February favourites

I am not feeling a book review today. I’m in a bit of a reading slump to be honest. I thought I’d just wrap the month up early but I haven’t read that much, so instead I am going to do a beauty vlogger-style monthly favourites post.

Because why not?*

*Note: This post does not include even a single beauty product.

TV: Riverdale

riverdale
Netflix.com

I started watching Riverdale about a week ago, and it has since completely taken over my brain. Everyone in that show is so good looking. At 25 I have come to realise I will likely never grow out of enjoying a good teen show. However, it does come with some pitfalls. Like googling Cole Sprouse with one hand over my eyes to check his age to find out whether or not my GINORMOUS HUGE crush was inappropriate.

Finding out he was 25 may have been the best part of my week.

Being an adult is the worst. I can’t tell you the trauma of Googling a famous crush only to find they are significantly younger than you. It’s real. These are the things no one tells you about getting older. You turn into kiiiind of a creep.

Instagram: @tamanegi.qoo.riku

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. . ✳︎大きなボク小さなわたしプレゼント企画✳︎. . 絶賛集計中(≧∇≦). 抽選結果は、明日19日に、ブログやインスタにて、ハンドルネームでお知らせします。時間は未定です( ̄▽ ̄;). また、当選者には直接メッセージもお送りいたします。. メッセージをお出しして3日以内にお返事がない場合は、当選無効とさせていただき、補欠抽選をさせていただきます。. . 誰が当たるのかなぁ(๑>◡<๑). ワクワクドキドキ(≧∇≦). . . #standardpoodle #poodlesofinstagram #スタンダードプードル #whitepoodle #大型犬と子供 #poodle #dogstagram #east_dog_japan #いぬのいる生活 #もふもふ部 #わんこ部 #赤ちゃんと犬 #baby #babyanddog #adorablebaby #kawaii #1歳6ヶ月 #コドモノ #ママリ #ベビフル #キズナ #書籍化 #12月8日発売 #大きなボク小さなわたし #大きなボク小さなわたしプレゼント #プレゼント企画 #集計中

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I don’t think this requires any explanation.

Movies: Black Panther

black panther

I mean obviously. I loved everything about this movie. Shuri is my favourite. I love her.

Podcast: Thirst Aid Kit

thirst aid kit
buzzfeed.com

On hiatus currently, but they are back in March. Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins host a podcast all about: thirst. You know, that feeling you get about hot people on TV. If you have ever needed somewhere to go to talk about your pervy feelings (I know I did!), this is the podcast for you. I recommend it to everyone: it is pure joy.  If you’re looking for a starting point but not sure if you want to commit, try the John Cho episode.

Yes, you read that right. They dedicated an entire episode to him.

Bookish thing: Before The Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

Last week I gushed about how much I loved Before The Devil Breaks You, the third book in Libba Bray’s Diviners series. After I wrote that review, I read the afterword of the book (like a pro, I know #facepalm) and it gave me CHILLS.

Anyway. I have to go watch Riverdale now. I am on season two and no spoilers, but my heart is broken by a certain situation and I don’t think I can resume my normal life until it is resolved.

What are some of your favourites this month? I hate spending time with my thoughts! Tell me what they are so I can avoid my feelings! Also, if I did this again next month would you read it? I enjoyed writing it – as you can see I consume a lot of media.

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Before The Devil Breaks You

New York City. 1927. Lights are bright. Jazz is king. Parties and wild. And the dead are coming.

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that nearly eliminated two of their own, the Diviners have had enough. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten – ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known.

Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in the third book of the Diviners series by number one New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

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Well. This was quite a ride.

The Diviners series by Libba Bray is a commentary on the state of current American politics wrapped up in a 1920s paranormal thriller. Though the novels have always been explicitly political – the first looked at how the roaring twenties were a reaction to what many felt were the broken promises of the First World War and in the second, Bray addressed immigration by delving into the effects of the Chinese exclusion act, the first federal law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from entering the United States – in book #3, Before The Devil Breaks You (the first Diviners novel to come out in a post-Trump America), Bray is relentless.

Before The Devil Breaks You, ostensibly a book about a group of paranormally powered teenagers fighting to save New York from a horde of murderous zombie ghosts (they are definitely incorporeal but have been known to eat people), is actually a battle for the future of American society. Will we lean towards tolerance and inclusion, or away into fear, anger and violence?

Sounding familiar? It certainly should.

In book #3 our various factions are more divided than they have ever been. Trust has broken down completely between Uncle Will and the Diviners, leaving he and Margaret Walker excluded from the main events of the novel, which, honestly, is more than they deserve. Reliable liars from the start, whether they are truly evil or not – and the point of this book, if anything, is that question – Will and Margaret have been rumbled and the mistakes of their past have truly come back to haunt them. Literally. The city is swarming with ghosts. But the fact is, whether you agree with their actions or not – I’m leaning towards not – like everyone else in this shit show, Margaret and Will were only trying to build the America they wanted to see. They thought they were doing good, and whether they actually were is a question both of them – and the Diviners and us, the readers – are all still trying to answer.

Mabel falls into a similar trap. Her desire for personal glory – prefaced by a genuine need to do good in the world – leads her to join with an organisation called The Six. To many, The Six is an anarchist organisation and perhaps even a dangerous one, whereas to others, they are pioneers of human rights, fighting for those who don’t have a voice in society. Their methods veer into some pretty terrifying territory, and again as the reader we are prompted to ask: do the ends justify the means?

Honestly, it’s too soon to tell.

Before The Devon Breaks You is a great addition to a really noteworthy series. It’s not perfect – there are in my opinion too many primary characters at this point, and the close third person plot skips around a lot, sometimes focusing on multiple people in a single chapter, which I’m not crazy about. But the overarching themes of the series are so relevant and interesting, and the plot pacey enough that none of the issues bothered me too much. And my primary prolem with book #2, the serious lack of Evie, was more than rectified in this round.

Can’t wait for book #4, though past experience with Libba Bray means I am scared for everybody, and particularly any Diviners who may have ended book #3 in need of some redemption. We all know how you get that…

Genuine Fraud

IMOGEN: is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook and a cheat.

JULE: is a fighter, a social chameleon and an athlete.

Imogen and Jule. Jule and Imogen.

An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. A bad romance, or maybe three.

Blunt objects, disguises, blood and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies and villains. A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her. A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

A girl who is a… genuine fraud.

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Spoilers ahead.

I adore E Lockhart. There are very few authors who have been with me as long as she has, and many of her books were very formative for my younger self. I picked up The Boyfriend List when I was in my early teens, and it cemented forever my love of contemporary YA fiction. A series about the heartbreak of broken female friendships, mental health and first love, it was everything I needed at that point in my life. Then she released The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which remains one of my favourite books to this day. The feminism, experimental writing – the way she manipulated language in that book really woke me up the possibilities of what writing can be – and complicated characters marked a shift in Lockhart’s writing career that she has expanded on in fascinating and often heartrending ways in subsequent novels.

Almost all of Lockhart’s work is concerned with female outsiders. Whether it’s Ruby becoming a social pariah after losing her boyfriend to her best friend, Gretchen Kaufman feeling like the only boring girl in art school or Frankie Landau-Banks tearing her boarding school apart proving her superiority to the boys who discounted her, all of her books are somehow concerned with women on the fringes – by choice or otherwise.

Then she released We Were Liars, and further built on her evolving writing style, creating a female outsider so alienated from everyone around her that even the reader didn’t realise she was lying to us until it was too late.

In Genuine Fraud, she’s done it again. Jule is perhaps the most unreliable narrator of them all, but unlike Cadence in We Were Liars, she isn’t trying to hide it. We know that Jule is a liar, it’s what she’s lying about that remains mysterious.

Genuine Fraud is a book told backwards, with fascinating consequences. To read it is to have constant whiplash, as every truth you’ve taken for granted is turned on its head, picked apart and then re-established as something else entirely. Jule tells stories about herself to craft an identity that she can live with, and has so completely assimilated with these adopted identities that it’s all but impossible to differentiate between the truth of Jule and the illusion she has thrown up for us and everyone else – but most crucially, for herself.

In her latest offering, E Lockhart has crafted yet another novel that keeps up guessing throughout. Her rejection of chronology creates a story filled with tension, manipulation and the occasional explosion of violence. It looks at how one snap decision to lie can change the direction of your entire life.

It’s quite an experience.

 

Her Body and Other Parties

In her provocative debut, Carmen Maria Machado demolishes the borders between magical realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Startling stories map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited on their bodies, both in myth and in practice.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the mysterious green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague spreads across the earth. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery about a store’s dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted house guest.

Bodies become inconsequential, humans become monstrous, and anger becomes erotic. A dark, shimmering slice into womanhood, Her Body and other Parties is wicked and exquisite.

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Does anyone else really dread reviewing certain books? Please tell me that it’s not just me.

Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado came to me, like so many of my reads, through the Belletrist book club. I found this genre-bending short story collection challenging, confusing, disturbing and often beautifully expressed.

I would classify the reading experience as: uncomfortable.

This collection of erotic horror fairy tales isn’t made for a passive reading experience. As the title suggests, Machado’s collection is intimately concerned with women’s bodies in their desires, peculiarities and wounds. It isn’t for the faint of heart – or stomach. From the first story, called ‘The Husband’s Stitch’ (if you live in a world where you don’t know the meaning of that term, I can only advise you remain that way and don’t Google it), Machado unflinchingly studies the violence women’s bodies undergo by society, partners and themselves – there is more than one very sensory depiction of squeezing out a puss-ey lesion in this collection. Think Josh Chan’s recent staph infection on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. But worse.

Machado uses her collection to engage with the various ways that women’s bodies are under attack. In ‘The Husband’s Stitch’, we see much of the narrator’s life, from meeting her husband and falling in love, to having a child and in turn seeing him grow up. She’s consumed by passed along tales of woe of women who tried to step outside the boundaries of the roles ascribed to them by their gender only to have it all end in disaster, and self-polices her own desires accordingly. She considers her marriage happy – if interspersed with moments in which her husband’s lack of respect becomes clear. Their marriage has only one real conflict. The narrator has worn around her neck for her whole life a green ribbon, and she will not allow her husband to touch it. Though she shares herself with him in every other respect, he cannot get over the fact that he is not allowed to touch this green ribbon. He can’t allow her to be the sole owner of even one single part of herself, and when she finally gives in and allows him possession of the thing she so desperately wished to keep as her own, horror ensues.

In another story, ‘Eight Bites’, a woman has weight loss surgery only to find the removed fat assembles itself into a creature that lives in her house. The creature has no eyes or ears or nose or mouth and when the woman comes into contact with it for the first time, she attacks it – kicking it, stabbing it, ripping it to pieces.

“I find myself wishing she would fight back, but she doesn’t. Instead, she sounds like she is being deflated. A hissing, defeated wheeze.”

This violence against the self – first more ethereal before becoming painfully, flinchingly literal is familiar to us all as we are bombarded everywhere we look of images of the ‘ideal bikini body’, where weight loss isn’t a cause for concern but for praise. I always remember this one time when I went to see a Katherine Ryan stand up show; she spoke about her divorce and how the trauma of it caused her to lose a ton of weight. When she saw herself in the mirror she thought she looked like she had a horrific disease. Everyone else? Well, they complimented her on how great she looked so skinny.

Her Body and Other Parties is a haunting collection of mostly horrifying stories built on the truths of patriarchy. From the episode-by-episode rewrite of Law and Order: SVU – a show which creates entertainment out of sexual violence against women – Machado tells the haunting tale of a detective followed by the ghosts of murdered women, to ‘Real Women Have Bodies’, in which women across the country are becoming incurably incorporeal – the faded women haunt the streets of cities and have themselves sewn into the seams of designer dresses – she tells the disturbing tale of what it is to be a woman in a world in which your body is forever under attack.

Not all books are supposed to be comfortable, and Her Body and Other Parties definitely took me to my limits of self-inflicted anxiety. It’s a strange book that I find difficult to recommend, exactly, but would encourage you to read anyway.