Book Review: “A Teen’s Essential Guide to Social Anxiety Relief” by Emma Lou Parker

Rating: 1 star

Headline: This strangely pessimistic-toned approach to self-help will have you reaching for your chocolate more than an optimistic outlook

Review:

Life coach Emma Lou Parker turns to writing in this new self-help guide, A Teen’s Essential Guide to Social Anxiety Relief. The target demographic of this book are teenagers and young adults who struggle with mental health conditions such as anxiety and stress.

The book is broken down into five chapters and includes physical stress reducing activities and recommendations on improving mental health and outlook. According to Parker, reducing anxiety is not a ‘one and done’ activity, in fact readers are actively reminded at every turn that the path to self-improvement will be filled with setbacks and slip-ups. And this is where I struggle. The core tone of voice in this book is very pessimistic.

I fully appreciate mental health is a sensitive topic and one to be approached in the right way, but even with one glance at some of the chapter sub-topics you very quickly identity a theme. “Stop the negative thoughts, stop telling yourself you can’t change, stop predicting you will fail”, there are another three “stops” in this chapter before you reach the topic “acceptance”. After this particularly downbeat chapter I found myself reaching for my emergency stash of chocolate just to lift my spirits.

Tone of voice is made all the harder to stomach by Parker’s choice to isolate readers by referring to them as “you”. Separating younger readers in such a way only makes the author come across as preachy, when anxiety is a very common mental health condition affecting millions of people (of all ages) globally. Reading this you would think otherwise. I felt uncomfortable with the number of times Parker’s activities asked young readers to write down traumatic events, perhaps not considering how this could be quite triggering without the right support.

Other minor but amounting to significant issues, starting with the web-links. Anything that encourages readers to jump to content outside the book is generally not good practice, even in eBooks. Write it well enough in your own words with references or cut it out altogether. Grammar and spelling are off in places, the drawings, while pretty, are hard to read (and I have good eyesight) and, arguably worst of all, there are no page numbers. A contents page is pointless if there are no numbers to match up.

My only hope is that Parker is able to absorb this constructive feedback when moving onto her next project. The passion is there, the writing ability, not quite yet.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “A Teen’s Essential Guide to Social Anxiety Relief”

Purchase Link: “A Teen’s Essential Guide to Social Anxiety Relief” (Amazon)

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Just Another Car Crash / Day in Swindon

So, this happened the other day…

Admittedly, it’s a bit blurry (you can tell I was overwhelmed). Here’s a better angle:

And the wider surroundings…

It’s a straight road, no immediate bends or turns and yet the car has somehow not only flipped but also spun on its roof.

Current levels of confusion are right up there with that episode of the IT Crowd where Roy tries to work out how a “Sea Parks” arena could catch fire.

Theories on what could have caused this accident to happen are very much welcomed (mash potato reconstruction is likely to happen otherwise.)

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Book Review: “Another World” by Maximillian Matthews

Rating: 3 Stars

Headline: A good read for anyone wanting to better understand a minority subsection of American society

Review:

Another World is the autobiographical memoir by Maximillian Matthews, covering his life growing up in North Carolina and forging a professional career during the late noughties. Self-identifying as black queer, Matthews’ memoir aims to provide readers from the same community with the type of material that does not readily exist on accessible bookshelves.

From growing up in North Carolina, to living and working in Boston and Washington DC, Matthews draws on various colourful experiences to convey the highs and lows of integrating himself into both the LGBTQ+ community and broadly within American society. The way Matthews recounts the key drivers behind his actions makes for some touching moments in the book, particularly in scenes where he acknowledges some of the harmful actions and behaviours self-inflicted in the pursuit of acceptance and love.

Good for bringing out some of the general themes around systematic racism and homophobia in America, Another World does tend to lose focus, in places pulling on quotes from external sources to draw in entirely separate debates. In one instance the dramatic retelling of a traumatic break-up is punctured by a tangent on the politics of attraction. Such tangents are all of insightful importance, but their placement sometimes does Matthews’ life experiences a disservice.

The flow of Another World also comes across as a bit hap-hazard. Having been brought on a chronological journey in the first third of the book, readers are suddenly dropped into Matthews’ strained efforts to work hard at his educational studies in High School whilst concealing his true identity. It was about ten or so pages on, when Matthews refers to his mother’s presence while growing up that I wondered if the book would have benefitted from a structural rejig.

Another World is a starting point for anyone wanting to better understand a minority subsection of American society. As someone who self-identifies as a white woman living in the United Kingdom, it has given me plenty to think about. That alone should be treated as a success.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “Another World”

Purchase Link: “Another World” by Maximillian Matthews (Amazon)

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Not Saying I’m a Perfectionist, But…

They say a picture paints a thousand words, I say it paints 999.999…

(Yes, the British cost of unleaded petrol (gas) is indeed hideous.)

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Book Review: “14 Lessons in Happiness” by Gina Ross

Rating: 4 stars

Headline: A sweet little read with useful tips and methods to bring out your inner calm

Review:

14 Lessons in Happiness by Gina Ross is a simple self-help guide which aims to give the reader quick, nugget-sized, doses of advice to improve internal positivity and outlook on life. Each of the fourteen chapters is introduced by an inspirational quote, a summary of the topic (sometimes bringing in the author’s personal experiences) and then several step-by-step meditation activities. These activities are, like the rest of the content, intended to be straightforward and quick to apply, the kind of activity that can be sandwiched between daily activities, without the need to carve out hours of time or invest in a back catalogue of whale music and their weight in incense.

There is a lot to admire in this self-help guide by Ross. It neatly draws on the author’s personal experiences without becoming a sob story, the writing style is light and the right side of informal and the activities are numerous (there is plenty of option to pick and choose between different mediative exercises). Ross also clearly notes at the start that this guide is not intended to replace that of a professional practitioner, a nice touch that goes a long way to showing Ross’ intentions with this book is to support, not cure.

What I would note here is that the contents of this book are by no means detailed and exhaustive. The fourteen chapters are each quite brief and the content fairly generic with an intention to be as inclusive as possible to all readers from all walks of life. Those wanting something better tailored to a particular challenge (for instance grief) will most likely not get all the answers they need from the ten or so pages dedicated to this topic. Also, and one that is more of an admin point, the references in the footer are not correctly formatted (it needs to be more than a website link, instead it should also feature article titles, authors etc).

14 Lessons in Happiness is a handy little guide when it comes to self-help and succeeds in being a book which can introduce new readers to the art of meditation. Something for your coffee table, this guide would serve as a great pick-me-up alongside a fresh hit of morning caffeine to start the day off right.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews: “14 Lessons in Happiness”

Purchase Link: “14 Lessons in Happiness” by Gina Ross (Amazon)

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“Mum’s Laptop Woe” (a Very British Local News Story)

To use its full title, “Mum’s laptop woe as Amazon box contains cornflakes” is quite honestly a thing of local news beauty.

Published on 24th December, the BBC article (linked above) doesn’t contain the news bulletin VT. Someone would have to record it manually within 24 hours, before the transmission was replaced with the following day’s news. But who would be sad enough to do that? Oh, wait, that would be me.

(And before stones are thrown, the recording boiled down to me filming my laptop through my phone. If anything I think it adds to the effect.)

Give this a watch and let’s compare notes afterwards.

Here are some of my personal highlights:

  • The dramatic reconstruction of ‘opening the parcel’
  • Lizzie’s revelation: opening a parcel in December, two months after receiving it
  • “This isn’t an isolated case” in Lichfield
  • Lizzie’s fears for other disappointed children
  • (And, best of all) Lizzie demanding people are made to open their parcels in front of delivery drivers

I probably shouldn’t laugh, but I will. And saying this could have been avoided if someone had forced her to open the parcel on the doorstep?

It also begs a lot of other questions…

1) How much money did Lizzie pay for this laptop? (As she and her daughter scroll through a shopping site at the end of the VT, you can see every laptop is priced at £500+. If Lizzie paid that much shouldn’t the gripe be that she was conned? If she didn’t pay that much, how can you be surprised this happened?)

2) Surely you’d know the parcel wasn’t the right weight for a laptop? Unless those boxes of cornflakes are stuffed with rocks

2.5) Why gluten free cornflakes?

3) Did Lizzie convince her friend in Lichfield to also buy the same product from the same seller?

3.5) When did Lizzie’s friend find out she’d been conned?

4) What sane person wraps up their parcels before checking their contents? Yes, the product might not be as advertised, but it could have also been damaged in transit. Very important details you’d need to know before gifting on.

5) What craziness is this demand of opening parcels on doorsteps? Lizzie, be reasonable here.

And finally 6) what ten year old kid gets a laptop for SATs revision? (And if this is commonplace nowadays it only serves as further proof that I was born in the wrong century.)

Conclusion

In all the craziness of the world right now there is one thing we can all take away and that one thing is this this news article. Local news, don’t ever change.

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A Christmas Exchange: The Most Wonderfully Low-Budget Film You’ll See This Year

I was flicking through the main streaming services, when I came across a television Christmas movie (the typically low-budget, “Hallmark” type). This one was called “A Christmas in London”.

(Although for reasons unexplained, the internet / outside the UK it’s called “A Christmas Exchange”, so let’s refer to it as that, or a “rip-off of The Holiday”.)

I went to watch the trailer online and was semi-instantly hooked.

This festive season, I’m going to share with you the tangled web of voice notes I bombarded my poor boyfriend with as I watched it in real time.

Couple of quick points: 1) editing this video took a stupid number of hours and 2) in trying to make this as accessible as possible, the closed caption tool I used…well it’s pants.

On that upbeat note, here you go!

I stand by all the comments made, other than the annoyance I forgot to verbally call out the shoddy scene setting and backdrops, including the montage that features this shot from “within the London Eye”.

And this other shot, within a phone booth:

There’s not even a phone in it! Good lord.

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“The Swindon Plaque” says a lot about this English town

This isn’t particularly breaking news, but for those of you who may have missed it (or needed reminding about the wonders of Swindon, the town I live in), may I direct you to our council’s recent attempt to celebrate the district’s invaluable key workers.

Ladies and gentlemen, this plaque:

Have you spotted the mistake? Trick question, the whole thing is a hot mess.

Apparently the Covid 19 pandemic apparently started in 2019…I’m sorry, what?

I’ve heard all manner of conspiracy theories about Covid 19, but the one about it starting a whole year before the start of the UK lockdown? Now that’s something.

The town I live in, the town I pay my council tax to…seesh.

And on that note, I’m off to get myself a very strong cup of coffee.

(Full article can be found here (BBC News). Alternatively search for it online, there’s a lot of high-quality journalism out there.)

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*VIDEO* A New Type of Adventure: Budapest 2022

After years of having my beloved city breaks restricted by geographical borders, in September I travelled to Budapest in Hungary.

Any that wasn’t the only change in scenery…

Ps this video was uploaded later than I planned to because a) life, b) my laptop broke down (and then even longer to get it fixed) and c) once I’d finally put the video together, the file got corrupted during export, causing no end of headaches. But we’re here now.

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Book Review: “Writing the Perfect Christmas TV Movie” by Fred Ray

Rating: 4 Stars

Headline: If you enjoy Christmas movies as much as candy canes and baked cookies, you’ll love this

Review:

I love television Christmas movies, cheery 90-minute productions where cookies are always in the oven, mugs of hot chocolate plentiful on the counter, small town celebrations every other day. More festive than tinsel itself, I cannot get enough of them. When Fred Olen Ray’s book, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie, appeared in my inbox I could not resist, jumped at the first chance I got.

Ray is no stranger to the industry of televising Christmas charm, in the space of ten years he has written fifteen Christmas films for television and directed several more. Having spent time with aspirational hopefuls wishing to break into the industry, Ray’s guide pitches itself as a one-stop shop for any budding scriptwriters of the genre with chapters that are intended to be all inclusive of the various considerations that need to be made when putting pen to paper. From story and act structure to considerations around budgets and casting and, the all important question, how Christmassy is too Christmassy? (In the world of festive films? It transpires there is no such thing.) In a short space of time Ray does an excellent job and condensing a genre and getting the main points across professionally and informally. You get a real sense of this being an author who genuinely wants to help others break into the industry.

Ray’s approach to producing this guide is consistent with an experienced professional; recounting past projects and how to avoid potential pitfalls with each approach. It is almost semi-autobiographic, from a place of passing on experience as opposed to providing a line-by-line tutorial of scriptwriting. There is a general expectation here that you can already write screenplays. To this end, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie could be more likened to the Masterclass brand of video tutorials and may therefore cause disappointment to those hoping to see annotated case studies of previous scripts.

A choice purchase for those who are actively trying to pursue a career in scriptwriting whilst also sitting comfortably as my recommendation to any festive film-fans, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie offers a rare peak under the covers of what makes the seasonal film genre tick.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: (AEB Reviews) Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie

Purchase Link: Writing the Perfect Christmas TV Movie

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