the crime thriller of 2019 is out NOW – you need to read it!

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Lucy Foley’s smash-hit debut crime novel The Hunting Party, released just this winter, got her noticed quickly in the world of print. The premise: a group of old friends reunite by celebrating New Year’s in a very remote guesthouse in the Scottish highlands; tensions rise until someone – who? – is murdered. It’s a bit like Until Dawn – except all the characters are wealthy Oxford graduates.

You might think the idea is clichéd. Yes, we’ve seen it before; a group of people get trapped in a remote location which quickly turns dangerous. However, Foley injects originality into the concept with her vivid depiction of the Scottish highlands.

Foley creates tension like a master, and so writes a highly engaging and captivating novel. Normally I can’t stand the ‘one-chapter-per-character’ format, but Foley uses it here to perfection, and I wasn’t bored for a single second.

Despite the book’s successes, I had several faults with The Hunting Party. At the end of the story – though I enjoyed it immensely – I found myself dissatisfied:

  1. Foley fails to tie up her plot threads. And not in a sleek, enigmatic way – she isn’t deliberately leaving things open-ended – but rather Foley doesn’t go into much detail, or really attempt to explain, many of the little details and puzzle pieces she leaves throughout her work. (Who was the Highland Ripper? Who was the person watching the group at the start of the book? And so on). You might not mind this, but this sort of thing irritates me.
  2. Some characters remain unexplored and undeveloped, making me wonder: why were they necessary? what purpose could they have had, when they added so little to the plot? (Giles and Samira, Nick and Bo, for example).
  3. The ending is rushed and anti-climatic. Throughout the novel Foley builds up her readers’ apprehension and expectation – but this means that when the big reveal comes out, and Foley ends the book very abruptly, we are left wanting.
  4. This is exacerbated by my finding parts of Foley’s work predictable. From the first few chapters in, I was certain of one character whom I disliked and mistrusted, and they turned out to be the killer. But I think this was just sheer dumb luck though, because I really can’t explain why I was immediately suspicious of that particular person.

Despite these criticisms, I enjoyed The Hunting Party immensely. More than anything, I expected the book to be glamorous, effortlessly easy reading, engaging, addictive, and it delivers. Foley manages the type of writing which has the pages flying by. But I have to note that if you’re looking to be a little intellectually challenged, or you want to read something structured picture-perfect, this is not the book for you. If you’re willing to go for something a little less stylish and a lot more terrifying, read The Shining instead.It’s certainly worth a read – for what it is, I’ll give it eight out of ten. Buy it now! Click here to get it on Amazon (now £4.99, RRP £12.99)!

love without sex

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I am asexual. This is something that has become clear to me only very recently. I never really used to think about my sexuality in terms other than that because I was uninterested in sex, I must be afraid of it, and therefore there must be something very wrong with me. I have combed my childhood for non-existent repressed memories of trauma. Sometimes it felt like I was going a bit crazy.

Thinking back, I can’t believe I didn’t realise my asexuality sooner. As a teenager, when sexuality would inevitably come up in conversation with my friends, and I was asked whether I liked girls or boys, things went a little like this:

me: “I like all pretty things, I guess.”

them: “So… you’re bisexual?”

me: “Er, no, I don’t think so.”

them:

them:

me: “Um, well, it’s more like I like neither than both, I think.”

them: “What?”

And I would have no idea how to reply because I had no idea, or understanding, of what it was that I had just said. Unbelievably, as oblivious as I was, this went on for years. I must have had twenty different variations of this same exchange. Now, however, I have realised that being indifferent to both sexes does not equate to bisexuality.

Being indifferent to both sexes does not equate to bisexuality.

As an adolescent, I had always felt extremely disconnected from my peers growing up. It’s only just come to my attention that a large part of this was because I just couldn’t relate to them in many respects. When we were thirteen, everyone was jerking each other off and making out, and, though I never consciously acknowledged it, I had no idea why anyone would want to do that to anyone else. I didn’t understand. I still don’t. When I was fourteen I quite selfishly started a relationship with someone (let’s call him Gary) who I had a vague interest in but who I was not sexually attracted to whatsoever. I only went out with Gary because it was what everyone else was doing, what everyone else seemed to be obsessed with, and I wanted to feel normal. I suppose I thought that maybe if I tried it too I would understand what seemed like a massive inside joke that I just wasn’t a part of.

I suppose I thought that maybe if I tried it too I would understand what seemed like a massive inside joke that I just wasn’t a part of.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out. I remember a friend telling me that mine and Gary’s relationship was rather like “friends who made out sometimes.” But that’s what I really wanted, in a way – a deep, intimate friendship (not that we were ever particularly close) – bar the making out. Similarly, in the only few intimate relationships I have had, sex has been a compromise; an unwanted obligation that was expected of me in exchange for attention and exclusivity. Though, biologically, my body functions just fine, sex, making out, and even kissing for long periods feels wrong; these things are nothing more to me than odd rituals everyone seems to expect though they have no real purpose, like putting up a tree for Christmas. I see arousal as something mundane; something necessary to take care of – but privately, like going to the bathroom. It’s something that I enjoy, albeit infrequently, but I have never felt the need to include anyone else; it’s a private experience, and doing so feels crude and wrong; the thought of doing such things to people I love feels irreverent, disrespectful – sacrilegious, even.

Growing up, if I ever got caught up in an intimate experience, at a party for example, I would go into autopilot. Sometimes it was easier to just go along with things and pretend to be normal than say no outright, and have to try to explain to surprised and offended boys something I didn’t even understand myself – especially if I was inebriated. The person with me would be having this whole experience that I just wouldn’t be a part of.  They’d be turned on and I’d be thinking about the colour of the shirt they were wearing or how their hair was sticking up at the back or what kissing felt like. I have only really recently considered that other girls probably wouldn’t have felt like that in these situations. It’s weird. My perspective has been shifted entirely.

I’m aromantic, too, I suppose. I feel that same disconnection, that same discomfort when I try to go on dates, or hold hands in a romantic sense, whatever. It just doesn’t feel natural. Whenever I have attempted to have a relationship like this it has felt like a charade, and has given me incredible anxiety. I never used to consider myself aromantic because romance was more bearable than sex; but it still makes me feel extremely uncomfortable and remains something I’ve never genuinely wanted. We live in a society where television, movies, articles and social convention demand that we go on dates and kiss and have awkward vanilla missionary sex in order to find ‘the One’. As if the concept of ‘the One’ couldn’t exist without sex, or romance! As if you can’t devote yourself completely to someone without these things, and that there couldn’t be many different ‘soulmates’ for any given person…

So, yes: the concepts of asexuality and aromanticism have existed as a vague possibility in the back of my mind for years, but I had never considered them on a deep level, or as something that could exist on a spectrum, before now. When I’d call someone ‘hot’, or ‘cute’, I would always mean that they were aesthetically pleasing in an interesting way – (maybe they had unusual colouring, like dark hair and light eyes, or looked androgynous or unusual or different) – and I would like to talk to them and sit and stare at them and read their mind and find out all their secrets, but that definitely didn’t mean I would ever want to have sex with them or take them on a date. This is what I now realise my friends probably used these words to mean (correct me if I’m wrong). When it comes to conversation about this sort of thing my friends and I have always been on very different wavelengths; it failed to occur to me for a very long time that other people looked at those they were interested in differently to how I did. Somehow, even after all these years, this is a novel idea and one that still feels very odd and shocking to me.

When I’d call someone ‘hot’, or ‘cute’ I would mean that they were aesthetically pleasing in an interesting way, and I would like to talk to them and sit and stare at them and read their mind and find out all their secrets, but that definitely didn’t mean I would ever want to have sex with them or take them on a date.

Because of this confusion and my awful fear of confrontation I have always had a tendency to be attracted to people in the way I have described above, and then get bored very quickly, or push them away as soon as they returned an interest. Now I realise I acted this way because I and these people would both want very different things. Though I didn’t know growing up, my version of “I am attracted to you,” or even “I am in love with you,” meant something very, very different to me than it did to everyone else. Because of this I would be scared off when someone I was interested in tried to take things beyond the sort of flirting and getting to know each other phase to a place that I didn’t know I didn’t want. Needless to say I have caused tremendous amounts of pain for both myself and others in this way. (If this is about you, and you’ll know if it is, for what it’s worth I am truly sorry).

But I’m not missing out, I’m not unhappy, I’m not someone to feel sorry for. Now that I understand who I am I couldn’t be more proud or happy because I know what I want. The kind of relationships I covet are definitely not romantic – or, God forbid, sexual – but far, far more than ‘just friends’, and though I know it is unreasonable to expect everyone to understand what I mean, a sure way to piss me off is to dismiss these odd relationships I have as such. All I will ever want are utterly unromantic, beautiful, deep platonic relationships that are more emotionally intimate than anything else in the world. These relationships, when I can find them, are worth everything I could ever give, and more. It’s not something I can really explain, but maybe someone reading this will understand. That’s the most fulfilling thing ever and that’s what being in love is to me.

All I will ever want are utterly unromantic, beautiful, deep platonic relationships that are more emotionally intimate than anything else in the world. That’s the most fulfilling thing ever and that’s what being in love is to me.

But the problem is that people’s needs are statistically extremely unlikely to match up with mine. Just because I don’t, the people I care about still want romance, and sex, so any sort of exclusivity will probably never be an option for me. But that’s okay. I’m capable of dealing with a little jealousy.

I have lived too long pretending to be different things, taking on different identities, disguising myself over and over because I feel like an alien compared to everyone else. I’m starting to accept my differences, I think. I’ve finally found myself in a way that most of my friends seemed to have accomplished by age sixteen at the latest. It scares me to think that had I been born in a different age when asexuality was completely ignored and unaccepted I might never have come to this realisation about myself. As it is, it’s taken nineteen years.

If you don’t get it, or if there’s anything you want to know at all, ask me anonymously here. Thanks for reading. Try not to be a dick.