Passion…It lies in all of us..

During difficult times its basic human nature to seek solace. Our own little thing that gives momentary relief from the pain or distress we may be suffering. For some it’s carnal pleasure, others a large glass of wine or a double whiskey. For me it’s the written word.

It’s always been the way for me. As a child I dealt with being bullied by my peers by escaping and seeking comfort in between the pages of a book. Fictional characters from fictional worlds giving me the strength to believe I could and would be okay, that it was more important to be a good person as opposed to being pretty and popular (though you can find some lucky people who embody all these traits) I have spoken previously on my blog, albeit very briefly, that I lost my way with reading for a couple of years, then when my dad passed away I threw myself back into it, seeking comfort in The Deathly Hallows the evening before the funeral (I spent the whole night reading it as I couldn’t sleep and still feel it’s responsible for giving me the strength for one of the hardest days of my adult life)

I haven’t read much since November when my life took something of a turn and it’s taken me a while to get my head around things. Although I am reading more now than I was, I still have bouts of time where I just feel my head feels too fuzzy for anything to sink in properly. But one thing that helps is passion. This weekend my friend Fiona came to visit and I passed her a few books to try out (Fangasm, Fangirl and The Great Gatsby) and there was a moment where I got so excited gushing about what I loved about each of the books that it made me want to re-read them all right there and then. It gave me that fire, that passion that ignites in me whenever I discuss one of my nerdy loves (Buffy…Supernatural…books…to name but a few) and it made me realise that this is perhaps what I should do when I find myself losing my way. I should talk about the book with someone or re-read a book that set a fire in my soul.

I find comfort in the written word so much, and right now I need it so much. I need that escape to ease my mind and quieten down the chaos going on in there…So perhaps I’ll blog more when I’m feeling lost, about the books that mean a lot to me.

Watch this space and happy reading.

G.

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Fangasm:Supernatural Fangirls – A Review

Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls by Katherine Larsen and Lynn S. Zubernis.

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Ok, so at this point I think some of you must be rolling your eyes and saying “Another Supernatural book…Get a grip woman!” but honestly I’m enjoying the fandom and any fangirl out there knows when you fall for a fandom you fall hard. You want to be consumed in it, learn all about it, all the things related to it. So this book was perfect for me.

The book documents what happened when “two responsible college professors, Lynn the psychologist and Kathy the literary scholar, fell in love with the television show Supernatural.”  but what it really does is peels back the layers and asks lots of important questions about fandom, the rules of fandom, the dos and don’ts at conventions but above all it looks more specifically at females within a fandom and the way they are perceived by, not only the general public, but the stars of the show itself, their families and friends.

I knew as I soon as I started reading that this was going to be I need my sticky post its and my pencil handy. Lynn and Kathy start off by researching the psychology of fandom, why are we drawn to it.

“..watching or just thinking or talking about our favourite show can create an experience of belonging that makes us feel less lonely and buffers us against feelings of rejection.”  – Researchers at the University of Buffalo’s Center for Addictions.

Lynn and Kathy found that by retreating to a fictional world it helps people relieve stress and “shores up self-control” something I can completely relate to. After many a stressful day, my head loud with anxiety and exhausted, I’ve gone home put on my pajamas, tied my hair up in a messy bun, turned off all the lights and binge watched at least 4 episodes of Supernatural before retreating to bed.

Earlier on in the book they reference the incident involving the image of “Twilight Moms” that received online ridicule, the women receiving comments like “creepy” “unnattractive” and accusing them of being horrible parents. Thus showing already how “wrong” it is viewed for women to gush or objectify men in any fandom. The ladies look into this a bit more as the book progresses, they touch on the “flying fangirl” incident at the first Asylum convention in the UK, that saw Jensen Ackles being jumped on by a fan who proceeded to cling to him.

“Fanboys are no strangers to fan shame. But while male media fans fear being perceived as not sexual enough (the stereotypical fanboy virgin living in his mother’s basement) female fans seem fearful that being a fan makes them too sexual.”

As Lynn and Kathy say fangirls are viewed by the media/general public as crazy stalkers who can’t see the line between fantasy and reality. They propose that fan shame for females is linked to shame about sexuality. And I have to say I kind of agree with them. I’ve been around plenty of guys growing up (I have an older brother) and I’ve made friends with male colleagues over the years. I’ve been privy to plenty of conversations where a female celebrity has been the topic of discussion and I’ve heard plenty of explicit comments made about said celebrity, however the few times me and other women have discussed male celebrities in front of men and been nowhere near as explicit I have had men roll their eyes and actually look shocked and been like “Alright ladies, calm down!” I’ve even heard the phrase “pack of animals” used.  It’s a shame to say that in 2017 this is still the case. Women are objectified continuously by men and advertising companies, but goodness forbid that a man be objectified or woman objectify a man verbally. *rolls eyes* Anyway before I digress and pull out my soapbox, I will move on…

The ladies look at the role of fanfiction within the Supernatural fandom and the various types and what it means to the people who write it. Surprisingly, and again something I can relate to, they found that people who started reading fanfic and then writing it, made them feel more liberated and in touch with their desires and needs. It opened them up more sexually and made them realise that some of the kinks, they perhaps, hadn’t vocalised before, weren’t as strange as they thought because there were others out there with the same kink. When they asked various cast members about their opinion on the fanfiction the reaction was mixed, but generally it was something no one wanted their Mum or Grandmother to find.

Throughout the rest of the book, the ladies look at different things such as what happens when a fan “breaks the rules” or what happens when other fans become jealous of BNF (Big Name Fans) they look at the relationship between the powers that be and the people actually producing/writing the show and the fans. How, often, TPTB don’t seem to know or understand what the fans actually want or how to necessarily market a show or engage with the audience the right way. The ladies often found the answers to these questions through first hand experience, flying to conventions and meeting the cast and crew, even giving us an insight into how their experience of being fangirls impacted on their personal lives and the consequences of allowing themselves to indulge in their love of the show.

Needless to say I delved into this book thinking it was going to be one thing and then found it to be a variation of a lot of things. But I devoured it in no time, it’s provocative and insightful and whilst, for me anyway, it didn’t fully answer some of the questions, it certainly made me think about things differently and come to some realisations.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

“I felt like myself for the first time.”

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I’m actually attending my first con this year, and honestly I am already having low-key anxiety about it. I tend to dry up when I meet someone I admire and say nothing at all, wish me luck, although knowing the SPN Family, they’ve got my back! ❤

Happy reading.

G.

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The Luckiest Girl Alive – A Review

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.

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As some of you know who follow my blog, I run a monthly Book Club and it’s been a good four months since we had something (in my opinion) that has captured my interest and kept me turning pages. So I was pleasantly surprised with this month’s selection and even more surprised when I started reading it and didn’t roll my eyes or give up twenty pages in.

This book first came onto my radar through Instagram last year believe it or not when Sarah Michelle Gellar (I’m a Buffy fangirl so of course I follow her) and Reese Witherspoon couldn’t stop gushing about it. I kept meaning to pick it up but just never got round to it, so it seemed that serendipity played a hand somewhere.

It follows the story of  Ani FaNelli a stylish and sophisticated woman who seems to have the perfect life. An amazing career, respect from her peers, a handsome fiance and a glamorous wedding to look forward to. But beneath the shimmery surface is a darkness. A past that Ani has tried to distance herself from through years of practice, but as the date fast approaches to participate in a documentary about that very past, Ani begins to fray at the edges.

I’ll admit Jessica’s writing of Ani certainly kept me intrigued and guessing, she was always teetering on the edge. On the edge of what I couldn’t tell you, but the book seemed to be building to a pivotal moment. Fortunately there were quite a few moments like this in the book. *SPOILER ALERT* Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman but when it reached the part in the story when Ani recalls the rape at the hands of three boys, I wasn’t surprised, because I could see it building up to that, I could sense the uncomfortableness and danger. It was dealt with well by the author, it reminded me of reading Louise O’Neill’s 2015 novel ‘Asking for It’ I don’t think I’ve read anything so powerful, emotive and raw that deals with rape and life after that and it’s effect on the victim. Things like this are important for a YA audience and beyond, so I’m glad the author acknowledged them here too.

What did come as a surprise was the way Ani dealt with it, and the way she continued to try and ingratiate herself to her attackers. Later on in the book one of the boys tries to attack her again only this time it seems like she will no longer be part of the clique. She confides in her friend Arthur who seems to be her only protector at the school. But as I mentioned previously this book has plenty of shock moments *SPOILER ALERT* So I was not expecting the gun shooting at the school, it completely knocked me sideways. The aftermath of that event and the way Ani dealt with it, made the rest of the book and her actions make much more sense, however it was after this point that the book started to grow quite convoluted, something I was hoping wouldn’t happen after being so strong.

However it was page turner for the majority of the time and there were plenty of moments that made me audibly gasp, I feel that there are things Jessica could have done to make it more interesting for the character and I think it could have ended better, but all in all not a bad read.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

Happy reading.

G.

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Heart of the Dragon – Supernatural Book #4 – A Review

Supernatural Book #4 – Heart of the Dragon by Keith R.A. DeCandido.

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The fourth book is set during the fifth season of Supernatural and crosses generations. And honestly that’s one of the things I loved the most about this book. It opens in 1859 and shows the betrayal and death of a much respected Samurai at the hands of a demon. Moving forward to 2009 it shows the boys being alerted by Castiel (forever known as Cas by the fandom even though they will insist it’s spelt Cass) to the return of the Heart of the Dragon, the spirit of the samurai warrior from the beginning of the book. With the war between heaven and hell raging it’s important for the boys to stop the spirit before it can be controlled or manipulated by any demons.

When doing the research it seems that the Heart of the Dragon has been on their families hunting radar since 1969 when their Grandfather Samuel and their mother Mary hunted it. Through the use of flashbacks we see the dynamics between Mary and her father, the hunting dynasty and gain a better understanding of Mary (which is always nice considering her minimal yet present impact in the show) unfortunately the Campbells are unsuccessful in stopping the Heart of the Dragon completely and only end up banishing the thing for 20 seasons.

Which brings in John Winchester confronting the spirit, leaving both Dean and Sam with Bobby Singer whilst he does so. Again we’re offered more of an insight into the kind of man John Winchester was, the relationship between John and Bobby and a look at the boys as children separated from their father whilst he was off hunting. Now in 2009 the boys are faced with doing something their ancestors haven’t seemed capable of and as the body counts rise, it’s a race against time.

Although the ending was slightly anticlimactic and all seemed a bit too easy, I did really enjoy the flashbacks to Samuel and Mary, and John and Bobby’s strained relationship in regards to the boys. There’s not a WHOLE lot of the boys in this book, but it makes up for by giving us more insight into some of the key people from their past.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

Happy reading y’all.

G.

x

 

Short and Sweet.

I’m not going to give reasons or details about why I have been on something of a hiatus from blogging, but I have been. Things have been tough but I’m hopefully back and will be blogging more often. I just lost the concentration to read but it looks like it’s coming back.

Book review or two coming your way really soon.

Thanks

G.

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Herland – A Review

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

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Sorry it’s been a while since I posted, it’s partly because of work, partly because I was reviewing two other books for Belle About Town and also because I was reading this. This was the book that was nominated by the ladies at my monthly book club. The theme was sci-fi and whilst this is definitely on the spectrum of sci-fi as a utopian novel, I found it quite disappointing. It was my first foray into science fiction and was incredibly underwhelmed.

It follows the story of three male explorers who discover a country where the entire population is made up of women. In fact no men have lived in Herland for 1000’s of years, so much so that the women can breed without men and have virgin births. There is no violence, illness or crime in Herland and no war or poverty. Whilst these viewpoints were thought provoking I didn’t feel the author explained these big concepts clearly enough. Now don’t get me wrong this was published in 1915 so over 100 years ago women had a long way to go be seen as equals to men and whilst this would have been incredibly progressive for its time period, I just don’t feel that she explained enough and often kept repeating herself.

The men learn all about the history of Herland and in turn they teach the women about the world, a lot of it they can’t comprehend (like sex for pleasure or the act of sex) and some it upsets them (infanticide, poverty, the idea of women staying at home and ‘entertaining’ being their only jobs) Charlotte Perkins Gilman even introduces veganism, which I imagine was fairly unheard of back then. But as I said before this book just struggled to pull me in. Although there were plenty of interesting topics that she could have delved into more, I felt she just glossed over them. It felt like a chore to read it and although the copy I had was only 115 pages in length it took me over two weeks to finish it. I feel so annoyed that I wasted so much time on a book when I could have been reading something more enjoyable, but I had to stick with it so I could discuss it at the group. It wasn’t the book I was expecting, nor was it a great introduction into the sci-fi genre, a genre I am desperately wanting to venture into a bit more. I think one of the ladies summed it up perfectly at the meeting when she said ‘It doesn’t read like a good piece of fiction but like a manifesto for equality.’

Star Rating out of 5: 1.5

‘You see, they had no wars. They had no kings, and no priests, and no aristocracies. They were sisters, and as they grew, they grew together – not by competition, but by united action.’

Please do let me know if you have read it, and if you can recommend any better sci-fi books for me, please comment below.

Happy reading.

Georgina

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2015 – My Year in Books

Now back to books. 2015 was a very varied year for me, I was reading and reviewing books for ‘Belle About Town’ but also reading a book a month with my book club. I have to say having not one, not two but three outlets to discuss the books I read is really rewarding and I know I have said it in a previous post but thank you so much to all the people who have read, commented and liked my blog. It really means a lot, and this year I want to try and make sure I’m writing a least a blog post a week. I thought it would be fun for me to share some stats with you about my reading habits in 2015, and I’d love to know yours too, so please do comment below.

The first book I read in 2015 was ‘Foxcatcher: A True Story of Murder, Madness and The Quest for Olympic Gold’ by Mark Schultz and the last book I read in 2015 was ‘Forever’ by Judy Blume.

The book that made me cry the most in 2015 was ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce. I’m talking full on crying with snot and everything, I’m just glad I was at home when I finished reading it as I think my fellow commuters would have been fearful had it been on the train.

The book that made me laugh the most was ‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey. I genuinely laughed out loud and even snorted like a pig at one point, unfortunately this did happen on a rather crowded train during peak time and the person who was sat next to me moved seats at the next stop…How subtle.

The most powerful book I read was ‘Asking for It’ by Louise O’Neill. I read and reviewed this for ‘Belle About Town’ it was without doubt one of the most raw and infuriating books I have read. An incredibly important YA novel that all teenagers and adults alike should read.

Favourite literary magazine had to be ‘The Happy Reader’ by Penguin Classics. A seasonal magazine that interviews a well-known celebrity about their reading habits and then dissects a chosen book. Perfect for book recommendations/inspiration.

My favourite book of the year has to be ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir. It had me hooked from the opening sentence and kept me that way until the very end. Weir seemed to perfectly balance, science, tension and humour and it was the top of my list of book recommendations whenever people asked me what they should be reading. Also the film adaptation was pretty accurate and perfectly executed which is a rarity.

I only re-read TWO books this year and they were ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl and ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. This is a miracle for me as I tend to re-read books out of some form of need for comfort and nostalgia so this is like a breakthrough for me.

I have plenty of books on my ‘TBR’ pile and there’s plenty of new titles coming out this year that I am looking forward to reading, so I have a feeling 2016 is going to be just as good as last year. Please comment below with your favourite read of 2015 and anything else you want to share.

Happy reading my lovelies.

Georgina.

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