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Washed Away: From Darkness to Light by Nikki DuBose

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light by Nikki DuBoseDisclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Washed Away from Book Publicity Services. All words are my own.

Nikki DuBose is a mental health advocate, ambassador, public speaker and writer. She is also a former model who has experienced the dark side of the fashion industry. Her harrowing journey includes childhood abuse, addiction, self harm, rape, eating disorders, psychosis and various other mental health issues. It’s undoubtable a frightening read, but an important one.

We follow Nikki from childhood, through her years as a teenager and as an adult. Divided into chapters with focus on different themes, she provides us with an honest account of what was going through her head at the time and how she experienced it. It’s refreshing to read something so raw and sincere.

After more than 17 years of battling with her demons, she quits modelling and focuses on getting help, and most importantly, learning how to help herself. In her book, she has included positive coping techniques, as well as the critical steps she took to heal herself and create a healthy, happy life. The aim of Washed Away is to help people who are going through similar things, but it will also help their relatives, partners, friends, colleagues and even neighbours to understand.

Writing about memoirs is tricky. It’s not my place to judge or criticise someone else’s journey. At times, I had to put the book down as something triggered a negative memory from my own past. I can’t help but admire Nikki and her determination to keep going no matter what awful situation she finds herself in. She has a will to live that shines through even at the darkest of times. Her story is inspiring, and you should read her book.

You can read more about Nikki and her work at nikkidubose.com.


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Lately: Literature Edition

Lately: Literature Edition | Chiaki Creates chiakicreates.comI’ve been getting back into reading lately and it’s awesome. It’s the only thing capable of completely quieting my mind and taking me out of my head. Fiction works particularly well, but I have to admit that I’m very difficult to please. Here are the fiction books that I’ve enjoyed lately.

A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan
Mr Heming is a respected estate agent who has made a copy of the key to every house he has ever sold. He’s a voyeurist (he calls himself an observer) and he has the creepy habit of cataloguing the contents of the houses when the owners are out. This is his story. I wanted more suspense and I was disappointed that Mr Heming was sloppy and unsympathetic for all the wrong reasons. There was also a character who I wanted to get to know better. Despite this, it was an enjoyable read.

Shadow Family by Miyuki Miyabe
The body of a middle-aged office worker is found on a construction site. A murder investigation ensues and it’s quickly discovered that, unbeknownst to his family, he had a shadow family online – a pretend family created in chat rooms. The man’s real life teenage daughter tells the police that she’s being stalked. Most of the plot takes place in a police interrogation room and the dialogue is superb. Things get stranger and stranger in this clever, quick read full of pleasing twists.

She Who Was No More by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac
Travelling salesman Ferdinand Ravinel and his lover plot to murder his wife. They carry out their plans and all seems to go perfectly until the body disappears before it’s discovered. Very strange things start happening. Is Ferdinand losing his grip on reality? The French psychological thriller Les Diaboliques (1955) is based on this book. The original story is significantly different from the film but I highly recommend both. This is French Noir at its best.

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
A group of nihilistic thirteen-year-old boys secretly reject the adult world and spend their time talking about how they are superior to adults on various, stupid grounds. (I hate them for reasons that become obvious when you read the book.) The mother of one of the boys meets a sailor and they fall madly in love. At first, the boys idealise the sailor but they soon decide that he’s soft, and therefore deserves to be punished. A beautifully written, vicious tale about loss, grief and finding your place in the world. I picked this little book up because it was one of David Bowie’s favourites and I don’t regret it for a second. It stays with you long after you finish it.

Confessions by Kanae Minato
Yuko’s four-year-old daughter was murdered by two of her students, although officially, it was labelled an accident. Consumed with grief, she has decided to resign but before she leaves, she has one final lesson to teach her pupils. A gripping novel about the dark corners of the mind, vengeance and the struggle of coming of age. I loved the alternate narration and all the brilliant twists. The film from 2010 is great too.

Now what about you? What have you been reading lately?


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What I’m currently reading

What I'm Currently Reading | Chiaki Creates chiakicreates.comThe Vegetarian: A Novel by Han Kang
When Yeong-hye suddenly decides to become a vegetarian (technically, vegan) and stop sleeping because of recurring nightmares, her husband doesn’t know what to think. Being vegetarian in South Korea is still uncommon, and her increasingly unsound behaviour drives her husband to acts of sexual sadism. An indelible South Korean novel about shame and desire, written in three acts. I read the first two acts in one go.

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid
Crime writer Val McDermid combines research, interviews with professionals and her own experience in this non-fiction book about the fascinating science of forensics. I went to the fantastic exhibition with the same name at the Wellcome Collection last year, but I didn’t get round to buying the book until now.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
During a trip to her hometown, painter Elaine reflects on her teenage years and an abusive friendship which has haunted her for 40 years. A stream of conciousness novel exploring the unreliable nature of memory and the ever-changing nature of identity. My colleague surprise lent me this one. I’ve never read Atwood before so I’m really excited to read it.

The Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To by Dean Burnett
Neuroscientist Dean Burnett explores the human brain and its imperfections. In this non-fiction book, he explains why our brains are seemingly sabotaging our lives in the most bizarre ways. I’ve got a ticket for a talk with Dean Burnett and Robin Ince about this book in May, so I figured I’d read it before then.

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup
Poison was Agatha Christie’s preferred murder method to kill off her characters, and the deadly substances were carefully chosen. This non-fiction book, written by research chemist Kathryn Harkup, celebrates Christie’s extensive chemical knowledge and use of science in her work. I’m deliberately taking my time reading this one.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Growing up in 70s Michigan, the narrator Calliope Stephanides has a unique family secret; having been born with both male and female genitalia. An inter-sex, family saga covering three generations of a Greek immigrant family in America. This novel has been in my to-read pile for ages so it’s about time I finally read it.

How about you? What are you currently reading?


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Book courtship

Book Courtship | Chiaki Creates chiakicreates.comI’m devastated about the tremendous loss of David Bowie; my hero, mentor, muse and inexhaustible source of inspiration. It’s so hard to accept that I’m now living in a world that doesn’t have Bowie in it. I’m not ready to share it yet but I’ve started writing about how we can carry on his legacy. So, today I’m sharing something else entirely. I came across this lovely post over on Beached Librarian. It’s such a wonderful take on book love that I simply had to give it a go.

Phase 1 – Initial Attraction: A book that you bought because of the cover?
Crime by Irvine Welsh. A Scottish Detective Inspector suffers a stress and cocaine fuelled mental breakdown after a child sex murder case, and flees to America with his fiancée who’s completely absorbed in planning their wedding. There, he meets a ten-year-old girl who is a child abuse victim and he becomes obsessed with saving her. Welsh interviewed victims of child abuse as research for this book, and he almost abandoned the first draft after Madeleine McCann’s disappearance. If you want to lose your faith in humanity, read this book.

Phase 2 – First Impressions: A book that you got because of the summary?
Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Murders by John Emsley. Chemistry and true crime meet in this fascinating book. It’s become one of the books that I can’t bear parting with. Emsley’s other books sound really interesting too.
“Molecules of Murder is about infamous murderers and famous victims; about people like Harold Shipman, Alexander Litvinenko, Adelaide Bartlett, and Georgi Markov. Few books on poisons analyse these crimes from the viewpoint of the poison itself, doing so throws a new light on how the murders or attempted murders were carried out and ultimately how the perpetrators were uncovered and brought to justice.”

Phase 3 – Sweet Talk: A book with great writing?
Anything by P.G. Wodehouse. He had such a witty way with words. Also, anything by Lewis Carroll. I love that he as a mathematician had a penchant for playing with logic in his books.

Phase 4 – First Date: A first book of a series that made you want to pick up the rest of the series?
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino. A single mother lives a quiet life with her teenage daughter. One day, her abusive ex husband shows up and starts threatening them. Things escalate quickly and he ends up dead on the floor. Their neighbour, a mathematical genius, who has heard the commotion offers to help them cover the murder up using his logical thinking. His devotion to them and what he’s prepared to do for them is what drives the plot. When Inspector Kusanagi is assigned to the case, he instinctively knows that things aren’t adding up despite the mother’s seemingly perfect alibi. With the help of his friend Yukawa, a brilliant physics professor, will he be able to crack the case?
If I’ve understood this correctly, this is the third book in Higashino’s Detective Galileo series but the first to be translated. It’s a shame that it has been badly translated because it’s such a wonderful, clever mystery novel full of twists. Only two books of the series have been translated so far, but another one will be published this year.Book Courtship | Chiaki Creates chiakicreates.comPhase 5 – Late Night Phone Calls: A book that kept you up all night?
The Summer of the Ubume by Natsuhiko Kyogoku. According to Japanese folklore, an ubume is the ghost that arises from the burial of a pregnant woman. Kyogokudo is an exorcist who doesn’t believe in ghosts. To help people get rid of their problems that they believe are caused by ghosts, he stages fake exorcisms. We follow Kyogokudo as he tries to find a pregnant woman’s husband who disappeared 18 months ago. The bizarre thing is that she has been pregnant for 20 months. It’s compelling reading!

Phase 6 – Always On My Mind: A book you could not stop thinking about?
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. An incredibly well-written novel in which a mother tries to process her son’s mass murder through letters to her ex husband. It’s a disturbing and believable story. I still find myself thinking about it. I can relate to her conflicting feelings towards motherhood, having myself gone from firmly not wanting to have children ever, to completely changing my mind about a year and a half ago. I highly recommend that you read this one, but don’t bother with the film.

Phase 7 – Getting Physical: A book which you love the way it feels?
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. It’s been one of my favourite books since I was little. The atmosphere in the book (and in the film) is deliciously eerie. I have to admit that I’m biased because I’ve always identified with Rosemary, even as a little girl. Psycho by Robert Bloch is another book that I love the creepy feel of. Using a false narrative which turns into a “split” narrative is a very unusual technique, and one that I greatly admire. I’ve never read anything quite like it. I also love the feel of Agatha Christie’s books because she’s the queen of cosy murder mysteries. I grew up reading my mum’s old Christie books so they take me back to my childhood, and make me feel safe.

Phase 8 – Meeting the Parents: A book that you would recommend to your family and friends?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It’s a masterpiece that has everything. Satire. Good versus evil. A book within a book. A huge, fast-talking, mischievous black cat who walks on his hind legs. The devil in the disguise of a foreign professor. A red headed succubus. Everything!

Phase 9 – Thinking About the Future: A book or series you know that you will re-read many times in the future?
Wilderness and The American Night, both by Jim Morrison. I immerse myself in his poetry. Lament for the Death of My Cock is one of my favourites of his poems.

Phase 10 – Share the Love: Who do you tag?
Anyone who wants to play!


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What I’m currently reading

What I'm Currently Reading | Chiaki Creates chiakicreates.comI’m really looking forward to catching up on my reading during the holidays. To snuggle up on the sofa under a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book may very well be the best simple pleasure in the world. I’m more often than not in the middle of at least three books because I need different books for different moods. Here are the books that I’m reading at the moment.

How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
14-year-old Johanna Morgan decides to reinvent herself after embarrassing herself on local tv. She becomes Dolly Wilde, a music journalist and writer, who will save her family from poverty through her work. Halfway through, I remain undecided on this one for now. I thought I would be able to relate to Johanna because I reinvented myself when I was 13, but she’s just annoying and cringey. I have no empathy for her whatsoever. I’m hoping I’ll like How To Be a Woman more.

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
In Tokyo, a couple in their thirties work from home. One is a writer and the other is a proofreader. They don’t have much to say to each other anymore. One day, a cat starts paying them regular visits and their love for the cat, whose adorable name is Chibi, rekindles their love for each other. The poet Takashi Hiraide’s beautifully written words have been lovingly translated. A deeply moving novella that explores the transient nature of life.

They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life by Oliver James
Clinical psychologist Oliver James shows us that how we are cared for during the first six years of our lives determines who we become and how we behave. He asks provocative questions and encourages us to be the script writers of our own lives. I’m really taking my time reading this enlightening book, because it occasionally hits a raw nerve and I have to put it away for a while. It’s essentially research for the autofiction book that I’m writing.

Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
Over the course of 20 years, we follow Detective Sasagaki as he obsessively tries to solve the seemingly unsolveable riddle of the murder of a man who was found in an abandoned building in Osaka in 1973. We also follow other people connected to the case, such as the son of the murdered man. Higashino is a bestselling mystery and crime fiction writer, and the master of clever mystery puzzles. I absolutely love his previously translated books, particularly Malice and Salvation of a Saint, but I hate to say that I’m not sure about this one yet.

The Changeling by Kenzaburō Ōe
Kogito Chiko is a writer in his early sixties. His brother-in-law and childhood friend Goro sends him a box of tapes that he’s recorded with reflections on life and their friendship. One night as Kogito is listening to the tapes, he hears something odd. Goro says that he’s going to pass over to the other side and a loud thud can be heard. Next, Goro says that he’s not going to stop communicating with Kogito. There are more tapes to listen to. I’m savouring every word of this beautiful novel exploring the limits of human memory. The cover art is stunning with the leaves and text printed on the frosted see-through jacket.What I'm Currently Reading | Chiaki Creates chiakicreates.comHow about you? What are you currently reading?


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These are some of my favourite books

Chiaki Creates - These Are Some of My Favourite Books chiakicreates.comStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
If you’re interested in the history of body snatching or want to know about how cadavers are being used as crash test dummies, this is the book for you. It covers everything you need to know about what happens to our bodies after death. This informative and hilarious book made a boring cruise on The Baltic Sea infinitely better. If you enjoy this book, read Cemetery Stories: Haunted Graveyards, Embalming Secrets, and the Life of a Corpse by Katherine Ramsland.

Now You’re One of Us by Asa Nonami
A woman marries into a family with dark secrets and rather peculiar rituals. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot. This novel has the same feel as Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which is also on this list, and one of my all-time favourite books, Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. I maintain that this novel will haunt me forever.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Joanna Eberhart is a free spirited photographer and mother who is convinced by her husband to move to Stepford. The housewives of Stepford are strangely submissive and Joanna soon starts to realise that something is very, very wrong. This is as good as satirical thrillers get. I adore Ira Levin and I also highly recommend his thrillers Sliver, A Kiss Before Dying and of course, Rosemary’s Baby.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Through letters to her estranged husband, Eva tries to understand what drove her son to commit a school massacre. She wonders how much her ambivalence towards motherhood complicated Kevin’s development. The book also focuses on environmental effects on character and behaviour. I was blown away by this powerful portrayal of psychopathy in children, although Kevin of course doesn’t get an actual diagnosis of psychopathy in the book. As someone who once dated a psychopath and don’t use the term lightly, I found this book well researched, realistic and very emotional. Don’t bother with the film adaptation though.

The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard
An experimental collection of “condensed novels”. The fragmentation style the book is written in echoes the cut-up technique popularised by William S. Burroughs who Ballard greatly admired. Burroughs also inspired David Bowie who since the early 70s has used this technique to create some of his lyrics, as well as Genesis P-Orridge who was taught how to use it to alter reality by Burroughs. Ballard is an acquired taste and this book is certainly not for everyone. Ballard’s novel Crash is fantastic too. It’s an easier read so you might want to start there if you’re new to Ballard.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
This tragic novel follows the lives of three women over the course of 20 years as they rise to fame and subsequently fall into self destruction. Dolls is a euphemism for pills, as the women are clinging to pills for comfort like a child would to a doll. It also refers to the women in the novel being treated like toys by the patriarchal world. The film adaptation from 1967 starring Sharon Tate, is well worth a watch.

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
The story of three Japanese women unfolds through a first-person confessional, diary entries, letters and documentation in perfect composition. It’s a psychological investigation that takes the reader into the darkest places of the human psyche. It deals with disturbing subjects such as prostitution, murder, cruelty, violence, hatred and jealousy. My obsession with the darker side of contemporary Japanese society compelled me to read this stunning work of noir fiction. I’m so glad I did because Natsuo Kirino has such a unique voice.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
A naive young woman marries a wealthy widower that she meets while on holiday and swiftly moves into his Cornwall mansion Manderley. It soon becomes clear that the first wife, who died in a boating accident one year prior, is still very much in the picture. Read this classic novel, then watch Alfred Hitchcock’s beautiful adaptation of Rebecca from 1943. Daphne du Maurier was a fantastic writer who knew how to instantly create an atmosphere. Hitchcock’s The Birds is very loosely based on a short story by Maurier. Other notable stories include Don’t Look Now, The Apple Tree and Kiss Me Again, Stranger.

Piercing by Ryū Murakami
A raw intense psychosexual thriller. Murakami has a way of sucking you in with his voices of the deranged in Tokyo’s seedy nightlife. His graphic depictions of violence are always suitably shocking. He refuses to look away from emotional pain. This brutal commentary on Japanese society and study in the consequences of child abuse is very difficult to put down. Murakami’s In the Miso Soup reads like American Psycho set in Japan. Cute fact: Ryū Murakami once gave his friend Haruki Murakami a cat called Kirin.

How about you? What are some of your favourite books?


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Judging a woman by her books

Disclosure: The gorgeous Harrow table lamp was a housewarming gift from the lovely folks at Lighting Majestic. In April they also featured me in their Easter issue of Mega Majestic Monday.Chiaki Creates - Judging a Woman by Her BooksI read a lot. I always have. I try to use the library and second-hand bookshops as much as possible but if I’m looking for an obscure book, I often end up resorting to eBay. Because I read so much and so quickly I would end up with books everywhere in no time if I didn’t give them away when I’ve finished them. I donate books to charity shops, give them to friends or leave them in public spaces for anyone to pick them up. I also recently started bookcrossing. I really do judge people by their books so I thought it’d be fun for you to judge me by my book collection. The books on my shelves are of the following three categories.

Books that I haven’t read yet:

Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension by Michio Kaku – Michio is my favourite theoretical physicist.
The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking by Simon Singh – I have a slight obsession with codes.
Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life by Paul Ekman – I also have a slight obsession with reading people and understanding how people work.
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood – I adore Isherwood and I want to re-read this heartbreaking novel.
The Ipcress File by Len Deighton – I love the film from 1965 starring Michael Caine but I only recently found out that it was originally a book.Chiaki Creates - Judging a Woman by Her Books chiakicreates.comBooks that I keep referring to:

Tea and Cake London by Zena Alkayat ­- This is a brilliant guide to tea and cake places in London.
Colloquial Japanese H. D. B. Clarke and Motoko Hamamura – For learning Japanese.
Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho – All bloggers should have a copy of this book.
Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business by Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho – Because I freelance.
Craft, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Turning Your Creative Hobby into a Successful Business by Mateo Ilasco – Because I sell my handmade things.
Fun with Fabric by Jane Foster – Who doesn’t love Jane Foster?
The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry – This is a fantastic book which helped me figure out exactly what I want to do for a living.
Custom Lettering of the 60s and 70s by Rian Hughes ­- It would be odd if I didn’t own this.
The Encyclopaedia of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand – I’ve always been very fascinated with urban legends.
The Art of French Baking by Ginette Mathiot – I’m working on mastering the art of French baking.
The Cinema Book: 2nd Edition edited by Pam Cook and Micke Bernick – My film encyclopaedia of choice.
Joy Division by Kevin Cummins – One of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Cases by John Emsley – You probably know by now that I have a morbid streak.
Chiaki Creates - Judging a Woman by Her Books 3Books that have sentimental value:

Roald Dahl: Collected Stories – I grew up reading his short stories for adults but I didn’t read his children’s books until I was a teenager.
Now You’re One of Us by Asa Nonami – This book will haunt me forever. It’s fantastic.
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde ­- I grew up reading his works.
Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Rampo – Japan’s Edgar Allan Poe, hence the name. I wish I had discovered him earlier.
I Am a Cat by Sōseki Natsume – Essential classic Japanese literature which I’m currently re-reading.
Strangers by Taichi Yamada – This is simply too good to let go of.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – My favourite contemporary novel. You can read more about my thoughts on it here.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto – When I read this novel it mirrored my own life in a bizarre way so I can’t bear parting with it.
Touching From a Distance by Deborah Curtis – I adore Joy Division and Ian Curtis.
Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook – I really do.
Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara – One of my favourite authors.
Autofiction by Hitomi Kanehara – She is brutal and full-on and absolutely amazing.
Psycho by Robert Bloch – One of the best novels ever written.

Apart from the three books that I’m currently reading, those are all of my books. Not bad for someone who used to have book shelves, cupboards and storage space full of books.

How about you? Do you judge people by their books?