My Monthly Good Reads – July 2016

This month I reread some of the most captivating novels I own. Second time around, they are still as enchanting, some of the most emotion evoking books I have ever been lucky enough to stumble across. These books are of great importance to me. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I have and continue to do.

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1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 

Published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, this was Sylvia Plath’s first and only novel. Much like her poetry, particularly like the poems from her collection Ariel, Plath used her own emotions and life experiences as inspiration. This semi-autobiographical novel follows the young Esther Greenwood, who comes from the suburbs of Boston, working as in intern for a prominent New York magazine. Frightened and disorientated by the large, glamorous city, Greenwood finds herself falling into deep and intense depression. This dark novel is both a powerful story and an extraordinary insight into the feelings Plath struggled with for much of her life. Plath is one of my favourite writers, and The Bell Jar is one of my favourite works written by this incredibly talented woman.

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2. Sylvia by Leonard Michaels

Set in 1960’s Manhattan, this short novel tells the fictionalised tale of Michaels’ first wife, Sylvia Boch. Michaels, having finished university, is doing little else but writing during his abundance of free time, when he meets Sylvia. A story of paranoia, drugs and sexual fantasies, it is an emotional tribute to their self-destructive relationship, heavily influenced by Sylvia’s precarious mental health. A short, but beautifully written novel, it is an unforgettable story that will sit with you for days after you have finished reading it.

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3. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award in 2013 and also known as Where The Moon Isn’t in the American edition, this debut novel of British author and mental health nurse Nathan Filer, is one of the most mesmerizing, eye-opening books I’ve ever, in all my days read. It follows a 19 year old named Matthew, who suffers from intense paranoid-schizophrenia, as he struggles to deal with the grief of losing his brother to a tragic accident during their childhood. Written in the form of a diary by our protagonist himself, it gives us an insight into what the struggle with mental health issues, for many people, really looks like. It is both stunning and haunting, a story that you will never forget.

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4. Birds Nest Soup by Hannah Greally. 

I first read this book while doing research for a history paper, on the development of mental health services in Ireland, focusing in particular, on the Lunatic Asylums, which became the dumping grounds for people who were different, embarrassing or simply in the way. This book is the story of Hannah Greally, a nurse who came back from London during World War II, traumatised by the war. She entered St.Loman’s Psychiatric Asylum in Mullingar, Ireland, intending to only stay for a few weeks. She would spend the next 18 years of her life there. This book gives us a look into the horrifying and disturbing torment that patients were put through. Mental health was so poorly misunderstood in these days. Unfortunately, this meant that those struggling mental illness, were the ones that bore the brunt of this vacancy in the field of mental health and psychiatric care. This book gives us, even just the smallest perception of what it was like for the thousands of patients who spent some, of if not all of their lives in these prisons.

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My Productive Last Week of July

It is typical of me that I decide to be a more productive being, when the summer holidays are now starting to come to a close. My August is going to be attending Fresher’s Orientations as a Peer Support Leader (a programme I highly advise anybody to get involved in while they’re in college) and shopping for stationary. (I am a stationary addict. Nothing pleases me more than a pretty notebook.) It will be a fairly busy month for me, though I do look forward to being out and about again.

However, this week I was a bit busy! I had my last show of the summer on UCC 98.3FM, attended an outdoor production of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles and attended a free gig by The Academic, courtesy of Cork’s 96FM! It was a fun week being outside and taking advantage of new Pokéstops in Pokémon Go.

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First in my week was the stage production of Sherlock Holmes, held in Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens. Behind the stage we had the view of the beautiful early 19th century mansion, with the rolling green hills and gardens stretching behind both us and the house. The show was produced by Chapterhouse Open Air Theatre Company, which focus on outdoor shows, despite whatever weather is thrown at them. The actors were fantastic, fitting their roles perfectly. It was a wonderful tribute to the stories of Sherlock Holmes, written and published by Arthur Conan Doyle from 1887 to 1927, a span of forty years. With only 6 actors, they cleverly juggled the different roles required to tell this entertaining tale. The Company are touring all around, having performances not only in Ireland, but in the UK also! They’re definitely ones to keep an eye on, they do many different productions every summer and seem to make a regular return to Fota House. They’re very talented actors and I have high hopes for their futures.

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The next day I had my last show of the summer on UCC 98.3FM. Although a little sad to be finishing, we had a fantastic show full of banter, good tunes and political debates, which seem to make a regular appearance in most of my conversations. No apologies for those I may bore. I’ll be making a return to 98.3FM in September and I truly cannot wait! It was an amazing experience, one I’ll certainly never forget. I never envisioned myself on radio, but I’m so glad I went for it. It made my summer much better than I expected it to be!

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Later that day was The Academic’s free gig in Bishop Lucy Park, AKA, Peace Park. Arranged by 96fm, this pop-up party was their way of saying thank you to all the listeners. The band itself originate from Mullingar, made up of four lads who were in school together, hence the name The Academic. From what I’ve heard, they’re only about 19 years old, making me feel just a little bit like a cougar. They’re incredibly gifted musicians however and definitely have a strong career lined up in music. They’re genuinely down to earth people and had no problem meeting fans after the show, signing autographs and taking photos. It was incredibly admirable, especially considering how daunting it can be to suddenly be jumping into fame. Admittedly, I had no idea who they were going into the gig, but I’ve definitely come out of it as a fan. You can dance away to their music, which I did plenty of, despite my dancing resembling something like dad-dancing. The Academic’s new song Mixtape 2003 is available on iTunes and Spotify, so definitely check that out!

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It was an enjoyable last week of July, although a bit tiring. It was a lot of fun and I’m certainly hoping that August is just as fun, though I’ll be glad when September comes and I’ll be back in college.

Still Alice; The Cinematic Wake-Up Call to Alzheimer’s Disease

I watched this film on a whim, in the mood to make myself sad while moping around in pyjamas and stuffing my face with very cheesy pizza. I knew little to nothing about Alzheimer’s disease. I did not have family members affected, nor did I know any of my parent’s or grandparents’ friends with the disease. Now, I feel a little bit ignorant.

To put it simply, Alzheimer’s disease is an illness that destroys brain cells, causing a range of symptoms like memory loss. As the disease progresses, it becomes more intense, and people with this illness can forget the most basic of things, like dressing yourself and bathing.

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This film is a masterpiece. Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, it is about a highly educated, extremely intelligent woman named Alice, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She is a mother, a wife, a woman with a strong career and a lifetime of achievements, who finds herself slowly losing all of that. Played by Julianne Moore and joined onscreen by Kirsten Stewart and Alec Baldwin, Alice is struggling with a disease that tears people apart; those who struggle with it and those around them who can do nothing but watch their loved ones lose themselves.

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Still Alice is a wake-up call to the reality of Alzheimer’s disease. You do not need to know much about the disease to understand it; the film teaches you. We learn with the characters and fight the battle with them. It is a heart wrenching watch and a fitting tribute to those fighting this disease. As sad as it may be, it also fills us with hope; one day people may not have to ‘master the art of losing’ like Alice is. The most beautiful aspect of this film, is the constant reminder that although Alice is ill, she is still human and she will try with every might to live life to its fullest potential.

An outstanding film with fantastic acting, you are guaranteed to be left in an emotional state after this film. Check out the trailer below!

Indie Games and Procrastination

I have this awful habit of procrastination. When I have something super important, like exams, I tend to do anything but prepare for said exams. This entire post is a literal example, I have a history exam on Tuesday and have yet to study. (As I’m writing this, it’s Saturday).

I am also a big lover of video games and they’re usually the root of my procrastination problems. Study week is a tough few days, when you have Skyrim begging to be played. Regardless of my poor attention span in terms of college work, I thought I would take the time to talk about Indie games. I have spoken about video games before and they will definitely feature in future posts. However, I thought I would post about the ironically under-appreciated Indie genre. I’ve fallen in love with indie video games. They may not have flashy Fall Out 4 level graphics and don’t have as much gameplay time as you would get out of something like Skyrim or Dark Souls, but they’re still amazing games in their own right.

About two years ago, I stumbled across a couple of RPG maker video games. These freeware horror games are probably some of my favourite games to play. (Next to Ocarina of Time; nothing will ever take its place as number 1.) Some of these titles included Misao, Ao Oni and Ib. One would think that with graphics similar to early Legend of Zelda titles, they wouldn’t be scary. Oh boy was I wrong.

Misao, created by Sen.

Misao is probably my favourite RPG Maker based game. It’s creepy and tragic all in one. The background music is unnerving and the character you play as is honestly a bit frightening at times.

The basic story, without giving too much away, is that a young girl named Misao went missing three months ago and is presumed dead by her classmates. Bullied a lot and unhappy, she curses the school and fills it with evil spirits. Now Aki (or whatever you choose to rename the character, who can be either a girl or a boy) must find Misao and rescue the school and its students.

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It’s a very unexpectedly dark game. It terrifies me in all the right ways. It has little jump scares, because jump scares do not make a game scary. It just makes the creator a bit of an uncreative poop, for lack of a better term. Sorry, not sorry. I think there are better ways to scare your target audience than just throwing in some jump scares. It’s not original or anyway entertaining, which is what a video game is supposed to be.

It’s free to download and can be found here: http://vgperson.com/games/misao.htm The creator does ask not to make a profit from gameplay videos or redistribute the music used. However, do enjoy playing it!

Ib, created by Kouri

Ib is another RPG Maker based game. This one is based on puzzle solving and is designed for all to play. However, it is rather creepy. Thankfully, there aren’t really any jump scares. Just creepy music and a butt load of different endings. (Which means we get more play time, because you want to try and get all the different endings to the story.)

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The story is basically about a little girl named Ib who visits an art gallery with her parents and suddenly finds herself alone. Then all things strange begin to happen in the art gallery and she is surrounded by dangerous paintings and strange puzzles that need solving.

It’s a fun game, though the music used is once again rather eerie and ominous. It’s an entertaining game however and once again is free. It can be found here: http://vgperson.com/games/ib.htm

Amnesia, created by Frictional Games

This video game is not free sadly. It’s also not an RPG maker based video game. Finally, it isn’t quite so much the indie game it used to be, as it is quite popular now. However, it can still be classified as an indie game, and shows up in that section of the Good Old Games website. There are two video games in this series so far; The Dark Descent and Machine for Pigs. They’re survival based horror games that do a fantastic job of scaring the pants off me. It sometimes contains jump scares, particularly with custom stories like Obscurity. (A fantastic custom story by the way, despite nasty jump scares.) You can’t fight the monsters, only run away and hope they don’t see you, or you die!

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Custom stories can be downloaded and added to the game for free, for when you’ve either finished the main story or grown bored. (Or got stuck like I did several times). There are hundreds of them out there. Hours of frightening fun at your fingertips! The story for The Dark Descent begins with you waking up in a castle with amnesia. You can only remember that your name is Daniel and that there is something after you. The castle is quickly falling apart and you must work quickly to remember where you are, why you’re there and what you must do to stop the monster coming after you. It’s a fantastic game and costs about €20.00 on Steam. (Though Steam regularly have sales, so keep an eye out and you may get it cheaper).

That’s all for today folks! Keep an eye out for more video game related posts and be sure to check the rest of my blog out!

 

Why Books are the Best and Worst Things in My Life

WARNING. This post contains wee spoilers for books.

I freaking love books. When I am not up half the night writing stories in which my poor friends are subject to an awful time (sorry guys! Except, not really…), as I am probably the most pessimistic story writer you’ll ever meet, I can usually be found with my nose in a book. I will probably be late to my own wedding someday, because I’ll be too engrossed in my latest paper best friend / method of self-torture.

“Rose it’s time to get to the church”
“JUST ONE MORE PAGE.”
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Yeah, something like that…

The problem with books is, they tend to be quite dramatic, don’t they? Keep the reader interested, make the story exciting and not a dull 500 pages of codswallop. Unfortunately, I am a very emotional person and I have this awful habit of getting extremely attached to fictional characters. (Let’s not talk about Fred Weasley, I’m still too fragile…) I’ll spend hours moping on the couch because a character is having a difficult time. Hijacked Peeta Mellark in Mockingjay was a very stressful time for me. (And seeing Josh Hutcherson play it out just made me 100 times more distressed.)

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That being said, books are the greatest thing in my life. Books offer what sometimes humans just can’t do. (Well, maybe a cat can get close). Books offer entrance to an entire new world. An escape from the hectic rush of reality, away from all the stresses that affect us all. It gives us that chance to relax, forget about the pain and enjoy life, even in the darkest of times.

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Books are like a best friend. A best friend that likes to make you cry, then turn around and offer you some chocolate and a packet of Kleenex. I love books I always will love books.

 

Daddy’s Home – Film Review

It’s a mild evening, mild and surprisingly dry- a nice change from the relentless storms and flooding that my country has been dealing with this unfortunate winter. Two days into the new year and I’ve made it my goal to catch up with old friends. What better way than to enjoy a cinema date? Personally I’ve always loved going to the cinema, despite the occasional bunch of unruly and rather irritating kids plaguing the back rows, and there’s always the presence of that one person who doesn’t shut up. Regardless, I love the cinema. There’s something pleasing about crying in a dark room full of strangers, at an unfortunately fictional character and his woeful sufferings. Or is that just me?

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Tonight however I would not be crying- I was seeing Daddy’s Home, a comedy about two fathers, one biological and one a stepfather, battling it out for their children’s love. It features both Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, two well regarded and very talented actors. Ferrell in particular is known for his partaking in comedic films, such as Elf and Anchorman. However Wahlberg has acted in a variety of genres, including the serious (and absolute tear jerker) The Lovely Bones.

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Despite the film’s trailer being entertaining, I will admit I was slightly sceptical of whether I would enjoy this film or not. Sadly, I am not a big fan of comedy films. However, this film has really opened me up to the genre. It was absolutely hilarious! Ferrell and Wahlberg are a dynamic duo, giving the audience several laugh out loud moments. I giggled for almost all of the film, with some scenes actually bringing tears to my eyes from laughing so much.

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Hats off to Wahlberg and Ferrell, for such an entertaining and enjoyable film. What is most pleasing about this movie is that it brings a warm, loving message about loving your children, be it biological or simply a step-parent relationship. Out of five stars, I personally rate this film a solid 4 stars. From pleasant acting with hilarity throughout, to the respectful shout out to the more diverse families that we are seeing in society, this film was fantastic and I’ll definitely be watching it again.

[Watch the trailer below!]

“Escobar: Paradise Lost” Review! – Over Four Stars! ★★★★

With “Escobar: Paradise Lost” finally being released in select American cinemas and both Josh Hutcherson and Benicio Del Toro doing press interviews to talk about the film, it was time for your everyday film enthusiast to sit down and give this film a trial run.

This movie, directed by Andrea Di Stefano, takes place in 1980s/1990’s Colombia, during the terrifying reign of the infamous drug trafficking lord Pablo Escobar (played by Benicio Del Toro). It tells the tale of Canadian Nick Brady (played by Josh Hutcherson), who has moved to Colombia with his brother Dylan (played by Brady Corbet) to set up a surf shop. Whilst there, he quickly meets and falls in love with scary Escobar’s young niece, Maria (played by Claudia Traisac), and gets pulled into the family business.

Although this film only received 2 and a half stars on Rotten Tomatoes and an average of 3 stars by other film critics, I fully believe that this Indie film is an exciting watch and well worth the just over 2 hours it takes to watch it. Hutcherson has put his whole heart into this role, making it one of his best performances yet, as he plays the young, impressionable Canadian who wears his heart on his sleeve.

As we are well aware, the real Pablo Escobar was a terrifying and very dangerous man, with huge a huge influence over Colombia. Although he did do a lot of work for the poor, using his own finances, the money was earned through extreme drug trafficking, with anyone who did not agree with Escobar, disposed of quickly. Del Toro brings this character back to life, portraying both his charitable side and dark, scheming side with excellence.

Although this certainly is not a film for the younger viewers, I’d certainly recommend it to the older generation. It is exciting and leaves the audience on the edge of its seat with its drama and action. Hutcherson has grown from his roles in teenage based films, and this is a new side to his career, something that I certainly hope to see more of. I give this film 4 & a half stars, as it is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve watched so far!

Check out the film trailer below!

My Top 5 Video Games!

I’m a huge video game nerd and I know there are many out there like me. Today’s post is just an insight into some of my favourite games that I think fellow gamers will also enjoy. These are in no particular order of preference.

1. Skyrim

If you haven’t heard of or played Skyrim by now, get your hands on a copy of the game right now. It’s one of the biggest successes in the gaming world- selling over 20 million copies since it’s original release in November 2011. Set in a fictional, Nordic world, you play a customized character who has abilities beyond your average character in the land of Skyrim. The main story line goes that ancient dragons, once thought to be dead have begun to make a return and you, the player, must help eliminate these dragons. There are endless amounts of quests in this game, with endless amounts of fun to be had.

2. The Legend of Zelda series.

Basically any game from this series. Seriously. This is a long running game series made by Nintendo that is recognised as one of the best series ever and is a personal favorite of mine. You play as Link, the legendary hero who must (usually) save Hyrule from the perils of evil. It’s a fantastic game series, with many of the older games being remade and re-released, such as Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and A Link to the Past. I’d highly recommend this series to any budding gamer as it’s a series that never gets old.

3. Baldur’s Gate I and Baldur’s Gate II

These two are oldies, but they’re still as enjoyable as when they first came out. These two orginally came out in 2000. Set in a fantasy world full of elves,orcs and mysterious spell casters, these two games have both fantastic strategic game play and a great running story. It’s a classic that can be enjoyed over and over again.

4. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

This is a highly under appreciated game. This game is another oldie, but still very enjoyable. This game came out on Nintendo’s Gamecube but was one of the better games released for the console. After the mysterious and violent death of her grandfather,
Alexandria Roivas begins to investigate the old mansion looking for clues that may explain why he died, or who was responsible. When she discovers the Tome of Eternal Darkness, she learns that there are darker forces responsible for her grandfather’s death. We get to play through each chapter of the tome, learning of all character’s faiths. This game is highly enjoyable and very creepy! Seeing the effects of insanity on the characters does a great job of scaring me silly! One of the greatest games I’ve played, for definite.

5. Amnesia: The Dark Descent

This is the first of the Amnesia horror trilogy. This game was originally released in 2010 by Frictional Games. It lives up to its horror label- it is terrifying!
You play as Daniel who wakes up with Amnesia in castle. All he can remember is that there is something coming for him and he must stop it. Unable to fight the monsters, all you can do is hide from them, while solving puzzles throughout the game. It’s one of the greatest horror games I’ve ever played, it’s very scary! Enjoyed worldwide by many gamers, including the famous Felix Kjellberg, otherwise known as Pewdiepie.

The Three Best Albums that Grace my iTunes Library.

We’re all obsessed with music. I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t listen to musoc. It’s a healing tool, a passion and a friend-maker. I bond best with people through music. Below are some of my favourite albums that I’d recommend to any music fanatic like me!

1. Blurryface – Twenty One Pilots 

A recent addition to my iTunes library is Indie-pop duo, Twenty One Pilots. Between a cheery, melodic sound mixed with resonating, dark-faced lyrics, they’re unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. It’s no wonder they’re quickly becoming one of the biggest bands of today. Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph never fail to deliver to their fans, and “Blurryface” is by far their best work yet.

2. 1000 Forms of Fear – Sia

Sia is a musician who has been busting out number one hits for popstars like Rihanna and Beyoncé for a number of years. But now her own voice has been given a chance with the microphone, and boy am I glad it has! Telling tales of love and loss, the songs from this album have a dark undertone that stays with listeners well after the album has finished playing.

3. Hozier – Hozier

Hozier is an Irish singer whose voice can melt the coldest of ice caps. With lyrics delivering profound, deep-sitting messages, Hozier is a debut album that I think everyone really should have on their iPod. This Indie-Rock album strikes its listeners deep within the heart, with songs that simply unforgettable.

All of these albums are available to buy now or can be listened to for free on Spotify.