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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, searching for pure happiness & joy

November 06, 2018

My Favourite Apps for my Inner Astrologer & Mystic



Hey folks, I thought it was high-time we talked a little bit more about the stars and predicting our futures - just kidding. We all know here I am a massive advocate for horoscopes and learning more about starsigns, but I always like to use them as a way to navigate life and assign things that might happen to me which don't make sense or stress me out etc. as horoscopes help me to give that particular incident a purpose so I can then think "what should I do about that? What should I do next?" and I find that really helpful. I also just like them because I think they have a lot to do with our personalities and who we are as people. As my first post delving into astrology went down well with you all, I figured I would share with you the apps I enjoy using and would highly recommend for those tech-savvy mystics out there:

Daily Horoscope: One of the first ever horoscope/zodiac apps I downloaded and I still swear by it. This is my favourite app to look at not only my daily horoscope, but also my weekly and monthly. This app has a nice little level of customisation for the colour palette, the font size, the readability etc. of the app so it fits your style, but really it's the content of this app that always wins me over. You can scroll back and forth between days so you can read ahead of time future horoscope predictions if you so wish or if you missed yesterday's, you can scroll back to see if it was accurate or not. Daily Horoscope also has a nice addition of the Chinese birth years which you can read for each sign and Druid tree signs that you can educate yourself on. You can also check other horoscopes so it's not just fixed on your own and have an annual overview or traits read of each starsign so there's a lot of flexibility with this app. My favourite thing about this though is that I just find it to be the most accurate out of all I use and have tried in the past. I find I can apply most of what is said really easily to something going on in my life and it helps me process what might have changed or what I'm currently experiencing as it gives it a purpose and correlation.

Golden Thread Tarot: If you are interested in tarot but you just don't know where to start, get Golden Thread Tarot downloaded as soon as possible. This visually pleasing app helps explain how to read and interpret tarot cards and tracks a lot of information in the mean time. This app will track what cards you pull over time and the affect they, or the things the cards may be hinting at, have on you and your feelings. I really like this app as it's kind of like a spiritual toolkit so it not only educates me but can be used for support and insight into my more spiritual side. If you really want to, you can also purchase a physical tarot deck of the same cards that are used in the app's beautiful artwork so you can feel like you've really got all of your shit together.



Celeste: If you're someone who wants to get more into very specific astrology and get down to the nitty gritty of birth/natal charts and what they mean about you and your interaction with others, then Celeste is the app for you. I've talked about birth charts and the beginners guide to understanding them before and also recommended helpful reading on the topic but if you're more techy and find it easier to understand when you actually just get stuck into it, Celeste maps out your birth chart based on the information you input. Therefore it's a great starting point for those who are wishing to map their birth charts or if you simply want to be nosy and check out someone elses.

Co - Star: Okay so, if you own an iPhone, you need to get this app. Co-Star gives you the opportunity to not only track your own horoscope and gain familiarity with your birth chart, but you can add friends and family members who also have the app to explore their charts in more detail and also look at your compatibility. I *really* like this one for that reason the most - I can read about my friendships and relationships and it's helped me make sense of some things and prepared me for others. I find it be yet another app that is very accurate and its got nice imagery and a nice interface too. If you're someone who has started to get into your birth chart and horoscope but you're still learning what it all means, this app explains things simply and clearly.

Time Passages: Another app similar to Co-Star, Time Passages allows you to map your own birth chart and others, understand your sun, moon, and rising signs in more detail (if you're wondering what on earth I'm talking about, check out this post), but also updates you on moon phases and upcoming mercury retrograde periods if you want to prepare yourself for their effects. Just like many of the other apps mentioned in this post, this one is aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate but also utilises GPS on your phone really well to give you an as accurate chart and reading as possible. In-app purchases are available and you can also buy a more detailed version of the app, but I honestly think the free version and it's freebies deliver more than enough.



Astrolis Horoscopes & Tarot : This app allows you to look at both your horoscope and tarot cards and both can be looked at daily. The horoscopes are short and sweet and include little snippets in relation to the planets now and again which I like (it always feels a little more authentic when this is the case!) and you can check just a regular daily update, weekly, monthly, annually, and everything in between! If you're having money worries, you can check that out specifically. If you've recently fallen head over heels, you can check out "Love" and see if it tallies up with reality. I like that this app gives you a daily compatible sign, lucky numbers, and also daily outlooks focusing on your mood, love, energy, and money - most of which I find quite accurate day to day. My favourite part of this app though is the daily tarot pulls you can do. You can flip three tarots - past, present, and future - and read a little about them and what they might be related to. Again, these readings are short and sweet, but I find them quite insightful and they help me navigate changes and negativities in life.

iLuna: I make jokes about "mercury in retrograde" as much as the next millennial, but the way the moon affects the planet is something I will always argue and stand by. The moon has an effect on the ocean and the tides so in my mind, it's foolish to think that it doesn't have an effect on us as human beings. iLuna tracks the moon and it's travels through the 12 signs of the zodiac. During this tracking, it suggests ways in which the moon's movements could affect us and you can also search ahead of time to find out what phase the moon may be in on a specific date (if you want to check special date and plan accordingly). Again, this is another visually pretty app to use and is simple to navigate so it's just a joy to use.



Mystic Mondays: I love the whole aesthetic and pay off of this app. Mystic Mondays pulls a daily tarot card for you and I often find it to be scarily accurate or applicable for my day or recent mood. I like this app because it's simple and fuss free but the artwork/design of it is still gripping and visually stimulating. Although, of course, you get some repetition with it (as there's only so many options you can possibly get from a tarot deck each day), it still feels individual and unique to me and the words are just as good as the artwork. It's definitely a full package kind of app. It's also a good one for those of you who might be getting into tarot reading as it has a library section of all of the cards and what they typically refer to.

Skyview Lite: Skyview is a great app not just for those of you who are into your astrology or spirituality, but for anyone who just wants to look at a beautiful app and potentially wow others. Skyview allows you to point your camera at the night sky and will map out the stars for you, constellations, and satellites. Skymapping apps can get quite pricey, but this one is free for the most part and has a nice interface to use. It's educational and a must-have for stargazing advocates as you can check out local stargazing events too!

Dreamboard: Last but not least, if you're someone who remembers their dreams or remotely likes to sleep track etc. then Dreamboard is a must. It is a dream journal app which you can use for tracking, analysing, and recording your dreams. A bit like a fitness app, Dreamboard will collect whatever information you store in it so you can visually see how often you may have nightmares, lucid dream, if you haven't dreamt for a long time - even if you've had a good night's sleep. I like to look back at the narration I can input to see if any themes crop up or if I have any recurring dreams.



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October 28, 2018

Having a Sustainable Halloween: Recipes for Using up your Pumpkin



Halloween is one of the best parts of the year - don't @ me trying to tell me any different. But guess what? This goth for life has never carved a pumpkin til this year. I know, you're all utterly horrified but, it's just the way it's always been! I remember carving a turnip when I was younger (shout out to fellow working class folk who grew up doing this because it was the cheaper alternative) but, this year I wanted to finally sit down and complete this main Halloween tradition properly. Something that I wanted to make sure I did whilst carving though is make sure I used up as much of the pumpkin as possible. Many times I've witnessed pumpkin carving going on and all the good bits inside have made their way swiftly to the bin. What a waste. Pumpkin is *such* a comforting and nutritious food - here's just some of its benefits:
- high in Vitamin A
- also full of various other vitamins for improving immunity
- nutrients that promote healthy skin
- high anti-oxidant content for reducing risk of chronic illness
- full of nutrients that can protect eyesight

So, I think we can all agree that pumpkin can really pack a punch. With all the benefits of it in mind, and the fact that I didn't want to waste any perfectly good food just for the sake of a carving, Matt came up with the idea of posting about a sustainable Halloween. And that was that. So, I came up with a couple of recipes for both the inside and out so I could truly benefit from ticking this tradition off my list of things to try. If you want to eat some scrummy food and also pamper your skin for a low price and to make your Halloween carving time a little more sustainable and waste-free then just keep on reading! (Please note: one of the best things you can do is carve out as much pumpkin flesh as you can before doing your actual carving. This will a) give you some flesh to work with during your pumpkin being used for Halloween and b) make it easier for you to carve. It's also worth noting that one of these recipes requires chopped pieces of pumpkin so cutting up your jack-o-lantern before it goes bad is worth it for that particular recipe! And shout out to Matt for being a source of grand ideas. You can all thank him for this. )



Curried Pumpkin Soup & Curried Seed Crunch - Vegan & Low Calorie
This recipe is a fool-proof option and a great autumn warmer. Pumpkin doesn't hold a lot of taste on it's own which makes it a great base ingredient for soups, stews and curries. I use US "cup measurements for this as it's easier to keep track of the ratios of ingredients. This soup is packed full of veggies and great flavouring that tallies up to just 161 calories per portion and uses up the flesh and the seeds of the pumpkin!

Calories: 161 per person | Serves: 2 (generously)

Ingredients
For the soup:
- 1 tbsp of oil of your choice for frying
- 1 regular-sized yellow onion, sliced
- 3 cups of pumpkin, chopped or carved out
- 1 cup of carrots, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp of fresh ginger, minced (ground ginger or paste works too!)
- 1 tbsp of curry powder
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- salt & pepper
- 1 litre of vegetable stock (or chicken if you're not veggie/vegan!)

For the seeds:
- 1 cup of clean pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 tsp of oil of your choice
- 1 tsp of curry powder
- 1 tsp of fajita seasoning or cayenne pepper
- salt & pepper



Instructions
For the soup:
1. Add some oil to a deep pan on a med-high heat ready to saute the onions. Cook them through until they start to go translucent (about 5-6 mins).
2. Add the garlic and ginger and carry on cooking for a couple of minutes.
3. Now add the carrot, pumpkin, curry powder, and cumin. Stir through.
4. Pop in the vegetable/chicken stock and bring to the boil. Now reduce the heat and leave it to cook through with the lid on for 20 minutes.
5. Once the vegetables have softened, pop it all in a liquidiser or use a handheld one to whizz-up the ingredients. Pulse the ingredients to a texture of your liking for soup (I like mine quite liquid rather than chunky!) and add salt and pepper to taste.

For the seeds:
1. Preheat the oven to 190c.
2. Toss the seeds, oil, and spices in a bowl.
3. Place some baking paper on a baking tray and lay the seeds on it in one flat layer.
4. Bake for around 8-10 minutes. Check on them occasionally and move them around if need be until they are browned and smell delicious! You can also pop them under the grill to get them really crisp.



Easy Peasy Pumpkin Pie with Maple Cream - Easy & Vegetarian
This one is a new one for me as previously, I had never tried pumpkin pie! It's a very rich and indulgent dessert but is a very autumn/winter appropriate sweet option that has a festive feel. I've made it easy with ready-made pastry and I didn't even have a proper tart cake tin - so this is proof that you can make do with what's in your cupboards (including making it vegan if you can find good single and double cream substitutes!)

Calories: 585 | Serves: 6-8 (depending on serving size)

Ingredients
For the pie:
- Ready-to-roll shortcrust pastry
- 6 cups of pumpkin, peeled & chopped/carved
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup of butter, melted
- 150ml of single cream
- 1 cup of muscovado sugar (light or dark - I only had dark in stock!)
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of ginger
- 1 tsp of nutmeg

For the maple cream topping:
- 1 small tub of double cream (I used Emlea 284ml size)
- 3 tbsp of maple syrup (I used maple-flavoured agave as I didn't have any!)



Instructions:
For the pie:
1. Unroll the pastry and leave to thaw according to the packaging instructions (mine suggested 60 minutes). During this time, cover the pastry in a sprinkling on cinnamon.
2. Put the pastry in a 20cm tart/cake tin if you have one, if not, try and find a similar-sized square tin with high sides. Trim off any excess pastry as it should come up to just above whatever tin you've put it in.
3. Pop the pumpkin, cream, muscovado sugar, nutmeg and ginger in a pan to simmer through. Simmer on a medium heat for around 20 minutes or until the pumpkin starts to soften (if you have a lot of carved out pumpkin rather than chopped up pieces, this is perfect for this recipe as it will all be blitzed soon anyway).
4. Pour the mixture into a blender and whizz it up until smooth. Leave the mixture cooling and go back to your pastry.
5. Heat your oven to 200c and cover the pastry with baking paper of foil. Pour baking beads in on top of the paper/foil and bake the pastry for 15 minutes (pro tip: if you don't have baking beads, dry rice works just as well and can be put back into packaging once used!)
6. Remove from the oven and remove the baking beads and paper. Bake the pastry once more for 5 minutes longer.
7. Pour your pumpkin puree mixture into a bowl and beat in 3 eggs and the melted butter.
8. Turn the oven down to 180c and pour the mixture into the pastry case. Fill it almost to the top but leave some crust showing! Cook for 30-40 minutes. You'll know when it's done if it wobbles like jelly in the middle.

For the cream:
1. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it stiffens.
2. Beat in the maple syrup/maple syrup substitute. Spoon onto the top of a warm slice of pie and enjoy!



Pumpkin Seed Energy Balls - Vegan & Healthy Snack
Date energy balls are a firm favourite when it comes to snacks. I really enjoy making them with oats and almonds with some cacao powder as they're a good healthy alternative to having a chocolate biscuit with a cuppa, but these ones have a hint of festive spirit to them thanks to the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Calories: 80 per ball | Serving: 10-12 (depending on size)

Ingredients:
- 12 medjool dates
- 1 cup of pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- cacao or cocoa powder to roll balls in if you've got a sweet craving!

Instructions:
1. Remove the pits from the dates and put them in a food processor.
2. Add in the pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Blitz the whole lot until it starts to combine and spin around the blender as a whole lump.
3. Separate the mixture into small handfuls and roll in the palms of the hand to make small balls.
4. Leave as is to chill in the fridge or roll them in some cacao or cocoa powder if you want some extra sweetness!



Pumpkin Enzyme Face Mask & Scrub - Vegan & Brightening
On top of the benefits I've already mentioned, pumpkin is great for the skin's surface too. The enzymes in pumpkin and the AHAs can increase cell turnover, smooth the skin and soften it. It is full of the antioxidants Vitamin A and Vitamin C which not only soften the skin but can also boost collagen production and thus, help with anti-ageing. This recipe is lush to put on when your skin is angry too. As it's a fresh natural face mask, you need to keep it in the fridge and use it within a week, so small batches are best. It's very cooling and will feel gently tingling on the skin as it helps blood flow to the surface of the skin. Add in some granulated sugar if you want to give it a scrubbing property too!

Ingredients:
- 1 large tbsp of pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of ginger
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tbsp of honey (or agave to make it vegan)
- 1 tbsp of white granulated sugar (if making it a scrub!)

Instructions:
1. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl/jar and mix well.
2. Apply to the face and leave for 10-15 minutes.
3. Rinse and enjoy your baby-butt-soft face and glow!



Remember that if you're sat there with a whole lot of pumpkin on your hands, if you roast it for 1 hour on 180c and then peel away the skin, you can pop it all in a blender/liquidiser and make puree. Puree can then be used for *so* many recipes but best of all, it can be sealed in a container and kept in the freezer for a good 3-4 months so if you think you've got too much to use up fresh, freeze the rest for use during winter.

Lastly, if you've somehow got through this whole post and thought "hang on a minute, I don't even like pumpkin" or you are worrying about what you do with your carving once it's starting to collapse then, don't you worry. Popping your pumpkin outside whether it's at the bottom of the garden or even in your local park or woodland is a great, sustainable way to get rid of it because the animals love it. Whether we're talking about birds, badgers, squirrels, foxes... you name it, they'll wanna eat it. If you happen to have any of the seeds leftover, pop them outside too - there's no reason it's only the humans who should get to enjoy this time of year.

Happy Halloween!


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October 21, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: Switching to Zero Waste Natural Cleaning Products



Hey gang, it's been a hot minute since the last Sustainable Sunday post so that fact combined with something I need to get off my chest, I decided to post this. Cleaning isn't something that's usually talked about on a lot in the blogging/vlogging world, but it's become quite popular recently due to a few different influencers via Instagram, blogs etc. and whilst I think it's quite a good thing, it's also made me painfully aware that many people don't pay much attention to cleaning products and what they're actually are.

I've been cruelty free in every aspect of my life (including my household cleaning products for a little while now), but I've recently upped that movement of mine to making sure I am also using natural ingredients in my cleaning regime which in turn means I am also becoming more zero waste which is great in my opinion. So in this post I want to share with you all why switching to zero waste, natural cleaning products is a really positive and how easy it can be!

It's a lie that you need lots of different cleaners
One of the biggest lies ever told is that you need a whole-host of different cleaners for different rooms, surfaces, spills/marks etc. Don't get me wrong, if you're polishing something that is metal then you might not want to use the same product on something wooden, but the idea that you need a kitchen cleaner, then a bathroom cleaner, then something else for the oven hob, then another product for the shower screen/glass... It's all just lie. Using a natural cleaner with basic ingredients in means you can tackle every job in the house with that one bottle of product and doesn't that sound like the easiest way to live your life?

So many cleaning products aren't cruelty free
Something that not everyone may be concerned about but something that's certainly close to my heart is keeping up my cruelty free way of life. After switching to shopping exclusively cruelty free over a year and a half ago, I've started to pay more and more close attention to what I pick up when shopping and in more realms of my shopping too. Household cleaning products isn't usually the main area people think of when we think "cruelty free". We tend to focus on the beauty and skincare worlds and the household kind of gets left out of the scrutiny limelight. But the problem with this is that *so* many of the popular cleaning products aren't cruelty free. The idea that many cleaning agents are experimented on animals is upsetting to me and so a huge benefit of making your own products at home is without a doubt the peace of mind that I know no animals were harmed at all.



Many products have a lot of harmful chemicals in them
Adding to the cruelty free point, another factor I'm not completely comfortable with with many products is just how full of chemicals they are. I get it - the chemicals help cut through grease or limescale blah blah blah - but so do so so many natural ingredients that are anti-bacterial and disinfecting. I personally like to have a super clean home and a lot of this stems from my mam being OCD and growing up with that, but I'm also a firm believer that if you're not exposed to germs of any type, you're going to have a super bad immune system. Using harsh chemicals that have warnings on the bottles about the product getting on your skin or causing irritation, chemical burns and poisoning just seems like a drastic step to take to avoid some germs when they can be tackled and managed in a much safer way. Some studies have suggested that women who held cleaning jobs whilst pregnant had an elevated chance of their babies having birth defects which of course, is kind of alarming.

Speaking of harmful chemicals, the fumes/fragrances can be toxic too
It's probably no surprise to some of you that a few cleaning chemicals on the market can trigger asthma, other respiratory problems, and allergic reactions (and I know I for one used to cough my guts up whilst cleaning my bathroom). Synthetic fragrances are usually to blame for this and annoyingly, many petrochemicals such as phthalates are included in this umbrella term on the ingredients list. This is annoying for a consumer because phthalates have been linked to any number of things: breast and liver cancer, lowering sperm count, disrupting hormone activity, and nervous-system disorders yet many companies are allowed to include these dangerous ingredients because it "smells nice". Synthetic fragrance is absorbed into the bloodstream through contact with the skin so watch out for it listed in any number of products - not just household cleaning. It can be in candles, dryer sheets, baby wipes, air freshner etc. and although the EU and US banned phthalates from being in products such as childrens toys, they are allowed a very small percent of them to be present and not every single phthalate is banned. To me, it just makes sense to avoid them all together and create your own cleaners!

Switching to zero waste means less one-use plastic pollution
The battle against plastic pollution has been a big one this past year and whilst I still think we have a long way to go and a lot of the damage is irreversible, there's a lot of things we can do to make things better. Again, something that I think is overlooked, is the containers we buy our products in. We often don't think twice about how some items are packaged yet we complain about others (think about the whole debate about fruit and veg being packaged in plastic). The majority of shop-bought cleaning products come in plastic bottles or containers and many of us - myself included for the longest time - didn't give a second thought to this single-use plastic that yeah, we throw in the recycling in the hopes that it *will* be recycled, but if we're really honest with ourselves, we don't know what happens to it for sure. By making natural cleaning products at home, you drastically minimise the amount of plastic you're wasting and throwing out which is a great side-effect alongside all the other benefits.



Homemade cleaners have great natural products which are effective
Something I touched on earlier and will certainly go into more detail in my DIY cleaning products post is just how great natural ingredients are and how effectively they clean. Think back to when Kim and Aggie would go around all those desperate-for-a-deep-clean homes on TV and they would have the place sparkling after a dash of vinegar here and a bit of bicarbonate soda here. These readily available items amongst many others are *so good* when it comes to cleaning and can do arguably a better job than the cleaners with the high price tags and chemical counts if you just use them in the right way, in the right mix.

You will save *so* much money
Last but certainly not least, I can't stress enough jut how much money zero waste homemade products will help you save. Many of the ingredients in these natural cleaners are items you'd pick up in your weekly or monthly food shop and thus are ofte affordable, available, and don't have a great deal of waste. I urge anyone reading this to have a look under their kitchen sink and just tally up how much their various cleaners, detergents, bleaches etc. come to and then compare it to the one or two natural ingredient DIY products you could make. Not only are you saving because you can use cheap ingredients each time you need to make a new batch, but you're saving on overspending just because of a brand name, and you're saving on the price potentially being hiked-up due to paying for packaging as you can reuse whatever container you use again and again.

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks for a DIY zero waste cleaning product recipe post so you can make a switch to natural household cleaners with ease!


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October 16, 2018

Book Club No. 17



Hello lovely folk, today I'm back with a book review post for you all. This is an all-round "good books" review which is fab as that's not always the case for Book Club but, I've read some great things recently. If you're a fellow fan of graphic novels/comics then you'll be pleased to know, I've got you covered in this post too! So let's get into the reviews:

Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Oh man you guys, where do I even start with this? If you've been a reader for a while, you will know that I'm a *huge* fan of this series and really enjoyed the first and second books a lot so it's probably no surprise that the third instalment also really floated my boat.

I'm not going to explain the back story or general plot too much as I already have here, but this is such a great third and "final" book. I say "final" because it's been recently announced that Ransom Riggs is actually releasing the 4th book so I'm mega excited, but the 4th book is the start of a new trilogy set in the United States rather than the UK. This book is still following the trip in London that the children are going through to find their beloved ymbryne, Miss Peregrine, after she is stolen away along with the other ymbrynes. Library of Souls goes down the more fantasy route whereas, despite the main characters being magical with amazing varying powers that defy logic and all odds, the other books are set in more realistic environments and circumstances. Library of Souls however spends the majority of the story in a peculiar-only zone/town and part of me feels that a small reason for that is this book can get dark and the magic kind of softens the blow.

The gang that you follow throughout the series get separated for a lot of this book which I completely understand why as it fits the narrative and plot, but I was kind of disappointed because the group as a whole work so well together that I often felt like I was missing characters: Enoch's sarcasm or Bronwyn's care and consideration mainly. Despite this though, it's a great way to explore Jacob's - the main character - thoughts and feelings towards things seemingly coming to a close and him dealing with how much power, influence, and friendship he has built. It gets quite dark as the violence is stepped up a notch and Riggs describes this really well by keeping it suitable for young adults but also making it suitably harrowing at the same time. New characters were introduced into this third book too and I was not mad about it - Sharon is a fucking great character and I hope he has a little cameo in the next trilogy. Overall, the book did a fine job bringing this epic adventure to a close without dulling the opportunity for future escapades and although I would still say the second book (Hollow City) was my favourite, this one still gripped me and had me guessing throughout whilst also turning each page hoping and praying that my favourite characters wouldn't meet their end.

The one problem I had with it, that I weirdly didn't have with the other two books, was the fact that Riggs uses old photographs throughout the book to give you an idea of what particular characters look like. He has stated before that he does this as he's been influenced by these old photos from garage/yard sales and wanted to use them in his stories. Obviously, some of them have been altered to match his characters as well, but it just didn't seem to flow as well in this book. Sometimes it came across as if characters were just included momentarily as some sort of filler just so the photo would make sense, rather than them being central to the narrative. This isn't something that ruins the story at all, it's just something that distracted me as a reader from the plot at times which is a shame. However like I said, I recommend this book and the whole trilogy very highly. Grab your own copy here for £5.58



Injection Volume 2 by Warren Ellis
Somehow, it's been two years since I read the first Injection volume and boy oh boy am I pleased I've got back to this story. I'll quickly give you some backstory: Injection focuses on five specialist individuals who are brought together by the British government to theorize about human culture and why society is progressing and changing the way that it is in the 21st century. They then create an artificial intelligence that is a mix of shamanism and technology which essentially poisons the world in response to their theories and hypotheses. Injection really begins when the group has disbanded and then are being brought back together to try and stop the havoc the intelligence is starting to reek on the planet.

The second volume obviously explores some of the main characters a lot more which is great, and also develops the story so you can begin to understand more about Injection/the poison/the artificial intelligence and how it has grown and learned things to develop itself. This second instalment was just as gripping as the first and had some excellent scenes of humour which I always feel steps up graphic novels that little bit extra as they can jump from funny to serious in a page turn or strip. The artwork in Injection is also really good and fits the genre and mood of the comic well. After reading this second volume, I feel that Injection is a bit of a slow burn overall despite the first two collections being really hard-hitting with twists in the plot, but generally speaking, I feel like it's all building to a huge crescendo at the end which will be epic (or that's what I'm hoping at least). If you like comics that have a sci-fi feel but with elements of superstition, horror, and mythology thrown in there for good measure, you are bound to love this. Volume 3 is also out now and Volume 4 will be released next month so get on it quick! Get your paperback copy for £11.78 here



The Knife of Never Letting Go: The First Novel of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
I know I said it earlier, but honestly, I don't know where to start with this one, gang. I got this book (along with the next two in the trilogy) from Matt for my birthday and holy shit. I didn't know what to expect, but it's fair to say, it's ended in love after this first book. Patrick Ness wrote one of my favourite books that made me ball like a baby in public the first time I read it, so I was so excited to get stuck into The Knife of Never Letting Go. This series follows a young boy named Todd Hewitt who lives in a backwater town called Prentisstown. This town is on New World - a planet which some humans decided to move to and colonise as they wanted to get back to a simple way of living - and to Todd's knowledge, it's the only town which has survived after the war with the aliens who lived here called the Spackle.

Prentisstown is unique as towns go as it consists on solely men and boys who are taught from a young age that the greatest goal in life is becoming a man; something which little Todd Hewitt is a matter of a days away from and he is dying for it to happen as he is the last boy in the town to enter manhood. Another major factor in Prentisstown is that no one's thoughts are true feelings are entirely theirs to keep to themselves because of the Noise. At the start of the story, Todd explains that the Noise was a weapon the Spackle unleashed on the humans which means that their thoughts are constantly active and visible/audible for all those nearby to see and hear. It has colours, it can be hard to control if you are feeling emotional at all, and it means that the centre of town for instance, can give you a real bad head as there's never any silence. Todd lives on a farm with his adoptive guardians - Ben and Cillian - who promised Todd's deceased parents that they would care for him.

When Todd discovers something in the swamp, he can't keep his wandering mind quiet and his Noise lets slip what he found and his whole life snowballs into escape, danger, and confusion. When I first started reading this book, I instantly thought "oh no" as Todd's character and many of the Prentisstown men's speech is written with an accent: so "you" is written "yer"... you get the idea. I usually hate this as I'm a slow reader as it is, but having elements like this in books makes it even more difficult for me to rattle through them but surprisingly, I grew to love it in this book as it gave me so much more of an idea of Todd as a character. I don't really want to say much more about the plot because it will give away all the surprise and suspense, but this book is amazing for creating drama and leaving you constantly on a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter (including the last chapter - goddamn you, Ness). The characters in the story are so easy to picture in the mind and you get really attached to some whilst others you have a real distain for and it makes ploughing through the story all that more enjoyable.

If you're someone who usually overlooks YA fiction, you *have* to give this book a shot because I feel that Ness is such a talented writer that he puts some adult fiction writers to shame. He creates such a harrowing, dark, terrifying, yet empathetic and beautiful story that I'd be surprised if anyone said they didn't like this at all. I can't wait to dive into book two of trilogy, I'm just building myself up to it because it's a long one. You honestly have to grab this book - it's only £5.73 here




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October 09, 2018

Shane Dawson x Jake Paul - Sociopath Stigma



Gang, I have some thoughts and I just needed to get them out. I've aired some of my thoughts thus far with people in real life, via Twitter, but there's just *so* much I want to say, it made sense to get it all out right here where I ramble best. So let's talk about the current Shane Dawson series with Jake Paul.

Before I really start getting into this, I have to note here that I'm a big fan of Shane Dawson - I've watched his content off and on for years now, I'm a subscriber of his, and I just generally enjoy his content whether it's him just vlogging with his friends or his conspiracy videos - I enjoy the majority of the content he produces. I always view him as quite a genuine, down to earth character and I've always admired the fact that he confronts any criticism well and will apologise for anything said or done that hasn't sat right with people. Shane recently started to create little mini-series in which he would talk to other YouTube stars to get down to the nitty gritty in their lives. I first got sucked into it all when he met up with grav3yardgirl and then, of course, the very popular series with Jeffree Star. Shane has a knack for comforting people and seemingly making them at ease enough to share anything and everything with him, often leaving him quite emotional and viewers like myself also feeling like you've hopped on an emotional rollercoaster. This is where some concern started when the first indication that Jake Paul would be involved in one of these mini-series. People just didn't want it.

Shane received a lot of backlash upon mentioning any sort of collab with Jake Paul. Many fans of Shane said they didn't want to be left feeling sorry for Jake as he's not a nice person, they didn't want to see Shane giving Jake another platform to potentially build an audience or views, and many fans were adamant that if the series happened, they would be unsubscribing from his channel. So it's fair to say people were pretty heated about this before it even took off. I personally don't know much about Jake Paul or Logan Paul - the majority of what I knew before this series started is that both brothers create content I'm certainly not interested in; content that seems very self-invested but not in a positive way, it's about flashing the cash and a carefree attitude because "I've got money so the rules don't apply to me", and making monumentally bad decisions and thus, setting really bad examples for their mostly young impressionable audiences - of course though, this is just my opinion of it and at complete face value. I'm talking about both brothers here because they're very rarely talked about as separate entities - especially now, almost everything comes back to Logan Paul and that straight up fucking ridiculous Suicide Forest video.



But let's get on with the point of this post. Shane went ahead with the series despite the initial backlash and honestly? I didn't think I would find myself watching it because of how little interest I have in Jake Paul. However (and this is a big however), I'm completely invested in the series now. Shane's channel has some great edited videos - he is very very clever with the choice of music, the shock factor, the entertainment, the fact that he's a very likeable person - and this series definitely reflects all of that but, not necessarily in the best way. The first thing I noticed about the series that was a little 'off' for me was the fact that Shane heavily focuses on the idea of Jake being a sociopath - right off the bat. The focus on this is one thing, but the fact that video is edited in almost a horror story-style way is very off-putting. From the very first video, I had a problem with the fact that 'sociopath' was thrown around a great deal despite Shane himself not really being able to explain what that means. It's a word that is just thrown out there at the start of the series and it instantly holds so much stigma. It's something that Shane creates fear around and uses as a "dun dun duuun!" aspect in the videos.

It might sound silly to some, but I probably wouldn't have been so instantly riled up about it if Shane had approached it with more care and consideration. Even if he had sat there chatting to the camera/Andrew/his viewers at the start but had pulled up a google "what is a sociopath?" search and read it aloud; even if he had done just that I would have felt more comfortable. But he didn't and naturally, some folk got pissed off about it. So that brings me onto the biggest issue I have: the therapist.

In the second video, The Dark Side of Jake Paul, Shane sits down with a friend and certified therapist, Kati Morton. Kati discusses the symptoms of this Antisocial Personality Disorder and lemme tell you, I was not okay with how it was done. Kati has her own YouTube channel and whilst I think that her creating content that openly discusses mental health, particularly from a professional, educated level is great to see on the platform, how she discussed this particular disorder was not okay. Repeatedly throughout the discussion with Shane, Kati refers to the symptoms of this disorder as being "icky", "gross", and "creepy". Now, I feel like this may have been because she states that sociopaths wouldn't typically care what anyone thinks of them - so therefore by default they probably wouldn't care about her saying that right? Wrong. Discussing any individual in that sort of demeaning way is wrong, especially when your whole career revolves around helping such individuals in a sensitive, non-judgemental, neutral way.

My major gripe with this was the fact that Kati, as a professional, should not have used those words to describe anything to do with an Antisocial Personality or Behaviour Disorder. Whilst on the one hand I could play devil's advocate and say that she was just talking to a friend and therefore it might have just came out at the end of the day, she's still a licensed therapist and should never speak about anyone or any symptoms in that sort of a derogatory way. I feel that what was said shouldn't have even come out of her mouth - even if the camera wasn't recording. It's completely unprofessional to talk about any mental illness that way but considering this was about one that has so much stigma attached to it already makes it all the more irresponsible. At one point, Kati shares the statistic that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths. This statistic is then tossed around in such a way that is scaremongering; as if there's lots of monsters roaming around amongst us in society. It's almost laughable that symptoms of this disorder are discussed in a way that makes it sound like we're living in The Purge in real life.



This, for me, is where the accountability really needs to be stepped up on Shane's channel. Since that video, Shane has included disclaimers at the start of videos stating that he doesn't mean to accuse anyone, label anyone, and no one should be trying to self-diagnose or diagnose others based on what has been talked about in this series. The problem with this is, it's all a little too late. As I mentioned before, I always appreciate that Shane will answer criticism and that he will hold his hands up and apologise for things he's said or done but I'm just not getting that vibe this time around. Of course the disclaimers are needed and he can't rewind time to erase past video mistakes but the disclaimers are somewhat empty for me. The main reason for me feeling like this is the fact one of the first things Shane has said in response to the backlash is "I've used footage of friends in the clips mentioning sociopaths!". It just sounds like a weak version of those comments you hear like, "some of my best friends are gay!" "some of my best friends are black!" when someone has fucked up majorly. In the fifth video, we see Kati Morton state that she usually works with eating disorders in her day-to-day career and thus, Antisocial Personality Disorders such as this are not her strong suit - again, if this had been discussed more at the start of the series, it might have helped.

Having now watched the first five videos in this eight-video series, I can say that the majority of the series has been entertaining and eyeopening. It's almost been a YouTube reality show sort of level of drama. I don't watch any soaps on TV or any reality shows, but I imagine the *drama* on those shows would be similar to the 'tea' this series has tried to deliver. Although I've found it interesting as I now want to know more about Jake Paul as a person as there's so much controversy and - quite frankly - conspiracy around who he is, what he's hiding, his relationships/friendships etc., I still feel that there's been a lot of distasteful editing and things said that shouldn't be excused just for the entertainment value. YouTubers like Shane are incredibly popular (the first video of this series has already had 19 million views and it's only one week old), and therefore they have a great deal of influence. If 19 million people have watched him throw around the term 'sociopath', if 19 million have heard him and a qualified professional verge on making fun of the symptoms of a mental disorder, if 19 million have self-diagnosed or diagnosed others as a result of symptoms being relatable or stigma being easily attached to themselves or others, *that* is a major issue.

I'll still be watching the series to the end and will no doubt continue to watch Shane as he's incredibly charismatic and I fully believe that the series has come from a good place and no malicious intent is present here, especially after watching episode 5 as it's more what I'm used to from Shane. It's more about getting to know the individual the series is about and not creating this over-the-top backstory before that individual even makes it on screen and says hello. However, I'm full of hope that this series and the criticism it is now facing is not only educational for viewers but, also for Shane himself. Mental health and anything negatively affecting it is not something that should be joked about or used as a prop for entertainment to cause horror or discomfort. As I've mentioned, there seems to be less of the scaremongering and "horror" elements as the series go on, but it means as a viewer, you are even subconsciously looking out for traits and actions in Jake Paul that reflect the symptoms of this particular Antisocial Personality Disorder just because they've been discussed so feverishly beforehand. I guarantee the same would have happened if Shane had set up the Jeffree Star series in the same way. My views are changing as the series goes on and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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September 29, 2018

Real Talk: It's Just Nipples



Identifying as a woman - what a shit show huh? I've talked about being a woman and all that it can involve before here on NB and although I'm always fiercely proud of being female and being strong, independent, and (don't worry, I'm not going to sing Beyoncé), supportive of all other women, it can be hard at times. Women are judged and scrutinised a lot by wider society and their inner circles and it's sometimes incredibly overwhelming to just walk down the street without the fear of catcalling being the least of your worries.

I'm not about to get my tiny violin out and start playing it but there is something I want to get off my chest that just so happens to be on my chest: what's the problem with nipples?

You heard me. Why, in 2018, are we still trying to "free the nipple" and just generally have full autonomy of our bodies without others unsolicited input? It's because we still don't have that simple "luxury". Back in July 2018, Brighton hosted a Free the Nipple march and it was a great success seeing people from all genders and identities taking to the streets to argue the case that having full ownership of our own bodies shouldn't be something we have to shout and argue for. We shouldn't be having to fight the double standards we see in reality and virtual reality alike yet, here we are.

The oppressiveness of the double standard issue surrounding all of this is one of the most damaging and surreal things about it all. If I were to be a visitor from another planet arriving on planet earth for the first time, I would honestly struggle to get my head around it. It has been widely accepted for someone who is genetically, and identifying as, a man to walk down the street topless during summer because evidently, it must just be far too hot for clothing. Whereas if someone with female breasts - because that's the real issue here - were to do the same or even minimise the "shock factor" by wearing a bikini top let's say, that's all too much and that individual would face ridicule, catcalling, and even potentially worse situations that would prey on their vulnerability. Discussing the issues around catcalling is a whole other post, but the difference in the treatment is baffling. Stripping it back further to fully demonstrate the double standard, I direct you to one of my most favourite apps to use - instagram.



Scrolling through instagram might result in seeing a man enjoying his holiday, getting selfies on the beach in his trunks and guess what? No mention of nipples. A woman wearing no bra and her nipples are visible? You can guarantee someone has mentioned it in the comments as if that woman didn't know what she was about or what her body is. I'm using this app as an example because I have seen some of my favourite artists draw female nipples - nipples on full breasts - of cartoon stylised characters and hyper-realistic women and they have been reported for nudity. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but how can a cartoon nymph's nipples be more offensive to the sight than a naked man's? It's silly, right? Right. So I see these artists sharing their work in a shroud, having to cover areas of their paintings and drawings with pencils, brushes, emojis, anything to try to avoid the reports of indecent imagery coming flooding in. It's bizarre times we're living in.

Free the Nipple isn't a new movement but it feels like the progressiveness of it is slow and labouring which is demotivating. A movement that calls for self love, equality, and empowerment is falling short based on outdated views that should have never surfaced and been followed in society in the first place. Free the Nipple is a movement that needs support for all it's positive messages and it's inclusivity. I feel like many people - myself included - see the movement as something that is seeking equality mostly between the treatment of male and female bodies but it has so much depth to it.

We're still fighting for mother's rights to breastfeed in public without facing shame or being asked to do it elsewhere. We're still fighting the fact that the female body is sexualised a great deal and slut shaming is as prevalent as ever. We're still fighting unrealistic beauty standards and need to ensure that women *know* that their bodies are beautiful and unique. This idea that the female nipple is sexualised to such an extent that mothers can't feed their own children in public lies at the fault of those individuals who choose to sexualise it. It isn't anyone else's fault if your thoughts are sexual - that doesn't override the female body's functionality (or at least that is what I would shout from the rooftops but as Free the Nipple and similar movements exist, it's obviously not a point that is being accepted).

Movements such as Free the Nipple but also #saggyboobsmatter are not just some stint for feminism that's asking for equality. It's helping to educate so many females that we should love our bodies and that they're all beautiful in their vast array. We've all been swept along in what is "acceptable" in the realm of the beauty standard, but there's only one kind of beauty standard so for the majority of bodies that don't fit the very specific criteria, they are alienated. Self love should be practiced boldly, unashamedly, and regularly and accepting your body and knowing it's a perfectly good and happy body should be the mission of all society. Not only are these movements helping to educate females about self love, but it's helping show males that the female body is rich and varied too and is 100% a womans. Ownership lies with the individual and no one can or should take that away from them.

I've probably ranted for long enough here but it's so important to keep fighting for what's right. For equality, for slut shaming to end, for bodies to be accepted, and for full autonomy to be where it should always be: with us.




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