Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan

Tangleweed and Brine

‘The future isn’t written, till you write it.’ – Riverbed

I’m not sure I can express how incredible a collection this is. Tangelweed and Brine is a feminist masterpiece, Sullivan has taken the fairy tales we know and love and turned them on their heads, subverting what we have always known to be the message of those tales and creating a rhetoric that screams empowerment. The stories within are powerful, magical, dark, poetic, and filled with strong female characters – there are no damsels in distress or princesses waiting for their princes who have no substance or humanity, instead we have women of all kinds, we have real people filled with love, lust, hate, and a great need for more from life, not objects or pieces of meat or pretty pieces of decoration.

I found myself filled overwhelmingly with anger and hope as I devoured these stories. Anger that women have been, and are still, treated like this – as commodities, pieces of meat, something to take and consume by men, people who had no agency, no rights, no vote. But hope as well. Hope, because women are and always have been powerful, even if we have been burned, and drowned, imprisoned, executed for it. Hope that the world is changing and people are too – that someday everyone will realise that people are people, no matter what they identify as, flesh and blood, worthy of equality and freedom and a life without fear.

TANGLEWEED

Slippershod – 5/5 stars. So powerful – love and kindness, freedom, breaking away, bravery.

‘People like their women lovely. Women are a lot of different things.’
‘…be ignored and still retain your value.’
‘What breaks a person builds another person.’
‘The night spreads wide and you have flown, you’ve flown.’

The Woodcutter’s Bride – 4/5 stars. Strange and unsettling.

Come Live Here and be Loved – 4/5 stars

You Shall Not Suffer… – 5/5 stars

‘The world’s not built for soft and sturdy things. It likes its soft things small and white, defenceless.’
‘Your body has become a cut of meat.’
‘You are a woman. Women must be trained.’

This story hit home hard – when you don’t conform to the traditional image of girl, growing up can still be difficult, being expected to be tough, to not hurt or feel, just because you’re so much taller and outwardly confident than others, than boys especially. And suddenly puberty hits and boys and men are told it’s acceptable to stare, to catcall, to harass – when did this become a norm? How did this even happen? The expectations that are placed on women and what we should be like – small, soft, delicate, weak – and how if you aren’t like that, you aren’t seen as womanly or feminine, it’s total rubbish, but it can still hurt and take a long time to come to terms with. I felt like I was coming home reading this story – the witch is beautiful and powerful, both sturdy and soft.

Meet the Nameless Thing and Call it Friend – 4/5 stars

Sister Fair – 4/5 stars

Ash Pale – 4.5/5 stars. Subverting the story of Snow White in spectacular fashion – Snow is the witch and the tale is powerful, dark, and magical. Whilst Snow seems deranged and evil in some of her methods, she’s free, she’s not being told what she can and cannot do by a man who wants to own everything about her.

‘Women aren’t allowed to do this here. To wield the power and to say the words.’
‘A soft life in a pretty cage with windows. A coffin for a woman when she lives.’

BRINE

Consume or be Consumed – 4/5 stars

‘You are not a gift. You’re not a thing. You slide the cold blade in.’

Doing Well – 4/5 stars

‘In every castle there are hidden rooms.
For hidden women.’

‘You need to hide to keep your body safe.’

The Tender Weight – 4/5 stars. Showing the ludicrous idea of a woman’s value being places on her virginity and then her ability to have children – commodities rather than people. The ending was wonderfully unexpected and a brilliant twist on the Bluebeard story.

Riverbed – 4.5/5 stars. Taking back power and control.

‘All witches burn.’
‘Witches can burn, and sometimes men can catch fire.’
‘They cannot bind my brain.’

The Little Gift – 4/5 stars. Odd, but powerful all the same.

‘I hold my head up high.
I am a person and I have value.’

Beauty and the Board – 5/5 stars

‘I am a woman grown. And I am angry.’
‘They venture out into the moonlit halls, walking naked through the dangerous places unafraid and wild with cold, bright beauty.’

Read: October 4th-5th 2017

5/5 stars

Advertisements

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

Hortense and the Shadow

Received from NetGalley for review. 

‘She reached for her shadow…and her shadow reached back.’

Hortense and the Shadow is a delightful new children’s book; the illustrations are lovely, evoking classic fairy tales and luscious Eastern European landscapes, and the narrative that the O’Hara sisters have created has surprising depth to it, exploring ideas of self-esteem, identity, and inner strength.

The story is about Hortense, a young girl who is afraid of her shadow. She longs for nothing more than to be rid of it, but she soon discovers that her shadow is as vital a part of her as everything else. It may sound simple but, as with most children’s books, Hortense and the Shadow has a very important message within it. Although she fears her shadow, Hortense is a brave and kind girl – she cares for those who are injured, and when bandits attack she rushes out in the dark forest to try and defend her own. She realises that even though her shadow may turn into strange, dark shapes, it’s still a part of her, and people can be just as strange and dark at times, too.

The illustrations are absolutely stunning, everything about them conjures up fairy tales told on a cold winter’s night, huddled up in front of a fire with mulled orange or hot chocolate. They compliment the story beautifully and I could happily spend my time just flicking through and enjoying the gentle watercolours; pastel blues and pinks intermingle with greys and navy blue to create a feast for the eyes and I wanted to dive right into the story and live within it (keeping my fingers crossed for a Hortense and the Shadow print collection).

Children and adults alike will love this story, and I can see it becoming a new classic with its message of bravery and kindness and beautiful illustrations. Whether you have children in your life or not, I would highly recommend bringing this enchanting book into your life.

Read: October 1st 2017

4/5 stars

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Daughter of the Burning City

Received from NetGalley for review. 

Daughter of the Burning City is a luscious, wicked romp through a festival of debauchery and sin – The Gomorrah Festival – a travelling city that boasts a multitude of sights and shows, full of mysterious jynx-workers, prettymen and women, The Menagerie, and Freak Show, to name but a few. Although the festival has always courted its fair share of controversy, especially amongst the religious Up-Mountainers, it finds itself in further scandal when Sorina, a rare illusion-worker, finds one of her illusions murdered. But how can someone be murdered if they aren’t fully alive? The novel follows Sorina as she delves into the seedier Downhill of the Festival to try and find out who murdered her family, and how it’s possible to murder an illusion.

At first I did wonder how I would get to know and forge a connection with all the characters. However, Sorina and her illusions – Tree, Gill, Venera, Nicoleta, Blister, Hawk, Unu and Du, and Crown – all have distinct personalities, and I found myself attached to them all, and devastated when one of them was killed. Sorina herself was an interesting protagonist – she has the power to transport a person entirely with her illusion work, and create images so vivid they could make adults run away screaming, yet she remains a realistic teenager, worried about how she looks and how others perceive her, although I imagine having flat skin where eyes usually are contributes to this. I’m glad she was unsure of herself and made mistakes, it only made her growth throughout the novel, as she tries to untangle everything that is happening in Gomorrah, more realistic. The other characters are equally as interesting – especially the mysterious and well-spoken Luca – and I love how there was always more beneath the surface, something else to them that wasn’t immediately obvious.

Daughter of the Burning City is a wonderfully twisty tale; with so many people who have unusual abilities how do you know who to trust? How do you know what is real and if your mind is truly your own? Sorina has to try and muddle through murky politics and allegiances – both within Gomorrah and the Up-Mountain cities they are touring – to try and discover who wants to murder her family and why, as well as dealing with unexpected emotions. The world of Gomorrah was amazing to discover, with a vastness that I couldn’t quite comprehend and a surprise around every corner. My only criticism is that writing sometimes felt convoluted, as if Foody was trying to use too many words to convey something. The writing was generally evocative, though, and the world of Gomorrah and its inhabitants came alive to me from the very first page. Highly recommended if you’re after a strange, murderous story where nothing is quite what it seems.

Read: September 3rd-16th 2017

4/5 stars

PSA: Sometimes I suck at reviewing

I’m not going to lie, going back to work after six glorious weeks off is hard. My reading and reviewing has gone completely out of the window as I’m just too tired and busy to properly dedicate myself to it – there always seems to be something else that I have to do in this silly adult world. Stay in school, kids, it’s so much easier.

I have quite a few September releases to read and review, and I’m hoping to get around to them by the end of this month (does anyone else feel weird if they don’t post reviews regularly?) but I don’t know when my next post will be. It’s taken me about eleven days to read half of Daughter of the Burning City because life keeps getting in the way, but I will be back and normal service will resume shortly.

I hope all you wonderful people are well and having more luck with reading than I am. Stay excellent xo

 

Bubbles

The Night Will Never Stay

The night will never stay,
The night will still go by,
Though with a million stars
You pin it to the sky,
Though you bind it with the blowing wind
And buckle it with the moon,
The night will slip away
Like sorrow or a tune.

– Eleanor Farjeon

The Chaos of Longing by K.Y. Robinson

Received from NetGalley for review. 

Poetry is so subjective that I always find it hard to review. Personally, I love this style of poetry – the stream-of-consciousness, open, raw, and vivid way that K.Y. Robinson and similar poets write just gets me, I feel it deep down and it never fails to move me. I find it so remarkable how people can use words to create images and feelings in this way, and although I know some readers find it overly simplistic, I personally find it magical.

one moment life
is more pigmented
than technicolor.
glitter flows
through my veins
and the stars
in my eyes dilate
and burst
into delusions.

K.Y. Robinson explores desire in all its forms and the need and want that we as humans have: to feel fulfilled emotionally, physically, and spiritually. A want that doesn’t always disappear if we are struggling with mental illness, if we’ve been abused or suffered trauma, if we’ve been told that we are too much, too loud, take up too much space. It’s personal and powerful and I adore the dedication – ‘to those who lie awake burning.’

when you look at me,
stars cluster in your eyes
but i often wonder if
my black holes
will swallow them whole
because deep down
i’m a connosieur
of sabotage.

If you’ve read and loved collections by writers like Amanda Lovelace, Rupi Kaur, or Lang Leav, you’ll probably love this too. It has the same power, the same rawness and pain, the same relatability that so many of us feel.

there is a universe
swirling inside you.

you have to learn to be
your own earth,
wind, fire
and water.

you are a natural
phenomenon-
not a natural disaster.

Read: August 17th 2017

4/5 stars

(Not So Little) Little Bits: NetGalley Edition

The Little Red Wolf by Amelie Flechais

Received from NetGalley for review .

This is a somewhat dark but lovely reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood, but I suppose the darkness is fairly appropriate for a fairy tale. Instead of a girl we have a a little wolf who likes to wear red, sent out to give his grandmother a rabbit, with a warning to avoid the hunter and his daughter, who hate wolves. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, especially of the forest, and are so vivid that you don’t even need to read the words to know the story.

I liked the way the tale was interpreted, but I’m not sure how children will feel about the little wolf eating the rabbit along the way or about the some of the illustrations of the hunter and his daughter – there was a slightly strange and menacing undertone, but I wonder if it would be as obvious to a younger reader.

Read: August 11th 2017

4/5 stars

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

Received from NetGalley for review. 

The Tea Dragon Society is an adorable graphic novel about Greta, a blacksmith apprentice who finds an injured Tea Dragon in the marketplace and begins to learn all about them after returning it to it’s owner. The Tea Dragons are exactly what they sound like, dragons who produce leaves, flowers, or oils on their horns that are then brewed into a magical tea. Greta learns that it’s a dying art, with life changing pace as it does and people moving away from traditions, and becomes determined to learn all about it from Hesekiel and Erik, whilst developing a friendship with shy and unsure Minette.

Both the story and illustrations are adorable; even though it is a simply story I can’t help but feel there is a subtle, but strong, undertone of exploring and accepting differences, as well the more obvious appreciation for traditions with both the Tea Dragons and blacksmithing. Katie O’Neill’s illustrations are nothing short of stunning and the entire book is a visual delight (I especially loved the guide to Tea Dragon husbandry and Tea Dragon fact file at the end). I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Read: August 11th 2017

4/5 stars

A Change Is Gonna Come by Various

Received from NetGalley for review. 

4.5 stars

‘I run raging and so afraid/ Joyfully and terrifyingly uncaged.’ – The Elders of the Wall by Musa Okwonga

A Change Is Gonna Come feels like a revolution; authors and publishers standing up to say we will make a difference within literature, and bring to the forefront writers, characters, and concepts that are not being represented within books. This collection focuses on a multitude of ideas within its larger theme of ‘Change’ – cultural identity, diversity, racism, immigration, changes in outlook and ideas to name a few – and highlight just how important representation of different cultures, ethnicities, sexualities are. White and straight should not be the default and the world needs to realise that – education is the only way ignorance will be beaten and collections like these can only strengthen that education, and ultimately the realisation that people are people. The wonder of the human race is in our differences but we should never forget that at the end of the day we are all people and we are all equally worthy of respect and representation. This is another outstanding collection from Stripes Publishing and I highly recommend it to everyone who can get their hands on it.

My favourites were: The Elders on the Wall by Musa Okwonga, Marionette Girl by Aisha Bushby, Astouding Talent! Unequalled Performances! by Catherine Johnson, Iridescent Adolescent by Phoebe Roy, and Dear Asha by Mary Bello.

The Elders on the Wall by Musa Okwonga – 5/5 stars. A powerful poem about cultural identity and forging your own path.

Marionette Girl by Aisha Bushby – 4.5/5 stars. Realistic OCD portrayal and the impact it can have on a sufferer and their family.

Astounding Talent! Unequalled Performances! by Catherine Johnson – 4.5/5 stars. This is based on a true story of a circus troupe and a young black man who went on to do great things.

Hackney Moon by Tanya Byrne – 4/5 stars

We Who? by Nikesh Shukla – 4/5 stars

The Clean Sweep by Patrice Lawrence – 3/5 stars

Iridescent Adolescent by Phoebe Roy – 4/5 stars. A young girl of Black and Jewish heritage, mysterious bronze feathers, a colour-changing necklace. Reality and mythology blended perfectly.

Dear Asha by Mary Bello – 4.5/5 stars. A moving story about a daughter coming to terms with her mother’s death and finding a home with relatives in Nigeria.

A Refuge by Ayisha Malik – 4/5 stars

The Unwritten Future of Moses Mohammad Shabazz Banneker King by Irfan Master – 4/5 stars

Fortune Favours the Bold by Yasmin Rahman – 4/5 stars

Of Lizard Skin and Dust Storms by Inua Ellams – 4/5 stars

‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ – James Baldwin

Read: August 3rd 2017

4.5/5 stars