Murder and Poems and Porn. Oh My.

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I don’t remember the last time I read an lgbtqa+ erotica murder mystery poetic book. For this reason, I can’t deny that Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey Mask is slightly original. Apart from the interesting style, most the story is predictable and even a little awkward. Watch the self-confessed ‘dyke’ Jill Fitzpatrick investigate the murder of uni student Mickey Noris and fall into a sexual relationship with Mickey’s teacher Diana.

Jill Fitzpatrick, even though she’s a bit stereotypical, is very cool. She’s a tough woman who is open with her sexuality and I found myself rooting for her. Even though there were a few questionable moments, I found myself making an excuse for her. If you don’t see my reasoning behind the excuse, it’s find. Maybe it’s just because I enjoyed the irony of a poetic first person book done via a character who hates poetry. I’m not saying that Jill is the most complex and realistic character in the world. Hell, I can even see the argument of her being a lazy stereotypical lesbian. I just know that I liked her.

The other characters weren’t as developed as they should be. It’s the curse of writing it through poetry. We get to know a bit about Mickey through her poetry. I even tried to write a section of a poem up for you, but I’m too prudish. Diana is… also stereotypical. She is the kind of bisexual that people in the 90s would write. There needed to be more heart for me to care about her. I can’t even remember the names of the other characters, which goes to show how forgettable there are. There just needed to be less porn and more character development.

A focus of The Monkey’s Mask is sex, and it is so hard to get that right. Most of the times, authors include awkward lines that take you out of the experience. This is what happened multiple times throughout book. Yes, quite a few were good, even intentionally a little bit devoid of emotion, but there are the occasional sentences that destroys any emotion other than humour. I remember one line talking about teeth gnashing together as they make out.  The annoying part is that other bits were so good. If they had just gotten rid of the few awkward lines, it would have been a lot better.

The mystery isn’t that much of a mystery. It’s established early on who the most likely suspect is and of course, it was right. This would be linked with the title and it goes into an idea, but I always think the story should come first. If it’s a murder mystery, it should be a little bit more mysterious. The other suspects did not feel like they were actual suspects as there was only superficial evidence. Maybe if there was something more substantial on them, it would take a bit more of a mystery.

Now for the actual poetry. I’m not a buff in that area, but I found it ok. There was not a lot of depth to the poems, but it sort of works with the story. When some writers go into a lot of detail and emotion throughout the poems, it’s hard to keep track of what is actually going on. However, because of this I only experienced one or two ‘wow’ moments after reading a poem. There just had to be a few more to make the book stand out.

This book started out as an interesting read but once the action started, it maintained itself until the end with no changes or development. I will give it 5.2/10.

 

Question: What was the last poem you read?

For the Love of Books

thehauntedbookshop

Do you know someone who thinks they are better than others because of the sophisticated books they read? Do you know people who shame you for your favourite book? If you roll your eyes at these people, Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop is not for you. Read Roger Mifflin boast about his beloved profession as a second-hand bookstore and how books are the meaning of life. Oh yeah, and there’s a mystery behind a copy of Thomas Carlyle’s Oliver Cromwell.

I want to start with the most infuriating part of the book. It was an homage to books for a majority of the story and while I understand the sentiment, I hate it when authors do this. If we are reading books, we like books. That or we are forced to read the book and your snobbish attitude isn’t helping anyone. Yes, the book was published in 1919 and things would have been different to what they are now, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. The only way to make the story a little bit more tolerable is if I view it in a way that probably wasn’t intentioned. Roger Mifflin, as pleasant as he is, has become so besotted by books that it has blinded him from the main plot of the story. Even though he values reading and is a nice enough character, he shows that the obsession with books can impact negatively on real life. Honestly, this is much more interesting than, ‘books are amazing and if you don’t read books, you’re not smart’.

Even though the main characters were nice, they were just that… nice. Roger Mifflin became a one-dimensional character and Mrs Mifflin as well as Titania – a young student who had to be saved through the power of Dickens – were placid extras. Even though it did give a scene later on more power, it wasn’t worth it. Only Aubrey Gilbert had a life outside of books, which led to the actual plot. On an unrelated note, what is it with classic writers having male characters want to beat the girls they find attractive? It is a really strange trend that people have, and it makes the relationship more uncomfortable than it already was.

The actual plot is rather interesting. It would have been so much better if this was the focus and the love of books was just a background theme. A particular book goes missing, only for the name to be brought up by multiple people. Roger Mifflin is too busy obsessing over other books to put much thought into it (at least they stole a book worth stealing after all), but Aubrey is determined to figure out what is going on. I have to respect the plan of the antagonists, which kind of saves the book a little.

I might be a little bit bias, but basing a book on how amazing books are doesn’t work for me anymore. It feels like it’s pandering to the audience and removes the likability of the characters. It distracts me from the plot, which was actually pretty good, and made the story feel a lot slower simply because I didn’t like what they were saying. I will give this 5.5/10. If you really love books, I think you will appreciate it more than I.

 

 

Questions: What is your opinion on books constantly declaring how great books are?

Another Celebration of Women

Women are incredible. You can have a ‘Top 1,000’ influential women’ and not be anywhere close to including all of them. Pier9′s <i>Women who Changed the World: Fifty Inspirational Women Who Shaped HIstory </i>is one of the myriad of books encourages awareness of brilliant women. Even though I was questioning a few of the inclusions in this book, it was still a solid foundation for readers. If you have limited knowledge on people like Rosa Parks and Marie Curie, this is a great book for you.

The range of women is reasonable. This comes in the form of women of colour such as Mary Seacole and Benazir Bhutto, but also in their occupations. Politicians, fashion designers, entertainers, activists, scientists and athletes are included with equal respect so I’m sure you will find a few that you find interesting.

The layout was formulaic, which can be boring for many people, but I enjoyed it. It made each reading feel like a ritual and if I didn’t care about the individual, I knew which parts to skip. Even if you didn’t want the three page explanation, a simple glance at the introduction page will give you a solid understanding of the woman.

As each woman is given three pages (timeline included), you won’t get as much information as you would of you read a biography. However, a lot of their life is introduced. Sometimes the negative aspects are included, which is very important as it makes the book feel like more than just a shrine to the women.

As there are so many great women in history, the way the book was presented was informative but predictable. However, they were smart by admitting the issue at the introduction where they stated ‘we hope the choices made by our researches will prompt thought and discussion’. So, who do you think is constantly snubbed from influential women lists

Score: 7.3/10

I think I need a cure now.

As the final book in the Maze Runner series (prequels excluded), there was a lot riding on The Death Cure. The ending looked bleak and there were so many questions that needed to be answered. Unfortunately, what we got was a cop out ending that leaves more questions and multiple issues feeling unresolved. In fact, I have figured out what bugs me about the story; it’s such a dude book.
What is a dude book you may ask? It’s a story saturated ion action and violence, thus losing the impact. We’re not given any time to breath before the next fight, which is the conveniently solved. This was really frustrating in the end because a huge fight scene would have been so good if it hadn’t been ruined by the consistent ‘near death’ tone. Even the way the short chapters ended on suspenseful notes made the whole thing monotonous.
The characters were rather superficial. They usually had the same motives and were tough. If there was one or more sweet of fun character to juxtapose the darkness, it would have been lighter and more readable. I even think that there was not much character growth, which shows how violence was the focus of the story. Thomas, for example, was a generic hero character that just made him bland. It’s just the fantasy for dudes without any complex thought.

I really want to complain about the ending, but I can’t do that without spooking any of it. Basically, I can see what he wanted but it just made the plot feel pointless and I can think of multiple issues with what happened.
Read this book if you like action and an attempt of discussing utalitarianism. I can sort of see the appeal, but there are too many issues for me to properly enjoy it. 5.1/10.
Discussion: can you think of any other examples of dude books?

Hello, people. With the year coming to an end, I had to reflect over what I have accomplished and this is one of my main concerns. I rarely finished a book and actually got around to writing a review. This saddens me. However, there’s no point wallowing in the past. My New Year’s Resolution is simple: Read one hundred books and write one hundred reviews. If I succeed, I will buy myself a bookcase (which I have been needing for a while) and if I fail, I will sell most of my books. Wish me luck, guys.

Everything You Know is a Lie

There’s only one thing better than learning something new – learning something that you thought you knew is absolute bollocks. The hit TV show QI has been blowing the minds of their viewers for over a decade, so naturally a gimmicky book had to be created. Thus The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson was born. Unfortunately, it’s better as a standalone piece than a book connected to a TV show.

The amount of “mind-blowing facts” depends on your knowledge. There were a few facts I already knew (some from watching the TV show), and others I never even heard of so the big reveal of the truth meant little to me. I still recommend you read the book because you’re probably going to learn at least one thing.

I have read a few arguments stating that some QI facts are wrong, and they probably are, so I would have liked a reference list at the end of the book. It does mention the ‘elves’ who do the research, but that isn’t the same as acknowledging where they got the information from.

One of the best aspects of this book is the transitions. It doesn’t separate topics into sections, nor does it jump from one fact to another. Instead, it uses a component of one answer as a the topic subject of the next question. This makes it flow really well, but the rare incident where they don’t do it is obviously disjointed.

Another disjointed part of the book is when they include quotes from the TV show. Some may have been funny, but overall they didn’t work for me. Some didn’t work because they seemed irrelevant, while others didn’t work because it’s not the same as hearing it from the guests. It’s also an issue because I don’t know to whom it is targeted. Fans of the show would already know the joke and I really can’t see it appealing to those who aren’t fans (mainly because they didn’t even include the surnames of the guests). It didn’t destroy the book, but nor did it contribute anything.

Overall, it’s a really pleasant book. Your outlook on reality will be tested and you have to think for yourself. I’m giving it 7.2/10.

Discussion: What is the strangest fact you know?

Shall I compare thee to other books I read?

Mickey

Love has to be one of the most influential emotion; especially when it comes to poetry. Classic Love Poems edited by Max Morris is just one of the many books dedicated to this topic. By embracing poets from Richard Monckton Milnes to William Wordsworth, he created a really cute book with pretty illustrations.

The poetry was either hit or miss with me. Some of them left me smiling, and the others left me turning the page with no idea of what I just read. My favourites have to be the ones dedicated to a certain individual (at least, I assume they are) such as Robert Burn’s I Love My Jean. However, the overall tone was too lovey dovey for my liking. There should have been more intense and even depressing love poems so we can have a larger variety and would even help with the order.

Morris used the classic alphabetical order of the authors and while I have no issue with this, there are a few other structural issues. The main one is that he included passages from books or plays, such as one from Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Knowing that there is a whole story surrounding the poem prevents me from enjoying what has been presented to me. I just need to know the context. Another minor issue is that Morris didn’t title some of the poems properly. For example, every poem by Shakespeare was simply called Sonnet. This confused me because he numbered Elizabeth Barret Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. Why were some poems titled properly while others weren’t?

There’s not much to say about the illustrations except that they were pretty. I would have appreciated a little more depth or variety, but then it wouldn’t have gone with the idealistic tone of the book. Overall, it was a fine job.

This is a great book if you’re looking for romantic (and sometimes corny) poems. Unfortunately, that’s not for me so I’m going to have 5.6/10.

Discussion:

Let’s do something different. Create your own love poem and submit it in the comment section.

Your Skirt’s Too Short

Illustration by Kartazina Babis

Hopefully you know that sexism still exists in western societies. If not, or you want to learn more about the topic, Emily Maguire’s Your Skirt’s Too Short is a great inclusive book to assist you in your journey. Maguire uses standard creative non-fiction techniques to explain issues such as work, porn, appearances, how sexism affects men and many more.

When it comes to these kind of books, half the enjoyment comes out of it challenging your views of the world. Unfortunately it didn’t, but that didn’t mean I learned something interesting. I still cannot believe that a Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute exists and that some people found the models in Total Girl sexual. Actually, here’s a warning; you might hate society a little bit more once you finish the book.

One of the best parts of the book is that it is inclusive. She includes LGBTQA+ individuals and a Muslim woman while making arguments. It’s still not perfect as she includes the word ‘cripple’ when making a joke and doesn’t really mention how feminism history is different to different races. The worst example, however, is one that I might be looking too deep into. In one chapter, she uses the subheading ‘First they came for the homosexuals’ and ‘Then they came for me’, which appears to be a reference to the Martin Niemöller quote. I may understand why she did it, but comparing our treatment towards the homosexuals today to the treatment of Jewish (or even homosexual) population in WWII Germany makes me uncomfortable. Apart from these small issues, knowing that she has at least attempted to include different kind of people makes her a lot better than other ‘White Feminists’.

Her voice does come through, which is great. She talks about her own experiences and mentions multiple times that everyone makes mistakes and should be accountable to them – even herself. She has a great way of putting herself into the text, but makes sure it isn’t all about her. However, it does become slightly monotonous towards the end. Maybe if she was slightly more passionate in certain areas, her otherwise pensive tone would be stronger and it would make the read more enjoyable.

The book is targeted towards High School students, and this makes me uncomfortable in certain areas. I have to imagine myself as an awkward teenager and some sections of the book would disturb me (mainly the discussion of the vulva). Then again, it depends on the teenager. For example, if a teen is really into porn, they should read the chapter ‘Pornstars and the Women Who Love them’. Male teenagers should also read ‘Boy Trouble’ to prevent from from becoming Meninists. If you are a teenager, it’s up to you as to whether or not you’re ready to deal with some graphic details.

Despite the minor issues, it’s still a decent read and is one of the best explanations of feminism I have read. I’m giving it 8.7/10.

Question: What is the most sexists encounter you have experienced?

Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigine

Men of Ngarrindjeri by Cedric Varcoe

Non-western mythology definitely needs more attention than it is receiving at the moment, including those of the Australian Aborigines. David Unaipon’s Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigine showcases over twenty Dreamtime stories as well as the Ngarrindjeri culture, which is the tribe David Unaipon comes from.

For those who don’t know, Dreamtime stories are creation myths of the Australian Aborigine. The stories included range from how the tortoise got its shell to who Naroondarie is (a prophet) and what happened to his wives. Overall, they were pleasant and interesting. None were awful, and my only complaint would be that a few dragged on for a tad too long. What I did have an issue with was the educational chapters.

Even though it was interesting to learn how some Aborigines killed swans or how they used math for fishing, it didn’t always connect to a legendary tale. Witchcraft was able to bring a story into its explanation on, well, witchcraft, but the same can’t be said about Hunting or Fishing. They were more series of events than an actual tale. So, even though they were fascinating and something I enjoyed reading, it didn’t exactly fit the book.

Most of the tales included anthropomorphism, which was quite surreal at times. Overall, I loved learning about the symbolism behind certain animals and ideas as to why they are what we know today, but it was sometimes confusing. This is evident in The Mischievous Crow. After the crow traps some baby pelicans really high up a tree, everyone is distressed, not knowing how to retrieve the birds. However… some birds can fly. They even fly in the chapter, yet they’re stuck in that moment. It just annoyed me.

Another awkward part of the book is when Unaipon used Ngarrindjeri – his native language. While I loved the use of Ngarrindjeri terms for animals or important expressions, there were some instances where it didn’t make sense. In certain chapters, he alternated between the two languages for the same word, or he would use Ngarrindjeri for a basic statement. They shouldn’t have gotten rid of the Ngarrindjeri, but it would have been better if they used it in a more appropriate way.

Other than those few hiccups, the language was splendid. Unaipon gave himself authority with the phrase ‘my people’, and the description resembled something you would hear around the fire. It led to an intriguing read.

I’m giving this book 8.5/10. It’s a fascinating read with most chapters are great at explaining the culture of the Ngarrindjeri people. Even though there are some differences, it will give you an basic understanding of many Aboriginal customs and beliefs.

Discussion Point: Do you know any Dreamtime stories? If so, which ones?

Two Batman Reviews for the Reading Time of One

The issue with comics is that the quality always changes depending on which timeline and creators they use. This is why I never got around to reading any Batman comics until recently, and it just proved my point. While Batman: Arkham Asylum – A Serious House on Serious Earth was a chilling and fascinating story with just a few issues I’d like to fix, Batman: The Dark Knight, Vol. 1: Knight Terrors was more of a mess with a few almost redeeming qualities.

Arkham Asylum follows Batman into Arkham Asylum, which the Joker has taken over. Even I have seen this plot before, so it can’t be too original. What saves it, however, is that it also introduces the history of Amadeus Arkham, who set up the Asylum. Knight Terrors also includes the Asylum as inmates escape and are apparently filled with a drug that makes them animalistic. There are no large plot twists in either if you have little interest in the comics. However, they are both simple sweet stories you can probably read within half an hour.

Artistry is probably the main reason why I preferred Arkham Asylum to Knight Terror. Arkham Asylum has a sketchy dark tone to it. It fits the situation perfectly and gives the comic the creepy vibe it needed. There are one or two sections that are hard to read, but most of it is eligible, so props to artist Dave McKean. Knight Terrors on the other hand is just a bit too generic for me. Yes, it is clean and crisp, but there is nothing that blew me away. The muscular characters were grotesque, but not grotesque in an interesting way. Also, Knight Terror introduced the White Rabbit. Just look at her.

Now, I’m all for female characters embracing their sexuality, but she looks like the product of a teenager’s wet dream. Hopefully she becomes more than just a sex symbol in other comics.

A common trend between both comics is their representation of the lead character – Bruce Wayne. He isn’t a brooding non-compassionate individual I have come to expect, as he genuinely cares about people, including the villains. In Arkham Asylum, he focuses on Harvey Dent and in Knight Terror, he assists Poison Ivy… for a few panels. However, the latter had a lovely interaction scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred which is the best part of the whole comic. Watching Bruce Wayne be a considerate human being was probably the only part which made me invested in the story.

Apart from the White Rabbit, most of the characters are fine. The issue was that they weren’t used to the full effect. There was a Mad Hatter character in Arkham Asylum, but nothing was really done with him. The same thing can be said with the Justice League in Knight’s Terror. Honestly, I have a slight issue with the representation of the Joker, but that’s because he was less Mark Hamill and more Heath Ledger. You can be free to disagree. Even though I don’t have major complaints, not a lot of characters were memorable.
If I had to recommend one of the comics, it would definitely be Arkham Asylum. It’s creepy and interesting while revealing information about the DC world. This one is worth 8.1/10. Knight Terrors on the other hand is just mediocre with a tad of confusion, so I have to give it 5/10.

Discussion Point: What’s your opinion of Batman?