Review: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

I hadn’t realised when I got incredibly excited at the prospect of a new Gillian Flynn book, that I had already read it as part of the anthology ‘Rogues’ edited by George RR Martin. Nevertheless I enjoyed it so much the first time I decided to read it again anyway!
The Grownup focuses on the character of a young woman who is working as a physic even though she doesn’t really believe it. There is an immediate introduction of dark humour when she talks about her mother and about the reasons she’s been moved out to the front of the shop. Susan Burke is her client who asks for help when she admits she thinks her stepson is possessed and going to kill her and her son. Seeing an opportunity to make money the psychic agrees and goes each day to the house and pretends to exorcise it. What she finds there starts to creep her out just as much though.

The ambiguous ending serves well to keep you with unanswered questions ensuring that as with all of Gillian Flynn’s books you are thinking about it days and even weeks after you finish reading.

The elements of supernatural along with Flynn’s well known psychological edge work well together and I found the ending quite surprising.

Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, I can’t wait for her next book.

The Years of Loving You by Ella Harper

Picking up Ella Harper ‘s The Years of Loving You gave it away that this was going to be a romance book. Luckily this is one of my favourite genres! However it was not at all what I expected. This book centres around the two main characters Ed and Molly who met each other just before they went to university.

Despite having feelings for each other there was always something which got in the way of them progressing their relationship any further than friendship. The story opens with Ed and Sam (Molly’s husband( chatting at Ed’s engagement party to the delectable Saskia.
This novel is not like an ordinary romance novel. It juxtaposes between present day and the past exploring the relationships between many different characters but mainly focusing on the events which made Ed and Molly realise how they felt about each other. As this goes on we find out that these are sort of extracts from the novel Ed is trying to write. The touch of something different though, mainly comes through the authors delicate exploration of serious issues such as alcoholism and early onset Parkinson’s disease.

It is a touching novel that really pulls at the heartstrings. It makes you feel regardless of whether you are in a relationship or single that you want something just like Ed and Molly have. ‘Dirty romance’ maybe…

I don’t really have any criticisms about the book other than that at points it seemed to overly use adjectives and adverbs but I think considering that one of the main characters was a prospective writer it was to be expected and it made it work.

A very beautiful novel that makes you pause for thought and want to leave it a couple of days before you start something else. Not many novels manage that.

Review: 3 Truths and a Lie by Lisa Gardner

I was so excited to receive my advance copy of this new short story by Lisa Gardner featuring everybody’s favourite Detective DD Warren.

DD faces her biggest challenge yet when she is faced with a morning of teaching crime and thriller authors about ‘real’ police work. With a cameo appearance from famed crime writer Karin Slaughter as well what was not to love?

DD decides to tell them a story about a hooker, a seedy motel room and a disembarked leg. It’s a great story that plays well on the readers own detective skills as the writers try to figure it out against the clock.

For a short story it really got the cogs ticking in my brain and I’m keen to now get stuck into the next new release by this author.

Children’s books

An activity in my creative writing book got me thinking about my own introduction to both reading and writing. It made me think about how important writing and reading were to me growing up both as a way to express myself and my feelings and an escape from reality.

Many of my books growing up ran to the typical but many of them did not. I read anything I could get my hands on from school books to menus and leaflets. I devoured words and expanded my vocabulary at an alarming rate and it’s stood me in good stead for the future. With over 1300 books read in my Goodreads library (and they’re just the ones I remember reading) I decided to write about some of the books that were most important to me growing up.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly and certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty – unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.

 

Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden

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Evacuated from London to Wales during World War II, Carrie and her brother are sent to live with the very strict Mr Evans. In trying to heal the breach between Mr Evans and is estranged sister Carrie does the worst thing she ever did in her life.

 

The Magic Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton

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The Enchanted Wood – Jo, Beth and Franny move to the country and find an Enchanted Wood right on their doorstep. In the magic Faraway Tree live the magical characters that soon become their new friends. Moon-Face, Silky the fairy and the Saucepan Man. Together they visit the strange lands. The Roundabout Land, the land of Ice and Snow, Toyland and the Land of Take What You Want atop the tree and have the most exciting adventures – and narrow escapes.

 

The Magic Faraway Tree – Jo, Bessie and Fanny take their cousin Rick on an adventure he’ll never forget to the Magic Faraway Tree. Here he meets Moon-face, silky the fairy and Saucepan Man and visits all the different lands at the top of the Faraway Tree. Like the Land of Spells, the Crazy Land of Topsy-Turvy and the land of Do As You Please, where the children ride a runaway train.

 

The Folk of the Faraway Tree – Jo, Bessie and Fanny are fed up when Connie comes to stay. She is so stuck up and bossy. But they don’t let her stop them having fun with their tree friends. Together they climb through the cloud at the top of the tree and visit the wonderful places there, the Land of Secrets and the Land of Treats – and Connie learns to behave herself.

 

The Prophecy of the Gems – Flavia Bujor

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In a magical realm, three teenage girls: Jade, Opal and Amber are chosen to fulfil an ancient prophecy. On the day of their fourteenth birthdays they set out on a quest that will require them to leave their homes and families face fierce enemies in a land called Fairytale where magic reigns and evil is unknown. Although they meet as strangers, they must learn to trust one another with their lives as they embark on this epic journey, armed only with magical stones.

 

At the same time in a parallel world, a young girl named Joa fights for her life in a hospital in Paris. While she is dreaming she is transported to the magical realm where the three young heroines fight a spectacular battle. Their success or failure will determine the fate of fairyland.

 

The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland

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The Seeing Stone – the year is 1199, the place is the Welsh Marches. Young Arthur de Caldicot practices his tilting and archery, learns to be a dutiful page to his father and waits impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day his father’s friend Merlin gives him a shining black stone. When Arthur starts to see stories in the stone, his life quickly becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the boy who pulls the sword from the stone.

 

At the Crossing Places – Arthur De Caldicot has achieved his dream. He now serves as a squire to Lord Stephen of Holt Castle. But this new world opens up fresh visions as well as old concerns. Arthur longs to escape the shadow of his unfeeling father and meet his birth mother, to marry the beautiful Winnie but maintain his ties with his friend Gatty and to become a crusader with all the questions of might and right involved.

 

King of the Middle March – Arthur de Caldicot waits eagerly in Venice for the start of the fourth crusade. But it’s now when Arthur’s future should be clearest, that he feels the most doubt. Jealousies and greed threaten the crusade, leading him to question its true mission. Back in England his engagement to Winnie remains uncertain, as his search for his birth mother is stymied by his vicious father his seeing stone shows him the last days of King Arthur’s court – a great dream destroyed, but also a glorious legend rising from the ruins. Likewise in this book, Arthur becomes a man worthy of his kingly name.

 

 

The Chrestomanci Series – Diana Wynne Jones

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Charmed Life – Cat doesn’t mind living in the shadow of her sister Gwendolen, the most promising young witch ever seen on Coven Street. But trouble starts brewing the minute the two orphans are summoned to live at Chrestomanci castle. Frustrated that the witches of the castle refuse to acknowledge her talents, Gwendolen conjures up a scheme that could throw whole worlds out of whack.

 

The Lives of Christopher Chant – His father and uncle are enchanters. His mother is a powerful sorceress but nothing seems magical about Christopher Chant except his dreams. Night after night he climbs through the formless place between and visits marvellous lands he calls the almost anywhere. Then Christopher discovers that he can bring real, solid things back from his dreams. Others begin to recognise the extent of his powers and they issue an order that turns Christopher’s life upside down. Go to Chrestomanci Castle to train to be the controller of all the world’s magic.

 

Witch Week – SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH. When the note written in ordinary blue ballpoint appears between two of the homework books Mr Crossley is marking he is very upset. For this is Larwood House a school for witch orphans, where witchcraft is utterly forbidden. And yet suddenly magic is breaking out all over the place like measles! The last thing anybody needs is a visit from the divisional inquisitor. If only Chrestomanci could come and sort out all the trouble.

 

The Magicians of Caprona – Tonino is the only person in the famous Montana Household who wasn’t born with an instinct for creating spells but he has other gifts. His ability to communicate with cats just might help defend the city against its mysterious enchanter – but only if Tonino can learn to cooperate with a girl from the hated Petrocchi family of spell-makers. In this spirited tale of adventure Tonino learns that sometimes a boy, a girl and a cat can do more than all the magicians of Caprona combined.

 

Earthsea series by Ursula Le Guin

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A Wizard of Earthsea – Ged the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth. Hungry for power and knowledge Sparrowhawk tampered with long held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

 

The Tombs of Atuan – when young Tenar is chosen as a high priestess to the ancient and nameless powers of the Earth, everything is taken away: home, family, possessions and even her name. for she is now Arha, the Eaten One guardian of the ominous tombs of Atuan. While she is learning her way through the dark Labyrinth, a young wizard Ged comes to steal the Tomb’s greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain.

 

The farthest shore – darkness threatens to overtake Earthsea: the world and its wizards are losing their magic. Despite being wearied with age Ged Sparrowhawk: archmage, wizard and Dragonlord embarks on a treacherous journey accompanied by Enlad’s young prince Arren, to discover the the reasons behind this devastating pattern of loss. Together they will sail to the farthest reaches of their world even beyond the realm of death as they seek to restore magic to a land desperately thirsty for it.

 

Tehanu – years ago they had escaped together from the sinister tombs of Atuan. She is an isolated young priestess, he a powerful wizard. Now she is a farmer’s widow having chosen for herself the simple pleasures of an ordinary life. He is a broken old man, mourning the powers lost to him through no choice of his own. Once when they were young, they helped each other at a time of darkness and danger and shared an adventure like no other. Now they must join forces again to help another in need – the physically and emotionally scarred child whose own destiny has yet to be revealed.

 

The Other Wind – the sorcerer Alder has the power of mending but it may have become the power of destruction. Every night he dreams of the wall between the land of the dead and the wall is being dismantled. If the wall is breached the dead will invade Earthsea. Ged once archmage of Earthsea, sends Alder to King Lebannen. Now Alder and the king must join with a burned woman, a wizard of forbidden lore and a being who is woman and dragon both. In an impossible quest to save Earthsea.

 

Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

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The four Casson children whose mother Eve is a fine arts painter have all been given the names of paint colours. Cadmium is the eldest, then Saffron, Indigo the only boy and Rose the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted she is deeply upset. Though the others assure her that it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve’s twin sister who lived in Siena, Italy and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy as a very small child back from Siena. At Grandad’s death he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy it is her Angel although nobody knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to be treasured a long, long time.

 

These are of course only a selection of the books I enjoyed and would highly recommend. Anything by Enid Blyton, The Old Kingdom Series by Garth Nix, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and many more but I wanted to talk about some books that maybe people hadn’t heard of before and recommend that if you haven’t and you haven’t read them already then you should!

Suppression in everyday life 

I appreciate that my own personal suffering is nothing to that of others who go through much more and much worse. However I felt the need to share my story both to inspire and to be inspired for the people (not just women) who are like me and struggle with feeling suppressed by everyday life. 

I have a lot to be thankful for, a job, a home, a loving partner, a great family and a pretty cool dog. But everyday I feel supressed by the suffocation of not doing what I enjoy. I am a reader and I am a writer. I love to write be it assignments, blog posts, cvs, poetry or stories. More than anything I have the desire to get up in a morning and go to a job that I love whether it be working with books or with writing. Slowly I am getting there, I’m taking my degree and have 2 years left, but 2 years is a long time and in the meantime I am suffering through a series of terrible jobs. 

Monotonous, painfully slow days spent in front of a computer creating bills and processing sales orders. Working for a team leader I can’t stand and dealing with her petulant boyfriend and my miserably annoying colleagues who have worked for the shitty company since leaving school and act as if it’s God’s own heaven on earth. I earn poor wages, cycle there and back in all weathers and put up with their bullshit everyday and I’ve only been there for 5 weeks. 

I had a decision to make regarding my pathway at university this week and my mum gave me some stellar advice ‘study what you know you will enjoy because you will work harder knowing that you enjoy it’ and I think this applies to jobs as well if you enjoy it you get up in a morning and you go but if you hate it you don’t want to go and you don’t work as hard when you’re there. I know it’s unusual for anybody to like their job bar a select few but I just wish I didn’t feel like I was wasting the best years of my life tied to working in admin for pennies every week. 

Can you ever be a ‘perfect’ feminist? 

I watched a short video the other day which unfortunately I can’t remember where I saw it in order to reference! Anyway the video was about being a ‘bad’ feminist and was basically a run through of reasons you might think yourself unable to be a feminist. Some were silly reasons like am I a bad feminist if I shave my legs/do I have to be nice to people I don’t like just because they’re women etc. 

The video got me thinking about my own life as a feminist and what feminism means to me. As a feminist I believe in having equal rights to men. Being paid the same money to do the same job etc but when I really delve into my psyche I do think that in some ways I could be a bad feminist. 

  • I shave my legs not because I particularly want to but because I do conform to a beauty standard set by others and don’t think my boyfriend would like it if I went round with legs and armpits hairier than his. Neither do I want to be stared at in the street for it
  • I do like it when men hold doors open for me and I appreciate it when someone buys me a drink 
  • I expect my boyfriend to pay for things sometimes

But then the more I evaluated those choices the more I thought about them rationally. My boyfriend earns more money than me and if it was the other way round I wouldn’t mind being the one to pay for the meal or buy him some drinks. Yes I conform to the beauty standard but i don’t judge women who don’t and I respect their choices. I think that is what feminism is about after all it’s the choice to do what you want with your body and damn the consequences of what other people think. We will always be judged for something irregardless of if we are men or women. Whether it’s for tattoos, piercings, body modifications, jobs, home life or earnings. Inevitably what feminism is about is if your not going to judge the guy who shaves his armpits why are you judging the woman who doesn’t? 

(And a little door opening for someone is manners after all :p) 

What is feminism?

I was astounded on Friday of last week to hear a girl at my work offer the following sentence ‘my cousin is a feminist and she hates it when I wear this t-shirt because she says I am showing that I am not a feminist. But I don’t care because I’m not a feminist. I’d happily let a man look after me, it’s what I want and she says if I’m not a feminist I shouldn’t bother wearing trousers’.

I had to bite my tongue. I’m new to the job and an argument that would have made it clear I thought she was an idiot probably wouldn’t have gone down too well. I’m unsure what annoyed me most, the fact that she was boasting about not being a feminist or the fact that she clearly has no idea what being a feminist means.

The Oxford definition of feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’ I think however that this is only the tip of the iceberg. People like the girl at work make presumptions that feminism is just about women being equal to men. They think of feminists as bra burning lesbians who to put it bluntly wish they had a penis between their legs. They think it means that women want to be able to go out to work and not have to stay at home looking after children and cooking tea for the man who is the breadwinner. Yes it is in many ways about those things but for me and many other people who identify as feminists, feminism is about CHOICE.

The girl at work who we’ll call Sarah presumed that because her desires and ambitions lead only to being at home to cook and bake for a husband she hasn’t met yet and to look after their children that she can’t be a feminist. She thinks that to be a feminist would be to betray these ambitions and that she would have to change who she is and what she wants. What she doesn’t realise is that just making that choice alone makes her a feminist. Her choice to be a housewife makes her no less a feminist than my choice to want a career and an education.

So to the Sarah’s out there I think it’s time you found out exactly why you and every other woman (and man as well) should identify as feminist:

  • The Suffragettes – known mostly for their protests and work which led to women obtaining the vote. To name a few of the sufferings the Suffragettes were subject to: imprisonment and force feeding, chaining themselves to fences and throwing themselves in front of carts. Their militant protests enabled women to be granted the vote and therefore allowed women across the country to make decisions about how they wanted the country to be run.

So why is that point relevant? People like Sarah openly admit that they don’t vote and so feel that the suffragette movement had no effect on their lives at all but this is in fact not true. Firstly the choice is available to take if you want it. If you want to vote you can. That word CHOICE is so important by choosing not to vote you are still having that choice made available to you. However to deny your choice to vote implies you have no political opinion. You can’t talk about being unhappy with your wages or your children’s school and education. You can’t complain about the wait in the NHS A&E department or how often the council collects your bins. If you don’t vote then you are making the choice to allow the things you are unhappy with to continue.

  • You get to dress however you want! – if you want to wear skirts, trousers, crop tops or a burkha you’re welcome to put on whatever clothes you want. 100s of years ago women were denied that choice. They couldn’t wear short dresses or have their arms bared. Men often dictated what they could wear right down to the way they could wear their hair. Even having your hair down instead of pinned up was seen as unseemly.
  • The pay gap and career inequality – do you think it would be fair if you found out that Bill who sits next to you at work gets paid a £1 for every 77p you earn? If you found out that women don’t get promoted to high positions as often as men because it is presumed that they will be unreliable and decide to leave to have children
  • Rape and domestic violence – to stop people presuming that because you’re wearing a short skirt or getting drunk means that you are ‘asking for it’ or that because you burnt your partner’s tea it means that you deserve to be punched in the face or pushed down the stairs and that nobody will care because they still believe in the old fashioned beliefs that a man is entitled to beat on his wife. Here’s a few statistics about rape for you:
  • 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in the UK every year that’s 11 rapes an hour and only applies to adults not to mention children
  • Half a million adults are sexually assaulted each year.
  • 1 in 5 women between 16 and 65 have experienced some form of sexual assault in their lifetime
  • Only 15% of sexual violence cases are reported to the police
  • 90% of the victims know the their attacker prior to the attack
  • Most women in the UK do not have access to a rape crisis centre
  • Only 5.7% of reported cases end with a conviction

(Information taken from www.rapecrisis.org.uk further statistics can be accessed there)

Feminists do not think they are better than men or that they should have any special treatment. To be a feminist just one special ingredient is needed: to believe that all humans are equal regardless of sex, race, colour, political, religious and social beliefs.

To reiterate: feminism is about CHOICE. So you’re a feminist if you:

  • Choose your own clothes in a morning
  • Have sex when you want with who you want or choose not to have sex at all
  • Have an education of some description be it secondary or higher education
  • Choose your career path whether it be a housewife or an entrepreneur

I couldn’t fit every single reason for being a feminist into one blog post but I hope that the few reasons and examples I have used will help the doubting Thomas’ to see exactly why they ARE in fact a feminist and identify with the movement.

Everyday issues, political and social issues, everyday feminism.