Tag Archives: racism

#Sunday Post – 6th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

And the sun is shining! Yesterday my sister and I wandered along the beach eating ice creams and watching the sun glinting on the water at Littlehampton beach. It’s been a much easier week, I’m glad to say.

On Monday evening, I had a particularly wonderful Creative Writing lesson – my students rose magnificently to the writing exercise and the quality of the writing we heard had me walking out of the room on air. I always enjoy my teaching – but that was definitely a golden moment… On Thursday, my wonderful friend, Mhairi came over for more talk about books and marketing and suchlike – and the dark arts are looking a little less murky. I am now working on the final book in my Sunblinded trilogy, Breathing Space, going through the final editing phase and hope to have it out sometime in June/July… watch this space.

This week I have read:

The Hyena and the Hawk – Book 3 of the Echoes of the Falls by Adrian Tchaikovksy
Tchaikovsky’s epic fantasy trilogy, Echoes of the Fall, following The Bear and the Serpent. From the depths of the darkest myths, the soulless Plague People have returned. Their pale-walled camps obliterate villages, just as the terror they bring with them destroys minds. In their wake, nothing is left of the true people: not their places, not their ways. The Plague People will remake the world as though they had never been. The heroes and leaders of the true people – Maniye, Loud Thunder, Hesprec and Asman – will each fight the Plague People in their own ways. They will seek allies, gather armies and lead the charge. But a thousand swords or ten thousand spears will not suffice to turn back this enemy. The end is at hand for everything the true people know.
This was yet another in the fabulous run of books I’ve read, recently. A wonderful end to an outstanding series… I reviewed this one during the week.

Song of Blood and Stone – Book 1 of the Earthsinger Chronicles by L. Penelope
Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.
This was an interesting dystopian fantasy adventure that was a solid start to this series with an engaging protagonist. Recommended for fans of romance fantasy.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 29th April 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

Teaser Tuesday featuring Song of Blood and Stone – Book 1 of the Earthsinger Chronicles by L. Penelope

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Furyborn – Book 1 of the Empirium by Claire Legrande

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Hyena and The Hawk – Book 3 of the Echoes of the Fall series by Adrian Tchaikovksy

Friday Face-off – The hand that writes and having writ moves me… featuring The Moving Finger – Book 4 of the Miss Marple Mysteries by Agatha Christie

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Song of Blood and Stone – Book 1 of the Earthsinger Chronicles by L. Penelope

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Have You Joined Our Banned Book Club? https://thisislitblog.com/2018/05/04/have-you-joined-our-banned-book-club-yet/ This sounds like a really cool idea – have a group read of a book that has previously been banned… Check it out.

All Is Ready for the Mars InSight Lander http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/05/04/ready-mars-insight-lander/ Steph has provided a fascinating video clip from NASA explaining what they hope to achieve with this new Mars mission.

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/05/03/thursday-doors-99/ Whether you use these wonderful photos as a writing prompt, or admire the wild, tumbledown beauty – these are a delight

The reality of a loss of faith
https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/the-reality-of-a-loss-of-faith/ Viv’s articles are always worth reading – and this one is no exception…

Interview with Emma Newman https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2018/04/interview-with-emma-newman/ Emma Newman, author of the fabulous Planetfall series, discusses her writing in this riveting interview.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc #Song of Blood and Stone Book 1 of the Earthsinger Chronicles by #L. Penelope #bookreview #Brainfluffbookblogreview

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Like so many of my Netgalley finds, it was the cover that caught my eye – such a beautiful, unusual image for a dystopian fantasy adventure…

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

That’s as much of the rather chatty blurb. I’m willing to share. I really enjoyed Jasminda as a character – she is gutsy, intelligent and resourceful under pressure. It was a really nice change having a young girl being the one doing the rescuing during those first, desperate encounters on the mountain. The other main viewpoint character in this adventure is Jack, the wounded soldier who Jasminda finds herself trying to protect from the brutality of the soldiers hunting him for a spy. The beginning immediately pulled me in and had me fully engaged – fast-paced, full of adventure and peopled with strong, sympathetic characters. There is thoughtful, intelligent handling of racism throughout this book, which worked effectively within the story – I wish other fantasy authors would also tackle this subject. I also enjoyed the world and the magic system, which made sense and had definable boundaries – always a bonus.

I powered through the book until I got nearly to the halfway stage when the whole tenor changed as it morphed into a love story – furthermore, a love story with a fair amount of graphic sex. As I was under the impression that this was a YA read, I was slightly taken aback because the amount of description and time devoted to the sex scenes felt far more appropriate for a New Adult book. While the sex took part between two people who clearly loved each other, it isn’t what I’d bargained for, or expected from the cover or the blurb – and yes, that was something of a problem for me. However, I am aware that is a personal preference and there was nothing violent or untoward about these scenes, other than they went into a lot more detail than I was expecting.

Alongside the love story is the deteriorating political situation between the two countries involved, along with a power-hungry, autocratic wizard of immense power. The flashback scenes were well handled and no time was I confused about what was happening. The writing is smooth and the plotting well paced. All in all, this is a gripping, well told story with a good climax and strong ending. Highly recommended for fans of gripping romance fantasy stories. While I obtained an arc of The Song of Blood and Stone from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Austral by Paul McAuley

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The great geoengineering projects have failed. The world is still warming, sea levels are still rising, and the Antarctic Peninsula is home to Earth’s newest nation, with life quickened by ecopoets spreading across valleys and fjords exposed by the retreat of the ice. Austral Morales Ferrado, a child of the last generation of ecopoets, is a husky: an edited person adapted to the unforgiving climate of the far south, feared and despised by most of its population. She’s been a convict, a corrections officer in a labour camp, and consort to a criminal, and now, out of desperation, she has committed the kidnapping of the century.

I absolutely love this one. This first-person narrative by Austral grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t let me go until the end. It very quickly becomes apparent that Austral is telling this story for the benefit of someone who she feels needs to know her family history, which is woven into this classic chase across the harsh peninsula as Austral and her kidnap victim try to stay one step ahead of those in pursuit – who aren’t necessarily the forces of law and order.

There is all the excitement and tension of their adventure as they encounter a number of memorable characters, some kind and helpful but most are nothing of the sort. This is a hard new land peopled by many refugees from a drowning world, which doesn’t engender soft fluffy feelings. I was waiting for the inevitable moment when the two fleeing finally bond – the huskie outcast and the rich, privileged child of a rising politician. But McAuley avoids that cliché. There is never a time when Austral can relax and feel her young companion will innately trust her.

Meanwhile, Austral’s unfolding story is one of abandonment of the promises made to keep Antarctica ecologically sustainable as once again, the vested interests of multi-nationals and capitalism trumps all else. The sub-species of huskies, whose DNA were edited to equip them for living and working on the land, are now no longer required for that prime purpose. Nor are they wanted by the normals, who fear their size, superior strength and stamina, so ensure the law enforces their instinctive reaction to keep them as far away as possible.

The other character that features throughout is the landscape itself. McAuley’s scientific background shows in the depth and detail of this harsh environment. I love the fact that mammoths have been brought back as a viable eco-system has started to be designed – until forest plantations swallow up the fragile landscape and inappropriate crops are grown to appease the appetites of a people with no appreciation or real knowledge of how this emerging landmass is being eco-engineered. It all sounds horribly familiar.

Any niggles? While I felt that Austral’s storyline about her own family history worked very well alongside the ongoing adventure, the one ongoing narrative thread I could have happily done without was the fairy story Austral’s young teenage companion was reading. It was the one part of the story that didn’t really convince me, both as something that would interest Austral, or its relevance to the other two plotlines and to be honest, I mostly skimmed over those sections. However that aside, this story has lodged inside my head since I’ve read it and notwithstanding that one false step, this is an extraordinary book. Highly recommended for fans who like hard science fiction and cli-fi (climate fiction). While I obtained the arc of Austral from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

 

ANNDDD…

Today Lillian at Mom With a Reading Problem is featuring Running Out of Space as part of the blog tour, including her interview – where she asks which breakfast cereal I’d like to be…

Film Review of District 9

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district 9While my friend Mhairi Simpson was laid up after coming off her bike last week, we had the good luck to encounter this film, courtesy of the good ol’ Syfy channel. As Mhairi hadn’t seen it, I was very glad to have an excuse to watch it again.

Released in 2009 by TriStar Pictures and directed by Neill Blomkamp, this science fiction thriller is set in the very near future, when a huge space ship appears in the sky over Johannesburg in South Africa. And just hangs there. Three months later, a task force eventually breaks into the ship to find it contains around half a million sick and starving aliens. Transported to a camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the aliens are provided with food and the most primitive, rudimentary basics required for existence and left to get on with it. They do.

Living in squalor, they barter whatever they can for tins of cat food and pieces of meat. Inevitably, illegal interest in their technology is centred around their impressive weaponry. Despite the fact that humans cannot activate these lethal pieces of kit as they are keyed to alien DNA, a Nigerian crimelord based in the centre of District 9 is busy building up an arsenal. He is convinced that if he consumes enough alien body parts, he will eventually be able to activate these guns which will give him an unassailable advantage in the human criminal underworld.

The years wear on and the alien population continues to grow, despite their revolting living conditions. Ill educated and brutalised by their bleak existence, the aliens – or Prawns, as they come to be known – don’t make comfortable neighbours and the humans living alongside them become increasingly vociferous in their complaints. So some twenty years after they first appeared, a scheme is hatched to move the aliens on from District 9, where they have been living, to District 10 – a barren hellhole right out in the bush. The move is to be overseen by a tough military organisation, the MNU, who go in mob-handed with an enthusiastic Afrikaner office jock by the name of Wikus van de Merwe played brilliantly by Sharlto Copley. However, things don’t go according to plan…

The timeline is fractured, with much of the backstory very effectively told as a documentary, first of the alien roundup and then of the unfolding events. The wobbly camera-work, abrupt stops and various narrators giving their thoughts and opinions on what occurred is very cleverly interleaved with the visceral action.

It doesn’t take a genius to quickly realise that this film is more than just an escapist junket about yet another alien visitation. The district9.2proposed clear-out of District 9 is based on the forced evictions and removals of whole populations, both during the South African apartheid years and since, when in an attempt to dislodge some of the shanty towns that had built up during apartheid, the government have resorted to the kinds of tactics shown in this film. The less than subtle nod to recent history – District 9 in reality was the infamous District 6, where 60,000 blacks were forced to move out – gives the action extra emotional punch. This is echoed in the haunting soundtrack, which plays as aliens are shown scrabbling around on rubbish tips…

However, I don’t want you to go away with the impression that this is just some neo-political rant about man’s inhumanity to man. This film also produces plenty action-packed chases, fire fights and destructive explosions to keep the most avid action-junkie satisfied. I loved the ending – which managed to be moving and tie up the main story arc, while conveniently leaving the door open for the sequel. And if this team get together to produce said sequel, I’m definitely going to be right up at the front of the queue to see it at the cinema. An intelligent, thought provoking science fiction thriller that exposes humanity’s greed and brutality in an entertaining action-fest doesn’t come along every day of the week…
9/10

Review of The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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I heard an interview by Kathryn Stockett with Mariella Frostrup on Radio 4 about this book and decided to get a copy from the library to see what all the fuss was about.

thehelpEnter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver… There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

Skeeter, back from college, finds she doesn’t fit in so well with her married friends’ social life when the talk turns to installing a separate bathroom for the maid so the family isn’t in danger of catching ‘colored diseases’. Missing the maid who brought her up, she is drawn to motherly Aibileen and turns to her for help when she lands the job of writing a column in the local paper solving domestic problems, such as removing stubborn stains and unscrewing broken light bulbs. So when she gets the chance to write about the lives of the black women who help out in all the neighbouring white households, once more she asks Aibileen to help in contacting other maids for their stories – good and bad – of working for white folks. And Aibileen asks Minny…

Stockett was brought up in Mississippi and it shows. The description of the food, heat and landscape is pitch perfect. It is an effort to remember that this is only forty-nine years ago – and yet, the rigid standards imposed on everyone in this hide-bound rural society inevitably falls most heavily on those at the bottom of the heap – black women. This book could have degenerated into a Gone With the Wind pastiche of southern society, or shown Aibileen and Minny as downtrodden victims. Fortunately, it does neither. Both the black protagonists are shown to be intelligent, spirited individuals with their own particular coping strategies for getting through their difficult lives. Aibileen’s religion is an active force in her life and contrasts well with her shafts of desert dry humour that runs like a delicious chocolate thread throughout her narrative. Hm… talking of chocolate, you may not be quite so enthusiastic about the thought of chocolate pie by the end of the book – and I’m not saying anything more about the method that Minny uses to express her anger at all the injustices she has to contend with working for a manipulative, unscrupulous woman.

We see all the social strata in Jackson and what it means to be an acceptable member of the ‘in’ crowd – and what happens when you aren’t. Skin colour isn’t the only defining factor and as a Brit, I found it fascinating to see that 1960’s Jackson was every bit as snobbishly exclusive as any 18th century London salon, while poor Celia struggles to befriend anyone at all. Her breeding – or lack of it – along with her catastrophic dress sense doom her to be constantly snubbed.

However, while this subplot is engrossing, it isn’t the engine that drives the plot forward – it’s the threat of the violence by white racists against the growing civil unrest. Skeeter plunges into this project in order to produce a publishable book, and only as the maids start confiding in her does she begin to realise just how much they are risking. The growing tension as the book starts being read by the people who appear in it, with the protagonists’ dread of discovery brings home just what a dangerous time it was for dissenters. It is a powerful foil for the outwardly genteel concerns about appearance, cooking and well run homes.

Stockett manages the three narratives very well and in my opinion, manages to avoid most of the pitfalls that could have mired her. This is an impressive debut novel that manages to tell a gripping entertaining story about a raw, difficult stage in American history – and the fact that many people still recall it must have created an added complication.

Any niggles? Well, Stockett manages to mostly avoid lapsing into sentimentality, however one scene in the church when Aibileen is presented with a gift wrapped book for Skeeter had me wriggling uncomfortably. The enthusiastic applause and words of the reverend were just a little OTT for my taste.

Apart from that one jarring scene, though, I felt this is an excellent book that tells a powerful story with humour and adroitness. I look forward to reading Stockett’s next offering.

9/10