The perfect book to read on Halloween

Happy Halloween to you all!

Some people may want to be out and about dancing tonight:

dance

This can be fully recommended, because who doesn’t like wandering around at night and taking sweets from strangers? Right? But if you do prefer a quieter night in, away from all the ghouls and glamorous costumes, then you should definitely read The Monster We Deserve by Marcus Sedgewick.

Here is why:

  • It is set in an atmospheric and chilling cabin in the middle of the woods. There can hardly be anything more tonally appropriate for Halloween than that, as that is a classic settings for all horror stories ever. It almost seems like this book is and isn’t a parody of all horror stories. It contains all the classic features: ghosts, cabin in the woods, a victim and a monster, but there is a twist which is…
  • Frankenstein (and his monster)! This isn’t clear on the blurb, at least for the copy I bought, but the content of the book is about the protagonist’s encounter with Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein (read my review of that here). So there is a double blow of an amazing story (Frankenstein), within a ghost story (the actual text). This  may be a parody of Frankenstein too, as the fictional author complains about how many stories within stories there are within Shelley’s work!
  • The title is just so compelling. I mean- ‘The Monsters We Deserve“. I did not even look inside the book before I had decided to read it. This is the power of marketing, people. But it worked, so I guess it was fine to succumb to it in this instance. Yet actually think about that phrase. Do we deserve the monsters we get in life? Do we? DO WE?!
  • It is short so that you can read it in one sitting. Like on Halloween. 263 pages may sound like it is too weighty a tomb to tackle in one go, but actually the margins are very wide and many pages have artwork on them, so it is surprisingly fast to go through. This makes it perfect to read tonight, on the spookiest of nights.
  • The message of the book. Yes, it is about monsters and so links in with the witches/ mummy/ zombie/ creepy theme, but it is actually much more philosophical than that, because the “moral” of this book is that our actions define us. That “we are responsible for our creations“, and if we do not manage these creations or our actions carefully, they will grow out of our control and take on their own life, which in turn affects us. In an everyday situation, it may be that something you say will be taken wildly out of context; if you do not manage that carefully then people could end up accusing you of horrendous things based off rumours drawn from something which isn’t true to start off with. Just look at celebrities. It really is a powerful message worth noting.
  • The Front cover and the artwork inside the book is exquisite. Really. There are some forest drawings in the book which truly complement the content, whilst the cover is aesthetically pleasing. It is a book you do not want to hide away in your shelf, with only the spine facing the world. No!

the monsters we deseve

 

  • It is so quotable:

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not himself become a monster” (This is actually Nietzsche, but is featured in the book anyway)

“we are responsible for our creations”

“That is what Victor’s true crime is; not that he creates a man, but that, having created one, he does not care for what he has created”

“Monster means to think. A monster means to think. So all our thoughts are monsters?”

“Our creations end up creating us, in return. Create a lie, and you become one.”

 

So there you have it. Have a wonderful Halloween you spooky creatures and I hope that you have as much fun as these guys seem to be having!

cat 4 cat 3.gif

Liebster Award 2018

liebster.png

Right, I’m starting this thread of the Liebster Award, (find out more about it here,) so I don’t have anyone to thank for nominating me, but I’m going to give a nod of recognition to a blog called  A Guy Called Bloke  because I found the awesome questions (which I answered below,) from there.

Why I’m passionate about blogging:

For me, blogging all started because I wanted a platform to record how many books I had read, and what I thought of them. Soon it became my own corner of the internet and somewhere I knew that I could voice my thoughts and opinions- just for my own satisfaction. This was mainly because when I started the blog there were no English societies or book clubs for me attend, and most young teens don’t find a rendition of The Secret History that attractive a prospect. Fast forward a few years, and I am part of all sort of literature related activities, but I also love to keep my blog alongside to record reads, reach out to others and review current affairs through the lens of my personal opinion.

10 Random Facts about Me

1. I have fenced foil for the England team.

2. I was once the part of a tree in a German play.

3. I own three pairs of Doc Martens.

4. I bake a wonderful chocolate chip banana bread.

5. I played Grade 5 piano until I was 13.

6. I visited Ranthambore national park in India, which is a tiger sanctuary, stayed there for a week and didn’t see a single cat.

7. I don’t like sandwiches.

8. I am proficient in 5 languages: English, German, Ancient Greek, Latin and French

9. I wrote an entire novel when I was 14.

10. I can lucid dream!

Question Time!

1)What was the last movie you can recall that actually really made you laugh as in splitting sides kind of movies?

Hot Fuzz! Basically anything with Simon Pegg…

2] The last book you read that made you stop in your tracks and think about life?

The book that I’m reading right now (stay tuned for a review 🙂  called “All that Remains” by Sue Black. Of course I’ll go into this later, but it’s about Death and how humans really are just an amalgamation of cells and organs. When you examine humans just as another species you realise how personally insignificant you are…which actually quite liberating.

3] What is a piece of music that can make you smile and cry inside at the same time?

Liability by Lorde

4] An event in history that changed your perspective on how we live as a society?

Definitely the Enabling Act in 1933 Germany. It represented the loss of liberty in the German population and signalled that Hitler was starting his dictatorship. With the SS and an ultimate grip on judiciary system, this event proved that the public weren’t complicit in his rise power but simply tried to live their lives and follow along.

This changed my perspective on society because it illustrates that people aren’t inherently evil and that they don’t set out to do bad things. Not all the millions of Germans, for example, even voted him into the government and even if they did, it was his financial policies that were attractive and they tended to ‘overlook’ everything else. People saw strength in Hitler’s passionate speeches, and he represented the strong leader they needed moving on from the Wall Street Crash. No one could see what was coming- if Nigel Farage wrote a massive manifesto, who would bother reading it or even taking it seriously? Yet, if he ends up Prime Minister and initiates outrageously xenophobic policies, then people can say these beliefs were even in his writing all along, and shame on you for missing them. So basically that lots of terrible things happen because of the short-sightedness, and not necessarily maliciousness, of the majority. Like Brexit.

5] Frankenstein or Dracula – who would win that fight and why?

Dracula, because Frankenstein (read my review of it, here) is more emotional and so would unlikely have the capacity to brutally murder Dracula (unless there was a sound reason). Frankenstein wouldn’t fight for the sake of power, whereas Dracula definitely would, because he’s sneaky like that. Frankenstein may have brute strength, but psychologically he is unstable and therefore would struggle with the final blow when not unduly antagonised. Dracula, as we know, is more conniving and thus would win.

6] You only have £5 in your pocket and a homeless person has asked you to spare some change – what do you do? Answer honestly here from your heart – and not what you expect other readers to expect of your answer.

Honestly, if I had spare time for a conversation, I would ask the person what they needed, like if they needed a toothbrush or a sandwich. If they then said that they were hungry, maybe I would buy them a meal from a local supermarket, but if they asked for just money I would walk away, because clearly if they don’t ask for something specific then the money would be going towards something dubious.

7] Which flower or herb do you find startlingly attractive and why?

Lavender… I mean look at this and you’ll see what I mean:

lavv

lavender

8] What is your favourite pastel colour?

Apart from lavender? This:

pantone

9] You have the chance to have a dinner party with five of the Harry Potter characters – who would you invite [Dead or Alive]

Ron Weasley

Dobby!

Hagrid

Hermione Granger

Cho Chang

10] In a hundred years what will society miss from our today? 

Society will miss the amount of forest and natural habitat that is somewhat in abundance today, but is slowly being destroyed by deforestation.

11] If you had the ability to stop planet earth right now and start afresh – which would mean that you would cease to exist – would you perform the action?

By “start afresh” I presume a Noah’s Ark type scenario? No, I wouldn’t, because then humanity would be back to square one, without the knowledge which they had gained over the past centuries. Humanity would be so primitive that slavery, homophobia and  misogyny would normal again- society wouldn’t have gone through that learning curve of realising that equality is necessary, so what would essentially happen is that all those groups of people would be targeted again. The minorities would have to suffer for many millennia more because of the archaic power structure that would form again. These people have waited long enough for equality, I’m not going to let them wait anymore by going through the same cycle. People don’t learn from their past mistakes as it is, and with starting afresh these mistakes won’t even be in their memory and so history really would repeat itself. And history is not a nice place to be if you’re a straight white male. No one wants to go back there.

5 blogs that I’m nominating for this award:

11 Random questions for these blogs:

  1. If you were a type of instrument, what type of instrument would you be?
  2.  If you had the attention of the government of your country for a single hour, what would you say to them and why?
  3.  What is more significant, art which makes us laugh, or art which makes us cry?
  4.  What is the one meal that you think everyone should know how to cook?
  5.  If you could do an “exchange” with a person in the past for a year (ignoring the fact you can’t speak the language of the time), who would it be and why. (i.e swap with Julius Caesar for one year, and he would live in your house.)
  6.  What is more important- utilitarianism, or aesthetics?
  7.  If you had the chance to meet Death in person for dinner- without dying because of the encounter- what would you do?
  8.  What is your favourite word?
  9.  Do you think it’s acceptable to take the last slice of pizza? Why/not?
  10.  If after you died you were incarnated into a household object (until it broke/ ran out of battery) which one would you choose to be?
  11. If you had the power to bring back a fad, which one would it be?

List the rules:

Display the picture of the award

  • Thank the person who has nominated you and link to their blog
  • Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blog posting.
  • Write 10 random facts about yourself
  • Answer the questions I’ve asked
  • Nominate blogs that you like and inform them that you have
  • Ask random questions for them
  • List the rules

Alderman’s style is The Power to success

the power.2

The reason why The Power by Naomi Alderman is such an influential book in the media right now is because of the excitement is has generated, mainly in women. This is because books of this nature have never been written before, and if they have been written then it hasn’t been written with such skill and have been confined to the whimsical areas of Young Adult fiction. Admittedly there might be a seed of an original idea somewhere within the text, but it’s overpowered with dramatic yet uneventful scenes of badly written romance.

The interesting thing about the success of The Power is that it is almost an oxymoronic parallel to The Handmaiden’s Tale, that obviously has recently been in the mainstream media’s attention with the new TV series that just come out and all the press and interviews which  following that release. It strikes me though, that these narratives are capturing people’s attention at the same time because they are the inverse of each other and yet are starting very similar conversations.

Clearly one of attractions of The Power for many readers is the idea that they can induce lightening. It’s exciting in the same way that when you read Harry Potter you first adore it, and then hope that you will receive a letter announcing your place there. Unlike the Harry Potter series though, it’s the feeling that anyone, of any age, has the potential to ignite the Power within themselves, whereas with the Potter saga once you’re past having an 11 year old’s mentality, your hopes of becoming a wizard fade too. Also, it’s the near-plausibility of something like the awaking of the lightening within you which creates an even more vivid story. One doesn’t have to have a particularly active imagination to see something like this feasibly taking place with genetic modification being so visit pervasive in our lives: only one yield of crops could go ‘wrong’ and a whole chain of mass DNA altering could be set off. Yes, it’s never been proven before in biology, but that’s because humans are changing things globally at such a phenomenal rate that there isn’t time to stop and do long-term effects research. All this comes into effect as sowing the idea into people, giving them hope that maybe they have something like a skein inside them, that can be awoken in 5, 10, 25 years and change the status quo forever.

The Power offers an unusual approach to crime. Firstly, in most books a murder, burglary, or act of fraud will act as the centre piece of the book. The book might even be a murder mystery or called “The Grand Heist of George Ned” or something like that. Here, crime actually serves as a catalyst in the plot, instead of as a show-piece, which is strange and yet refreshing. Allie kills her adoptive father early on in the book: the rest of the novel isn’t about her internal demons (although perhaps that might’ve been interesting and accurate to feature, as killing someone would have a psychological effect on you even if you did despise them). Instead of dwelling for chapters on the murder, it’s treated as a necessary event but not a predominant one. Most writers feel like a mugging in their novel needs a thesis from each of characters about it before they can move on, which means that crime is rarely used as an effective tool in literature (except in detective/ mafia style stories) and that is why The Power is so interesting.

One of the crucial literary-based things Alderman has done is that she has made the characters – if not relatable – then at least understandable and has given us a way for the reader to be sympathetic with them. The scene where Roxy kills a man in his pool, in normal society, would be seen as horrific and shocking. But the reader can understand why Roxy feels like she needs to kill the man, and many wouldn’t feel like his death was inappropriate or uncalled for, whereas in a real-life context no-one would necessarily condone that same murder. (Don’t write in a say that readers feel sympathetic to Roxy because they know it’s not a real life situation. Obviously, they subconsciously know this, but if your heart has ever raced whilst reading a book, then you should know words can trick you into thinking they’re reality.) An example of this is that you don’t view Allie or Roxy as murderers. You don’t think to yourself as Roxy speaks, you are a serial-killer, because even though it’s accurate, that language is reserved for people in society who are portrayed as violent, distasteful and unlawful. All very interesting stuff.

As for the characters, Alderman employed the classic multiple point of view. It was used skilfully, and one could notice the various speaking styles the characters had, without it appearing too overbearing or obvious. Often writers read in books or on blog-posts that you need to have clear voices that distinguish each character, and whilst this is true, the result is often unnatural with each character speaking in wildly different stereotypical dialects. In this respect -given that many before her have tried and failed with multiple POVs- she strikes a great balance between differentiating the characters and having read the prose seem natural and not like it fabricated from behind a desk or a computer screen.

One of the essential components of this book was seeing the characters, particularly Roxy and Ali, grow up. All bestselling books or series will tend to share this component of age within their work because, for the most part, the readers will tend to be of an older age and it’s a classic tool which creates more engagement. This engagement is created when the reader, even if they’re not a criminal, sees Allie turning up at the convent with no friends. They remember their first experiences at school. Or when they get into a fight with their parents, or there’s trouble going on at home, and this doesn’t have to be as dramatic as having your own brother rip an organ from you but that sense of betrayal and disappointment can be the same. Yet as the characters grow more mature they come across different situations- which they wouldn’t if The Power was set when they were in their 20s across a 3-day-peroid. You wouldn’t be able to witness the creation of the NorthStar camps, the riots in the Middle East and the creation of Bessapara. Roxy wouldn’t be able to be both the clueless yet eager teenager and the dominating dealer that she was. Yet all these moments evoke priceless emotion in the reader, so not only are they able to relate to them in some way to each part of their lives, but they’re able to see the characters mature and develop to enrich the narrative.

In books giving advice about writing, they often say that the readers want more than anything to see development in a character. In the Hunger Games, seeing Katniss go from a selfish, hard girl to a steely and emotionless to a romantic and sly one is fascinating. Yet in real life this is hardly the case. When people tell you in high school that the bullies are jealous and will grow out of throwing food at you and spreading rumours, it’s true that whilst the methods will evolve, the motivation will remain the same. Whilst ordinarily this character transformation is implausible, the way Alderman artfully went from each time-frame meant that each quirk of each character could be exposed, and that a believable and subtle change over time could be seen.

Now for the characters themselves; there was diversity within the characters, which is important to me but not necessarily for all the reasons in which diversity is important for most people. So often in modern literature you do find this eagerness to over-compensate for the lack of diversity in the past, and I have spoken about this topic at length in my other posts. To this extent, I find that The Power has the perfect balance. The character Tunde is one of these, as he does add new perspective, being male, which is crucial for multiple reasons. It’s important because although it’s a female-centric novel, the impact of The Power is on everyone, so to be able to explore how a man feels not only adds variety but is vital to give the reader the full experience of the revolution that the world is going through.

I recently went to a screening of Journey’s End and I asked the producer afterwards if they were worried about what people would say about the lack of diversity in the film. I have studied WW1 to a great extent and I understand the context that the film has, but many people won’t, and it could potentially cause some backlash because in society at the moment people feel so passionately about this topic. He replied that the board had considered including multiple ethnicities, but ultimately felt like it wouldn’t be true to reality. This is a line that I completely support, because I was genuinely curious and (unlike my friends’ firm beliefs) didn’t ask simply to make the producer feel uncomfortable.

To that extent, I’m glad that Alderman wasn’t trying to address all the problems in society in her novel. She focused very clearly on the female role within modern society, allowing that theme to take precedence instead of including lots of random characters and rogue traits which you often feel like are only included in books so that they can win some obscure prize based on the issue on the character has. The Power is  revolutionary because it asks what if women did have more power, what if the tables had turned and they represented more than angry feminists and people who couldn’t vote just over 100 years ago. Alderman’s not trying on top of that to address alcoholic parents, abusive relationships and mental disorders.

This book should be on a pedestal for all others for the fact alone that Alderman took one problem, turned it on it’s head, and made a best seller. You don’t have to include the entire LGBT+ community and organic vegetables to create a conversation.

Overall, though, the success of The Power is cannot be attributed to the great writing, the vivid use of crime, the development of characters nor the sustained focus on the original problem if one does not consider the timing. Now clearly this book has been in the making for years; yet the timing of its release could not have been better planned. Why? With the recent Hollywood scandals and the whole #metoo campaign, the conversation about women in society has been generated again and this means that The Power is going to be read by people who have this topic already on their mind by simply scrolling through their tweeter feed, meaning that they’re much more likely to be perceptive to the ideas that Alderman is grappling.