Review: Sealskin – Su Bristow

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Rating – 1* – DNF

It isn’t very often I fail to finish a book, give it only 1* and return it to Audible, but this is apparently my Waterloo. I was excited by this book, it’s set in Scotland and is a take on the myth of selkies. In a nutshell it sounded fantastic. That is until I started listening to it.

While the atmosphere is evocative, the writing is beautiful and it was fantastic to listen to, I’m not able to enjoy a book which has rape culture seeping through its every line. I’m not okay with that. Noone should be okay with that and I don’t understand how this book was even published. Within the first few pages our arse of a main character, Donald, sees some seals shed their skin and turn into beautiful girls and begin dancing on the shoreline. He likens them to children and yet he steals one of the pelts, and when they fled and one is left on the shore unable to go back to the sea, he thinks it’s a great idea to force himself on her. It comes out of nowhere. I’m thankful it wasn’t graphic but it was already too much. He then decides to take her home, because that’s a fantastic idea – essentially this is where the main bulk of the story starts.

When he gets home, with this young, naked, bleeding girl who isn’t capable of speech, his mother is understandably baffled. When she asks what happens, he tells her words to this effect:- “I saw this beautiful naked woman dancing there, like she was meant for me, and so I couldn’t help myself!” – bear in mind this was before the 50 page mark. So these words are spoken at the very start of the book. After that, I was just so angry I had to take a break.

If this were a story from Mhairi’s perspective, I think I could have liked it. She has no voice throughout this, she’s a plot device and a metaphor for Donald’s ‘redemption’ (bullsh*t redemption at that). The blurb of this book says it’s the story of atonement and forgiveness and I really struggle to see how when it’s nearly 300 pages of a rapist (and his mother) holding his victim, essentially, against her will. I fail to see how at any point this book could consider itself to be romantic.

I didn’t finish this book. I rarely DNF a book, I usually plod on and try persevere but with this, no. I’m not going to sit and read a book which is about a girl falling in love with her rapist when she doesn’t even get a voice.

Would I recommend, no. No I wouldn’t.

Is It Ever Too Early for Feminism? || Blogmas Day 7

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We are 7 days in to this month and on the posting of this I have succeeded in one full week of blogmas! Today is another discussion type post and it is on picking books for children and what a minefield it can be. Also I’ve included a few kids books for children in your life (and also yourself if you want something fun to read!). This one is going to be lengthy, but I think it’s an important topic and I want to hear your opinions on it!

Recently, I had the experience of buying books for a friends daughter and it was a lot tougher than I was expecting. I had no idea that in this day and age, where we live in a (supposedly) equal society that children’s fiction is still so overrun with the age old idea of boys being heroes and girls sitting at home with no ambition waiting for a prince/hero/male to come and rescue them.

I’m not a parent, I have no intention of becoming a parent, and while I only have a small part to play in the childhood of my friends children, I absolutely do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes. I always tell her how smart she is, when we play she can be whoever or whatever she wants to be. I’m not her parent, but I adore her and I don’t want her to grow up with a skewed idea of what women are in society. I see this kid once a month and she is growing in to an amazing little girl – she’s a little firecracker, and bright as a button, and I will always encourage her to be that – but sometimes I worry that society, even in this modern day, will squash her down and shoehorn her in to a box of what she is expected to be by antiquated standards.

I was adamant I wanted to buy my friends daughter books for her 4th birthday as she loves reading. Now she’s starting to sound out words and read herself, I wanted to get her some picture books aimed at the 4-5 age group and it’s a minefield – so many of them are just not something that would build her confidence as a person. Books with female main characters often focus so much on things like beauty and innocence that is it any wonder that, subliminally, children get warped ideas about what they look like from such a young age?

The view of females in children’s books is something that is so dated and antiquated that I found myself getting frustrated – not only did I not want to impart that oh-so-gentle misogyny on to my friends 4 year old, I didn’t want it to then become okay for my friends 1 year old son when he inevitably read the same books in a couple of years. I wanted him to have positive representations of females too. If there is one thing I’m certain of it’s that the books you read when you’re first starting out stick with you – the stories, the underlying messages they have a profound impact.

So, on my mission to find Good Representation of Women In Children’s Fiction I found these two gems (below) and when I read them I could have cried. I was elated, because not only are they kickass girls, there’s representation of race, gender, and they’re not just ‘girls books’ – I know my friends son will get just as much out of them as her daughter. I certainly enjoyed them when I proof read them and I’d highly recommend them for any child in your life because they’re fantastic!

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I recently read an article which said something along the lines of 50-something % of children’s books have male protagonists, only 20-something % have female protagonists. The reason being a girl will read a ‘boys’ book, whereas a boy is unlikely to read a ‘girly’ book – there shouldn’t be genders in literature at any age in my opinion, but kids books are reinforcing stereotypes of men having all the action and girls having quiet, homey stories. Even books with animals as protagonists have primarily males at the core of them. Boys need feminism as much as girls do – male characters who cook, clean, are sole parents, are scared or cry – from my memory those things rarely happen in children’s books and that needs to change.

On to the topic of the day which is “is it ever too early to introduce a child to feminism?” – my answer is no. It doesn’t have to be shoved down a child’s throat, it can be subtle, but just simple things like books with female protagonists who don’t sit around and wait for a prince can have a huge impact on a child – male or female – and the same for male characters who aren’t always the hero.

My friends children are lucky – they have incredible parents who encourage them to be whoever and whatever they want to be, even at the ages of 4 and 1. They’re going to grow up to be wonderful human beings because their parents treat them equally and will teach both of them to respect themselves and other people, regardless of gender. I’m not trying to condition my friends daughter in to a “militant” feminist, she is only 4 after all, but I want her to see that she can be the superhero in her own story if she wants to be.

Harry Potter Spells Tag || Blogmas Day 4

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Happy Monday readers, today is a bit of a cop out in that I’m doing a tag post – I love book tags, I love how creative so many of them are and how they make me think differently about books I have read, and also drive up a discussion about them. Today I’m doing the Harry Potter Spells Tag. I discovered this purely by accident when googling “book tags” and really liked the idea of it (I found it here – and the original tag video is no longer available). So without further ado, on to the books.

Expecto Patronum:- childhood book connected to good memories
For me this is actually quite difficult as I have so many good memories associated with books and my family reading to me. But, oddly enough the one book that stands out to me is an old, abridged anthology of books that my grandma had in her cupboard!  I don’t remember a huge amount about it, but I remember curling up with my grandma and she’d read to me from this anthology, and it was always Gulliver’s Travels that I asked for! I’ve no idea what happened to this anthology of abridged stories but I know I need to read Gulliver’s Travels in full!

Expelliarmus:- a book that took you by surprise
For this I have to go with Orlando. Before I read it, I knew I loved Virginia Woolf but this book just solidified it for me. It is one of the few books that when I finished it, I went right back to the start and underlined all the sections I loved. I had no idea how much it would impact me.

Priori Incantatem:- the last book you read
The last book I read in full was Winter by Ali Smith. I’ve since picked up (and thrown back down) Sealskin by Su Bristow (look forward to that review!)

Alohamora:- a book that introduced you to a genre you had not considered before
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – this could also have been my answer for a book that took me by surprise but I think it fits best here as it really opened my eyes to what Science Fiction could be. Since I read this book I’ve definitely branched out and actively searched out more sci-fi – I’m less scared of it now!

Ridikkulus:- a funny book you’ve read
I don’t often read funny books, it has to be said, but those I do read which make me actively laugh tend to be books by comedians. Susan Calman’s book, while quite a heavy topic, actively made me laugh because I related to it. I also loved Sarah Millican’s recent book! Fiction doesn’t tend to make me laugh much, interestingly enough.

Sonorous:- a book you think everybody should know about
I love a lesser known book – but for this one I’m actually going to go with a short story collection and that is A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan. Kirsty is a wonderful, wonderful author and I can’t wait for her new novel next year – but this collection is small but perfect and now it is more widely available (the original print run was quite limited) I’d recommend anyone pick this up for a cozy afternoon with a blanket and a hot drink!

Obliviate:- a book or spoiler you would like to forget having read
When you read my review of Sealskin you will understand why that is my answer! I wish I could take back the 30 minutes I spend listening to this book before I DNF’d it.

Imperio:- a book you had to read for school
I read several books for school – I loved reading books for school, but I was a nerd! I think I have to give a special mention to Macbeth though – mainly because when I first read an extract from it I was about 11 or 12, and my teacher was adamant I would enjoy it. I loved this teacher, and I think I owe everything I’ve achieved to what she taught me. But she was right, I loved that extract from Macbeth and to this day it remains my favourite Shakespeare play. Interestingly I actually had to read it for my drama class, not English.

Crucio:- a book that was painful to read
Oh gosh. I think this honour has to go to Stardust. I found it so difficult to read, and the plot was so flimsy and it actually enraged me at points. It was a shame because I wanted to love it so much!

Avada Kadavra:- a book that could kill
This one is a hard one, given that it is one that is to be interpreted as the blogger wishes. And for this I’m actually going to take it as a book that is so heavy it could kill someone if used as a weapon. And that is The Count of Monte Cristo. At over 1200 pages it was both an incredible book, and a beast that I absolutely could not carry around with me. There are several books of this length I have read, and enjoyed, but it’s Monte Cristo which I think would be the most apt to be used to kill a person!

So, that’s it! This was so much fun to do and, if it looks fun to you, feel free to do it yourself. Alternatively feel free to comment and discuss because I’d love to hear your thoughts on this tag.

Thanks for reading!

The Joy of Re-Reading || Blogmas Day 3

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Hello, and happy Sunday to all you lovely readers. Today I’m talking about re-reading books – inspired by a post that the wonderful Lydia did at the end of November (here).

In that post (which you should read because Lydia is lovely and her blog is amazing) she talks about how she reread Fingersmith by Sarah Waters because it was comforting – not in the sense that the plot is a happy, fluffy affair – but that she knew the ending was one that satisfied her and she knew it would make her feel comforted in that it ultimately ended on a happy note.

Re-reading is a pastime I have a very bizarre relationship with – I love it, especially in the winter months, but I often feel like re-reading is wasting time. I’ve already read the book, and I have hundreds of books on my shelves that have never had that first read, and I feel guilty for revisiting those books I love and ignoring those I’ve never had a chance to love.

However, recently I’ve been thinking that any reading is good reading. Having picked only one book up in November I’m thinking maybe revisiting old favourites is a good way to get myself back reading, and from now and into 2018 I’m going to ‘allow’ myself to reread more regularly because, honestly, I think telling myself I shouldn’t want to reread a book and I should be reading new books is so much more damaging to my overall desire to read.

Reading has become a lot more target driven and competitive, and if any of you are like me then your goodreads goal for the year becomes quite consuming. Rereading books – until recently – meant you had to remove books from one year, that you couldn’t read the same book twice in one year because it only counted for your goal once. Now, at least, I could read one book 50 times in a year and it would count each read of that book as 1 towards my annual goal. Target driven reading is a whole other kettle of fish that I will talk about another day. I also dislike rereading books I have already written a review on – which is stupid. Feelings change on second reads, you can find different things and I don’t know why I felt there were so many issues with re-reading because honestly I can’t find one legitimately good reason to not do it!

As it stands, there are a mountain of books I would love to reread – some of them I read recently, others not so much, but I’m going to reread them when I feel the urge to. I’m no longer going to be denying myself the enjoyment of a reread for statistics. On that list are some of my childhood favourites, Roald Dahl books and things like The Secret Garden, but also books like Middlemarch which I last read 2 or 3 years ago, didn’t enjoy all that much but have since fallen in love with the author. Taking inspiration from Lydia, I’d like to re-read all of Sarah Waters’ books!

Honestly, the list goes on and on and I cannot think of one good reason why I shouldn’t enjoy rereading. There shouldn’t be guilt involved with reading a book you love, however many times you’ve read it before. It doesn’t matter how many unread books are on your shelf, the important thing is enjoying what you are reading. Those unread books will still be there when you come to pick another book up.

So, do you like rereading? Do you feel guilty rereading at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Review: In A Glass Darkly – J. Sheridan Le Fanu

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Rating – 3*

Firstly I will apologise as reviewing a book read over a month ago is quite a task for someone with memory problems! This is probably going to be quite brief because of it, but I think the fact I can’t remember much of it says everything about the content – it wasn’t overly memorable.

I can’t lie, I picked this collection up purely for Carmilla (lesbian vampires people. Lesbian vampires.) as I thought for the price it was a better deal – and while the stories in this collection were interesting, I can’t say they were entirely my cup of tea. In a way, I wish I wasn’t such a bargain hunter and just read Carmilla as a standalone because it was by far the stand out of the collection.

I can understand why the stories in here were ground breaking – they predate the more well known classic ‘horror’ novels like Dracula by over 20 years, which is frankly quite impressive. And in a time before electricity I can imagine that all of the stories in this collection were pretty terrifying, now they were more humorous than scary.

What I did enjoy is that all the stories were connected in that they were all found in the papers of Dr Martin Hesselius – a character who was a sort of hybrid between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in the 19th Century – a strong belief in the occult but also in possession of a very level head and medical expertise. I found the voice quite an easy one to follow, while there were the typical, over wordy elements of 19th century literature I was able to plod along quite happily and read each story in one sitting without feeling tired (which is often the case with Victorian novels!)

On the whole though, this was a 3* read. I loved the first story – Green Tea – about a reverend and a demon monkey, and I loved Carmilla. Those two aside it was all very meh and forgettable – to the point where a month on they’re the only two stories I can remember in the collection.

If you like Gothic literature, or have an interest in lesbian vampires or demon monkeys, I’d definitely give this collection of short stories/novellas a go!

Blogmas 2017 || Blogmas Day 1

Well hello there. It’s been a while hasn’t it? After promising myself (and you) that I’d have a catch up in October, I started with good intentions and they fell by the wayside – as did my reading. But I want to change that in December – not only updating you with my reading but also generally blogging about life, the universe and everything. So, in a nutshell, I’m doing Blogmas!

Blogmas is great fun, and I really enjoyed it when I did it in 2015, so I want to do it again! I want it to help me fall back in love with blogging because I always seem to fall down towards the end of the year.

What will I be writing about? Well, I’ll probably do a few tags that have caught my eye over the last few months, discuss my favourite books of 2017, talk about my holidays (including my first solo adventure!) and my tattoos that I’ve had this year. While this is a blog for bookish goodness, I think introducing some variety in the content will encourage me to both read and write more.

So, if there’s anything you’d like to see on the blog feel free to suggest things – I need more ideas, that’s for sure!

As always, thanks for reading & we shall speak again tomorrow!

 

Blog: Readers Guilt|| Blogmas Day 22

I haven’t picked a book up for a couple of days and, as someone who talks about reading a lot, this makes me feel guilty. It’s a weird feeling because it’s a completely unfounded notion. Noone is going to penalise me for not reading a book for a few days, noone is judging or actively harassing me but I feel I should be reading when I’m spending my free time doing other stuff. I have two shelves full of books, plus an overspill downstairs. I have so many books that I want to be reading but, right now, I just don’t feel like reading.

I’ve really been enjoying watching TV lately and that’s not a bad thing. I love watching TV, especially with my mum as it’s rare she actually enjoys a show that I do. This past couple of weeks I’ve got my mum hooked on one of my favourite TV shows – Major Crimes. I’ve had a tonne recorded and as she had a day off we genuinely sat and watched 6 episodes pretty much back to back today and it was fantastic. We rarely get to spend time just loafing about watching telly so it’s been really, really great to be able to do that. I also watched The Good Life Christmas special. Twice. 1970s comedy was gold, especially The Good Life, I just love it so very much.

But I have this pressure on me wherein I feel I ought to be reading. The pressure comes from noone but myself, which is why it’s especially annoying, but it’s fuelled by reading goals and targets I set myself. It’s fuelled by watching other people read obscene amounts and wanting to keep up with the best of them. Essentially, I have a reading inferiority complex.

Now, I’ve read 94 books this year and I want to make it to a nice, round 100. Can I do that? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I want to enjoy time with my family, I want to watch TV and make shortbread and sing Christmas songs (badly, I must add, as I currently have the tail end of flu and sound like a 96 year old man with emphysema). What I also know is this pressure I put myself under has me wanting to read less.

So, I’m not reading right now and I’m starting to feel okay about that.

Review: The Nutcracker – E.T.A. Hoffmann || Blogmas Day 21

the nutcrackerI bought this, and wanted to read it, because I saw the ballet. All I will say to compare the two is that this is essentially a Grimms Fairy Tale to a Disney movie. The performance is NOTHING like the source material. I don’t know what I was expecting, German children’s literature – especially classics – are notoriously dark and this was no exception of that rule.

The story itself follows seven year old Marie, who is given a pretty ugly, wooden Nutcracker from her godfather for Christmas. She has vivid dreams on that night about the Nutcracker and it follows that her godfather tells her the tale of the Nutcracker; how he was once a beautiful boy who was cursed to become ugly. Marie is determined to help her much-loved Nutcracker and wants to help him break the spell that made him ugly and we follow her adventure in to the doll kingdom! It really is the sweetest tale but is also quite brutal and gruesome in parts.

It really was a charming Christmas book. Having seen the ballet I feel I appreciated it more but that’s not to say you couldn’t get the same out of it if you haven’t seen the ballet, I think for me it just added a bit of meat to the bones! I loved this and will definitely reread it at Christmastime again.

Blog: Trips to the Theatre || Blogmas Day 20

I missed another day because of a migraine. I’m going to forgive myself, I hope you enjoyed the peace and quiet!

So today I’m going to talk about my trips to the theatre this year and trips I hope to take because I’ve really got in to theatre this year, I always enjoyed going to see something or other but I’ve actively tried to go see different things this year and I’ve loved it. Not many people realise that I’m a complete theatre nerd, but along with tea I think theatre goes hand in hand with reading books.

My local theatre used to be pretty poor when it came to touring productions, now it’s attracting a LOT of shows on tour which I’m so grateful for. It only started showing things after Les Mis sold out two weeks and the West End realised that people in Norfolk do want to see shows and the like. It’s a relatively small theatre which limits a lot of the shows we get but what it does get is usually fantastic. Anyway, what I have seen this year is a bit eclectic actually.  Continue reading

Review: Harry Potter Bulk Review 2 || Blogmas Day 18

As promised from my previous review, this is the bulk review of The Order of the Phoenix to The Deathly Hallows.

The Order of the Phoenix (3*)
This is my least favourite in the series. I know for a lot of people, this is the best but there are just so many things about this book that anger me. This book is really when it became a much more adult story and in some respects I struggle with that even now! The politics in this book frustrates me. Umbridge is one of the most deplorable characters in literature and really, really pisses me off. I find this book very challenging to read, it’s the longest filler book in a series you could imagine.

However, some of the good parts of this book are some of the best parts of the series. There is a lot of humour through this book that I do absolutely love and do mean that I keep reading but on the whole I don’t enjoy this book. The shining moments for me are the 40 lines of eye contact/sexual tension between Remus/Sirius (in addition to joint presents for Harry and general Wolfstar subtext), there is also McGonagall being her fabulous self and saying beautiful things like “have a biscuit Potter”.

This book is an important book in the series, a lot happens and a lot of it is good but for me it’s just too political and the teenage angst pisses me off!

The Half-Blood Prince (5*)
The reason I love this book is that while there is the sinister undertone of what is going on in the world there is also the overwhelming normality of school, or as normal as Hogwarts can be! I loved the Ron/Lavender relationship, I loved Hermione realising that she had feelings for Ron even though I’m still not sold on them being endgame.

My opinion of Dumbledore was sealed in this book the first time around. I hate him. I know that it was thought he had good intentions but that man made so many really bad mistakes, omitted so many facts, that man was dangerous and most people see him as this hero of the series. I don’t. Albus Dumbledore was a manipulative bastard, to be quite honest.

I loved Riddle’s backstory this time around a lot more than I have appreciated in the past. I also love the first chapter of this book, it’s often overlooked but I love The Other Minister, even if Rufus Scrimgeour is a bumbling idiot!

The Deathly Hallows (5*)
This book always has me feeling a lot of things. I don’t think it’s the best in the series but it was exactly what the series was building to and was completely satisfying. I’ve always sobbed, quite a lot, while reading this book and even on my umpteenth reread it wasn’t any different. Dobby. Snape. Fred. Remus. Tonks. Every one gets me!

There are so many things I could say about this book. Every part of this book is incredible and Jo’s mind is wonderful, how she tied everything together like she did is awe inspiring.

When I finished this book I sobbed like a baby. I always do. As a wise woman once said, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home” and I couldn’t agree more. Every time I read this series I feel like I’m home, even if I have some big issues with the epilogue, I forgive Jo, she’s the queen and she knew what she was doing.