Monday, 29 June 2015

Review: 'G.K. Chesterton Quotes' by Bob Blaisdell

Not long after reading Chesterton's brilliant The Man Who Was Thursday I stumbled across Blaisdell's G.K. Chesterton Quotes on Netgalley. Part of the genius of Chesterton's prose was his strong sense of character and independence. So why wouldn't I want to read a book full of his quotes? Thanks to Netgalley and Dover Publications for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 17/06/2015
Publisher: Dover Publications
"There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person," declared the philosopher and wit G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936). The extent and variety of the author's writings―comprising journalism, history, biography, apologetics, poetry, plays, and detective fiction―attest to his own diversity of enthusiasms. This rich and thought-provoking anthology draws from Chesterton's vast treasury of publications to present his most trenchant observations on education, humor, literature, religion, politics, class, and other topics. 
Editor Bob Blaisdell offers an insightful introduction to Chesterton's life and works and identifies the source of each quotation. Organized thematically, the quotes range from quips from Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries ("The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.") and novels ("Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.") to his newspaper columns ("An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.") and essays ("No man must be superior to the things that are common to men.… Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.")
G.K. Chesterton was an Absurdist writer and a biographer, a Christian and seemingly a socialist. He wrote about almost anything, as long as it interested him, and he did so well. This book of quotes covers his whole career and does really well in showing from when and where the quote is. The main challenge that faced Blaisdell was how to bring this selection of quotes together in a way that doesn't feel uterly random and, maybe, even pointless. In this book, though, the quotes seem to naturally follow one another by theme and it means that it is actually interesting to keep reading them to see how Chesterton's mind changed throughout the years.

It's always an interesting question to consider to what extent personal opinion is interesting. It is a question I often come back to when writing for this blog as well. A personal opinion, it seems, is only interesting if it is well-informed, outside of the box or comes from someone famous. In this case, Chesterton is a bit of all of those. His opinions are interesting because some of them are out there, others because he is in a better position than us to judge and others simply because they come from him. His writing is funny, insightful and at times slightly ridiculous and his quotes reflect that. Some of them hit really deep, showing his dedication to what he is writing about, but also his willingness to mock himself and those around us.

I give this collection...

3 Universes!

If you're  a fan of Chesterton's writing than Blaisdell's quote collection will be great for you. Blaisdell's own introduction is also very interesting. G.K. Chesterton Quotes is the kind of book that would do great on a coffee table, ready to be picked up and browsed through at random times.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

In Celebration of the Supreme Court Ruling: Ten Classic Works of Love

Same-sex marriage
Mladen Antonov / AFP/Getty Images
Yesterday was a historic day for America, as the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favour of legalizing gay marriage in ALL 50 States. This decision means more than "just" the ability to actually get married. It now means that gay and lesbian couples have access to a whole slew of federal benefits which are normal to straight couples. Just a few of these are:
  • file joint income taxes
  • have joint parenting rights
  • have next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions
  • have family visitation rights
  • qualify for domestic violence intervention
  • inherit property
  • and many more.
This decision will fundamentally change the lives of gay and lesbian people in the United States and is a major step forward on the road to equality.  The Majority Opinion, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, ends very lyrically while also getting to the depths of why this decision is so important.
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
 So, as a celebration of this milestone decision and of love, here are ten of my favourite classic works which show that no matter who you are, where you are and who you love, love is real. 
Maurice

E.M. Forster - Maurice
Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father's firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, "stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him": except that his is homosexual.
Written during 1913 and 1914, after an interlude of writer's block following the publication of Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy. "Happiness," Forster wrote, "is its keynote….In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob. Into this mixture I dropped an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him."
The Well of LonelinessRadclyffe Hall - The Well of Loneliness
A powerful novel of love between women, THE WELL OF LONELINESS brought about the most famous legal trial for obscenity in the history of British law. Banned on publication in 1928, it then went on to become a classic bestseller. Stephen Gordon (named by a father desperate for a son) is not like other girls: she hunts, she fences, she reads books, wears trousers and longs to cut her hair. As she grows up amidst the stifling grandeur of Morton Hall, the locals begin to draw away from her, aware of some indefinable thing that sets her apart. And when Stephen Gordon reaches maturity, she falls passionately in love - with another woman.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Jeanette Winterson - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Winner of the Whitbread Prize for best first fiction, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-out novel from Winterson, the acclaimed author ofThe Passion and Sexing the Cherry. The narrator, Jeanette, cuts her teeth on the knowledge that she is one of God’s elect, but as this budding evangelical comes of age, and comes to terms with her preference for her own sex, the peculiar balance of her God-fearing household crumbles.
Angels in America:  A Gay Fantasia on National ThemesTony Kushner - Angels in America
In two full-length plays--Millennium Approaches and Perestroika--Kushner tells the story of a handful of people trying to make sense of the world. Prior is a man living with AIDS whose lover Louis has left him and become involved with Joe, an ex-Mormon and political conservative whose wife, Harper, is slowly having a nervous breakdown. These stories are contrasted with that of Roy Cohn (a fictional re-creation of the infamous American conservative ideologue who died of AIDS in 1986) and his attempts to remain in the closet while trying to find some sort of personal salvation in his beliefs

Friday, 26 June 2015

Friday Memes and Carter's 'Burning Your Boats'

Burning Your Boats: Collected Short StoriesI have been slightly absent because I've realized that family engagements, travelling and three full working days together in one week make for a severe lack of time for blogging and reading. But hopefully by next week I'll have settled in a little bit! This week I'm using Angela Carter's short story collection, a bit of a Best Of collection, Burning Your Boats.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY SALMAN RUSHDIE.
As well as her eight novels, Angela Carter published four wonderful collections of short stories during her lifetime, and contributed stories to several anthologies. The stories were scattered amongst different publishers, and a couple of the volumes are now out of print. In Burning your Boats they are gathered for the first time; this is a key collection and a major event for Angela Carter aficionados.
Book Beginnings is hosted by Gillion over at Rose City Reader and Friday 56 by Freda at Freda's Voice.

BB: (from 'The Man Who Loved a Double Bass)
'All artists, they say, are a little mad. This madness is, to a certain extent, a self-created myth designed to keep the generality away from the phenomenally close-knit creative community. Yet, in the world of the artists, the consciously eccentric are always respectful ad admiring of those who have the courage to be genuinely a little mad.' p.1
I loved this opening. When I first picked up the book on a book fair, I closed it and paid for it after reading that opening line. I had read one or two Angela Carter stories before, but this just settled it for me. After this collection I have become a life-long fan!


F56: (from 'The Smile of Winter')
'Sometimes the lights of the midnight riders scrawl brilliant hieroglyphs across the panes, especially on moonless nights, when I am alone in a landscape of extraordinary darkness, and I am a little frightened when I see their headlamps and hear their rasping engines for then they seem the spawn of the negated light and to have driven straight out of the sea, which is just as mysterious as the night, even, and also its perfect image, for the sea is an inversion of the known and occupies half, or more, of the world, just as night does; whilst different people also live in the countries of night.' p.56
Yup, this is all one magnificent sentence. I love Carter's writing style, it is simply so 'there', by which I mean that she herself always seems to be part of her writing and therefore it holds such determination to carry on for lines and lines.

So, that was me for the day! What are you sharing?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Review: 'Tiny Little Thing' by Beatriz Williams

Sometimes novels really attract you and you're not quite sure what it is about them that pulls you in. Tiny Little Thing was that kind of novel for me. The blurb got me really curious about Tiny's story and I was extremely happy when I got a chance to read it. Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Group for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Pub. Date: 23/06/2015
Publisher: Penguin Group Putnam
In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple: intelligent, rich, and impossibly attractive. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November. But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life: her volatile sister Pepper, an envelope containing incriminating photograph, and the intimidating figure of Frank’s cousin Vietnam-war hero Caspian, who knows more about Tiny’s rich inner life than anyone else. As she struggles to maintain the glossy façade on which the Hardcastle family’s ambitions are built, Tiny begins to suspect that Frank is hiding a reckless entanglement of his own…one that may unravel both her own ordered life and her husband’s promising career.
The part of this novel that I enjoyed the most was Williams' intent attention to the family dynamics within not only the Schuyler family but also the Hardcastle family. People are forged by the people that surround them and as their environment gets more intense, so do they. Father and sons, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, it was fascinating to see how they all came together and went separate ways throughout the novel. Moving between different characters in the narration was also interesting, although Williams keeps it restricted to Tiny and one other. It is especially interesting in Tiny's case, where there is a real development of voice throughout the novel as she becomes more aware and independent. There is a snark between what she says and what she thinks and her interior monologue was one which I actually, for a change, found interesting. Although some of the characters are pretty much stock-characters, each is given an edge which brings about some very interesting twists throughout the novel.

Tiny, or Christina, is a really interesting character. On the one hand she is all about appearances, but as Williams' attention and narration switches between two different time periods the reader gets to see different sides of Tiny. She is a woman with a lot of pressure placed upon her, not only by her surroundings but also by herself. In Tiny Williams creates a very interesting character who is quite representative of how a lot of women nowadays still feel. In the 60s women's public roles were very restricted and although there are now more liberties and possibilities, the public, and social, expectations of women seem to have hardly changed. A novel such as this, which is clearly meant to be set in a historical period, manages to starkly bring some of the similarities between then and now to the foreground.

I really enjoyed reading Tiny Little Thing although at times I wished for a bit more depth. The novel addresses some really interesting topics which aren't typical, necessarily, for historical novels. I don't want to give any of them away because spoilers, but some of them could have been explored more deeply, accepting the gravity of the situations. This is partly to do with the fact that the writing of the novel is chock-full of atmosphere and style. This is partly what makes the novel so enticing. Williams' writing style is beautiful and subtle, hinting enough at things without having to spell them out while also stating some things in an honestly stark way. It means that her characters at times jump off the page and that Tiny Little Thing is a constantly engaging read.

I give this novel...

3 Universes!

Tiny Little Thing is a very entertaining read, one which is beautiful and interesting at the same time. Williams fashions a really interesting character in Tiny, one with whom the reader can identify and empathize. The novel has its twists and turns which means that every chapter will have something to keep pushing the reader forward. I recommend this to fans of historical fiction and of women's fiction.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Spotlight: 'Forget Me Knot' by Ruth Silver



forgetmeknotbanner
Forget Me Knot (Royal Reaper 2)
by Ruth Silver
Publisher: Booktrope
Published: June 23, 2015

  Don’t mess with death. When Wynter explores his newly developed dark angel powers, regret soon fills his heart and mind. Saving a soul isn’t what he imagined it to be, and it puts the grim reaper he loves in grave danger. Obligated to take the throne as Queen, Mara must face the truth and unravel secrets she may not be ready to accept. The second book in the Royal Reaper saga takes you on a paranormal fantasy adventure into a world of grim reapers, dark angels, and undead trucidators.

Also available on Barnes & Noble and iBooks

Excerpt

Death crept into the castle. Mara could feel its darkness pressing her down. As she walked to her father's bedchamber, the thought of marrying a man she did not love weighed heavily on her. All the invitations had been sent out months ago. Just as her life was beginning to almost feel normal, her father, King Philip, had fallen ill along with the court of Casmerelda and much of the kingdom. The second wave of the plague violently spread, leaving a trail of death and burning corpses for the living to clean up.
Her father had been bedridden for three days. His fever spiked and his skin glistened. He grew delirious, falling in and out of consciousness. As much as she despised him for what he’d done to her sister’s boyfriend, he was still her father. She didn’t want to be left alone.
“You must marry Astin at once.”
Mara cringed. “I can’t.” Her lips hidden as she wore a piece of ivory cloth against her nose and mouth, the slightest bit of protection from the disease that had taken over the kingdom. “I don’t love him. Please don’t do this to me.”
“Don’t be selfish.” The words struggled to reach his lips. He coughed and heaved, his chest rising and falling quickly as his pulse raced. “I’ll be with your mother soon…”
“You’ll be dead.”
Taking in several deep breaths, he opened his mouth, his words coming out as a whisper. “You will be reigning queen. Mara, you must act the part. Marry Astin and forge an alliance with the country of Morro, for the sake of Casmerelda. Your people need you.”
“I need you,” Mara said, gripping her father’s hand. She frowned, studying the tips of his fingers, a blackened hue lacing his skin.
“You shouldn’t touch me.” He tried to pull away, unsuccessfully. Her grip remained tight, but more significantly, he’d grown weak from the disease ravaging his body.
“I haven’t been infected, and I’ve been at your bedside every night.” Mara ordered the servants to bring more water and rags. It had done little good to break his fever or alleviate the discomfort he must have been experiencing, but it was all she could think of to help.
“Marry Astin.” His words were rough slipping past his lips. He wheezed, trying to speak, but Mara rested a hand upon his chest.
“Don’t.” She didn’t want to have this conversation again.
“For the sake of the kingdom,” he said, pleading with her.
Mara refused to answer. Marrying Astin wasn’t what she wanted. “I have no desire to be queen so young. You will pull through, do you hear me?”
He’d fallen into a deep slumber, unable to answer her.

About the Author
Ruth Silver
Ruth Silver is the best-selling author of the Aberrant trilogy. With a passion for writing and a love of story-telling, Ruth is actively writing two series: Royal Reaper and Orenda. She also writes The Federal Agent Chronicles and Palace Secrets, both of which are adult romance under the name Ravyn Rayne for Blushing Books. Her interests include traveling, reading, and photography. Her favorite vacation destination is Australia. Ruth currently resides in Plainfield, Illinois. 

Follow Ruth here: 

Looking for a steamier read? Check her out here: 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Spotlight: 'Wasted' by David Darracott

WastedIn this week's Spotlight I'm sharing a suspense novel with you guys by David Darracott, the author of Internal Security. I'm very pleased to share Wasted with you and if, by the end of this post, you find yourself desperate to read it, let me know!
What if you had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to erase your past mistakes and failures? What would you risk to recover the years you’ve wasted? Jack Player desperately needs a break. Stuck in a dead-end job, with a busted marriage behind him, he’s broke and pushing forty. Facing too many days without meaning, he sees no future for himself—until his best friend suggests a way out, an easy, painless score to turn everything around. What could possibly go wrong?
I have a sense that quite a lot can and will go wrong!

Find David and Wasted online:
Author's website, Amazon, Goodreads

About the Author:

David Darracott is the author of novels and short stories, as well as nonfiction for magazines, television, and film productions.  A veteran writer, he holds a Masters degree in English and received a Hambidge Fellowship in 2009-2010, among other awards.  He also teaches seminars on writing the novel  and university classes in English.  Though fiction is his passion--first, last, and always--fly fishing and golf run a close second.  A graduate of Emory University, he lives in north Atlanta.


And just for you guys, I have a small excerpt from Wasted:
Despite the noisy tremor of the engine just a few feet from his head, he heard the door lock turn with a mechanical snap.  He looked up quickly, craving to see if it was day or night outside, because that was the only way to determine how long he'd been tied to the huge engine mounts.  He wasn’t sure of the time exactly, but thought it was four days. Long enough to lose track of time and feel like a prisoner for the first time in his life. Long enough to realize his fear of jail had come true after all. Long enough to think about the mistakes he’d made. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Event: Passionate Pen Conference in August

Passionate Pen Conference


This comprehensive weekend event is open
to any unpublished, aspiring writer, blogger, jotter, dotter
and published authors in any genre.
passionate pen
  Blushing Books and Lazy Day Publishing are hosting a writer's conference in the nation's capital this summer. Come mingle at the Marriott Gateway for four(ish) days of social events and workshop sessions that will surely add something to your arsenal.   Workshop sessions are being developed with your response in mind and will guarantee to be led by one third Blushing Books staff, one third experienced authors, and one third outside professionals.   Registering is easy! Individual registration forms are required from every writer, author, staff, fans, friends, family or otherwise implied interested party for any and all parts of the conference.  

Head over to the Passionate Pen website for the itinerary, lodging or other information.

Contact Bella for questions you still have after perusing the site.
The conference is not only for the authors.

COME ONE, COME ALL

You've been reading them for months, maybe even years.
The Passionate Pen is offering readers and fans the opportunity to meet Blushing Books and Lazy Day authors!

You may also book your room at the Marriott Gateway (if you aren't their slumber party buddy) and stay the whole weekend at the same rate as the authors, with access to the events below.
   
THURSDAY, WELCOME RECEPTION @ 7:00 PM
Be part of the conference opening and welcome reception.
Tickets are $40 and include nibbles and a drink. Registration is required.

SUNDAY, BREAKFAST WITH THE AUTHORS @ 9:00 AM
Sit at a table and eat breakfast with your favourite author, or visit a few tables. Either way, you can be up close and personal. They'll have some pretty lovely bits of swag, too.
Ticket are $40 and includes buffet breakfast. Registration required.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday - Camus' 'The Stranger'

The StrangerIt's Tuesday and it's time to tease you all with some beautiful prose. Then I have to run and get ready for my Graduation Ball, which isn't scary at all.... I never go to balls or anything fancy so the whole dress shopping experience was a little bit terrifying. But anyway, let's get on with the memes!

Today I'm using The Stranger by Albert Camus which keeps popping up in my life so I finally decided to bite the bullet and read it. Absurd literature is something I usually need a bit of time for because I like taking a moment out of the reading and try to actually grasp what's happening.
Through this story of an ordinary man who unwittingly gets drawn into a senseless murder on a sundrenched Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed the "nakedness of man faced with the absurd."
Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and Teaser Tuesdays is hosted over at A Daily Rhythm.

Intro:
'Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday. The Home for Aged Persons is at Marengo, some fifty miles from Algiers. With the two o’clock bus I should get there well before nightfall. Then I can spend the night there,keeping the usual vigil beside the body, and be back here by tomorrow evening. I have fixed up with my employer for two days’ leave; obviously, under the circumstances, he couldn’t refuse. Still, I had an idea he looked annoyed, and I said, without thinking: “Sorry, sir, but it’s not my fault, you know.” 'p.1
I have read this beginning a number on time on different blogs and I just really love it. The voice of the narrator is quite sassy and really strong as well. I really liked Camus' The Plague and the setting of Algiers was really fascinating, so I can't wait to get into this one.


TeaserTuesdays2014eTeaser:
'I can honestly say that during the eleven months these examinations lasted I got so used to them that I was almost surprised at having ever enjoyed anything better than those rare moments when the magistrate, after escorting me to the door of the office, would pat my shoulder and say in a friendly tone: "Well, Mr. Antichrist, that's all for the present!"' p.45
I read this and just new that I had to share it, I mean, look at it! The final sentence is so unexpected, at least completely out of context it is, and I really want to read more now so I can see what this whole book is about.


So, that was me for today! What are you teasing with this fine Tuesday?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Interview with Sara Nović, author of 'Girl at War'

Girl at WarI have the absolute honour of presenting you with a Q&A I did with Sara Nović, author of the amazing Girl at War which came out last month. Girl at War is a stunning portrayal of war and childhood and I had the pleasure of reading it in advance. I was blown away by it, so being given the chance to ask Nović herself some questions was great.
Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.
Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost. With generosity, intelligence, and sheer storytelling talent, Sara Nović’s first novel confronts the enduring impact of war, and the enduring bonds of country and friendship.
I remember hearing about the Yugoslav War as a child and it was a conflict I have always been aware of. What inspired you to write a novel about it?

In 2005, after graduating from secondary school in the States I went to Croatia to stay with family and friends. Everywhere we went, people told me their experiences from the war: the homegrown mines and barricades and cluster bombs that made up urban warfare, the civilian militias that fought for independence, and the Peacekeepers who, at best stood by, or, at worst, joined in on the war crimes. A feeling of abandonment ran deep, and there was an eagerness to tell me these things, I think because I was an American, but also a familiar face—a “safe person.”  I wrote the stories down in my journal, I had always been an avid journaller, but didn’t have any plans for what I might do with them.

When I returned to the US and went to Uni, I was shocked to find that a lot of my peers didn’t even know where Croatia was, never mind what had happened there. I took a creative writing class and wrote a short story about a boy whose violent past is dredged from memory on the eve of Milošević’s death, about which my professor was very encouraging—he told me to turn it into a novel. I had never written fiction before and I doubted I had a book in me, but I began to write out from all directions. The young boy became a young girl, Ana, but that first short story remains pretty much in-tact as the end of Part 1 in the book now.

Writing from a child's perspective can be very tricky since you have to constantly consider what a child really sees and understands. Did you find it challenging to describe how Ana's perspective changed as she grew up?

Yes, the question of having a child tell a war story, particularly a war as complex as this, was something I thought a lot about while writing the book. I thought about whether it would be good to have a protagonist who doesn’t have full agency over her life, and about whether Ana could possibly understand the breadth of this conflict. But as I wrote I realized that childhood, in a lot of ways, emphasizes the nature of war rather than obscures it—nobody has agency in a war-torn place, and nobody really fully understands what’s going on in such a high-stress environment. Ana being ten also allowed for her parents to explain things to her, so in that way I think the reader got to learn alongside the character to an extent.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

College Student Demands 'Garbage' Graphic Novels be 'Eradicated' from Syllabus

Fun Home: A Family TragicomicOn Thursday the Redlands Daily Facts paper reported that a student (I have chosen not to post her name) at the Crafton Hill College, supported by her parents and some friends, complained about the inclusion of certain graphic novels in an English course, saying that these graphic novels were 'pornography' and 'garbage'. According to her, reading the graphic novels was shocking:
"I didn't expect to open the book and see that graphic material within. I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography."
As an avid reader I initially recognize the student's shock at opening a novel and being confronted with something unexpected. Where my own feelings completely depart from her's is in her following statement:
'At least you get a warning on the books. At most I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don't want them taught anymore. I don't want anyone else to have to read this garbage.'
I am a literature student myself and the idea of using a word such as 'eradicate' when it comes to literature of any kind is incredibly insensitive. (To be honest, the word 'eradicate' should never be used on anything except weeds in your garden.) Also, the strength of literature lies exactly in its ability to shock and surprise its readers into a growing understanding and awareness. Besides this, literature normally never comes with a warning label. The blurb of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover doesn't necessarily mention the nudity and female empowerment inside, just as the cover of Nabokov's Lolita never prepares you for the actual horror of his words.

The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis, #1-4)What made the arguments even more shocking, in my opinion, was the texts upon which she was basing them. The four graphic novels which offended her were the following:
Without even going into the specifics of these graphic novels, this list of four is a genius list. Including two male and two female authors, with genres ranging from dystopian to mythological adaptations and settings as potentially unexpected as Tehran, these four texts are actually brilliant examples of the variety and expression the genre is capable of. Ironically, it is exactly this which was the purpose of Crafton Hill's course, to discover how viable the graphic novel is as a medium for literature.

Neil Gaiman is a very popular author whose writing is both complex and fun to read, whether it is expressed in novel-form or graphically. Alison Bechdel's Fun Home was praised when released in 2006 and Bechdel herself came up with the Bechdel Test, which is still used to test films' gender inequality. Satrapi's graphic novel draws attention to a whole range of feminist issues in a country which the mainstream Western audience knows hardly anything of. Brian Vaughan has been a very successful screenwriter and his graphic novels have been praised by many. The purpose of studying literature lies in opening up your own cultural horizon and explore how literature and culture have changed over time. I read Persepolis when I was fifteen and it remains my favourite graphic novel and one of my favourite literary texts of all time. Satrapi's story is fascinating and it really opened my eyes towards the possibility of the graphic novel. The student's comments come across as rather uninformed for someone who wants to study English literature.


Many of the books we now consider classics were not received positively in their own time. The previously mentioned Lady Chatterley's Lover is a prime example. When an uncensored edition was released in 1960, Penguin was faced with an obscenity trial due to its frequent use of the word 'fuck'. It was judged 'not guilty' when the literary merit of the book was "proven" and this led to greater freedom for publishers and authors. Books which break the conventional social norms, which bring taboo topics out into the open and confront readers with what they'd rather forget are important. They form milestones in the development of literature and the four graphic novels above are a part of the growth of "mainstream literature" to come to accept different mediums of writing. Just because graphic novels make visual what is written down in novels doesn't make the latter cleaner or less obscene.

The graphic novel is a part of this because it allows for stories to be told both visually and narratively at the same time. To equate 'graphic novel' with 'comic' and therefore with 'Batman and Robin' is to simplify two genres and mash them together. The popular culture dialogue around comics and graphic novels is still very much dominated by the idea of nerd-culture, which means that the depth to which these mediums can go are not even considered. Aside from this it is a very collaborative genre, with writers and illustrators working together for extended periods of time. At times either two roles are also handed over to other artists, showing how fluid literature and story-telling can be.

Crafton Hill College has agreed to add warnings to these graphic novels saying they contain graphic content and there may potentially even be discussion on whether to ban the sale of these on campus, since it is partly populated by minors apparently. Personally I don't believe any college or university should start this kind of censorship since they are the places which should be opening people's minds. Literature is the safest way to confront yourself with the harsh realities of the world and our sensibilities should not stand in the way of that learning process. I'll finish this post with Ryan Bartlett's words. He is the professor responsible for the course and its syllabus and reading list and he responded to the complaint as follows:
“I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition. ... As Faulkner states, ‘The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.’ The same may be said about reading literature. The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self discovery, heart break, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration and approved by the board.”
All quotes in this post come from the Redlands Daily Facts article by Sandra Emerson.

Weekly Overview

This has been a really strange week, both really busy and really relaxing, quite calm and yet also rather social and out there. Basically. a good week has been had by me. This week I had a major fall-out with Game of Thrones which I'm still incredibly conflicted about, but I also read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath which was a major highlight.


Monday:


Tuesday:


Wednesday:


Friday:

So, that was my week! Isn't the cover for The Gracekeepers stunning? Next week, in the sense of posting, will be really on and off. I have my graduation ball on Tuesday, am working three days and get my grades back. In between that I am hoping to get some posts up!

This post is linked up with the Sunday Post over at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Beginnings and Teasers - 'Deathbird Stories' by Harlan Ellison

It is officially a week until I get my final University grades back! It is extremely terrifying but on the other hand I'm also quite looking forward to it! This week I'm sharing a book with you which I only just got accepted for although it's been out for a year. I'm talking about Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison.
“Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.” —Robert Heinlein, 1973  
A masterwork of myth and terror, Deathbird Stories collects nineteen of Harlan Ellison's best stories written over the course of a decade. In it, ancient gods fade as modern society creates new deities to worship—gods of technology, drugs, gambling. Revolutionary when first published, the short stories contained here have won multiple honors, including the prestigious Hugo and British Science Fiction Awards. They have inspired a generation of readers and other authors to reexamine blind faith and fight against crumbling institutions. Stark and often angry, this collection strips away convention and hypocrisy and lays bare the human condition. After all, the gods we invent contain all too much of their inventors. 
Book Beginnings and Friday 56 are hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader and Freda at Freda's Voice respectively.

Book Beginning:
'Gods can do anything. They fear nothing: they are gods. But there is one rule, one Seal of Solomon that can confound a god, and to which all gods pay service, to the letter:When belief in a god dies, the god dies.When the last acolyte renounces his faith and turns to another deity, the god ceases to be.' p.5
I love this beginning! Talk of gods is always good because I love religion, culture and society! I'm wondering where Ellison will go from here. This quote is from the foreword called Oblations at Alien Altars.



F56:
'There in the fetid closeness of a shop whose dimensions were lost in dusk, the old Mexican said Niven was a man without belief, without faith, without trust, and so was damned; a man doomed and forsaken. He said all the dark and tongueless things Niven had never been able to say himself.' p.56
Oh God, I didn't realize how much I would love Ellison's writing style and now I basically want to start reading it straight away and ignore everything else I'm supposed to do.

So, that was me for today! What do you think of Deathbird Stories? Sound like a story collection you'd enjoy?

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Review: 'The Gracekeepers' by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers was a book I had heard a lot of good things about before I started reading it myself. I was intrigued by the premise, by the cover and by everything I'd heard which meant that by the time I actually started reading, Kirsty Logan had a major challenge ahead of her in wowing me.

Pub. Date: 23/04/2015
Publisher: Random House UK/ Harvill Secker
The magical story of a floating circus and two young women in search of a home. 
The sea has flooded the earth. North lives on a circus boat, floating between the scattered islands that remain. She dances with her beloved bear, while the rest of the crew trade dazzling and death-defying feats for food from the islanders. However, North has a secret that could capsize her life with the circus.
Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean, with only the birds and the fish for company. As penance for a terrible mistake, she works as a gracekeeper, tending the graves of those who die at sea. What drove her from home is also what pulls her towards North.
When a storm creates a chance meeting between the two girls, their worlds change. They are magnetically drawn to one another, and the promise of a new life. But the waters are treacherous, and the tide is against them.
World building, in my opinion, is a major part of what constituted good writing. Each author sees his or her own fictional world slightly differently, even if that world is seemingly exactly the same as ours nowadays. Lack of world building always seems to suggest that the authors themselves aren't comfortable in their world, aren't willing to explore it for themselves, either. As a reader you want to be able to feel that you know this world as well as your own, that you have an understanding of the presence of history and culture. Just think of Middle-Earth in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Although Logan's ambitions don't go quite as far as this, reading The Gracekeepers the reader can't help but desire to know more about this new world. Logan's word has been covered almost completely in water and is split between landlockers and damplings, both of which have developed their own cultures around their preferred habitat. Throughout the novel more information is added but I never quite felt as if there were explanations. There are hints, there are clues, but there are no real explanations for why the world has become covered in water or how these different cultures came into being. This meant that by the end of The Gracekeepers I was incredibly interested and fascinated but wanting more.

The Gracekeepers feels like a fairy tale, which is a major compliment, considering my passion for fairy tales, myths and legends. This category of literature exists through the sharing of strong story elements and through the passing down of these elements to the next generation of story-tellers. In a different blurb for this novel, it is said that Logan was inspired by Scottish myths and legends such as The Isle of Pabaidh and The Dracae. As mentioned above, the world building in this novel is interesting and that is definitely down to Logan's willingness to be inspired by myths. You see, in mythology and legend the world is recognizable. It is farmers farming, hills rolling and kings ruling.What is extraordinary are the people: it is them who make these stories fascinating and move the plot forward. They surprise you by being secretly magic or by being smarter than you expected.  The Gracekeepers seems to work along similar lines. The characters populating Logan's world are incredibly interesting and their actions make her world come alive. It is Callanish's respect for her role and its traditions that makes it interesting and makes it feel real, It is a sign of great characterization, but it also means that Logan's whole world is slightly clouded. The outlines are visible but not a lot is clear.

One of the things I loved about this story was that it centred around two female characters. Often, if a narrative is shared between two characters, it tends to be a man and a woman, or two men. Callanish and North have two very different stories that yet intertwine and together they cover a lot of different female roles. One of my literary pet peeves are characters restricted to a single role, to being "just a father", "just a mother" or "just the gay best friend". People are always different things to different people. To some North is a colleague , to others a friend and to a few a nuisance. She was someone's daughter, she will be someone's lover and someone's mother. The same goes for Callanish. They are strong female characters. Not stereotypical ones who wield guns, who get into fights and who always speak up. Callanish and North work with the hands they have been dealt by life and don't complain. They work hard and take responsibility for their actions. They make choices and stick with them and in the end, they are simply trying to survive in their world. Callanish and North are surrounded by a cast of incredibly interesting side-characters, some of which are granted their own chapters as well. The variety of characters and the subtle character development is what makes The Gracekeepers captivating. These characters all have a twist to them, especially those of the circus.

Logan's writing style is potentially best described with the label magical realism. The Gracekeepers has been described as matching Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter at their best. I can see where the comparisons come from since all three authors use a sense of legend and myth to inform their narratives. However, with Atwood and Carter the narrative always feel grounded and centred. The Gracekeepers floats, much like its protagonists, and works that way. Logan's writing weaves an atmosphere which is seemingly very restrained and quiet, even when things are heating up. It might not be to everyone's taste, but I personally loved the steady, calm pace of the writing which didn't let the narrative rush it. The language is as important to The Gracekeepers as the plot is. The language is also what allows The Gracekeepers to address some potentially intense themes such as pregnancy, being an orphan and militant religion.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

Rich in language and interesting characters, Kirsty Logan's The Gracekeepers is a beautiful novel. Logan creates a fascinating world in which it is easy to lose yourself and crafts a plot which subtly develops until it ensnares you. I would recommend this novel to everyone who loves magical realism and interesting female protagonists.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesdays - 'The Gracekeepers' by Kirsty Logan

Today I'm sharing a novel with you which I just finished reading and will review tomorrow. I absolutely loved it. It was really interesting and beautifully written, and that gorgeous cover definitely also helps. I am, of course, talking about Kirsty Logan's The Gracekeepers.
The magical story of a floating circus and two young women in search of a home. 
The sea has flooded the earth. North lives on a circus boat, floating between the scattered islands that remain. She dances with her beloved bear, while the rest of the crew trade dazzling and death-defying feats for food from the islanders. However, North has a secret that could capsize her life with the circus.
Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean, with only the birds and the fish for company. As penance for a terrible mistake, she works as a gracekeeper, tending the graves of those who die at sea. What drove her from home is also what pulls her towards North.
When a storm creates a chance meeting between the two girls, their worlds change. They are magnetically drawn to one another, and the promise of a new life. But the waters are treacherous, and the tide is against them.
Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and Teaser Tuesdays is hosted over at A Daily Rhythm.

BB:
'Behindcurtains, North and her bear waited. Their cue wouldn't come for a while yet. The air back here was still chilly, though the smell of sweat and soil was getting stronger. North never felt comfortable with her feet touching land. She didn't trust its steadiness, its refusal to move or change in the honest way of the sea. The landlockers hadn't given the circus much room on their island - it was small, north-west, not a capital - and behindcurtains was a narrow space.' 1%
Reading this book really made me realize how much I missed the sea. I love having water near me and being able to hear it.
TeaserTuesdays2014e
Teaser:
'With glitter in their blood, coals in their chests, choking on their secrets, they sailed into the night. Soon they lost sight of land. The first drops of rain fell.' 20%
In my review I talk about Logan's writing style which is really reminiscent of fairy tales and magical realism. It is one of the best things about the novel, in my opinion, because it means you get some beautiful sentences like the ones above.

So, what are you sharing today? And what do you think of The Gracekeepers?

A Farewell to 'Game of Thrones': When Sensationalism Destroys Humanity

This is going to be quite a passionate and personal post, and one which will contain major spoilers for Game of Thrones, not only the current season but also the previous ones. Although this post will focus on the TV shows, rather than the books since I haven't read them, I still feel it is relevant to this blog since I will be writing about the importance of story lines, of character development and of sacrificing emotional depth for sensationalism.

I started watching Game of Thrones shortly before the third season came out and watched the first two seasons within two weeks. Being a major fantasy fan, I initially loved seeing the world that George R.R. Martin had created. His aspiration to create a grittier, more "realistic" version of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth seemed very successful although I already had my doubts about the interpretation of "realistic" and "true" that were being used by the show-runners. Since I haven't read the Game of Thrones books it is close to impossible for me to judge them and yet it feels as if the author and scriptwriters of the TV show don't have enough faith in the story of their characters to allow those to speak for themselves. In The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, Tolkien's fantasy world does not lack death, blood or tragedy. Parents lose their children, wives lose their husbands and people die horribly. Peter Jackson didn't shy away from this aspect of the books in his films either and yet it never felt as if he, Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh were trying to coerce their audience into understanding that this was a harsh world. When we see Theoden lose his son in The Two Towers the emotion and impact of this moment is portrayed through the acting, music and filming. It is framed by a mother sending her two children away from their village just before it is attacked by Wildlings. As the two children look back, crying, the village goes up in flames. These two events, intertwined, show very clearly that Rohan is a kingdom struck by tragedy in which people die horribly and get separated from those they love. It doesn't have to be explicitly shown to be made clear. Another example is the death of Boromir. In the books he is pierced by many arrows, too many. In the film it is "only" three but it is filmed in a way that clearly shows what the story is trying to say. This moment isn't about how many arrows you can fit into one body. It is about showing a man redeem himself by fighting until his last breath to safe his friends, by fighting on despite knowing it will be the end of him. Had Boromir been slowly ripped apart by one arrow at a time, the scene would have lost this depth and would have become exploitative.


Now, I don't think that everything that isn't PG should be kept off our TV screens. It is important that our media represents what happens in everyday life, whether that is murder, rape or abuse. However, there has to be a purpose to this representation which is not sensationalism because otherwise it is exploitation, not representation. I am not scared of gore. What I have no patience for is gore for the sake of shocking your audience into being emotionally involved. Who can't help but feel for characters who lose everything? When I was young I saw the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan which showed the landing on Omaha Beach by the Allied Forces. For 27 long minutes Spielberg showed the intensity and brutality of war, yet it never feels as if Spielberg is taking advantage of this tragic moment of history because his characters remain human. Spielberg wants to show his audience the tragedy of war because it informs his characters and their desperation to find the last surviving Ryan. The rest of the film is relatively battle-free since Spielberg has made his point about war and what it does to humans. No one comes out of these battles successfully because that kind of violence damages a person. This is where Game of Thrones has missed the moment to stop.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Guest post: 'The Five Most Underrated Classic Authors' by Dane Cobain

Today I've got a great guest post for you about one of my favourite "genres": classics. So, without any further ado, I'll let today's guest author introduce himself!

------------------------

Hi, folks! My name’s Dane Cobain, and I’m the author of No Rest for the Wicked, a supernatural thriller being released on June 11th. I got chatting to Juli and she asked me if I’d be up for writing a guest post – seeing as I’m a huge reader myself, as well as the owner of a book blog, I accepted the challenge.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a ‘classic’ author – whether they have to be dead,for example, and whether anything later than the 1950s and 1960s can be considered a classic. You could argue that the Harry Potter series is a modern classic, for example, even though the two terms are somewhat contradictory. I’m not going to try to answer that today, but I do want to share a few of my favourite ‘classic’ authors, the ones that often get overlooked. Check them out below, and let me know what you think of the choices!

5 – D. H. Lawrence
Lawrence had a real flair for words, and particularly for using simple language to make something sound beautiful. I’ve only read Sons & Lovers, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and a collection of poems, but I can see that there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye. Yet he was kind of overshadowed, somewhat, by some of the writers to come before and after him.
Sylvia Plath

4 – Sylvia Plath
Plath was a fantastic writer and poet, and whilst she’s extremely well-regarded by those who are familiar with her work, you can bet that if you stopped people in the street and asked them, not many of them will have read any Plath. It’s a shame, because her premature death robbed us all of any further works!


3 – Ian Fleming
Fleming is the author of the James Bond series, and he’s one of those unfortunate authors who’s seen more as an entertainer than as a serious literary figure. It’s a shame, because he’s one hell of a writer, and yet it feels as though his written work has been overshadowed by the movies. Some of the movies aren’t even based on his books!

2 - Phillip K. Dick
Confession time: I’ve only ever read one Phillip K. Dick novel. That novel is, of course, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book which Blade Runner is based on. That said, that’s exactly why he’s on my list – even I have neglected him, and from what I’ve heard, the rest of his work is just as good. Definitely one of the authors who I’ll be looking into more, in the future.

1 – Graham Greene
Graham Greene is one of my favourite writers of all time, but I can’t deny that he’s pretty similar to Hemingway, and that Hemingway got all of the glory. Both men were active at around the same time, but Hemingway certainly epitomised the ‘crazy writer’ lifestyle a lot more – after all, Hemingway is known for hunting, wars and shooting himself in the head, while Greene is known for Catholicism, hard facts and living to a reasonably ripe old age. I love them both, but I see them as equals and Greene just doesn’t get mentioned as much.

So there you have it – those are my five most underrated classic authors. What do you think of the list? Have you read any of the authors? And will you be checking any of them out now that you’ve read about them? Let me know what you think with a comment!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Weekly Overview

This has been my first week of "proper" working freedom, i.e. I have been working three days this week and will do so again next week. I actually really like having something to do now that University is over because otherwise I will go utterly crazy! I am still trying to get used to my new laptop which I bought yesterday! I am really enjoying the fact that it works easily, is light and has two functioning speakers. Such a bonus.

Pastel Orphans
Monday:
Tuesday:
Wednesday:
Thursday:
Friday:
So, that was my week! I already have a guest post and a review lined up for next week, so that's looking good as well!

This post is linked up with The Sunday Post over at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Major Spotlight: three books for Authors Large and Small #5

This is the final spotlight for Authors Large and Small. In the last two weeks we've covered about 19 books from them and they have covered a whole variety of themes and genres. 


Immanual Joseph's Brahma's Maze 
Brahma's Maze portrays what can happen when evil circumstances overwhelm even the gentlest among us. Tarun, a loving husband and father and brilliant cancer researcher, gets plunged into India's underworld when criminals murder his family to steal his land and he goes out to seek revenge. His scientific mind guides the way he gets back at everyone, creating psychological thrills for readers but also a dangerous trap that threatens to kill Tarun himself. Can he escape and protect himself in time? Novel leads to an ultimately life-affirming, hopeful ending.
A Rose in the DesertLinks: Amazon and Goodreads

Louis Piechota's A Rose in the Desert


Prince Ethyrin is fourteen years old, and his uncle wants him dead. Worse, his uncle is the tyrant and usurper King Artan, ruler of the most powerful nation in the world. With the help of a friend, Ethyrin escapes his uncle’s first assassins, but to survive he must flee in exile. He journeys across land and sea to Calimshaan, the fabled “City of Delights” of the desert dwelling Jeddein. There he meets Nuara, who was kidnapped as a little girl and is now a slave in the home of one of Calimshaan’s merchant-lords. Proud and brave, but withering in her captivity, Nuara has only one dream left: to go home or to die trying. 
Links: Goodreads, Smashwords, Amazon
Larry Higdon's Storms of Deliverance

The Storms of DeliveranceJohnson was living as an alcoholic in denial. He said he could stop anytime he wanted and this attitude prompted Katy, his ex-wife, who he still had feelings for, to write a letter telling him that she would always love him but their relationship was over because of his drinking. While struggling with the finality of the letter, Johnson is involved in an automobile accident that turns his whole world upside down. He soon experiences, what he believes, is time travel which launches him twenty-seven years into the future. There he deals with an "amnesia" that others have told him accounts for his inability to remember the twenty-seven years he has lost. In this new existence of time and place, Johnson has to work at making some sense of his life- and his past. He is haunted by spirits of his past, but he hopes that he can find a way to find worth and contentment in his life. Then...another tragedy strikes.
Links: Tate Publishing, Amazon, Goodreads

So, that was it from Authors Large and Small. If you want to visit the other Spotlight posts to see what else they have to offer, than visit them below!