Category Archives: Fiction

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ (2.5 Stars)

I had high expectations for Her Body and Other Parties based on the blurb and reviews I’d seen floating around the internet. After I read it, all I could think was “meh” but no, I don’t think this is a bad collection of short stories. It just didn’t work for me. This book has elements of eroticism, queerness, horror, feminism, science fiction and magical realism – a seemingly perfect read for October… 

“Many people live and die without ever confronting themselves in the darkness.”

“The Husband Stitch” was my favourite story of the bunch. I didn’t know this but the story is based on a creepy story called The Green Ribbon. I interpreted this story as a feminist tale having interesting themes like body autonomy and self-worth. The second story “Inventory” is set in a dystopian world riddled with plague in which the narrator recounts her sexual adventures. “Eight Bites” and “Real Women Have Bodies” are horrific explorations of society’s obsession with thinness. Unfortunately, I didn’t ‘get’ or enjoy the other stories in Machado’s collection.

The women in these stories are multifaceted: some are beat down (literally and otherwise) and some rise above their predicaments. Some women encounter ghosts of their pasts or society’s present, and some women get consumed by their own madness. Carmen Machado is amazing at writing and writing ideas but I didn’t adore her plots. Her Body and Other Parties is shortlisted for the National Book Awards 2017, so it’s worth checking out if the blurb piques your interest.

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Final Girls by Riley Sager (Review)

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First of all, we need to talk about that cover. Dark forest or trees? Tick. Girl running away? Tick. Mist, dark colours, creepy atmosphere? TICKTICKTICK. I’m a fan of all the clichés. From what I gathered on the internet, Riley Sager is a pseudonym for a previously published author called Todd Ritter (don’t sue me if this isn’t true), and it’s interesting… because:

Aaaand suddenly: 

A little push from Stephen King is all that’s needed to create a bestselling thriller novel, apparently. Oh, and I bought into it. This book is fantastically entertaining. I knew this was a hyped up book and didn’t read the blurb. It’s best to get into Final Girls without any prior knowledge or anticipation of the story.

But if you’d still like to know more about it, well, keep on reading! If you’re a fan of compulsive thrilling reads or slasher films, this is for you. Personally, I’m not a fan of slasher films but I can see myself consuming books in this horrifying genre. For one, slasher stories are less scary on paper. But hey, it’s still creepy. 

So, a little bit about Final Girls: Quincy Carpenter was the sole survivor of a massacre when she was a teenager. All her friends died that night. The media calls her and women who went through similar experiences as ‘Final Girls’, named after the trope in popular horror movies. Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead under mysterious circumstances. Is Quincy next? Final Girls was simultaneously predictable and unpredictable. I thought the ending was satisfying, and one of the best I’ve read this year in thriller novels.

The writing isn’t too bad, though a little generic at times. Coming back to clichés, this novel is full of them. Just a few examples: good girl gone bad, sex hurts for her first time, girls with frenemies. Despite all the eye-rolls and thinking “this is clearly written by a man!” (no offence to men out there) I loved the plot and will look forward to reading Riley Sager’s future novels 😄📚

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐

(Mild spoilers)

I’m conflicted about my feelings for Tin Man. Whilst I’m glad I read it, the latter half of the novel frustrated me a little. Beyond that, Sarah Winman’s writing is exquisite and I felt deeply connected to her characters. Tin Man is about two boys, Ellis and Michael, who love each other. This love follows them into adulthood until Ellis meets and marries Annie. Friendship blossoms between the three but also distances Michael from Ellis.

Tin Man is a novel that tries to be about hope. Instead it is about angsty love, loneliness, and tragedy. I’m all for a sad & cozy read but I couldn’t enjoy Tin Man after a certain point. Some character arcs and motivations go unexplained. Also, other gripes I had while reading is there are no quotation marks in the entire novel and the different time periods (past memories and present happenings) are confusing.

Okay, final thoughts: it’s a beautiful tale about (un)requited love that was touching but I want to read happy lgbtq stories. The writing was absolutely poetic particularly the descriptions of landscapes. The metaphors and themes were enticing but couldn’t stay that way given the nature of the story. Would I recommend Tin Man? Yes, if you’d like to get your heart broken by a pile of pages! 

Banned Books Week: Some Reading Recommendations

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Think of your favourites books. Chances are some of them were banned in the past for various reasons, like the depiction of desire, or profanities. The act of banning a book is actually counterintuitive, if you think about it. It opens a dialogue and provides free publicity. 

Here are some recommendations for books that were challenged:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I read this for school when I was 15. Banned for depiction of rape and racial language.

The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

A recent read. Banned for sexual scenes, homosexuality, and profanities.

Every dystopian book you can think of (go figure): Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Giver, and most importantly, 1984 which I have yet to read!

Dystopian novels are primarily banned for their criticism of capitalist and totalitarian governments, and the suppressing of human rights and liberties.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Again, I read this for school when I was young. Banned for profanities and violence.

Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

Banned for obscenity.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Banned for overt sexuality of an adulteress… Flaubert was put on trial on charges of immorality and obscenity.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Similarly, Wilde was put on trial. His book involved homosexuality and was described as being “vulgar” and dirty.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Banned for depicting sexual abuse and rape.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Banned for including topics like drug use, masturbation, homosexuality etc.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 

A graphic novel banned for portrayal of violence and radical islam.

————–

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”

[I saw hate in a graveyard — Stephen Fry, The Guardian, 5 June 2005]”
― Stephen Fry


Banned Books I plan on reading soon:

  1. 1984 by George Orwell 
  2. Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov (yeah, i can wait for this one)
  3. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence 
  4. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 
  5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Happy Reading!

Three Creepy Novellas (Book Reviews)

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba (Translated by Lisa Dillman): ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This is quite an unsettling little read! Life-like dolls and creepy orphan girls? Sign me up. Such Small Hands is actually based off a real life incident that happened in Brazil during the 1960s which is a complete spoiler so I’ll avoid mentioning those details for this review. The story follows seven year old Marina who loses her parents in a car accident and is put in an orphanage. She is bullied incessantly by the other girls, out of fear and envy (or both). The writing is very atmospheric and well done but confusing at times and I wished for a longer or a more fleshed out story from Barba.

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann (Translated by Ross Benjamin): ⭐⭐

Did I miss something? I’m sure that a re-read would help me understand the plot more but I’d rather not. From what I remember, You Should Have Left is about a writer and his family who are renting a house up in the mountains. And it was supposed to be Lynchian. The way this novella is set up is confusing – there are snippets about the writers life that read like a diary, and then the snippets about his screenplay with characters and scenarios that make zero sense.

He’s trying to salvage his marriage and has super weird dreams at night. He experiences some House of Leaves-esque things and shit hits the fan. Again, I wish this was longer!

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Queer vampire classic set during the Victorian times? All the yes’s. I remember reading the “steamy” bits when I was younger and now years later, I’d say its hella cute 😂 Carmilla is set in Styria and is about Laura, a young woman, who meets and forms a romantic bond with Carmilla. Laura’s steadily declining health and vigour combined with Carmilla’s strange sleep routine raise some eyebrows. The novella peters out into a below-average horror film production but it was super entertaining nonetheless.

Audiobook link: https://tinyurl.com/y8vun397

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Review)

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⭐  ⭐  ⭐  ⭐

I went to the dentist today and had two of my teeth extracted (RIP teeth). What has that got anything to do with the review, you ask? Well, after my procedure (half my face was numb) I read pages 396 and 397 of The Essex Serpent for about 45 minutes. Does that ever happen to you? You zone out of the story but continue to read the sentences over and over again…

Just me? Okay 😂

You are a woman, and must begin to live like one. By which I mean: have courage.

The Essex Serpent is a historical novel set during the 1890s in… you guessed it, Essex! (and, by extension, London). Recently widowed, Cora Seaborne is finally  free to explore her interests in science and moves to a small town with her (feminist-socialist) maid named Martha and son who may or may not be autistic. Through friends, Cora meets a vicar called Will Ransome. They instantly get along and collide – this oddly paired man of faith and woman of reason. An unlikely love story, to be sure!

William Ransome and Cora Seaborne, stripped of code and convention, even of speech, stood with her strong hand in his: children of the earth lost in wonder.

At the centre of this story – which ties everything together – is the fictional legend of a serpent let loose. The town believes it to be an evil that heralds the end of the world, Cora believes it to be an undiscovered beast that still lives on and Will believes it all to be nonsensical fear. Every page of The Essex Serpent is a goldmine. The language is lyrical and expressive. I could describe this novel as being ‘cinematic’ (i.e. I saw the story playing out clearly in my mind) but that would be a lie. I felt not like a reader but a spectator of sorts… as if I was spying on these characters’ lives. Don’t even get me started about the themes! 

Faith and reason, religion and science, cities and towns, myth and reality, love and friendship. This was a really fascinating read, and I highly recommend it to everyone 😸 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Sigh.

Okay, Pride and Prejudice isn’t the zenith of classic literature or without its faults, but it is a charming little novel. During my teenage years, I remember finding my father’s old dusty copy of P&P whilst going through my vampire phase (let’s just leave it at that, for the sake of my image) and thinking about picking it up next. I found Mrs. Bennet odious and moved on to other classics.

Over the years I watched the movie adaptation multiple times and knew the story so well I didn’t think it necessary to break open the spine of my dusty copy. So, this time around I decided to finally (finally) read the original novel. I only partly read it, since I also listened to the audiobook (Elizabeth Klett is a wonderful narrator). If you’re not familiar with P&P, it’s about an anxious mother who is keen to marry off her five daughters to rich and good looking men. There is melodrama, misunderstanding, and romance.

aaah

As for the faults in the novel, I’d rather ignore them. Yes, Mr. Darcy is a prosperous, tall, good looking man who saves the day and Elizabeth falls in love with him after visiting Pemberley. What is really impressive is Austen’s witty dialogue and her analysis of characters and their temperament. Mrs. Bennet is a very silly and funny woman who speaks her mind as it is. Without a doubt, Mr. Bennet is the only sane person in the whole novel! I loved this novel, it genuinely put a smile on my face!💖

Audiobook link: http://tinyurl.com/ybgczccu