Book Review: Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson.

Ever read a book that forced your hand to write notes on everything that just didn’t sit quite right with you? This was that book. So, buckle up, because this is going to be more of an analysis than a review.

The premise: Written by a consultant and communications expert, Surrounded by Idiots is an attempt at separating human behaviour into four personality types, each given a colour. Red’s are the leader types. Yellow’s are the creatives. Green’s are the passives. And, finally, blue’s are the logical. There’s a lot of descriptors that go with each one, but I’ve simplified it for you, so you don’t need to read the book.

The conclusion: we’re not actually surrounded by idiots, and you will only probably think so if you’re red or yellow (the extroverted… although I don’t recall Erikson using the word). And, of course, you need a versatile group of individuals if you want to get a job done.   

I’ll begin by saying that this took me a long time to read. Not because it was hard to understand or poorly written, but because it wasn’t overly interesting or entertaining. It was in fact relatively well written. I cannot fault the writing style of Erikson, his deliverance of his thesis or his attempt at humour (I’m sure it was amusing to someone out there). That may seem very bold of me, but allow me to explain some key points here:

This book could have easily been translated into just one chapter. It’s just very very repetitive. The problem is that the premise is a very simple one and can be explained simply. Instead, we have multiple explanations of the same subject (albeit, in slightly different scenarios) and many examples that are drawn out.

Much of Erikson’s research seems to have taken place in a working environment, and this is an issue for this behavioural model. The main reason being that the majority of us show a different behaviour in a working environment. As a learned behaviour, we fall into a “personality” that the job requires. As an ambivert myself, that has worked in a varied selection of job roles, with diverse groups of individuals, I can confirm this. I have adapted to roles because that was needed for the role. As a manager, I would be an extroverted leader (Red). As a writer, I would be introverted; passive, logical and creative (Green, Blue and Yellow). As a customer care assistant, I would adapt to the customer, and probably combine all of those traits. So, did I crack the code of human potential before I read this book? Of course not… adaptive and learned behaviour is very normal.    

And this is where Erikson’s formula falters, as he proposes, “No one has four (of these traits).” I counter propose with; we all have these four traits, or colours, or behaviours. We are adaptive creatures. We learn from experiences and events, and are able to emulate behaviours that are required, from other individuals or groups. There are far too many layers to the human psyche for us to be able to categorise it into four behaviour types, and few before Erikson have tried. For example, Hippocrates with the four temperaments and the Aztecs with the four elements. Sure, it made sense for the ancients to try to make assumptions of human behaviour or psychology in a simple form, but we have so much more understanding now, and still have much more we can learn.

I could probably go deeper into this subject and book, and might one day, but for now I will conclude this review. For the fact that is written in a way that could be read, I give this book 1/5 stars. This might seem harsh, but for a non-fic book, I learned or gained nothing in return for my time. If you want to read an interest insight into the human psyche and behaviour, I would recommend reading Quiet by Susan Cain instead.  

Rating: 1 out of 5.

(I’m not going to add a “buy here” link for this one, instead it will take you to Quiet by Susan Cain.)

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Game Review: Assassin’s Creed- Valhalla.

It’s finally here!
Beautiful. Brutal. Epic. Ambitious. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is everything I hoped for and more.

Beautiful. From the snowy and mountainous lands of Norway, to the forests and castles of England, this game is breathtakingly beautiful. As with all Assassin’s Creed games, you can see the amount of detail and research that has gone into each location. You can spend hours taking virtual selfies in photo mode, amongst some of the most stunning in-game landscapes you have ever seen.

Brutal. The combat in this game is simply and utterly brutal. There are limbs flying and heads rolling, and more spear impalement than you will ever need (I’m just joking… it never gets old). Much like its newer breed of predecessors, Origins and Odyssey, Valhalla uses a more RPG-like combat system, and this is emphasised with its new use of a stamina bar. This adds a different level of skill and concentration to your combat encounters and boss battles. All this, along with an incredible new set of skills, make for a fluid and fun system of melee, that will have you slaying for days. But fear not, you can still assassinate your foes with the use of the iconic hidden blade or take down your enemies from afar with a bow. Valhalla has truly dialled in with its “play your way” system, and its immense skill and upgrade tree truly reflects this.     

Epic. This game is set after the times of Ragnar Lodbrok; a historic character whom you may or may not know of because of the series Vikings. Along your journey, you will meet many myths and legends from times long past. My favourite so far has been the bloodthirsty Ivar, son of Ragnar. He’s hilarious… for all the wrong reasons. Then there was the encounter with Grendel, from the legend of Beowulf, which has managed to leave a lasting impression with a story that I was already very familiar with. And, simply, Asgard! We get to wander the lands of the gods and walk among them, completing quests and doing battle with the Jotunn… with a story line that I am pretty sure is leading to Ragnarok…       

Ambitious. It’s big… like, really big. While not feeling as overwhelmingly packed as Odyssey, I would say that Valhalla is equal to its scale and content. And despite its scale, aside from a small issue of screen tearing on the Xbox, this game runs very smoothly (Xbox one). Although, on current gen, loading times have been reported to be a problem. I’m sure Ubisoft will remedy these annoyances in the form of a patch, but for now I have not found the game to be in any way unplayable.

This is just the beginning of my journey in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and I am sure that I am going to be spending a while on it, absorbing every bit the game has to offer. Having played all of the series before it, and finishing most, I can confidently say that this is the best one yet. They have incorporated the old and the new, and added even more. I shall return here in the near future, with a game complete and a saga to tell.

Game Review: Hellblade- Senua’s Sacrifice.

“No game has ever hit me quite as hard as Senua’s Sacrifice.”

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a dark tale of epic proportion. Following the journey of the Pict warrior, Senua, we are led on an intense path, as we make our way through the lands of monsters and gods. Upon her belt is the head of the one she loved, Dillion. He is the reason that she is in such a place. To save his soul, Senua must succeed in the challenges of the rulers of Helhiem, and reach the goddess of death herself, Hela.     

I will never forget the intro. Never. It was perfect. In a single scene it manages to encompass everything that this game is. Dark and disturbing, yet strangely beautiful and intriguing. We begin this journey making our way down a river. Calming, you may think, but then the voices start. Senua is disturbed by her inner demons, who constantly speak to you throughout the game, as they warn and mock in equal parts. This experience is greatly intensified with the use of headphones or surround sound, although I imagine that this could be too much for many. You have been warned!  

Graphically, Hellblade is very impressive. The pallet of dark colours are often offset with a vibrant and otherworldly glow, usually coming from the sword of Senua or her mirror when it activates in combat. The settings are usually of ruin, scattered with morbid scenes, but then, occasionally, these are juxtaposed with a scene that is absolutely beautiful. The scene that immediately comes to mind are the flashbacks of what I assume represents Yggdrisal. The art of the characters that represent the gods, and what will serve as the boss fights, are incredibly well done and suitably terrifying, as are their minions. Couple all this with an atmospheric soundtrack, on-point sound effects and the voices, believe me when I say that Senua’s Sacrifice is one hell of a ride.  

Gameplay wise, Hellblade is simple, yet deep. This game is a balance of combat and puzzle, although you will find more puzzle than combat. For all of you button-mashing-action game fans out there, this game may not be for you. I feel that the combat in this game is more for substance than anything else. However, it is perfectly executed for its means. You can feel the intensity of the arena like combat sequences. You can dodge and parry, and there are even combos to discover, and mastering all of these elements are completely necessary, as boss fights can prove quite the challenge. This formula slightly reminded me of a toned-down Dark souls. The puzzles are where this game absolutely shines. Integral to its story telling, each puzzle is an ingenious interaction of discovery. From world warping portals, to finding forms of rune among nature or cleverly placed objects, while not overly challenging, they are brilliantly designed. One final thing to note on the gameplay front is how different Hellblade is to many of the mainstream titles out there. By many standards, this game is linear, however, this is not a criticism. By removing the need to explore a vast amount, you can really focus on the story that is being told here, and everything that Senua is experiencing… including those demons of her mind.           

Intense is a word that sums this game up, and it is something that it does very well. You can feel the panic as Senua’s reality around her begins to burn, and you must find a way to escape. You can feel that adrenaline rush as Fenrir is stalking you from the shadows, and you must find the light before he strikes. As well as these tasks, we are hit with the voices of doubt and a finite amount of lives. That’s right… if you die too many times in Hellblade, the rot spreads through Senua, and it’s game over for you. You lose all of your progress. This mechanic adds so much more intensity to the game. For me, it made me pay more attention to every step. I assessed every battle that little more closely. And, when I did die, I planned out how I would play differently so that it wouldn’t happen again. This game makes you pay attention, and it does so in that very clever way.     

And, you know a game is going to be this intense and effective when the first person the developer’s credit is a mental health advisor. Clearly, much research was done into the conditions of a person suffering from psychosis. We assume that this is an ailment that Senua is suffering from during the course of Hellblade. The voices. The Hallucinations. Is she truly wandering the realm of the gods? Certain flashbacks would make it apparent that we are not, and it is the creation of a disturbed mind.  It’s clear that there has been much trauma in Senua’s upbringing and general past, and so the death of her beloved Dillion was the event to completely unbalance her mind. The ending also adds a lot of credence to this, although I will not spoil why…  

I will end this by saying, simply; No game has ever hit me quite as hard as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It is a masterpiece. Every gamer needs to play this game, and experience this unsettlingly beautiful creation. You may not love it, but you will appreciate how clever it truly is. Will you endure the challenges of the gods? Will you endure the voices, whilst battling the minions of Helheim? I did, and I cannot wait to revisit the mind of Senua in Hellblade 2, which should be with us in the near future. Go check out the trailer if you haven’t already!

Swiftly entering my list of favourite ever games, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice gets a 5/5 from me.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Book Review: Hope Quest (Book 1): Blackbird by Melanie Ever Moore.

Firstly, this book was not what I had first expected, and I mean this in the best possible way. I like to be surprised as I make my way through a book, and this beautifully written tale is certainly in no short supply of surprises. I was utterly gripped by the darkness of the story. I was captivated by the well thought out and interesting characters. I was enthralled by Hope and her power to wield the stars.

Secondly, on a more personal level, this book and its characters made me reflect so much on my younger years. The long black hair. The band shirts. The gigs. The loud and heavy music. (Yes, I was a metal head. Please… feel free to imagine how I looked in those days.) They were fun times. This may seem like a bit of a tangent, so allow me to get to my point; Melanie does very well to describe the scenes and settings that I am very familiar with. It was nostalgic for me. It was almost like I was back there, probably seen diving into a mosh pit somewhere.   

Within the story is woven a few disturbing subjects. You have been warned, but believe me when I say, they are masterfully placed and impactful to the plot. They made me pay close attention to each character. They made me feel involved in their backstory. These plotlines were not placed for simple shock factor, as I find many authors doing. It was darkness, with purpose.

Hope Quest: Blackbird is stylish, darkly-elegant and beautifully delivered, and for this I give it 5/5. I can’t wait to get stuck into book 2!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Book Review: Diversion To Urasha by Laura Hopgood.

“Want some YA Sci-fi action that will keep you turning page after page, chapter after chapter, until you’ve realised that time has somehow disappeared? Then you should pick up this book, NOW.

Like a combination of Valerian and Avatar, with a sprinkle of Star Wars, Diversion to Urasha will take you on a wondrous journey, filled with adventure and peril. Meet a diverse group of well written personalities, as they travel through the mysterious landscapes of Urasha. As they move towards their goal of finding an all-powerful artefact, you will become captivated as the characters progress the story through self-discovery, strength and courage.

Laura Hopgood brings this story to life with her brilliant writing ability, immense imagination and entertaining style of narration. Diversion to Urasha is a thoroughly thought-out Sci-Fi adventure with an ending that will leave you immediately wanting to return for more!”

I wrote this review for an older edition of this book, and my opinion has remained much the same for this updated version. I think that the one thing that I didn’t pick up on before was the elements of fantasy that have been masterfully woven into this epic piece. It has dragon-like creatures and an alien race that, in hindsight, remind me of the Dark elves of my D&D days. With sword fights and powerful warriors and deadly monsters, this book truly has it all!  And, even more exciting, book 2 is now released, so I can carry on with this thoroughly enthralling journey. I recommend Laura’s work to anyone that wishes for an easy read and a quick escape from reality. She is a talented individual, that writes with emotion and heart. I, once again, give Diversion to Urasha 5/5 stars.   

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Book Review: The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.

After reading Happy by Derren Brown, I was eager to learn more of the philosophy of Stoicism, in which he spoke so much about. After some research, I found The Daily Stoic to be the starting point of many a new Stoic. Within its pages are 366 meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living, in the form of analysed quotes from great Stoics, such as Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

Although this book is written to be read one page per day (the pages are dated), I found myself reading three to five (or more) and meditating on each. I think I actually managed to finish it in two months! I will be returning to this book next year, to read a page a day, in aid of keeping my mind focused the wisdom of the Stoics.

I found this book to be a great way to start my day, with a coffee, silence, and a meditation to reflect upon. I feel that The Daily Stoic is a great introduction to this useful and thought-provoking philosophy. If you heed its teachings, I believe that it has the potential to change the way you think about life and its challenges. It could make you stern and resolute in the face of any situation. It will help you find serenity and peace of mind in the chaos of this modern world. I will be re-reading this for years to come and will continue to use it for references and my morning meditations.

For its great and diverse selection of quotes, and well written analysis of each, I give this book 5/5, and would recommend it to anyone interested in philosophy or self-help literature.     

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Of me and 2020.

So, I haven’t been here for a while. I hope you’re all okay and have endured the chaos of this year. It’s been challenging, hasn’t it?

I feel that this year has changed me… that’s a bold statement to make early in this piece, but let’s make that its focus. It was easy to change because I felt so lost. I was something easy to mould because my life and soul had lost its form. I think I became lost because I had lost sight of my purpose. It’s so easy to get caught up in life and see that goal and dream fade into the distance. But let’s look at this year in a different light. Let’s see through the darkness and see what it truly was.

The events of this year were time granted for myself to stop and reflect, to breathe and plan. I began to spiral at the beginning of this year… I was falling to a place so hollow and dark, cold and alone. I needed that pause of reality, to find who I was once again. I became lost in that chaos of me, but quickly found how to apply the pressures of my learning. I found love and lust, and quickly learned how to lose it. I discovered health and strength and wisdom. I found philosophy. I found purpose. I gained experience.

We are quick to dismiss the experiences that bring us down, aren’t we? I know I was. I spent years being low and self-hating. “I’ve wasted years of my life,” I told myself, repeatedly. It became a habit. A spiral. Then, I realised how much I had learned during those years. I realised how strong they made me. I realised how resilient I had become. I think I began to forget those things again before I was forced to pause and stop and look deep within myself. You see, experiences make us who we are. They are not moments to dwell upon, but ultimately to learn from. Know this. Remember it. In your darkest times, you will always find yourself. It’s inevitable… it can just take time.

But what has changed? What did I learn? How will I make sure that I am less likely to spiral?

I did find Philosophy.

After becoming thoroughly engrossed by the book Happy by Derren brown, I found within its contents something that called to me. This was a philosophy in the form of Stoicism. The Stoics focused on a life of virtue. Their teachings were that of wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. They taught the mastery of the mind, and Amor Fati… the love and acceptance of fate. All of these elements spoke to me in a way that nothing has before, and it’s a philosophy of life that I have been falling into since going through therapy. I do wish to become more resilient to the chaos of life and learn to accept whatever falls to my path. The Stoics were masters of this. They believed in a focus of only that which is in our control; our mind and our actions. I am still learning, but I will learn. I will find my mastery.     

I became Vegan.

So, for the past two years, I have been mostly vegan. By that, I mean that only one meal a day (if that), wasn’t plant based. This was a diet that I followed in order to reach a higher fitness level and obtain a body that I was happy with. Then it occurred to me, that I may as well transition fully to a vegan diet. I’m not one to force views on anyone, and I never will, but I don’t agree with the way animals are treated for our benefit. I know that I can’t change the world by becoming vegan, but I would rather be part of the solution. Besides those views, I am finding it to be an exciting experience! I’m enjoying discovering new foods, new tastes, and new ways of cooking meals! I feel amazing, healthy and my conscience is a little less heavy. Most of all, I think, I feel that I have more control over what I am putting into my body.  

I found a new purpose and focus.

I am a writer, and I always will be… but this year has made me hungry for more. I want to make a difference. I want impact those around me. I want to be remembered (not that I’m going anywhere). I want to use everything that I have learned and experienced, the good and the bad, and turn it into something entirely positive. So, with that said, I am training to be a life coach and writing a self-help book. Along with this, I am studying introductory Philosophy and Psychology. It’s going to be a long and hard journey, I know, but I also know that it will be a rewarding one. I am hoping that, with my insight and learning, I will be able to help others out of their darkness, and aid in their discovery of purpose and meaning. I have always had a passion for people and connection… and this feels like a natural progression for myself. But do not fear, I have not stopped writing fiction! Fiction and poetry will be something that I will always write. It was my vent, and the light when everything seemed dark. You will still be getting more novels from me, they will just take slightly longer than anticipated, and I will always be posting here!    

And so, that’s me. I am a little different now… I can feel it. I feel it as I walk through crowds, with my head held high. I feel it before I sleep, with a mind that is content and at peace. I feel it when I awaken, energised and ready to face any challenge. I feel more me than I ever have, and I know that this is a new spiral… only this one isn’t a descent.

Walks and talks and photography.

Been doing a lot of walking and photography recently. It’s my happy place, to be surrounded by beauty and silence and nature. It helps me reflect on who I am, how far I have come and where I want to be. I feel that I am finally on the right path… the path of my own mastery.

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” -Marcus Aurelius.

Took these recently during an amazing couple of days of walking, with an equally amazing someone. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but we connected like time had never passed. Fate has a funny way of connecting people, doesn’t it?

I hope that you are all doing well during these crazy times. It’s been an odd year, hasn’t it?
I shall be returning soon with more content and writing news. Take it easy and stay awesome. ❤

Book Review: Happy by Derren Brown.

It had been a while since I picked up some non-fiction to read, but this book kept me captivated toward the end. It was in my search for a “self-help” book that I stumbled upon Happy. This is ironic, however, as Derren Brown takes a very anti-modern-self-help approach to aiding us in our search for happiness. Brown takes us on a journey through history, as we learn of the ideal of being happy, in its ever-changing form. He has us challenge these ideals, as he discusses old and new psychotherapies, and his personal experiences. 

Much of this book is heavily leaned toward giving an introduction into the philosophical stance of the Stoics (or so I felt). This certainly isn’t a negative, however, as it has convinced me to research further into this ancient philosophy, to aid my own self-improvement. Could this be this answer to a happier life in a modern world that’s so chaotic and exhausting? Perhaps.

Brown uses many great quotes in his work, from philosophers and leaders, such as Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca, and puts them fully under analysis. Most interestingly, I found, he discusses with us the fear of death, and its potential hindrance in our life. This book will have you questioning much about your life, but then if you picked it up for the reason I did, you have probably already begun questioning. It is through questioning ourselves about our situation and choice, that we can make change, and this book is a perfect stepping stone to that longer journey of discovery.

In short, this book is engaging, thought provoking and thoroughly entertaining. I would highly recommend this to anyone that is uncertain about their meaning in life, and would recommend this over much of the self-help literature out there. I give this book 5/5. 


Rating: 5 out of 5.

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