Me Monday | A New Post Series!

What better way to kick off the new year than to announce a new post series?! I’m so excited to see how the blog develops this year, and to put more time and energy into creating better quality content. I really want to focus on my writing and find more motivation to blog; this new series will definitely help with that. I’ve not spent much time on blogging as of late, but this has to change.

‘A Bookshelf For…’ will be a series of collections. The series will aim to showcase some of my favourite texts in different lights. It will allow me to discuss different themes within books that I love, including those I’ve reviewed in a more general way. I’ve often found, both in reading and reviewing, that certain themes or aspects of certain books stick out for me more- things I could talk about all day, but have never really found a chance to. Aside from books I’ve written assignments on, I’ve never really written a focused analysis or review.

I don’t fancy producing university-style essays every week, nor do I imagine you’d like reading them, which is where this series comes into play – I’ll be discussing certain aspects of books, for example the use of location, in short review-style paragraphs. Books with several different themes that I find interesting may be mentioned in several ‘shelves’. It’s almost like Desert Island Discs, only I can discuss as many as I want in as many ways as I want…so it’s really nothing like Desert Island Discs.

Following on the example of location, ‘A Bookshelf For The  Traveller’ would focus on books with vivid scenery and writing of place, or plots focusing on journey, whereas others may focus on character or pacing. There are so many different ways to look at books, and obviously there are books for every occasion – this series will aim to show you my favourites.

I’m hoping to get the first in this series out soon, so be sure to keep an eye out! In the meantime, tell me your 2017 goals!

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review- The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin

‘“Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.”

More than fifty years on, Iris Chase is remembering Laura’s death. And so begins an extraordinary and compelling story of two sisters and their secrets. Set against a panoramic backdrop of twentieth century history, The Blind Assassin is an epic tale of memory, intrigue and betrayal.’

The Blind Assassin is the first Margaret Atwood novel I’ve read. I’d heard rave reviews for The Handmaid’s Tale and The Heart Goes Last, but nothing of The Blind Assassin. It had been sat on the bookshelf in my conservatory for a long time, but I’d thought nothing of it until recently – what a mistake that was.

The Blind Assassin had me hooked from very early on in the story. While Dune, a novel of similar length, had me struggling to get even half way through in weeks (and I’ve still not picked it up again), I finished this book in five days.

The book is split into several view points and narratives. There are often newspaper clippings, invitations and other forms of literature among the text, placing the part of the story in a time and showing a more general perspective before Iris discusses details. The central narrative is that of Iris writing a sort of memoir-cum-letter to her descendents. There is also another narrative, showing extracts of ‘The Blind Assassin’, the revered novel by Laura Chase, which was posthumously published. The novel in the novel is about a couple meeting in secret, and sharing a story about an alien planet – a story in a story in a story.

The main narrative reminds me of The House I Loved in many ways – Iris is an elderly woman writing her life story, much like Rose Bazelet, and often the writing feels similar, despite being set in completely different eras. Both stories lead up to end of life revelations, of similar natures. They differ, however, in what they’re centred around. Iris is mostly focused on Laura’s death, while Rose’s letter to her husband is largely about their home. Iris’ viewpoint, therefore, is often a lot broader –she explores the entire world around her and her sister, rather than centring her story on her own house and street.

The brief explanations I offer here may sound vague and confusing, but this is far from the effect that Atwood’s own words achieve. Atwood manages to write clearly and steer the story incredibly well, even in the most hectic and confusing aspects. While the climax is fast paced and information-heavy, it somehow remains enjoyable. Iris and Atwood both remain calm and clearly know what they’re doing with the text. The result of this is a remarkable novel, full of twists, humour, sadness and mystery. My first foray into the world of Margaret Atwood certainly won’t be my last.

See you soon,

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Fandom Friday – HELP, I’M STUCK IN A BOOK! (and not in the fun way!)

So if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me complain about struggling to get through Dune by Frank Herbert. I’ve described the book as ‘Space Game of Thrones’ to several people, and incidentally I had the same problem while trying to tackle the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Dune

 

It’s not that I’m not enjoying the book – the premise is interesting and it’s very well written, but it’s so long and so heavy. I could quite happily read a 1000 page novel, but the pacing has to be right. For me, a large amount of action for long periods of time just doesn’t work; I need breaks, slower moments. I’m about 320 pages in, and this enough for me – I can only handle so much of the heavily detailed, jam-packed writing Herbert uses.

So what do I do? I don’t like putting down books and reading others, as I find that I give up on the first one too easily (just ask A Storm of Swords, it’s been left half finished on my Kindle for at least a year), but I’m not reading because if I do I’m getting nowhere. Maybe in the future I should have a page limit on books I intend to review. I read the last three books I’ve reviewed (The House I Loved, The Book of Other People and Junk) in about two weeks, so I thought I’d tackle a longer book – and one that I’ve been meaning to read since I got it 3 years ago.

Have you ever been in this situation? How do you tackle it – do you plough through or take a break; or give up entirely?

See you soon,

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600 PAGES, MAN. 600.


Harry Potter and Social Issues -Could JK Rowling Have Gone Further?

It is undeniable that the Harry Potter series deals with social issues in many ways – they are written into the text in such a way that has shaped the way generations have and continue to view the world. Millions of young people have grown up with Harry, often looking to the Wizarding World for guidance. It is unsurprising, then, that as we and our society develop, that we both appreciate the ways the series explores social injustice and acknowledge the aspects that are unsatisfying. While the series tackles many issues in an immensely overt way, there are things that could be improved.

Hermione, for instance. In the current stage show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hermione is played by Noma Dumezweni. Many were unhappy with the idea of a black actress playing her. Others however, myself included, feel that Hermione as a black woman adds to Hermione’s story. She faces racism in the wizarding world for her ‘blood status’ – she’s a muggleborn, which is frowned on by some “purebloods” – wizards born into wizarding families. She faces immense prejudice at the hands of Draco Malfoy and other purebloods, and in the film series has a racial slur, “mudblood”, carved into her arm by Bellatrix Lestrange (Deathly Hallows, Part 1).

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Noma Dumezweni. Found here

In the novels, JK Rowling doesn’t specify the colour of Hermione’s skin. While I believe that writers should limit character descriptions and leave the reader to garner their own impressions of the characters, stating that Hermione had dark skin could have strengthened the impact her struggle with racism stronger.

Another aspect I feel could have been explored was Dumbledore’s sexuality. Rowling revealed on a book tour for the last novel in the series that Dumbledore was gay. Many LGBT+ people look to the series for it’s messages of acceptance and love, and relate to struggles such as Hermione’s. A gay character further opens up the world to LGBT+ people, however Rowling chose not to write in Dumbledore’s sexuality – at least not overtly. Of course it would be difficult to publish a children’s book, particularly in the 90s and early 00s, with an openly gay character – but considering the immense success of the Potter series, I seriously doubt sales would have been that affected if she had written it into one of the later novels.

In a book series that has taught me and so many others about acceptance, love and equality it is disheartening that some things like these examples that could have easily been included were left out. At the same time, the series isn’t solely a social commentary, and manages to balance discussion of several important issues with magic, dragons, mermaids, Dark Lords and even the odd Quidditch match. We can make several real life comparisons and learn a lot from the series, even if it isn’t perfect.

See you soon,

Ro x

Featured Image by Vondell Swain