Friday, 27 January 2017

Book Review - Nod - Adrian Barnes


'Life's a scab, and it's our nature to pick at it until it bleeds.'.

Nod is a unique, dystopian novel (albeit a short novel), that follows Paul in a world where the majority no longer sleep.

I was intrigued by the idea of this book as soon as I saw it. It isn't something I've seen before and I really wanted to see how it panned out; the slow, sleepy descent into madness.

It isn't a long book at all, the chapters are set into days, the countdown till insomnia could kill; but a lot sure happens in those days. The crazy just seems to pour out of these people so quickly. Its hard to imagine actually happening, but the again I can barely stay away for 12 hours without getting grumpy, let alone 16 days.

You never get a reason why with this book, but that didn't bother me, Paul is a normal person, he wouldn't know why it is happening, so why should the reader? I would have liked to see more of the silent children, even some guesses at why they are like that, but that is only small. I also think that, surely, the sleepers should have been... I don't know, better? I know they're up against a lot of people, but these are people that haven't slept in forever, they aren't smart, the sleepers still have their brains, they should have been able to outsmart some kind of escape?

What you do get is a lot of crazy, and a lot of characters that you hate. More characters that you hate than that you love. I mean I really hated Charles. So much so that I got annoyed every time he popped into a scene. I mean, I think you're meant to, but he is in it quite a lot, so that is a lot of angry reading. I didn't feel bad for him, I didn't care about his situation, I just wish that Paul ripped his head off of something.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I liked seeing the crazy, and the group mentality of the crazy. I do wish it was longer, but then I don't know where it would have really gone. 4/5

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Friday, 20 January 2017

Book Review - The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood






'Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.'.

Since reading the Heart Goes Last I am all for Margaret Atwood. Granted I've only read three of her books... but all of them I have loved. And after hearing that The Handmaid's Tale was going to be coming to TV in April, I knew I had to read the book first.

The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist, dystopian novel. Margaret Atwood imagines an extreme Christian future for America, and in this future Women have absolutely no rights, they belong to men, to serve in what way they wish. And in a way, its a future I can imagine. You know, if the world went completely backwards and tits up, and even then, there are many places in the world where women are still seen as belonging to men rather than being their own person. Its scary, it's wrong, but its believable.

The thing with Atwood's writing, aside from having no quotation marks, is that she just jumps straight into the story. One minute Offred, our protagonist, is a working wife and mother, she is a free woman, then in the space of what feels like seconds she is covered head to toe in red garb, used as a baby machine for her new Commander. There is no in between. You would expect uproar if such a vast change in laws/events happened no? I, for one, would be screaming bloody murder if I strolled into work one day, to be told that I can no longer be there, oh and my partner is in charge of all of my money, you know, because he has a penis. Anyway, back on the book. Atwood jumps straight into the world she imagined, without much thought of what kind of timeline events would actually follow, and I understand it, she wants to get to her idea of the book, she wants to write about what she has imagined. And once you get past it, you're involved with the main story as well.

So, the book follows Offred, one of the few women left in the country that can have children (the subject isn't looked into much, but it is something to do with radiation, and of course it's the woman's fault if a baby isn't conceived, it has absolutely nothing to do with the man I mean all men are perfect right?) Anyway, it follows Offred in her new household where every month she has to lie back and try and have a baby with the Commander of the house (its even weirder than you first might have thought, the wife and the baby maker have to hold hands throughout the whole affair... very awkward) It isn't a fast paced novel, I see it more as just an introduction of such a world through Offred's eyes. We get glimpses of her past, contrasts to how she lives now, and hints of the affects of not following the rules. And thought I would have liked to have seen the darker side of the world, which you know there is one! You don't really get to see this, its a small gated area of the life that we get to look into.


All the same, I think Offred's view of it is believable. Time has past, and she has, pretty much, given up. She is resigned to this life she lives now. How she thinks, she seems numb to it, and in a way I think that is better than raving and screaming, she wouldn't get away with actions like that, not anymore, and she has a child, somewhere, she has to think of her, even when she thinks of suicide, which they have taken many precautions against, she still thinks of her child, and whether giving up would be anything more than letting them win.

Don't let the bastards get you down


I did enjoy the book, its slow but not monotonous, and I am looking forward to seeing how they translate it into a TV show - 4/5

Have you read a Handmaid's tale? If so, are what did you think? Are you looking forward to the show? Let me know in the comments below!
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Friday, 13 January 2017

What I've learned from 2016




I'm not really one for reflection, however when my friend asked me what were my best and worst moments of 2016 I was at a loss for an answer. 2016 has felt like both the longest and shortest year I have endured yet, I think there have been numerous times where I have said 'How is it already December and I have fuck all to show for it?' And that is depressing really; a whole year has passed and I don't feel like anything has changed. Perhaps I am wrong, I hope I am wrong, and that is what has inspired this post - lets really look back on 2016 and see what I have learnt from it, if anything.


You know what is best for you

I think this is probably something I can say I have learnt from this year. 2016 is the year that I started to work part time instead of full time at my finance job. I ended up being completely honest with them and told them 'I don't know if this is what I want to do, I don't think I am a 9-5 office person and I need to at least give my other goals a go' I was really lucky that they wanted me to stay on part time with them instead of move on somewhere else. I had a lot of people tell me not to go part time, I was pushed by a lot of well intending people into jobs that I didn't want. I know they mean well, but deep down I've always known I was made for something different. I don't know what the trigger for this year was that made me realise that, 'no, I know what I want, I can't live my life doing only what people have told me'. And I was right. I am so much happier now, I think this is evident not just to me, but those around me. It has been hard, of course, but I believe it is worth it, I do not regret it for a second and just wish I had started earlier. If you know deep down that you're not following something that you actually want to do, if you know that you're doing what is expected of you instead, be brave. This is your life, no one else's. If it is career related like me, you're going to be working for 60 or more years, you want to make sure you're happy. Follow what you want, not what everyone else wants of you.

Being stressed and busy is not an accomplishment

I think we live in a world where seeming to be excessivly busy means you're more succesful than the next person, which pushes everyone to become more and more busy, and therefore more and more stressed. I do not handle stress well, but I didn't want to look like a failure either, so I would join in, trying to pile as much onto my plate as I could, even if I knew I would never finish it. This year, I realised how unhappy this was making me. This year I realised that I really needed to start focusing, and caring for my mental health, and trying to be the busiest person out of my friends wasn't helping that. There seems to be a buzz to being the busiest, most stressed out of your friends, but it was short lived and then overwhelmed by the misery of being overworked. Some people thrive on stress, but that person isn't me, and I've learnt this year to both work and play.

Don't be ashamed of what you enjoy

Unless its illegal or perverse or hurts people, but you get the jist. I used to be so ashamed of the fact that I am a creative person, that I enjoy writing and art. To me I felt like a child if I told anyone, and that it wasn't an 'adult' hobby. I've had this idea reinforced to me by a few people, which is never helpful. Then I started to think about it, and the only reason I'm ashamed of it, is because I don't believe I'm very good at either things, but how can I become good without practising? And why should I care what other people think? Especially of things that make me happy, they're not there when I'm doing it, why let them take something like that from me? I decided not to be ashamed, and it was a choice I had to work at, I still go red when people ask me about my hobbies, but I no longer deny them or pretend they don't exist. And you know what? Most people are really supportive of it, and more important than that, I feel a little pride in saying it now!

Honesty is always the best option 

I have always been worried that I can be a bit blunt, but at the same time I also notice that I will say what people want to hear rather than what I honestly think, I think my response depended on the person. I think it could be a growing confidence in myself, but this year I have tried to be as honest as possible when someone asks me a question, not ignoring their feelings, but knowing the truth may be more helpful. This has come most apparent with friends that have come to me for advise. As I am sure many of you do, I would usually just agree with what they say and be there to comfort more than anything else. However, situations arose this year with people where I thought, if I just comfort them and agree with them, they're going to keep hurting themselves instead of moving towards a happier place, so I was honest, sometimes blunt, but always honest. I even apologised for the honesty, why did I feel bad for telling the truth! The honesty was mostly accepted happily, but would sometimes not be what they want to hear, so it is important to tell people, 'this is what I think, but I will be on your side if you choose to follow it or do something else.' And you know what? I think it has helped my relationships more than being a dormat would ever do.


These are what I've learned from 2016 - what are some of yours? Let me know in the comments below.
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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Book Review - Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King



'How life did imitate art sometimes. And the cruder the art, the closer the imitation.'.

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of novellas from the king himself, Stephen King.

Stephen King is the writer I aspire to be. Sticking to no genre, just writing great novels, consistently and constantly. I know a lot of people choose to criticise, but I think unnecessarily, no one can tell a story quite like him, and if I can be just 10% of the writer he is, I will be proud.

Now, back to the stories. King writes stories about normal people in extraordinary situations. That's his thing, he isn't interested in the heroes, he is interested is us Joe Norms and how we feel and react. That is, what I think, draws a lot of people in, because deep down, as much as we try to deny it, we are just an average person, living an average life, I know I'm no hero, the closest thing I would get to adventure would be being thrust into it as an innocent bystander.

Of course, true to King he has kept the tones of these stories dark, with themes of murder, rape and cancer, though all are very individual.

I think the one that stuck in my mind the most was A Good Marriage, not just because it is the last story in the book, but because King wrote it in such a way that I felt that I was this woman, married to a man she has just discovered she had no true clue about. He wrote her so well, he wrote their relationship well, and, I think, he wrote how she dealt with the situation in a way most of us would actually react. Though I will say the ending to 1922 definitely stuck with me, I thought it was the weakest of the stories when I was reading it, that was until the last few sentences.

If you're triggered by topics such as rape though, I would fully recommend skipping Big Driver. This was probably one of the darkest of the lot, and even I felt a little uncomfortable when reading it because, It could happen to any of us.

I would definitely recommend this book, whether your fans of Stephen King or not. They're short enough to enjoy over the course of one of two commutes to work, but detailed enough to feel like a full story. 4/5


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