Asking For It.

Asking For ItAsking For It by Louise O’Neill

Having read and enjoyed O’Neill’s “Only Ever Yours” I was expecting a good read and I surely got one.

Emma O’Donovan is 18, beautiful and fearless. At least that’s what it says on the blurb. Other adjectives to describe her would be shallow, cruel, envious, phony and a bitch. But do all those negatives equal her deserving to be gang raped? If she were a nicer girl who never made any mistakes would it alter your perceptions of what she did and didn’t ask for? She was drunk, she was high, so doesn’t she deserve what happened to her? The boys were just having fun after all.

The novel opens up a can of worms as its brings to light the treatment of rape victims by society. A woman has to prove that she is innocent, the young men get a ‘get out of jail’ card far too easily because they are ‘nice boys’ and she has a reputation anyway don’t you know?

This is not for the faint of heart. There is a great deal of cussing in the story, buts its not because O’Neill is uncreative and didn’t know what else to put into the mouth of her character. The swearing is not there merely for decoration; its a very real glimpse into the mindset of the victim. There is no gratuitous sex scenes, but everything done to Emma is revealed in detail in the description of photos that were posted on Facebook where Emma is confronted by what has been done to her.

We are privy to the gradual breakdown of Emma and all her relationships around her. Even within her own family there is little support of her trauma and there is a lingering sense of blame. Emotionally raw, the ending is brutally realistic. “They are all innocent until proven guilty. Not me, I am a liar until I am proven honest.”

A great documentary to watch on the rape culture we are dealing with is “Audrie and Daisy” which is on release on Netflix. Go watch it and then go talk to others.

Audrie & Daisy

 

 

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Blind Goddess (Hanne Wilhelmsen #1)Blind Goddess by Anne Holt

Translated from Norwegian by Tom Geddes.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve watched my fair share of Scandinavian crime dramas so I had high hopes for this novel. Im not sure if they were met or not to be honest.

This is the story of a murder and drugs and insanity in downtown Oslo. I did appreciate all the little details of places in Oslo so this became a kind of travel book as well. There are three main characters in this novel; Karen Borg, a lawyer, and police officers Hakon Larsen and Hanne Wilhelmsen. Multiple crimes are linked together with dastardly lawyers turned criminal and the Norwegian population apparently swimming in drugs.

This is not a fast paced book; it trundles along at a leisurely pace. We also gain the inner workings of the police officers having a somewhat one sided love affair and we have the pleasing piece of diversity in the shape of a terrific lawyer being a lesbian, but its pretty standard stuff.

But it bothered me that the crime was impossible to crack, not because of great writing, rather because not all the players in the game were named somewhere along the line. A good crime novel leaves little bits of clues scattered all through the text so that, if you are sharp, you can piece the mystery together. Its not until the dying pages of this book that the character who was the kingpin in this mystery was revealed. It should be in the retrospect that the reader can see clearly who done it, not discovering something vital being kept under cover to make the apparent plot twist something to end all plot twists.

Apart from this ‘minor’ issue, I enjoyed this book and will probably get more in the series, if for no other reason than to see where the love affair ends up.

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A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic NovelA Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think that this will be the last graphic novel I ever read. I was initially excited by the sheer size of this novel – 392 pages. Surely I would get a good opinion from this I thought. Surely this would change my opinion to a more positive light? Sadly I was wrong.

The artwork is too simplistic and the colour palette of black, white and blue simply didn’t allow the full wonder of this story to be revealed.

Meg came out looking angry in almost every cell. Charles-Wallace is not convincing and seriously, who cares about the other characters? See, right >there< is where the problem is. The other characters didn’t fair so well in this retelling and if you don’t care for the characters, why bother reading the book?

A lot of the dialogue remains true to the original but the artwork didn’t hold up its end of the bargain to tell the story. Expressions look the same no matter what they are proposed. The great battle between Meg and IT for the heart of Charles-Wallace was told in 11 cells; not much for a great battle at all. In all fairness, the Tesseract was succinctly show in two cells on page 139.

It just didn’t do it for me I’m afraid. Graphic novels are nothing more than glorified comic books and I wont be reading any more.

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The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in 1920’s, Tom is the survivor of World War One and wants nothing more than to have the calm order of being a lighthouse keeper as a job in the remote wilderness of the Australian countryside. He meets Isabel and her open and lively spirit wriggles its way into his heart and after a strange courtship they are married.

Isabel and Tom have suffered yet another devastating loss of an unborn child and Isabel is pushed beyond her coping abilities. A small boat lands on their island home of Janus Rock in the Indian Ocean with a dead man and a new born baby on-board. Then the decision of a lifetime is made; to keep the baby or not.

This book is not so unfathomable as one might first imagine. After years of infertility I too would wish that I could find an abandoned baby, so often reported on television news, so I could claim it as my own. One can only imagine what living in such isolation did to a grief stricken Isabel as she dealt with miscarriages and still births, desperate for a child of her own.

This is a novel about moral choices and at its core is the ability to make you care for characters that due to misplaced faith, choose to believe that a baby has been supernaturally given to them rather than follow the moral decision to send the child back to the mainland. It was never a malicious decision to keep the baby, just one that came from the depths of despair.

One cant help but question Tom’s love and loyalty to Isabel in revealing the truth of his daughter and its easy to understand in no uncertain terms the morality of guilt he displayed in contacting the birth mother, thus destroying his wife’s life. A classic six of one, half dozen of the other.

There is only one clear plotline, and there are not a cast of thousands in supporting roles. But the story is dealt with honestly, at times painfully and makes you question the rights of a child. Sadly its still a situation that happens today when surrogacy goes wrong.

This is a complex, tender story. Wonderful. Four and a half stars really.

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Vinegar Girl

Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

OK. before we go any further, lets just say this is not the book for a feminist to read and take seriously. And the fact it is labelled fiction – contemporary women is just laughable.

Anne Tyler doesn’t have much to work with considering the original is The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, but she creates a slightly sit-com storyline of Kate Battista being ask to marry her fathers lab assistant so he can get a green card and stay in the country, where he will continue to work on something that is ultimately for the good of humanity. In real life its known as fraud and you can be legally charged for it as a crime.

There is nothing particularly likeable about any of the characters. Kate comes across as a rather rude and socially stupid woman, her younger sister Bunny is a self-entitled, boy hungry teenager, Dr. Battista is the kind of scientist character that makes you sigh in exasperation because he is of overly muddle headed and Pytor is the inordinately eager foreign groom to be.

This is a story that will make you want to reach for the primary work and realise that things are very different in 1590 when it was originally written. It will help with the urge to roll the eyes and snort in frustration.

Its just OK. Not one I would exhort you to read.

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The Liar

The LiarThe Liar by Nora Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story begins with Shelby Foxworth trying to come to terms with learning that her recently deceased husband had left her in a great deal of debt. And within a matter of days she learns that he never really existed at all.

Shelby is a fighter and refuses to allow all this to keep her down; she has a three year old daughter to provide for after all. She sells up everything she can and heads back to the safety and security of her hometown and her family. But a book of 501 pages cant possibly run all that smoothly can it?

This plotline isn’t a new one by any stretch of the imagination, but in the hands of Nora Roberts it is done well enough that it is an enjoyable couple of hours to stifle reality. I say that despite knowing the major plot twist within a third of the book, so for once I wasn’t taken by surprise.

Its a little too easy for Shelby to dig her way out of millions of dollars of debt and it was far too simple for her to up sticks and go back to the well healed pockets of her perfect parents, land a job in her Granny’s day spa and land in the arms of the cute Yankee boy who is new in town. If only disaster could be so easily undone in real life. But in the end, Nora Roberts is my guilty pleasure and I love loosing myself in one of her novels. You don’t read her for realism but for escapism.

And as an escape, this was pretty good.

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Star Gazing

Star GazingStar Gazing by Linda Gillard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is an excellent example of something you can read to expand your view of characters with some diversity as the main protagonist is a blind woman.

This book is told in a three part narrative. We read from Marianne (the blind character), Louisa (her sister) and then a strange third person voice that does take some getting used to.

Marianne has LCA (Lebers Congential Amourosis) which is a genetic type of blindness. She was made a widow in her 20’s and has remained as such for almost 20 years. In passing she meets Keir Harvey and a strange attraction between the two is kindled. The challenge of this romance is that Marianne’s dead husband Harvey died horrifically in an oil rig disaster and Keir Harvey is an oil man out and about on oil rigs and in the middle of no-where, for months at a time, searching for oil. They have intense weeks together and then are separated for months at a time. Marianne isn’t a needy girl by any stretch of the imagination but is haunted by the accident that killed her husband.

Star Gazing is a comfortable plot; I mean there isn’t anything unusual about it. Boy meets girl, boy and girl have an issue or two to work out, boy gets girl forever. Lovely. What really makes this book stand out is the way Keir uses words to woo Marianne. She is constantly asking him to describe things to her in ways she can understand and he uses musical terms and pieces to illustrate explanations. Its stunning to visualise things in such a different way.

Star Gazing is a strong book in that it never allows you to forget that Marianne is blind but it never does it in a cloying manner. The sister Louisa also featured strongly in this novel with a budding romance of her own that looks at the ‘rules’ of age differences in a romantic relationship. It is a sweetness all of its own.

Its two romances for the price of one and is a thoroughly acceptable book. I recommend it.

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