It’s OK to fall out of love with Christmas…

This year will be my second Christmas without my dad. On November the 8th, 2017, my dad passed away from oesophageal cancer at the age of fifty-nine. Last year his death was so raw that my mum and I floundered when it came to Christmas. Friends offered to spend their days with us, cousins invited us to their homes instead, and we ended up participating in an eclectic selection of old Christmas traditions, whilst abandoning others and spent the day with family friends. Every single minute was excruciating.

Ever since I was born I have spent Christmas with my mum and dad. We would host Christmas every year at our home with my grandparents and occasionally a few other family members spending the day with us. When my grandparents on my mum’s side passed away our numbers dwindled to four: myself, my mum, my dad, and his mum (my gran). Despite the absence of much love family members who were no longer with us my ‘Christmas spirit’ never dwindled. I’ve always been one of those annoying Christmas enthusiasts who revelled in the public and personal traditions that came with the season. I counted down the sleeps before the big day even into my twenties. At the end of the day, however, it was always about spending time with the most important people in my life.

Now, I can’t wait for Christmas to be over. When you love it the constant jingles being played in stores and gift guides for ‘hard to buy for fathers’ are part of the bliss. But when those things become a reminder of everything you’ve lost there constant presence is draining. I would never want the Christmas cheer to disappear because I know how much joy I got out of it in the past – despite being from a family of blasphemous Marxist, atheists. I also want to share that joy with my own children one day. All of the perspective in the world, however, doesn’t make it any less difficult or emotionally straining this time of year.

You might find it difficult to believe if you’ve never been through something similar but I don’t actually miss Christmas. I’m happy to let the day pass me by. My mum and I, thankfully are on the same page. This year we plan on watching television and feeding the birds come the 25th with no Christmas decor in sight. I might even do a little bit of work… Nevertheless, it feels uncomfortable when people ask me ‘what are your plans for Christmas this year?’ (over and over and over again). I feel as though I’m stomping on their festive cheer when I tell them that Christmas has lost its sparkle for me. Lots of people, friends and strangers, try to offer me comfort by assuring me that it’ll get better and at least my mum and I can celebrate together. But to reiterate I don’t miss Christmas. I don’t need to reclaim any of the joy it brought me in the past because the only thing I truly miss is my dad. I don’t want to make the most of Christmas; I would much rather forget people are even celebrating on the twenty-fifth because the only purpose it serves now is to remind me that my dad is gone. And do you know what, that’s OK.

I don’t have to love Christmas, you don’t have to love Christmas, and I certainly don’t have to rescue it for myself. Don’t feel sorry that I’ve ‘lost’ Christmas. There are many other wonderful things in my life, even if sometimes its hard to smile about them; Christmas just isn’t really one of them anymore.

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The Best Audiobooks Currently on Scribd

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I recently joined Scribd – an app that allows you to listen to unlimited audiobooks and read unlimited ebooks for a set monthly price. Like with anything else my instant instinct since signing up has been to troll their catalogues for books that spark my interest, in particular audiobooks because it’s a massive saving listening this way. As an avid audiobook listener, however, where was I to start – their selection seems endless. So apart from searching the app I’ve been asking on Twitter for recommendations, and using google to look for other Scribd users favourite audiobooks. During this proccess it occured to me that if you are looking for something, chances are, someone else is too. And since I’m asking for your help I thought perhaps I could also lend a hand of my own. Which brings us to this blog post where I’m going to share my selection of the best audiobooks currently available on Scribd (this may vary depending on the country you’re listening in). Most of these I have already listened to either prior to downloading Scribd or since I installed the app but a few are books I’m incredibly excited to listen to myself in the coming weeks and months. I hope you find some recommendations from this list and do let me know what audiobooks on Scribd you would recommend.

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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Title: Binti

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Publisher: Tor

Feeling: Expansive

★★★★★

I knew finally signing up to my local library in London would be a good thing! Binti has been on my radar for a few years; it consistently pops up on sci-fi readers’ channels on BookTube and in particular Elizabeth from BooksandPieces sells this story with infectious passion. Now I’m no hard-core science fiction reader. I enjoy John Wyndham and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy plus I’ll devour any dystopian novel you hand me. Aside from Douglas Adams, my experience with stories sent in space itself, however, extends as far as Dr. Who, Star Trek: Next Generation and Firefly. It’s not something I’ve actually read a terrible amount of. But if anything could convince me to do so it is Binti.

This book blew me away with the emotional impact it was able to have in less than one hundred pages. A novella as opposed to a full-length novel this book is the first in a series, of which two more are already available (and I’m half way through number two). It follows our protagonist Binti, a member of the Himba people who are one of multiple cultures that live on Earth. The Himba tend to remain in their own community and never do they leave Earth. Binti, however, is the first of her people to have been offered a place at Oomza University, situated on a planet other than her own, and she is not about to turn it down.

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Hungry Eyes (Flash Fiction)

This year I’ve been pushing myself to write more. Creative writing was my first love when I was a child, I went through endless notebooks writing my own stories and ‘novels’ (usually about dragons). As the years have gone on and I’ve moved through university and academia my fingers have become more and more occupied with non-fiction and academic writing. This isn’t a bad thing but I do miss regularly writing fiction, even if it’s mediocre fiction. In 2018 I’m trying to focus on doing things I love and after finding that I was spending more time writing in 2017 than I had been recently I wanted to set aside time to pursue that pleasure on a regular basis this year. I am, however, somewhat rusty so I’ve been experimenting with lots of different forms and having a bit of fun with it. A few of you mentioned you’d be interested in reading some of the little things I’d come out with so here is a piece of ‘flash-fiction’ I wrote earlier this year that I’ve imaginatively titled ‘Hungry Eyes’. Enjoy! (Or don’t, whatever.)

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A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

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Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty

Author: Libba Bray

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Feeling: Longing

★★★★★

This is the first book I have read by Libba Bray who is, in fact, quite the prolific author and incredibly popular amongst fans of Young Adult literature. My interest was peaked in Bray’s writing after reading an article she had written here for EW that Monica from SheMightBeMonica shared online. Upon reading Bray’s article I immediately ordered both A Great and Terrible Beauty and Beauty Queens by the author. Seeing her discuss the influences and objectives of her young adult work made me see them in a much more complex light than perhaps the blurbs alone would have. Not only did my first foray into her work not disappoint, it far exceeded all of my expectations. A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first in her Gemma Doyle series and what a beginning it is.

The year is 1895 and our story follows Gemma Doyle, a young woman from a wealthy English family who has spent her entire life thus far growing up in India. After tragedy strikes, however, her life is uprooted and she is sent to board at a girls’ finishing school in England. Her life in England is far more than elocution lessons and keeping up with this season’s latest fashions; Miss Doyle is haunted by visions of another world, one both terrifying and beautiful.

This book melds together 19th century Britain, female friendships, sexual awakenings and magic. The story and characters are engaging and mysterious with so much more bubbling under the surface. There is so much I enjoyed about this first book in the series that it is difficult to condense my feelings for you in one blog post, but here I go.

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Hollow Pike by Juno Dawson

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Author: Juno Dawson

Publisher: Orion Books

Feeling: Secretive

★★★★

Rarely does an author’s debut novel accomplish everything it sets out to do. Hollow Pike sets up a premise, introduces us to its characters and takes us on a journey that ticks every box the reader is looking for it to fulfill. The novel itself first came out in 2012 and is not my first foray into Juno Dawsons’s writing. I had previously read Say Her Name when it was released in 2014, a novel which also falls into the Young Adult Thriller/Horror genre, and shortly before picking up Hollow Pike I had finished listening to the audiobook of Dawson’s first adult nonfiction work The Gender Games. In fact, it was listening to The Gender Games that had me itching to finally pick Hollow Pike up from my shelf having acquired it shortly after finishing Say Her Name. This is not a review of The Gender Games but I think it is safe to say that the book had to be pretty good to have me jumping straight into another work by that same author.

Hollow Pike, as I have mentioned, is a Young Adult book that could be described as a thriller or even horror novel. Due perhaps to the flexibility of Young Adult writing, where Dawson herself feels authors are freed from the confines of a single genre, Hollow Pike offers a little more than goosebumps. The book follows Lis who has recently moved from her high school in Wales to one in Hollow Pike, Yorkshire, after a bad bought of bullying at her last school. Bullying, moving, new environments, making friends and first romances are all prevalent themes throughout the novel; all accompanied by a good, creepy mystery.

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Time Management Made Simple

Semi Sheer

No matter the life you lead it probably requires some sort of time management. Sometimes it feels as though the world around us thinks we all have time-turners stashed in our back pockets when loading our plates with daily tasks. Whether it is simply balancing your workload for school or university or juggling multiple work loads from your actual paying work to your creative pursuits, I hope I can help you with your time management with a few simple tips that have always worked for me.

Falsify Your Deadlines? (Creating Personal Deadlines)

This is my number one tip for time management and that is simply because it has always helped me. I don’t know about you but time makes me anxious (inconvenient given how it’s always there). Because of this, I like to take a little control when it comes to my deadlines. If I have a big project due on a certain date, assuming I’ve been given more than a week’s notice, then I will always put the deadline in a few days earlier in my diary than it is really due. At university this was usually a week ahead of an essay deadline but there is obviously room to tweet this tip to the piece of work you are dealing with. I would then, without hesitation, work to my new, self-imposed deadline. This significantly decreased my personal anxiety at having a deadline. Despite my treating the new deadline as seriously as if this was really the day an essay was due in, almost always completing my work for that day, simply knowing that if I missed that deadline I wouldn’t affect my overall grade put me at ease. It is also effective if you have multiple projects like essays due in on the same day or very close together. Set new, evenly spaced deadlines for each project, one of which may be the original deadline. It helps to take the pressure of that one date and to focus your mind on each item individually.

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