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Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears

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since 23/01/2004


Member Advice on Teen Suicide 26/04/2013

The Story of My Former Best Friend

Member Advice on Teen Suicide Having thought carefully about how to write my thoughts and reflections here, I have decided the best way in which I can portray the line of events, and my feelings, is if I relate them to you in story-form. For the sake of protecting the identity of everybody I will call the subject of this piece of writing John, referring to everybody else through their relationship with him. Once upon a time there lived a young man called John. He was very similar to myself in many ways, possibly a reason for our friendship. His parents separated while he was young, and rarely spoke. He was from a comparatively poor background, yet attended a private school, and his main love was football. John's father, I was told, refused to pay John's mother any money, and she constantly had to deal with the threat of losing her home, however she struggled on to keep her beloved son in the best education she could afford. However, the differences between his mother and father caused much friction in the family. John resented his father, he told me on occasions, and from what he told me, understandably so. John rarely saw his father, a relationship he was more than happy with. John also had very little to do with his father's side of the family. I only met his father twice, once at his house when I visited his mother to offer my condolences, and the second time at his funeral. As I do not know the man, I cannot pass judgement and will strive to remain impartial. At school, John was both an outcast ...

Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer, Penguin 21/04/2013

Everything is Illuminated

Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer, Penguin Amazon’s book description: A young man arrives in the Ukraine, clutching in his hand a tattered photograph. He is searching for the woman who fifty years ago saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Unfortunately, he is aided in his quest by Alex, a translator with an uncanny ability to mangle English into bizarre new forms; a "blind" old man haunted by memories of the war; and an undersexed guide dog named Sammy Davis Jr, Jr. What they are looking for seems elusive -- a truth hidden behind veils of time, language and the horrors of war. What they find turns all their worlds upside down . . . Having watched Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a few months ago, I decided that I wanted to read the book as soon as possible. I decided to begin instead with a more unfamiliar one of Jonathan Safran Foer’s books. Knowing how much I had loved the movie based on his other work, I had very high expectations for this. Everything is Illuminated is a deep and thought-provoking novel that covers several issues along the way. The main story, and indeed the reason for the novel, follows an American (also named Jonathan Safran Foer) who travels to the Ukraine in the hope of tracking down the lady who, according to family legend, saved his grandfather from the Nazis during the Holocaust. Armed only with a photo of his grandfather with the lady, who we discover is called Augustine, and the name of the village in which the event occurred, it’s always going to be a difficult quest. The second ...

Fuck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way - John Parkin 20/04/2013

Fuck It!

Fuck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way - John Parkin I have recently had a hard time in my personal life and have been struggling to get my head around certain events, as well as finding it very difficult to let go of what has happened and move on. During a conversation on Facebook with a friend, I was advised that I should read a book called “Fuck It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way”. Despite everything that has happened in my personal life, the advice from my friend was that I had my health, my job and somewhere to live so, realistically, what does it matter? Let go and move on. Or fuck it… When I read up on the book, I found that it was loosely described as a dumbed-down westernised interpretation of eastern philosophies. I have read some philosophy books before, so was fairly open-minded going into the experience. Or at least as open-minded as my precarious mental state would allow me to be. I didn’t expect to get anything of particular value from the experience, but I didn’t expect not to either. It’s important to remember that when one is reading material such as this, you have to be prepared to take the message on board. You have to want to learn from the experience. The book, essentially, is split into 6 sections. The Foreplay The author, John Parkin, gives us an introduction into how he came to write the book. We are also introduced to why the expression has such power and why two words can alter the state of the mind so dramatically. Very early on, he encourages us to take something that we are worried about and stick ...

Mockingjay - Scholastic 19/04/2013


Mockingjay - Scholastic Katniss Everdeen has now survived two rounds of the Hunger Games, albeit in thanks to a conspiracy to use her as the spearhead of an intricate rebellion this time around. Having been protected by others in the arena and subsequently broken out of the arena by a crack-team with the most unlikely of members, Katniss finds herself in district 13, the district previously thought to have been destroyed seventy five years ago. This time around, Peeta is nowhere to be seen. After being split up, Peeta has been captured by the Capitol and President Snow is now using him as a pawn in his game against Katniss and the rebellion. He’s made it clear that he is prepared to hurt her family and friends in the previous instalments, but now he has one of those dearest to her to implement his plan upon. In district 13, all is not as rosy as it might be. Sure, Katniss is safe, but there is no guarantee on just how long things might remain that way. District 13 has its own president, in the form of a woman named Coin. She’s as hard-headed as they come and has a ruthless determination to get what she wants. Katniss is the inspiration to the masses, but is she an inspiration to Coin or merely a pawn in her own game? Forced to live underground and adapt to a new way of life in her new district, Katniss struggles. She rebels against authority (something she has done pretty much all of her life) and simply won’t adhere to the routines and tasks that she is set. As the rebellion gathers pace, ...

Catching Fire (Hunger Games Trilogy) - Suzanne Collins 14/04/2013

Catching Fire

Catching Fire (Hunger Games Trilogy) - Suzanne Collins Amazon’s book description: After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future. But Katniss starts to hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol. A rebellion that she and Peeta have helped to create. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless Katniss and Peeta can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. Almost as soon as I had finished the first installment of The Hunger Games, I was itching to get started on the second in the series. In part, that was due to the way in which the first book had ended but mostly due to the talent of Suzanne Collins. When I put The Hunger Games down, I realised that I had become very heavily invested in the world that had been created for the reader. Not only that, Collins had done what all great storytellers do - she made me look upon the characters almost as friends. It was obvious to me that there was unlikely to be any let up for the Katniss and Peeta, but I was intrigued into just how the story was going to play out. In Catching Fire, the plot is built up much more slowly. In fact, I was almost sixty percent of the way through the book before things really kicked off again. I have read many reviews that criticise this approach, complaining that there was too much build up and not enough action. Granted, the ...

Do schools in the UK have too many holidays? 10/04/2013

Reduce Both Holidays and Length of School Days

Do schools in the UK have too many holidays? First of all, I would like to start by making it plainly clear that I do not have any children of my own so, effectively, I am not directly affected by the number of holidays that children, and school teachers, get on a yearly basis. However, I do believe that, having been through the education system, that I have experience to base an opinion on. Undoubtedly, there will be things that I may omit from my reasoning. Please feel free to point them out! When people talk about the number of school holidays, most focus on the number of days or weeks that children do not attend school. Some highlight the regularity of said holidays, as well as the huge break in the summer, often citing such a break as unproductive as students can forget a lot of what has been learnt in the previous year and can, in some cases, be difficult to motivate once more in the early part of the autumn term. What I have not seen in any of the reviews on here, and indeed in discussions offline, is any kind of debate on the number of hours that children attend school for on a daily basis, nor the length of some lessons. From memory, I distinctly remember that double lessons of subjects often resulted in a loss of concentration amongst many, with a lot of students spending the second half of such lessons doodling or looking longingly out of the window. In direct answer to the question “Do schools in the UK have too many holidays?” I think my answer would have to be an unequivocal yes. I would say that both ...

Park Inn, Oslo 10/04/2013

Park Inn, Oslo

Park Inn, Oslo In my line of work I have to travel. A lot. Last year I lived in Madrid between March and August and then began travelling back and forth between the UK and Olso. Between August and December, I spent around 80 nights away from home and my company very kindly paid for me to stay in the Park Inn in Oslo. The Park Inn, at a 3 star rating, is essentially a no-frills, trimmed down Radisson. Location Situated in the heart of the city, the Park Inn boasts a very good location. There is a metro within a couple of minutes walking distance that connects you to most of the city. There are also tram stops and bus stops very close by that will enable you to get quickly and easily to those areas not covered by the metro or perhaps slightly further afield. Although my primary use for the hotel has always been business, the hotel also caters for a multitude of tourists. With 118 rooms, there are always people milling about the reception and bar areas. The location is a big plus if you are visiting the city as a tourist. Within five minutes, you can be outside Stortinget, Oslo’s parliament building. From Stortinget, you can see the Grand Hotel and Grand Café that sit on Karl Johans Gate. This street leads up to the Royal Palace, just a further five minutes walk away, and is littered with a host of shops, bars and restaurants you will recognise. In the summer, the street is littered with classic American cars – they are tax exempt so Norwegians love them – and Harley Davidsons. Aker ...

Norwegian By Night - Derek B Miller 08/04/2013

Norwegian By Night

Norwegian By Night - Derek B Miller Amazon’s book description: He will not admit it to Rhea and Lars – never, of course not – but Sheldon can’t help but wonder what it is he’s doing here… Eighty-two years old, and recently widowed, Sheldon Horowitz has grudgingly moved to Oslo, with his grand-daughter and her Norwegian husband. An ex-Marine, he talks often to the ghosts of his past – the friends he lost in the Pacific and the son who followed him into the US Army, and to his death in Vietnam. When Sheldon witnesses the murder of a woman in his apartment complex, he rescues her six-year-old son and decides to run. Pursued by both the Balkan gang responsible for the murder, and the Norwegian police, he has to rely on training from over half a century before to try and keep the boy safe. Against a strange and foreign landscape, this unlikely couple, who can’t speak the same language, start to form a bond that may just save them both. An extraordinary debut, featuring a memorable hero, Norwegian by Night is the last adventure of a man still trying to come to terms with the tragedies of his life. Compelling and sophisticated, it is both a chase through the woods thriller and an emotionally haunting novel about ageing and regret. When this book was recommended to me via the Oslo book club, I couldn’t quite decide whether or not I wanted to read it. I initially resisted, but kept an eye on the price on the Kindle Store. Luckily for me, the book has recently been reduced in price and is now available for just ...

10Pm Question - Templar Publishing 30/03/2013

The 10pm Question

10Pm Question - Templar Publishing Frankie Parsons is twelve going on eighty -- an apparently sensible boy growing up in New Zealand, he has a drumbeat of worrying questions steadily gaining volume in his head: Are the smoke alarm batteries flat? Does the cat, and therefore the rest of the family, have worms? Will bird flu strike and ruin life as we know it? Most of the people in Frankie's life seem gloriously untroubled by worry. Only Ma takes his catalogue of persistent anxieties seriously, listening patiently to the questions he brings her at 10 p.m. each night. But when a new girl arrives at school with relentless, unavoidable questions of her own, Frankie's carefully controlled world begins to unravel. Will he be able to face up to the unpalatable, ultimate 10 p.m. Question; why does Ma never leave the house? - Amazon's book description. When one of the members of my local book group suggested this as a book to read I was immediately intrigued. The book was not chosen - you will get a review on the one that was soon! - but, having read the blurb, I just couldn't resist. I downloaded it immediately and put it right to the top of my list. My decision proved to be one that I was very happy to have made. I enjoyed the book immensely and found it to be a real page-turner. I have a younger brother who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (a form of autism), Tourette's Syndrome and ADHD. As a result, any book that I stumble across that deals with similar ailments is usually one that I am keen to read. ...

Should social networks introduce a minimum age and passport verification? 26/03/2013

Not Very Social If You Ask Me!

Should social networks introduce a minimum age and passport verification? As a 31 year old adult, I have witnessed pretty much the whole development of the internet over the years. Back in the (good?) old days, the main method of using social networks fell under the remit of either chatrooms or instant messenger tools. The progression over the past ten years has been phenomenal and a lot of credit has to go to the guys (and gals) who have put the work in to create the world that we currently have at our fingertips. The problem with the internet, however, is that for every good thing that is created it seems there are a hundred more bad things surrounding it. Social networking has been labelled with many different tags in the past, ranging from being a great way of keeping in touch with long lost friends and distant relatives to being a plague on real life interactions, an invasion of privacy and an almost unpoliced environment for the less desirable members of society to prey on the vulnerable. Of course, all of the above statements are true. Social networks are all those things, and more. The real issue here, for me at least, is not whether social networks are a good thing or a bad thing or, indeed, whether they should be subjected to tighter identification controls. The real issue is more one of the moral standards that are on display throughout society. No matter what controls are brought in, with the aim of protecting the more vulnerable, there will always be those clever and devious enough to circumvent them. Introducing passport ...

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins 23/03/2013

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins Amazon’s book description: A fight to the death – on live TV. The game show where you kill or die, and where the winner’s prize is survival. In District 12, where Katniss Everdeen lives, life is harsh and brutal, ruled from afar by the all-powerful leaders of the Capitol. The climax of each year is the savage Hunger Games – where twelve boys and twelve girls from each District face each other in a murderous showdown. When sixteen-year-old Katniss is chosen to represent her district in the Games, everyone thinks it’s a death sentence. Only one person can survive the horrors of the arena. But plucky Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature… Admittedly, I am a little bit late in coming to the game with this one, if you will excuse the pun. I have seen all the adverts for the movie and heard all about the premise but, up until recently, I had not decided to take the plunge and get hold of my own copy. I am the type of guy that rarely likes to watch the movie first so I had to get hold of a copy in order to be able to do so. For those of you who have been living under a rock, The Hunger Games has been THE big thing over the past twelve months since being adapted for the big screen. Written in 2008 by American author Suzanne Collins, the story follows the story of twenty four “tributes” from the twelve districts as they are pitted together in a fight to the death reality program. The world which Collins has created is a dark one and, in many ...

Safe House - Chris Ewan 12/03/2013

Safe House

Safe House - Chris Ewan Amazon's book description: When Rob Hale wakes up in hospital after a motorcycle crash he is told that Lena, the woman he claims was travelling with him, doesn't exist. The woman he describes bears a striking resemblance to his recently deceased sister, Laura, but has he really only imagined her? Rob sets out to find the answers to who Lena is and where she has gone. He is aided by Rebecca Lewis, a London-based PI, who has come to the Isle of Man at the behest of his parents to investigate his sister's suicide. But who is Rebecca really and how did she know his sister? Together Rob and Rebecca follow the clues to discover who took Lena. In doing so they discover that even on an island where most people know each other, everyone hides a secret, and that sometimes your best option isn't to hide but to stay and fight. Chris Ewan may just be an author you have heard of - apparently he is responsible for a very successful series called The Good Thief Guide. Personally, I have neither read, nor heard, of such a series before. Like so many of the other books I have read recently, I found this one advertised on Amazon's Kindle store for just 20 pence. I have been mildly impressed with the quality of the books I have been able to pick up for such a paltry sum - let's not forget, you couldn't buy a Fudge these days for that money - and this book was no exception. It's not groundbreaking and it's not terribly exciting, but it was fairly readable and maintained just about enough ...

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson 11/03/2013

A Charming (Tall) Tale

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson Amazon's book description: It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages. From time to time you just happen to stumble on a book that really tickles you. One of the very first books I picked up from the Amazon Kindle store (yes, you guessed it - 20 pence!) was also one of the most humorous tales I have read in a long time. The story of Allan Karlsson is one that will make you think about life in a new way - it's not groundbreaking in any way or terribly deep, but it will make you laugh about things a little more and, perhaps, become more accepting of things that ...

Life of Pi - Yann Martel 09/03/2013

Life of Pi

Life of Pi - Yann Martel Amazon's book description: One boy, one boat, one tiger . . . After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan – and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years. Pi, or Piscine Patel as he was christened, has led one of the most interesting lives that I have ever been exposed to. Having grown up in a zoo with his family, Pi knows more than most about the animals that reside there. He has grown up as they have and has been taught many lessons along the way by his father in terms of how they should be respected. In short, I would say that Pi is one of the most educated people you would be likely to meet in terms of zoological animals. And this turns out to be quite fortunate for Pi. Pi is not your ordinary young boy. Far from it. He is highly intelligent and acutely aware of both himself and the things around him. He doesn't need other people to tell him how things should be or teach him what he needs to know. He is the kind of kid that goes looking for his own lessons in life, academically at least, and is strong enough of will to forge his own path. There is a lot to admire in his character and I defy anybody not to connect to him on some level. Growing up in Pondicherry, Pi has access to many ...

The Rest is Silence - Carla Guelfenbein 08/03/2013

The Rest Is Silence

The Rest is Silence - Carla Guelfenbein As the adults sit down to gossip over a long wedding lunch and the rest of the children rush off to play, a young boy slips out of sight beneath the table. Tommy is twelve years old but his weak heart prevents him from joining his cousins’ games, so he sets his MP3 player to record the voices chattering above him. But then the conversation turns to his mother’s death and he overhears something he was never meant to know: that she didn’t die of an illness, but took her own life. Confused and hurt, Tommy keeps what he has learned to himself and begins his own secret investigation into what really happened. At the same time, his father and stepmother have problems of their own to contend with. Juan is racked by private grief and guilt after the death of one of his patients, and Alma, his second wife, senses an increasing distance in their marriage and gradually finds herself drawn back towards an old flame. As all three withdraw into their own worlds, leaving more and more unsaid between them, their family story moves inexorably, affectingly towards its devastating conclusion - Amazon's book description. Owning a Kindle, in some ways, is a little like going around the charity shops looking for bargain books. I have to get this out there now (just in case you have failed to notice): I love the Kindle Store! This was yet another of those books that I managed to pick up for just 20 pence, although you will have to pay £5.44 if you want a copy now. Having enjoyed the book ...
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