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review 2019-05-14 08:21
Feminist poetry collection about the ‘final girls’ of horror movies is empowering; pays homage to horror heroines
I Am Not Your Final Girl: Poems - Claire C. Holland

I love horror novels. I also love horror movies (probably not a secret by now, if you’ve read any of my reviews, and know of my film background). So this slim but powerful volume of poetry dedicated to the final girls of horror cinema reminded me exactly why I love them both.

Women have always played vital and shocking roles in horror movies, but in the wake of all of horror’s hapless victims, Holland’s poems pay homage to the countless survivors, warriors, and fighters among the ranks of our favorite films in the horror genre; the slasher flicks, the hauntings, the violent exorcisms.

The poems are about everyone from the unforgettable 'Carrie', to the original ‘Scream Queen’ Laurie in ‘Halloween,’ to Selena in '28 Days Later.' There may well be a high body count of women in these films, but the ones who fight and thrash and scream bloody murder, even if they don't make it to the end, are the ones who make their mark on our memories.

Claire C. Holland goes further than just to shine a spotlight on the most well-known celluloid superstars like Rosemary from Roman Polanski's 'Rosemary's Baby' (a personal favorite of mine, played by the brilliant Mia Farrow), and Sally, who is tortured and brutalized in the horrific cult classic 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' (played by Marilyn Burns). She has also written poems about the horror ‘heroines’ (we will call them that even if some them don't survive), of many smaller, lesser-known, and independent films.

The poems are divided into four different sections: Assault, Possession, Destruction, and Possession, to reflect the role or type of hell that horror heroine goes through on screen. Holland hits the nail on the head with depicting the pain, the brutality, violence, and sheer terror that is inflicted on these characters in their respective roles on film, and at the core of every one of them is the spirit of a girl, a woman, who isn’t going to go down without a fight. These poems make you feel a certain discomfort, a frustration, an anger at the misfortunes and acts that are inflicted on them,  and on women in general, and in so many of the poems, it’s clear that the violence or horror of the film mirrors acts that many females have  to endure in real life. My own reaction on reading these poems, especially after having seen the respective films, was very visceral; I will have to read them more times now to fully absorb them.  I also feel like Holland has made these characters even more real to me, some of whom I thought I already knew so well already, by giving them more of a ‘voice’ in this way.

 

I ordered the Night Worms 'Final Girls' Subscription Book Box partly because of this book being in it (along with Stephen Graham Jones' 'The Last Final Girl' and 'Tribesman' by Adam Cesare), and I'm so glad I did. I connected immediately with the poems because of my love of horror movies (I knew I would); but what I was most surprised and most affected by was the introduction by Holland, where she expresses her sentiments on the feminist stance she has taken with these poems. I was truly blown away by her powerful and heartfelt introduction. There has been a lot of talk about how this poetry collection connects to the state of ‘womanhood’ today; women NEED to read this empowering literature and poetry. If horror is not your bag of chips, this won’t be for you, BUT if you have a survivor or final girl in you, you will find these poems inspirational, horrifying, and thrilling.

 

**Thanks for adding a few more movies to my already long movie list, Claire C. Holland!

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/38197382-i-am-not-your-final-girl
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review 2019-04-29 09:44
A diverse collection of beautifully observed and written stories
Live Show, Drink Included - Vicky Grut

I received an ARC copy of the book from the publisher. This has in no way affected the content of my review.

This is a great collection of short stories. The author has a talent for being able to create a vivid background for her stories and she also gives us a good insight into who her characters are and what makes them tick. I am mostly a reader of novels, and I am aware that sometimes, even after reading a whole novel we still don’t have a clear sense of who these characters are, so this is a skill I particularly appreciate. The stories are beautifully observed; we get to see what is going on through the heads of the characters and also the situation that develops around them. The stories share a variety of moments and events in the lives of the characters, seemingly chosen randomly, ranging from tales of job difficulties, to family relationships, illnesses, and even the death of some of the characters.

I didn’t find any of the stories weak, and I enjoyed them all, although some of them might be better received depending on the mood of the reader and personal taste.

I’ll briefly comment each one:

In the Current Climate. A quietly menacing story that although somewhat surreal and taken to extremes seems very apt in today’s job market and big companies.

Debts. In appearance a vignette of everyday life rather than a complete story, it beautifully conveys how our state of mind can be reflected and amplified by everything around us: interfering neighbours, children’s tantrums, and even the weather. Mundane, wonderfully observed and beautiful.

Downsizing. After reading this story, I don’t think I’ll ever think of audits and management books in quite the same way. A great combination of realistic insight into the workings of modern companies and corporations and the whimsy and imagination of people that can never be totally subjugated.

Mistaken. Retail therapy with a difference. An articulate and high-achieving academic discovers that prejudice is still alive and well, sisterhood can have different meanings for different people, and some artworks can be prescient.

An Unplanned Event. The story of a man who never felt he belonged anywhere and finally gets to feel accepted and loved.

Escape Artist. A young woman ends up violently trapped at home and realises that she is also trapped in her relationship.

Live Show, Drink Included. What starts at a seemingly seedy and slightly menacing location turns up to be a beautiful love story full of light humour and some of my favourite lines.

“If you cut me open with a little knife there’d be a print of her right there in the middle of me” (Grut, 2018, p. 86).

A Minor Disorder. Two young men travelling in South Africa in the mid-1950s with very different attitudes to the situation are affected by the atmosphere around them in contrasting ways.

Saucers of Sweets. A story of life imitating art, especially recommended to people in the book publishing business, with some precious quotes.

“A book should be like a saucer of sweets, each chapter brightly wrapped and inviting in its own right” (Grut, 2018, p. 100).

Stranger. A lyrical observational vignette about an episode that feels oddly familiar and can be read in different ways.

Rich. This story contains the germ of a whole novel, full of fascinating characters (I loved Ashley), a compelling background and enlightening insights. It also has a great sense of time, place, and atmosphere. Its open ending can be discomforting to some readers, but I found it liberating.

There is a quote that particularly resonated with me:

“People equate emotion with weakness…” (Grut, 2018, p. 132).

Visitors. A vignette of small-town life in Wales, containing sharp observations about family relationships and motherly love.

On the Way to the Church. A possible life-changing revelation comes at the weirdest moment and explains many things.

Into the Valley. Having spent time in hospital with both of my parents in recent times, this story felt particularly touching and true to life. It records the last ten days in the life of a woman, spent in hospital, from the perspective of her daughter-in-law. The longest of the stories, it captures the feeling of numbness and routine that can take over one’s life in such circumstances.

“Night shift, day shift, back again to the night. We are far away from the world. We are in the Valley. Deep In” (Grut, 2018, p. 166-7).

There are characters with similar or the same names in different stories, and there are also typical corporate speech expressions which appear in separate stories, so as we read them we might find some similarities or links between the stories included, but as the end note explains, many of the stories have been published before, have received awards, and can, indeed, be read separately. I was impressed by the quality of the collection and this is an author I intend to keep a close eye on in the future.

Grut, V. (2018). Live show, drink included. Collected stories. London, UK: Holland Park Press.

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review 2019-04-23 10:30
All that glitters is not gold...
Silas Marner - George Eliot

I have previously reviewed the delights of ‘Middlemarch’ (see blogpost dated 1/1/17), which is generally regarded as the pinnacle of George Eliot’s literary achievements and undoubtedly it is a masterpiece. I also catapulted ‘Adam Bede’ onto my favourites shelf (see post dated 10/6/17) and so I came to ‘Silas Marner’, the author’s third novel (originally published in 1861) with high expectations and again, I was not disappointed. In truth, this book is another sublime tale by Eliot, with at its core a challenging moral conundrum, which has further bolstered my admiration of her work.

 

Eliot has ‘form’ in conferring unflattering characteristics on wealthy scoundrels, counterbalancing a virtuous example of the poor and comparatively powerless, but the story of the ‘Weaver of Raveloe’ is far more than a simple exposition of right and wrong, good and bad. Rather, like the main character’s fine linen, it is an intricately woven piece of artisanship, which demonstrates the redeeming and noble capacity of good people to do the right thing, even in the absence of personal gain. Such egalitarian principles may not be the social norm’, but in the small communities described by Eliot, they do establish reputations and reinforce social standing.

 

Silas Marner arrives at Raveloe chastened by a false accusation of theft in his pious, former community, who turned against him despite a lack of evidence. As a consequence, Marner moves away, turns inward and maintains only limited contact with his new neighbours, to sell his linens and buy food. By design, Marner’s becomes an isolated, frugal and reclusive life. Yet, even in the absence of contact with his peers, the central character discovers he cannot avoid the shaping of a local reputation, born of rumour and the imagination of villagers. The theft of his life’s savings, however, brings Marner to an even lower point in his life, from which his resilience will be ultimately tested.

 

The parallel plotline, deftly created by the author, concerns the sons of the local Squire Cass, whose privileged, profligate lifestyle is diametrically opposed to that of Silas Marner and yet converge they must upon the introduction of a two year-old orphan, who becomes the pivotal character for the respective storylines. Disregarding local opinions, Marner takes responsibility for the child (under the existing ‘Poor Law’ this would otherwise have fallen on the parish) and here strong female characters come onto play. I’m especially fond of Dolly Winthrop, local matriarch, who befriends Marner and takes the ardent bachelor in hand, to support the child-rearing and steer him into the heart of the village. ‘Eppie’ as she is christened gives new life to Marner and he in turn selflessly dedicates himself to her.

 

Only on the cusp of her adulthood are the ties of love tested by those of blood. A decision about whether to accept an opportunity for social elevation is a theme Eliot returns to in ‘Middlemarch’, written some ten years later and the author again mines a very fertile seam here, highlighting the apparently arbitrary nature class and of life’s chances. However, there are a number of underlying messages to be gleaned from this nineteenth century parable. Among them,‘life is what one makes of it’; 'it's never too late to change'; and ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. In any event, such masterful storytelling continues to resonate with our own time and great writing will always have an audience. Another for my favourites shelf.

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review 2019-03-19 13:22
ARC REVIEW From Breath and Ruin by Carrie Ann Ryan
From Breath and Ruin (Elements of Five, #1)Elements of Five #1, debut YA book Carrie Ann Ryan's newest series might not be for everyone and as someone who doesn't typically read young adult I loved it. It didn't feel like a young adult at times I even forgot that Lyric was just eighteen and as per usual Ryan played with my emotions it seemed like I was reading one of her PNR books just without the sex. There is romance in it and I think I know where she's going to go with it but I always expect the unexpected with Ryan. But the story has grabbed my attention and now I won't be happy until I've read them all.

Lyric is just your average teenager who's good at so many things but nothing she wants to do forever. She stuck trying to figure out what she wants to do for the rest of her life when a classmate and her cute older brother ask Lyric and her friends Braelynn and Emory to go hiking. But when something happens on that hike it sends Lyric's life into a tailspin of events that will forever change her life.

The Maison Realm and the wielders remind me of several things from my childhood, specifically The Dark Crystal, and I loved it, it was like The Last Airbender meets The Dark Crystal and Alice in Wonderland. A once happy kingdom now divided into light and dark and one person with all the combined powers is destined to reunite the kingdom. Lyric is said to be this Spirit Priestess with the combined powers of all the elements. Whether or not Lyric actually believes she is is another matter, for now she just wants to help Rhodes get his sister back.

I loved the characters in this book. Lyric is the main character and narrator so we see first hand how she reacts to everything going on around her; her feelings for Braelynn her best friend, Rhodes her crush, Emory her ex-girlfriend and all the others they meet on their journey. Lyric is very conflicted and is unsure about almost everything she's at a crossroads in her life and throw in the fact that she's some prophesied priestess that will stop a war and fix what's broken just compounds on to her insecurity and her self worth. Everyone believes in her but herself so there is quite a bit of internal struggle going on with Lyric along with fighting off bad guys. 
 
Overall, outstanding book. From the start this book pulled me in and kept me entertained the whole time. Engaging characters and descriptive narrative, I can't wait for more Carrie Ann Ryan knows how to set the hook.
 
 
 

 

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review 2019-02-19 14:06
ARC REVIEW Jagged Ink by Carrie Ann Ryan


Jagged Ink (Montgomery Ink: Colorado Springs, #3)Montgomery Ink: Colorado Springs #3, Another great book from Carrie Ann Ryan. This book was hard to read at points, not because it was bad but because it was so emotionally heart wrenching. I have been through something similar and the part where they actually talk about it was difficult to get through; despite having to stop to wipe away tears I still finished it in one sitting.

Roxie and Carter hit a rough patch in their marriage and the accident at Thea's bakery didn't help any matters. Not knowing how to talk to each other anymore was their downfall. Roxie filed for divorce and Carter moved out. With family and friend not knowing what to do but watch from the sidelines and be there when they need them; which is difficult for Carter because he feels like he's not a Montgomery and they are Roxie's family they should be there for her. Only Roxie cut herself off from her family and has been spending time with Liam, one of the Boulder cousins. They still need to hit rock bottom before they can work their way back out of the hole they dug themselves into. Can they rebuild the relationship or is it too late to try?

Overall, I love this series and this was an emotional rollercoaster. I knew I was in for an ugly cry when I picked this up but I wasn't prepared for how close to home it would hit for me. I'm sad to see this chapter of the Montgomery's to come to an end but I look forward to the Boulder Montgomerys.




 

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