Stim Toy Review: Cube Spinner

Image Description: a small white cardboard box with small transparent window, within the window is a red Cube Spinner inside. The box is sitting on a navy-blue and red colour-scheme couch with gold-coloured fleur-de-lis pattern printed on the couch.

Item: Cube Spinner (Red)

Category: Review/Feedback

Cost: AU $5.89 (Shipping Fees: Free Shipping)

Date of Purchase: 03/10/2017

Date of Resolution: Roughly the end of November

Store: eBay

Location: China


I purchased the Cube Spinner via eBay, and everything seemed alright at first, I think the first delivery arrived within a week (there wasn’t a long delivery wait for the first Cube Spinner). When I got the first Cube Spinner, I noticed that the cube was contained inside a small cardboard box with a plastic bag around it, that’s it, there were no protective barriers or protective packaging in place to keep the item safe. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there was some damage on one of the corners and there appeared to be damage marks on the faces of the cube.

Image Description: a close-up picture of a red Cube Spinner with white damage markings around the edge of the cube’s surface.

Image Description: a close-up picture of a red Cube Spinner with white damage markings around the edge of the cube’s surface. With this one, there’s a couple of white scratch marks as well.

Image Description: a close-up picture of a red Cube Spinner, on a diagonal angle, with white damage markings around the edge of the cube’s surface. The focus of this image is the corner, which has a white scratch marks on the corner.

Image Description: a close-up picture of a red Cube Spinner with white damage markings around the edge of the cube’s surface.

When I contacted the seller about a replacement, as the product is supposed to be brand new and undamaged, communication with the seller was difficult, and it took a lot of communication for the seller to understand that I was requesting a replacement for the item. Still, I persisted (mostly out of spite at that point), and the seller agreed to send a replacement.

It took far longer for the replacement item to arrive than the first one and, when the item arrived, it was also in a small cardboard box with a small black plastic bag around it, so the same lack of protective packaging. The result was that the replacement Cube Spinner is just as damaged as the first one, in fact, the replacement is damaged in the exact same way.

As for the item itself, the spinner parts don’t sit flush with the rest of the cube, which annoys me but it’s not the end of the world and the Cube Spinner does spin like it’s designed to do. I realise that my complaints may seem small and possibly superficial, however, I am willing to recognise that a couple of bad items from eBay is pretty good from a statistical point of view. I have also observed that my partner tends to absent-mindedly pick it up and play with it, so maybe this is just one for him instead.

~Stim Toy Box: Cube Spinner
~Stim Toy Box: Paint Splatter Cube Spinner/Gyro Cube

The Bullet Journal: My Personal Pages

Image Description: the background is white flat surface with stationery items resting on top the surface. From left to right, a silver notebook (grey coloured elastic bound around it to keep it closed and grey ribbon poking out the bottom). four black pens with different coloured pen-caps, and a thick silver pen.

As I discussed in my previous post, my Mental Health Bujo is all over the place, and that’s fine, but I wanted my Leuchtturm 1917 Bujo to be a more organised, and I figured the best way to go about that would be to write down and plan out all the pages I wanted, instead of just randomly adding them whenever the impulse struck me.

Side Note: You don’t have to do this, this is just what I’m doing, organise your Bullet Journal whatever way you want, that’s kind of the whole point of them.

My List of Pages:

  • Key
  • Index
  • Future Log
  • Quarterly Section: Quarterly Goals January – March
  • Quarterly Section: Blog and Vlog Posts Published January – March
  • Quarterly Section: Booklist January – March
  • Quarterly Section: Quarterly Accomplishments January – March
  • Collections: Recipes To Try/Places To Go
  • Collections: Booklist – Crime and Contemporary
  • Monthly Log
  • Monthly Habit Tracker
  • Monthly Sleep Tracker
  • Weekly Log

Or at least that was the idea. Unfortunately I messed up the order of some pages. The Monthly section for January appears right after the Future Log and Quarterly Goals, which means the Quarterly section pages appear after the January pages. It’s frustrating, but it’s a small frustration, one that I can tolerate. Next Quarter, it’ll be easier, as I’ve got a better idea of how system works and have developed a more coherent list to work with.

It’s not enough to know what set up you’d like to draw in your bullet journal, you also need to know the rows and column dimensions of your journal, and you need to know how many pages one idea will span. For example: my Future Log took up four pages and I went with a dated column layout I discovered on Bullet Journal.

Image Description: a picture of a pink Leuchtturm 1917 notebook with dotted paper. On the page, three columns have been drawn on the page with titles of the Month at the top of the column, and a list of numbers down the left-hand side of the column.

As you can probably tell from the photo, my handwriting skills aren’t great, I smudge ink frequently in my Bujo, which is frustrating, but it’s just something I can’t seem to avoid (although not for a lack of trying). I’m also going for a Minimalist approach for my layouts, the simpler the better, which is why I used the three-month-three-column method for my Quarterly Goals Page as well.

My current Monthly Log layout is the Basic Betty I discovered via Page Flutter, I’ve also decided to use the same Monthly Log and Weekly Log layout for the January through to March Quarter. Next Quarter, April through to June, I will use another Minimalist style layout.

Image Description: a pale hand holding open a pink Leuchtturm 1917 notebook. The left-hand side has two vertical columns, one with a number for the day of the month, and letters to describe the day of the week (for example: 01 M). There are horizontal lines mapping out the weeks into tabled sections. The right-hand side, as three boxes drawn, two large vertical columns with a large horizontal box down the bottom. The boxes are labelled Tasks, Goals and Notes.

My Weekly Log layout is the One Page Wonder I discovered via Page Flutter as well.

Image Description: a pale hand holding open a pink Leuchtturm 1917 notebook. The dotted pages are displaying the same weekly layout on both sides. The weekly layout consists of two drawn columns, the column on the left-hand side has been divided into seven sections to represent the days of the week, the column on the right hand side is divided into two sections which are labelled Tasks and Upcoming.

Like with the Monthly Log, the page titles are smudged and the lines are also smudged, but it’s okay. It’s better to have a go and figure out what does and doesn’t work. In the March monthly sections, I messed up some the lines on the layout, but I used some white-out to fix it, and it’s fine. I’m not going to rip out pages because doing that will weaken the reinforcement on the bindings, I know I could tape up the bindings with Washi Tape, but I’d rather not.

Although, if you’re using a digital form of Bullet Journal, you’ll be able to avoid these types of problem altogether.

~Page Flutter – Back to Basics: Using Your Bullet Journal to Increase Productivity
~Boho Berry – How To Organise Your Goals + Get Things Done!
~Sublime Reflection – How I use my Bullet Journal to set [and achieve] 90 day goals

The Bullet Journal: My Personal Collection

Image Description: the background is white flat surface with stationery items resting on top the surface. From left to right, a silver notebook (grey coloured elastic bound around it to keep it closed and grey ribbon poking out the bottom). four black pens with different coloured pen-caps, and a thick silver pen.

This post will be discussing Bullet Journals and is mostly aimed at Beginners, so if you’re not a Beginner or have little to no interest in Bullet Journals, this post may not be for you.

There are many types of Bullet Journals available:

As I only have experience with Notebook Bullet Journals thus far, that’s the type of Journal I’ll be primarily focused on. I should probably clarify what a Bullet Journal is exactly. The thing is, other talented people have already done this, so here’s some links for Beginners explaining what a Bullet Journal is:
~How To Bullet Journal (YouTube Video)

~Bullet Journal – Getting Started

~Blu Chicken Ninja – How To Start a Bullet Journal

~Blu Chicken Ninja – How To Choose a Notebook for a Bullet Journal

~Boho Berry – Bullet Journal 101

~The Lazy Genius Collective – How To Bullet Journal

~Little Coffee Fox – The Ultimate Bullet Journal Cheat Sheet for Beginners

~Pretty Prints and Paper – Bullet Journal Index

~Productive and Pretty – Bullet Journal Index

~Tiny Ray of Sunshine – Thorough Guide to the Bullet Journal System

My collection of A4 Notebooks:
Image Description: Three A4 sized notebooks. From left to right, a book with a red cover with a pale white square with the words ‘192 Meh’ beneath the square is displayed text 'The Element of Apathy’. To the right of that notebook, there is a standard green Marbig 200 page lecture book with colour-hide cover. Beneath them both, there is a cover with a picture of a collection of suburban buildings that look like flats and or units with large white-text printed over the top 'I AM Self-Made’

I bought these books for University subjects, but I have yet to use them, I think? I have a problem with hoarding notebooks, and sometimes I start filling them with stuff, but then I forget about them. They’re currently located in a magazine holder on my impromptu coffee table, that way I can always see where they are.

I find A4-sized notebooks cumbersome, I’m trying to cut back on how much stuff I carry around with me, and I wouldn’t be able to transport those books easily. But if you wanted to use an A4-sized notebook, and simply have that one predominately anchored to the house or in an easily traceable location, then have a smaller one to take with you when you leave the house, that could work. The problem is that you’d have to be good at migrating tasks and appointments from the small book to the big book (and vice versa). I’m not particularly disciplined, so this particular method probably wouldn’t work for me, but feel free to test out your options.

To be honest, I found a lot more printable resources for A4-sized stuff, so I guess it depends on what you want. If you prefer the printable planner option over a notebook, I’d recommend a compendium (I’ll talk about that further down).

My collection of A5 Notebooks:
Image Description: there are six A5 sized notebooks in this picture. From left to right, there’s a bright pink hardcover lined notebook with two pictures of ice-creams with faces on the front with the heading ‘Stay Cool’. Underneath the pink notebook is a notebook with a dark-red cover, a skeleton of a dinosaur (most likely a velociraptor) with the speech bubble above the dinosaur skeleton displaying text ‘Rawwwr I’m a Dinosaur’. To the right pink book, there is a notebook with a black elastic band on the cover keeping it closed and on the cover are diagrams of star constellations from the Northern Hemisphere. Beneath that notebook, there is a plain peacock-blue notebook I bought from Coles Supermarket. To the right of the constellation notebook, there is a notebook with a black and white close-up picture of a typewriter. There’s a black elastic band across the vertical-length of the cover and the words 'some inspiring shit written inside here’ displayed at the top. Beneath the black and white typewriter notebook, there is a notebook with a red faux-leather cover and a gold Día de Muertos (Day of The Dead) skull design on the front cover.

As of writing this post, the “Stay Cool” pink notebook is currently being used as a Reading Journal. It helps me to write lists of books I want to read, it helps me keep track of my TBR pile, and helps me write lists for my Monthly Themed Reading Challenges. There is a flaw though. As it’s a lined notebook, I find it difficult to draw tables, and if you’re the type of person who likes to draw tables in their Bullet Journal, I’d recommend a notebook with dotted paper or the square-grid paper instead. Other than that, I like the notebook, it has a cute design, and hope to continue using it.

The Constellation Book is being used as a book solely dedicated to Novel Outlining for my Pushing Boundaries series. I was also hoping to use this book for Giveaway ideas orientated around the Pushing Boundaries series, random ideas I might have for scenes or the series as a whole. I wanted all my Pushing Boundaries stuff in the one place so I could easily find it and access it.

In general, I usually prefer to use spiral-bound notebooks, I find them easier to write on and to utilise, but by the same token, my style of Bullet Journal is minimalist and practical. My handwriting is awful (in fact I suspect I may have dyspraxia), I tend to smudge the ink of my layouts, so you won’t be seeing pictures of super pretty layouts on my blog.

But if you’re the artistry type, and that’s fine if you are, and you’re planning on making your Bullet Journal super pretty, I’ve read that the spiral-bound notebooks sometimes get in the way, apparently the perfect-bound notebooks are better for artsy stuff instead (honestly I have no idea, use whatever type of book you want).

Side-note: I don’t recommend that you spend all your time making your bullet journal pretty and forget to use it, and I don’t recommend putting so much effort in the visual elements that you’re now too afraid to use it (in case you mess it up). Your first bullet journal should be a little messy, don’t be afraid to experiment with different layouts, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Mermaid Sequin Notebook

Image Description: A5-sized notebook with mermaid sequins decorating the cover. The cover consists of mostly black sequins with smiley face made of white sequins positioned in the middle of the cover. There’s a black bookmarking ribbon hanging out the bottom of the book.

Image Description: A5-sized notebook with mermaid sequins decorating the cover. The cover consists of mostly white sequins with smiley face made of black sequins positioned in the middle of the cover. There’s a black bookmarking ribbon hanging out the bottom of the book.

I love Mermaid Sequin objects and I love notebooks, so naturally I had to buy this when I found it at KMart, however, the amount of glue used on the bindings of the book, make it difficult to open the book and keep it open. It’s pretty but not practical.

My Daily Planner

Image Description: an A5-sized leather-bound daily planner in bright pink with a pink elastic band binding the planner closed. On the right side of the elastic band, is the number “2017” indented into the cover.

I bought this planner at the start of the year, but I’m not a Daily Planner type of person, I’ve found that I’m more of a Monthly and Weekly type person, as a result, this style of organisation has never worked for me. It also has a 8am to 8pm daily time schedule, and as I used to work shift-work that could sometimes go to 10pm, I found that the time schedule element didn’t work for me either. If I had a 9am to 5pm job, it’d be fine, but I don’t. I’d also forget about it completely for months at a time, then I’d have to force myself to use it, and if you have to force yourself to do something, it’s probably not working for you.

My Mental Health Bullet Journal and Mental Health Compendium:

Image Description: an A5-sized perfect-bound book with an Australian Christmas theme cover. The cover has an alternating pattern of Kangaroos with Santa hats, red-and-green Kangaroo Paws (the plant), and green-and-red Kangaroo Paws (the plant).

My Mental Health Bujo started out as a General Bujo, with monthly logs and collections, but it morphed into a Mental Health Journal, which became a problem whenever I wanted to explain what a Bullet Journal was to someone else. While a bullet journal (notebook or digital) can be a great way to keep track of doctor appointments, therapy notes, self-care stuff, I also didn’t want to deal with or answer awkward questions.

As this was my first bullet journal, the inside is a mess, nothing is ordered or structured. Monthly logs over here, half-completed habit trackers over there, weird tables and collections thrown in at random. The thing is, this is okay, the Index section and page numbers exist to handle this, but I’d like something with a little more structure and consistency. So while I’ll probably continue to use this for mental health stuff and general notes I want to jot down, I probably won’t put in anymore weekly layouts or monthly logs.

Image Description: an A4-sized compendium with zipper, handles on the side, and shoulder strap. The compendium is also bright pink and has a pattern of raised trapezoid-shapes on the front cover.

I bought this from Aldi at the start of the year while the store had their “Back To School” sale. I had no intentions of using this compendium for Mental Health stuff, but because it’s great at hording things, it just sort of happened. I keep referral letters in an envelope protector and store the envelope protector inside the compendium. There’s also room for pens and post-it notes.

There’s an A4-sized ring binder, which is where I store some plastic pockets and loose-leaf paper. The problem is the compendium ia rather bulky and awkward for transporting, I find it easier to carry in my backpack, rather than use the flimsy single shoulder strap.

But if you’re the type of person who wants a printable planner, dividers, plastic pockets for collections or categories, than this might be more your thing. Especially since A4-sized are a lot more common and cheaper than A5-sized ones.

Side-Note: Aldi are currently selling glitter gel pens, so if you’re into that, you might want to check out your local Aldi, however, Daiso also sells coloured pens too.

My Leuchtturm 1917 Bullet Journal:

Image Description: a close-up picture of a Leuchtturm 1917 hardcover journal, this journal is A5-sized and the faux-leather hardcover is pink.

These notebooks are harder to find in Australia, however, I bought this a couple of months ago from eBay and it’s been a real learning process. I’m not particularly good at being coherent, so in order to minimise anxiety about messing up the pages, I found it was easier to write down a list of pages I wanted and the order I wanted them to appear in. I also researched layouts I wanted to use, used grey-lead to draw them in, and then erase them. It took me a few goes before I got the dimensions right, this bujo is definitely going to take more work, but I enjoyed it.

So, dear readers, what do you think?

  • Do you use a Bullet Journal?
  • What type do you currently use?
  • If money wasn’t a barrier, what type of Bullet Journal would you like to use?

Let me know in the comments section below :). Also, I’m not going to be displaying the inside of my Bullet Journals, however, if you run a blog and do regular posts on your own Bullet Journal and various layouts, feel free to leave a link in the comment section as well.

The Beautiful Books: NaNoWriMo 2017 – Part 2

Image Description: a tinted-blue close-up picture of a type-writer's keypad.
Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
I had planned to write a first draft of Orion – Volume II of my Pushing Boundaries series, but I just couldn’t. Every time I sat down at my laptop my mind went blank and I had no motivation to write, despite the fact that I’ve been working on a novel outline for months now. I also feel incredibly tired and drained whenever I try to sit down and write something, which is why I haven’t written anything for the first week of NaNoWriMo. My mental state is… frustrating. I’m so tired all the time, even when I’ve had a good night’s sleep and lots of water. My partner suspects I’ve been having some problems with sleep apnea, so I’ll be looking into a sleep study to see if that’s the source of the problems. So, I figured I’d stop working on Orion for the time being and work on something else.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
My “novel project” isn’t really a novel project, it’s more like a series of Thought-Dump style journal entries, because of the personal nature of these entries, I don’t plan on publishing them, however, this is the first paragraph of one of the entries:

“I have a long habit of hyper-focusing on songs, usually specific songs, I play them over and over again, and it’s taken me longer than it should have to note the patterns of my musical obsessions. While I have the tendency to gravitate towards specific genres, when I obsess over specific songs, there is a not-so-subtle correspondence to the emotional state I was experiencing at the time.”

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
My novel project is more like a diary, with myself as the only character, but I don’t particularly like me as a main character, I don’t think I’m interesting enough, but as no one’s going to read this particular project, I guess it doesn’t really matter.

What do you love about your novel so far?
At this stage, I think “love” is too strong a word for my novel project, I think the difference between this novel project and Orion – Volume II is that I feel motivated to write. I can ramble on and on, at this stage it doesn’t need to be perfect or make sense, but with Orion – Volume II, I just feel stuck and I can’t move forward.

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
It’s mostly me wandering off topic into tangents and then saying, “What was I talking about again? I’m sure there was a point to be made here; now what was it again?”. Although, I will acknowledge that as editing isn’t my strong suit, so there’s probably typos everywhere.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
My favourite parts of my novel to write is banter in general, but especially unintentional-flirty banter between two subjects of romantic interest.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
I’m not very good at developing a writing habit, and I’m not consistent with timing (I tend to write all over the place), however, I have noticed I tend to have my better ideas or stronger motivation to write at night.

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
Batman-style, I find sounds and noises to be ultra distracting, so if I’m working in a group situation, I must have my mp3 player in order to block out noise. Kim has also given me some great instrumental music, but I’ve only just started using it, so I’m not sure if it’s productive or not.

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
I find this element of writing to be the hardest, it’s easy for me to become demotivated and lose focus on a project, I rarely finish my projects. As I’m an over-writer, I don’t think reaching the 50 000 word mark means you’re finished, if I’m lucky it’s the mid-point of the novel. A work of fiction should have a distinctive beginning, middle and end. With my projects I have managed to finish, I’ve noticed that I’m more inclined to get the work done if there’s a fixed deadline and I have good momentum with a novel. Anxiety about getting the project finished can sometimes work, but it can also be a double-edged sword.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?
01. Don’t keep doing something just because everyone else is doing it, if you’re struggling with something, pay attention to it. Don’t try to force it. There’s more than one way of doing things. If it’s not working for you, acknowledge it, and change it. Also, reward yourself when you get it right, you deserve it.

02. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve often found that it’s so much easier to help someone else with their WIP novel then fix my own, however, in saying that, sometimes all you need to do listen to them talk about their current WIP and occasionally they will come up with the solution on their own. If you don’t have someone to talk to about your WIP novel, try doing a thought dumping exercise and see if that helps. There’s also heaps of online resources available for Writer problems.

03. Try not to compare yourself to other writers. “Comparison is the Thief of Joy” and writing should be a joy (although it will not always be the case), and it doesn’t matter if that writer is “further ahead” than you are. There’s only one you and no one else can do what you do (possible Dr Seuss Quote? IDK).

The Beautiful Books – NaNoWriMo 2017

Image Description: a tinted-blue close-up picture of a type-writer's keypad.

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
I’ve been working on the Pushing Boundaries project for two years now.

Describe what your novel is about!
I have a blurb for it:
Operation Nightshade is about to commence, the undercover operatives are moving into position and the target contact, Cassandra Acker, has been acquired. John
Smith’s undercover agent is struggling to establish contact, while John just thinks it’s bad timing, however, James thinks it’s more sinister, especially when he discovers Cassie’s phone number on a piece of paper in Beth’s bedroom.

Beth has absolutely no desire to go undercover, yet is torn between two powerful factions: Uncle John and Justine, fighting for the justice a dead journalist deserves, versus Cassie, a nineteen-year-old woman who is just trying to get out a bad family situation—a situation with which Beth is uncomfortably familiar with.

James feels that Beth is sabotaging Operation Nightshade from within. The more time Beth spends with Cassie, though, the more Beth comes to agree with him. Is it possible for her to help both John Smith and Cassie Acker? Beth doesn’t have all the answers, but she’s going to find out.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Image Description: a picture of the English countryside. The background has stonewall fences outlining green fields with sheep. The foreground contains a stone walking path that bridges across a small creek.

Image Description: a white stone cottage with an open teal-grey door, with a large bushel of red roses growing by the doorway.

Image Description: a leafy path with green leafy trees overhanging the path, a stonewall fence in the middle of the photograph with an open iron gate.

Introduce us to each of your characters!
Beth (Australian University student), James (computer programmer and University teacher/lecturer) and Justine (Private Investigator) are the main characters of the series.

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
I attempt to outline, flail about, and stock up on snacks. I attempt to plan out meals for November, that way I don’t have to stop writing for long, however, I’m generally only good at this type of organisation for a couple of weeks.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
I think I’m going to enjoy writing chapters where Beth is getting caught up in Cassie’s Drug Selling Drama and is torn between the two different factions, especially the chapters from James’s perspective (who is super suspicious and kinda jealous of Beth’s growing involvement).

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
Kirkby Stephen is a small country town in the UK, it’s well-known for its national parks and walking trails, it’s very green and super scenic, however, it’s also isolated (even by Australian standards). The nearest town with a supermarket is half an hour away by car and the public transport system isn’t very accessible (or at least Google Maps doesn’t seem to think so).

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
~Beth: Beth’s goal is have a “normal” tourist/student experience in the UK and I suppose Cassie, her Uncle John, and James are the ones who are going to interfere with that.
~James: James’ goal is to bring down the Acker Family and reveal them for what they really are. James thinks Beth is interfering with this goal.
~Justine: Justine’s goal is get justice for a journalist that was killed, she thinks Cassie may be in the way of that, but it isn’t correct.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
~Beth: Right now, Beth doesn’t really know what she wants, hopefully by the end of the trilogy, she will know what she wants and will be more confident about herself and her choices.
~James: James is a bit of a dark place at the moment, it’s difficult to mentally heal when you’re in a toxic environment, so hopefully by the end of the series James is in a better place (emotionally and financially) and has more confident in himself and his abilities.
~Justine: Justine is currently dealing with her own issues (Anxiety + PTSD + Other stuff), so I’m hoping that Justine’s mental state becomes a more manageable and she resolves her issues with her ex-girlfriend.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
I feel that this kind of question is for the Reader of the Book, rather than the Writer of the Book, stuff like symbolism and themes aren’t always intentional decisions on the Author’s behalf, however, one of the big ideas I hope to put forward is that Disability doesn’t have an age barrier. Neurological disabilities like Autism and ADHD are for life and they don’t magically disappear just because a person is now legally an adult. I also want to put forward that Ableism, a lack of accessibility (whether that’s accommodations or diagnostic services), and a lack of support (from family and government services) can really hurt people and have far-reaching consequences.

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

Image Description: book-cover of the Auido-book format of The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid. The title text and the author text (in white) take up most of the cover, the cover has a yellow sepia-tint to it, but I think it's a picture of farm-yard or pasture with a delapidated brick building in it.
Title: The Mermaids Singing (Book #1 of the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Series)
Author: Val McDermid
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
Format and Price: Audiobook at $14.95
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies. She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010. In 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award. She writes full-time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.

About The Book:
You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…Up till now, the only serial killers Tony Hill had encountered were safely behind bars. This one’s different – this one’s on the loose.Four men have been found mutilated and tortured. As fear grips the city, the police turn to clinical psychologist Tony Hill for a profile of the killer. But soon Tony becomes the unsuspecting target in a battle of wits and wills where he has to use every ounce of his professional nerve to survive.A tense, beautifully written psychological thriller, The Mermaids Singing explores the tormented mind of a serial killer unlike any the world of fiction has ever seen.

General Observations:
~The Sliding Scale of Plot VS Character: The novel actually manages to have a great mixture of Plot and Character, although, I personal feel it does fall towards the Character end of the spectrum. Due to the nature of Dr Tony Hill’s work, the reader does spend a lot of time inside psychologist’s head. but I found this interesting and engaging.

I really enjoyed the dual perspective of Dr Tony Hill and Inspector Carol Jordan, they work well together and bounce off each others strengths and weaknesses, however, I wish the novel didn’t dwell so much on the Unresolved Sexual Tension between them. I hope the 2nd book doesn’t focus on this as much, but I suspect this will be a long-standing feature of the series.

~Time Marches On: Most of the book centers around moving towards new methods or technology like computers and psychological profiles, and away from old problematic methods the police force have become accustomed to using, however, this book was published in 1995, and I found it rather jarring to read about “cutting edge technology” that involved CD-ROM drives and saving documents to floppy disks. In fact, it made me laugh a little bit, okay fine, I laughed a lot.

~Problematic Elements: The book gave me the impression that labels such as transgender and transsexual either mean the same thing or are interchangeable, but from the small amount of research I’ve done, these labels are not interchangeable (for more information on labels, here’s a link). This could just be a combination of language changing over time and me looking too much into it, however, I feel it’s better to mention this kind of stuff up front, that way it doesn’t creep up on people unexpectedly.

While I don’t want to spoil the ending, I’m also unsure about the Villain in question, there are parts me that think it’s great. There’s clearly been a lot of thought put into it and it’s a great plot twist, but there’s also a part of me that finds it questionable. If you’ve read the book, let me know in the comments section below what you think.

In conclusion, a good first book into a series, engaging female main-character, and the plot is gripping and interesting, however, I recommend the paperback format over the audio-book, the voice-actor was okay, but I suspect the voice actor might not work for everyone.

Available for Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Stim Toy Review: Galaxy Apple

Image Description: a clear plastic-bag with a red-outline around the bag. Up the top of the bag are Japanese hiragana, the word ringo (which translates to apple), underneath the hiragana symbols is the English word “APPLE”. Inside the plastic bag, a large apple with a spectrum of colour, it ranges from dark-blue at the bottom, blue and light-blue in the middle. There are specs of white dotted randomly across the surface of the apple.

Image Description: a large apple with a spectrum of colour, it ranges from dark-blue at the top, blue and light-blue in the middle, with purple down the bottom. There are specs of white dotted randomly across the surface of the apple.

Image Description: a large apple with a spectrum of colour, it ranges from dark-blue at the bottom, blue and light-blue in the middle, with purple up the top with black squishable stem. There are specs of white dotted randomly across the surface of the apple.

Item: Areedy Galaxy Apple

Category: Review/Feedback

Cost: US $7.45 (Approx. AU $9.49) each (Shipping Fees: AU $0.00)

Date of Purchase: 17/09/2017

Date of Delivery: 27/09/2017

Store: eBay

Store Location: China

Kim was researching for a replacement Apple Squishy, combined with the popularity of Galaxy-themed stim toys, they recommended this one to me. Naturally, I had to add it to my own personal collection but I decided I should also add this to the stim toy giveaway I plan on hosting for Pushing Boundaries series.

The Galaxy Apple is 10cm, it belongs on the larger end of the scale of my Squishy Collection, I’ve included a picture of my favourite pale-pink strawberry squishy to act as a visual-guide for size-scale:

Image Description: a pale-pink squishable strawberry sitting next to a large apple with a spectrum of colour, it ranges from dark-blue at the bottom, blue and light-blue in the middle, with purple up the top with black squishable stem. There are specs of white dotted randomly across the surface of the apple.

The Galaxy Apple is very soft and squishable, and when it’s squished, it’s slow rising. The skin is shinny and scented, but the scent isn’t particularly strong (or at least not by my standards). I have to hold the apple up to my face to smell it. I’m certain that the scent will fade away when given the proper airing time. There’s a picture below of what the apple looks like when crushed inside a fist.

Image Description: a pale hand crushing a large apple with a spectrum of colour, it ranges from dark-blue at the bottom, blue and light-blue in the middle, with purple up the top with black squishable stem. There are specs of white dotted randomly across the surface of the apple.
I was concerned that the “shiny” paint might come off on my hand when I crushed it, but this was unfounded, no paint has come off or faded since I’ve obtained the apple and began playing with it.

In conclusion, while I do have penchant for large type of squishable stim toy, I really enjoy the Galaxy Apple. The colours are lovely, but I think it’s the softness of the apple that confirms it as an excellent choice (my squishable colossal peach is firmer by comparison).

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