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I’m not sure where Ruth Dudley Edwards picked up the expression ‘hater’, but I am definitely not a fan of her use of it. This is a serious book. Sure, it has moments of brevity (most notably a famine joke in the footnotes), but calling Thomas Clarke a hater more than once is jarring. It’s also oddly dismissive and reductive. But then, that can be said about a lot of this book. I enjoyed the structure of the book – a chapter about each of the signatories of the proclamation, and then a few chapters on how they came together and how their lives ended, although this format did lead to the wider context often being overlooked – but it’s clear from the outset that Dudley Edwards is not a supporter of the rising. Fair enough. Not everyone is, and not everyone should be. But there are times when she seems to be going out of her way to smear the seven men she’s writing about. My eyebrows got a work out as I read through some of her thoughts and conclusions. It’s a good book though, one that manages to hold your interest through the tedious confusion of the many organisations set up to reinvigorate Irish culture and/or resist British rule. I particularly enjoyed her frequent mentions of many of the women connected to ‘The Seven’. These women are often forgotten about but their influence on Irish politics should not be overlooked. I have this four stars on Goodreads because, although I didn’t agree with everything Dudley Edwards had to say, I enjoyed the book as a whole, despite the truly terrible cover. Plus, it reminded me that Thomas MacDonagh named his son Donagh – Donagh MacDonagh – which never ceases to baffle me.
Another non-fiction title, though one a little less serious. 148 diaries are found in a skip and Alexander Masters embarks on a quest to discover who they belonged to. A Life Discarded reads a bit like a mystery at times, as Masters extracts information from the diaries and builds a picture of the mystery diarist. One of the key conceits of the early chapters is that the diarist never names themselves, but Masters slips up and gives us the name a few pages before ‘the big reveal’. All of this takes place while a close friend of Masters’ is dying from cancer, which was the weakness of the book for me. While it’s tragic that he suffered such a loss, I’m not interested in reading about his personal life. I’m interested in the mystery diarist. A lot of reviews I’ve read online say the opposite – that they’re interested in Masters but not in the diarist – but this is supposed to be a biography (it’s dewey mark at the library puts it in the history section, oddly enough), and not an autobiographical one. Still, it’s a short read and entertaining on the whole, though there’s so much more I would have liked to know about the diarist.
Belinda McKeon’s debut novel Solace is a beautiful piece of literature, so I had high hopes for Tender. Sadly, they weren’t met. Tender is a well-written book with quite an interesting narrative structure, but I just didn’t believe it. Two characters, Catherine and James, meet in Dublin and become instantly close. Only, do they? We observe their first meeting, and although James talks a lot, there doesn’t seem to be any indication of a bond between them. Although we’re immediately thrust into their closer-than-siblings friendship, I just never believed any of it. Catherine is plagued by uncertainties, and James has led a life of sexual repression. These neuroses feed into each other, providing the plot of Tender, but I could never see in them a genuine friendship. The Ireland it’s set in, late 1990s Ireland, is also not one I recognise. I would have been two or three years younger than Catherine and James during the main period of this book, and my parents are nothing like the restrictive, repressed parents we see in Tender, parents whose attitudes seem wildly outdated, even for pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland. So, while I can admire the artistry in this book, it sadly just wasn’t for me.
I’ve decided to sign up for my first blog event, Sci-Fi Month 2016. Woohoo! I’ve read a lot of posts that have come out of this event over the past few years, but I’ve never participated before, so I’m pretty excited. It’s a celebration of everything sci-fi related and I’ll probably be focusing on comics, favourite authors and favourite television programmes. That might change though since it’s not until November and who knows what posts I’ll be in the mood for by then 😉 I’m also going to an author event with Becky Chambers two days before the event starts, so she might inspire me to do something completely different (my sci-fi favourites tend to lack diversity to a degree that’s embarassing).
If you’re a sci-fi fan and blogger, head over to Rinn Reads to find out more about the challenge and sign up. You know you want to.
We all remember how The Great British Bake Off was supposed to save 2016 for us, but then betrayed us by being sold to another station and having both the hosts and a judge pull out of any future series, yeah? Sad times so here’s hoping the new series of Still Game will save us instead! For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Still Game is a Scottish comedy that originally ran from 2002-2007. It follows Jack and Victor, two Glasgwegian patter merchants who aren’t content to be resigned to the background now that they’re old age pensioners. It’s not the subtlest of humours, but it’s undeniably laugh out loud television, that also fits in some touching stories about depression, illness, family and loneliness. The first episode of the new season was a solid return and I’m hoping things get even better as it goes along. (PS, most of it is on YouTube if you’re interested in checking it out. It’s also on Netflix if you’re in the UK or Ireland.)
Been a bit of weird week for me reading-wise. I started Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer on September 28th and realised a few days later that I had no idea where the book actually was. I usually keep the book I’m reading in the bag I take to work, since my commute over three hours long altogether, but it’s not there. Which means I took it out at some point but when? And where did I put it? I still haven’t found it. The whole thing inspired me to finish The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1, though, which I started reading in June. I also started, but haven’t quite finished, The Seven: The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic by Ruth Dudley Edwards (mostly because someone had the audacity to put a reservation on it and since I have the only copy in the library system I’ll actually need to bring it back on time now). Which is all well and good, but where the hell has Acceptance disappeared to?????
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power – Ryan North & Erica Henderson. This was a belated birthday present from a friend and, as already mentioned, I started reading it in June, but never made it past the first issue. The thing is, I really loved the first issue. It was sweet and funny and clever and charming, and I think I was a bit afraid that it couldn’t maintain all of that. Luckily, when I picked it back up, the whole thing was awesome. Doreen aka Squirrel Girl is such a wonderfully optimistic character, something which is always welcome in the Marvel Universe. She’s off to start a new adventure at University, but finds that bank robbers and super villains keep getting in the way. That’s okay though, because Doreen’s gonna make it all work out, kicking ass in the morning, and attending orientation in the afternoon <3
These were a massive disappointment after the first two volumes. Although things started to get dark almost from the beginning, everything is now grim as fuck. There are no glimmers of humour, no flashes of fun, just death, destruction and so-so characterisation. Kadir becomes a cardboard cut-out villain, while Grant’s backstory makes him even more unlikeable, and revelations about Rebecca are so ridiculous and lazy that I rolled my eyes every time she was mentioned. It also features the absolutely terrible line from Grant to Rebecca of ‘You weren’t my mistress, I was yours!’. This is supposed to be a moment of earth-shattering revelation and instead is actually pretty offensive to women. So, yeah, not good reads. I could also have done with a bit less right-up-the-nostril artwork.
I don’t know why I waited so long to read this because aaaahhhhh!!!! In many ways, Authority is a completely different book to Annihilation. The focus moves from the mysterious Area X to the equally mysterious Southern Reach, the organisation charged with studying and containing Area X. But things start to unravel almost immediately. What do the people at Southern Reach really know about Area X? And what exactly happened to the last expedition they sent in? The further into the book we get, the more unsettling things become. Loved it!
I still don’t like Jon. At all. I felt that his mental health issues were dealt with really well, and his new therapist is pretty excellent, but it wasn’t enough to make me warm to him. I’m also not a massive fan of the sex police. The way ‘Kegelface’ is drawn bothers me (those eyebrows are disturbing), as does her outfit. I’m also not sure about the diversification of sex powers throughout these volumes. I don’t know man, there are a lot of things about Sex Criminals that I’m just not in to. What I do like though, is Suzie, Ana, and the amazing scene where Suzie confronts her prejudice towards sex workers, and apologises to Ana. I’ll pick up Volume 4 when it comes out, but to be honest, this isn’t a title that I’d particularly recommend to people.
I have such mixed feelings about this series too. I feel like the underlying concept just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Hurrah for a school for assassins, but having kids from all sorts of criminal groups from across the world doesn’t seem like the best idea. What’s to stop them from killing each other on behalf of their families? We’re told that violence against fellow students is not allowed, but it happens all the time and no one ever gets punished. Plus, won’t their friendships affect their work later in life? So, yeah… Again, I’ll probably read more of this but it won’t make it on to the list of comics I recommend to other people.
A pretty solid prequel to Jupiter’s Legacy, Jupiter’s Circle gives us a look into ‘The Union’ aka the super-powered parents being rebelled against in Jupiter’s Legacy. It’s the 1950s and being a superhero isn’t as straight-forward as it seems. There’s a pleasing diversity to the characters in this, and although The Union evolve into world leaders, we see them here at their most human. A decent read if you liked Jupiter’s Legacy, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
A scientist creates a device that will allow us to travel to alternate versions of Earth. His idea is that we can find the cure to cancer, the solution to water-shortages, and anything else we need, in these other Earths. Of course, things can’t be quite so simple. The device gets sabotaged. The scientist finds himself jumping at random through Earths that are nothing like he expected, accompanied by a team from his lab, his boss and his kids. And it’s fun! I’m looking forward to the next two volumes which are sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.
I picked this up after reading about it in The Guardian, and I’m so glad I did. This is such an unexpected little book. The writing style is quite matter of fact, a little dry even, so it takes a while to warm to, but stick with it – it’s worth it. We follow a young Turkish man in Berlin between the wars. He is uncertain about himself and his place in the world, but as much as this is his story, the star of the book is Maria, the Madonna in a Fur Coat herself. Maria is determined to be herself no matter what. She is blunt in her refusal to submit to the male gaze under any terms but her own. In short, she is unexpected and amazing. Read this. You’ll quickly see why it’s seen as a rebellious book under the current government in Turkey.
Jack Sparks is a famous journalist. He’s also a drug addict. He writes journalistic exposes in the vein of Hunter S. Thompson (or at least he thinks he does). His latest book, ‘Jack Sparks on the Supernatural’ is to be his best yet. Only he dies before he can finish it. The Last Days of Jack Sparks is presented as his unedited manuscript, prefaced and footnoted by his semi-estranged brother. Jack, to put it mildly, is an unreliable narrator, and he’s a pretty unapologetic arsehole. Shot through with humour and horror (always a good combination), this was a much more interesting read than I was expecting, and I recommend it to horror fans looking for something a little bit different.
Not gonna lie, I took this out of the library based on its cover. So pretty! Happily, this is also a lovely little read. There are some negative reviews on Goodreads that say that this book doesn’t portray the Brontës accurately. This is not a book about the Brontës (thank goodness. Their lives were unspeakably dreary). It’s a book that just happens to take place in and around the area where the Brontës lived (well, not exactly, but to say any more would be a bit of a spoiler). Yuki, a young Japanese women, is in England, retracing a journey her mother took before her. We’re not sure why Yuki is following in her mother’s footsteps, and neither, it seems, is Yuki. Events unfold quietly, in unexpected ways, and the story of Yuki Chan and her mother begins to take shape. This is a story about family, about how well we can ever really know anyone, and about what binds us together. And it’s worth a read, even if Yuki couldn’t give a damn about the Brontës.
Cora wakes up in the middle of the night to find her estranged aunt Rose standing in the corner of her room. Although Rose doesn’t talk, Cora realises that Rose wants to take her somewhere. And so, without quite realising it, they embark on a journey across New York on foot. In flashbacks, we see Rose’s childhood in a group home run by a hypocritical pastor. As Cora and Rose walk, we become aware that absolutely nothing is as it seems. I came across Samantha Hunt when I read The Seas, which was a quiet book, loaded with repressed emotion and suffused with magical realism. Happily, Mr. Splitfoot follows the same pattern, though I found it darker than The Seas. Recommended to fans of magical realism, and fans of books that don’t tell you where they’re headed until they actually get there.
As I mentioned on my Instagram account, I’m not a massive fan of Robin/Dick Grayson, so reading about his first year as a superhero didn’t appeal that much to me. The stories were well done, and confronted the fact that Bruce Wayne shouldn’t be quite so gung-ho in running around Gotham with a child for a sidekick, but I was in this for Batgirl. Despite never having read any of the comics she appeared in before last year, Barbara Gordon is my hero. DC have had some terrible versions of her – versions that asked permission for everything they did. Versions that let Batman control them and their actions for very little reason. Versions that lacked agency and general kick-assery. This is not one of those versions. This Barbara initially becomes Batgirl to freak her Dad out at a costume party, but she quickly realises that she can make a real difference in Gotham and plunges herself whole-heartedly into the business of being a superhero. Batman’s not always happy at what she gets up to, and she’s not always sure she’s doing a good job, but she keeps at it with determination and verve<3 Plus, the artwork is really cool.
The story in this isn’t the worst, but the art… The art in this is absolutely disgraceful. The front cover is an excellent example. There’s Catwoman, being all bad-ass with her whip. Which has obviously excited her so much that her incredibly perky nipples are showing right through her leather outfit. There’s a lot of this. A lot of perky, physically improbable, nipples, and a lot of action shots of Catwoman on all fours, her arse splayed invitingly towards the reader. I’m actually disgusting myself typing this up so I’m going to stop.
The glory of Fleabag has almost made me forgive the BBC for moving BBC 3 online. That said, I would never have found out about it if it wasn’t for this Guardian article which makes it sound spectacular. And my god, it is spectacular. It’s dark and hilarious and sad and awkward and really fucking good. It’s on the iPlayer, so you’ll have no problems devouring all six episodes in one go like I did. For non-UKers, I’m pretty sure Amazon have picked it up, so you have a subscription to Amazon Prime, go find the glory that is this programme.