Book reviews

You might be wondering what the Book Club and Cheap Book banners are doing on my blog. I write book reviews on a novel blog platform, and these blogs are affiliated with Book Club and the Cheap Book listings. If an author has published a book but they aren’t getting enough recognition, they can pay a small fee to Book Club and in return Book Club will feature their book on The Book Club Reading List. Reviewers like me will then look through the reading lists and select the books we want to review.

Becoming a successful author is one of the hardest things you can try to do. You may have written the greatest book ever, but if it’s not discovered by the right people, it doesn’t get enough publicity and it’s not featured on any ‘best seller’ lists, you still might not get anywhere. It’s a shame because there are some fantastic books out there that people are missing out on simply because they will never see them, but that’s the sad reality of the industry. Book Club probably won’t make these authors into best-sellers, but it will try and find them a larger audience.

I just finished reviewing Leah, a well-written and engaging mystery/horror/romance novel that really should be more popular than it is. I read Leah in a few long sittings because I just couldn’t put it down, and I really wanted to know what happens at the end. The author of Leah is a very talented writer, and I really hope this book gets the recognition it deserves someday. In the mean time all I can do is shameless promote it on my blog, which is precisely what I’m going to do. So please take a look at my review of Leah by going to my book review blog: http://sophestry.novelblogs.com/book-review-leah-by-dana-k-haffar/, and if you’re looking for a new book to fall in love with why not buy Leah on Amazon?

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Take a look at my author interview with Dana K Haffar, the author of Leah. If you want to buy and read Leah for yourself (and you should) please click here for the Amazon listing.

2011 09 17 13 37 Leah - Copy

Thank you so much to everyone who has so far sent me contributions for my article on the sexual harassment of teenagers on public transport. I am still looking for more quotes as the more people I can include the bigger the impact of the article will be, so if you have had personal experience with being harassed as a teenager please get in touch. I’m primarily writing about the public transport in London, but you don’t have to live in the U.K to get in touch.

I have to write a very long article on Tom Cruise’s alleged plastic surgery now (ghostwriting FTW…) but I’ll be back soon with more articles and updates so make sure to follow, bookmark, favourite or whatever you crazy kids do.

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Gone Girl and ‘misogyny’

I’ve just read a Guardian article published in October 2014 in which the author appear to have taken offence to the film ‘Gone Girl’, in the article she claims that it perpetuates myths about false rape accusations and paints women in a bad light.

*Spoilers for the second half of the book, read on at your own peril*

I should admit now that I’m still reading the book, I’m really enjoying it but haven’t finished it yet (so please, for the love of all deities, no spoilers PLEASE!) and I’m not going to watch the film until I’ve read the book. However, from what I know from the book so far (including the false rape accusation) the point of its inclusion was to demonstrate how ruthless,manipulative and cruel the character Amy can be when someone does something she doesn’t like, and to show that her husband was not her only victim. She is meant to be a psychopath. She is not meant to be representative of women in general. She is not meant to be nice or particularly likable, although one of the disturbing (and great) things about this book is that none of the characters are innocent or inherently good, but the reader does find themselves identifying with some of the things they say and feel (although hopefully not their actions). She uses the persona of the innocent female victim to her advantage because she knows how to play it, because she knows how to manipulate people, because she is good at playing a character and admits herself that she does not have a ‘real’ personality. All the things she does is for the story and for her character, I see no evidence it was in any way intended  to be about rape accusations or women in general, although the fact that it has created so many discussions can only be a good thing in my opinion. It is a work of fiction, and fiction is allowed to portray life in the way it wishes without necessarily having an outside agenda or a moral message.  Art is art, and art is neither moral nor immoral (to quote my darling Oscar Wilde). I am also quite glad to see complex and unpleasant female characters in books and film because it opens up the opportunity for new and fresh story lines, and it accepts that women can be as complex and as immoral as men. It should not be seen as a representation or accurate depiction of women, but the fact that we have come a long way from giving men all the interesting story lines should be celebrated.

The idea of a manipulative woman who lies to get people into trouble is not that outlandish idea, nor is it misogyny to admit that. I have known of several abusive relationships which involved the woman emotionally and physically abusing the man, and often using emotional manipulation to make them feel crazy and threatened. Admitting that women can and do do bad things is not misogyny, it is realistic. Women, like men, are human beings with varying personalities, experiences and actions, and complaining about a female character who does bad things because it sullies the image of real women is ridiculous, because the whole point of good fiction is to create memorable and sometimes controversial characters.  Patrick Bateman of American Psycho murdered women, raped women and even carried out his own abortions. Was he meant to be representative of men in general, and was the book trying to say that all men are evil psychos who murder women, cut up their body parts and then keep them in gym lockers? No. It was a work of fiction about a character that was quite possibly mad, and it is meant to shock and disgust us and show the depravity that can exist underneath seemingly normal, attractive and privileged people. The misogyny in this book (if you have read it you cannot deny that that is what it is in this case) is disgusting, but it is used because that is who the character is, not because that is what men are. It is a story designed to create a reaction, but it is still a story, and art is allowed to delve into the corners of life we in real life may not want to think about  because art without censorship means art can discuss what it wants, and that to me is the whole point of fiction. To think that people believe and take everything they read or see in films at face value is insulting, surely people are intelligent enough to know the difference between fact and fiction and can be trusted to see a film about murder, or false rape accusations, and not go on to assume this is normal behavior that everyone is engaging in.

I do not consider myself a feminist. That does not mean I disagree with a lot of things feminists say and do, I believe in gender equality and that men and women should be able to do what they want regardless of their sex. A girl can be a soldier and a boy can be a ballet dancer and that’s fine, it is about the individual rather then the sex. However, what I do not like about the feminism I have encountered is the anger many of them have when a woman, even if she agrees and is willing to support many of the things they say, does not wish to label herself a feminist and does not take everything feminists say as truth without looking into it. I do not wish to call myself a feminist because I believe the word itself inherently is just about women and does not include men, and whilst many feminists want equality for both genders I think you can believe in that and promote it without having to go around telling everyone you are a feminist.  I will support the causes I believe are helpful to women and beneficial to society, but I will not throw myself behind a label I often find myself disagreeing with, and I do not see why this is an issue.

Sexual harassment and un-wanted advances are unfortunately part of every day life, and campaigns that illustrate this should be celebrated (the one in new york where a girl walks down the street and videos all the creeps that come up to her and follow her was excellent, we need more of these). We also need to acknowledge that this kind of attention often starts very young, and some of the most likely victims of this are going to be teenage girls. I experienced it, all my female friends experienced it and young girls still experience it every day. We need more campaigns aimed at younger girls, to show them that they can speak out, and to show the men often twice their age who subject them to unwanted behavior that it is not acceptable. This is the kind of feminism I believe in, the kind that tackles real issues and aims to create a safer and better world, and shows women that they do not have to accept this behavior, they are not alone, it is not their fault and they can do something about it.

However, the kind of feminism that is often perpetuated in the Guardian and thrown around to varying degrees of extremity is not the kind of feminism I want to support. The kind of feminism that claims to be about real issues but uses inconsequential and often irrelevant things to back up their cause, and often end up taking something that really isn’t a big deal and warping it into yet another example of ‘patriarchy’ and ‘misogyny’ and, whilst saying it is related to other actually important issues, do not seem to have any real examples to choose from. Like the outrage over physicist Matt Taylor’s choice to wear a t-shirt depicting girls shooting guns in bikini’s on television, a man who made a very important contribution to physics and who was forced to apologize on national tv because of his t-shirt and was reduced to tears, the guy who is now just going to be remembered for that t-shirt. That t-shirt was designed by a female friend of Matt, who has created several other artistic garments with similarly scantily clad women and was herself shocked at the reaction. Whilst it may have been an inadvisable choice I do not see how or why it created such a backlash. I quite liked the t-shirt, personally. I probably wouldn’t wear it outside, but I don’t see why bikini clad gun shooting women have to be offensive, or why it is the best example of our ‘misogynist society’. The same goes for Tim Hunt (see my earlier post) who was fired because he said that girls cry when you criticize them. A poor thing to say yes, but a key example of misogyny? Really? He literally just said that sometimes men and women fall in love with each other in the work place, and as his wife is also a scientist he may have been speaking from personal experience, and that women cry. Which is annoying, but seriously. Is it a big deal? The guy was 72 years old, he would have grown up in a very different world and although his comments may be a little insulting his actions appear to suggest he supported female scientists and was actually in South Korea to promote them. Sexism is a real thing, but personally I feel that using these frankly pathetic examples actually works against women, because it portrays us as petty and over-emotional people who, not having real examples, will fall back on any questionable comment or choice of clothing and take it way out of proportion in order to promote a feminist agenda. And this is not helpful. There are real problems, we should be focusing on them, not on victimizing and singling out scapegoats like Hunt and Taylor and blaming them for all the ills of the world that they have nothing to do with.

The same goes for Gone Girl, a fictional depiction of fictional messed up characters which is being taken, again by the Guardian, as an example of our misogynist society because it depicts a woman lying about being raped. 1: It is a work of fiction, and 2: It is a fact that some women do lie about being raped. This does not mean that this should be the assumption and that women should not be trusted, but as with any crime it is not always as straightforward as it seems and it is important for us to acknowledge this. Accepting that men can sometimes be victims does not suggest that women are liars, but to have a fair society we have to acknowledge that there are variations and we cannot work on absolute principles, such as men are never wrongly accused and women never lie.  I do not like the feminists who would censor every account of a man being genuinely wrongly accused and having their life messed up because it may perpetuate a bad image of women. The point of free speech is to show different sides of a situation, and to encourage open discussion and debate, it is not to suppress someone else’s experience or to refuse to ever be challenged.  To do so implies you have a weak argument, and it hurts your cause more than either a genuine individual case of a man being victimized or an illogical and obviously flawed misogynist tirade every could.

Basically, people need to stop complaining about fictional characters and irrelevant fashion choices and start to focus on the real issues that effect women. We can talk about misogyny in the work place, and in the police procedure and in any aspect of life, but do not blame Tim Hunt or Matt Taylor or anyone who hasn’t done anything that directly harms women (because I am sorry, saying girls cry does not harm anyone with any kind of self confidence or maturity) and definitely do not blame Gone Girl, which as I cannot say enough is a fictional story about fictional characters in a fictional situation.

The article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/06/gone-girl-rape-domestic-violence-ben-affleck#comment-41854506