contemporary · feminism · review

I Call Myself A Feminist: The View From Twenty Five Women Under Thirty

 

“I call myself a feminist because for me, the word embodies strength, courage, loyalty and determination.”

 

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Blurb: “Is Feminism still a dirty word? We asked twenty five of the brightest, funniest, bravest young women what being feminist in 2015 means to them. Is the word feminist still to be shunned? Is feminism still thought of anti-men rather than pro-human? Is this generation of feminists – outspoken, funny and focused – the best we’ve had for a long while? Has the internet given them a voice and power previously unknown?”

Hello. My name is Charlotte. At the time this post is published, I am twenty two years old. I am a white, Cisgender Bisexual woman, a vegetarian, a book lover, and most importantly, I am a feminist.  Upon reading the last identifier, you have had one of two reactions: you have cheered me (and if feeling really good today, punched the air) or you have tutted, rolled your eyes and made comments I’ve heard a thousand times before. Personally, I hope you’ve fallen into the former.

I’ve wanted to get into Feminist Literature for a few months but since no bookshop has shelves dedicated to what is basically a sub-genre, and asking for suggestions led me in the direction of Jane Austen (a dark path I want to avoid),  I was left stumped. Then  Jeansbookishthoughts received negativity for talking about feminism and so she created a book club called The Feminist Orchestra and suddenly I had found my place. I call Myself A Feminist is the March read.

The book is a collection of essays from various advocates such as Louise O’Neill (author of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It) and each chapter is separated by quotes from feminists who haven’t contributed to the book and also provides a great list you can put together of other feminist books to read. The thing that makes this book so great is that it doesn’t just focus on one area of feminism. All bases are covered from growing up in a feminist household, to being raised in Nigeria and encountering women’s issues there, to how they differ from women’s issues in other parts of the world, to including transwomen in feminism, to the idea of consent. This list is just examples of what I can pick out from the top of my head. There’s so much more to this book. I learnt from these essays that everyone has some kind of story: each woman who contributed to this collection not only discussed an area of women’s issues but were able to provide their own account of something that had happened to them regarding that subject. It just made everything more real and highlighted even more just how important feminism is to making society more equal.

There are two chapters that stood out to me the most. The first was “Staring at the ceiling: It’s Not Always as simple as Yes or No” by Abigail Matson – Phippard. This chapter hit a little close to home but tackles the idea of consent; something that tends to be the focus of feminist discussions. Abigail challenges the idea of talking about rape being acceptable but mentioning street harassment is “getting upset over nothing” and how we should turn the idea of negative consent on its head. For example, we shouldn’t be asking “did this person say no?” We should be asking “did this person say yes, I want this?” The second chapter was “What Can Men Do To Support Feminism?” which as you can guess from the title, talks about what men can do to help this social movement and how ingrained some words and ideas are to society that men can identify as feminist but still say problematic things. But let’s be honest, as feminists we’re all trying to do that. It just shows how important it is to include men and not live up to the ridiculous stereotype that we hate men.

Overall, this book was fantastic and despite the very serious topics, it was easy to read and I learnt so much.

“We need feminism because women’s bodies remain politicised, scrutinised, fetishized. There are countless more reasons why we need feminism, infinitely more reasons; and this in itself is another reason that we need feminism.”

 

For The Feminist Orchestra Book Club click here

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discussion · review

Book To Movie Talk | The Book Thief

*not spoiler free*

 

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The Book thief is based off the historical fiction novel of the same name by Markus Zusak and is without a doubt one of the greatest books I have ever read.

The story is narrated by death and follows Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl, in Germany during World War 2. After her brother dies, Liesel arrives at her foster parents finding it even harder to adjust to her new surroundings. Exposed to the Nazi regime, Liesel is threatened with the possibility of losing the innocence of her childhood. Until a Jew called Max shows up and seeks refuge in their basement. Hans teaches Liesel how to read in secret as the Nazis are burning anything that may be considered communist. So she must steal them.

The book moves at a slow pace and is very long. It has an overwhelming and phenomenal narrative with a use of metaphors that really put things into perspective and made me feel for these characters in a way that I can’t put into words and don’t think I ever will. I don’t think I’ll ever come across a book like this again in my lifetime. So naturally, I had my expectations for the adaptation.

Here’s a breakdown of the “main” cast:

Liesel Meminger played by Sophie Nelisse

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Rudy Steiner played by Nico Liersch

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Rosa Hubermann played by Emily Watson

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Max Vandenburg played by Ben Schnetzer

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Hans Hubermann played by Geoffrey Rush

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“One small fact: you are going to die.”
This starting line really hits you hard with a truth many of us try to avoid. Like in the book, we follow the train but miss out the colour element. Death does not talk about the brother’s soul (despite talking about others later on in the film) or the colour, in fact, the voiceover focuses entirely on Liesel and his unexpected “interest” in her that leads him to keep coming back to watch her throughout her life.

The true beauty of this story lies in the narration and I feared that this may be lost in an on-screen adaptation. And I was right. Death was voiced by Roger Allam and it just felt too Americanised and that the delivery was off. It didn’t have the same impact as the written word. However, there were exceptions such as “I’ve seen so many men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me” which are kept in and showcase in a way the terror of what these characters are about to face.

I feel as if the only way an adaptation could fully satisfy me is if the acting was done in silence and the book narrated over the top.

To me, the casting of Hans Huberman was the most important. He is fundamental to Liesel’s transition into a new home. While Rosa is cruel and unloving, Hans is welcoming and warm, offering Liesel a hand to help her out of the car when she first arrives. When Hans discovers she has a book and it turns out she stole it, he doesn’t hit and scorn her like Rosa would, he teaches her to read. When I saw that Geoffrey Rush was taking on the role, I was more than happy. He portrayed Hans like I read him in the book.

Another fundamental character is Max Vandenburg because he and Liesel are so similar in terms of their situations: both had to leave their families, both are trapped in the same house, on this street. But in a world where Liesel is being told from all angles that communists are bad and Jews are evil, he opens her to a different perspective. Ben Schnetzer does a fantastic job and really solidifies their relationship on screen in the jokes he makes with her and the time they spend together.

There are so many scenes in this film that stands out to name a few:

The contrast of the choir song about freedom while Nazis are beating people on the ground and destroying a bookstore:

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The library scene at the Herman house when Liesel explores the shelves in awe. The score music, composed by John Williams really shines here, encapsulating the feeling of exploring wonderment for the first time. The way this is shot is so beautiful too. I love the lighting:

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A scene in the basement with Hans, Rosa, Liesel and Max where they’ve brought snow in, made a snowman and they’re all sat together while Hans plays a Christmas song on his accordion. It just reflects, to me, a willingness to keep things normal despite fear:

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When Hans cries in the kitchen saying “I’ve ruined us.” It’s a fleeting scene but holds a lot of depth. The performances from both Geoffrey and Emily shows just how dangerous doing something as simple as standing up for someone could potentially lead to bad things. This is also when you start to really see the breakdown of Rosa’s character. Again, unlike scolding him and mistreating him for his terrible choice of action, instead she holds him and cries with him

And finally, the scene where Rosa cries over the accordion. This scene is just so utterly moving and powerful. A simple object as an accordion, something that is normally always connected to Hans is on its own. The way Rosa holds this then sits and breaks down in tears shows that she isn’t the soulless woman we may have been tricked into believing she is. I think this short moment may be my favourite of the whole film. It also breaks my heart in a follow-up scene when Liesel returns to find Rosa lying on the bed asleep.

 

I realise that I have focused primarily on Rosa, Max and Hans in this review and that’s because they are the ones that hold this film together. Nico as Rudy looks the part but doesn’t bring the cutesy charm that I felt came through in the book and his friendship with Liesel appears more like acquaintance on screen, and Sophie as Liesel leaves a lot to be desired. As this film is very slow paced and relies heavily on character development and arcs (as the action doesn’t happen until the last half an hour of the film) having engaging characters is very important and the film Liesel just fell very flat for me.

The film overall feels quite flat as a lot of the grit and darkness has been stripped away to create a smooth finish and it just feels too light. After all, this is – in a sense – a war film, while we know from history that Germany wasn’t attacked until the end of the war, the people who lived in Germany at the time didn’t know that would be the case, and so you would expect there to be tension and fear. But alas, there isn’t.

The ending to this story is perfect and surprisingly I enjoy both versions. I love the panning shot around the modern room as the voiceover tells us what became of Liesel. There’s annoying product placement in the way of a mac computer and I wish that wasn’t there. It would have been much nicer just to see the collection of photographs as Death brings us to the end of this story.

And I just adore the last line:

 

“I am haunted by humans.”
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fantasy · review

A Gathering Of Shadows -V.E.Schwab

 

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Blurb: “Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighbouring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.”

This is the sequel to A Darker Shade Of Magic and I cannot deny how excited I have been for this book. It’s one of my most anticipated reads for the year and when my preorder copy arrived two weeks early, I was practically cartwheeling round my house.

A Gathering Of Shadows continues to follow the magician Kell and the thief Delilah Bard but on their separate paths after the events of the previous book. Delilah returns at the start of this book on a rapidly sinking boat with her hands tied together and Kell is back in Red London.

Delilah manages to get help from a passing ship upon which she kills all of the crew and steals the ship, proving to her real captain Alucard just what she’s capable of. Kell is reeling from the events with the stone and having to process the magical bound between him and Prince Rhy; a bond that means that as long as Kell lives, so does Rhy. What initially feels like a blessing becomes more of a burden as Rhy begins to view himself as cursed and turns to drink copious amounts to fill his empty life.

Word has started to spread of The Essen Tasch, an international competition of magic, is to be held in Red London, and Kell plans to participate in disguise. Unfortunately for him, Delilah Bard has the same idea.

This is such a wonderful, solid, second book. From what I’ve read of series/trilogies so far, it’s only too easy for the sequel to fall short to the debut. That was not the case with this one. Even though Delilah and Kell are on completely separate paths until the last 100-150 pages, each character holds their own so well that it doesn’t feel like you have to skim read several boring chapters to get to the character you care about. They’re so well fleshed out and so well written that you can’t help but engage with every single word in their stories.

V.E.Schwab continues to hint at Black London in a tantalising way that makes you want to track her down and shake her until she answers all of your questions.

It took me a lot longer to read this book than I originally planned because this kind of fantasy takes a while to get back into and I did have to re-read some pages a few times. But that is the fault of me and not the author as I read a children’s picture book before reading this one.

A Gathering of Shadows did not fall short of my expectations and now I can only sit and impatiently wait until the third book is out, or until the next V.E.Schwab book is out this year.
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review · young adult

Life And Death – Stephenie Meyer

 

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Blurb: “When Beaufort Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, thrilling and terrifying turn. With her porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerising voice, and supernatural gifts, Edythe is both irresistible and enigmatic. What Beau doesn’t realise is that the closer he gets to her, the more he is putting himself and those around him at risk. And, it might be too late to turn back.”

 

When it was first announced that the tenth anniversary edition of Twilight was to include some bonus content I – along with a lot of other Twilight fans – thought it was going to be Midnight Sun. Sadly, it wasn’t. Instead we were given Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined which is basically a gender swapped version of the original Twilight story. Stephenie Meyer went into detail about why she did this, among other things, during an interview with Sasha  from aBookutopia which you can watch at your leisure. Here, I’m just going to lay out the basics.

As I said, this is a gender-swapped version so Edward Cullen is now a female vampire called Eydthe Cullen and Bella Swan is now the vulnerable human boy Beaufort Swan. The only characters that remain the same gender from the original are Charlie and Rene. This – Stephenie states in the foreword – is because during the time when Bella/Beaufort was born, it wouldn’t have been likely for an unemployed man to get full custody of a baby.  Which makes a lot more sense than…well… this entire book.

The story pans out exactly the same as the original: Beau moves to a new town, to live with an estranged parent. At his new school, he sets his sights on Edythe Cullen and her rather attractive family. As the story progresses, he spends more time with her, she tries to scare him away and so on and so forth.

One bit that really infuriated me was that when Beau knows Eydthe is a vampire and she has admitted it, he asks how old she is. She says that she was born in 1901. The internal monologue from Beau reads “my face was carefully arranged, unsurprised, patient for the rest.” Now, I’m sure that even if you knew someone had probably been around a while if they’re a vampire, and even I your year estimations were right, you would have some form of a reaction. Whether it’s a “wow that’s old” or “oh, that’s not as bad as I thought it would be.” I cannot, for the life of me, think of a time when my face was “carefully arranged” let alone would I be aware of it in an interaction I had with someone else.

It just read odd. Like a good 90% of the writing. Stephenie claims that one of the good things about having the opportunity to essentially “redo” the story was that she could change some of the lines/words that really bugged her and didn’t sit right in the original. I cannot think what parts she was referring to because the writing in this book was just horrendous. From a writer point of view, there were a lot and I mean A LOT of lines that I would have scrapped completely. I don’t know how these things slipped by an actual writer.

I will give Stephenie Meyer some credit: Life And Death is not exactly the same as Twilight. For a start, the event in Port Angles that causes Edythe to come to the rescue is a misunderstanding about Beau being an undercover cop which lands him in a tricky situation with a gun.  The ending is different too. But again, didn’t add much to the stop except that it just made Beau even more unbearable.

I’ve seen a few other reviewers who have actually enjoyed this but personally, I have no idea why.
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fantasy · review · romance

Gabriel And The Swallows – Esther Dalseno

“I see just a little girl. A girl who happens to have swallows wings.”

 

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Blurb:

“A lonely farm boy.
A girl with swallow’s wings.
An ancient city buried in a volcano.
A mystery old as blood and bone.

There is more to Gabriel than the life he’s ashamed of – the son of peasant winemakers, bullied relentlessly on account of his disabled mother. For Gabriel has a secret: the elaborate dream world he descends into at night – a grandiose, vivid existence – is becoming more real than his waking life.
Everything changes for Gabriel when he rescues a wounded creature – a miraculous girl with swallow’s wings – from the voracious pursuit of Alfio Gallo, a dangerous old enemy. 
Wrestling with manhood whilst beckoned by ancient rites and foreign lands, Gabriel is about to make a deadly decision that changes the course of life as he knows it…as long as he can decide which reality he’s in.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The story follows Gabriel, a young peasant boy who lives on a vineyard in Italy where his father works too hard and his mother has some quirks. Gabriel experiences strange dreams that seem to mirror life and often leave him confused between what is the dream and what is reality. One day, Gabriel brings home an injured creature covered in blood. He soon discovers that what he found is in fact a girl with swallow wings. His mother becomes very worried and locks herself away, believing the girl has been created by God or the devil.

Alfio Gallo, a dangerous enemy from another farm, comes asking about a falcon he shot down that he thinks landed on their property. Gabriel manages to make him leave without seeing the girl. As time passes, it becomes too risky for Volatile (the swallow girl) to stay and she decides to leave, promising she will return in time for Carnevale, a grand masked European tradition.

That’s as much in terms of plot as I can give you without really spoiling it for you, and the beauty really is in the discovery.

One thing I really liked about this book was the setting. Through the elegant descriptions given, it just seemed like a beautiful, tranquil place to be, I felt like I was really there. I’ve never read a book set in Italy before so on a personal level that was a nice touch.

This book gave me serious Ava Lavender vibes. While Gabriel And The Swallows has fantasy elements to it, the story is very slow. But this is in no way whatsoever a bad thing. Gabriel is a boy who lives a perfectly normal life, despite having this strange girl hiding away in his home. He gets bullied, had failed relationships, goes to college. Volatile is just an interesting secret part.  While she does consume a lot of his thoughts, the story isn’t entirely centred on what goes on with her and them as a pair.

A character that really stood out for me was Orlando Khan. His friendship was beautiful to witness, especially when Gabriel tries to explain that his mother is “basically retarded” and Orlando just shrugs it off like it isn’t a big deal. That’s a true friend right there.

The writing was lyrical; almost like music in the way it swept me off my feet and tugged on my heartstrings.

Apart from Truthwitch, I haven’t been affected by a novel this much in such a long time. I have a feeling this book will stay with me for years to come.

This is the first in a duology.
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