Swamp Monster | by Emily

“Don’t go there,” they warned. “It’s not safe… there are rumours of people who have gone there and never come back. Please, don’t push your luck, Chester. It’s dangerous.” The more his parents said, the more he wanted to explore the ancient swamp-Ish forest that lies just past the end of the garden. Nobody really owned it, they’ve never wanted to, besides, what would anyone gain from that horrid place. He was about to find out.

Now that Chester was in this mysterious and widely unknown mess, choices were soon regretted and more bad decisions were made. Emerging from the shadows was a tall Swamp Monster brandishing its long branch-like arms that were already clutching on to a poor, vulnerable animal who was hanging on for dear life. Chester, on the other hand thought he knew what he was doing from those man vs monster movies that he’d seen and always wanted to be in. He wanted everyone to think he was a hero. Enough daydreaming, he was now face – to – face with a human eating beast! Just a breath away from becoming its dinner! Chester and the Swamp Monster made eye contact for the first time. Nor Chester or the Swamp Monster moved a muscle. All went silent. And for those brief few seconds everything was still.

Quick to respond to the failure of Plan A, Chester found a pile of wet, dirty fallen branches and leaves. Finally, Chester saw a lame old branch that he could barely hold it was so big. The perfect weapon. Big, sharp and good grip.

Chester wanted to go home. But this creature was stood in front of him, clueless, armed, disgusting and scared. Scared? It was scared too! Chester realized in what felt like 3 days later than he should’ve done. He wasn’t prepared for a swamp monster… So, a swamp monster couldn’t be prepared to see a kid in its forest. 1… 4… now 6 steps closer to the strange beast, still clutching that same heavy twig. Not sure if he needed it. The monster stepped back, still watching the boy. Both putting down weapons, Chester stumbled across the rough floor and tripped! Snapping sticks and rustling leaves trying to stand. Cautiously, Swamp Monster bent down to human height and helped him up with a skeleton-like hand.

Chester, after a brisk lift home (to the edge of the forest would be more accurate from his new SECRET friend. Once Chester had snuck through the back door.) everything seemed so dull… and normal.

Fearless | By Grace H

I see bravery in the most unexpected of places.
I see it in a child, barely eleven years old, crouching in the playground, hand outstretched,
reaching out to a girl lying red and tearstained on the ground.
I see it in the boy who sits at the back of the classroom. His classmates mock him and throw things. It’s sometimes hard to tell what hurts him more;
the sharp sting of pencil lead piercing his flesh or
the harsh words that make his feeble frame tremble like a thumping heart.
Fearlessness comes in other forms too; 
a man in khakis leaning down to kiss his children on their heads, not knowing if this is the last time he’ll look into their eyes.
a teenage girl crumpled on her bed like a broken doll, mascara running down her face in a wave of black. She bites her lip, clutching her phone so tightly her knuckles turn white.
then she takes a breath,
then another
and another
and gets up, scrubbing her face with a dirty sleeve.
With fearlessness often comes defiance, 
like in the two girls who walk down the street, grasping each other’s sweaty hands.
Their fear is almost tangible, but they lift their chins and look directly into the
eyes of the world, 
daring it to speak.
Across the world, a child is crying.
Its mother is trying desperately to silence it, but nothing will stop the terrified wails wavering from the depths of a worn blanket.
She is only young, and the baby was not her choice, but the moment he opened his eyes, she knew
she would trade her life for him in an instant.
And she might have to, if his cries are heard by the soldiers swarming the street like ants over rotting fruit,
sucking the life and wealth from the earth.
Still, she closes her eyes, 
and rocks him in her arms.
The shouts of the soldiers get closer, 
and she murmurs a prayer under her breath.
But the fearlessness that surprises me most is in those at the end of their journey.
The frail,
the old,
the sick,
the weak.
They know that they are nearing the end, and
yet they lean back and close their eyes,
like they are only sleeping,
swap smiles with their loved ones,
share a last word of wisdom
or wit.
Humankind is, on the whole, a cowardly race,
too prone to fighting wars 
over petty problems, 
naming themselves warriors and kings, 
smothering themselves in glory like bears with fresh honey,
boasting bravery and courage and strength.
But those who walk upstream,
pushing against the ebb and flow,
turning the tide 
drip by drip,
are the true warriors.
And have fearlessness inside them that makes them kings and queens
a thousand times over.
Bravery is found in the most unexpected of places.

Image Link: https://static.tumblr.com/3b4bb816333744ab722073b1b2c7b8ba/8yho6gu/hSkpu6ull/tumblr_static_tumblr_static__focused_v3.jpg (03/05/21)

Orphan X By Gregg Hurwitz | Florence G

“Do you need my help?”

It was the first question he asked. They called when they had nowhere else to turn.

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It’s said that when he’s reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them.

But he’s no legend.

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as part of the governments Orphan program, designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets— assassins. He was Orphan X. Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.

Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. Someone who is getting closer and closer. And will exploit Evan’s weakness—his work as The Nowhere Man—to find him and eliminate him.

Evan’s training, unlike that of the other Orphans, left his deep seated moral code intact. He carries guilt and remorse with him everywhere, as well as his conscience. He’s one of the good guys, but don’t get on his bad side. His humanity is evident, but he still strictly adheres to the rules instilled within him by his handler- Jack- a man who was more like a father to him.

Still, Evan’s personality is muted, as he fiercely controls all his emotions. The secondary characters provide the dramatic dialogue, while Evan internalizes and reminds himself of how to respond to complex situations. There is no reliance on gimmicks, no slick polish or shine, the dialogue is sparse, to the point, without a lot of time spent on descriptive text. The story moves at an incredibly swift pace, formatted almost like long form vignettes. It has a unique presentation but that helps to create a tense, suspenseful atmosphere, adding just the right amount of poignancy to the story, allowing one to fall under Evan’s spell. One finds oneself cheering him on, developing a connection to him, caring about what may happen to him as he continues his lonely journey.

Orphan X hits all of the right notes – fantastic action, more than a few twists, some excellent character development, and some pretty cool gadgetry. In lesser hands, Evan could have been turned into a stereotypical assassin-with-a-heart, but Gregg Hurwitz gave him a lot of complexity, which made him all the more fascinating.

It’s a book filled with plot, action, terror, blood and guts.

“I do.” A man’s desperate voice. “Dios mio, I do more than anything. Is it true? Is it true that you can help me?”

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/A1Nk2UrPPWL.jpg (16/04/21)

You Don’t Have to be Fearless | Rukaiya S

Help me feel at home. In a world where I am a stranger. At home. Relaxed. At ease in my mind, help me feel at peace. In a world where I am a traveller. A plane in the sky, help me feel free. In a world where I am an angel. Help me stay alive. In a place where I am able, help me. Gain power, a tycoon in a tower, help. Me stretch my knowledge, help me. In a fairground where I am an adult. Help me find my ride, in the sea. Where I am drowning, help. My mind, in a mixture, a confusion. Help me in a plan. In a time. Help. My tears. The help. Me in. Where I. No not. In a flame. Burning. Burning. Burnt in a world. Where I am alone.
Help me feel at home.

For I Am Fearless | Jess G

A trail of sins chained to me, 
I search for thee in my call to repent, 
Towards the chapel - my hand the key 
To inner awareness I’ve ascent. 
What lies ahead in the unknown abyss, 
Apprehension drawn from my body as I am blessed, 
I look to you - am I ready for this? 
You urge me to follow and continue the quest 

For father, thou art my saviour, 
Through times of uncertainty, secure as monarch to throne 
And like a soldier decorated in armour, 
You’ll fight for my freedom until your gravestone.  
In your presence I am fearless, 
For I know I may be weak - yet you make me strong 
As even through times of loss or illness, 
You shelter me from the storm and empower me to belong. 
Eternally you are by my side, 
Every hidden sacrifice, 
Through it all you stride bravely and guide 
Me to safer shores that thou deem shall suffice. 
	 'He will never leave you, nor forsake you’ 
As true as deuteronomy speaks 
‘do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’ 
For he shall protect those that seek. 
In your presence I am fearless, 
For through all weathers I have known 
I am not alone in the vast orbiting stillness, 
as thou shall nurture and teach me until I am grown. 
Each year I light a candle to your ascension 
And closely watch the warmth of the flame fill the room, 
Its body’s lively allegro catching attention 
Alike the risen from the tomb. 
After eighteen years I vow to thee, 
From my family one is now parted 
For you loosened the chains guiding me, 
Now I shall disembark courageous and stout-hearted. 
In your presence I am fearless, 
Yet in your absence thou art still with me 
For in every step I see your faithfulness 
And know it is time to be set free.  
In your presence I am fearless, 
For through the years you have taught your vower. 
In your absence I shall be fearless, 
For you have given me a spirit of power. 

Grief Carries Bluebells in his Pocket | Holly B

The snow falls like an afterthought.
Church shoes struggle for grip on frozen ground and
Crimson lips stand bold against ashen faces.
Grief has donned a thick black coat and a pair of red rimmed eyes.
He takes his place among the mourners,
Standing to attention in the slow procession.
The air around him tastes like ashes.
Chapped fingers curl inside thin gloves,
A memory falls loose from their grip.
The battered black box is a weight on grieving shoulders.
New hands will take this from them,
Pushing back the veil of winter
And seal with a summer’s kiss.
The bell will toll.
The casket carried, the burden buried.
Weak sun will wash the tear stains from their faces.
And soon,
There will be nothing left of the one they buried
‘Side the bluebells that grow at his feet.

Image Link: https://64.media.tumblr.com/7ab385895f5d706e017e9a8c22b06a79/82aa4a32a4c82493-bb/s1280x1920/c72d2b8268be5aa190aced6ae09f6890de8cd1db.png (03/04/21)

‘A Place Called Winter’ by Patrick Gale | Florence G

A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything. Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian prairies. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.

In this exquisite journey of self-discovery, loosely based on a real life family mystery, Patrick Gale has created an epic, intimate human drama, both brutal and breathtaking. It is a novel of secrets, sexuality and, ultimately, of great love.

Throughout this novel Harry’s story is told simply, without embellishment, yet with beautifully descriptive writing, detailing the wilderness both surrounding Harry and within him as he searches to belong somewhere and with someone.

‘To find yourself sometimes you must lose everything’

This book is a frank look at sexuality and the battle of self-acceptance in a less enlightened time. It is a story that is both harsh and soft-edged, a bittersweet mixture, a story that doesn’t flinch from the truth.

You really feel like you are there with Harry during all he goes through and with those he meets along the way.

A Place Called Winter was first published in early 2015 by acclaimed author, Patrick Gale. This novel was Patrick’s sixteenth book. The character of Harry Cane is loosely based on Patrick’s grandfather, who, for some unknown reason, fled to Canada. Partick has referenced many books that inspired him to write A Place Called Winter but the book that has always stood out to him when thinking about influences is the classical love story Maurice by E.M.Forster. A Place Called Winter was also shortlisted for the Costa Prize in 2015.

I recommend this book to people that are above the age of fourteen because of some upsetting scenes.

“He was not a scholar – his brain seemed too sluggish or too dreamy to grasp the things demanded of it – but he was never happier than when left alone among books, and would spend hours turning the pages of atlases, novels or tales from history, alive to the alternative versions of himself they seemed to proffer.”

“Bad men you want to kiss are the worst; he had only to use the right tone of voice and you offered your throat to the knife.”

Both taken from A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71noXpH2KLL.jpg (20/03/21)

Paperbacks Vs EBooks | Lexy D

In 2011, it was feared paperback books would die out forever. However, in early 2017, the paperback made a comeback, outselling ebooks and e-readers. The sale of paperbacks grew by 4%, while ebook sales shrank by the same amount. This is believed to be down to an increase in price for ebooks, making them less affordable compared to paper books than they were when they first came out. In 2011, ebook downloads overtook paper book sales on Amazon, which developers had hoped would happen eventually, but never expected to happen so quickly.

Studies have shown that the paperback revival has been fuelled by the younger generations. Many children’s books, the kind that would typically be read to a toddler by their parent, just don’t have the same reading experience while on an e-reader as they do in physical form. 16 – 24 year olds have also said they prefer physical books to ebooks, saying they “like to hold the product”. It is also believed that, since teenagers live in a digitally dominated world, the opportunity to read a book in print instead of on a phone or e-reader gives them a chance to escape from the digital world. When a student’s eyes get tired, whether from revising or using social media, it is a lot more appealing to pick up a paperback instead of another screen. Paperback books provide downtime when people, and their eyes, get tired.

Books make an easy present for anyone. A book can be found and packaged up easily while staying a surprise to the recipient. A physical gift is much more satisfying to receive than a digital download code, saying that someone has bought you a book. Physical books also offer the ability for the reader to easily see how far through they are. Physically seeing how far through you are instead of just reading a percentage written in the corner of a screen appears to be much more satisfying to read. It gives a quick and easy idea of how much is left.

Reading comes with a whole experience, from going along the bookshelves to choose the book, sitting on the floor of a bookstore reading the first few pages, and then tearing a page as you turn it too quickly. You don’t get all of this with ebooks. And I may be alone in this, but books have a very special smell, which again just isn’t the same with ebooks.

So it would appear that paperback books are on the rise yet again. You‘ll be much more likely to see a paper book instead of an e-reader. However, fast readers and travellers may still prefer the ease of carrying many books at once in the form of an e-reader. So this won‘t be the end of e-readers, but it is definitely the resurrection of paperbacks.

Image Link: https://www.californialifehd.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/books.jpg (12/03/21)

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith | Florence G

Tom Ripley is far from a hero. In fact he’s probably more of a psychopath.

Thomas Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors and the law, when an unexpected acquaintance offers him a free trip to Europe and a chance to start over. Ripley wants money, success and the good life so much so he’s willing to kill for it. When his new-found happiness is threatened, his response is as swift as it is shocking.

His innate ability to charm, impersonate and subvert make him one of the most confusingly amazing and lovingly hated characters in modern writing. The constant threat and danger to everything he’s worked for make it near impossible not to root for him. Yet not to like him; not to want him to win, which is certainly unusual. Patricia Highsmith does an excellent job of ensuring he wheedles his way into our sympathies. It’s a classic story of someone who starts off with bad luck and is disregarded by society, but who, through force of personality, hard work and sheer determination, manages to make something of himself. He’s had a hard upbringing; he lost his parents and was brought up by an aunt who called him a “sissy”. And yet, he came out the other end polite, self-effacing and hard-working. He is endearingly shy in company and worried about the impression he makes on others. Not to mention always assessing himself, always trying to improve. In all aspects, Tom Ripley is a multi-faceted character that comes to life within the first few pages.

“He liked the fact that Venice had no cars. It made the city human. The streets were like veins, he thought, and the people were the blood, circulating everywhere.”

You can’t ever quite tell what’s going to happen. Patricia Highsmith balances the calm beauty of Italy with the violence of murder in such a way that you feel constantly on edge even though you’re enjoying yourself. It’s definitely one of the most interesting books you’ll ever read.

Thomas Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors and the law, when an unexpected acquaintance offers him a free trip to Europe and a chance to start over. Ripley wants money, success and the good life so much so he’s willing to kill for it. When his new-found happiness is threatened, his response is as swift as it is shocking. His innate ability to charm, impersonate and subvert make him one of the most confusingly amazing and lovingly hated characters in modern writing. The constant threat and danger to everything he’s worked for make it near impossible not to root for him. Yet not to like him; not to want him to win, which is certainly unusual. Patricia Highsmith does an excellent job of ensuring he wheedles his way into our sympathies. It’s a classic story of someone who starts off with bad luck and is disregarded by society, but who, through force of personality, hard work and sheer determination, manages to make something of himself. He’s had a hard upbringing; he lost his parents and was brought up by an aunt who called him a “sissy”. And yet, he came out the other end polite, self-effacing and hard-working. He is endearingly shy in company and worried about the impression he makes on others. Not to mention always assessing himself, always trying to improve. In all aspects, Tom Ripley is a multi-faceted character that comes to life within the first few pages.

You can’t ever quite tell what’s going to happen. Patricia Highsmith balances the calm beauty of Italy with the violence of murder in such a way that you feel constantly on edge even though you’re enjoying yourself. It’s definitely one of the most interesting books you’ll ever read.

Image Link: https://i.grassets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1540771547i/7853133.UY1520_SS1520.jpg (26/02/21)

Her Blank Canvas | Katie N

A painter creates her life upon her canvas  
she has no secrets, for they are all laid out  
in swirls of arching colours  
gracefully blossoming across the paper 
Untouchable beauty  
and scenes of happiness 
Preserved within paper  
That complete her 
Through paintbrush she feels  
Laughter and tears  
And all in-between  
Created, built and left to dry 
Each day she feels  
Filling her life with meaning 
Paint and memories 
A life fulfilled 
And she is finished  
Paintbrushes banished  
locked in their boxes  
For creating life- another day 
But the picture will stand there  
Years on untouched  
Fading at the corners  
alone gathering dust  
A painter leaves her life upon her canvas  
she has no secrets left to lay out-  
Turns her back on the colours  
Thoughtlessly floating back to her life
of grey

Image Link: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/1b/57/98/1b5798ab8dd89ac7883a3da10df1e3cb.png (20/02/21)