Friday, 21 March 2014

Kendal's Column: 172 Hours On The Moon- John Harstad

Many would give anything to go to the moon- but would you give your life?

172 Hours on the MoonIt's been decades since aone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever.
Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune.
Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan.
Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.
It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space... no one is coming to save them.

Rating: Wednesday
I originally picked this book up just after I started my GCSE Astronomy course because i figured i'd learn some cool spacey stuff-no. That didn't happen.
This book is not cooly-cool spacey-wacey. this is OMG-I-AM-TERRIFIED-OF-THE-NIGHT-BC-OH-MY-GOD-HOLD-ME.
My opinions on this book are split between this being good and bad so i'm just going to lay all of the metaphorical cards of thoughts down on the metaphorical table.

The author of this book is Norwegian and was actually originally written in Norwegian which explains some of the dodgy writing in some places ('and that was the moment i fell in love with her' is a sentence that i just can't deal with in any book).
Let me take you through a quick overview of the characters:
Midori- Japanese fashionista hipster teen who spend her life in malls and dreams of moving to new York except she doesn't know how to get there, so naturally, she chooses to sign up to go to the moon as a way to get her to the big apple. she has no interest in the actual moon
Mia- Norwegian sarcasm-filled band girl. who spends her time generally not liking what any adult tells her to do so naturally, when her parents sign her up to go to the moon she gets just the tiniest little bit mad. She then decides going to the moon would actually be a plus for the band so she's game.
Antoine- French and newly (well, it was 6 months ago) single and still staring at his ex using binoculars on the balcony of the Eiffel tower-i'm serious, this is how Antoine spends his free time. Well, that and signing up to go to the moon to get as far away from his ex as possible .Naturally, he has no interest in actually going to the moon.

Despite, honestly, dislikable character and weird writing i actually really enjoyed the book; the plot had me guessing and I couldn't put it down and THE ENDING. OH THE ENDING HAS BE EFFED UP SO BAD I CAN'T ACTUALLY LOOK AT THE MOON.
The ONLY thing that annoys me about the timeline of events in this book is that there is a HUGE chunk of time that is just missed out. This time could have adequately provided character development and some fabulous spacey-wacey facts.

Overall, i would recommend this book however i would warn any future readers that this book will both terrify and fascinate you.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Thoughts on the Youtuber Sex Scandal

I have been reading a lot about this today and I thought I would express my point of view. If you haven't heard of the recent youtuber sex scandal then I suggest you read this, because I feel as though you have a right to understand the reality of the situation. 

I was shocked to see that Alex Day's name had come up in this conversation. Here is a masterpost of what has actually happened, because I don't know the full story and I don't claim to either. But from what I have read, it seems to me as if a minority of youtubers have abused their powers over young people and have consistently forced them into situations they are not comfortable in. I don't know whether all of the claims are true, but some other youtubers who were in previous relationships with those accused have confirmed the rumours as they have experienced it themselves.

I have no right to personally bash those youtubers involved because I don't know Alex nor any other youtuber and I don't know the victims. I'm definitely not sticking up for the youtubers accused, though. I believe firmly that victim blaming is wrong in all circumstances, and just because they're youtubers, it doesn't make me any less disgusted in them. So, I thought I would make a general statement that goes for everyone.

I suppose that's the main point. The rules go for everyone. It doesn't matter how 'famous' you are, how ordinary, how old, how young, how good looking or how much power you have in society. That does not give you the right to abuse your power and manipulate people who look up to you and have done for many years. And this applies to non-youtubers as well - I don't care who you are or how good you've been in your life. If you take advantage of someone or manipulate them, even if you are in a relationship with them, this is unforgivable and I'm going to hate you no matter how much you try to make up for it in the future. 

Let's put this into perspective. I have been reading The Kite Runner for school and there is a famous scene between the main character, Amir, and his father: 

"Good," Baba said, but his eyes wondered. "Now, no matter what the mullah teaches, there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that?"

"No, Baba jan," I said, desperately wishing I did. I didn't want to disappoint him again.

"When you kill a man, you steal a life," Baba said. "You steal his wife's right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?"

"There is no act more wretched than stealing, Amir," Baba said. "A man who takes what's not his to take, be it a life or a loaf of naan...I spit on such a man. And if I ever cross paths with him, God help him. Do you understand?"

If you emotionally, physically, or sexually abuse someone, this is an act of theft. You are stealing that person's right to freedom of consent and, more importantly, the freedom to say NO. You are stealing their happiness, their time, their emotional stability, and their physical health. It is true that every sin is an act of theft, and there is no worse act than stealing. 

I particularly love the part "A man who takes what's not his to take, be it a life or a loaf of naan...I spit on such a man." because it doesn't matter how valuable you view something to be. Taking advantage of someone is taking something that is not your's to take, and it doesn't matter how 'minor' you view the abuse to be. Whether it be anything from emotional blackmail to rape, it is still taking what is not yours. Someone's freedom. 

I have no experience with relationships, but I do know the standard rules for consent:
  1. No means no.
  2. Even if they don't say "no", repeatedly check to see if they say "yes" before you do anything.
  3. If they don't say "yes", you don't have consent.
  4. If they do say "yes" and you are comfortable too, then proceed to enjoy said consented activity.
Simple. And I don't understand why some people choose to have the mindset that they have a reason to disobey these rules.

A dog understands the word "no". If a dog understands, a human definitely does too, and so there is absolutely no excuse for abuse. If you abuse someone, you are an abuser. The rules don't change for you because you think you're special.

I urge everyone to think about how they act towards people in their life. Stop, think, and if you think anything you are doing counts as abuse, stop doing it. It really is that easy.

Here's a word of advice to people who look up to youtubers as I do: just because you see how they act on a computer screen, it doesn't mean that's how they act in reality.

I think I've pretty much covered everything, but here are Charlie and Hank's videos about consent to tell you a bit more. You can make up your own mind about this scandal, but please be aware that the youtubers involved have made very weak posts neither confirming or denying doing anything, whilst people are speaking out about their experiences with youtubers. Don't blame the victims and under no circumstances stick up for the people accused, because none of us have any right.

And if you think you are a victim of abuse, click here to go to a website about abuse and how you can be helped.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Review: The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

We all know the name, we have all seen the cover in a bookshop, and we all have at least a little bit of knowledge on what the book is about. But is Gatsby really great?

In short, no. Gatsby is not great. He isn't supposed to live up to his name, but I mean it in a deeper way than that. Fitzgerald should have called it The Rich Stalker, because that's who Gatsby really was. 

Gatsby is written in the perspective of Nick Carraway, who lives up to his characternym and doesn't give a damn about what Gatsby does. It is the fact that he is Gatsby, the oh so mysterious man who seems to be the only person interested in Nick in the whole of West Egg that lures him into his house for the famous party scene. As they get more acquainted, Nick learns everything about Jay Gatsby, and still doesn't give a damn, because by that point he sees them as 'best friends'. 

This review is going to contain some spoilers, so don't read it if you are actually considering reading this book.

First of all, I am so over the whole "It's a classic and it's old so it must be good!" thing, because I don't care if Gatsby was written by the last Pharaoh of Egypt with the blood of their very veins - it was a bad book in my opinion. 

Don't get me wrong, I completely understood the book and I get why everyone goes mad over it. It was supposed to send out the message that it doesn't matter how much money you have, you can't buy love or happiness or a good turnout to your own funeral. But that is such a mainstream theme and it was no more controversial in the 1920's - it's just that the people who wrote these type of books were quite often from a privileged background themselves so they thought it was an interesting topic. 

I have a theory here and correct me if I'm way off, but throughout reading it I thought Fitzgerald had imagined himself as Gatsby and imagined his wife Zelda as Daisy. This would explain why when reading it, the descriptions of both were just how I would describe him and Zelda. Basing your characters on yourself and the people you know... isn't that the number one rule of what not to do when writing a book? It also occurred to me that one of the points of this book was to make you think Gatsby, be Gatsby, until something in your own life snaps you out of it. You are in danger of living the book, which Fitzgerald may well have done whilst writing it, until you wake up to the harsh reality of it. I wasn't in any danger of that, because I didn't like Gatsby, but just like Nick many people fall for him.

On the subject of Nick, I can't really say anything apart from how appallingly boring his was. Oh my Gatsby. Moving swiftly on.

Another think I noticed was that there were huge homosexual undertones throughout the whole book and you can't ignore it. I think it is fair to say that Nick had a man-crush on Jay. The only people he was interested in for the whole book was Gatsby and Daisy, and even then he seemed to have a creepy incest-type crush on his own cousin. To me he is comparable to an obsessive fangirl in terms of Gatsby. I don't even want to think about him and Daisy. 

The descriptions were stiff, literally. Every time he described Jordan and Daisy together, he made them sound like marionette dolls instead of people. I didn't get the chilly vibes coming from that description: "... two young women were bouyed up as though upon an anchored balloon." Daisy even says "I'm p-paralysed with happiness." It doesn't make sense, any of it. And I have been deeply analysing this book for a few months now. The whole description was unnatural and didn't stick with Daisy's other descriptions, where she is compared to a butterfly, so elegant and fluttering about everywhere as though she can't keep still. 

Here's for what I liked. There were some Tumblr-worthy quotes in there, and some of the other descriptions were so crisp and fresh. I would describe them almost as absolute gemstones of literary content, but alongside the glorified picture of the 20's era I just couldn't justify giving it an amazing review. 

I loved the idea of the book instead of what was actually inside. A mysterious man lets a man of lower social class into his life and has a love-interest he has patiently waited five years for. But the actual book was not to my expectations. He stalked Daisy for years, kept newspaper clippings of her and moved to an area so he can lust over her with only a lake to divide them, and has a seriously OTT plan to get her back. You should be taken aback how creepy it is, and you should want to file a restraining order against anyone who acts like that towards you. 

Daisy is perfectly happy with Tom until Gatsby shows up again and then she is forced to bring up her emotions from the past that she buried away. This is the thing that ultimately changes her life, not the sort-of-affair that takes place shortly after. Of course, I'm not sympathising with her because she was as manipulative as Gatsby sometimes, but if getting her back wasn't enough he wanted her to declare that she never loved Tom. Obviously she couldn't do that, so being the perfectionist he is, Gatsby ends up as unhappy as he started out even though he's got his girl. This annoyed me. We find out that Gatsby was an unusually smart man with the lengths he has taken to become Gatsby, but he should have figured out that perfection isn't possible. A smart person would know that. His character therefore wasn't consistent. 

And Owl Eyes man? We never get to the bottom of what his real name was. Now my mind is left clinging on to this impossible image of a human sized owl talking to Nick at a party. 

The ending was meh. Not what I would have hoped for in an amazing oh-you-must-read-before-you-die classic. 

The reason I gave it 2/5 cups of tea in the end was because it wasn't unreadable and there weren't any plot holes, so thank you so much for that Fitzgerald. I understood what the book was trying to get across and I did like the metaphors for both characters and objects throughout, but by the end it just seemed like tedious reading. I really wanted to like it, and I am not against classics or anything. Just bad ones. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Book Haul: Graphic novels

From the left: Persepolis, The Complete Maus, and Blue is the Warmest Colour

Hello! It's Saturday again and so I have another book haul I want to show you. This was from a while ago but I reaaally wanted to show you all my beautiful graphic novels. I bought these on a whim from the Waterstones website because I'd found a 10% discount code before the website was closed down for refurbishment. 

1. Blue is the Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh

You all know I've been wanting this one for a long time after I fell in love with the storyline. I first noticed the movie poster in an indie cinema where I live, and since I'm studying French I thought I would check it out and perhaps go and see it. It turned out to be rated 18+, so I researched the story anyway and saw the trailer and felt an instant connection to this story. Don't ask me why... I don't relate to the story at all, but it just had a certain vibe to it. This was originally published in France as La Vie D'Adele or more commonly Bleu est le colour chaude. I have to admit that I read it as soon as it came in the post. If you know of the movie version, you will probably think I am some kind of creep for wanting it so badly, but I assure you the novel is different. I will put a review up of it soon!

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I learnt about this graphic novel in French class and so I was happy that Waterstones had it in stock. This book is about culture, family and young people in difficult situations. I am yet to read it but it is a nice bulky size so it looks promising. Most popular in France I think, but there is also an animated movie version that my French teacher spoke about. It looks gorgeous on my shelf!

3. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

This is a graphic novel with a difference. It is a tale of Nazi Germany, and each character has a tail. Set in WW2, the Jewish mice are being hunted down by the German cats. This one was slightly more expensive but so worth it. I can't wait to read it because it looks so interesting. I bought this with the rest of the haul shortly after I had finished The Book Thief, and I do love books about World War Two. 

There's the haul! I will leave you with a song from the soundtrack of the movie Blue is the Warmest Colour, called 'I follow rivers' by Lykke Li. I love her music!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Kendal's Column: Should we censor books in schools?

Whilst researching 'Eleanor and Park' for last weeks review I stumbled across an article about the book being censored in an American school due to mild sexual content and strong language used by some characters in intense scenes.

This was kind of bewildering to me as, in my opinion, Eleanor and Park isn't a book that I would give an 'explicit content' label to. The book doesn't contain unnecessary 'mature' content.
 Any and all strong language in this book is used to illustrate strong emotions of characters; any 'mature' content is used to show the development of relationships as well as to connect with the audience and their own experiences and relationships as teenagers. The content is also used to convey the difficulties of a situation which most people may not have experienced and the language used is only to illustrate the thoughts and feeling of a person going through that.

But why do we feel it necessary to censor books anyway?

As you grow up, you learn about life- the good and the bad.
Granted, no one would dare tell a 3 year old that there are people are dying at this moment in time or that the world could end at any moment due to any number of reasons (i'm not talking mayan calendars, i'm talking overdue super volcanoes etc etc) but ,within reason, books should be for whoever wants to read them.
By the time you are in your mid-teens you've had at least one Sex Ed class and you've probably heard all the 'strong' words in the book from various sources.

I'm going to make myself perfectly clear here, before I get any pitchforks and torches at my door, i am by no means saying that we should let young people read whatever they want as there is a line which i shall name 'The 50 Shades of Grey Line'
We all know the trilogy, even if -like me - you haven't read it, you know the genre it fits into. This is the line that shouldn't be crossed by the under 15/16's for (self purchasing) books and this is the line that shouldn't be crossed in schools (obviously) because there would always be risks/complications, not to mention the glaringly obvious point that it would be plain inappropriate.

But banning books like Little Red Riding Hood, a classic fairy tale that has been told for centuries, from schools?

You can bubble wrap a child all you want, one day they will leave the nest and they will find out about all the bad things and good things in the world. If someone isn't educated about life then they're more likely to mess up.
If something perfectly natural is hidden from someone or avoided in discussion it's made to seem like an embarrassing or shameful thing-which is ridiculous- and can lead to poor relationships in later life.

Would you deny someone to learn a lesson from a book that could influence their life simply because of the fact the book dealt with REAL issues?

Books teach people life lessons.
You're better at learning when you're young.

Happy Friday

Friday, 7 March 2014

Kendal's Column: Eleanor & Park- Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.
Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

Rating: Thursday (a questionable one)
I was recommended this book by writer Keris Stainton (some time ago (sorry)) and since then a few friends have told me to read it on separate occasions which meant i went into this book expecting an 'oomph' of love for it and, boy, did it deliver.
I ADORED the main body of this book. It starts with Eleanor just starting at a new school, not knowing anyone. She gets on the bus and she meets Park, who's a bit of an outcast himself. From the first time Eleanor meets Park, I was with them in the pace that their relationship was going, it wasn't annoyingly rush or painstakingly slow. Their relationship developed and blossomed beautifully. I could talk to you about any one of the scenes or characters in the book for hours because the characters their relationships are beautiful.
The novell is a recipe of quirky, nerdy,sarcastic teenagers living life with some serious issues interwoven.
Eleanor's home is breaking apart and her Mother can't see the toxicity that surrounds her family.
Whilst I like to think that I am aware of society and the bad and good things that happen within it, the fact the Eleanor's background isn't a fiction still terrifies me. When Eleanor's story reaches its climax, there were tears.

So why a 'questionable' Thursday?
Let me talk to you about my opinions on the final chapter(s).
Well, I'm not entirely sure how i feel about them- i don't know whether i'm mad or upset or still in a post-book emotional void but I feel like the last chapter could have been more satisfying as i feel like i need a sequel or a novella. However, it's a stand-alone contemporary so a sequel of any kind is unlikely to say the least.
The ending wasn't definitive and that's great as an author, to have, but its a terrible thing, as a reader, to have to go through (it's really selfish, i know).
Nevertheless i would recommend this book (and have done) because i have never read a contemporary novel like this and it was an amazing read.

Note: I think @Bookfangirling is doing a review of this book soon, i will link it (here) when it's up. It'll be interesting to see what her opinions are.

This book contains infrequent strong language (all justified) as a warning to those that are sensitive to strong language.

Happy Friday!