the end, I cried at the prequel game Before the Storm, and I even cried at the extra episode added to Life is Strange later on.

Seeing that Life is Strange 2 centered around new characters, I was eager to play and find out more. The Captain Spirit game was released beforehand about a boy named Chris, so I was confused as to how his story related to the new game and its main characters, Sean and Daniel. However, when playing it became clear, so I would recommend playing Captain Spirit first, though it isn’t essential!

What was clear straight away though, is that I was drawn to these new characters just as before.

The story follows Sean and his younger brother Daniel, living in Seattle with their father who moved there from Mexico. After an accident in which they discover Daniel has a strange power, Sean and Daniel are suspects and leave Seattle to hit the road, escaping the law. Sean can only think of one place to go; their father’s home town, Puerto Lobos, in Mexico.

Without spoiling the story, the main focus is Sean and Daniel’s relationship as they travel alone, meeting friends and enemies along the way. Not to mention, dealing with Daniel’s newfound power. I personally haven’t played a game about brothers before, so it was a change for me. I loved how Sean would refer to them as The Wolf Brothers, as a team, and tell Daniel stories about the wolves to calm him. Their relationship was done beautifully, with ups and downs making it realistic. Though of course, playing as Sean and making the choices, your relationship with Daniel is dependent on what you choose as well as the story.

The same mechanics as the first game are used, which are simple and easy to pick up. Control Sean in third-person and make him move towards objects or people you can interact with, highlighted with white text. When you get close enough, it will then show you the actions you can carry out, corresponding with buttons.

Mostly with objects you will get a small piece of dialogue with some backstory, though sometimes you will be able to pick the item up or use it. But speaking to people can often affect the story, and if it does, this will be signaled by a symbol of two wolves running in the bottom corner. Now and again you will have major choices, which is often between two actions which fill either half of the screen.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by choice making! I do, wondering whether the story will progress in a way I don’t want it to. The best thing to do is go with your gut, and don’t go looking up how your choice affects the story. That’s the beauty of Life is Strange, having to make tough decisions not knowing what’s going to happen…exactly like real life. And this time, you don’t have Max’s power to rewind time!

I think the thrill of choice making causes the game to be so much more immersive, because you’re changing the narrative as if you have become Sean himself. The way you act around Daniel changes his moral compass too, so there’s a lot of pressure! In general, I found it immersive due to the visuals and setting as well. The graphics aren’t entirely realistic like Red Dead for example, as the style is graphic and cartoon-like. However the expressions and the way the characters move felt so real to me, and they became real people. The gorgeous lighting and stunning colours, varying from snowy pinewood forests to the orange desert, was a joy to explore. I love the outdoors and forests in particular, so I think I enjoyed this more than the high school setting in Life is Strange.

Unfortunately, there were some rendering issues on my Xbox One. Textures not loading correctly, words or designs taking a moment to become clear. This took me out of the game a little, but towards the end I must have either gotten used to them or they weren’t as frequent as I can’t remember them being so much of an issue.

I applaud the voice actors too for bringing life to the characters, and there’s another excellent soundtrack like the previous games, highlighting the lows and the highs of the story. There are heart warming moments, tense moments and heart breaking moments, so you never know what’s around the corner.

However, I would like to add that some people may find a game like this slow. There’s a lot of cut scenes, which I enjoy as a writer to see the narrative unfold, but I know many don’t like to sit through those. I like interacting with each object and exploring, but some tasks such as packing your bag might be tedious for others, wanting to rush to get through the story. If you’re looking for non-stop action, this game may not be for you, as it involves listening to others talk and watching events rather than taking part.

Like Max’s photos and Chloe’s graffiti in the other games, you can sit and draw as Sean to fill collectibles and achievements, as well as collect souvenirs to attach to your backpack. Being able to look through them and Sean’s journal further makes him seem like a real person. Again, reading through Sean’s journal is probably something that some would want to skip, but I find it so interesting.

Although this story is separate from Chloe and Max’s, I think it’s better if you play the first game beforehand as there are some references, due to it being set in the same world. It’s fun to see things you recognise even though they aren’t crucial to understanding the story! The references didn’t stick out awkwardly too, blending into the story and just giving you a better idea of how the two games relate.

Overall, if you enjoyed the first game, you won’t be disappointed. It’s full of memorable characters, even those who only appear in a single episode, and each episode takes the story down an exciting but tense path. Of course, as there are multiple endings, I can’t tell you whether the story ended well; that is down to your choices! If you love narrative based games or choice based games, I urge you to give Life is Strange a go.

My Rating

Uncategorized

1 Year of Blogging

Hello and welcome back to my blog! Since I’ve been busy opening my new Etsy store (shameless plug) among other projects, it’s actually been over a month since I last posted…oops! But I’m hoping this little break will allow me to start the new year fresh and reignite my ideas for blog posts.

It’s now officially been a year since I started blogging; it’s hard to pick an exact date because I started posting around November time of 2018, but didn’t start regularly until January 2019. I’d also made the blog years before that, so I don’t have an actual ‘blogiversary’. But since it’s definitely been a year now, I thought I’d do this post now anyway!

My blog has opened me up to new opportunities and I’ve made so many lovely friends through the blogging community! However, it’s not easy running a blog and I’ve realised that along the way, so here are the top 3 things I have learned in one year of blogging!

My usual blogging set up!

Don’t put pressure on yourself to stick with a schedule

There’s nothing wrong with being organised and it is helpful for some to plan their days. However, it can also make you feel as if you have to post and feel guilty if you don’t. This makes it more of a chore than a hobby. I fell into this a while ago, but having a more relaxed attitude helps. My posting day has always been Friday, but if it rolls around and I don’t have a post, that’s fine.

When I started blogging, I was posting twice a week, but now it’s turned into once a week or a fortnight depending on how busy I’ve been. I often have weeks go by without posting, like recently. But I’ve accepted now with all the other creative projects I do, it’s impossible to focus all my time on just one thing.

Some of my favourite blog posts were from last summer, where I was on holiday and had lots of content, so it’s normal to not have as much for a usual week!

It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to blog any more or that I’m fed up with it. It’s just hard to juggle all the ideas I have for other things and spare the time equally among all my projects. Your blog isn’t going to go anywhere, and neither will your readers (hopefully!), so you can post as much or as little as you want, whenever you choose to.

Your blog is unique to you

“What’s your niche?” gets thrown around a lot in the blogging community. I was under the impression that having a topic to focus on was better and more appealing to readers. And most of all, my blog wasn’t good enough because it didn’t have one. However, that really isn’t the case.

Some people may prefer reading a blog that has a niche, especially if they only want to read about that topic, like cookery or baking for example. That doesn’t mean though that because you don’t have one, no one is going to like your blog. I’ve seen very successful bloggers who cover all sorts of things. At the end of the day, people are subscribing to your blog because its yours, as they like you and your style of writing.

My Instagram like my blog is full of what I like and want to post, rather than making it perfect

You shouldn’t try to change your blog or your posts for anyone else, as it is your space and belongs to you. No matter what you write about it, there will be an audience for it. Even if people aren’t necessarily into what you write about, they may be happy to learn about it because they like your writing voice. You don’t have to copy other people’s posts, or have the exact same theme, as people want to see your personality shine through!

Blogging is worthwhile without having to monetise it

It wasn’t until I became a part of the blogging community that I realised people actually did it for a living, and that you could be paid to write on your blog. It sounded perfect to me and I wanted to work towards being able to do the same one day. I saw that you needed views, regular posts and a high DA to score sponsored posts, so I became a little obsessed in watching my views. I loved seeing them grow every month, and got frustrated when a post got little views.

Of course, writing was a huge passion of mine, so making money doing what I loved was so appealing to me. However, this is when like I’ve mentioned before, it turned into more of a chore and I put pressure on myself. I’d panic when I didn’t have enough time to get a post out, and think I was failing because I wasn’t getting those thousands of views that people were posting on Twitter. What was the point in my blog if I could never live up to them, and if it wasn’t making me money after all the time I spent on it?

Scrolling back through my Instagram, I can’t believe it’s been a year!

Taking a step back from my blog helped tackle this. Having readers still comment and interact with my posts even if it had been weeks was so encouraging, reminding me of why I started it in the first place. To share my writing, and find people who will discuss it with me. It’s my little part of the internet, and I’m really proud of it. Sure, making money through a passion would be nice, but even though it’s just a hobby, I’ve made the most supportive friends, and got my writing out there.

What have you learned through running a blog?

So there are the top three things I’ve learned in a year of running Writing the Blues Away! If you have a blog, would you agree with them, or is there anything else you’d like to add? Let me know down in the comments and I’ll see you in my next post.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!