Book Review – “The Tower”, by Simon Toyne

I never make New Year Resolutions, as I never keep them.  However, in a previous blog post, I stated that I have made two for 2018, and I was determined to keep them.  The first was to read more.  Books, that is.  I would aim to read at least one book per month.  Some times that’s easier said than done – so should I aim for “12 books in 2018” instead?  No.  That would just put more pressure on me if I don’t finish a book by the end of the month.

Anyway, I can confirm that today (31 January), I have just finished my first book of the year.

The Tower, by Simon Toyne.  First published 2013.  498 pages.  ISBN 978 0 00 739208 7.

TTower

When I bought this book, I didn’t know that this was actually the third of a trilogy (I will point out here that this makes no difference to the reading.  I have not read the previous two books, nor do I intend to…  This book was perfectly readable on its’ own).  Whenever I buy a book, it’s the cover design that grabs my attention first.  If I am drawn to the cover, I will read the description on the back.

REVELATION OR DEVASTATION?

After centuries of secrecy, the forbidden Citadel in the historic Turkish city of Ruin opens its gates.  A deadly disease has ravaged everything within.  Charity worker Gabriel Mann is dying – but may also hold the only cure.

Without him, ex-journalist Liv Adamsen stands alone against those who want her silenced.  However, Liv soon has far bigger concerns than just her own life…

In America, FBI agent Joe Shepherd searches for NASA’s missing head scientist.  His investigation unearths a global conspiracy that is preparing for an event beyond all reckoning.

But nobody is ready for what is coming.  And when it does – it will change everything.

I’m a fussy reader, and the genres I choose are rather eclectic.  Ha ha, a bit like this blog really.  I enjoy reading chick lit; where the main character(s) are women, and is a bit of a romantic comedy.  On the other hand, I have really enjoyed reading conspiracy / thrillers; so the blurb on this book called to me.

I have to admit that it was a little slow in starting off.  It seemed all over the place, as the story focused on different “main” characters, who were in different parts of the world.  I couldn’t get my head around it, but perseverance paid off, as by about chapter 10, I was able to distinguish whose story line I was “playing out”.  10 chapters in may sound like a lot, but the chapters in this book are well written, and are about 3-5 pages long.

I found a lot of the characters likeable.  I was able to somewhat “see” what they were describing, and I did feel a lot of empathy for them.

There were a couple of chapters towards the end of the book that I think happened too fast…  I don’t want to give any spoilers here, but I think three characters story lines were ended rather abruptly.  There was no real build-up to it – it just sort of happened; and to me, there could have been more to it.

The whole book sort of ended quickly too.  All the characters, and the plot was closed, so it didn’t leave me with any unanswered questions, but it really felt like the author had just given up.  “I’m bored, let’s wrap this up”, type of thing.  Which was a shame – especially considering this was the final book in the trilogy.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who does like to read conspiracy novels.

My score:

6-out-of-10

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2018: My New Years Resolutions

  • Read more.  Aim to read at least one book per month.  If you start a book, finish it.  Even if you don’t like it…
  • Write more.  You have such a creative mind, and you’re letting it go to waste.  Write at least one piece of poetry, and one short-story per month.  Get in to the habit of writing, then when you feel more confident, start writing that book…
  • Every night, write a bullet point list containing three things that you are grateful for on that day.
  • Teach Gning how to play chess and backgammon.  At least once a month, play a game of each.
  • Start keeping the house.  Properly.  No more “I’ll do it in a minute…” – if it needs doing, do it now.  Stop leaving everything until later – it’ll only pile up, and mean more work for you.

Goodbye 2017; Hello 2018!

Today is the last day of 2017.

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It’s been a rather eventful year, and one that I can actually say, hasn’t been a bad one.  Granted, there have been several ups and downs, but this year has been one of the better ones, over the past few.

A few reflections of 2017…

  • Gning started year one in school.
  • Donut started nursery.
  • I finished working at the DWP – one of the hardest, yet satisfying decisions of my life.
  • The hubby started full-time work.
  • Donuts’ speech is coming along beautifully.
  • Gning passed his “Stage 1” in swimming.
  • My depression seems to have stabilised somewhat, and I’m relying less and less on my medication.
  • I have restarted the old way of communicating, in “penpalling” (good old fashioned pens, paper, envelopes and stamps).
  • I made a new, very dear friend.

When I was younger, I used to always make resolutions for the upcoming new year, however, as more than likely everyone else, they never usually lasted longer than a week or two.

For 2018, however, I have decided on a couple…

  • Read more.  I would like to read at least one book per calendar month.
  • Write more.  Not letters, but write more poetry, and short stories – just like I used to “pre-children”.

So, without further ado, I bid thee farewell 2017, and 2018, I welcome you with open arms.

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9 Things You Should Do Every Single Day

I could write a post about how important it is to take yourself off for 30 minute strolls, meditating, yoga, and checking your posture and all that, but hey, where’s the fun in that?

So instead, this is built up of the things that I believe you should aim for every single day. The little things that can make an average, dull day into a great day. Into a productive day. Into a day that you actually appreciated.

It’s not always all that easy to actually follow the ‘live every day like it’s your last’ motto, but you can at least get to the end of every day, as you’re rolling about your crumpled bed sheets trying not to let the whir of anxieties and emails and conversations send you into a bout of insomnia, and feel like you succeeded. Feel like you did an alright job of being a living, breathing human.

 

1. Compliment someone

Tell your colleague you love her sassy new strappy heels from Zara, tell someone you adore their blog post and that it’s the best thing you’ve read all week, text your husband and tell him how much you bloody well love him. Be nice because it’s so easy to be nice and it instantly, instantly, within that second, changes someone’s day. We could all do with being told we’re great every once in a while, right?

 

2. Read something

Even if it’s just the link to that BBC news article someone shared on your Facebook. Everything I read, be it a blog post, a newspaper article or a physical book, gives me something to take away with me and think about – something that adds to my brain and way of thinking in some way. A thought, a new understanding of something or a new turn of phrase that I want to incorporate into my own words. It’s so easy to stop reading once you leave education, but sometimes, I find myself losing an entire hour because I am so engrossed in the articles on Buzzfeed (yep – even though it’s just junk, it’s funny junk, and it makes me laugh).

 

3. Wash your skin with a flannel

I mean sure, you’re technically supposed to do it twice a day, but face it.  We are just too busy to have to stick to certain rules, aren’t we?

Lather up dry skin with a cleanser, or a gentle soap, and then remove with a flannel that’s been run under warm/hot water. Skin feels instantly the cleanest it’s been since 1998.

 

4. Eat something damn good

Not good like a chia seed, avocado, or spoon of almond butter that’s full of the good shit, but something that genuinely makes your mouth do a little saliva orgasm, something that seriously makes you happy.

I’m not saying like, eat a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger every day and just lie about and count your rolls, but have something, even if it’s a Diet Coke or bag of salt n sweet popcorn that gets you a little bit excited. What’s the point of being alive if you can’t make the most of ALL 5 senses?

 

5. Go an hour without your phone

Or your emails. Have some time away from work and social media. Lie and fester in front of the TV, take yourself out on a stroll to buy ice cream…  Or what about an undistracted conversation with your other half? Have you time without comparison or addiction or any of that rubbish stuff that your iPhone is engulfed in, because, let’s face it – the real world is so much more interesting.

 

6. Dream big

I like to remind myself of all the things I want from the future.  I think about where I’d like to be in a year, I think about things I’d like to get done that week, I think about where I’d like to go on my next holiday, or about a career change – all the big stuff. I don’t feel like it weighs me down with pressure to succeed, I feel like it keeps me on the right path and stands as a constant reminder of why I need to get out of bed and be the best I can.

 

7. Write something

Write a page in a diary, write a blog post, write a sentence on a post it note that makes you smile – an inspirational quote, a joke, something you’ve seen on Twitter that you MUST remember.

Handwriting constantly excites me in a world that’s so computer obsessed. Even if it’s an ‘I love you’ scrawl on a piece of paper, make sure you get your emotions and your thoughts out of your head, for some damned reason it just clears your brain and makes everything make sense.  Besides, who doesn’t love a bit of #PenmanshipPorn

 

8. Share a story

Have social time with real people who know YOU – your favourite people, the people who make you smile even when it feels like there’s nothing to smile about. Face to face is my favourite and definitely the most rewarding on your wellbeing, even if it’s a 15 minute catch-up and story-telling session over coffee.

If not? You’ve always got facebook messenger, Skype and Facetime. Seeing a friendly face instantly gives a little surge of happy hormones through your blood stream.

 

9. Find happiness

Some days are shit. Like really shit. It rains, you get told off at work, a bill appears out of nowhere and then what, how are you going to pay your rent and then you have an argument with your other half or kids. You want to cry yourself into a 3-month long hibernation. But, buried deep into every day is a little big of magic.

There is always, always something to be grateful for, something that can make a situation less aggressively hindering on your soul. Maybe it’s fresh bed sheets, maybe it’s watching Frozen for the 20th time, maybe it’s just a gigantic bowl of pasta.

If you can’t find even the tiniest ray of light, the tiniest fleeting moment to be thankful for, to smile for, then what’s the point?

“Choo choo”

I just got home from work, and needed a wee, so – as you do, I popped to the bathroom, and shut the door behind me.

Next thing you know, the door opens, and a certain 1 year old joins me.  He then insisted that I couldn’t move until I read a book to him…

So, what should have been a 60 second affair turned in to 10 minutes of sitting on the toilet, pants around ankles, with a child on my knee, whilst reading about a little blue train that goes “Choo choo”.

The joys of parenthood.

‘Empress Orchid’ by Anchee Min – Review

“Orchid kowtowed to the Grand Empress and the emperor. She knew she was not allowed to make eye contact, but she couldn’t help herself.”

I like to read. Books fascinate me. I don’t know whether it’s because I have such a great imagination or whether I can relate to the descriptions of certain things throughout the novel.

Empress Orchid was a great read. Anchee Min described the indescribable.

Brief outline
Orchid is a 16 year old girl. Her father had just died, and she, her brother, sister and mother are on their way with the coffin to the grand city to give her father the burial he deserves. Something happens along the way which makes Orchid think that her life could be more than that of a “taipeng” (commoner).

Whilst staying with her uncle, she sees a poster announcing that the Emperor, Hsieng-feng, is now ready to select his wives and concubines. Orchid goes along to the selection.

Life is not good for Orchid when she enters the Forbidden City. She is not of royal blood, and the other women and girls know it.

Ok, so what would you expect to happen if there were over 5000 women fighting each other for the Emperors attention? Slanging matches? Fisty-cuffs? Yes, you would expect that, but that never happens. Orchid and the other Empresses try to ruin each other’s lives using dark and sly techniques. Some are successful, with some girls being honoured with the “white sash”, meaning they have to hang themselves. Others, meanwhile, are planning and plotting to be in total control.

Things get even worse when the Emperor dies.

Orchid is a fighter, and she never gives up. She is walked all over, and disrespected, but she always holds her head up high…

A partially-erotic, bitchiness, political love story that will make you wanting more. The book is fiction, but many facts are included.