Tag Archives: reviews

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.

Recent Reads

I haven’t written anything for a while, eh? Man, I’ve been busy.

I’ve not really been feeling much enthusiasm in regards to reading or indeed, writing, as my blog silence would indicate; I guess I just hadn’t been feeling it, y’know?

But as it was my birthday last week, I treated myself to some choice, and not to mention controversial, titles…

Tampa by Alissa Nutting:

You may or may not have heard about Tampa. The Daily Mail recently labelled it ‘THE SICKEST BOOK OF THE SUMMER’…so naturally, I had to see what the fuss is about. 17846944

Celeste is a beautiful, rich and affluent 26 year old teacher. She is married to an all-American boy, Ford, who is a police officer. Celeste has one all-consuming desire in her life; that is, to have sex with 14 year old boys. She is soon revealed to be obsessive, manipulative and calculating and soon begins a relationship with a pupil, Jack, at her new school, with, arguably. devastating consequences.

Basically, the controversy surrounding Tampa has been its exploration of the desires and experiences of a female paedophile (albeit, a fictional one, but based loosely on the real-life story of Debra Lafave). That’s not to say that the author, Alissa Nutting, condones or endorses the actions of her character. Nutting has been vocal in the press about the double standards that exist in regards to the treatment of male and female sex offenders; Lafave was described as being too pretty to go to jail by her lawyer, despite being a convicted child abuser.

I found the description of the sexual acts between Celeste and Jack to be nauseatingly over-descriptive. Though, as a reader, we are privy to Celeste’s innermost fantasies, so it is expected that as an audience we see her inner psyche laid bare, as it were. And with sociopathic detail, Celeste does not disappoint.

Overall, I found it an interesting and complex read. I would recommend it, if you can stomach it.

The Never List by Koethi Zan:

I was pretty excited about this one; I’d heard from a variety of sources that it was excellent and had a compelling, unexpected twist. I love twists, me… 16158525

Sarah and Jessica are best friends. After surviving a car crash in their teens that kills Jessica’s mum, they become even closer. Arguably psychologically scarred, they begin compiling a list, The Never List, of things they should avoid if they don’t want to die. Things like, never go anywhere alone after dark, and…never get into a strange car.

But lo, they do get into a strange car and so their nightmare begins. Locked up and tortured in a cellar for five years, for seemingly no apparent reason, their nightmare has just begun…

…unfortunately, the reality was that I was kinda disappointed, and being some kind of spoiler ninja, I guessed the twist halfway through the book. Sigh.

It’s all a bit of a mash-up of cults, survivor’s guilt, S&M bars, ice queen academics, philosophy and gung-ho action.

I appreciate what it tried to do, but often, strands of themes just ended up nowhere and for me, this was extremely unsatisfying.

The End of Alice by A.M Homes:

The End of Alice tears the tissue thin line between the evil and the everyday. It details the correspondence between two paedophiles; one, a middle-aged male (and our narrator), is incarcerated in an institution, and the other, a 19 year old girl, is his admirer and seeks advice on seducing a 12 year old neighbourhood boy. {72903DF8-EEC8-4EE8-A7A3-78C65B46AB64}Img100

Slowly, through this correspondence, the narrator’s true nature reveals itself.

Our narrator is an unreliable one; the text flits back and forth between the past, present and what the narrator imagines is happening in the girls life. He bemoans the lack of sophistication in her letters (using too many exclamation marks, for one) whilst celebrating his own with titillatingly tongue-twisting tirades and sharp sibilance.

The narrator uses the girl’s letters as an excuse to revisit some of the motivations behind his own crimes, and specifically, those committed against a girl named Alice.

Hiding behind the thin veneer of civilisation is truly a psychopath. A complicated, manipulative and obsessive psychopath.

I thought The End of Alice was excellent, complex and thought-provoking. Be warned though, there are some pretty nasty prison rape scenes and vivid descriptions of abuse.

Apparently, when it came out, libraries in the US and the NSPCC (Nat. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Children) in the UK tried to ban it. Double sigh.

I don’t believe in banning books, myself. I believe in reading them and making up my own mind. I hope you will too.

Recent Shenanigans

New zine project:

Feeling inspired after the successful completion of my Stephen King fanzine, ‘Death Is When The Monsters Get You‘, I decided to embark on another zine making project; an as-of-yet unnamed literary zine.

There are no firm guidelines; there is no specific theme and contributors are welcome to submit pieces of fiction in any format they choose (short story, flash fiction, Twitter fiction, haiku, poetry, monologue, screenplay etc etc).

If you would like more details then please click here. The word count stated is just a guide; I’m willing to compromise!

Being interviewed by Radio Tircoed:

Cath Elms and I, founding members of Swansea Feminist Network, were invited to appear Radio Tircoed to chat about feminism on their Women’s Bits show.

We were pretty nervous about the whole thing, but all-in-all, it went very well!

The chat was an informal one and we were asked about the origins of Swansea Feminist Network, why we identified as feminists, our activism activities and campaigns and what the future held for our organisation.

I feel this whole broadcasting malarky is something that we, as an organisation, can really get into and it’s inspired us to start thinking about how we can use radio and podcasts as part of our activities.

Unfortunately, can’t link you to a podcast of the chat, as Radio Tircoed doesn’t currently offer them, but we’re hoping to get an MP3 sent to us, so keep you posted!

Cath and I with the presenter of Women’s Bits, Alison ‘Lenny’ Lenihan:

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Reviewing ‘Dirty Work’ by Gabriel Weston for The F-Word:

After responding to a call-out by The F-Word on Facebook, I have now joined their list of fiction reviewers! Books for free! Hurrah!

I am currently reviewing ‘Dirty Work’ by Gabriel Weston in audio-book format.

The synopsis is as such (from: Telegraph Author Interviews):

‘Dirty Work is about Nancy, a young registrar working in gynaecology and obstetrics, who is summoned before a panel to investigate why, at a crucial moment while performing an abortion, she completely froze and sat motionless while her patient almost bled to death.’

The novel broaches a very contentious and timely issue, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I am an hour in and I am really enjoying ‘Dirty Work’ so far. Weston’s descriptions of colour especially strike me as almost sumptuous.

I will post a link to the review when it’s done!

Swansea Feminist Network fundraiser: 

It’s that time of year again; the first of the bi-annual Swansea Feminist Network fundraisers!

Each year we hold two fundraisers in aid of Swansea Women’s Centre  (where I am also a trustee and volunteer); we ask local female-fronted musicians to perform for us and we sell our zines, vegan cakes and raffle off various goodies for an excellent cause.

Here is the Swansea Feminist Network committee in all our drunken glory:

I am in the white floral dress...

I am in the white floral dress…

We raised just under £300 for the Centre this time round and in November, we will be holding another event for the White Ribbon Campaign; a campaign ran by men to end violence against women.

Details of all our events and activities can be found on the SFN blog (link posted above somewhere…).

Books I have read recently:

Joyland by Stephen King.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks.

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (my review here, some spoilers!)

Changes to review policy:

Well, I don’t really have a review policy as such but I have made a decision to try and limit the amount of spoilers I use in any given piece. I feel perhaps it detracts from the review itself, and might discourage readers from checking the books out; something I would feel pretty bad about.

I also am thinking of self-imposing a word-limit on my reviews as they tend to go off on existential ruminations; maybe this is something that readers don’t like? Short and snappy best? Lengthy good sometimes?

Some feedback would be appreciated!

 

Upcoming Reviews

So I was perusing Twitter last night, as you do, when I came across a tweet from This is Horror, a UK-based horror review site, requesting a reviewer for one of their new titles. The title in question is Roadkill by Joseph D’Lacey. The synopsis on TIH runs as such:

”Two vehicles, stripped to the bare essentials, accelerate to 180 miles per hour on a deserted highway. Their journey along this dead straight stretch, known as the Final Five, will decide the fate of the drivers – forever. Only a hundred seconds separate them from the finish line as they hurtle towards their destiny, dreaming of glory.

But this is one highway they’ve never travelled before and neither of them knows what they’ll find out there. One thing is certain: every road has its obstacles.” Roadkill by Joseph D'Lacey

Sounds…intense! I look forward to reading and reviewing it. Watch this space, folks.

For those living in the area, there is also a launch party being held next weekend in Waterstones Coventry for Roadkill. All details here.

In other news…

My Stephen King fanzine has been completed and is available to buy right now! The price is £1 plus 60p p+p. See article below this for more details.

I am also desperate to get my hands on a copy of NOS4A2 by Joe Hill but unfortunately my finances are unlikely to stretch that far this month. Very frustrating! I will bide my time…

New Read: ‘Sorry’ by Zoran Drvenkar

I was perusing the internet, as you do, when I received an email from Think German; a lovely website dedicated to the promotion of the German language in the UK.  Every so often, in collaboration with New Books in German, Think German recommend and review translated German literary fiction titles. This time, it’s the turn of ‘Sorry’ by Zoran Drvenkar, a Croatian German novelist. 

In ‘Sorry’ a group of friends in Berlin who are down on their luck, decide to establish an agency that apologises for misdeeds on the behalf of other people. Soon, a shady underworld gang gets in on the action and the friends find themselves embroiled in a series of gruesome events; from which there appears to be no reprieve.

When I read the review from New Books in German, I knew I had to read it. So I casually downloaded it onto my Kindle (I am a Kindle fan, folks. I find it very useful for a number of reasons and I still buy as many print books as I ever did…) and suffice to say, I am very excited to get stuck in.

I think there are a great many young (-ish) German authors who are pushing the boundaries of modern literary fiction (depending on your personal tastes, of course) and I for one, am excited to get in on the action. I would recommend, for those not faint of heart, ‘Feuchtgebiete‘ and ‘Schossgebete’ by Charlotte Roche and ‘Axolotl Roadkill’ by Helene Hegemann. ‘Feuchtgebiete’ (‘Wetlands’ is its translated title) is widely available in English, and I believe, though don’t quote me, that ‘Schossgebete‘ and ‘Axolotl Roadkill‘ translations are set to be released in 2013.

‘Das Maedchen’ (‘The Girl’) by Angelika Kluessendorf, an unflinching story of a girl’s brutal and uncompromising upbringing, also looks excellent. I shall have to save my pennies, methinks, and order in a lovely brand-spanking new print edition from Germany.

(p.s. for non-German speakers the use of ‘ae’ in ‘Maedchen’ and ‘ue’ in ‘Kluessendorf’ represents the German Umlaut, you know, the two little dots that go over certain vowels…i’ve just figured out how to insert an umlaut in WordPress but to be honest, I would have to change some of my links, so thought this explanation would suffice!)

Ta!