Friday, 22 April 2016

Chasing the Stars- Malorie Blackman Review

Every time I encounter this name, be it on a book, an article or even from the lips of a stranger, it always starts a conversation. Most of the time that conversation revolves around how much I freaking love Malorie Blackman and everything she does but, and perhaps more importantly, she sparks conversations about things that are so much deeper. This time around she has managed to construct a novel that seems like it should be impossible.
When I first read the blurb of my proof copy I found it difficult to comprehend what was being presented to me. "Othello in space" it said. "A YA novelisation of Shakespeare's play in deep space!" it shouted at me. "That can't be right!" I shouted right back at it. But it was. Look for yourself:

Olivia and her twin brother Aidan are heading alone back to Earth 
following the virus that wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family, in its entirety. 

Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction. 
But on their journey, Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed.
Only a few survive.

Their lives unexpectedly collided, Nathan and Olivia are instantly attracted to each other, deeply, head-over-heels – like nothing they have ever experienced.

But not everyone is pleased. Surrounded by rumors, deception, even murder, is it possible to live out a happy ever after . . . ?

Now, having read the book I did find that it's not the truest adaption I've ever read; and not just because it is set in space. I didn't mind this too much though. Although Shakespeare has survived this long, it is only its themes which have remained universal and so to be any truer to the original text would cause the story to lose a lot, if not all of its charm.
The characters are lovable and flawed and the text flows beautifully. It has been a while since I have encountered a book where I find myself 100 pages in without looking up and this one achieves that effect perfectly.
At the same time as this technical beauty Blackman also constructs, as only she can, a novel which forces a message on us. This book forces us to confront prejudice and fear and also makes us acknowledge that not all things are back and white. No one in this novel is good or evil. They are humans which have become products of their societies and their upbringings. And just as Shakespeare is influenced by his time and a novel about teenagers in space is subject to theirs, we too must learn that just because you were raised with a certain way of thinking, it doesn't mean it is too late to change your perceptions.

Overall I think Blackman remains on form with this book. Her journey away from dystopian realism (which feels like it should be a contradiction but there you go) and into sy-fi can only be described as a hit. I would recommend this for all fans of YA romance but more so those who enjoy a bit of mystery and maybe a little less intensity which the likes of The Hunger Games provides. I would say you get the best of both worlds but even I'm not that cheesy.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Ask Me Anything: My Feminist AMA on Reddit

So I did something that would be considered internet suicide in many circles. I went on Reddit and I invited the Internet to ask me questions about the fact that I am a 21 year old sex-positive feminist. The AMA section of Reddit is something that I had heard a lot about but it was only when my bf got me on the site itself that I considered the idea of maybe participating.
Typically I'm online troll fodder, a arts graduate with a specialism in social justice and who isn't afraid to be vocal about it. So why the hell did I decide to do this?

To be honest there was part of me that knew nothing good could come of this and within minutes I had people commenting and asking questions which ranged from the interesting to the downright odd and it was actually an enlightening experience!
The first couple of comments were people asking what sex-positive feminism is and some said they hadn't heard of it and we're glad to learn about it which was nice, but it soon decended into more colourful inquiries!

I particularly like this one because I wasn't sure if this user was asking a serious question (you rarely can online I suppose) and so I answered it as one... They seemed impressed! 

And here we have exactly what I figured I would get when I did this, and believe me, I had a good giggle. I was just pleased that someone took the time to comment this! I debated answering it and got distracted by another question before I could. 

These next few are where it got serious. I only included a few of the messages but this is where I was so pleased I did this, someone who was up for some real debate. I didn't think I would get this, not because I thought no one on this site would be up for anything other than taking the piss, but because I didn't think people would give my topic the time of day but I was so wrong! 


And of course, there is always someone who can explain things in a more elegant way than you ever could yourself...

In the end, my overall experience was thought-provoking and I would be really interested to do it again, I didn't think I would get any comments, let alone such engaged ones! These days I find myself on Reddit more than Facebook! There's so much interests content and it's so engaging! 

What do you guys think? Do you have any interesting stories or any comments on this post? Let me know! 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Agony Bookworm: 7 Year Old So Over Being Girly

"My 7 year old daughter doesn't like the usual 'girly' books and wants something with a bit of an adventure in it. What should I give her? "
Kate Heffernan, Dublin

This is something I get more and more. Boys who find adventure books too much and girls who want books with a bit more bite. In this case, all I have to go by is that we want adventure, which while there are typical girly books that fit this bill, I'm going to go a bit out of the box! But here's the kicker, just because we don't want girly, doesn't mean we don't want female characters! Now more than ever we are getting some absolutely fantastic diversity in children's literature and we don't have our characters following silly gender roles. Kid's imaginations are endless, why limit them based on their sex!?
The first hurdle here is the age. 7 years olds are usually just at that point where they can read comfortably by themselves (of course some more so than others) but you don't want to give them too much too soon, it is here that kids figure out if reading is a chore or a pleasure and you need to be careful.

There is an awful lot to choose from and a lot of the time, this age group gets the short end of the proverbial stick because they're not ready for the big name books and so knowing what's good is hard. I decided here that I'm going to go with an old classic and a modern series, not a comparison, but an overview so you know what direction to go from there. Hope these help!

Enid Blyton's Secret Seven

Now I know what I just said about having great modern female characters but This series is a classic for a reason. I get three generations of people still buying these books, insisting that you have not had a proper childhood without them. A mix of male and female characters if they're required and a bucket-load of action!

BEWARE! There are American abridged versions floating around Irish shops with some changes to names and terms. E.g Fanny becomes Francis and queer taken out completely!

Chris Riddell's Ottoline Series

Now this is the heavy stuff. We have a fab female character mixed with mystery and action all wrapped together by children's laureate Chris Riddell who also supplies his amazing illustrations. I love Riddell's style because it's a little bit weird in the most amazing way possible. This series is especially great because it's aimed at a slightly younger age than his other books and really offers a level of characterisation and standard that is hard to find in to age group!

Are you finding it difficult to pick books for you kids? Comment your quiry below or on the Facebook page or tweet me @lorrainebowlv

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

#dontjudgechallenge: Bodyshaming in the Name of Equality

Body-shaming is awful, I the we can all agree with that. Any act of solidarity between women which showcases our ability to support each other is great; amazing in fact and should be encouraged. One of the biggest challengers to feminism is in-fighting amongst ourselves and so when the younger generation comes together to prove a point, bring it on! 

This is not what I meant. This new trend involves girls using makeup to "make themselves down" to look conventionally unattractive. The point? To prove that everyone can look ugly and people should make other people feel bad when they're not pretty... Or something. To be honest I can't understand this at all. 
Growing-up, I was never considered one of the pretty girls. Besides the fact that I was a bit dorky and didn't get on with the self-proclaimed "popular girls", I also had the disadvantage of needing extensive dental work, being very tall for my age and the age-old teenage problem of spots before boobs. Makeup was something that I only started trying when I was about 12 and going into secondary school and goodness knows I wasn't very good at it (did someone say blue eyeshadow?) and so the last thing I needed was people pointing out that the things I felt so self conscious about was something that other people had to make an actual effort to achieve. On purpose. Are we to believe that there are girls sitting at their laptops, looking at Facebook and seeing their peers doing this challenge and thinking: "well now I feel better about myself!" when really what they are seeing are the girls who have had their conventionally good looks reinforced by the fact that they have to go through a long process to seem otherwise? 

Look, I'm not saying these girls are bad, not at all. But the new generation of teens are living in an extremely high pressured environment controlled by their presence on social media. When you take a campaign which allows them supposed moral superiority (because it seems like a charitable endeavour) and mix it with social media, you're gonna have a bad time. 

I am more comfortable about myself than ever, I know my strengths and weaknesses and I know that the people who I felt inferior to when I was a teen had their own insecurities and crap to deal with. But this had only come after I finished being a teenager. I dunno if I could handle what some people are going through and I sure as heck know that the #dontjudgechallenge would not have done me any favours.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Society of Shame: #RepealThe8th

Today I saw a family on O'Connell street having just participated in the Rally for Life parade in the city centre. They were the image of the catholic family, about 4 kids with mammy pregnant with another and all of them wearing pro-life placards. This really got to me and that's why I'm deviating away from my usual topics today and giving my two cents worth on what's going on with the campaign to #repealthe8th, whatever it may be worth.
There was a time when I was pro-life. I turned to a very extremist form of Christianity early in my teenage years and so was sucked in hook, line and sinker by the images of late-term abortions and cut up babies that were born crying. It wasn't until I got to college and began to look at it from an actual medical and societal standpoint that I realised how wrong I was and I am now very much pro-choice. 

During my journey to my current thought on the issue, I got to a "I wouldn't have one myself but I wouldn't judge anyone who did" state of mind and I've met many others who are in the same place. But I realise now, much to my shame, that I was still being judgemental by saying that. I was implying that I was in a better position than those who would take that path and  that I was in some way morally superior to them. In other words, I was being totally up myself. This mindset also separated me from the issue and I felt that the campaign to make abortion freely available in Ireland was something that I wasn't part of and that's something I regret. The thing is, abortion happens in Ireland whither our government allows it or not. But we, the society of Ireland, who pride ourselves on being a loving group of people and with the recent change in the marriage laws, a very open and progressive one too, are turning a blind eye because sure they can always go to England and they can deal with it there! 

But it's not as easy as that. For centuries, 'mother Ireland' has been a present motif in our literature, our culture and our society at large. The people who put themselves forward as pro-life subscribe to this image of the beautiful and natural persona of the pregnant woman. She has no shoes for some reason and is very fond of long, white flowing dresses and has long wavy red hair which reaches her perfectly formed third-trimester baby bump. Society paints this picture of pregnancy as a magical and perfect state where, besides the birth (thanks Eve), there is no pain or discomfort and everyone involved is both physically and mentally secure and nothing will ever go wrong. This is why that family I saw today bothered me so much. It is absolutely fine that those parents are not going to need the procedure, they were lucky to have everything go their way. But there are people all over the country who are not as lucky and who have been denied the care they needed because they didn't fit into the perfect mother model and wanted or needed to end their pregnancies. Women and trans-men who cannot afford to go abroad or who don't have the papers to travel. Those who develop fatal foetal abnormalities and have to carry their dying babies to full term. Those in abusive relationships who don't want to bring a child into their reality. When the people in power are so far removed from the lives their decisions are affecting, how can we expect change to happen on its own? It can't. Most of the people in the chambers, a large portion of the voting public, they will never have to go through this. But the people who are forced to go through a pregnancy they don't want or may kill them, how are we going to answer their cries? Right now we're telling hem, "sure you can do it, just don't do it here". It's disgraceful, it's immoral and it needs to change. 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Quelling her Anxiety: Finding Audrey Review

 For a long while I've been think about the lack of books which talk about young people suffering from anxiety. We could look to John Green's Looking For Alaska where the romantic lead suffers from panic attacks but I always felt that her difficulties only existed to add to her flighty and mysterious nature. You can't have a line like 'If I was a drizzle then she was a hurricane' and expect her to be like everyone else. I think that is so damaging because you place an illness in the position of a personality trait and portray it as fetish. Is seems harsh but that is what I've been finding quite a bit in YA fiction. That is until now. 

Finding Audrey is written by Sophie Kinsella who up to this point has been known for her amazingly entertaining Shopaholics series for adults which I read a number of years ago and to say I was curious about this new book is an understatement. It follows the story of Audrey who suffers from a number of mental health issues after an incident involving some girls from her school which has left her unable to leave the house or look anyone in the eye and needs to wear sunglasses everywhere. We have a lovely romantic interest in Linus, a online game playing friend of her brothers who tries to bring Audrey out her shell.

This book is lighthearted and accessible enough that it makes a very good read, even for teens who wouldn't be into a book which delves so deeply into a sensitive topic. We hear about Audrey's treatment in therapy and her medications all while she navigates crushes and trying to survive her over the top parents.
Kinsella is true to form and has toned down her writing to make a truly interesting book for teens, something that not all authors can do. If your young person is a very avid reader, the style and linguistic level of this book may not appeal to them; it is a simple book which focuses on delivering its content without being inhibited by over-complicating things. I really enjoyed this book and although it may be a bit of a hard sale, no more than any other books on mental health we sell these days, it's so important that these conversations are had and we see the girls going through them as characters in their own right, not fetishes! 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Absent Father's Day: How do kids deal?

Sometimes I forget how tough kids are. As someone who only looks on from the outside, not having any kids myself, I do wonder how parents get their little ones through things that even full-grown and adjusted people would find destroying. I know I wrote a blog post about books that you can give children to help them deal with bad situations but how much can that actually do in the long run.

Yesterday was Father's Day; a lovely day when people go on Facebook to say how much they love their dads who are not even on the social networking site (my dad hates the idea of anyone knowing his business). Needless to say, it being a Sunday, our Story-time revolved around books about Dads with a bit of discussion about what the little ones did for them. The mothers looked at me as if to say "getting the kids out of the house for an hour was my gift to him" and there was talk of home-made cards and breakfast in beds and all the good stuff that comes with a Hallmark holiday.

All except one little boy. He's one of my regulars and so I know him well. Very outspoken, he is always trying to make everyone laugh. He comes with his mum every week and yesterday when I was asking around, he mentioned that he had given his granddad a card and I left it at that. Dad didn't seem to be in the picture but he was totally fine laughing with all of the others and giving it socks whenever I asked questions.

After the hour was up the same little fella came up to me to thank me as he always did (a sweetheart I'm telling ya) and I told him his t-shirt was cool. I noticed he has rosary beads on around his neck and I wondered if he was wearing them as some sort of statement as young kids like to do. He informed me that he was wearing them because he had been to the grave yard that morning and with a wave he ran to his mum who was beckoning him towards the door.

The boy was 8 years old and yet had managed to come from visiting, what I assume was his dad's resting place and then gone to story-time and listened to a load of other kids talk about their dads and how great they were and he still contributed. I had no idea up until that point, he was acting the same as he always did and the amount of respect I have for his mother was huge.

Like I said, I don't have children myself and I don't have nearly enough life experience to know how I would deal with that kind of situation but I see now how it is possible, even for just an hour, to keep going and carry on. It just makes you think is all.I don't think we give kids enough credit and you can never really know what people are going though at the end of the day. Kinda makes you want to give people a little more slack.