Misc · Self-Care

Online Learning: How It Helps Me

Featured Image from Unsplash

When I was a child it would take the strength and willpower of a saint to drag me away from the PC. I think all that time I devoted to the net back then has reached me to internet exhaustion these days. There’s not many websites I visit now and I absolutely hate being stuck in that rut. I could have like, 5 tabs open of the same site, the exact same page, all because my internet usage is so limited in scope.

Over the past year though I’ve really tried to embrace the educational parts of the Internet. My schooling history can be described as looking at a sine wave. Bullying + emotional difficulties = a child who would rather be anywhere else but school. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the lessons — I was a bookworm, shy but keen to learn — it’s just that after a while people became really, really scary.

I’m currently a student of Psychology at The Open University which suits me perfectly fine. I’ll probably talk more on this in a future post and will edit this to link to my experiences, as this isn’t going to be the focus of this post. There are some downsides to this kind of learning style but I find it works flexibly around the state of my mental health conditions and the OU was what I wanted to attend when I was a teen! I knew I’d never be able to cope in a traditional environment so it was nice to fulfil my childhood wish to study via the OU.

One of the true great things to have access to online though is all the free educational tools. I’m talking OpenLearn, FutureLearn, Coursera. I find these resources so invaluable for my own personal development.

When it comes to a career, I have no idea what I want to do. It changes pretty often and I don’t find myself particularly good at one single thing, more that I’m interested in multiple things. I kind of just want to know a little bit of everything. This is why when I do free online courses it’s for my own interests rather than hoping to gain a qualification out of it. Nonetheless I have purchased the odd statement of learning or two but I’m not sure how employers would look upon them. At OpenLearn you gain a free statement of participation at the end of each course, so I do tend to have a preference towards doing courses on there as it makes it slightly easier to track my personal development and what I’ve learned, but I’m always writing in a notebook or OneNote as I follow the courses so I usually have some records elsewhere – if I can find them! (I’m slightly disorganised).

Some of my personal favourite courses have included:

Introduction to the philosophy of religion at OpenLearn – Philosophy is a topic that interests me in a “I love The Good Place and talking philosophy it via pop culture” way but I’ve never been overly interested in reading further. This one had me thinking hard and interested me more than I thought it would.

Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923 at FutureLearn – I think this was the first FutureLearn topic that got me invested straight through to the end. It was presented in such an engaging way and I keep an eye out now for whatever subjects Trinity College Dublin places online.

Introduction to Forensic Science at FutureLearn – A little cracker of a course from the uni of Strathclyde. Low-key, as a child I used to dream about becoming a forensic scientist. All that CSI-watching and boxset collection really got me thinking “oh yeah, no problem, I could do this.” I struggled a little with this one, I’m not as scientifically minded as young!me would have liked, but I enjoyed the immersiveness of this one.

What about you folks? Any of you study any free courses online? What topics interest you?

Occult · Self-Care · Tarot

Occult ‘n’ Other Things: Independent Shadow Work Cartomancy Session by Benebell Wen

Featured Image from Kayla Maurais at Unsplash.
Side note, read this excellent blog post on the appropriation of white sage. And then read this one. And then this one, with all the additional reading to boot! This is unrelated to the tarot post, it just sprung to mind when I was searching for a stock photo for the featured image.

Fancy something different on the blog today? Well, it’s what you’re getting! I consider myself a newbie witch. If I were asked to describe my beliefs, I’d throw my hands up in the air and shrug. I feel like in some ways I’m very elastic. On top of things, I have occasions of identity disturbance which can make it even harder to try to answer. Spiritually, for the longest time I considered myself an atheist but over the past year have been identifying more with a pagan path and experimenting with witchcraft and the occult. To a lot of people they’ll read that and say “what a load of bollocks”, and if that’s you: fair enough! Totally get it. But for those of you who are into that sort of thing, along with tarot readings and such, stick around!

Continue reading “Occult ‘n’ Other Things: Independent Shadow Work Cartomancy Session by Benebell Wen”
Book Reviews

Book Review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg (Advance Review Copy)


Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule. 

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom(TM) is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species–formerly extinct–roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty–and what it truly means to be human.

Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

*I received a free copy of this book in advance of its publication from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. As it is not yet published, aspects of the book may be subject to change.

Westworld meets Disney and creates a fantastic dystopian YA novel that, if you’re new to the genre settings of androids and questioning our understanding of what it is to be ‘real’ or ‘human’, I can see this being easily enjoyable to the point of a 4 or 5-star read. I think that’s why I personally didn’t love this as much as I hoped I would: the story didn’t really do anything ‘new’ to what I’ve seen from Westworld and similar entities before. That said, I still really enjoyed it and having the story play out over court transcripts throughout the story was fun and it’s easy to binge on this read and be completely absorbed in it. For this, I’ll say… 3.5 stars.

Also heads up for some of the following content in the book: self-harm/sexual abuse/implied rape

P.S The hardbook cover that can be seen on Goodreads is SO PRETTY.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (Advance Review Copy)


In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI.

Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.

Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryonics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life.

But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. ‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.’

What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest being on the planet? Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realise. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself.

Amazon UK / Amazon US / Hive / Waterstones

*I received a free copy of this book in advance of its publication from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. As it is not yet published, aspects of the book may be subject to change.

Reading this was like sitting down to a drink of a Laphroaig 10. To enjoy, you must slowly sip, enjoying the full bodiness of the malt. It can be a shock when you’re not used to it, the smokiness and salt with a hint of sweet. To read Frankissstein I had to slow down, allow myself to pace my reading to fully ingest the story being told. This is not a mindless read nor is it a slog. This is a story about robotics, about AI, and about the future. Every page left lingering thoughts, a slight panic, a curiosity. It’s philosophical. It’s a love story. It’s a retelling. It’s heartbreaking.

In the past we follow Mary Shelley as she brainstorms the idea of Frankenstein, There is the famous summer of 1816 and Jeanette Winterson captures beautifully the potential conception of how Frankenstein came to be.

In the present we follow Dr. Ry Shelley, a transgender doctor and Jeanette Winterson plays with the themes of gender and what does it even mean to have a body? I was wary going in as to how the author would depict a trans man, knowing that it’d be very easy for the depiction to go wrong. But I feel Jeanette really did her best for the character. Though as another reviewer has said, I would love to read more reviews from those who are trans to give a greater insight. I will say, however, in big bold red underlined text: there is a very, very uncomfortable and shocking scene involving sexual assault and transphobia. In fact, a lot of the subject matter in this book I would consider uncomfortable — sex robots and Ron Lord (who, weirdly as I was reading, seemed to leak into my dreams along with Victor Stein) — but after that scene I had to sit my Kindle down and take a long break. On top of it all, the world is rife with transphobia, misogyny and homophobia. It’s not there to shock or glorify, but is sadly an accurate depiction of Britain — and not just post-Brexit.

There were times I struggled with reading this. To use the Laphroaig comparison again: I’d consider myself a lightweight. A few sips and I’m easily confused, dizzy, and ready for a nap. Speculative fiction is maybe not entirely my jam but I’m happy to taste. I have a feeling I’ll be thinking of this book for a while and can already think of a few people I’d recommend it to. I’ve been debating back and forth on whether I’d consider this a 5-star rating but for me I think 4-star is more apt for how I felt I enjoyed it.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Scharlette Doesn’t Matter and Goes Time Travelling by Sam Bowring


Scharlette is almost permanently annoyed, pretty much because her parents are morons.

Ever since they gave her a name no one can really pronounce, she’s been stuck in a bit of a rut.

She hates her job in airport security, making people take their belts off before they fly away to exotic locations she can only dream about. She lives in a small apartment with large repayments, drinks bargain bin red while she watches Star Trek, and misses her beloved sister, Jenelope, lost to an exploding sandwich press, ten years ago.

Scharlette fears she might live out her entire existence without doing anything important, or mattering to anyone. It still comes as quite a surprise when a handsome time traveller named Tomothy appears out of nowhere and verifies she is correct – that, according to his records, she doesn’t matter at all.

Scharlette isn’t sure this news is as wonderful as Tomothy seems to think it is, but as he explains …

Given her life was to have no impact on the timeline whatsoever, Scharlette is free to travel time and space, and have amazing adventures with heedless abandon.

Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

*I received a free copy of this book in advance of its publication from BookSirens in exchange for an honest review. As it is not yet published, aspects of the book may be subject to change.

This a fun little sci-fi romp that felt familiar but just different enough to enjoy it. For the first 25% or so, I was so into this book. Scharlette’s love of sci-fi and thus being able to sort-of-follow what was happening was a refreshing take on a time traveller and his companion. Additionally, it’s pretty funny! The humour lands well a lot of the time, with maybe some being a dud. However, there reached a point mid-way when I felt just… bored and unable to care. I persevered and the read picked up for me and overall I’d say I liked this just fine. I definitely regained my emotional investment in it by the end — and I can’t tell from other reviews (or recall at the moment, frankly!) — whether this is going to be a series, but if it is, I’d be interested in reading on as the author gets more of a feel on the characters and humour, but 3-star feels just the right rating from me for now.

You might like this if you enjoy Doctor Who, though. I definitely saw a lot of influence from that, plus this is definitely a quirky read if that’s your style.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Charmed: The War on Witches by Paul Ruditis


Having won the ultimate battle against the forces of darkness, Piper, Phoebe, and Paige—The Charmed Ones—are looking forward to a hard-earned, peaceful future. But when Phoebe’s former love, Cole, returns from the dead and the sisters are reunited with Prue, now imprisoned at the magical convergence between the realms, a dangerous new threat emerges.

As seemingly normal mortals violently steal the magic of witches, The Charmed Ones must shield their kind while protecting themselves from a modern-day witch hunt.

Charmed: The War on Witches continues the story of the Halliwell witches, picking up where the hit television series, Charmed, left off. With only the Book of Shadows to guide them, the Halliwell sisters are the fulfillment of their ancestor Melinda Warren’s prophecy that three sisters descending from her line would become the most powerful witches of all time. As The Charmed Ones, the sisters use the Power of Three to protect the innocent and banish evil from the Earthly realm.

Amazon UK / Amazon US / HarperCollins / Goodreads

Oh Charmed. My ultimate it’s so-bad-its-good show. Let me tell you: I stanned for this show hard. My mum even gifted me a replica of the shows Book of Shadows for Christmas one year. It’s what sparked my interest in tarot cards. I was adamant this show was nothing but perfection in my childhood eyes and it was, quite frankly, the best thing on TV. Ha! Once every couple of years I tend to go back and rewatch everything and usually gain a new perspective on it every time. Two rewatches ago I was out and out “damn this is bad, huh?”. Last rewatch I settled on “this is bad but I love it”. I even persevered and watched Season 8 — the one I think most Charmed fans also pretend never existed — and I didn’t completely hate it. I mean, I didn’t love it. But when I realised the show wasn’t that good, actually, I lightened up my opinion on Season 8.

On the search for Charmed media tie-ins, I saw this one was available for Kindle and I thought it would be interesting to see a postseason 8 setting. Then I realised this is set after Season 9 – the comics. Uhhhh.

So. I really, really didn’t like the comics (also written by Paul Ruditis). A combination of disliking the art and still-low-key-irritated-at-Season-8 feelings really soured me from them. I tried reading them again last year and I was still unimpressed, but recalling the storyline vaguely at least contributed to my understanding of the setting of this book. Though I think you could easily skip the comics and just read this and accept Charmed was nonsense anyway that you don’t even need backstory to enjoy it!

And I have to say: this is probably my favourite media tie-in.

I mean, I didn’t care about the story that much. Witches in trouble, Charmed ones save the day? Blah, blah, blah, BORING. Been there, done that, worn the T-shirt. Nuh uh. The story doesn’t matter. What matters is the characters: and Paul Ruditis has captured them perfectly, in all their smug we’re-better-than-you petulant glory.

Yep, the Charmed Ones on reflection were largely kind of unlikable in the TV show. They were constantly moaning about their duties, considering themselves untouchable when it comes to the ‘personal gain’ clause and forever moaning about wanting a normal life while doing so. This novel? Nails them. From the Charmed Ones steamrolling over traumatic events for the people they save “I’m tired of the explaining part. Figured I’d cut to the chase. Show, don’t tell.” and Phoebe assuming that a demon wanted gossip about her and Cole, it’s little character beats like that which remind me so much of the show that I appreciate that the characters actually DID seem like their TV counterparts. Additionally, he weaved in callbacks to events from the TV show without it being terribly overhanded. Morality Bites was one of my favourite episodes and mentioning it did tie in well with the story here.

Colour me pleasantly surprised by this one. And listen: this is not the kind of story you’d pick up unless you liked Charmed already, but if you do like Charmed, I’d recommend this one. It feels like Charmed, much more than the comics did for me, and much more than Season 8 even felt like Charmed to me.

Piper, slightly rolling her eyes and thinking.
Book Reviews

Book Review: Seeking The Truth – Through Lya’s Eyes (Vol 1) by Carbone and Cunha Justine (Advance Review Copy)


The day before her seventeenth birthday, Lya’s life changed forever. Hit by a speeding car and left for dead, she lost the use of her legs as well as some of her faith in the world… Lya learned to live again with the support of her parents. But having discovered that someone bought their silence, Lya is determined to unmask the perpetrator and obtain justice. Her search for the truth takes her to a famous law firm… and down a dangerous path. With the help of her friend Antoine, she’ll stop at nothing to get to the bottom of it all…

Comixology / Apple Books / Goodreads

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After a road accident that leaves Lya unable to walk when she was 17, Lya becomes determined to find out who the driver of the car was that changed her life forever. She dedicates the next few years of her life to studying the law and soon lands an internship at the law firm that dealt with the settlement to her parents. A sleuthing disabled protagonist who jumps headfirst into her own investigation? Yesssss. This is the kind of stuff I live for.

From what I can see the comic was originally published this year in French with the English translation coming not long after. I was never good at French and barely learned beyond the basics so I’m happy to see this has an English translation, and the reviews from the original language seem positive so far.

The illustrations are gorgeous. Like, simply divine. I found myself SO drawn to the cover and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the illustration style matches exactly what’s in the story. There have been times when I’ve seen a graphic novel cover and snapped it up to find the inside art very lacklustre but this isn’t the case here at all. The colouring is very soft and warm and just super appealing and cosy.

Story-wise, I feel like it’s missing a little “oomph” but it’s a good set-up for a first volume. Lya is passionate about her search and we see she’s been having nightmares about the accident, watching as the driver leaves her. I’d love to see some more meat to the story as the issues continue, but for now: consider me intrigued.