Read Women in December

November 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Some of you may have seen the hashtag #readwomen around the internet, specifically on instagram, twitter and tumblr. The aim of this has been to promote reading female authors in an industry that is often dominated by male authors. In light of this, I would like to share some of my favourite female authored books. I hope that endeavouring to read more female authors in the month of December will only lead to more wonderful discoveries.

1. How Many Miles to Babylon? by Jennifer Johnston7575215

I discovered this book because it was designated on my leaving cert course. It was possibly one of the best thing about the course. The book follows Alec, a well-off Irish youth, and his friendship with Jerry; a working-class Irish stable-boy during World War I. Written beautifully, the book manages to balance issues of war and Alec and Jerry’s class divisions to tell a poignant story. I have seen invested in many Jennifer Johnston books and, though this remains my favourite by far, Johnston is a wonderful writer.

2. The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang

11043618I was wary of this trilogy at the beginning but it proved to be an excellent read that I was intrigued by throughout all three books. Zhang tells the story of a world where everyone is born with two souls. However, as time passes one soul fades away while the other dominates. In this world, Zhang’s main characters, Eva and Addie are two souls in the same body: a hybrid. The story follows Eva and Addie’s journey in this world that refuses to accept or understand them. Zhang’s writing only improves with each book and the characters became ones that I could both relate to and really cared for. If you’re going to read a YA dystopian series, this would be the one I would recommend!

3. The Blood Chamber and Other Short Stories by Angela Carter

49011This book was on the reading list for my Reading Gender and Sexuality class in the 3rd year of my undergraduate and man, was I glad it was! Angela Carter’s feminist re-tellings of classic European fairytales is something that everybody should read. Not only are each of the stories interesting and challenging, but Carter’s writing is sensual and beautiful throughout.

 

 

4. Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

600404If you know me in real life, you probably know about my love for Edwidge Danticat. Well, this book was the one that started it all. In this collection of short stories, Danticat manages to poignantly tell the stories of many Haitian people and their struggles. Danticat’s writing is breathtaking and beautiful. It’s one of those books that I honestly couldn’t put down until I had read it all the way through and it holds a treasured spot in my bookshelf.

 

5. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 

17899948I will end this list with a book that I only finished quite recently and enjoyed immensely. Rebecca follows the story of a young girl who marries Max de Winter; a man she considered far beyond her means, only to arrive at his estate, Manderley, and feel haunted by his late wife, Rebecca. There were many things that I loved about this book but what I probably loved most about it was the main character herself. Her youth, her naivety, her feeling of being out of place and intense desire to please those at Manderley; everything about it was written quite brilliantly. I felt her to be both relatable and enjoyable to read about. The plot, too, was interesting throughout and du Maurier’s writing was fantastic throughout. This book has been considered a classic for a long time, and after having read it, I can certainly see why!

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Musings on Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

August 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! In her second novel, Edwidge Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.

I should probably start off this review by divulging the truth – Edwidge Danticat is one of my favourite authors, so some bias in this review should definitely be expected. I was first introduced to Danticat through a short story from this very book, called Nineteen Thirty-Seven and the more I’ve read of Danticat, the more I’ve appreciated and loved her work.

Krik? Krak! I think does a fantastic job of talking about issues that pervade Haiti without making it overtly political. Through Krik? Krak! you read about separated lovers due to political problems in Haiti, or the 1937 massacre at the river that borders the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Considering the political issues in the DR right now, this book is kind of fantastic in giving readers some sort of a context.

Danticat’s writing itself is poetic and beautiful. I feel any attempts at describing it would be to do a disservice to Danticat. Here is a short quote from Nineteen Thirty-Seven:

Until we moved to the city, we went to the river every year on the first of November. The women would all dress in white. My mother would hold my hand tightly as we walked toward the water. We were all daughters of that river, which had taken our mothers from us. Our mothers were the ahses and we were the light. Our mothers were the embers and we were the sparks. Our mothers were the flames and we were the blaze. We came from the bottom of that river where the blood never stops flowing, where my mother’s dive towards life – her swim among all those bodies slaughtered in flight – gave her those wings of flames. The river was the place where it had all begun.

Ultimately, Krik! Krak? is about community, with its short stories being subtly tied together. It’s about the telling of stories, it’s about the claim to freedom that many Haitians have been denied. It’s a book that I would highly recommend. If you’re interested in learning more about Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Danticat’s book The Farming of Bones tells a pretty wonderful and poignant story of the Nineteen Thirty-Seven massacre.

Musings on Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

July 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer? [x]

I made the grave mistake of watching the movie before reading this book. I still hold on to the belief that if I had read the book first, I would have enjoyed the book far more. But that regret aside, this book was still rather fantastic and I could barely put it down, even though I already knew the conclusion.

Let’s start with what I enjoyed the most – Flynn’s writing. Her writing style just seemed to click with me. It’s my first novel by Flynn so I’m hoping her others are consistent to this in terms of prose. Her writing is sharp and witty – perfectly fitting for the genre. And she manages to switch between the separate voices within the book excellently. The change is never drastic, but not so subtle that you don’t notice the difference.

I’ve noticed a lot of people claiming their dislike for the characters, suggesting that when you don’t have any characters that you can like, or relate to, it’s difficult to really enjoy the book. I’ll have to disagree with that. Yes, there are really no characters in this book that you can relate to (or at least I’d hope so) and none of them are what you’d call moral, but I don’t think that detracts from the novel. Despite their general unlikeability, Flynn makes the characters complex enough to keep you interested. My only real gripe with this book would have to be the ending, which seemed unsatisfactory at best. Though perhaps the immorality of the characters made the ending more bearable. In any case, the ending certainly didn’t make the rest of the novel any less enjoyable, and this is a book that I would definitely recommend!

… On a side note, I also enjoyed the movie, though I found the book to be far better (isn’t that always the case). The movie was interesting (though I don’t know if some of the actors were the best) but I think Flynn’s writing definitely gives the story a certain flair that is lacking in the movie. Still, watching the movie after having read the book is something I would recommend!

Musings on The Bell-Jar by Sylvia Plath

July 5, 2015 § 2 Comments

Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic. [x]

I remember The Bell-Jar first piqued my interest when I was still in secondary school and my English teacher handed us all a recommended reading list in order to better our vocabulary. As a fan of Plath’s poetry, I was interested in what her prose had to offer. It’s a shame that I didn’t get a chance to actually read The Bell-Jar until a long journey from Canterbury to Dublin about two weeks ago because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had always expected the novel to be very sombre, especially after my experiences with Plath’s poetry, along with the novel’s serious subject matter. I was thoroughly surprised though.

Perhaps it was because I was listening to Air Traffic Controller’s rather upbeat and cheerful album as I read the novel, but I found Esther’s character charming and amusing for the most part. During the second half of the novel, this amusement died down (for obvious reasons) but the way Esther’s character was developed and portrayed felt very natural. The writing, too, I found thoroughly enjoyable. It reminded me a little bit of Jean Rhys at times (which is definitely a good thing) and there were many sentences that I read over more than once because I thought they were so beautifully written.

The subject matter itself is a little dark as Plath writes about Esther’s dealings with depression (TW for suicide) but throughout it all, I found Esther to be very likeable and relatable. It was easy to view her illness through her eyes and engage with it as she does. All in all, it was an excellent read and I would highly recommend it, especially if you’ve read and enjoyed Plath before!

2015 Reading Challenge

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hey guys, so I found this post over on tumblr today:

2015It seems like a nice change from the usual 50 books a year I tend to do over on goodreads. It’s interesting and offers a lot of variety so I think I may try this for 2015. Though I’m a bit behind on my 2014 challenge, hopefully after my holidays start up and I’m back home in Ireland, I’ll be able to get through the last couple of books and reach 50 before the new year’s!

If any of you guys want to try this out as well, let me know! And if you have any suggestions for what kind of books to read for any of them, pop them in the comments section!

Musings on Lost Voices

May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

**some very minor spoilers**

** Trigger warning for sexual assault and abuse**

Lost Voices tells the story of fourteen-year old orphan Luce, who lives with her abusive uncle. After being sexually assaulted by her uncle on her fourteenth birthday, Luce transforms into a mermaid.

Let me start this review by saying that I quite like mermaids so I was pretty excited to read this book, with its concept of mermaids that are bound on revenge. Unfortunately, I don’t Porter was able to do the concept any justice. 

Porter’s writing wasn’t all in all bad. A lot of the time it managed to be quite aesthetically pleasing. However, it was inconsistent and ultimately, it was amateur. This gave way to inconsistent characterisation too. I found it irritating to read the characters because they were so inconsistent. I felt like Porter was attempting to portray dramatic mood swings, attempting to show confusing display of emotions, but she failed. It came out as inconsistent writing and irritating character that made very little sense. Many of the characters also felt underdeveloped and two-dimensional, especially those characters that Luce didn’t like. 

The plot itself wasn’t particularly enthralling. The beginning was interesting, when you learn of the mermaid’s motivations and such. But soon, the novel just became an account of their day-to-day activities. It was tiring and uninteresting. There was very little plot to speak of. A lot of plot points were also incredibly underdeveloped. Porter never fully explores the motivations of the mermaids, and their ability to see their history if they look at each other from a certain angle just felt like lazy storytelling. 

Honestly, there were so many interesting elements in this book that were never explored properly or well. Catarina could have been an extremely interesting character, but she was inconsistent and underdeveloped. When I was halfway through the book, I just couldn’t wait to get to the end because I was so bored with the nonexistent plot. I don’t think I’ll be reading the next two books in the series.

Musings on Pages For You

May 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

 Sylvia Brownrigg’s “Pages For You” can be summed up as a romance between college student, Flannery, and her teaching assistant, Anne. Unfortunately, that is all the book essentially is. I skimmed through most of it pretty fast, which was unfortunate. I was really excited to read the book, I thought it was something right up my alley, but the book just bored me. The writing was decent and I enjoyed reading it for the first half of the book. But as the book continued, I just lost all interest. It was uninteresting to constantly hear Flannery talk about how great Anne was, how pretty, smart, sexy, etc, etc… for basically every chapter. I soon found both Anne and Flannery to be a little irritating. Neither of them were interesting characters to read. I feel like some authors can get away with writing a book that’s not focused on a plot, but to pull that off you do need aesthetic writing and a character driven approach. Unfortunately, this book had neither of those things. The writing was far from bad, but it wasn’t good enough to make up for what the novel lacked. All in all, I didn’t hate the book, I was just immensely bored of it.

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