One Lovely Blog Award

Whoo it’s FRIDAY!!!

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Okay, technically it’s not Friday for me anymore, cos it’s past 12 here, but it’s Friday somewhere, right? Anyway, cos I’ve been doing some heavier posts lately, I wanted to let my hair down with a fun fact-filled tag- so I decided to finally get round to doing the One Lovely Blog Award- thanks so much to:

Diana Prince Reviews

The Paper Dragon

Aspiring Blue Cat

Sara Letourneau

The Bookish Underdog

Kirsty Reads

(Okay that was quite a few people- none of whom probably remember tagging me to do this…. sorry for taking so long and thanks again!)

Rules:

  • Each nominee must THANK the person who nominated them and link their blog in the post.
  • They must include the rules and add the blog award badge as an image
  • Must add 7 facts about them.
  • Then nominate 15 people!

Facts:

I’m gonna be sharing some music-themed facts about me- cos it’s fun (and don’t worry, the above meme is not actually evidence of my taste in music):

  1. I have a very eclectic tastes- I love everything from Taylor Swift to Black Sabbath, Mendelssohn to Disney and MJ to Queen! (although, let’s face it, everyone loves Queen)
  1. Well, everything except House and Dubstep. But this song makes me laugh so much…
  1. My all-time favourite band… well, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN- IT’S THE BEATLES!
  1. I go through phases with music- last month I was obsessed with George Ezra (still am to be honest)
  1. And this month I can’t stop playing this song on a loop:
  1. That and Gaelic folk music, for some inexplicable reason, it’s just so pretty…
  1. But that’s not weird at all- in December I couldn’t stop listening to the Muppets on a loop…

Alrighty then- hope you enjoyed hearing a bit about my peculiar music tastes! I tag:

JJ Azar, The Book and the Bone, The Book Raven, Alanna, I Adore Paper, Rivermoosereads, Rosereads, Blame Chocolate, All Bout Them Books and Stuff & Everything Under the Sun

And for the rest of you- what music are you currently into? Let me know in the comments!

 

When is something too much?

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So I’ve always thought of myself as having a strong constitution when it comes to violence of all colours and creeds in TV and literature. I mean, my favourite TV show is Game of Thrones, I enjoy a good Tarantino movie and have watched legs get sawn off in House (ok the last one did make me wince). And when it comes to books- I’m a diehard Hardy fan and can recognise that Lolita is a great work of fiction (even if I did throw that book at the wall multiple times while reading it). Yet as you may have seen in my post yesterday, even I have my limits. Sometimes there are stories and portrayals of things that just make me goddamn livid.

After watching the rape episode in Outlander, pretty much all I could think was “what the actual fuck”. And that’s a somewhat toned down version of my thoughts. I was seriously pissed off by it- which is even more surprising as I am not the kind of person to criticise a show for raping and torturing a character (hello- GOT fangirl here…)

So it got me to thinking- are there limits to what is acceptable? Can fiction ever be too much?

JJ Azar did a great piece a while back on the subject, which I highly recommend you read, but I wanted to give my reasons why violence is both good and necessary in literature:

  • “Life is suffering”– even if it’s gratuitous (sometimes even because it’s gratuitous) it’s cathartic and gives some alleviation from very real suffering
  • Furthermore, it’s often contextually relevant and realistic
  • It serves a purpose in the plot– not just for the catharsis, but sometimes it can be integral for a characters journey- which leads me onto…
  • Pain creates heroes and villains– without it these are just ordinary people- and we need extraordinary people in our fiction in order for it to deliver its message and make us feel the impossible
  • In this way it often serves a mythological and symbolic purpose in the story– images of suffering, such as those of Christ on the cross, serve as an immutable force in fiction. They carry all the weight of stories that have been remembered from the dawn of human consciousness. There is a power in that which cannot be explained by mere words.

So even though Outlander missed the mark for me- and I can see that it didn’t come close to hitting a lot of these targets- I cannot argue that there is a time when fiction ever goes “too far”. We may very well have our individual limits,  but ultimately nothing is too much if it is done well and for a purpose.

What do you think? Can fiction ever cross a line of what is and is not acceptable? I know this is definitely a more contentious issue- but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Outlander vs Outlander

outlander

Hello all! I’m doing something a little different today with this review, because I pretty much read the book and watched the show alongside each other. So I thought I would share my experiences by comparing them. Though to be honest, my biggest impression of it is a massive spoiler for the end of the story… That said- let’s get to some of the other comparisons first.

Characters

TV Show: I preferred the main character in the TV show for sure- she had more of an edge to her and the actress breathed life into the narrative. All in all, I think the TV show does a really great job of bringing the characters in the book to life.

Book: Despite the words being the same, for the most part, this can come across a little flat in the book.  One of the main criticisms I had was that the rapey Randall came across as a moustache twirling villain– which I promise we’ll get to, in excruciating detail…

randall

Atmosphere

TV Show: easily has the better atmosphere– not just because of the amazing shots of Scotland, but because of the wonderful soundtrack:

Book: The prose is slightly clunky, so this can get in the way of the atmosphere, but it’s still enjoyable enough

Plot

TV Show: For the most part it’s fast paced and interesting.

Book: Sometimes feels slower in the book due to the aforementioned clunky prose, but not much difference, apart from some parts being drawn out in the book as opposed to the show. Plus I have to give the book credit for the unique concept, if not to the way rape is so integral to the plot…

*Okay time for the very long spoilery bit*

The Rape

TV Show:

So like I said, there’s a lot of rape in the book and I didn’t have a problem with it for the most part because it’s set in the 18th century and contextually accurate. Plus for the most part I personally have a pretty strong constitution. But when it comes to summing up my emotions for the episode when Jamie is raped I’m really struggling not to just let out a stream of swear words– cos let’s be honest, there was *a lot* of swearing in my notes. It was over the line for me- for many, many reasons- but mostly because it was fucking ridiculous (yeah, sometimes only swearing will do…). It wasn’t even REMOTELY realistic.

It wasn’t just that the setup was strange (I mean we could start with the fact that Randall attempts to rape everyone but only “succeeds” once) but that the progression of emotions is really weird. Now it’s not that the emotions don’t make sense- or that the writers’ intentions to show the varied psychological affects is a bad idea- but that it skips through all of these emotions far too quickly. At the same time, rather than jumbling the emotions to show how mixed up Jaime feels, it goes through each feeling on its own, which makes for a super weird viewing experience.

In fact a lot of what was wrong with the pacing. I could deal with how jarring it was to go from his recovery to the rape- yet calling this “flashbacks” would imply speed. Instead we’re “treated” to long, drawn out sequences that I can only describe as torture porn. Now that’s totally fine if that’s your jam, but it was really not what I signed up for. For some reason the show makers took the artsy route. Everything is taken slowly and shot in such a way that it actually comes across as ridiculously romanticised. Not to mention the fact that they hammer you over the head with messages and imagery- not that, say, a subtle hint of the sacrificial Christ imagery would have been a bad thing, they just felt the need to point this out to the audience, in case we hadn’t already got the allusion. The writers become so caught up with trying to *say something profound* that they actually get it all wrong.

Book: It’s a little strange to say this, but I thought this was portrayed better in the book.

There are so many reasons for this- starting with the attitudes to rape in book being more matter of fact. In a way that took away some of the stigma that becomes impossible to get over in the show. They’re all tiptoeing round and speaking in hushed tones in the show, which makes me wonder how Jamie is supposed to recover in the course of an episode. Which- to be fair- is one of the biggest differences- because what takes up 10% of the book is only 1/16 of the series. It’s a slight difference- but to be honest it felt a lot less jarring because it was given more space. Even little things, like the confession scene, feel less out of the blue.

By comparison, the book doesn’t show nearly as much detail of the rape, paying far closer attention to Jamie’s emotions and recovery. This makes the psychological drama that’s playing out in Jaime’s head work so so much better. I got the sense of him surviving, yet not being able to live with it. His speech in the book is perfectly done:

“Now it’s like … like my own fortress has been blown up with gunpowder—there’s nothing left of it but the ashes and a smoking rooftree, and the little naked thing that lived there once is out in the open, squeaking and whimpering in fear, trying to hide itself under a blade of grass or a bit o’ leaf, but not … but not … making m-much of a job of it.”

And without all those long drawn out scenes, there’s a little bit more ambiguity which works better for creating a horrifying atmosphere- imagination is a powerful tool after all. Yet even with this ambiguity, some careful distinctions are drawn- such as between arousal and enjoyment, and between participation and coercion. It is a shame then that the show dance right over these lines into some pretty murky territory.

Finally, the cleansing ritual in the book, where Claire and Jamie re-enact bits of the rape and come to terms with it, is left out. Now I get why they didn’t put it in. The logic behind the scene is almost like saying “I’ll help you get over physical abuse by punching you in the face”- which is why I’m surprised that I’m saying I think it worked in the book. As illogical as it is, it actually symbolically deals with some of the psychological scarring, making Freudian links to the Oedipal desire to return to the safety of a mother’s care, allowing him to conquer his demons and find a safe space inside his own skull. Yes, yes, I know that still sounds weird- I for one am not normally a fan of Freudian psychology- still this actually gave a small sense of closure that is completely lacking in the show.

Verdict

Ultimately, neither the show nor the book (which I rated 2.5 bananas) were good enough to continue. Everything I liked about one, I didn’t like about the other. I find it very hard to give up on things- but when it came to this, I have no hesitation saying I won’t be continuing. I guess if I want to know how it ends I’ll read spoilers online.

And if you got to the end of through this very long (and very ranty piece) I salute you!

So have you seen/read this? Did you prefer one or the other? And what did you think of that infamous rape? Let me know in the comments!

OMG- I Have Something To Confess…

confess

Confession 1: I love a good romance- ergo I loved this book

Confession 2: This book wasn’t just love at first sight though- it made me laugh, it took me on an emotional journey and it kept me entertained till the end.

Confession 3: Plus, it was really well done- the concept was intelligent and the voices in this are really distinct. Really, it was a match made in heaven.

Confession 4: I have to say it: I adored the fact that OMG is an acronym for the love interest

Confession 5: I liked the fact this pulled at the heartstrings just so

Confession 6: And yet I felt like this still had just the right amount of action and drama

Confession 7: As an added bonus, I thought the artwork in this was lovely

Confession 8: I’m ok with him caring more about his work because he’s not totally self-centred- he’s the kind of artist I like best- dedicated but not douchy

Confession 9: I loved the idea of the protagonist’s first boyfriend passes on his gift and then his love- there’s something beautiful about it

Confession 10: I rated this 4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

So have you read this book? And do you like a good fluffy romance? Confess in the comments!

After You… There Was No Point To Anything

after-youSo it’s a few days after Valentine’s Day, so I feel like it’s safe to kvetch about a romantic book I didn’t enjoy: the utterly unnecessary sequel to Me Before You.

I have to say I almost dnf’d this at page 37. So far it had been pretty uneventful, I didn’t like the downbeat tone and then this sentence happened:

“Now, when I read newspaper stories about the bank teller who had stolen a fortune, the woman who had killed her child, the sibling who had disappeared, I found myself not shuddering in horror, as I once might have, but wondering instead at the story that hadn’t made it into black and white.”

So there’s a nice bit of moralising that wasn’t in the first one- let’s break down everything that’s wrong with this statement:

  • Moral equivalence between theft, murder and assisted suicide- which somewhat lessens the evil of a mother who kills her child
  • Oh great, the main character sympathises with child murderers now… I shouldn’t have to say this, but the horror of a mother who kills her child is pretty “black and white”
  • Using these really shitty examples to “prove” your point actually undermines it (and kinda proves why moralising doesn’t work)

Now I’d like to say that after this the book got better, but the plot of this was a hot mess (just like the main character). I mean, really- I felt like the story had ended at page 300– I was like “well that’s that then”. But it just kept going and going and… *spoiler alert* all that happened in this book was for the mc to end up back where she started, about to jet off somewhere else, moving on and living life.

If you’ve read the first one, you’ll know it had no need for sexual coercion, weird confrontations, dramatic accidents and shootouts because it was all about the people. But here the people and their relationships were left behind. I didn’t feel connected to the romance in the same way. I didn’t like or dislike the characters- I just didn’t care. Not even about the protagonist, Lou.

Obviously I get that she was a hot mess- I mean grief can do that to you. But the thing I had liked about her was her bubbly, quirky personality- which was completely gone in this book- it just didn’t feel like the same person.  And that was ultimately my biggest problem here- it could have been a separate story about entirely different people. The author easily could’ve left well enough alone- just like I should’ve.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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So have you read this book? What did you think about it? And what romantic book have you read that didn’t hit the mark? Let me know in the comments!

Inside Out Book Tag

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Hello all! Hope this Day-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named is treating you well… 😉 Nah, I’m kidding, I don’t have (many) hang-ups over Valentine’s Day- which is why I decided to drag up this book tag which was buried deep, deep down in my drafts to prove it! Thank you so much to the Paper Dragon for tagging me to do this (also remember when you tagged me to do this? No? Fair enough… It was over a year ago!) So, whatever Valentine’s Day makes you feel- love, anger, ambivalence- I hope you enjoy this very emotional tag!

A book that brings you JOY

carry on

It’s been ages since I read this and it still gives me the warm fuzzies when I think about it!

A book that makes you SAD

book thief

Amazing book though!

A book that makes you ANGRY

long-way-to-a-small-and-angry-planet

I was furious with Long Way to a small Angry Planet… as you may already know.

A book that DISGUSTS you

lolita

Ooh that’s a strong emotion- I think Lolita– even though I actually think it’s a really well written book, the subject matter is just so gross to me that I struggled to get through it.

A book that brings you FEAR

turn of the screw 2

*Shudders*

Okey dokey! That was fun! I tag:

Bookidote, My Midnight Musing, Drew, Never Seen A Nevergreen, Rivermoose Reads, Keira and Captain’s Quarters (ahoy there!)

Feel free to ignore if you’ve already done this!

And happy Valentine’s Day to you all! And let me know in the comments which book you read recently that brought out a strong emotional response!

Can personal experience ruin a book?

Right now I’m gonna be talking about…

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…you have been warned.

So obviously it’s coming up to Valentine’s Day and I’m thinking about *feelings* more, but really what inspired this post was that recently I read a book that I didn’t relate to. Now that’s hardly noteworthy… except that, without going into detail, I had personal experience of the subject matter and really should have related to it.

It got me wondering if personal experience can actually ruin a book. Not in that it might have “too much” of an effect– I will give a story credit for affecting me emotionally and even for taking me to dark places- but when it fails to hit that (sometimes excruciating) mark I will frankly be a bit peeved. When a book holds back on the painful punches, when it simplifies things, when it moralises- I feel a million miles away from it. It’s no good if difficult stories are prettied up for the sake of the audience. And it’s only more noticeable if I can say “no no no, it’s not like that at all”.

That’s not to say every experience is the same- but sometimes the way a character or story is constructed just doesn’t add up. Take Thirteen Reasons Why– a story written to reflect on the motivations of a friend who committed suicide. For me, and others, it missed the mark, because not only did it trivialise the reasons for suicide, it felt like it was ramming a message down my throat and the character’s emotions were way off (to name a few of the thirteen issues I had with it). In short, I just did not find it relatable.

Now none of this is to say that you have to have personal experience to write these difficult or traumatic stories. As someone that likes fantasy I don’t think it should always be “write what you know”- heck if that were the case Harry Potter wouldn’t exist (unless JK Rowling is secretly a boy wizard abused by his relatives). But- and here’s a big BUT- the author *really* needs to have empathy and go to all of the dark places inside the head of someone in a horrible situation- otherwise, what’s the point? If an author can’t write about someone’s struggles, then they should give their protagonist an easy life and be done with it. Don’t ride on the coattails of something difficult for the sake of being *deep and meaningful*- it will only do the issue the author is trying to bring to light a disservice.

Ok, that got a little bit more ranty than I meant it to. But what do you think? Am I the only one that has this problem? Let me know in the comments!