August Round Up

…but what happened to July?

It’s been a long while since I posted (June 19th, in fact), and for that, I apologise for being so lazy. Thing is, I didn’t really have any blog-able news, and I haven’t read anything particularly note-worthy (for shame!).

Some review news:

-Today, my review of Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women (Carol Dyhouse) was published by LSE Review of Books. Check it out by following the ‘review’ link.

-Sept/Oct will be positively brimming with review work; I will be submitting two reviews to LSE, Feminist Activism, Women’s Rights, and Legal Reform (ed. Mulki Al-Sharmani), and A Feminist Voyage Through International Relations (Ann Tickner).

-I shall also be submitting a review of Gender, War and Conflict (Laura Sjoberg) to FWSA, after a long hiatus (unintentionally long I must add!).

Hopefully that should give me a kick-start into the new academic year, and I should feel some kind of enthusiasm regarding my MA dissertation.

In terms of fiction reading, I’ve found myself at a bit of a loss, if I’m honest. It’s quite possibly that all my sub-conscious really wants to read is Revival by Stephen King… (when it comes out in November…). Oh lordy…is there anything out there that can sate me for the time being?!

I am sure I’ll survive…right? RIGHT?!

Too many pies, not enough fingers…

Well, I went on holiday…and came back. As you do. I was a veritable reading champion and managed to make my way through no less than four books. Hurrah! I read the aforementioned In The Woods by Tana French, I Have Waited and You Have Come by Martine McDonagh; I also read The Gunslinger (Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King, and The Case of Mary Bell: a Portrait of a Child Who Murdered by Gitta Sereny. I was EXTREMELY naughty and read The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule BEFORE I went away. Self control=zilch. My holiday reads ran the gamut from fantasy, crime, post-apocalyptia (is that even a word..?), and true crime (though Sereny’s analysis of the Mary Bell case is far from sensational. It’s more a sensitive deconstruction of the nature of ‘evil’; an approach Sereny mastered in her biography of Albert Speer whom she met on many occasions).

Aside from reading, I’ve been pursing an altogether different past-time…indoor gardening! That’s right!

My little kitchen garden

My little kitchen garden

Seemingly unstoppable mint cutting...

Seemingly unstoppable mint cutting…

I planted a garlic clove and this is the result after a week

I planted a garlic clove and this is the result after a week

Scooping the guts out of aloe vera leaves...

Scooping the guts out of aloe vera leaves…

I find it all very relaxing. The results also speak for themselves. I am currently growing garlic (possible even in erratic UK climate…), basil, parsley, mint and lettuce. I also just planted some coriander seeds. Jamie Oliver I ain’t, but it’s fun and really easy. I am currently drinking a mint tea of my own making. I don’t even like mint tea but I have so much of the stuff I have to do something with it…I also made a face mask from some of my wilting aloe leaves. Even a fool of Took like me can manage to keep some plants alive. I am quite proud…

Other news:

-I have just finished a two-week unpaid work placement scheme in the Richard Burton Archive on the Swansea University campus. It was a fantastic introduction into the world of archives, and my placement partner and I produced some pieces of writing on our experience here and here. We also produced a web guide on a church in Swansea and how WW1 affected the lives of its congregation; information uncovered from primary sources such as logbooks.

-I am currently editing my next review for LSE Review of Books, The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters: Gender, Secrecy, and Fraternity in Italian Masonic Lodges by Lilith Mahmud. It should be available for you to read online from the 19th of this month (June).

S’about it for now.

I’m currently reading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, and Mr Mercedes by everyone’s favourite literary uncle, Stephen King.

I’m currently listening to The Handsome Family (thanks True Detective!), the Night Vale podcast (how I never discovered this before is a mystery to me…).


Review: Wounding by Heidi James

Wounding by Heidi James tells the story of Cora, a thirty-something professional who shares her seemingly idyllic life with her doting husband and two children; everything a woman is supposed to aspire to. However, it soon becomes apparent that Cora is desperately seeking an escape from this prescribed lifestyle; guilt-ridden and unhappy, she seeks solace elsewhere…

The first thing that struck me about Wounding was the dual narrative of Cora, our main protagonist, and her husband. As we are privy to both perspectives within the relationship, we can sympathise with both parties and can approach Cora’s plight with some sense of continuity and insight. Whether Cora or her husband are indeed reliable narrators remains to be seen. Cora’s husband seems to agonise over the widening gulf in their relationship, and desperately analyses their past, before marriage and kids got in the way, in order to ascertain why Cora is drifting further and further away from the family unit.

Obviously, it is quite easy to sympathise with Cora; she is buckling under the pressure of society’s expectations of how women are supposed to live their lives; having a good job, marrying the right person and having kids, and all the while, being expected to ‘enjoy’ the confines and restrictions that having a family places on an individual. We are often bombarded by images of what the ‘perfect’ mother and wife should embody by the media, and so often, reality does not correlate with fabricated notions of the role of women and the various guises imposed on them. It seems to me that what Cora is experiencing is in part society-sponsored sadism; the things society tell us should make us happy often have the opposite effect, yet we still do them, despite our better instincts. There is no handbook telling women how to be the perfect wife/mother/citizen, yet it is expected of us regardless; as if we are subject to a kind of tacit social contract in which we perform our duties, and should never expect to complain.

All in all, I found Wounding to be a complex, sympathetic and visceral observation of Cora’s disintegrating sense of self and the effect that this has, not only on herself, but on those around her. Wounding asks difficult questions regarding the issue of motherhood, and what, exactly, makes a good parent, but it also explores the labyrinthine notion of self-hood and how our prescribed life choices can, ultimately, jeopardise our identity (-ies).

Holidays are coming!

I took a proverbial holiday from my blog for a good few months and now, I am actually going on a real-life holiday, to Tenerife! Woohoo!

Despite still feeling rather resentful about having to pay £70 for ONE hold bag with Ryanair, I’ve decided to concentrate on my reading list instead, as we all know that choosing the right holiday reads is an essential part of any trip.

Because I have recently become addicted to reading true-crime books (I know, I know…), my first holiday read is The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule; a friend of Ted Bundy, who was entirely unaware that he was, in fact, a killer of women.

My second holiday read is In The Woods by Tana French. I’ve heard a lot of good reviews so I am excited to get stuck into this one.

My final holiday pick is I Have Waited, And You Have Come by Martine McDonagh, which tells the story of Rachel, who meets a mysterious stranger in a post-apocalyptic world…can’t wait!

My poolside reading runs the gamut from true-crime to post-apocalyptic fiction but not being the Chick Lit type (what a horrific ‘genre’ title…), I felt I needed some reads I could really sink my teeth into. I am, quite literally, going to read my face off.

If I have enough cash, and can justify buying another book, then Tracks by Robyn Davidson will make the cut. I saw the trailer for the film in the cinema the other night and I literally swooned with excitement (having never heard of Davidson’s real-life trip before) and felt ludicrously inspired to go on my own intrepid journey right there and then (which was ridiculous considering that I had work in the morning, and was in fact, stuck in a cinema…). There’s always the future, right?

I am currently in the middle of reading and reviewing Wounding by Heidi James and I am about half-way through, at the moment. Watch this space for the review!



Look Who’s Back!

Yes, that’s right, me.

In October I took a little break for the sake of my sanity, and now I’m back, refreshed and raring to go.

I’ve been working, studying, and generally making a nuisance of myself. Occasionally I found the time to read some books and write some reviews.

Here they are (in case you can’t be bothered to scroll over to the relevant tab at the top of the page…):

-A conflict profile of the Nanking Massacre for the Women Under Siege Project

-A book review of The Tattooist by Louise Black for The F-Word 

-Two reviews for FWSA; Female Suicide Bombers by Rosemarie Skaine, and Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern.

-Two reviews for LSE Review of Books; The Killing Fields of Inequality by Goeran Therborn, and Voicing Demands: Feminist Activism in Transnational Contexts by Sohela Nazneen and Maheen Sultan (eds.) (UPCOMING!).

Really, I haven’t had much of a break at all but I very much enjoyed reading and writing about all the lovely books I’ve had the privilege of being sent. Writing for Women Under Siege was a great experience so thanks to Shazdeh and Lauren for accommodating my rookie academic ambitions.

So that’s it for the moment, folks. I will keep you updated on any new reviews or exciting news that may come my way.