Tag Archives: book blog

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I went into this thriller with low expectations, and that at the very least I sought to be entertained even if the story was rubbish. But I was PLEASANTLY taken aback. Local Girl Missing is approved. A few months ago (or could’ve been last year) I started reading The Sisters – same author but her debut – and DNF’d it since the plot was going nowhere. I don’t remember much else. I think debuts are tricky, it’s either a hit or miss in any genre. Although I find that authors who write mystery or crime dole out books like it’s nobody’s business 📚 There’s more where that came from, so to speak.

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Local Girl Missing is about Frankie, a Londoner, who goes back to the seaside town she grew up in. What pulls her back to the town is a phone call from her best friend’s brother and news that parts of Sophie have been found. Sophie went missing 18 years ago and is believed to have been murdered. If you know anything about my reading tastes, I (capital l) Love mysteries set in small towns brimming with secrets. The story is divided between Frankie’s POV and Sophie’s diary and is thoroughly creepy as it leads up to the day when Sophie goes missing.

I enjoyed the novel a lot and flew through it. Not gonna lie, Frankie was a little annoying and immature at times. The ending was truly wtf, I didn’t see it coming at all. I’m now curious about Claire Douglas’ latest novel ‘Last Seen Alive,’ and I see it has amazing reviews on goodreads. Yay! I highly recommend Local Girl Alive if you’re going through a reading slump or just want to read a quick-paced thriller with a satisfying ending! 

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Review)

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⭐ ⭐

Well, this was a load of crap.

I haven’t changed my mind even after sleeping on it. After reading the last page, all I could think was how unfinished the story felt. Also, plot… hello? Nada. The Book of Strange New Things is a “science fiction” novel that is about Peter Leigh, a Christian pastor, who leaves his wife Bea behind on Earth and goes on an intergalactic mission with a company named USIC. He reaches planet Oasis and is ready to spread the word of God to the native population.

There is some semblance of direction and plot in the first 180 pages but after that, it’s boring. It’s annoying. The love story between Peter and Bea falls apart quickly once they’ve separated. The emails they write one another are fucking tragic. Bea whines about earthquakes in (I don’t even remember) Nepal and tsunamis and how people are dying and there’s no chocolate in Tesco’s. Boo hoo. Peter couldn’t give any fucks either and writes back infrequently, angering his wife. At one point I wanted Bea’s character to die so the emails would stop.

Peter on the other hand is loving Oasis. To be honest, I did enjoy Michel Faber’s world building and descriptions of the new & alien planet: the days are long, the air seems ‘alive’ and moves differently, the rain travels in swirly dots, and the Oasan’s are strange looking creatures who can speak a little English. I thought Faber’s attempts to demonstrate the Oasan’s language was juvenile and stupid. The s’s and t’s were represented by weird symbols. Peter is the Oasan’s third pastor, the first two having gone ‘fully native’ and run away. I thought the story would have an element of mystery and maybe  have some sinister aspects. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

Coming to the writing, it’s not bad. Michel Faber can certainly write. He explores ideas and aspects of humanity but that couldn’t hold the plot together, which is a complete and utter mess. From what I read online, this might be Faber’s last fiction novel. He wrote The Book of Strange New Things as a way of dealing with the passing of his wife to cancer. He felt distant and alienated, because during the time his wife was suffering he enjoyed a lot of success in his career when his novels were turned into a tv show and movie. I still haven’t changed by mind though, this was an insanely boring novel. You might want to skip this one. 

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.

Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, translated by Arunava Sinha (Review)

⭐⭐⭐

Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay is a Bengali author and so far, Arunava Sinha has translated two of her works into English – Panty and Abandon. I can’t wait to get my hands on the latter. I find it problematic that Panty is categorised as “erotic romance” as it is neither of those things. Unsurprisingly, Bandyopadhyay’s writing caused a massive controversy in India. Sinha, guilty of being complicit with her crimes, has also felt the ire of the nation. Panty is a collection of two magical realist novellas, the first being Hypnosis and the second being Panty.

Hypnosis follows Ilona Kuhu Mitra, a 30-something woman who works as a journalist. Recently divorced, Illona spends her life in limbo. She meets Meghdoot a famous musician and they have a strange relationship. In Panty, an unnamed woman moves into her lover’s house. It is late at night and she gets her period and with no fresh underwear, is forced to put on the panties she found in the wardrobe earlier. When she slips on the panties, she slips on the memories of her lover’s ex. Needless to say, both the novellas are very surreal and strange.

Bandyopadhyay’s stories aren’t erotic, but her characters are liberated and sexual women. The stories explore identity, modern urban loneliness, midlife crises, poverty, and religion among other things. Ilona mixes up dreams and reality – an outer manifestation of her internal conflict. She suffers silently. In Panty, the chapter numbers are erratic – there’s a sense of disorientation. Cons: Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay tries to fit too many themes into what are essentially long short stories. Hypnosis and Panty had endings that I didn’t  completely understand. Or maybe that was the point…

Read an extract from Panty here: http://tinyurl.com/he4vkdw

Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐  (3.5 stars)

Finally, a thriller without the word “girl” in the title. I’m not averse to those books but it was refreshing to read Liz Nugent’s second novel. Lying In Wait packs a punch – it is original and structured in a way differently to your average thriller. Its opening line: “My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it” pulled me into the crazy, twisted story immediately.

Lying In Wait is set in 1980’s Dublin and follows three narrators: Lydia, wife to the husband in question, Laurence, their son, and Karen, the younger sister of the murdered woman (Annie). As I said, the novel is structured uniquely. It begins with the reader fully aware of what is the ‘ending’ in most traditional thrillers and the reason why the murder took place. The secret is kept under wraps for a while but not for long as Karen is relentless in her search for answers. I enjoyed how messed up Lydia is and how unexpectedly dark she and Laurence are. Nugent also explores class relations, the lax police and mental health systems in Ireland. Highly recommended.

The Concept of a “Social Thriller” in Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives

Whilst reading The Stepford Wives I was reminded of Get Out, a film I’d previously watched and absolutely loved. Lo and behold I find out Jordan Peele was indeed inspired by the 1972 novel by Ira Levin, which was then made into a film and shot to cult classic status [1]. It is interesting, to say the least, because The Stepford Wives and Get Out are dressed up as horror/thriller stories but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Jordon Peele labelled Get Out as a “social thriller… inspired by movies that are creepy but humanity is the creepiest part at the centre of it [2].” It intelligently critiques ‘Post-racial’ America – which is the idea that prejudice and discrimination no longer hold sway. Cough. In the movie Chris, who is black, is dating a white woman named Rose. Such a delicate name. Spoiler alert: Rose lures unsuspecting black men to her family so they can brainwash and periodically transfer white people brains into black bodies. Why, you ask? So that white people can live forever in genetically-gifted strong bodies.

The white characters in Get Out are not repulsed by blackness, no. They admire and envy instead [3]. The film doesn’t jump straight to the chase like I did. It gradually transforms into a dark and creepy story. Peele was also inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the opening scene invokes the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Get Out paints insensitive white middle-class liberals as the true villains. Chris is visibly uncomfortable in every scene, at every insidious comment. Daniel Kaluuya is a fantastic actor and  the film score was brilliantly crafted to boot [4].

The Stepford Wives can also be interpreted to revel a hidden meaning. Socially aware and politically driven, Ira Levin’s story is about a family who moves from the city to a suburb called Stepford. Joanna, our main protagonist, finds the housewives of Stepford to be rather odd. They are uniformly good-looking, Barbie-like, and spend all their time cooking and cleaning. Turns out, the husbands of Stepford run a secret society and transform their wives into submissive robots.

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And Joanna is next. She fears there is something in the water that makes all the housewives so but it is soon revealed, evil lurks in her own house, and her own husband. Joanna is fiercely independent, sexually confident, ambitious – the product of second-wave feminism – and is frightened at the possibility of losing power and control. Ira Levin is also pointing fingers at modern commercialism and technology, which can be easily manipulated by malevolent forces, in this case misogynistic, murderous husbands.

I believe that allegorical storytelling allows hysteria and paranoia of the main characters to blend into the background and bring into focus real-life political issues such as feminism and civil rights. The real enemy is not the devil or the monster, it is society and in it, patriarchy and racism are the horrifying elements. A carrier for contemporary ideas: these stories convey anxieties of marginalised groups over loss of their identity and power.

[1] Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh9yM00r9JQ

[2] Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh9yM00r9JQ

[3] In one disturbing scene, Walter the groundkeeper (aka Rose’s grandfather) runs in the garden at night. He never got over the fact that Jesse Owens beat him at the Olympics.

[4] Opening credits and songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA-ONNTBteE

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Review)

“Black life is cheap, but in America black bodies are a natural resource of incomparable value.”

Between the World and Me is a powerful piece of work.  Ta-Nehisi Coates, a journalist by profession, deconstructs black consciousness in a series of letters to his son Samori. Reading this text was truly heartbreaking. And I don’t know how to begin talking about this subject, but here goes anyway. It is important. Ta-Nehisi Coates charts the brutality and inhumanity of slavery, the absence of control and power for black people which has been the only consistent thread since the seventeenth century to present times.  Ta-Nehisi Coates refers time and time again to the severe regulation and curtailment of the black ‘body’ in America. He is referring to the black individual, and the larger collective. Blackhood in America is an essentialism and rightly so, it is unique and exclusive to American history and the way race relations in tandem  with the American Dream unravelled in it. Ta-Nehisi Coates is relentless in recounting the ritualised violence on black bodies – “the essential below” – from plantations to twenty first century streets and prisons. Everyone should read this book.