Book Review – Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews

Image Source: https://www.framerated.co.uk/red-sparrow-2018/

I recently finished both reading and watching the film adaptation of ‘Red Sparrow’, written by Jason Matthews. The main character; Dominika Egorova, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and Nate Nash played by Joel Edgerton.

Like many of the books I own, I had this book on my ‘TBR” (To Be Read) pile for a while. I first heard of it, and I hate admitting this, when it came out at the cinema. And, I refused to watch the film before I read the book… which I now slightly regret!

Warning: Book/Film spoilers!

What’s the synopsis?

The story is about a young Russian woman called Dominika who is sucked into Russian Intelligence by her uncle. She has a devistating injury which stops her dream of being a ballerina and due to her mum’s ill health, she ends up taking a job her uncle organises and gets sucked into the life. She is forced into a special school, and becomes what is called a ‘Sparrow’; trained in sexpionage. She is then put to work to uncover the mole in the Russian Intelligence, this is where she meets Nate Nash; CIA.

What did I think about the book?

My first impression, when I think back to the book, and how I would describe it to someone else; difficult to read. Although I do find the story interesting; a mixture of spy-thriller and romance (to a point), I actually had difficulty going back to finish it.

I would find myself putting it down after reading it, and sometimes I would take a few weeks to get back to it. This happened a few times, so much so that it took me quite a few months to finish it. And yes, okay, I was completing a MSc at the same time, and then moved house, and had other commitments and hobbies around that. But I found myself wanting to do other things rather than reading that book. Although, I found myself conflicted on occasion because when I got back to reading it, I did enjoy it in some ways. I did find myself wanting to know what happened next.

But the writing style seemed a little… off. At first I didn’t know how to put my finger on it. Some sentances didn’t flow right, or I struggled to understand what was going on. I then realised after getting quite a way into the book that there was a lot of ‘and then this happened, and then that happened, and then… and then…’ which really put me off.

I also felt a little nervous about the author’s portrayal of Russia, especially since President Putin was actually mentioned in it. I have a few international friends and I felt guilty reading the book and worrying what any Russian friends (and fans) might think of me for reading such a book. I understand there is a lot of ‘bad blood’ with Russia, and Putin in particular, but I felt like it was deliberately attacking Russia needlessly. Saying that, I did speak to one Russian person while reading it and they were actually interested in reading the book themselves.

As for things I did enjoy, I did like the depth to Dominika’s character, her motivation to do well and support her mother, and her conflicting relationship to her own country. I also enjoyed the relationship she started to have with other characters; including Nate. Their relationship was clearly more than business, yet complex, like most relationships should be, especially in their situation.

I also enjoyed the little chapter endings with recipes. I started to realise that they were based off what was mentioned in the chapter and then I started to look out for the different foods, to see what would next be mentioned at the end of the chapter. Some even sounded interesting enough for me to want to try them. Although, I will admit, they were a little weird at first, and I found them a little pointless, but I grew to like them, figuring it was just the author’s little quirk.

And I enjoyed some of the clever ideas within the story, such as the diversion stories that were used to find the mole in the Russian Intelligence and how that played out further in the book and the way Boucher, the US Chief of Staff/Senator was killed.

What did I think about the film?

Personally, I was actually dissapointed with the film. More so than the book.

‘We are making a film of the book.’

Earlier in my post I said how I slightly regret reading the book before watching the film, and this is because there was so much that was both left out and changed! A friend once said to me that he prefers watching the film first, then reading the book, because then you get to see all the extra bits that you didn’t see in the film. Although, a part of me worries that I wouldn’t be committed to reading the book because I already knew what happens.

Every bookaholic’s nightmare is having things missing from the film, but I personally understand some things need to be left out because it isn’t possible to fit it all in to a 2-3 hour movie. But due to some of the things that had been left out, the plot had not only changed, but the film didn’t seem to flow right.

One of my favourite parts (mostly because I actually understood what was going on, as the book was so difficult to read!), the little diversion stories, wasn’t in the film! Boucher’s death was also completely different, I mean, yes there were American CIA operatives there (in the book they closed in on her too quickly), in the film she was hit by a truck, but in the film she used a specially adapted pen to administer a poison. She took control of her own death in the book, which I feel was an integral part of her character.

I also noticed that Dominika bleaches her hair (I won’t even go into how difficult it is to bleach your hair that blonde without a professional…). In the book, she doesn’t change her hair colour; she is always her natural brown self. I think, in the film, she does it because she realises that Nate likes blonde women, and what better way to get his attention in the beginning but be the woman he is attracted to.

But I personally think that is a little discriminating; suggesting the age-old belief that men only like blonde women. I feel offended on behalf of men. Why change this in the film, when it’s not in the book? I’m going to assume it had something to do with Jennifer Lawrence and the fact she is a natural blonde.

One of the things that I was really looking forward to seeing portrayed in the film was Dominika’s synesthesia (basic way for me to explain it, she was able to see colours like it was another sense). I found it a really interesting twist in the book; she was able to work out when people were lying to her, when they were being honest, etc. It’s one of the reasons why she was such a brilliant spy. But it wasn’t even mentioned in the film. I know it could have been a difficult thing to portray, but I felt like it was a key part to her character.

And lastly, the ending. In the book, the end was when they made a deal to swap Dominika with the mole; MARBLE, but the Russian’s never intended to let MARBLE go and thus killed him, leaving the ending on a cliffhanger, what happens to Dominika? But, in the film, MARBLE wasn’t anywhere to be seen and instead Dominika ratted out her own Uncle as the mole, which lead to him being killed. It was a clever ending, I will agree. It gave Dominika the look that she was in control, she was a powerful and clever woman. You could argue it was better than the book, and I agree, thinking back at it, but at the time I was deeply disturbed at the change… I just hope that the author was quite happy with this change! I also wonder how this change will impact the next book/film (yes, there are other books, but I’m unsure if they’ll make a second film!)

However, I enjoyed Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal as Dominika, I thought she was a really good fit for the character. Some scenes were also done really well, such as when Matorin found Nate and Dominika, the little double-agent scene even had me fooled for a few minutes. I also warmed up to Joel Edgerton as Nate in the end, although I feel as if other actors probably would have been a better fit as I felt Joel was a little too stern. I know he was a spy and had to be professional, but I felt his character in the book was a tiny bit softer.

How many stars do I give it?

The book, I give 3.5 out of 5. Although it was refreshing to have well developed characters, and an interesting plot, but the style of writing really let it down.

The film, however, I give 3 out of 5. The changes in the story let it down, making it confusing, and I dislike that they thought it a good idea to change the character’s hair colour when the book doesn’t have this.

References:
Food Picture: www.woodenspoonskitchen.com/2013/01/08/food-photography-backgroundnatural-lighting/

Book to Film cartoon: www.cartoonstock.com/directory/f/film_adaptation.asp

Jennifer Lawrence Picture: www.bustle.com/p/in-jennifer-lawrences-red-sparrow-a-woman-must-be-raped-before-she-can-be-strong-8342129

Gold star cartoon: www.vippng.com/preview/oohxJR_star-smiley-face-cartoon-stars-with-faces/

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Please do give this post a like, and feel free to comment. What did you guys think of the film and/or book? Do you have any suggestions of book/film adaptations?

And, don’t forget to check out my other posts.

I did another book review a while ago, please check it out here!

Don’t forget to check out my own books!

And have a look at my travel blog!

Be My (Dark) Valentine? – Valentine’s Day Special!

Hello, my little demons!

I wanted to write a new blog post, this one I wanted to discuss one of the days I dislike… Feburary the 14th.

Valentine’s Day.

This blog is in two parts; the first part I want to explore with you guys the history behind Valentine’s Day, who is St. Valentine? When did it start? And, of course, exploring the dark side of it (because I do love a bit of darkness every now and then). The second part, is the concept of Valentine’s Day, and why I dislike it.

What is Valentine’s Day and where did it come from?

Most of us, at least those in the Western World, will know about Valentine’s Day. The day of love. Valentine’s Day cards, chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. Buying wilting sevice station roses in cheap red glass vases in a mad rush to get something for a loved-one because you forgot all about it… Ahem…

But the real origins of Valentine’s Day is actually a little hazy, even Historians are a little unsure. There isn’t one ‘definitive’ answer, instead there are a number of theories. This blog post will explore these a bit more.

Is Valentine’s Day originally Catholic/Christian?

One of the issues with understanding where Valentine’s Day comes from, is that there are numerous martyrs called ‘Valentine’, and there are many sources that appear to mix them up. (So, bare in with me if I get something wrong!)

Valentinus comes from the Latin “Valens” which means ‘to be in good health’, and was unfortunately a common name in ancient Roman times [2].

However, one source suggests that two holy martyrs of the same name was recorded on the 14th of February [2].

But, the problem is, when I dig into these names I found, there are many different versions. I guess this is the problem with having a popular name, and the power of the internet; facts get mixed up. And to avoid being part of the expanding problem; giving false/mixed facts, I’ll instead just mention the names and the different versions and let you make up your own mind. I think this topic is something historians and archaeologists spend decades researching and a simple novice and her blog simply cannot delve into in a day or two!

Aside from this, however, most sources talk about at least two Valentines.

Saint Valentine of Terni (c) Melanie Renzulli.
Img src: https://www.italofile.com/saint-valentine-terni/

One story is about Valentine of Terni, it suggests he performed marriages for young lovers in secret [1]. He did this because the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriages for young men, suggesting single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Claudius found out, of course, and ordered Valentine to be put to death. The source suggests that that many hagiographers (a writer of the lives of the saints, and yes, I had to look up that word!) agree that this was the ‘real’ Saint Valentine.

Another story, which again is mentioned in the same source [1], but I found mentions in other sources [2, 3], talks about a ‘Valentino falling in love with the daughter of the prison guard (Asterius) when he was imprisoned in Rome’. It talks about a note which has ‘Your Valentine’ or ‘From your Valentino’ (you have to remember the issues of translating languages), which was left before his death. One source even suggests that he performed a miracle of restoring her sight [2]! Valentino was apparently beheaded on the 14th of February 273 [2]. The issue is, within the first source [1] it is unclear whether the author actually talks of two different Valentines.

Another issue is that source [3] not only talks the Valentine that married soldiers when marriage was outlawed, but the source then continues to talk about another Saint Valentine… of Terni, as if this Valentine was seperate from the marriage Valentine. The line “he, too, was beheaded…” suggests this Saint Valentine of Terni was a seperate Valentine to the second. However, it doesn’t really seem to suggest this other Valentine was the imprisoned one from the previous paragraph (You can begin see my confusion with researching for this blog post!)

To backup source [3], Saint Valentine of Terni being a seperate Valentine to the Valentine that married soldier’s, another source talks about Valentine or Terni ‘debating a potential convert’ and he too ‘was beheaded’. But unfortunately not much else is given in this source for this version of Valentine of Terni.

One line I found from source [4] suggests the two Valentines decapitated were in fact different versions of just one saint, which appeared in both Rome and Terni. This would offer an explaination as to why sources appear to confuse the two. Source [5] also offers this as a suggestion too.

Wikipedia [6] also talks about two seperate Valentines; Saint Valentine’s of Rome and Saint Valentine’s of Terni. Which could be another name(s) for the two most common Valentines. However, I always take what I read on Wikipedia with a very large pinch of salt, anyone is able to make changes to pages on Wikipedia, and I have always been told in my past university professors to not use wikipedia as a reference in essays and other university work.

Just to confuse things even more, some sources talk about other ‘Valentines’. Source [1] also explains (which the author admits doesn’t ‘buy’) that Valentine ‘offered roses to a fighting couple and told them to love each other as if they had only one heart’. I would have to agree, this story seems a bit too far-fetched and not strong enough to be ‘written’ and thus become a legend.

Source [4] also talks about another ‘Valentinus’, apparently the earliests of Valentines, who died in Africa along with 24 soldiers, but the source says there isn’t much more information about him, other than birth and death dates, which also makes me consider isn’t enough to turn into a Valentine’s Day.

It is also worth noting that February the 14th became an official holiday associate with romantic love around the 14th and 15th centuries [5, 6]. One source talks about the oldest mention of ‘valentine’ from the 15th century, Charles d’ Orléans, who was held in the Tower of London after his defeat at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). He addressed his wife with “I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine” [2]. However, another source explains it was the poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century who linked love with St. Valentine for the first time in his works “The Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars”, the source then suggests Chaucer invented Valentine’s Day as we know it today [7].

Another note here is that, if St. Valentine’s Day originated from one two martyrs, these would have been many centuries before these first mentions of the ‘Valentine’s Day’ above.

Or… was it actually originally Pagan?

But (get ready for the darkness), the [7] source previously also talks about February 14 also being considered the first day of spring in Britain or more generically, has it’s roots in paganism.

A few sources talk about the feast of Lupercalia [7, 8]. From February the 13th to the 15th, men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals, beliving this would make them fertile.

Although, again, sources make these references in history a little fuzzy. One source explains it was the Romans who celebrated this feast [8], whereas another explains it’s a pagan ritual (I’m sure the Roman’s were Christians, not pagans…)

Source [7] also talks about another tradition at this time, where men selected women’s names at random to ‘couple’ with them for either the duration of the festival or longer, if the match was right.

Source [7] goes on that it was Pope Gelasius I who combined St Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan ritual, so like a previous post I have written (Samhain), it was the Christian’s way of ridding of paganism but combining pagan festivals with Christian ones.

And lastly, Source [8] mentions the Norman’s celebration of Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women”, and it could be possible that the two days were confused.

To conclude, therefore, it isn’t definitive as to where Valentine’s Day originated. It could be that it was from one of the martyred Valentines (or it could be that this was indeed one man), it could be a pagan festival whether it was murged or not by the Church, or it could have come from the Norman’s Galatin’s Day. Or, it could have come from the other lesser known stories of Valentine’s I mentioned, or something else entirely.

Why don’t I like Valentine’s Day?

No, it’s not because the last five years I have spent Valentine’s Day alone. I’m not that cynical. I’m actually very happy being single! And trust me, I feel the same when I am in a relationship.

One reason is that, like many holiday’s celebrated in the United Kingdom; Easter, Christmas, Halloween, it’s heavily commercialised. Of course, if it was just commercialised and it didn’t affect my everyday life, I probably wouldn’t care. It’s up to those who want to celebrate it. But, it does affect my everyday life.

It restricts my ability to go out for a meal, not only is it difficult to just go and find a table anywhere, but some restaurants deliberately put the prices up knowing they’ll have people willing to pay it. It can also make things busier, not just restaurants but take-away deliveries too.

Another issue is if you went out with a friend of the opposite sex (of which I have many friends from the opposite sex), it’s immediately assumed they are your partner. Of course this tends to happen to me frequently regardless of whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not, but it’s more prevalent on Valentine’s Day.

Another issue is that shops, such as supermarkets, move items on their shelves to fit in the Valentine’s Day gifts and cards. Sometimes this can mean stock isn’t available, given me less options, and I already have a dislike for supermarkets in this country (that’s a rant for another day!) I will admit, this is more of an issue at Christmas time rather than Valentine’s Day, as there are usually rows and rows at Christmas, yet Valentine’s Day isn’t as commercialised as Christmas, but this still pays a small factor into it.

And, of course, the commercialism from companies that promote Valentine’s Day, not only profiting from it and giving more rise to consumerism (given more power to companies) but making it more of a thing, giving it more social construct and thus giving rise to the guilt people can feel when they don’t conform to the holiday. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t use the day to promote my romance books, as I’d be a hypocrite if I did!

I also dislike the way it makes single people, those who have recently lost love ones, those who generally feel low/depression/isolated and those who are in violent relationships, feel worse. The day is thrown in these’s people’s faces.

And of course, lastly, the one that I constantly tell everyone… why do we even have Valentine’s Day? One day of the year that is devoted to love? Those who are in relationships shouldn’t be using the one day of the year to confess their love!

Rather than celebrating love on one day of the year, let’s remember the reason why we even have Valentine’s Day…

…If we could just remember the reason!

References:

[1] https://www.italofile.com/saint-valentine-terni/

[2] https://www.italyheritage.com/traditions/calendar/february/14-san-valentino.htm

[3] https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

[4] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/gory-origins-valentines-day-180968156/

[5] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day

[7] https://www.countryliving.com/life/a46353/history-of-valentines-day/

[8] https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

Ender’s Love – Chapter 2

Hello, my little Demons! I posted Chapter 1 to Ender’s Love a while ago now and I feel you’ve been waiting long enough for Chapter 2!

Click here to read Chapter 1 if you haven’t read it already

Note: May contain strong language!

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Chapter 2

I sat trying to busy my hands and focus my attention on my laptop. That was most important to me. So what if I just royally embarrassed myself? It was a moment. It would pass. I’d walk out of this bar and that guy would never see me again. My laptop, however, had all of my university work on it and I had not yet had the chance to back it up.

But as soon as I took the laptop out of my bag, cursing slightly as I saw the wetness had unfortuantely seeped through slightly, a figure loomed over me. I jumped slightly and turned around. But my face went bright red as soon as I saw that handsome man was standing there waiting for me to see him.

“Why did you do that?” he asked, when I noticed him. His voice was deep, it matched his masculine features perfectly.

Panic swelled in my chest as I stared at his stupidly handsome face. I noticed for the first time he was actually wearing a suit. I hadn’t noticed before, mainly because I only noticed a white shirt. But now he was in front of me, I could see he was wearing suit trousers and a deep navy tie hung undone around his neck. I also noticed he was a little big around the arms. I gulped.

“Sorry?” I asked, having to put the laptop down as I hadn’t even put it on the table yet. It was a little too heavy in my hands, holding it up in the air.

“The drink. Why did you give me one?” he asked again, scanning my face. I noticed now that he had beautiful green eyes.

I shrugged. “I didn’t have any change and needed to boost up the bull to over five pounts so I could pay for it,” I explained.

He frowned at me and went to open his mouth to say something else when panic coursed through me and I cut across him.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude! I just saw you drinking whisky or something and it was nearly empty, you looked like you needed one. You were frowning at your work laptop like someone had just given you bad news. I didn’t really want to drink another one. One is enough for me. I’m not a huge drinker. So, I figured you could do with it more than me. Don’t feel like you have to drink it, I won’t be offended,” I blurted.

As soon as I stopped talking, the guy rose his eyebrows at me. So much for approaching men first. I should have started with someone else, rather than a guy who looked busy. I had clearly jumped in the deep end without learning to swim first.

“I’m sorry, I don’t normally do that sort of thing!” I continued nervously. “Normally I’m quite considerate of people being busy and I leave them alone. Clearly I’m having an off day today!” I gave a small nervous laugh.

The guy suddenly snorted in amusement but then turned on his heel and walked off back to the bar.

I started at him in amazement, suddenly annoyed at his attitude. He just walked away? I shook my head and looked back at my laptop. He wasn’t worth getting annoyed about. I did a nice thing. Yeah, okay, it might not have been the best idea I’ve had. I wasn’t very good with this sort of thing. Guys like that were usually popular and I always imagined there was a way to speak to them; a code of conduct around the stupidly handsome men or something. Unlike me; there was no code to speak to me. I was usually friendly with anyone.

But as soon as I put my laptop on the table in front of me, a shadow loomed over me again. I looked up and the guy was back. But he was standing next to the seat in front of me, leaning on it slightly. Anger welled up inside me.

“Look, I said I’m sorry, I—”

“Oh no, you don’t need to apologise! I was just shocked, that’s all. I’ve never had some random chick buy me a drink before without actually wanting something in return.”

I felt my cheeks go warm at what he said, I had an image suddenly of a beautiful woman going up to him and wanting sexual favours from him after buying him a drink. I noticed at this point he had brought the glass of whisky with him and was holding it in his hand.

“I’m not after anything from you,” I said. I wanted to say I wasn’t like those women; trying to just sleep with the hottest guy at the bar.

“I figured,” he said, giving me a small nod and then taking a sip of the whisky. I noticed for the first time that his access wasn’t Scottish, he was English like me. “I also have to thank you for introducting me to Dalwhinnie, I’ve never tried it before. Good choice not to have ice too.”

I raised an eyebrow at him, curious to know why he was being so nice to me. Or was he just being polite?

He suddenly shifted his weight and I saw a small twinge of pain run through his face.

“Are you okay?” I asked. He frowned at me, so I added; “You look like you’re in pain or something.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s nothing, just a bit of a bad back.”

“Lower back?” I asked as I turned back around to my laptop bag and dug my hands into it.

“Yeah, how did you know?”

“You look like a business man, my guess is you sit around on a laptop or computer all day in an office and you probably sit in one of those cheap seats with poor lumbar support,” I said as I managed to find what I was looking for; a heat patch. “Here, take this.”

The guy looked at what was in my hands and then looked up at me curiously, before taking his left hand out of his poket and taking the clearly soggy box. I scanned his hand again out of habit, noticing there certainly was no wedding ring on his finger, not even a white mark where one might have been.

“Thanks,” he said, although sounding a little hesitant.

“Keep the box, there’s only one left.” I smiled. “Sorry it’s a little wet, my laptop bag clearly isn’t waterproof! But the heat patch will still work.”

I was expecting him to just wander off at this point, I didn’t expect him to stand around too long if he had a bad back. But to my shock, he sat down on the seat opposite me, placing the whisky on the table between us and looked right into my eyes. I gulped again.

“Is your laptop wet?” he asked and then looked down at my laptop in front of me.

“Err… yeah, a little.”

“Do you want me to have a look at it?”

“Oh, no, it’s fine. I’m just going to clean up most of the water and let it dry out. If it’s too wet I’ll just take it home and take it apart, make sure no water got onto the motherboard and hard-drive.”

His eyebrows rose again. I felt a small smile creep involuntarily on my face.

“You know computers?” he asked.

I nodded. “A little, dad was into his computers.”

I was suddenly aware of how warm I was, although I was sure it was because I was still sat in my leather jacket, but it could have also been the gorgeous man talking to me and looking quite at peace doing so. Either way, I decided to take off my jacket before I started to sweat and smell.

“You know you can void the warranty if you take it apart?” he asked as he took another sip of the Dalwhinnie and eyed me taking my jacket off.

I smiled, hoping he hadn’t noticed that I was extremely nervous raound him, especially after seeing him eye me curiously. “I think I voided the warranty a long time ago, after my hard-drive decided to fail on me and I had to replace it.”

“You are full of surprises.” He smiled at me and suddenly leaned his arms on the table.

I smiled back and nervously took the glass of whisky that was sitting next to my hand and took a large sip. I felt I needed to have a bit of alcohol in me to calm my nerves.

“So, do you know anything about these heat patches?” he asked, before I had a chance to say something myself.

“Sorry?” I asked, trying desperately not to cough as I had accidentally taken a large sip of the Dalwhinnie and it had decided to catch the back of my throat with its harshness.

“The heat patch,” he said, holding it up in his large bear-hand. “I’ve never used one before.”

“Oh!” I said and let out a small laugh. “It’s easy, the instructions are on the box, but you basically just strip back the plastic protection and place it on the area that’s sore. It should stick and peel off easily afterwards.”

“You say that, but knowing me, I’ll end up messing it up,” he said, leaning back as he pulled out the remainder heat patch from the soggy box and took it out.

I laughed. “You sound like me. Put m e in a room with a computer and tell me to get on with analysing data and I could do it with my eyes closed. But any simple instructions like that and I’m useless. If someone was to give me instructions on how to make porridge, I’d still find a way to fick it up.”

He laughed. “I’m curious to know how you can fuck up porridge?”

I felt the heat rise to my face when I heard him laugh and curse. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, with me. Once I had the heat up too high and it burnt to the bottom of the pan, I had to throw it all away.”

“The porridge?”

“Well, obviously that, but I meant the pan too.”

He nodded and I felt like I was being studied. I was just concentrating on trynig to smile politely enough but not too much to look creepy, and act normal around him; say the right thing, do the right thing, sitting up without slouching… I didn’t understand how someone could have a conversation like this and be so calm. It was exhausing trying to look normal and confident.

“Did you want anything for it?” he said suddenly, breaking me out of my musings.

“Sorry?”

“You’ve given me your last heat patch, did you want me to give you some money for it, or maybe buy you another drink?”

“Oh, no.” I smiled and shook my head. “Don’t worry about it, I have more heat patches at home, and I shouldn’t really drink any more than the one glass of whisky.”

He nodded. “Well, I had better go put this on.”

“Did you, err… want a hand?”

He raised an eyebrow at me and smiled, it sent a shiver down my spine. “I think I’ll be okay.” He winked.

I inhaled suddenly and coughed as if trying to cover up the fact he had a strange impact on me. “Sure, just let me know if you change your mind, they’re a little tricky to put on your back.”

“Sure,” he said, and then stood up from the booth. “Thanks again.”

“It’s not a problem.”

He stood there for a few short seconds as if he had something else to say, but he clearly thought better of it. Instead, he turned around, walked back to the bar where his laptop was left forgotten, put down the glass of Dalwhinnie I had bought him and muttered something to the barman. The barman nodded while he was drying glasses and the handsome man vanished into the toilets. I sighed and looked back at my own laptop while trying to calm my shaking hands.

I did it; I had spoke to a guy first and managed to survive. I blew out my cheeks as I took out the paper towels and started to clean up my laptop. Although, absentmindedly, as all I could think about was that guy trying to apply that heat patch to his back, wondering what his body was like underneath that white shirt.

Click here to read the next chapter!

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Here are some links to my other works:

My Normal – A Short Story by Penny Hooper
Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue
No one likes you! – A short story.

Both my books are currently 99c!

Both of my books are currently 99c in e-book format on Smashwords!

The idea of putting them up for sale is to get more reviews and traffic through my sites. I don’t get a lot of profits from selling them so cheap, as Smashwords takes a good chunk, but it’s mostly to get my name out there.

And hopefully, when I finally get my other books finished (still waiting for free time around uni work and job searching!) I’ll have a fan-base already!

See below for links and synopsis for each e-book.I-Fell-in-love-with-a-psychopath-full30713453_2359540254272254_3615440063170609152_n

Here is I fell in Love with a Psychopath:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/893044

Here is It’s My Mistake:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/744287

Synopsis for I Fell in Love with a Psychopath:

What would you do if you realised the man you fell in love with had a psychopathic personality disorder?

After getting her degree in history, Jo took the plunge and moved to Chicago. But one day a guy changes her life completely. And not necessarily in a good way.

When she first moved to the city, Jo met Liam. She had a small crush on him from day one. Along with his good looks, he was funny and charming. Maybe a little immature, but he never failed to make her laugh. Finally, one day Liam asks Jo out on a date and she is stupidly nervous and surprised he even likes her!

Jo meets Xander in a bar. He is handsome and confident. He holds himself tall and constantly watches her reactions with mild curiosity. She keeps bumping into him, sometimes deliberately. He seems to say all the right things and do all the right things and she finds herself craving more of him.

The problem was, however, one of them is a psychopath and he now has an obsession with Jo…

Synopsis for It’s My Mistake:

Alice wants a career change, especially after a terrible incident at her last job. Her dream job has always been to work in a hotel, maybe even own one. But after messing up an interview very spectacularly for a vacancy at a well-known hotel chain in London, she wasn’t expecting to hold the attention of the Global Business Manager; Daniel Jeffries. And in more ways than one. Does Alice take the risk and accept Dan’s offer or does she play it safe?

Who knew that that interview day would be the day that changed Alice’s life? But is it for the better? Is this alluring Global Business Manager as amazing as he seems? And who is that mysterious yet amazingly handsome man at the hotel?

**Mature Content** Recommended for ages 18+ due to sexual situations and language.

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If you want to read a part of I Fell in Love with a Psychopath, read it here.

If you want to read a part of It’s My Mistake, read it here.

Here are some links to my other works you might like:

Ender’s Love – Chapter 1

Butterfly House – Chapter 1

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue

My Normal – A Short Story by Penny Hooper

Other blog links:

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

Paying for Reviews – BEWARE!

My Book ‘It’s My Mistake’ available in paperback!

Ender’s Love – Chapter 1

Warning: Strong language!

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Chapter 1

“Oh, for fuck sake!” I grumbled, as a passing car drove through a puddle and splashed me. I looked down at myself, just as a fellow walker on the path shot me a disgusted look. Probably at my language. I didn’t care. I was instantly hurdled into a bad mood. But I was glad to see I wasn’t that wet; the water had mostly got my boots and—

“Shit!” I exclaimed. The reason I was mostly spared from the dirty puddle water was because the majority had splashed on my laptop bag. I had been carrying it in my hand as it had moments ago been hurting my shoulder. But I didn’t hold much hope that the bag was waterproof.

I wiped it down as much as I could with my bare hands and hoped and prayed to a God that I wasn’t even sure I believed in that the laptop tucked safely inside hadn’t gotten wet itself.

I sighed and looked up to see a bar just a few feet away, right next to a rather lovely Mediterranean restaurant with a few bamboo plants outside. I made a mental note to check it out one day. The bar itself was just as elegant—just lacking the plant-life—with a lovely bold black and red sign which read; Da Vinci’s, which looked quite new. I huffed and decided to go get a well-deserved drink and check my laptop was still working.

The door was a little too heavy, but I tried not to show how heavy I found it. I didn’t want any men to think I was weak and could take advantage. I then trudged up to the bar confidently. Fake it ‘til you make it, I had heard once. It was my new motto in life.

“Excuse me,” I said to the barman. He was quite a good-looking guy, with dark brown hair, a small stubble of a beard, and wearing a white shirt, black trousers with a black waist-coat. Although a little too young for me, so I tried my hardest not to smile or stare too much and give him the wrong impression. I had a habit of attracting men who got the wrong impression.

But just as he moved to wander over to me, I saw a guy behind him that instantly caught my attention. He was handsome. Very handsome. Much more my type. Although, he was undoubtedly way out of my league. His black raven hair short and slightly standing up, a little ruffled as if he’d run his hands through it in frustration, a strong masculine hand resting on his handsome clean-shaven jaw, propping himself up as his elbow rested on the bar top. He appeared to be frowning at the laptop in front of him.

It suddenly felt a lot warmer in this bar than the first two seconds of walking in.

My attention went straight to his hand. It was a habit I had started doing lately. I was looking for a wedding ring. Nothing. That didn’t mean he was single though. Not that he’d ever be interested in me.

“Hi doll,” replied the barman, breaking my attention away from the devilish handsome man behind him. I was trying to will him to look up at me; I hoped if he looked up, I’d might be able to find out if he found me even slightly attractive or not. Maybe find that strange spark I hear about in films and romance books. I had a short-lived dream that our eyes would meet across the bar and an instant spark come between us, my world slowing down as he came over to introduce himself. But he was too engrossed in his laptop to even notice me.

“Hi,” I said, smiling at the barman suddenly, feeling my voice getting a little louder as if I subconsciously wanted to attract the attention of the other guy, but being as nice as possible to the barman, so if he did look up, he’d see I was friendly at least. Although, deep down, I hoped the barman hadn’t caught me goggling at his only other customer in his bar.

“I, err—” I’d suddenly forgotten what I was going to ask for. My mind drew a blank.

Wet laptop, that was right!

“Do you have any paper towels? Some inconsiderate buggar just drove through a large puddle and got me wet.” I felt myself flush at my own comment. I had too many male friends who would have heard that comment and found a hidden sexual innuendo in it. I just hoped neither men at the bar; the one behind the bar and the stupidly handsome one still staring intently at his laptop with his frown creating a rather curious line on his forehead, would have noticed.

I had also noticed with a slight twinge of embarrassment that my voice not only was a little too loud, but my stupidly southern English accent had accentuated the way I said buggar.

“Oh, damn,” said the barman, looking genuinely remorseful. “Sure, let me get you some!” He suddenly took two steps away and drew out some green paper towels before he brought them over to me. I just tried to keep my eyes on him and not the guy behind him who was now typing away at something with an indifferent look on his face.

“You know, you can always use the hand-dryers in the ladies,” the barman continued, after passing me the towels, “my girlfriend is always spilling drinks on herself, she says using the hand-dryers is better.”

I mentally found myself sighing in relief at the thought of this guy already having a girlfriend—although hoping it wasn’t too evident on my face. An ex-boyfriend had once told me my face was expressive. He didn’t mean it in a nice way either. At least there was less chance of the barman trying to hit on me; the one man in the bar I didn’t want to hit on me.

Although, a small part of me wanted to challenge myself to that unspoken agreement I had with myself only a few days ago. I had told myself that it shouldn’t be up to the men to make the first move. Women should make the first move. More importantly, I should make the first move.

“Oh, thanks, but it’s for my laptop, not me.” I smiled, but I suddenly felt myself blush, as the handsome man staring at his laptop suddenly looked up. Our eyes met only briefly as he took a sip of a drink that looked a lot like whiskey. His eyes were back down on the laptop in mere milliseconds. It was over so quickly that I could have just imagined it. I didn’t even manage to get what colour they were.

I suddenly felt deflated. He didn’t even smile at me. His eyes didn’t even linger enough to suggest he was attracted. There was no Hollywood spark. Nothing. Well, there goes the idea that he might even be in to me.

“Oh, sure!” the barman smiled. I looked back at him, trying to keep my eyes fixed on this man instead, as well as trying to keep my face straight and not frown in my disappointment. He didn’t seem to have noticed, and he certainly didn’t seem interested in hearing my story about how my laptop got wet. “Do you want a drink?”

“Yeah, might as well!” I nodded and sighed, feeling tired and sore now that I thought about it. Well, I had just trudged from university with my laptop over my shoulder, heading towards my bus stop before I got splashed. “Do you have Dalwhinnie?” I asked, feeling a little defiant and wanting to drink something that might impress. I didn’t want either of the men thinking I was just a silly woman who also was a bit accident prone. Although, I didn’t really want a glass of Dalwhinnie, I actually just fancied a glass of coke. I felt a little thirsty after trudging out of my class and carrying around my laptop everywhere. A glass of whisky wasn’t going to quench that thirst. But I had somehow convinced myself whisky was the better choice in my situation.

I noticed the barman lifted a curious eyebrow at me and I felt a small inward triumph. Although for a split second, doubt creeped through me that that eyebrow signalled something other than being impressed. “Of course. You want a glass of that?”

“Please.” I nodded and smiled sweetly as I started to unzip my leather jacket and loosen my small black scarf around my neck. It wasn’t that cold outside. It was spring. Nearly summer. But it was the Scottish weather; it was a little cold for me. I preferred warmer weather.

“Ice?” the barman asked as he wandered over to the glasses and picked up a glass very similar to what the handsome man had. I noticed then that the handsome man was looking up at me again and I felt my cheeks flush again. My hopes skyrocketed, but my self-doubts kept them from going too high.

I just gave him a raised eyebrow and smiled at him before deliberately cutting off the eye contact myself this time and looked back at the barman, who I playfully frowned at and said, “And risk diluting it with water? No, thanks.”

The barman looked up at me curiously again but smiled when he noticed I was smiling at him. He nodded. “Good point. That’s three-ninety, please.”

After the barman placed the whisky on the bar top, I shifted my laptop shoulder strap over my shoulder and reached into my pocket of my leather jacket, bringing out my bank card to pay for it. “Thanks,” I muttered politely and was about to hand him my card when he spoke, and I stopped in my tracks.

“We only accept payments over five-pound, love, sorry.”

“Oh!” I felt panic rise in me. I felt instantly stupid. I should have asked that they take card first. As soon as my face fell into sheer shock, I noticed the handsome man was back to looking at me again, a small wicked smile on his face. I felt a little small compared to him as if he was mocking me. But I suddenly had a brilliant idea. “In that case, make it two Dalwhinnies.” I smiled triumphantly.

The barman raised his eyebrow at me again but held a strange frown on his face. This time I was sure he wasn’t impressed. Maybe he was worried I was going to get too drunk and needed to be escorted out of the bar. But I wasn’t going to explain and ruin the idea I had.

He seemed to reluctantly make me another Dalwhinnie and placed it on the bar top while watching my face curiously. It was as if he was waiting for the answer to appear on my forehead. But he finally passed me the card reader so I could pay for the drinks. I was grateful to pick up the two glasses, the paper towels shoved into my jacket pocket carelessly and walk passed the bar towards the back of the room.

I had deliberately aimed for the large booths at the back. There were three large booths with large built in seats. The deep red leather looked inviting and comfortable. Plus, more importantly, it meant having to walk passed that exceptionally handsome customer at the bar.

As I walked past him, smelling a wonderful masculine yet probably expensive fragrance, I stopped and placed one of the Dalwhinnies next to his hand. “That one’s for you,” I said, with the sweetest smile I could muster. He looked round at me in surprise, just as I caught a glimpse of an email account open on his laptop with what looked like a lot of unread business emails. But he frowned as if I had just invaded his personal space and I added quickly: “With that frown on your face earlier, you look like you need one just as much as me.”

I then wandered off while taking a sip of my own glass, without even waiting for him to say anything. I was sure I could feel his eyes staring at the back of my head in amazement. I didn’t want to give him chance to brush me off; I wanted him to know that I was just being polite and friendly, not coming onto him. I imagined a lot of women hitting on him, being as handsome as he was, and that was the last thing he wanted if he was busy with work stuff. But at the same time, I wanted him to take notice of me and not as the silly girl who didn’t carry change around with her.

It’s not like I was expecting him to be interested, I just wanted to feel a little in control. I knew a guy like that wouldn’t be interested in me. I was short, looked young for my age and always seemed to look like I was scowling at everyone. I didn’t even think I was that attractive. Not like most of the girls I’d seen in bars. Plus, guys seemed to like the girls with thick make-up and blonde hair. My hair was a dark shade of red—natural of course—one side would flick out while the other flicked in, and if it was too wet outside it would go frizzy. I had stopped dying or bleaching my hair a long time ago, realising that I should just love who I was, my unruly red hair, stupid button nose and all. I was a bit of a rocker-chick too, with my dark eye make-up and leather jacket, rather than a sweet girly-girl, and I was proud of that.

I had also made a promise to myself. After having terrible luck with men; having dated what seemed like only manipulative men or desperate men who just didn’t want to be alone. Then I had a deliberate two-year single spell. I realised that not only was I worth more than the low-life men I had dated in the past, but I wasn’t going to settle for a guy just for the hell of being in a relationship. I wanted a decent relationship. Hell, I wanted a best friend to spend my life with. If I couldn’t find that person, then I was happy enough just being single and making the most of life.

But in those two years, I had a lot of time to realise that I hadn’t really had chance to meet any decent men. I wasn’t sure why it was. Maybe it was because I was unattractive? Maybe it was because I looked too young? Maybe it was because I prefer to wear jeans and t-shirts instead of wearing a dress and getting uncomfortable and cold? I moved to Scotland, it was a little cooler than England. But I also thought that there was another possibility; after speaking to my male friends, a lot of them had admitted they don’t like to approach attractive women in fear of being rejected. So, somewhere in my head I decided that, why should it be men that approach women first? More importantly, why didn’t I approach men first? Rather than waiting for them to approach me? Not that I thought I was attractive! That was another problem; I was sure it was because I was unattractive that men didn’t approach me. But I was going to fake confidence and test it out.

That handsome guy at the bar; he was just a test to see if I could do it. Seems I could. Although, with a ridiculously fast beating heart, stupidly sweaty palms, the thoughts of doubt quickly creeped into my head as I settled into the seat.

Why did I just give a guy a glass of Dalwhinnie? What if he didn’t want it? What if he didn’t like Dalwhinnie? What if he thought I was stupid? Oh god!

Click here to read the next chapter!

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Don’t forget to check out my other works!

New Story idea! – Butterfly House

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue

New Story Idea – “I fell in Love with a Psychopath”

OUT NOW! in Paperback and e-book!

Today is the day! Today is the 29th of September! The day ‘I fell in love with a Psychopath’ is officially published!

Copy of Coming 29th September!

Here is the link to the Paperback version: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1722710365/

Here is the link to the ebook version: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/893044

Please do spread this news, like, share and tell your friends about it!

And don’t forget to leave that all important review to let others know what you thought of the book so others know what it’s like!

Have a lovely weekend!
~Penny.

Coming 29th September!

It’s true! I Fell in Love with a Psychopath is coming out on the 29th of September!

Coming 29th September!

If you’re an e-book fan, you can pre-order your e-copy here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/893044

Otherwise, watch this space for the paperback version!

Don’t forget to check out my new Teaser Trailer for Rose Garden Sanatorium here!

Chapter 5 of The Love Square on WattPad!

I’ve published Chatper 5 of The Love Square up on WattPad!

Read the story here:
https://www.wattpad.com/story/159227215-the-love-square

This is Part 2 from Ender’s Love, you an also read the story on WattPad, or you can read The Love Square as a stand-alone!

The Love Square

Rose Garden Sanatorium Top 10 in the Cryptic Awards 2018!

… But I need your help to get to #1!

Yesterday I got a little notification from WattPad… how I love to see that little red dot on my WattPad account to tell me I have another notification!

And when I opened it up yesterday, I found my story; Rose Garden Sanatorium, had made the Top 10 in the Cryptic Awards 2018!

*Gasp*

I have a LOT of faith in that story, so I know it will do well, I just need people to give it the chance. ❤ And seeing it make the Top 10 really made my day yesterday (especially since I had a slightly crash because of my Fibromyalgia too, feeling better today though!)

WattPad has a lot of readers (and writers, like me) who love to read stories, but I see a general pattern with the *type* of stories that get read the most on there… they’re mostly romance. Now, I don’t mind, I write romance too, but for the stories like Rose Garden Sanatorium which doesn’t focus heavily around romance, they are harder to get seen. Well, to be honest, getting recognised on WattPad is hard enough as it is! So, Rose Garden Sanatorium, although it’s been my main project since January 2017, hasn’t been as popular on there.

I have submitted it to the Watty Awards, I have sent it to a literary agent, I have even sent it to WattPad Studios as I have faith it is a good story (the whole series is). And winning Top 10 in the Cryptic Awards is (hopefully) the first step into getting more momentum on the story!

HOWEVER… it seems that to win top spot on the Cryptic Awards means I need people to vote for it, so I am writing this in a plea to people to go on WattPad (it’s free to set up, if you don’t have an account) and vote for Rose Garden Sanatorium to be Number 1 and Best Dark Adventure!

Here’s the link to where you can vote: https://www.wattpad.com/616298631-the-cryptic-awards-closed-%E2%99%A6-the-choosing-%E2%99%A6

Voting closes on the 15th September 2018.

And here’s the link to the story if you’d like to read it before then:

https://www.wattpad.com/story/124077410-rose-garden-sanatorium

1. Rose Garden Sanatorium NEW (2)

The Girl Who Whispered – The Next Chapter

A few of you may already know about my history (and why I call myself The Girl Who Whispered), and I won’t bore you with the details now. But the jist is, I was a very shy girl growing up and as a result I was so shy at school that I became very quiet. I was bulled because I was an easy target and to communicate with friends, I would whisper quietly to them to avoid being heard by the bullies. This progressed into secondary school and I became The Girl Who Whispered.

Well, that shy girl has changed so much since then, she’s no longer shy and she certainly doesn’t whisper anymore. In fact, I am now more confident and willing to speak up for myself. I do so by proving to myself that I am not stupid, like my bullies told me, and I use my writing as a way to express myself and important topics.

Yesterday was my very last day as an Open University BSc Psychology student, I handed in my very last assignment (I actually handed it in on the 30th, as I was worried about the internet going down in this isolated village! But technicalities!). I eagerly and a little impatiently await my results.

I hope to gain a 2:1 grade overall, because if I do. I will be heading to my next chapter of my educational path… a Master’s Degree!

I also am progressing with my writing, I have had a few people comment on my published book (It’s My Mistake) saying that they really enjoyed reading it (I’ll add a link to the bottom of the post if you’d like a copy), I have also had comments about my first draft of ‘I fell in Love with a Psychopath’ which is up on WattPad (also at the bottom) and I am currently in the process of sorting a cover letter and 3,000 word synopsis to send my ‘Rose Garden Sanatorium’ series to a literary agent. I have one already picked out and plan to do more research to find others.

Someone said to me today, my luck is turning around.

I hope so. ❤
Here are the links:
It’s My Mistake (UK Paperback): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Its-My-Mistake-Penny-Hooper/dp/1985376709

It’s My Misake (US Paperback): https://www.amazon.com/Its-My-Mistake-Penny-Hooper/dp/1985376709

It’s My Mistake (Ebook): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/744287

I fell in Love with a Psychopath (WattPad Draft copy): https://www.wattpad.com/story/137106427-i-fell-in-love-with-a-psychopath%7E-complete

WattPad profile: https://www.wattpad.com/user/penny_bones16
(Where you can read my other written works)

Also, please check out my other posts for sneak chapters of Rose Garden Sanatorium).