Wine and Water – Forthcoming from Bahati Books

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In the summer season, when the air is thick with heat, and all you want to do is stretch out on a beach, with a fruity cocktail, and a good book, Hannah Onoguwe’s short story collection Wine and Water, provides exactly the kind of romantic escape we all need from our every day lives.

 

Each of the twelve stories in the collection is crafted with a brilliant attention to detail, bringing forward characters, so fully fleshed out and dimensional, you can almost feel them in the room with you. The dialogue is beautifully simple, and easily believable, structured in a way that rings true to many real-life conversations, and all the more powerful for that. Each story presents a self-contained world, painted richly and in broad strokes, fully immersive, and sentimental, bringing about a warmth and love of the backdrop that almost makes it a presence of its own within the writing. With her descriptions of Lagos as a city where love blossoms so beautifully and easily between so many different people, Onoguwe builds it up as a place of dreams, while still grounding it in reality.

 

While the stories themselves are about love, and romance, they also tackle a number of real, and serious issues, that play an important role in the characters’ lives and decisions. From familial ties and relationships between parents, children and siblings, to the issues of women’s position in society, these problems, represented without sugarcoating, only serve to make the stories stand out more, as literary texts that take themselves – and the subject matter – seriously, and don’t underestimate the readers, giving them a full spectrum of emotions.

 

There is also something to be said about the way in which Onoguwe crafts her male characters, writing them just as flawed, real, and richly imagines, as her female protagonists. Often in writing romance, authors fall into a trap of endlessly romanticizing the love interest, projecting a fantasy of the ideal man, and forgetting to write a human. In Wine and Water, each of the male characters – lovers, brothers, and fathers is allowed to have an inner world, and an emotional landscape that makes them all the easier to fall in love with- both for the protagonists, and the readers. The female characters too, are afforded variety – they are women from all walks of life, different women, each strong in her own way, with dreams and desires that never looked down on, or considered invalid, with an eagerness and lust for life that is deeply relatable, and incredibly important in a time where ennui seems to be the modus operandi for romance heroines, who are just waiting for a man to save them. These women don’t need a savior, so much as a companion who will share life with them – this is made abundantly clear in “Baggage to love”, a story that brings together two sensitive people, and allows them to be vulnerable with each other, and reveal their feelings despite baggage, and previous hurts.

 

Overall, Wine and Water is an incredible collection of short fiction that will bring a smile to your face, and allow you to engross yourself in a wonderful world, where love is just around the corner, and everything is possible with honesty, hard work, and genuine faith in people. It’s en excellent read for summer, and offers something to take away to everyone.

 

 

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The Vegetarian – Han Kang

I had the unique opportunity to meet the amazing Deborah Smith – the translator of this lovely book, and hear her talk about the translation process, and the Man Booker International, and her own publishing house – Tilted Access. It was a wonderful evening, and I am so grateful to Lancaster University and The Storey for making this event possible.

As someone with a keen interest in a translation, it was very refreshing to be able to speak to a woman who’s made it her entire life, and very affirming to know that you don’t have to be completely bilingual to be able to make words happen so beautifully across languages.

Here is my review of The Vegetarian, which was originally printed in my college’s magazine, and which I asked Deborah to sign for me:

hankang2

The full review is pasted here:

I was first attracted to The Vegetarian because of the cover – a delicate white bird’s wing in front of a dark red background, calling to me, grabbing my attention. I’d heard of the book before – like every aspiring writer, I check every literary award shortlist obsessively, to see what’s “the competition”, what’s “in vogue” so to speak (sometimes even literally, what’s in Vogue, what are important famous people reading, it’s good to know stuff like that).

 

So I knew that it had won the Man Booker International, and I knew that it was an incredible translation. I am ashamed to admit that this is my first forey into Korean literature, and it already had so much expectation riding on it. I expected that book to be mind blowing. And it was. Sometimes, a novel slips into your life delicately, making a neat little space for itself, and stays there. When I was trying to explain the book to my friends, without giving too much plot details away, I’d resolve to calling it a psychological novel, but it’s so much more than that.

 

I recommended it to my housemates (both of them vegetarians), and so they picked it up. “This blurb,” one of them said, “claims that this book is darkly erotic. Is this some type of 50 Shades nonsense?”

 

When I got the book, I hadn’t actually paid attention to the blurb, but yes – apparently it was supposed to be “erotic”, and of all the things that I’d been expecting from this book, because of all the rave reviews, recommendations, and conversations with writer and translator friends, with all the hype I’d built in myself about it, “erotic” was one word that couldn’t be farther off. So I won’t talk about that. Instead, I’m going to talk about all the other things this novel is.

 

It’s amazingly introspective. Split in three parts, between the point of view of the vegetarian’s husband, her brother-in-law and her sister, the book chronicles the journey of one average, unremarkable middle-aged, middle-class woman into mental illness, as perceived by the people around her. It all starts with a dream that drives her to give up on eating meat. That one, seemingly innocent action, tilts everyone in her world to look at everything else she’s ever done differently, to find the root of the problem, to figure out what’s made her behave outside the norm.

 

It isn’t until the final part of the book, where her mental illness is finally named, that the reader can comprehend the depth of her issues. Through the point of view of her husband, she is just an uncharacteristically silent woman, unknowable, a little odd, perhaps, but not harmful as such, until she tries to take her own life. Her brother-in-law, on the other hand, sees her as an object of sexual desire. Perhaps it is in his part that the odd “eroticism” critics seem to find in the book comes into play, but in reality, reading through his chapters, it comes across as merely coercive, and more than a little unsettling, particularly in the part of the book where he, driven by the desire for her, rapes her sister – his wife, and then coerces her into sex, first with another man, then with him.

It isn’t until the final part of the novel, narrated by her sister, that the reader is allowed a glimpse at Yeong-hye not as an object to possess or desire, but as a person, and even that is arbitrary, as In-hye only discusses her sister as an inconvenience. She does, however, detail the childhood abuse that may have spurned her sister’s madness, and finds the words to describe her perceived insanity in detail.

 

At its core, The Vegetarian is a deeply emotional, disturbing in its detail, look at mental illness through the eyes of its witnesses, without offering them any sympathy for their callous dismissal of the real victim. The writing style, coming through the beautiful translation is intimate and emotional, riddled with lovely description, and stunted, bloodless dialogue which reveals the emotional and spiritual vegatation of the participants. It’s an amazingly rendered critique of society, and a bold challenge to tradition. It comes alive starkly through a masterful translation, and leaved the reader wanting more.

And here is my copy of the book, which Deborah was kind enough to sign as well:

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Hello Again!

Hey friends,

I’m really sorry I haven’t updated this blog in ages. It’s been a very hectic year for me.

I had an incredible internship, and focused a lot on my freelance work, so I didn’t really have time to maintain this blog as much as I would have liked. Don’t worry – I’ve got plenty of drafts that I can’t wait to post and share with you.

In the mean time, check out my writing for Taylor Magazine, Noise Medium and HerCampus, where I talk about a whole lot of things!

I will put links up in a post soon, and on my Find Me Elsewhere Page.

XX Thea

Summer Book Haul

Over summer I’ve accumulated a lot of new books so I’m making a book haul post.

Apologies for the awful camera quality.

book haul

  1. Медальонът -The Medallion
  2. Ритуалът- The Ritual
  3. The House of Secrets Books 1 & 2
  4. Shadow and Bone
  5. All the Bright Places
  6. Daughter of Shadow and Bone
  7. Carol
  8. Dark Places Gillian Flynn (review is upcoming)
  9. Heist Society
  10. Howl’s Moving Castle (IT’S SPARKLY!!!!)
  11. Rivers of London
  12. Court of Thorns and Roses (I loved TOG, so let’s see…)
  13. Самодива – Wildalone (I got this a while ago, review is upcoming)
  14. A Nora Roberts Trilogy
  15. Гръцко кафе – Greek Coffee (предстои рецензия)

Not pictured because I’ve given them away are:

  • Бяло сладко – White Jam
  • Bellzhar (review probably not upcoming tbh)
  • some others (like 4-5 more books, idrk, I don’t keep track, I gave them to friends)

Not pictured, but I have them as ebooks are:

  • A Little Life (review upcoming)
  • What Belongs to You (rave review upcoming)
  • The Cursed Child (review upcoming)
  • TFC series (rave review upcoming)
  • two more books from the Lust Money and Murder series (reviews upcoming)

 

I will also do a book shelf tour of my Bulgarian library as soon as my housekeeper helps me organise it. If you live in Bulgaria/UK I might be giving away some books so keep your eyes peeled.

 

Suicide Squad | Film Review

I have had five lectures on script writing, film and cinematography as part of my creative writing course. I’m here now to do movie reviews like I know what the hell I’m talking about. Enjoy.

I want to start this review by saying that I absolutely loved Suicide Squad, and I am confident enough in my good taste not to feel the need to defend this statement. I loved Suicide Squad. This review will be split in two parts: Reasons why the movie was awful and Reasons why I enjoyed the movie (some of them overlap, actually).

So therefore, let me present all the reasons why Suicide Squad absolutely sucked in no particular order.

  1. The Plot

I won’t lie, I know four lectures on script writing and cinematography a movie expert do not make, but from a strictly textual perspective, SuSq had absolutely no plot. It was, at the best of times (and at the worst of times) weak and flimsy and generally just terrible. It served the purpose of bringing all the characters together, and giving them a common purpose, but overall it was just Bad. Of course, unlike the Avengers, it lacked five movies of exposition, but nah. As far as plots go, this one was (as we say in Bulgaria) sewn together with white string (that means bad).

However, as some people say, good actors can and will carry a weak plot. And boy, did they! I can’t not gush about how brilliant Will Smith was as Deadshot – absolutely marvelous. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn literaly blew me away and I’m still recovering – her performance in a limited and overly sexualized role affected me so much I’m considering tatooing Damaged on my forehead in serif italics like so: DAMAGED. This brings me on to my second point:

  1. What is up with Harley Quinn?????

If you’ve opened a DC comic book once in your life (not a pre-requisite for enjoying the movie, btw) you’d know that Harley and the Joker’s relationship is VIOLENTLY ABUSIVE. Actually, if you’ve been on the Internet even once in anticipation of SuSq you’d know this. And for those people who somehow missed the memo – The Joker Abuses Harley. He beats her, manipulates her, assaults her, insults her, constantly, hurts her, and treats her like shit. This is NOT a love story. Harley Quinn is an abuse victim. In most recent comic book canon she has broken away from him, and is currently involved with Poison Ivy (be still my beating heart!).

That having been said, we (the fans) were promised a movie that portrays Joker’s abuse of Harley. We did not get this. Apparently the scenes where he lays hands on her didn’t test well with audiences – big shocker – can you believe the general public doesn’t want to see a realistic view of a woman being hurt by her significant other, when they can just as easily ignore that anything is wrong and romanticize a relationship that is, fundamentally, founded on violence? I mean, we can’t even, as a society, pull together enough to recognize that toxicity of real life abusive relationships, let alone ones we see in fiction.

I love the Joker as passionately as any twelve year old boy with a hot topic obsession, but the way SuSq showed his relationship with Harley was a BIG no for me.

In fact, SuSq did Harley dirty in many aspects. She was eye candy with a sad backstory (kind of like El Diablo, but minus the tired racial sterotypes). From oversexualizing her to the point of being actually uncomfortable (and that’s hard to do in contemporary Hollywood films because EVERYTHING is oversexualized), and downplaying her trauma (and using it to – make the Joker seem romantic?), the movie betrayed all expectations on the Harley front. I’ll go as far as to say that Harley in SuSq was just a continuation of Margot’s character in The Wolf of Wallstreet (and like, not in a good way. At all). It was unfortunate. Hyperfocus on her body, and her ~quirky~ one-liners took away from what could potentially have been a very strong portrayal of a female character with a lot of agency.

Overall my verdict on Harley was: very pretty, lots of fun, I squealed every time she was on screen, but if you spend even a second thinking a bit deeper about her, you will get sad and upset. Enjoy her character at face value.

But SuSq betrayed all its female characters. So:

  1. Female characters what now??

Karen Fukuhura is an angel – she is literally an angel. She did the best she could with little screentime, and a poorly strung together presentation. I loved her – or rather, I would have loved her, if I knew what the hell is up with her character. I’ll admit, I am a fake geek girl – I know maybe 5 things about DC comics. I didn’t know anything about Katana before seeing Suicide Squad, and I definitely didn’t know much more about her after I saw it. I thought her look was pretty sweet, I thought she was super badass, I just wish I knew how did she get involved with the Suicide Squad project and how her (tragic) backstory ties her in to the rest of the characters. Just, you know, things and stuff. Another plot hole that sadly remains unfilled. I liked that she spoke Japanese instead of thickly accented English, and that most people on the squad understood her/didn’t make a fuss about it – I thought it was a nice touch. And her fight scenes were pretty cool too. Just really wish we knew more about her.

Enchantress/June Moon was a big ????? for me. I get it, we need the possession storyline so Cara can realistically play a South American (?) lady, but that also took away from both characters. In fact, the entire Enchantress storyline (the plot line meant to carry the movie – and failing spectacularly at it) was so tired, weak and overly unpleasant I prefer to pretend it wasn’t there. Literally. So wait, June touched an ancient artifact, brought a thousands of years old witch into our world, and the witch decided to wipe away humanity because she is no longer worshipped as a god, and she brought the spirit of her witch brother to help her do it, but her heart isn’t in her body (??) and she must reclaim it to reclaim her full power and THEN she can wipe away humanity and um – reign supreme over a desolate planet, I guess? Ok. And so Annalise Keating decided “Hey, you know what sounds like a totally great idea that literally can’t go wrong? We’re gonna take this witch, who is overpowered as all hell, and try to control her, using her heart (which will give her her full power back if she reclaims it) and we hope if her vessel body does the sexytimes with a good looking military man that will be enough to reign her in. Brilliant, this cannot go wrong!” (This is why you’re being investigated for like 75 murders on HTGAWM, ANALISE!!!!!!!!)

Um. Can y’all tell how I feel about this plotline? Listen, Anne Rice already did this in Queen of the Damned, okay? That movie EXISTS (kind of). This movie exists right down to the hypnotic ~exotic~ arm-wavy dancing in front of a big glowy thing. Trust. It was a moderately okay movie. It also involved a lot of leather and Hot Topic. Lestat in it was a better Joker than the Joker here.

So yes. I’m pulling the plug on the Enchantress storyline. It didn’t happen. Cara Delevigne was gorgeous though. She did her best.

HOWEVER, I really loved Viola Davis – playing a tough as nails woman in power suits her. I keep calling her character Annalise, but the truth is, Amanda Woller is badass on a whole other level. I don’t even care that we didn’t get the backstory on this lady, I just wanted MORE of her. Seriously. She was brilliant. More, more, more.

  1. THE JOKER

HOLY SHIT, STRAP IN, if you thought my review so far was pretty negative, just wait until I say my piece about the Joker.

First let me say, that I do NOT support Jared Leto in any way shape or form. I think he is a transphobe and a rapist, and a generally subpar actor, with a bad work ethic, who is unprofessional and straight up harassed his colleagues. The only reason I paid money for the movie is because I wanted to support all the POC in it.  

Secondly, I am a BIG Joker fan. Largely what got me into fandom (tumblr) was seeing The Dark Knight and loving the Joker so much.

That having been said, for all the hype, could he have possibly been any more bland and disappointing as the Joker??????????? Nah, I don’t think so, but it’s obvious he tried. I’ll try to break this down in order but tbh it all overlaps a lot.

4.1. The Look

Ok, I’m a basic bitch, I actually liked the look, sue me. But it just wasn’t – it wasn’t J, sorry it wasn’t. With his slicked back evenly touched up at the roots hair and artfully smudged Ruby Woo MAC lipstick, and his spotless gloves and pimp cane don’t get me wrong, he looked COOL, he just didn’t look RIGHT. He looked like a fashionization of the Joker (if anyone has seen the fashionization art Kevin Wada has done for Marvel), not the real deal. The tattoos were a neat touch, but again – Not The Joker. He was like a sullen dead-eyed male model off the runway of any ~edgy~ new fashion line. The Joker is supposed to be the living embodiment of Chaotic Evil, he doesn’t have time to do the Jefree Star and Nikkie Tutorials make up challenges what are you DOING??

I want the costume department to come talk to me. I swear I just wanna talk. fight me

And his living space? What. Was. That. What???? MY ROOM IS MESSIER THAN THAT AND I AM NEUTRAL EVIL AT BEST. The neat writing on the wall looks as intentional and well-done as Luna Lovegood’s pretty artistic renditions of her friends, the arranged assortment of knives and guns, while very very pretty and intimidating, is 1) impractical 2) not the Joker at all – I mean, just assuming that he has the attention span to put all his weaponry in plain sight like this for purposes other than cleaning it/preparing to maim somebody –why would he? Ok maybe he doesn’t need a reason, he’s the Joker, let me rephrase – why would the Joker feel the need to arrange all his weaponry like this to um – indicate –his grief (?) for Harley, when he barely gives two shits about her?

Has whoever made the room arrangements watched too much of Phantom of the Opera in designing this more Spartan version of the Phantom’s haunt? Has Jared read too much 2010 Joker/OC fanfic off the Internet?

4.2. The Manner/Voice

Coughing purring and growling like a prepubescent boy was as poorly thought-out as every other aspect of this Joker. Being touchy-feely without actively causing grave physical injury – even more so. This Joker was a the lovechild of Heath Ledger’s Joker and Tiago Silva in Skyfall. A lovechild that was then tossed to the wolves, and somehow emerged a slick, twisted, but not the least bit terrifying, impressive, or intimidating character, ready for the A/W runway of a lesser known designer in Sofia Fashion Week.

There was none of the disjointed movement we grew used to with Ledger (who to me is the ULTIMATE Joker, because as I said I am basic), or which characterizes the one in the animated series, and none of the barely contained danger in Jack Nicholson (who is the ULTIMATE Joker, comic-wise).

4.3 Harley

Ok, I’ll admit seeing him kinda sorta give a shit about Harley was nice in the same way in which Christian Grey obsessively chasing Anna in 50 shades is nice- aka, not at all. I’m sure any fifty-something mom who took her sullen teenage son to see the movie thought it was nice, and maybe even shed a tear with Harley when we all thought he was (blissfully) dead and we wouldn’t have to suffer through another minute of this poorly executed rendition of a beloved villain (I shed a tear of happiness), but. But.

Like, I said before, HE BEATS HER, JANET. Yeah, I will keep coming back to this. I don’t care that the physical abuse wasn’t in the movie – there was plenty of evidence of the toxicty of this relationship that I’m sure girls who don’t know better will interpret as romantic. The Chemical Wedding was visually stunning, but also, originally, he shoves her in the containers. AND he was going to just LEAVE HER THERE. That’s not nice.

He does physically damagae her – what shooting electricity up someone’s skull isn’t considered abuse anymore, or?

He offers her to one of his um – business ? associates? – yeah, that’s just an excuse to fuck the guy’s shit up, but he treats her like a commodity (the MOVIE treats her like a commodity, we talked about this). She’s just property to him. He’s not trying to get her back because he misses her – he just wants all his stuff to be in one place – another sharp shiny thing in his collection of knives. And if you think the Joker doesn’t think of Harley like this – as a pretty shiny object that he can use and discard as he pleases, you are NOT paying attention.

(Unrelated, but Harley screaming “I can’t swim!” and him crashing the car in the water anyway – just nah.)

4.4. The Entirety of the Joker altogether:

It was just bad. It was just. Just Bad.

“But Jared didn’t have a lot of screentime!” I’m sorry but if you’re playing the Joker, even if you have all of 5 seconds in the movie, you should be able to leave a lasting impression. BATMAN left a more lasting impression, and he was actually in the movie for only 5 seconds. Batman. Can you believe this?

That having been said, I actually enjoyed the Joker, the way someone on a diet enjoys a greasy McDonalds burger. It was bad, unsatisfying, and definitely not as good as advertised (+ my absolute loathing hate of Leto colored every second of the movie experience), but I also kinda liked it, and I don’t like that I liked it. It was bad, fam.

  1. The movie was pretty racist.

The movie was a lot racist.

5.1. Slipknot

First nations representation had all of 3 seconds of screentime (still more memorable than the Joker) and got killed? Are you kidding me? What, we couldn’t have killed off the creepy Australian? It HAD to be the actor of color? Really?

5.2. El Diablo

A lot of very bad ethnic sterotypes went into this one. A lot. I don’t have to point them out, he was written like a Trump campaign ad. We need a wall to keep fire weileding drug lords out of our country. I’m sure it could have been handled better.

5.3. Katana

I already talked about her, and I loved her but still – a lot of her portryal relied on racial stereotypes and she got pretty much no development, no matter how badass she was.

5.4. Enchantress

The possession thing – don’t tell me we couldn’t have found a South African actress to get possessed instead of Cara, whom I love, but I still need to say it.

5.5. Oh, you know what I’m sure there’s more than what I picked up on, but I’m white and really what I’m pointing out here is stuff people have already pointed out. It just bears repeating.

Now let’s mention some things I actively enjoyed:

  1. DEADSHOT

He came on screen and I said “Daddy!” (ok i didn’t, but I thought it). Handsome, clever, quick, and funny and generally a lot better developed than the other characters, he was BRILLIANT, his chemistry with the squad was incredible, and he single handedly redeemed the whole movie. Just thinking about how good he was now makes me want to delete all the bad things I’ve said so far.

And his backstory? Aw! Who doesn’t love a guy who loves his kids?

AND his chemistry with Harley specifically was so nice and refreshing after the dead-eyed tired performance of ~romance~ they tried to shove down our throats with her and Joker.

  1. The creepy australian

While I still maintain I’d have liked him to get killed off over Slipknot, I found him kinda funny, and not bad to look at. That I don’t remember his character’s name speaks more about the movie and his role in it than me being a fake geek girl. Edit: his name is Captain Boomerang. Lame.

  1. El Diablo

Yes, he was written full of poorly handled racist tropes, and bless the actor for doing his best with what was given to him – he was actually a great character? I genuinely enjoyed him. Sad eyed, tattooed and genuinely remorseful? Also the Guy with the Coolest Powers in the Whole Damn Film? Yeah, I loved him.

And that line about not losing another family? Are you kidding? I may have teared up a bit. He was so good. I wanted more of him. Like, a lot more.

  1. Harley

Yeah, so, after complaining about Harley was handled, I can also point out that Margot Robbie’s performance was some next level shit. Good actors carrying a bad plot – she did that. Boy, did she ever do that! Even though her character was written as a purry sex kitten (Hollywood is doing her a gross injustice by typecasting her like this), she managed to bring some dimension, and work with the unfavorable one-liners and skimpy outfit to bring Harley to life as more than a two-dimensional crazy ex-girlfriend. Plus, acting like you’re in love with/attracted to Jared Leto – wow. Where’s her Oscar already?

  1. The Joker

Yes, it was bad. Yes, I enjoyed it. This is an indefensible statement. Where do I turn in my Joker Fan badge?

  1. Killer Croc

He was cool.

  1. Viola Davis as Amanda Woller (aka a more badass Annalise)

She kicked ass. She kicked ass, and I loved it. I want her to kick MY ass next. She was amazing. Aside from her poorly executed plan to control a magical entity with the powers of a god, I mean. Brilliant.

Overall, I give the movie a 7/10, I loved it, I’m definitely seeing again soon (actually by the time this review goes up I might have seen it again already). It was bad, but sometimes you just need to see some bad cinema and let yourself enjoy it. It can’t all be conceptual European cinema all day every day. Sometimes you just need to see a hot blonde lady in shorty shorts beat the shit out of some mud monsters with a baseball bat. Who else is crazy excited for the Harley Quinn solo?

 

Circus of the Damned | Laurell K. Hamilton

My favorite thing about the Anita Blake series is that each book builds off from the previous one, but if you happen to skip a book or two, LKH’s descriptions and recaps will helpfully fill you in, and then throw you to the wolves. Or the plot.

Circus of the Damned is one of those books that sets up one of the more far-reaching plot arcs in the story, but you wouldn’t know it when you read. Skipping it on my first read through of the series taught me the important lesson that in the ABVH world everything is of crucial importance.

 

COTD introduces one of my favorite secondary characters – Stephen Deitrich, who is absolutely delightful to read about, and who also forces Anita to acknowledge and examine her anti-werewolf prejudices. It also brings Richard to the stage which. Whatever. In book 24 now, he’s just starting to redeem himself to me, and he has a rather long way to go, but that’s fine, because in COTD he’s likeable enough, and if this is your first time reading through the series you will definitely end uo rooting for him. (Don’t trust Richard Zeeman!)

 

COTD brings to the stage a few very important players, and continues to expand the already established supernatural world, but more importantly – it sets up the continuing appearance of the Vampire Council in Anita and Jean-Claude’s life. I am a die-hard fan of the old school vampire genre, where more often than not there is some type of ruling authority established in the old decrepit halls of rotting European castles. Anne Rice brought us Mekare and Maharet and Akasha and Enkil, and to a lesser extent some Dracula adaptations brought us the Order of the Dragon. LKH gifted us the Vampire Council, who will later serve as a prototype of the equally terrifying Authority in True Blood.

 

The Earthmover is to my knowledge the most ancient vampire written in the genre – a vampire so old he isn’t even homo sapiens definitely trumps however many measly millenia Mekare and Maharet used to have on everyone else. He can probably contend for most ancient supernatural baddie period. His only competition at this point are the Biblical figures in Supernatural. Of course, given how old and powerful he is, it takes Anita the whole book to defeat him and bring him to heel, which she does beautifully.

 

There is something very satisfying about reading how the good guys win, and Anita fighting fiercely, this time not only for herself, but also for Jean-Claude was absolutely wonderful. Wether she wants it or not, she now has something to protect, and that is a huge step up for her from the first book. Slowly and with attention to detail, Hamilton begins to shape her into the character we come to know and appreciate in alter books, but it starts as early as the third one.

Even though it’s a long time until Anita actually heals for good, or even begins healing, rather than just aggresively opening old wounds, it all starts with COTD.

Music to Write Boys To | Aka What I Listen to While Writing

I’m one of those people who really just can’t do much of anything without a good soundtrack, and I have a long long list of songs I listen to depending on what I’m doing, but really, there’s only a few that I play on loop to get me in the zone when it comes to writing, be it fanfic, original, or meta.

Here is my favorite writing and reading music, and also the characters I relate it to, in no particular order:

 

  1. Freak – Lana del Rey

The first time I was listening to this song, I was reading Venus in Furs, which is hailed as the first BDSM novel, and the origin of the term “masochist” (derived from the author’s name, Sachter-Masoch). From then on, this has been my soulful but kinky romance song, and I usually put it on when angst-filled pining-heavy sensual scenes are about to happen.

Characters I associate it with: Narcissus, Venus, Theo Decker, Boris Pavlikovsky

 

  1. Art Deco – Lana del Rey (this entire post is basically a breakdwon of Honeymoon)

Lana’s lyrics are sheer genius as far as I’m concerned. This song just has a very sad Gatsby-esque vibe, so obviously, I play it whenever I’m reading about sad young men with broken hearts and dubious morals, and when I have to write about them. For some reason I also really associate it with Nathaniel Grayson, even though the lyrics have nothing to do with him as a character. It’s just one of those things, I guess.

 

  1. Six Inch – Beyonce

Finally an anthem for the murdering club siren, thanks to Queen Bey. Every single song from Lemonade is pure gold, and the Warsan Shire voiceover is bone-chilling, but something about this song in particular just makes me want to write some good old-fashioned vampire-centric horror. I mean, the lyrics are pretty stright-forward in that regard. I’m waiting for YouTube content-makers to grace us with some Santanico Pandemonium dance edits.

 

  1. Hal –Yasmin Hamdan

I am only putting this on the list because it’s my favorite moment of Only Lovers Left Alive, and it’s a very beautiful song and melody. It’s a reverse mirror of Sanatnico’s dance scenes in From Dusk Til Dawn, and it’s also so wonderfully shot and choreographed. It’s really less about the song, and more about the feel of it.

 

  1. Gasoline – Halsey

The official Joseph Kavinsky anthem, as far as I’m concerned. Also, my favorite song from Halsey. Incredible lyrics, combined with her beautiful voice, and just an very haunting all-around feel. I put it on when I write introspections or freestyles. It really gets me going.

 

  1. Control –Halsey

The official Andrew Miniyard anthem, for obvious reasons. My other favorite song from Halsey, and the one I listen to during introspections and freestyles if I feel like I’m bored of Gasoline. They have a very similar feel.

 

  1. Me and the Devil – Gil Scott Heron

Pure poetry. The beat, and the lyrics, and the uneven rhythm, combined with his deep raspy voice make for a great listen when doing pretty much anything at all. This is my “bad guy writing” song, but since pretty much all my characters are bad guys, it’s more of a “character is dealing with the fallout of a bad action” song, and it really makes me feel some type of way.

Characters I associate it with: Lestat, Spike

  1. WILD – Troye Sivan

Soulful childhood romance featuring a queer couple – more like, Troye’s entire discography waxing lyrical about suburbia. I love it, and it really sets the mood for just straight up (but not straight) non-genre fiction.

Characters I associate it with: Gregory and Stephen Deitrich, Jason Schuyler, Adam Parrish

  1. Lorde –Glory and Gore

Historical settings and violence, and dissatisfaction, and a deep sense of having be cheated off of something, and pretty much every time I write old souls in young bodies, I just can’t not put Lorde on. “I’ll show you what this big word means” yes, please, please show me, I’m drowning in SAT vocabulary trying to elevate my style.

Characters I associate it with: Armand, Henry Winter

  1. Bedroom Hymns – Florence and the Machine

Is this the desginated sexytimes song? It should be. Everything over PG-13 pretty much happens to the tune of the Bedroom Hymns. Florence’s music in general is great when I’m writing more spiritual things.

Characters I associate it with: Hannibal Lecter (don’t ask), Francis Abernathy

I like listening to the same music over and over, so the list is rather short – these are the songs I’ve been listening to the most lately, when I write. If you liked this post, and want to see similar, please let me know. I’m still figuring out what I want this blog to look like exactly, so any feedback is appreciated.

The Laughing Corpse | Laurel K. Hamilton

I am hopelessly behind with reviewing the ABVH series, and at this point I probably won’t be able to catch up, given that I’ve just started an internship, and have also committed to reviewing some other books (and I have also increased my reading list by about eighty titles). That having been said, I am not behind on the reread, and so, let’s dive right into the thick of it – the laughing corpse that is.

 

In pretty much all my ABVH rereads I always end up glossing over it, skipping parts, and overall just not paying much attention at all, and I’ve never been quite certain why. While I love all the ABVH books, there are some I definitely like more than others. TLC is not one of them. This time I forced myself to pay attention and finally realized why – the villain is just too creepy, and too unsettling, and so he throws off the whole experience for me (kind of why I have a thing about the books that feature Olaf more heavily, actually).

 

It is definitely a testament to LKH’s writing genius, that she’s been able to craft a villain so incredibly upsetting that it’s stuck with me for over six years. In fact, it’s even more impressive because when I first read TLC I was a lot younger and had a much bigger tolerance for cringy stuff that I now avoid at all costs. Gaynor is absolutely deplorable. Some villains you might try to excuse, try to find a redeeming quality. He is not one of them. Echoing the disturbing portrayal of the Joker in The Killing Joke, Gaynor is, simply put, absolutely certifiably terrifying in and vile in his treatment of women, and of everyone in general, and nothing felt quite as satisfying as Anita smoothly (or not so) dispatching him at the end of the book.

 

The ending is actually my favorite part of TLC. Anita’s jump in powers, but also in ruthlessness and the cold calculated savagery of her actions is what hooked me on this series to begin with and this is one of her more gruesome actions. Violent and merciless, she shows once more why she will later earn herself the name “War” among preternaturals. Her cold and unbothered behaviour when questioned by Dolph and Zerbrowski is even more impressive. This is definitely not the Anita of the first book – in this Anita we already see some of Obsidian Butterfly!Anita peek through, and it’s sufficiently terrifying.

 

While far from my favorite in the ABVH series, The Laughing Corpse is an excellent continuation of Guilty Pleasures that will doubtless endear itself to anyone who enjoys a classic thriller with gruesome murders and an “interesting psycopath” as the main villain.

The Strong Female Character in Corruption Ridden BulgariaI Mike Wells Review

Lust Money and Murder, Mike Wells

When Mike Wells approached me on Twitter, offering me a free ebook of the first novel in his series, I was initially suspicious. After googling Mike, and ensuring that he is in fact a person, and his books are the real deal, and not a twitter scam to part me with my private information, I downloaded it, still rather uncertain, despite the overwhelmingly good reviews that I had already seen. As somoene who has a personal preference for only certain genres, I wasn’t entirely sold on the whole crime thriller thing, especially since my tastes there run more towards the supernaturally-inlcined mysteries, or the classics that everyone is familiar with, like Christie.
Mike Wells seemed determined to prove me wrong from the very first line and from the on it took me only a few pages to believe the people who had called his style “unputdownable”.
I was pleasantly surprised by his cadence, and his word choice, as well as the fact that he had chosen to write a female character – and – to write one well. His fleshing out of Elaine is what really sold me on the series. Very rarely do you see a well-written strong female character in the male-dominated kingdom of the hard-boiled crime thriller genre, and very rarely, one written by a male author, without any of the stipulations of her becoming a sex object of some sort for her male counterparts.
The plot of the novel is classic, as much as a revenge story can be, and Elaine’s determination is written into her in such a powerful and affecting manner that her captivating voice stays with the reader long after they’ve finished the book. In fact, the close third person narrative makes the story all the more personable, without any of the negative stipulations that sometimes come with a first person perspective.
As a Bulgarian, I had my reservations the moment I read my country’s name on the page, already expecting the usual representation of my country as a mob-infested crime ridden third world mess that has somehow found itself in the corners of the EU. In fact, that is a representation that I have grown so used to in western literature, that it takes me by surprise when an author takes their time to go beyond the surface of media reports about government corruption and high unemployment rates or criminal activity. Wells impresses with an in-depth beautiful portrayl of Sofia, which feels all the more familiar for my knowing all the places that he names, and in fact having been in some of them. Objective, without being unnecessarily harsh, he weaves the picture of a Sofia that were I foreigner, I would want to visit. Of course, the representation of my home town leaves something to be desired, but given the care and attention to detail that have clearly already gone into it, I can safely say Wells has left me feeling rather good about myself as a Bulgarian.
The plot itself doesn’t depend so much on the setting, as it does on the characters, and the way Elaine handles herself regardless of her circumstance is beautifully done. As a woman, I want to commend Wells on his handling of Elaine’s sexual assault – portraying it as a brutal and crude action,without attemptint to sexualize it, and furthermore, accentuating the challenges a woman in Elaine’s position would face based on her choice to report it or not, and the messages it internalizes. In fact, the portrayal of Elaine as a woman who is not necessarily comfortable with sex and relationships is something that I am sure a lot of women will be able to, and having written it without stigma, and without having it affect her choices and behaviours, Wells actually creates a very believeable and realistic character, who reads very much like a real person. The occasional mention of her close friends, and their appearance in her life also adds to a more fully fleshed out character, as authors oftentimes forget that in order for their story to be believable, their characters must have a life off page, and cannot realistically interact only with two other secondary characters and the murder victims on their cases (yeah, I’m looking at you, Stephen Moffat).
The chosen centric to the story crimes – corruption and counterfeit currency, are rather original in a market dominated almost entirely by griesly murders, kidnappings, and the like, and give a more elegant sound to the rest of the books, setting it apart with a sense that this will be more than a simple whodunnit mystery. In fact, the attention to detail in the counterfeit plot, almost entirely makes up for the fact that the story does in fact start with a murder. But even that is set up and written so clverely and with such a sense of finesse and propriety, that it redeems itself as an attention-grabbing first chapter almost immediately.
The story is dynamic and fast-paced, and the details that set it up are woven in cleverly and with attention, building a fascinating read and setting up the rest of the series, which, if they keep to the same high standard, promise to be a wonderful read. I can definitely say that with this book, Mike Wells has won me as a fan and you can definitely expect to see more reviews of his work on this blog.

18-and-then-some books to read in the summer between your senior year and university

A lot of my friends are the same age as me. Some of them are a year, or a few years younger, and so they will be finishing high school soon, and embarking on an adventure: university. So this post is largely for them. Here are the books to read the summer before going away to university, in no particular order.

  1. The Secret History, Donna Tartt

I feel like this book being on this list is the most obvious thing in the world. It’s beautiful captivating and absolutely heartbreaking. The writing style is so, so masterful, and it’s quite obvious why it took the author ten years – it’s absolutely breath-taking in construction. It’s about a young man who goes away to university, and becomes dangerously obsessed with embodying a certain lifestyle and aesthetic, and eventually falling victim to his own lies, and the lies of everyone else around him. My review od it is [here]. Alternatively, for the same beautiful writing, but much less heartbreaking, you can try her more recent novel The Goldfinch, which won a Pulitzer in 2013.

  1. Brutal Youth, Anthony Breznican

A thoroughly harrowing detailing of one year in the life of a school, where violent bullying is considered normal, and is even encouraged by administration as a way for students to release tensions. It’s a very grim, dark story overall. In some ways good does triumph, but in many ways, it’s dissatisfying and rather harsh, like the title suggests. My review of it is [here].

  1. The Raven Cycle, Maggie Stiefvater

I just posted a review of this series [here]. If that doesn’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will. It has MAGIC, you guys!

  1. Boy Erased, Garrard Conley

A touching, beautifully written memoir, written by my own high school English teacher, it’s emotional, heartfelt, and all about reconciliation, forgiveness and family.My review of it is [here].

  1. Oscar Wilde’s Fairytales

Wilde is known mostly for The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is a literary masterpiece, but moving away from that, his fairytales are no less dark, beautifully sensual and gripping. Everything you have loved about the gritty “original” versions of the Brothers Grimm, you will love about these sad stories that aren’t for children at all.

  1. Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente

This is not Valente’s best known book, for whatever mind-boggling reason. It’s written like a fairytale, it’s beautiful, and emotional and touching, and it will leave you heartbroken, but ultimately with a deep sense of having understood something. I will be doing a more in-depth review for it in the future.

  1. Blackwood Farm, Anne Rice

An intersection of her insanely famous Vampire Chronicles series, and her less famous Witches of Mayfair series, featuring beloved characters (Lestat) and characters we barely tolerate (Louis) from both, this is a story written in Rice’s traditionally lush and sensual prose. It stands wonderfully on its own, and it’s a beautifully weaved magical mystery that will take anyone who reads it on a journey through an aestheticised version of the South, where bad things only happen to Evil Doers.

  1. Young Elites, Marie Lu

This is a series that starts like any other YA about a young girl who discovers she has magical powers and must then hide from her cruel oppressive government, while joining up the rebellion alliance. And then it completely flips all the tropes and genre-clichés on you, because it turns out, all along you’ve not been reading a harrowing story about personal growth and defeating the bad guys – you’ve been reading the origin story OF a bad guy. The first person narrative slips you into the mindset of a character you sympathise with, right up to the point where you realise that she isn’t the hero at all, and even then, you still feel sorry for her. Also, it has magic.

  1. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

If you only ever read one boring stuffy, classic book in your whole life, let it be this. You might have seen the musical, or the film, or any of the other adaptations, and trust me, this is even better.

  1. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North

Revisiting this book is too painful in a good way. Absolutely heartbreaking, with a happy ending, emotional and introspective, a story about immortality, without a single vampire in it. My review of it is [here].

  1. Sushi for Beginners, Marian Keyes

This is a good old-fashioned chick-lit, with clever humor, well-fleshed out characters and a realistic storyline. It’s perfect to read at the beach while you wait for that final student finance confirmation letter.

  1. Looking for Alaska, John Green

I maintain that John Green is a man who got famous by writing the same book four times. Well, this is my favorite version. Absolutely wonderful, tragically beautiful, with everything that made you cry in The Fault in Our Stars, and none of the things that annoyed you about An Abundance of Katherines, and all the winning elements of Papertowns (which is also something I’d recommend, because it has a happy ending). I can’t wait until it gets made into a film, I will see it so many times.

  1. Evening in Byzantium, Irwin Shaw

Initially I was suspicious of this novel, as I am suspicious of all books that my father recommends me (The Old Man and the Sea did not have a happy ending, and I will maintain that to the end of my days), but I was pleasantly surprised by the light tone, playful humour and beautiful crafted characters. It’s a funny, interesting read, with a lyrical writing style, that seems like a less melancholy Fitzgerald at times, and a plot that at times reads like a comedy of manners. Definitely give it a read.

  1. The Casual Vacancy, J. K. Rowling

Written by the mom of us all, this is JKR’s first ever grown up book, and it’s just incredible. Slammed and condemned by critics world wide for not being Harry Potter, this book is – not Harry Potter. It’s vibrant, and delightfully British. Perhaps “delightful” isn’t the right word to use here – it’s also very dark, and dare I even say it – gritty. It’s definitely not for you if you’re just looking for a light summer read, because it will make you think. All the same, it’s quite wonderful and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

  1. The Diva Rules, Michelle Visage

Oh what’s that? A fun book on this list? You betcha! It’s Michelle Visage’s memoir about her life as a young girl in the big city, and her journey to becoming who she is today –a fierce and inspiring woman. It’s about finding a healthy way to deal with insecurities, and relying on your friends, and best of all – it’s absolutely a true story. My review of it is [here] and! Michelle liked it!

  1. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie

If you haven’t studied this at school, you have been grossly robbed. I am incredibly grateful to my English teachers who recommended it to me and lend me a copy and encouraged me to read it. It’s a somewhat dark topic, that you might consider a bit removed – China during the Cultural Revolution – but it’s all about reading, the power of books, and growth through literature and expanding your mind. Give it a read, it’s absolutely charming.

  1. The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak

I feel silly putting it on this list, because most people have read it, seen the movie, raved about it and moved on, but to me, this is the quintessential read for anyone who is in school, or leaving school to move on to university. It’s also narrated by Death, which is, as the kids say these days “meta af”. Spoiler: it is, as most books on this list, absolutely heartbreaking.

  1. 18 steps from the sea, by yours truly

Yes, hello, what kind of a book list would that be, if it doesn’t feature my own story? It’s a story about love and a lot of biblical elements that I’ve bastadized for the sake of the Aesthetic. What is it doing on a summer before uni reading list? Well, I wrote it during high school, but perfected it while I was at uni, borrowing from the best advice of my Creative Writing tutors. It’s a heist story, but mostly it’s me saying “fuck you” to Hemingway’s prose style. And the best part – its absolutely free for download in any format.

19. YOUR UNIVERSITY’S RECOMMENDED READINGS LIST FOR YOUR COURSE

If you are, indeed, going away to university this summer, go on your uni website, go on the page for your course, and check the recommended readings. They aren’t “recommended” they’re absolutely compulsory, your lecturers will make references to them in their lectures, and you might even need to know some of them for exams. Alternatively, your university might send you an email/letter with a reading list, and if they go out of their way to do that, it’s ABSOLUTELY mandatory that you read all the books on it.

I hope you enjoy any of these books if you decide to read them, and if you think there are other essential readings before university, let me know in a comment, or if you think any book shouldn’t be on this list, send me an angry inflammatory email, wherein you call me names and insult my intelligence and upbringing.