Category Archives: review

The Custard Heart – Dorothy Parker (Penguin Modern Classic)

A collection of three short stories by Dorothy Parker. I’ve not read any Dorothy Parker before. I have The Portable Dorothy Parker ready to be read. But at 650+ pages it’s a bit daunting. This Penguin Mini Modern Classic is a good way to try a few pieces of her work out and then decide if I want to attempt the giant collection of stories, poems, and reviews.

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Train booze and train reading. They were £1 each AND 3 for 2!

I really enjoyed these three stories. All set around the Jazz age. All a bit tragic. All custardheart1heartbreaking and a bit sad. The middle story, and longest, Big Blonde was my favourite. About a women’s descent into alcoholism and her reliance on men for her existence.

These three stories have really made me look forward to reading the longer collection of Parker’s work.

 

 

 

 

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Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies – ed. by Scarlett Curtis

This is a nice collection of essays on feminism, edited by Scarlett Curtis. A large number of celebrities, artists, activists, and others are all explaining what feminism means to them (52, I believe). This means you get a very diverse range of responses, and there’s something in here for everyone. It’s been published with the UN’s Girl Up Foundation, and all profits got to them.

The book is divided into sections Epiphany, Anger, Joy, Poetry Break, Action, and Education. No surprises that my favourite essays were in Anger and Action.

I felt strongly that the first section would be a great read for someone just starting to realise they are a feminist, and may help someone who is just starting to understand the issues involved. I found this section to be personally the least interesting, although it is good to hear from younger women about how they discovered they were feminists.

The later sections were where I really connected with a lot of the writing. Particularly I loved Jameela Jamil’s essay on raising boys, and Keira Knightly’s on her daughter. Both very moving, and very powerful. Both obviously issues that are very important and close to my heart as I have a son and a daughter.

I, of course, also loved the essay on Co-Parenting by Sharmadean Reid. She states the case for separated parents to share child rearing responsibilities 50/50. It’s so obvious, yet it’s unusual. I have been in this situation for a few years now, and from the break up we have shared parenting 50/50. It’s great, honestly. I see so much resistance to it from people I know. Often from the mother who doesn’t trust the father with this responsibility. I can see where this may be valid (from both sides too, with useless mothers and fathers existing), but mostly you chose a decent person to procreate with. Let them shoulder half the job. Don’t let them swoop in for a fun weekend every fortnight. Let them have to remember when parents evening is, or when they need a packed lunch sending in, or when a birthday party is and a present must be bought for it. Don’t take the day to day care away from the other parent. Let them parent too.

There are benefits for everyone involved. The kids still get half the time with both parents. The Father (because it’s mostly the father who ends up in this low contact time situation) gets to parent just as much. And you get HALF YOUR TIME TO YOURSELF. Rejoice. You can get shit done. You can date, and have a life, and run a business, whatever you like with this regained time. In Reid’s essay, she says she wouldn’t have been able to set up and run her successful business without this parenting arrangement.

Who wrote the rule that single fathers only see their children every other weekend? This was a plot line that I scrubbed out of my life. I am not going to pretend it was easy. I would budget five years of emotional hardship for you to hold on to consistency and routine, and to discover with your co-parent what works for you both and your child together as a family. It’s not an easy ride, but stand firm! I promise, it’s worth it.

This is just one of the 52 essays in Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, and honestly is covers such a broad range of topics, it’s just the parenting ones that currently say the most to me and my life.

Another stand out essay for me was Dismantling and Destroying Internalized Misogyny: To-Do List by Dolly Alderton. Now I need to read her book immediately.

I also loved the essay Baker-Miller Pink in the Education section (written by Scarlett Curtis). I hadn’t. even. heard. of. this. before. Suddenly I want to paint my house in it.

Baker-Miller Pink: the calming colour

Overall, a huge coverage of issues in Feminists Don’t Wear Pink. An enjoyable, informative, eye opening, celebratory, collection of essays.

The Dark Dark – Samantha Hunt

A collection of really creepy, bizarre, thoughtful, short stories. Some of these have stayed with me for weeks after reading them, and those are the sort of short stories I love.

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I am currently reading more short stories because I’m doing a short story writing course with UCLAN and Comma Press. This gave me the motivation to finally pick up The Dark Dark – a book I’ve had waiting to be read for about a year.

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The back of the book describes it as:

Step into The Dark Dark, where an award winning , acclaimed novelist debuts her first collection of short stories and conjures entire universes in just a few pages  – conjures, splits in half, mines for humor, destroys with absurdity, and regenerates. In prose that sparkles and haunts, Samantha Hunt playfully pushes the bounds of the expected and fills every corner with vibrant life, imagining numerous ways in which the weird might poke its way through the mundane. Each of these ten haunting, inventive tales brings us to the brink – of creation, mortality and immortality, infidelity and transformation, technological innovation and historical reinvention, loneliness and communion, and every kind of love.

Laced with lyricism, hope, and Hunt’s characteristic sly wit, illuminated by her unflinching gaze into the ordinary horrors of human existence, The Dark Dark celebrates the mysteries and connections that swirl around us. It’s never all the same, Hunt Tells us. It changes a tiny bit every time. See for yourself.

I love stories that are a bit dark and a bit odd, and a bit feminist, and just a bit creepy and weird. Honestly, the short stories I’ve read recently that are about someone just wandering about thinking about their lives (I’m looking at you, Joyce). or some other dull events, just don’t do it for me. But clones, and really weird, mind bending recursion within a story, or… robots… Yes.  In fact, just flicking back through the book, I’ve just realised two of the stories contain the same start! I really need to reread the whole thing. I loved this collection.

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I’m being careful to not spoil any of the stories, so what I’m about to describe is extremely vague! One story ends with a very emotional experience of the main character, but it is overshadowed by world events happening around them. I loved this, it was heartbreaking. There are so many moments from these stories that I keep finding myself thinking about, and that is really telling me how great they were.

I would definitely recommend this collection.

Cold Bath Street – A. J. Hartley

A ghostly story, set in Preston, read for book club. I really liked this story. I enjoyed the local setting – a real novelty. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set so firmly in a place I’m familiar with. I liked the ghostly premise, and found the story page turning. However, many at book club didn’t quite take to it as kindly. I felt like it was people who were really into this genre considered it a bit light – possibly a YA ghost story. I didn’t get that at all, but then I’m a massive wimp and probably couldn’t cope with anything more scary!!

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The cover of the book is stunning. I noticed the creepy face in the clouds fairly early on, but there’s also a creepy figure next to the boy and I didn’t notice that until book club. It’s done using a shiny overlay and it was great that it took a while to notice.

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I can’t separate out the fact that I enjoyed the story and really liked that I knew the locations involved. I know the streets around Ribbleton, Avenham park, the Harris Museum and Art gallery, the Miley tunnel, and of course Cold Bath Street.

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It’s a tiny street near the University

My favourite painting from The Harris Museum is even in the story.

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Pauline in the Yellow Dress by Herbert James Gunn

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Aaaahhh Pauline!

This also nicely shows how beautifully illustrated the text is.  The illustrator is Janet Pickering.

So what is the story about? A boy dies. He gets trapped in limbo. Or The Bardo as I might like to call it since reading Lincoln in the Bardo (jk but that book is ace – do the audiobook though). There are NOT NICE things in this limbo. The living world can be accessed. Sort of, but it’s hard. Mystery and thrilling things ensue.

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book club

Also worth a mention, I found it a little jarring that the main character is called Preston. It just felt a little weird. Overall though, I enjoyed Cold Bath Street. It’s a genre I have almost no experience of, and I think a great introduction to it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

A young journalist, Monique Grant, is unexpectedly requested to interview Evelyn Hugo – rich, reclusive, old time Hollywood Mega Star. We know from the beginning that she must have been chosen for some reason, but we don’t know what that is…

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I enjoyed Seven Husbands. I didn’t get the reveal until it was revealed, so that was pleasing. If *I* manage to guess what is going to happen, then it really must be tragically obvious.

The book is set up with this mystery about why Monique has been chosen to interview Evelyn. We go back to the present every now and again, but the focus of the book is on Evelyn telling her life story. The book is split into sections named after each of Evelyn’s husbands. Each with adjectives describing the husband. I liked this as a way of introducing the tone of the next marriage. There are also occasional newspaper articles on Evelyn and her life.

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I suggested Seven Husbands for my book club. It was generally thought of as OK, but there’s not much to discuss about it, other than it was an enjoyable story. The funniest thing was someone noticing that it was the number 1 book in erotic bisexual fiction on Amazon. I’m afraid this might have left a few people a bit disappointed by the content! It’s, sadly, an extremely tame book in this respect!

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It’s essentially a good read. Hollywood love story, fame, love that can’t be made public, part mystery, glamour, dark secrets, it’s got a lot going on. Just don’t pick it for book club!

 

 

Pussy: A Reclamation – Regena Thomashauer

Oh wow. This is like self help on the strongest drugs currently available. To empower myself I need to locate my inner Goddess. She is accessed via my pussy. We are reclaiming that word by the way, and therefore it must be said 100 000 times over the course of the book.

I’m not normally one for such insanity. Really, really, it is not my thing. At one point it is claimed that via accessing the energy of your pussy, the outcome of a national sporting game can be influenced. I mean, urgh, come on. That is clearly BS of the highest order.

Having said that, 95% of this book is just hardcore female empowerment. Fucking the patriarchy, standing up for other women, and having the power to do what you want with your own life. I am totally on board with this.

She is basically trying to give women the power to make decisions that are the best thing for them, regardless of how society, or other people around them, will react. Live your best life sisters.

Combined with this, and how you become so empowered, is by harnessing the power of your pussy, and the goddess within you. Stay with me, I know we are heading into the land of batshit crazy. But we stay on just the right side of this line. Juuuussstt about. Although it’s all dressed up a bit crazily, the message is sound. Part of being a strong, empowered women, is being in touch with your own sexuality, and sexual power. There a chapter where Thomashauer takes you through some exercises you can do to get in touch with this part of yourself. Frankly, I know a lot of women who could do with taking this advice.

Thomashauer runs The School of Womanly Arts, in New York, as Mama Gena. Is this Hogwarts for female empowerment?? I’d like to think so. We hear a lot about it in Pussy, and honestly, I would attend a class at it if I could.

In summary, this is a REALLY EXCELLENT book on the power of female empowerment and truly embracing equality. It gives sound advice on putting yourself first and helping smash the PWC (the patriarchal world culture). It talks utter sense on being at one with your own body and embracing your sexuality. It absolutely then encourages you to support other women and help them free themselves from a lot of this PWC bollocks (sister goddesses, yes). And even though there was quite a lot of fluff and bullshit, that I have barely any tolerance for, it was still a great book full of sound advice. Yes, I managed to even cope with talk of the GPS (the great pussy in the sky). please read the book for further details. Haha. Then buy it for your friends who need it.

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Four scientist women discover how to time travel. They successfully keep control of the technology and therefore become very rich and powerful, except one who is ostracised after the very first successful time jump.

We follow the women’s stories throughout their lives, and through their descendants.  Of course, not in any completely sensible linear way, because half of the characters are time travellers.

It’s a really good, quite thrilling read and I enjoyed a slightly unusual take on time travel. There’s no danger of anyone messing up the timeline because they live in a deterministic Universe. So we don’t have to deal with the Grandparent paradox or any classic time travel dangers. No split timelines, or parallel universes. It’s a nice straightforward way to do time travel! And yet, somehow, even though the events are predetermined, there’s still quite a good exciting story line!

Because there are no dangers associated with someone seeing themselves in this Universe, it means someone can hang out with themselves from different times. This leads to some great scenes, and some of my favourite moments of the book. For example, two characters are newly entering a relationship, when an older version of one of the characters shows up at their flat to restock the kitchen and do a bit of cleaning.

I had a little bit of trouble keeping up with all the characters – this would probably be ok if I had a paper copy of the book, rather than an ebook, because I would have just flicked back to remind myself who everyone was. It wasn’t that confusing though really 😀

Over all I enjoyed this book. An interesting, fun take on time travel, weaved into a thrilling adventure. Great fun.