My tips for getting out of a reading slump

Now we all have moments where we just don’t want to pick up a book. Sometimes it’s a day or a week and then we get back into reading but sometimes it’s longer and when it gets to that point I realise I’m in a real reading slump so try to get myself out of it. Today I thought I’d share some of my tips. They won’t work for everyone but they may help some.

Of course these tips wont work for everyone but they may be worth giving a go. They work for me.

1 – Don’t stress

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been in a reading slump and stressed out about the fact that I’m in a reading slump. Trust me, it doesn’t make it any better. Try to relax about it and remember that reading is something you should enjoy doing and not something you should feel pressured about.

2 – Take some time off

I’ve found that sometimes in order to get out of my reading slump, I simply need to give myself a few days off. This goes back to number one, if I don’t give myself some time off from reading I start to realise that I’m not enjoying reading. I’m simply reading for the sake of it and on those occasions, I don’t pay full attention to what is going on in my book.

3 – Dedicate time

Find a time of the day that you know you have free. It might be first thing in the morning before you get ready or it may be just before you go to bed. It may even be a half hour break at school/work where you know you have time to sit down and read. I like to set an alarm on my phone so that I physically can’t ignore the fact that I should be using that time to read.

I like to plan my time in advance. Generally I read before bed so I set an alarm for 10pm all week and I mentally prepare myself to read in this time frame.

4 – Pick a spot

Find somewhere comfortable to read. I’m a big fan of reading in bed because I’m generally quite restless so can’t sit on the same spot for too long. I like to move around while I read so a bed allows me to sit up if I want or if need be I can stretch or lie down.

5 – Try to turn off any distractions

Sometimes this tip is impossible (like sometimes I read while at a cafe and I can’t help the fact that there are people around me who could distract me) but try to get rid of anything that might distract you. Turn your phone onto airplane mode or silent. Turn off your TV and use the loo before you sit down to read. This way you’ll stay way more focused on reading.

6 – Work out if you prefer sound or silence.

I read more when I listen to music so putting some on in the background helps me concentrate but this isn’t the case for everyone. Some of my friends can’t read unless there’s silence while others are only able to read if there are people moving on around them. If you’re stuck in a slump and don’t know why, try changing environment to see if that help.

7 – Pick up another book if need be

If you don’t like the book then put it down and pick up something new. I’m the kind of person who has to finish a book regardless of weather I like it or not however if it’s a book that I’m just not picking up then I’ll read a a different book before finishing my current book. Sometimes all it takes to get out of your reading slump is simply a book you really love.

8 – Watch a film to get you in the mood

Don’t get me wrong, I generally don’t like to watch a TV/film adaptation until after I’ve read the book because I don’t want to ruin the ending. Sometimes however, I just don’t know what’s happening in my book and when that happens I put on the TV show or film to help myself understand.

If you’re completely against the idea of ruining the ending then try watching something of a similar theme. After watching Game of Thrones I generally want to pick up a fantasy book and after watching Disney I normally feel like reading something for a younger audience. Sometimes watching a film will help you find out what mood you’re in for a book.

9 – Go online

BookTube is my lifeline when it comes to books, watching someone talk about books they they’re excited about makes me more excited about reading in general. It reminds me how amazing books can be.

There are also a tonne of other sites and apps (Goodreads and Books Amino being amongst my favourites) forums and blogs. Luckily for us the book community is awesome and so supportive so if you’re in a slump, head over to your favourite source and someone will always be happy to chat and help you out of your slump.

10 –  Reward yourself

Cake gets me through everything so I often set a goal and if I reach this goal I will reward myself with a tasty treat. I often decide that for every 100 pages I read, I can have two chocolate biscuits. Of course your reward doesn’t have to be food, it can be anything you enjoy. Just promise yourself that you wont do it until you’ve reached your goal.

My Favourite Book Series

I generally shy away from book series due to the fact that I have major commitment issues. I really want to read more series but instead of being excited about what they might entail, I only manage to see a pile of books that once I start, I’ll feel obliged to read regardless of how much I like them.

That said, on a rare occasion I’ll see a series that I want to read or I’ll pick up a book, not realising that it belongs to a collection and I’ll love it so much that I’ll read the rest.

Today I thought I’d share with you a few that I’ve loved and sometimes even read more than once. Yes they’re fairly obvious choices but I can’t help being generic so here is my top five in no particular order.

Side note: When I say series I mean two or more books.

The Harry Potter series J. K. Rowling

As I say, this list is in no particular order but I still wanted to start with my favourite series of all time. I know a lot of people out there will be banging their heads against they’re keyboard after seeing the most obviously predictable series but I couldn’t make this list without mentioning it. In 1997 J. K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or the Sorcerer’s Stone if you’re American) and at nine year old it changed my life. I can honestly say that I doubt I’d love reading as much as I do today if it weren’t for this series. After reading the first book, I was hooked and I was first in line on release day for each book that followed.download (3)

Unless you’ve been living in a world without any source of media for the last twenty years, you will be aware that this series follows a young boy, Harry, as he goes from a mistreat child to a famous wizard who is constantly being threatened by one of the most dangerous wizards of all time.

Why do I love these books? Because they were perfect for me. I was part of the Harry Potter generation, the generation that grew up as Harry did and as his stories became more complex so did my own life. Although I never received my Hogwarts letter, I still related to so many issues within the books, they may follow a fictional world but they also tell a true story of how hard life can seem but how much easier it can feel if you have good friends along the way.

There won’t be many people (if any) who read this and haven’t read the Potter books previously but if you’re one of the few then please pick them up. I promise* you’ll be sat at your letterbox waiting for an owl to bring you some important news.

*You might not.

The Lunar Chronicles – Marissa Meyer

A series where the main character is a kick ass woman? Yes please! I was a little bit late to the party with this one. By the time I picked up Cinder, Scarlett and Cress were already released but the idea of books based on well-known tales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White) was enough for me to buy all three at once. Cinder stole my heart, I honestly love the character and even after the series has ended, she’s my favourite. There’s so much that I love about this series but the fact that it shows off a lot of strong women made it perfect for me.

download (4)The series starts with Cinder who is living with her step mother and step sisters in a world where letumosis, a deadly plague, is spreading rapidly. Cinder, an overworked and underappreciated cyborg, realises that she is immune to the disease and with that revelation she discovers a whole lot more about who she is and who she was before she came to live with her step family.

I couldn’t put these books down. As the series progressed I loved them more and more. The characters are all so strong and relatable and I had serious book crushes on all the male love interests. I adore the fact that although there is romance within the books, it’s not the main story, instead they focus on the protagonists and how they develop themselves based on the situations they’re forced into and the friendships they forge.

The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins

So far all my choices have been super predictable, I’m aware, but I love The Hunger Games and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Again I didn’t read in the beginning, by the time I picked up the first book, the other two had been released already but at the time I wasn’t aware of the buzz around them and there hadn’t been any films released yet.download (5)

Again, I’m sure you’ll all be aware of the premise of The Hunger Games. In this dystopian series, every year the government host the hunger games, a game that is broadcast across the world (made up of twelve districts- but secretly there’s an active thirteenth) and forces two children from each district to partake, one male, one female. The children fight to the death and whoever is the last person standing is the victor and wins a lifetime of fame and fortune. After her younger sister gets picked to be part of the games, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her position and we follow her through the games and through the rebellion that follows after her victory.

I’ll be honest (please don’t hate me for saying this) I didn’t like the last book. I found it was a lot of running around the Capitol and hiding from the law but it doesn’t stop me thinking as a whole, it’s an amazing series. I love Katniss in book one. I love that she’s strong minded and she loves her sister so much that she’s willing to put her life at risk for her. As I was reading book two and three, I found myself starting to dislike her more and more. I found her too whiney and miserable. It wasn’t until I re-read the books that I started to appreciate this about her. I realised that yes she was miserable all the time after winning the games but then who wouldn’t be? After being forced to kill a bunch of kids they then stuck her back in another game where she had to instead kill a bunch of adults in order to survive, after she was finally away from the games forever she was forced to be the face of a rebellion that she never agreed to start.  I think I really like the fact that the books portray how real people would act under these circumstances.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before –Jenny Han

There are only two books to this but I’m still putting it in here. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was my favourite YA romance that I’ve read and I’ve read a lot!

15749186In this duology, Lara-Jean has written five letters, all to boys who she has loved at some point in her life. These letters are put into a hat box and she never plans to send them but one day she finds they’ve been posted and her secrets are revealed.

The books are predictable and typically YA but I loved them. I loved Lara-Jean’s love interests, in most YA I just can’t deal with the love triangles but for once I loved it. I understood how this love triangle happened and I understood why Lara-Jean had such a hard time deciding what she wanted. She felt every bit the sixteen year old girl wanting the best of both worlds and I never once felt annoyed with her for not immediately making up her mind. Oh, I also bloody loved Kitty.

The Shopaholic series – Sophie Kinsella

Now this is a weird one because although it’s one of my favourite series, I feel a little like it’s being dragged out and that Sophie needs to just finish it.The_Secret_Dreamworld_of_a_Shopaholic

This series follows Becky, a twenty-something journalist who has a big spending problem. She’s obsessed with buying things and she really can’t afford everything she is buying. Becky meets Luke Brandon, a successful businessman who she forms an unlikely attraction to but whom she has to hide her spending issues from.

There are so far I believe there are eight books in this series and with every book I’ve come to love Luke a little bit more. If you ask me who my ideal book boyfriend is, I will always answer Luke Brandon. He’s just perfect. He’s hard working, motivated and loving. He also constantly puts up with Becky’s shit and sometimes I really don’t understand why. Up until Mini Shopaholic (book six) I really loved Becky, I felt she grew as a character and she deserved the outcome of every book but with the latest instalments I’ve started to hate her. All the hard work Kinsella did to make Becky a lovable character seems to have evaporated and Becky has become ungrateful and annoying. I’ve just finished reading the newest book, Shopaholic to the Rescue and I admit Becky redeems herself a lot and I enjoyed this book a lot more than the previous two books so I’m hoping it all just stops there while I love Becky again.

I know this doesn’t seem like a glowing review but up until Mini Shopaholic, I really love the series and I genuinely found it hilarious and heart-warming.  I love the characters and I love Sophie’s writing so I would recommend the series to anyone. Just pretend it finishes with Shopaholic and Baby.

Trainspotting: 20 Years On

On 23 February 1996 Trainspotting exploded onto our cinema screens, and arguably, they were never quite the same again.

I first saw Trainspotting on my 13th birthday (late night Channel 4 FTW!). I became obsessed with this film, I had the poster, the soundtrack, I watched it at least once a week for about a year, I pre-ordered the The Definitive Edition on DVD a good three years before I should have done (The Internet: helping youngster view inappropriate content since 1995) . A few years later I even bought the special edition VHS with a lighter and metal Rizzla holder.

However, due to growing older and discovering new interests It’s been a few years since I last watched it. So, as this year marks the film’s 20th birthday I thought I might revisit this classic British tale of drugs, sex, thievery and betrayal.

trainspotting feet

Right from the opening scene the film still packs a punch. From the moment Iggy Pop starts declaring his Lust for Life I was hooked in all over again, as we see our band of plucky drug addicts running down the street, laughing and full of life, we know we’re in for a ride full of thrills and spills. With the main character, Renton’s (played brilliantly by a young Ewan Mcgregor) voice over enthusiastically telling us all “Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”, showing how he decided to reject the conventions of a normal life. No wonder 13 year old me who always struggled to fit in loved this film, it’s about people that don’t fit in in society, and whats more, they actively reject it.

At the time of release the film received criticism from the press for ‘glamorizing’ the use of heroin and drugs. I really feel that nothing could be farther from the truth. Trainspotting is brutal in the realities of what can happen when you’re addicted to heroin. The filmmakers were bold enough to not talk down to it’s audience, to show them both sides of the story and let us make up our own minds about the subject.

Trainspotting needle

Yes, it shows the positives in a world that has mostly been shown as only negative, Renton tells us about the amazing high, a woman tells us after shooting up that it beats ‘any fucking cock in the world’. The set design is bright and colourful at times, the editing is fast paced and full of energy, the performances are three dimensional and well rounded. This positive light, sometimes venturing into the slightly surreal is what really sets Trainspotting apart from other films depiction of heroin addiction. Even now it feels like a breath of fresh air on this subject. Something showing drug addiction as something other than a desperate, low state of affairs was essential to it’s success.

On the other side of the same coin they were also bold enough to show  us some of the more disturbing aspects of drug addition.We see a woman lose her baby in the smack den, we see Renton going through hell during one of the most iconic scenes, where his parents lock him in his childhood bedroom to quit smack cold turkey. We feel that we are there with him, going through all the stages and all the hallucinations. There’s a character who started off choosing life, then choose heroin when his life starts going downhill (thanks, in large part to Renton stealing his home made sex tape), he gets AIDS from dirty needles and ends up dying alone, in the dirt, with no one to notice him missing. These might be something that other films with this much joviality in it might shy away from. Trainspotting went there through, it dared to show us a spectrum of the life of an addict. They’re not just poor miserable little people taking drugs to make their lives bearable. There’s more to it than that, and Trainspotting really opened the door on being able to show all aspects of smack and not just the doom and despair that is often portrayed in films on the subject. Perhaps it even helped to open the doors on discussions about drugs and their effects in the wider community. 

trainspotting diane

This is before we can even touch on some of the other themes in the film, such as poverty, underage sex, relationships, and betrayal.

When watching the film I was shocked at how fresh and innovative it still felt. A lot of that has to do with the director Danny Boyle, he wanted it to be funny and for it to have moments of surrealism, this is not just a doom and gloom story, this is an adventure. Trainspotting was only his second feature film, and it’s down to him where the film gets it’s great energy, and manages to draw great performances from his actors. The scene where Renton takes an overdose and sinks into the carpet is still one of the best, like the scene where his parents lock him in his room it works to place us in his place, we all sink into the ground with him, his lowest point this far (literally and figuratively). We are always with the characters, they are not just there to be pitied or vilified, you identify with them, you go with them through the good and the bad.

trainspotting toilet

The use of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day during this scene is also a great example of the film’s great used of music and sound. The soundtrack helps to set the time period (approx mid/late 80s’ mid 90s according to Danny Boyle in one of the special features on the DVD), and the use of the opening sequence again later in the film, but with different music totally changes how you feel about it, it not longer feels full of exuberance and freedom, it becomes a dead end, they get arrested, Spud ends up going to prison and Renton fails at trying to wean himself away from heroin onto methadone.  The music really helps to make the film, it helps to set the changing of time without it being said explicitly by the cast. 

Revisiting an old favourite after a few years can sometimes leave you disappointed, after all as humans we are prone to change our tastes and wants from our art. Trainspotting did not disappoint. It was just as fresh and vibrant as it was on that first viewing 15 years ago. It might not have blown my mind as it did once, but it certainly captivated me for an hour and a half. Even twenty years on this is as relevant and as exciting as it ever was.

 

(technically this isn’t really a review, but I’m going to give it some stars anyway, just ’cause I want to)

 

★★★★★

 

Street Fighter V Is Not Worth Your Money Right Now

Disclaimer – This is not a review, I don’t own Street Fighter V.

Street Fighter V developed by Capcom is the latest instalment in arguably the most famous fighting game franchise in the world but that doesn’t excuse the severe lack content in this full priced game that they’ve put out last week. 

Missing Features

Games having new features added after launch is nothing new and in most cases it’s usually a benefit to the player. Content can be added to either improve the experience or fix a problem players are having, both good things. The problem with Street Fighter is that they have left out game modes that most fighting games have launch. They have promised to add these in a free updates throughout the year (at currently undisclosed dates) but at the the time of writing these options are only viewable on the in-game menus but just greyed out so that you can’t select them. 

This includes:

Arcade Mode – A single player mode where you fight through 10 or so CPU opponents with a boss at the end. This has been included in almost every fighting game ever.

Challenge Mode – Presents the player with a number of increasingly hard moves and combos to perform specific to each character. In Street Fighter IV these were a great way to actually learn how to play without having to consult online guides. They have also announced daily challenges will show up here from march so you can earn some bonuses but no details are currently available. 

Online Lobbies – Where you can get together with up to 8 people and take turns fighting each other with the winner going on to face the next challenger. As it stands you can only connect with 1 friend at a time.

Spectator Mode – In this mode you can spectate live fights other players are having and will be able to search for players or matches involving specific characters.

Story Mode – Reportedly a cinematic story mode involving all the characters but there hasn’t been any footage of this shown anywhere. This is said to coming in June.

In-game Store – The place where you can buy the additional characters and new outfits with real money or currency you can earn by playing the game. This part is especially weird as you can earn the right to buy the new costumes in game but you’re not allowed to actually buy them until they open the store in march.


Confusing In-game Currency

Street Fighter 5 plans to release more characters at a rate of one a month. Adding extra downloadable fighters is nothing new to modern fighting games but usually the company waits a few months before releasing more things for you to buy. It does make wonder whether the characters releasing shortly needed some extra development time or if they were held back so they could sell them to us later. 

Now some staunch defenders of this game will tell you that all off the DLC characters can be purchased using in-game currency which is technically correct. But as the game stands it would take a very long time to earn enough to purchase all of the characters they’ve announced so far. 

For the average player once you finish all the single player content in the game right now minus the hard modes you’ll end up with about 250,000 Fight Money (which is SF5’s in-game currency). The new characters are 100,000 and the new costumes are 40,000 so you’d be able to get 2 characters and 1 costume. After this the only way to earn more is by winning online matches which might not sound too bad if you’re good at the game. But for anyone new to the game depending on who you get matched with it could be impossible for you to win, especially with the lack of tutorials in the game. 

You get around 50 Fight Money for winning an online match meaning you’d have to win 800 ranked matches for a costume and 2000 for a new character. So any low skilled player will be heavily encouraged to just pay some real money to unlock things or they’ll just stop playing altogether which isn’t good either. 

To me this just doesn’t seem right for a full priced game. You’ll notice that most of the things that are missing are single player modes. While I agree that the main attraction of Street Fighter is the 2 player versus mode there is almost nothing to play for beginners or people who don’t like online gaming. There are almost no tools within the game to teach yourself how to play either which shouldn’t be happening in this day and age. You shouldn’t have to go online just to understand how the game you paid for works.

Supposedly it was released early so that players would have it in time for some big american tournaments coming up shortly, which most players who just pick this up on a whim will have no idea about. Capcom had not made this very clear leading up to this, evident by the amount of people who have been left regretting their purchase. They should have just waited until everything was ready and released it in June or charged a lower price for the version they put out. 

Personally I’ll be waiting until there is a price drop before I pick this up which is very disappointing because I’m a big Street Fighter fan. I am only writing this as a potential warning just so people know what they are getting into if they are on the fence. Now if anyone needs me I’ll be watching Street Fighter: The Movie to cheer myself up.