Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Review: The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both

The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both by Juno Dawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thought-provoking part memoir/part review of what it is to be a "woman" vs. what it is to be a "man" - with a strong, well-reasoned, argument that the whole concept of gender is essentially nonsense and sticking to rigid ideas about male and female gender doesn't benefit anyone (least of all those who don't feel they fit into any binary category).

I don't think this book is going to change any minds to be honest. If you think a man's a man and that's it, then you'll probably always think that (though you're highly unlikely to pick up this book in the first place). But if you want to understand more about why people transition (or question their gender), this provides an valuable insight.

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Friday, 15 June 2018

Review: Home Fire

Home Fire Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A modern day retelling of Antigone (a Greek play which, before I read this, I'd never head of to be honest) that provides a powerful insight into how Muslim youths - or any youth for that matter - can become radicalised (and how they can realised, too late, that they've been misled). It also shows the impact of having a "Jihadi" in the family; there is a real sense of damned if you do and damned if you don't. Do you support them? Or do you abandon them to their choice in a bid to protect the rest of the family?

The only thing I didn't like about is the central love story. I found the character of Eammon a little annoying. His actions are naive to say the least and comes across a teenager even though he's meant to be about 24.

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Monday, 7 May 2018

Review: The Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The perfect book to read over a long weekend - compelling but also non-taxing.

However, I did struggle with the subplot story of Izabela and Laurent. Rich girl constrained by the rules of society meets bohemian artist isn't exactly a new concept when it comes to romantic fiction, but there were one or two twists and turns that keeps it (sort of) interesting. Plus without this subplot, Maia's story would just be your average tale of repressed woman learns to live life to the full etc.

This is actually the first in what I am presuming is seven books - each one charting the story of how one of the adopted sisters finds out her origins. There are actually only six sisters but there's blatant foreshadowing about the "missing" seventh sister (which relates to The Seven Sisters mythology I think) - so, I'd be very surprised if there wasn't a seventh book about her once she is found.

Not sure if I will read the others in the series (the fourth one has just been published), but I'd definitely consider them the next time I'm in need of an easy read.

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Thursday, 3 May 2018

Review: Dr James Barry: A Woman Ahead of Her Time

Dr James Barry: A Woman Ahead of Her Time Dr James Barry: A Woman Ahead of Her Time by Michael du Preez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Dr James Barry: A woman ahead of her time" is the astonishing true story of Margaret Anne Bulkley - a woman who, for most of her life, pretended to be a man and worked as an army surgeon. That she managed to "get away" with her disguise for so long would have been an impressive feat by itself but she also did this while working her ways through the ranks to become one of the highest ranked medical officers in the British army.

The tragic part is that she was probably extremely lonely - she daren't get too close to anyone for fear of them discovering her secret. Plus, she doesn't come across as the easiest of people; her temper frequently being the cause of many falling outs and career set backs.

Perhaps, Barry could be seen as a transgendered man but that's impossible to know. Had Margaret had the same opportunities to be a doctor as "James" had, then you could ascribe "his" decision to live as a man as an indication that "he" saw "himself" as a man. But, her choices as "Margret" were to be a governess or get married - so deciding to be "James" could well have been she simply wanted a better life for herself. Particularly as there were indications she missed being able to live as a woman.

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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A haunting tale of three girls (and their teacher) who go missing on Hanging Rock after a school trip to the site.

The reason for their disapperance is famously never explained - there's just the merest suggestion of them being supernaturally called away - giving it a sense of otherworldiness. But, the impact that their disapperance has the community is actually pretty realistic. Things fall apart, bonds are broken, and some (rather sweetly) are made.

Overall, an odd book that's hard to describe. May have to pitch it to my book group as definitely one that could spark a lot of discussion,

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Friday, 13 April 2018

Review: The Good People

The Good People The Good People by Hannah Kent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absorbing story of three women and their attemtps to "cure" a severely disabled child - all of them convinced he is a "changeling" (a fairy subsitute for the real child). The lengths they go to are shocking and disturbing, making you realise how poorly understood disability was in the 19th Century (when the book is sent) - particularly in communities in which people were poorly educated. At best, you'd be written off as a "cretin" (which is actually a medical term) or condemmed for being "a fairy" at worse.

You have sympathy for Nance Roche despite her pedalling of "cures" and what she does to cure Michael. People are weary of her because of her connection to the "Good People" and for the crime of being unmarried - that doesn't stop them going to her when they need a cure or curse though. She's exactly the type of woman who would have been burnt as a witch in earlier times. Valuable when her cures seems to work but the devil when they don't.

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Friday, 23 March 2018

Review: Heart of Oneness: A Little Book of Connection

Heart of Oneness: A Little Book of Connection Heart of Oneness: A Little Book of Connection by Jennifer Kavanagh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thoughtful essay on how we, as people, connect with each other, our surroundings, and even the universe. One of the reasons I buy Jennifer's books is because I know her and want to support her work. However, I honestly believe I would buy them even if I didn't know her - I really admire her writing style. It's elegant without ever being superfluous - a word I can spell without having to resort to Google (ahem) - in fact, it's the type of writing I dream of producing.

There is a slight religious bent to the book, but I think it can be appreciated by religious and non-religious alike. Definitely something to read on a quiet afternoon when you have the time to contemplates its messages.

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