Monthly Archives: February 2018

The Book of Joan – Lidia Yuknavitch

A post-apocalyptic, feminist sci-fi adventure. Sounds awesome! and it is ūüôā

Earth is dead after a series of environmental disasters, and seemingly endless wars. The Earth population is barely clinging to life and humanity is just about surviving on a system of space stations, populated by Earths elite, goverened by the Trumplike Jean de Man. The station robs Earth of its very last resources.

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The space station population have developed porcelain skin, they get elaborate skin grafts that make them look like eighteenth century French nobility, with billowing skin that trails upwards and behind them from all limbs, oh and everyone’s reproductive systems have shrivelled up and become useless. Also, everyone has to die when they reach fifty years old, so as not to be a drain on resources.

That’s what happens when geocatastrophe is amplified by radiation. Put simply, we devolved. Our sexualities mutated and devolved faster than you can say fuck.

On the stations is Christine. She is unsatisfied with how life on the station has turned out, and is strongly drawn to the story of Joan, the girl warrior who lead the opposition to Jean de Man, who seemed to have a link with the Earth itself. She was executed by burning as one last destroying of the opposition before the space stations were populated, martyring her. But is she really dead? and can she offer any hope for the future of humanity?

I want her story back. The one that was taken from her and replaced with heretic. Eco-terrorist, Murderous maiden who made the Earth scream.

The Book of Joan is a really enjoyable sci-fi adventure. It is delightfully sweary and gets into quite a lot of gender politics – especially considering gender has become irrelevant in the current society.

Men are among the loneliest creatures. They lose their mothers and cannot carry children, and have nothing to comfort themselves with but their vestigial cockular appendages. This is perhaps the reason they move ever warward when they are not moving fuckward. Now that the penis is defunct, a curling-up little insect, well, who can blame them for their behaviour?

Joan is a great character. She’s savage and animalisitic, yet she’s a teenager (for part of the story anyway!). Her connection to the Earth is mysterious and clearly (if it isn’t obvious enough already!) she is a Joan of Arc character.

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I think feminist sci-fi might be my favourite sub-genre. I must read some more of it!

 

P.s I was provided with a free copy of The Book of Joan in exchange for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

I was very excited to be reading Little Fires Everywhere after absolutely falling in love with Ng’s first novel: Everything I Never Told You.¬†Happily, Little Fires is also a great read. I didn’t love it quite as much as Everything (though this would have been difficult – I loved the first one so, so much).

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Little Fires Everywhere is about the meeting of two very different families in a nice suburban, American town. There are the Richardsons. A family who play by all the rules of society and are rewarded for it. Then there are the Warrens, a mother and daughter who defy convention.

Mia Warren is an artist who moves her and her daughter, Pearl, to a new town every six months or so. They take what they can fit in their car and leave the rest.

Pearl befriends the Richardson children. She is drawn to their nice, stable, family life. Whereas the misfit Richardson daughter, Izzy, is drawn to artist Mia and her unconventional approach.

There’s a fairly huge cast of characters and, brilliantly, they are all fleshed out and completely believable. I always come away from a Celeste Ng novel feeling all the feelings. I feel like I was 100% with the emotions of the characters and like I completely understand their motivation and the reasons for their decisions. I love this about her books.

I also love that Little Fires Everywhere isn’t solely focussed on the teenage characters. As events progress we learn a lot about the history of both mothers, and understand how this influences decisions they make. We learn about the circumstances of Pearl’s birth, and the kind actions of a fairly grumpy neighbour nearly broke me! That’s probably due to the very clear memories I have of just how difficult those early baby days were.

The first night back in the rented room, Pearl had cried and cried until Mia herself had begun to cry… Then there was a soft knock at the door, and stern Mrs. Delaney appeared and held out her arms. “Give her here,” she said, with such authority that Mia handed the soft bundle over without thinking. “Now you lie down and get some rest,” Mrs. Delaney said, shutting the door behind her, and in the abrupt silence Mia flopped down on the bed and fell instantly asleep.

God bless stern Mrs. Delaney!

I haven’t really mentioned the plot at all, and I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s probably important to note that the book starts with the Richardson house burning to the ground, and their daughter Izzy missing and the chief suspect.

There’s a situation with an abandoned baby which forms the main part of the plot and both families are intricately linked with the scandal.

Little Fires Everywhere is a great book. ūüôā

 

P.s. I was provided with a free copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!

 

Slayers and Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorised Oral History of Buffy and Angel – Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

This book will be interesting to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Angel. Though even as a huge Buffy fan, I found it a little too long and repetitive, and a bit too much of a love fest! I enjoyed it, but would have welcomed a bit more criticism. This is probably unfair of me though, because this book is an oral history and isn’t set up as being critical essays. Maybe I just wish that was what I was reading instead!

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For those that don’t know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best TV series ever. Fact. If you’ve never watched it, then you probably should get on it soon. It’s generally lauded as a groundbreaking, feminist television series with a god-like genius creator, Joss Whedon.

This is definitely the take of the book, and I love Buffy, I love it so much, but wow, I can love it and see its faults and the problems with Whedon.

Firstly, Buffy and Angel generally have a problem with characters of colour. There are hardly any of them, and the ones that do exist generally have unhappy endings. See this article for more detail. The book details things like the network not wanting a black character in the Scooby Gang because they didn’t want to potentially show any interracial relationships. WTF?

Also, Whedon comes in for virtually no criticism at all – despite a completely horrendous account of how Charisma Carpenter was treated after she told them she was pregnant. The quotes with regard to this are awful. She was chastised and basically written off the show. How dare she get pregnant without thinking about the show. Seriously disturbing.

Look, there was a lot of anger about Charisma. I think probably mainly from Joss. It felt a little bit like we were all working our asses off to keep these people employed and it’s, like, you have to take that into consideration before you make any life choices. You just do.

David Fury

Urgh.

A lot of his terrible behaviour is written off with a ‘oh, but he’s a genius, so it’s ok’. It’s not.

I find these anecdotes really terrible:

He loves to make jokes that make actors insecure; he thinks it’s really funny. He loves to say, “By the way, you’re fired,” and then he gets a chuckle out of it. Then he says, “Every time I say that to an actor, they never laugh.” That’s because it’s really not funny Joss.

What a dick!

Still, I really love Buffy (Angel is alright too ūüôā ) and it’s a worth a read if you are a bit of a die hard fan, and there is loads of interesting stories about making the show. You hear from lots of the main characters, the behind the scenes people, and minor characters. It gives a nice insight into the writing and production process.

There’s a truly cringe worthy description of Joss Whedon’s Shakespeare recital parties. It’s presented as a fun thing, but oh god, it sounds so bad!

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Slay

But back to the brilliance of Buffy:

As Buffy proves time and time again, patriarchy is ever present, but it cannot prevail. The seven seasons of the show depict a world in which institutional, familial, and individual-level patriarchy oppresses and disadvantages women, but it is something that can always be overcome. The fight to end this domination is no easy feat, as there is always a struggle to gain equality and independence. Buffy shows a realistic version of an ideal world: man may try to control women, but their efforts can and will be beaten.

Which is all great, but contrasted with the experiences of some of the actresses on the show, is majorly disappointing.

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Slay all day

 

Books Bought and Read January 2018

After last month’s buying extravaganza, I knew I wanted to scale back a lot this month! It’s also been a difficult month personally, and I lost my reading mojo a little bit. I’m really far behind with even the small amount of reviews I need to do! oh dear.

Books Bought

Are you ready for this?

Turtles All the Way Down – John Green. A 99p kindle deal I couldn’t pass by.

That’s it!

Books Read

Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (review)

Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy & Angel –¬†Edward Gross,¬†Mark A. Altman (no review yet!)

SHORT AND SWEET

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century – Timothy Snyder

This short, powerful book should be read by everyone. Immediately! It is 20 lessons from the twentieth century about tyranny and has been written as a direct response to the Trump presidency. Chilling. More importantly, each lesson tells you what you can be doing to combat this. It’s so good, and only takes an hour (or maybe a little more) to read (128 pages).

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I loved that the lessons each give you a practical thing you can do to protect democracy, and combat the rise of tyranny and fascism. These range from supporting institutions to making eye contact and small talk with your neighbours. I loved so many of the lessons but it’s such a short book I don’t want to tell you too many in this review. It is a practical list of 20 things you and I should be doing. Each lesson is backed up with a twentieth century example of where failing to do this particular thing lead directly to the rise of a tyrannical regime.

History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

It’s super short, super smart snippets of analysis and advice and best of all it’s totally accessible.¬† Read it, read it, read it!

Review of my 2017 Reading Challenge

Hahahahahahahahahaha I can not stick to a reading list, and actually I’m OK with that. I don’t want to ever have to stick to a long, rigid reading list.

I planned last year to read as many books from The Rory Gilmore Reading List as I could manage. I started this challenge enthused after watching the entire of Gilmore Girls, over a couple of months in Summer,  in preparation for the new episodes they had made (and ready to attend my friends watching party when they were released). I was impressed with the bookishness of Rory and I also knew I wanted to get back into reading after quite a few years of not finding the time for it, so finding a reading list of books she read on the show was motivating.

I started off well, but read fewer books from the list each month. I know I will still dip back into the list from time to time when choosing new books to read, because a lot of the books from the list have been absolute favourites of mine. I also had a problem with the list being very restrictive. It’s largely white, American or European, authors, and I want to read more diversely than that. I also got side tracked (rightly!) by a lot of newer books that obviously weren’t going to be on that list.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson with this year long challenge: don’t try and be so restrictive with what I read! Also, it’s probably worth noting that I own copies of at least 21 of the books I haven’t read from this list! So I will definitely still read a few of them ūüôā

Here is the full list, with the ones I had already read in red, the ones I read last year in pink:

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven¬†by Mitch Albom
  • ¬†Little Women¬†by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Kitchen Boy¬†by Robert Alexander
  • Brick Lane¬†by Monica Ali¬†¬†
  • Oryx and Crake¬†by Margaret Atwood¬†¬†
  • Emma¬†by Jane Austen¬†¬†
  • Sense and Sensibility¬†by Jane Austen¬†
  • Oracle Night¬†by Paul Auster¬†¬†
  • Fahrenheit 451¬†by Ray Bradbury¬†(review)
  • Jane Eyre¬†by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Master and Margarita¬†by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay¬†by Michael Chabon
  • The Awakening¬†by Kate Chopin¬†(review)
  • The Meaning of Consuelo¬†by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  • Heart of Darkness¬†by Joseph Conrad
  • Fat Land¬†: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World¬†by Greg Critser
  • Cousin Bette¬†by Honore De Balzac
  • Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia De Burgos¬†by Julia De Burgos
  • The Red Tent¬†by Anita Diamant¬†¬†
  • David Copperfield¬†by Charles Dickens
  • Crime and Punishment¬†by Fyodor Dostoevsky¬†
  • An American Tragedy¬†by Theodore Dreiser
  • The Bielski Brothers¬†by Peter Duffy
  • The Count of Monte Cristo¬†by Alexandre Dumas
  • Ella Minnow Pea¬†by Mark Dunn¬†
  • The Name of the Rose¬†by Umberto Eco¬†¬†
  • Middlesex¬†by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Sound and The Fury¬†by William Faulkner
  • Time and Again¬†by Jack Finney
  • The Great Gatsby¬†by F. Scott Fitzgerald¬†
  • A Passage to India¬†by E.M. Forster
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl¬†by Anne Frank
  • Bee Season¬†by Myla Goldberg
  • Lord of the Flies¬†by William Golding¬†¬†
  • Autobiography of a Face¬†by Lucy Grealy
  • My Life in Orange¬†by Tim Guest
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time¬†by Mark Haddon
  • The Scarlet Letter¬†by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Sacred Time¬†by Ursula Hegi
  • The Sun Also Rises¬†by Ernest Hemingway
  • Siddhartha¬†by Hermann Hesse
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend¬†by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Rescuing Patty Hearst¬†by Virginia Holman
  • A Quiet Storm¬†by Rachel Howzell Hall
  • The Polysyllabic Spree¬†by Nick Hornby¬†(review)
  • Songbook¬†by Nick Hornby
  • The Kite Runner¬†by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame¬†by Victor Hugo¬†¬†
  • Brave New World¬†by Aldous Huxley
  • How the Light Gets In¬†by M. J. Hyland
  • The Lottery: And Other Stories¬†by Shirley Jackson
  • Nervous System¬†by Jan Lars Jensen¬†¬†
  • The Metamorphosis¬†by Franz Kafka¬†(review)
  • The Story of My Life¬†by Helen Keller¬†(review)
  • On The Road¬†by Jack Kerouac
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo‚Äôs Nest¬†by Ken Kesey
  • Flowers for Algernon¬†by Daniel Keyes
  • The Secret Life of Bees¬†by Sue Monk Kidd¬†
  • A Separate Peace¬†by John Knowles
  • Extravagance¬†by Gary Krist
  • The Namesake¬†by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Devil in the White City¬†by Erik Larson¬†
  • The Song of Names¬†by Norman Lebrecht
  • The Fortress of Solitude¬†by Jonathan Lethem
  • Small Island¬†by Andrea Levy
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West¬†by Gregory Maguire
  • A Month Of Sundays¬†by Julie Mars
  • Life of Pi¬†by Yann Martel
  • Property¬†by Valerie Martin
  • The Razor‚Äôs Edge¬†by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Nanny Diaries¬†by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
  • Quattrocento¬†by James McKean
  • Death of a Salesman¬†by Arthur Miller¬†¬†
  • Beloved¬†by Toni Morrison¬†(review)
  • Speak, Memory¬†by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books¬†by Azar Nafisi
  • The Time Traveler‚Äôs Wife¬†by Audrey Niffenegger¬†¬†
  • How to Breathe Underwater¬†by Julie Orringer
  • 1984¬†by George Orwell¬†
  • When the Emperor Was Divine¬†by Julie Otsuka
  • Bel Canto¬†by Ann Patchett¬†(review)
  • Truth & Beauty¬†by Ann Patchett
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker¬†by Dorothy Parker
  • My Sister‚Äôs Keeper¬†by Jodi Picoult
  • The Bell Jar¬†by Sylvia Plath¬†¬†
  • Complete Tales & Poems¬†by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Fountainhead¬†by Ayn Rand
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers¬†by Mary Roach
  • The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters¬†by Elisabeth Robinson
  • The God of Small Things¬†by Arundhati Roy
  • Empire Falls¬†by Richard Russo
  • The Catcher in the Rye¬†by J.D. Salinger¬†(review)
  • Sybil¬†by Flora Schreiber
  • The Lovely Bones¬†by Alice Sebold
  • Holidays on Ice¬†by David Sedaris (review)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day¬†by David Sedaris¬†(review)
  • Hamlet¬†by William Shakespeare
  • Pygmalion¬†by George Bernard Shaw
  • Frankenstein¬†by Mary Shelley¬†(review)
  • Unless¬†by Carol Shields
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress¬†by Dai Sijie
  • The Jungle¬†by Upton Sinclair
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn¬†by Betty Smith¬†(review)
  • Of Mice and Men¬†by John Steinbeck
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde¬†by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Uncle Tom‚Äôs Cabin¬†by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Opposite of Fate¬†by Amy Tan
  • Vanity Fair¬†by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Anna Karenina¬†by Leo Tolstoy¬†¬†
  • A Confederacy of Dunces¬†by John Kennedy Toole
  • The Song Reader¬†by Lisa Tucker
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn¬†by Mark Twain
  • Just a Couple of Days¬†by Tony Vigorito
  • Galapagos¬†by Kurt Vonnegut¬†(review)
  • Ethan Frome¬†by Edith Wharton
  • Night¬†by Elie Wiesel¬†(review)
  • The Picture Of Dorian Gray¬†by Oscar Wilde¬†¬†
  • The Code of the Woosters¬†by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Old School¬†by Tobias Wolff
  • The Shadow of the Wind¬†by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

 

This year I’m attempting the PopSugar Challenge. This involves trying to fit what I read into different categories and so is much less restrictive!

 

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

*this review contains some discussion of the whole plot of the novel. They aren’t really spoilers though because it’s not that sort of book. But you may want to avoid reading my review until you’ve read it*

Remains of the Day is a quiet, subtle novel about dedicating your life to a profession and the realisation that this might not have been the best way to live your life. At least that’s what I took away from it after finishing the book. It’s a very gentle rad, but I really enjoyed the journey.

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Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, is going on his first short driving holiday, to the West Country. While he’s there he is going to visit Miss Kenton, an old housekeeper of Darlington Hall. He’s hoping she will come back to work with him. It is 1956 and he’s been the butler at Darlington Hall for 30 years.

While he travels he reminisces about the glory days of Darlington Hall, and when he considers he was at the peak of his profession. This was between the world wars when the Lord of the house was involved in international politics and therefore the house was often busy, and visited by important people.¬† It transpires that Lord Darlington’s efforts became an embarrassment in later years, due to his sympathetic attitude to Germany and his association with right wing extremists. Stevens is unwaveringly loyal to Lord Darlington and sees this as a measure of his professionalism.

So much of this novel is gained from what is not said. Stevens reminisces touch on his definition of dignity and how this has shaped his behaviour in life. He never allowed himself to be ‘off-duty’ unless he was alone. This affected his relationships, or rather lack of them, throughout his life.

The discoveries he makes about himself, as he reminisces on his driving holiday, are completely heartbreaking. I really enjoyed this novel and it’s very quiet style and would quietly recommend it.