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! 

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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!

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, illustrated by Yuko Uramoto (Review)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This was adorable. 

I’m not a big self-help books fan. That is, I don’t think I’ve read any self-help. My boyfriend and I decided to read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie many a months ago and never got around to finishing it. I’d rather hear advice and stories on a podcast, if that makes sense. Marie Kondo’s book is wildly popular and I never thought to pick it up myself but it was lying around the house (my brother gifted it to my mother) and I thought why not?

A super quick and helpful little book this turned out to be! The illustrations are gorgeous. In the story, Chiaki is a 29-year old woman who works in sales. Her apartment and love life are a mess, she procrastinates on chores and no longer cooks at home. But fret not, Marie Kondo is there to save the day. She helps Chiaki get rid of unnecessary or excess clothes, books (which was a little tragic, personally), and other stuff that piles up and never goes away. Kondo’s main idea is that if a thing doesn’t spark joy in you, let it go (bin it or donate).

Now, I’ve always lived in a messy house. On the odd occasion when stuff is put away in their proper places, it feels odd! I need a personal Marie Kondo pronto to physically push me to organise my house. I thought this book was super cute and gave some sound & practical advise. If anything, I know how to correctly fold and store my underwear now. Amazing.

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

Television Shows in the tradition of ‘The Female Gaze’

1. Fleabag (Season 1)

Phoebe Waller-Bridge created, wrote and starred in this quirky comedy drama set in London that is like Bridget Jones but not that glamorous and more depressing. I love everything about this show – its awkwardness, the hamster themed cafe (winning), and the fourth wall breaking dialogue. Her life is in shambles and the people around her are a mess but Fleabag is clever, heart breaking and not afraid to get real.

2. Chewing Gum (Season 1 +2)

This is another show set in London but its main character, Tracey (Michaela Coel), lives in a housing estate, where there are a maelstrom of characters. Michaela Coel is also the writer of Chewing Gum: is anyone sensing a theme here? Tracey grows up with a conservative and über-religious African mom and her little sister. With losing her virginity as the number one agenda, Tracey is a rebel cum laude (or she tries to be), Chewing Gum is heartwarming, funny and hilariously awkward.

Michaela Coel interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQPCyb4HoEk

3. Insecure (Season 1 +2)

Insecure (aptly titled) follows the lives of two African-American women who are navigating modern life in Los Angeles. I adore this show so much! Issa and Molly are in their late 20s and have successful careers but they provide a roadmap of ‘how not to fuck up your love life.’ Side note: the men in this show are exceptionally good-looking (*sips tea*).

4. I Love Dick (Season 1)

ILD is what provided inspiration for this post. This is the only show on this list that is based on a novel (of the same name by Chris Kraus). This is intellectualism meet feminism meet art meet relatable & awkward female protagonist. And it somehow worked! Set in Marfa, Texas, Chris, a filmmaker, accompanies Sylvère her husband who is a research fellow at the art institute. Chaos ensues after she is madly infatuated with Dick – the guy who sponsored her husband. ILD really made me think about the male gaze, objectification of bodies, originality (in life, in art, in thought) and is a wonderfully confusing and stimulating piece of work.

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