Believe Me – Social Media Tour

IMG_9539

I will admit that when I’m looking for a new read thrillers are rarely my go to. In fact, they’re never my go to. But when Quercus contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in receiving a review copy of JP Delaney’s Believe Me, and I read the marketing blurb, I was intrigued.

From the Quercus website:

In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation

One aspiring actress from the UK pays for her acting class in New York the only way she can: as a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers, hired to entrap straying husbands. When the police begin investigating one of her targets for murdering his wife – and potentially others – they ask her to help lure the suspect into a confession.

But with the actress pretending to be someone she’s not, differentiating the decoy from the prey becomes impossible – and deadly.

I’ve tried to step outside my reading comfort zone a bit more this year and here was an opportunity to do so again.

I’m so glad I did.

I started reading Believe Me as soon as it dropped through my letter box and it did not take long for me to feel completely hooked by the story. The opening pages set up a disturbing scenario, which you can’t help but want to understand, but the thing that really drew me into this narrative was the way in which the main character, Claire’s, interactions are, in part, presented like scripts. It really pulled me into the character’s mind seeing how her actor’s perspective influences how she experiences the various aspects of her somewhat unusual life, and these scripted interactions actually hold much greater significance than is initially apparent. Her theatrical tendencies were so appealing and there was one early description of being backstage that was particularly evocative, brilliantly illustrating Delaney’s skills as an atmospheric writer, as well as a storyteller.

This compelling atmosphere becomes more intricate as the story progresses, building in layers as the mystery and tension set by the original scenario thickens. Descriptions of Claire’s acting classes add almost a sense of magical realism to the twisting tale in which she becomes entangled. This is only emphasised through the excellent use of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) as a central plot device. Both beautiful and terrible, Baudelaire’s poems capture the essence of the evil Claire is confronting whilst increasing the enigma of who, exactly, is at its root.

The story only becomes more compelling as it unfolds because it doesn’t actually unfold at all – it folds itself in tighter and tighter. Every time I though I was getting a sense for what was going on, something else happened that made me question what I thought I had just begun to figure out. There are so many twists in this tale that I began to feel I was getting whiplash! Each twist, often coming out of nowhere, is brutal and begins to paint an increasingly disturbing picture. At times I wanted to stop reading because what was being revealed seemed so horrifying but I just couldn’t put it down.

By the end, I felt disturbed and relieved in equal measure because, although the mystery was unravelled and the loose ends tied up, I was left with the discomfiting feeling that all was not quite well, and I couldn’t help but wonder what path Claire’s life would take following her deep entanglement with such horror.

IMG_9593

Believe Me was a quick and compulsive read which I didn’t know what to expect from, even after I’d finished. If you’re after an easy but addictive story, with more twists than your average rollercoaster and and edge of tension that will linger after you turn the final page, then I recommend you pick up a copy.

 

Thanks to Quercus for the review copy. You can find out what some other fabulous bloggers and Instagrammers though of Believe Me by following the Quercus Social Media tour. 

Social media tour poster

 

Advertisements

When It Comes Crawling

IMG_9488

 

Why does it come crawling

As the day fades into night

To push away

And sap the joy

Of moments barely past?

I’m supposed to sit and be with it

To accept and see and name

But all I really

Want to do

Is scream please go away.

I know the balance of my life

Is far outweighed with good

From all the love

And all the hope

So I can’t help but feel I should

Be able to dispel this fear

With nothing more than breath

But when it comes

And crawls again

I shrink

And cower

And cry

All of those frustrated tears

Because willing it away

Is not enough

It’s still a part

Of what makes me

And the hardest thing

I’m yet to do

Is simply let it be.

But tomorrow is another day

And bring it rain or shine

This creepy crawly

Haunting thing

Won’t stop this life of mine.

Share a Story

IMG_1952.JPG

Hello lovely people. It’s been a whole month since I last spent any time in my little corner of the internet; I kept thinking about writing various posts but never actually managed to get around to doing it, partly because it’s been ridiculously busy and partly because I’ve had a bit of a rough mental health patch (ironic since my last blog series was all about mental health). But I’m here at last because it’s World Book Day and I couldn’t let it pass without a post.

IMG_5960.JPG

World Book Day is one of my favourite days. A whole day dedicated to celebrating books, and stories and reading – what more could a bookworm ask for? Aside from maybe the day off work to read…(a girl can dream). This year, I’m looking forward to my first World Book Day as Whole School Literacy Coordinator. We’ve not got anything spectacular planned but I’m still excited that my job for the day will be to talk about books, read with students, and do what I can to encourage staff and students alike to share stories. It’s absolutely freezing outside and curling up with a good book and a mug of something warm seems like the ideal way to spend these snowy days but if I have to leave the house I’m glad it’s to do something book related!

IMG_4311.JPG

The theme for this year’s World Book Day is “Share a Story” and I think it’s such a lovely concept. I’ve had great fun designing some lessons for KS3 and KS4 classes to get them thinking about the power of storytelling. (Shameless plug alert: if you’re planning last minute lessons you can get the powerpoint here and here.) I’ve been thinking a lot about how storytelling has evolved over time and how we are in fact surrounded by stories. Everyone and everything has a story and tells a story, from the history of the wheel that eventually evolved into the car or bike or bus you are getting to school or work in, to the ways we choose to dress or decorate our homes, stories are woven inextricably into everyday life – they are both mundane and magical. It’s so fascinating when you stop to think about all the millions of tiny stories that intersect with your own. I feel a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole when I consider it and I both want to keep on falling and worry that I might never stop!

IMG_6051.JPG

As usual, my own winding way of storytelling on this blog has lost it’s thread a little, but I hope you will take the time to consider the myriad of stories surrounding you today. You never know, you might discover something wonderful and unexpected.

I will be talking to students and colleagues about reading, and doing some reading and writing of my own. How will you be sharing stories today?

It’s #TimeToTalk To The World Weary

Sometimes, it all becomes too much. There are those days when all the plates you were spinning are suddenly on the floor, in pieces, and you don’t remember dropping them but it suddenly seems like you weren’t spinning them on sticks, like you thought, but on the top of over-ripe bananas. You feel like a complete idiot. A fraud. Like it’s a miracle that no one seems to have noticed yet how completely hopeless you are at everything. All at once your to-do list is not just long, it’s impossible; you crawl around picking up the pieces of your shattered plates, apologising when you realise your clumsiness has broken someone else’s plate as well; you plaster a fake smile on your face and loudly mock yourself for ‘having one of those days’ or having left your brain in bed that morning. But you can feel your composure slipping and the creeping despair inside makes you want to cry.

Before you know it your thoughts are spiralling and work, life, everything feels completely overwhelming and you think “I just can’t do this”, but you know that you HAVE to. Suddenly, all the life you have ahead of you seems an exhausting prospect.

And then comes the guilt. You berate yourself for being so morose and melancholy. You scorn yourself for feeling sad and overwhelmed when you should be grateful and happy. You tell yourself you are being ridiculous and remind yourself of the millions of people in the world who have it worse than you and you accuse yourself because if you feel like this it must be YOUR FAULT.

Panic. Sadness. Guilt. Anger. Overwhelm. Panic. Sadness. Guilt. Anger. And on and on and on…

I think that everyone experiences these days, to some extent or another, but for some people these days are more frequent, and/or more extreme. It can feel like a bad dream from which you simply can’t wake, or all too real for comfort.

Know this:

  • You are not alone.
  • It’s ok to feel what you feel and your present sadness does not diminish your past happiness or future joy.
  • Life IS overwhelming and sometimes we need to be a little bit kind to ourselves.
  • Bottling up those bad feelings only makes them worse, so consider that, if you haven’t already, it may be #timetotalk to someone.
  • I read somewhere that what all your bad days have had in common is that you got through them and that’s a strangely comforting truth.
  • This too shall pass.

It is a difficult but important thing to remember that it will not always feel like this. When you feel a little calmer, take a look at the things that you’re trying to juggle, the plates you’re trying to spin, and be honest about whether you’re expecting too much of yourself. If you have a trusted friend or family member ask them to help you do this – we tend to not be very objective when it comes to ourselves, so a second pair of eyes can help. Give yourself permission to put some of the plates down for a while. It actually is ok not to do everything all the time.

Remember that a lot of the ‘should’s that we put upon ourselves are expectations that come from outside, from a world that often demands perfection where, in reality, there’s no such thing.

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

 

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org
Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk
Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk
Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org
Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org
Please do not struggle alone.

For the Love of Poetry

Thursday 6th October is National Poetry Day so I’ve decided to share some poems here. I love poetry but it’s rarely my go-to reading material when I get time to pick up one of the many books on my shelves. It’s a great shame really because poetry can be so profound and inspiring, and it can also be incredibly grounding. By sharing some poems here I’m hoping to fill more of my days with poetry.

I’m starting with an appropriately seasonal poem in celebration of my favourite time of year.

Ode To Autumn – John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Random Round Up

  
A few fabulous finds from around the web:

  • Lover of Instagram? Lover of books? You definitely need #bookstagram in your life! 
  • As I grow up (ish) I continually develop my appreciation for Harry Potter, and more recently for J K Rowling. I think she is an incredibly inspiring woman so I am very excited to read her new book Very Good Lives. For a sneaky taste of the wonderfulness within the book have a read of this.
  • Colouring in for grown ups? Yes please!
  • My favourite thing of the election so far is definitely #milifandom – I’m still not completely decided who gets my vote in May but I think this is an amazing demonstration of the positive power of social media and young people making their voices heard.
  • Body image is a big issue at the moment. There are so many conversations going on around body shaming and at the same time the internet is filled with ‘fitspiration’ which so often makes people feel inadequate rather than inspired. I love this latest contribution from Cassey Ho, of Blogilates. I was really impressed with Cassey’s video and it prompted me to check out some of her workouts. I even downloaded her app and have been so impressed by how positive the atmosphere is on the forums. Everyone is welcome and encouraged; I scrolled through people’s pictures and comments for ages and didn’t see a single negative comment or even the slightest element of body shaming! It’s really is about everyone being who they are and doing what they want to feel comfortable in their own skin. It’s about being healthy rather than trying to fit some unrealistic ideal and god knows we need more of that in the world!

In Celebration of Books

Yesterday was World Book Day, which is absolutely one of my favourite days. What could be better than a whole day dedicated to celebrating the wonderful world of books? Shamefully, I completely missed joining in the celebrations, here on Thrive in Chaos, due to a mixture of having too much work to do, being out for most of the evening and generally feeling too tired to write anything remotely worth sharing. So I’m hoping to rectify that here and now. Firstly, I thought I would share with you a few lovely bookish links from around the web…
 
1. The Literary Gift Company has all manner of fabulous literary goodies. Why not treat a book loving friend? While you’re at it you can treat yourself! 🙂
2. Can you relate to Natalia Sylvester’s reason for continuing to buy more books even when you probably can’t read them immediately? I know I can.
3.  As well as celebrating books, this week we are also celebrating women with International Women’s Day! So how about picking your next book from this list of readers’ favourite books by women.
4. Looking to branch out from your traditional genre choices? Have a gander  at these suggestions and see what takes your fancy.
5. For a bit of fun how about a quick game of ‘literary would your rather‘?
6. Alternatively you could opt for a blind date with a book! Have nosy round your local book shops to see if any offer this rather wonderful idea.

Whilst I was browsing around the various bookish things that have been going on I came across this TBR tag and I thought I’d share with you a bit about my to be read list(s)…


How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
A few ways; I have a shelf in my dining room and a pile by my bed that are waiting to be read. I also have quite a few waiting in my kindle. I have a books wish list on Amazon and I keep a physical list in a notebook. I also have a note in my iPhone that gets added to pretty much anytime I’m in a bookshop/library and then when I’m home they get added to my wish list.
Is your TBR mostly print or eBook?

Probably about 50/50 to be honest. I love actual, physical books however a limited amount of space does mean I often opt for digital versions nowadays.

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

I’ll usually have one only my shelf/bedside table/kindle that has been calling out to me to be read. If there isn’t one I’ve had in mind the. I’ll pick up a couple of options and read the opening paragraph, the. I’ll carry on reading the one that grabbed me most!

A book that’s been on your TBR list the longest?

There are two that have been on my kindle and one that’s been on my shelf for ages: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, Villette by Charlotte Brontë and Heartstone by C. J. Sansom. I’m not really sure why I’ve not read them, they’re all by authors that I love and they’re all books I really want to read. I guess it’s just not been the right time to read them yet.

A book you recently added to your TBR?

Angelfall by Susan EE is the latest addition but ask me again in an hour and I’m sure I’ll have added another…

A book on your TBR strictly because of it’s beautiful cover.

I don’t really have any JUST for the beautiful cover however I do have an absolutely gorgeous copy of Grimm’s Tales that I’m currently dipping in and out of.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading.

I don’t tend to keep books I don’t plan to read on my TBR list because then I just get annoyed that I’m not reading it. However one that was on there for ages and I have recently just decided to remove is The Beautiful and The Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don’t know what it is but I just cannot get into his writing. Which I find weird because I come across beautiful quotes from his work all the time, but having tried a couple of his others and not finished a single one I think I can pretty confidently say I will never read this book.


An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for.
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. Having only got around to reading To Kill A Mockingbird last summer (why did I wait so long to read it?!) I am excited to see what this release has to offer.
A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you.
Probably Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.
A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which seems to be highly praised all over the place. Also The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.
A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read.
Honestly I’m dying to read pretty much all of them…
How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?
Currently there are 13 on my kindle, about 30 on my bookshelves, and 148 on my wishlist. This is actually a very restrained TBR list at the moment. Give me an hour in a bookshop or just browsing online and I would increase this significantly. I can also pretty much guarantee that even as I finish a book I will have added at least one if not more onto the list.
So, what is your TBR looking like right now? If you decide to try this out on your own blog then please post a link in the comments so I can have a nosy (and probably add some of your TBR books to my own list).

It’s #TimeToTalk – Panic Attacks

IMG_8136
Image found here.

Darkness closing in. Limbs trembling. Heart racing. Creeping cold over my skin and raging bubbling fire in the pit of my stomach. Palms sweating. Crippling fear of…who knows what? Everything. Nothing. A sense of detachment, removal from what’s around me. Feeling both smothered and exposed. Vulnerable. Mind wheeling in dizzying circles. Nausea setting in. Wishing to escape.

This is my experience of panic attacks. Terrible debilitating things. If you have experienced them yourself this might look familiar, or it might not, because panic attacks affect people very differently. If you have not experienced them then think of a time you were truly terrified, and then imagine that feeling springing on you completely out of the blue, possibly with no trigger at all. It’s not a pleasant experience.

I went through a period of having several attacks a day and it was completely exhausting. They are such draining things to deal with and on top of the attacks themselves there is the FEAR of an attack to manage. It’s so hard to not let this fear affect how you live your life. It’s tempting to avoid places and scenarios where attacks have occurred in the past in case it happens again. That is no way to live.

I still experience panic attacks but nothing like as bad or as often as they used to be. For me, travel was a particular trigger. If I find myself somewhere new, or possibly even just somewhere that is not home, I can find panic setting in. They happen mostly in the evenings around the time we would normally have dinner and as such eating in the evening whilst away from home became kind of a big deal for me. For a long time I was so ashamed of these attacks and saw them as so ridiculous that I just tried to deal with them without help. That wasn’t viable. I eventually fessed up to my now-hubby about what was going on and he has been incredible in helping me manage them and, to some extent, overcome them.

I refuse to let them rule my life. I love to travel and see new places so I’m not going to let the fear of panic stop me. I have slowly developed many ways to cope with my panic attacks; playing cards games; watching something very familiar and light (Friends or the BBCs Pride and Prejudice are my go-to choices); going for a walk; sometimes a really tight hug will help me calm down as it eases the trembling and feels safe; changing my environment helps, so if the attack started in my bedroom I’ll move to the lounge (if I’m away and just have the one room then changing locations in the room, move from the ed to the chair or pull the pillows down onto the floor and make a little nest, whatever works).

In spite of all these mechanisms for coping sometimes they don’t work and I just have to ride it out. But I’m getting better at that too. I accept that this is the situation. I acknowledge how bad I feel. Then I remind myself that it will end because they always have before. I remind myself that although it doesn’t feel like it I am perfectly safe and there is nothing there to harm me. And repeat until the attack eases off. Usually it exhausts me to the point the the end of the attack is me falling asleep and I don’t realise it’s over until the next day (usually waking up with a stuff neck from being so tense!).

So if you are suffering from panic attacks please remember there are many ways to cope with them and over come them, you are not alone, you do not need to be ashamed of what is happening. Accept that at that particular moment it is your reality and find a way to manage it but remember that it is only a moment and not forever.

For further reading here is an interesting article on myths we tell ourselves about panic attacks.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org
Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk
Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk
Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org
Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org
Please do not struggle alone.
x

Off On the Right foot

IMG_0698.JPG

This week I started my new job. Today it starts in earnest. Because, you know, today there will actually be students and stuff. Lessons to plan. Schemes of work to learn. Eek!

I am very excited about this new adventure. I also have many MANY doubts. But that’s ok. Because if you don’t try, you’ll never know. It’s time to carry on regardless…

Something Out in Nature

20140521-214937-78577637.jpg

Today’s prompt is simply a photo of something out in nature. With all the beautiful sunshine around I have many recent nature-y photos on my camera roll. I chose this one of one of the many lovely views around Alderley Edge, where we had a very happy day at the weekend, and where I have lots of happy memories.