Tag Archives: Feminism

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Overview
I am Malala, The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the  Taliban by Malala Yousafzai | 9781780226583 | Booktopia

Title: I Am Malala
Author: Malala Yousafzai
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Feminism, Memoirs, Strong women
Dates read: 11th – 16th October 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Year: 2012
5th sentence, 74th page: But all this time the mufti was watching.

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Synopsis

I come from a country that was created at midnight When I almost died it was just after midday. When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan. One girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday October 9 2012 when she was fifteen. She almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school and few expected her to survive. Instead. Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel…

Thoughts

There are just some people in the world who seem to make me feel bad for the many, many things that I don’t do. It’s not necessarily a bad thing… just a, well… thing. That feeling of guilt that accompanies the reminder that there are some seriously bad arse, tough, amazing women out in the world. And Malala Yousafzai is most certainly one of them. That’s not to say that reading I Am Malala made me feel guilty or horrible, but it served as a reminder of the awesomeness of this young woman.

The journey that Malala takes is just phenomenal. And I can’t really describe that feeling of this is really awesome that you will get whilst reading this. Not just because of what Malala has accomplished, but also the family that she’s from and her love of her people and country. Every single word in this novel speaks of humility and love. And it makes this just… phenomenal. And one of those books that is impossible to forget.

I love that this book, even though it is about Malala’s journey, is really mostly about her family. Almost every sentence is about them. And, in particular, her father. It shows you that people who create great change don’t actually do this on their own… they have a family and people around them that help them accomplish everything and anything that they put their mind to. And for Malala, that driving factor is her father. And, considering the culture in which they both come from… that is somehow all that much more phenomenal.

This is one of those books that I think everyone needs to read. It is phenomenal and powerful. Unforgettable and a seriously intense and glorious journey. This is just one of those novels and lives that I will remember anytime I’m feeling negative, pessimistic or like a downright bore.

<- Falling LeavesMao’s Last Dancer ->

Image source: Booktopia

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

Overview
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold - Penguin Books Australia

Title: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
Author: Hallie Rubenhold
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Feminism, History, Non-fiction, True crime
Dates read: 23rd April – 8th May 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Non-fictional text, Novel
Publisher: Black Swan
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: On 16 April she was dispatched like a human parcel to Renfrew Road Workhouse.

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Synopsis

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhamption, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed in ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become more famous than any of these women.

IN THIS DEVASTATING NARRATIVE OF FIVE LIVES, HISTORIAN HALLIE RUBENHOLD FINALLY GIVES THESE WOMEN BACK THEIR STORIES.

Thoughts

This is a seriously intense, wonderful, powerful, amazing book. Like. Wow. I’ve recently become a little intrigued by Jack the Ripper, but, as with many others, I hadn’t really given huge amounts of thought to the women that he actually killed. Which I now feel kind of ashamed of. Because Rubenhold reminds us that these five women were, you know, people too. And should be remembered as such. Not for the way the died. Not for the way the media portrayed them. But for individuals in and of themselves. Women who loved, lost and experienced life. Women with families, husbands, children…

I tend not to read crime books before bed. It leads to some seriously whacked out and trippy dreams. Starting this, I figured that it would be okay to read before bedtime. After all, it’s about the women, not the murders. For starters, the introduction talks about Jack the Ripper a little more than I had wanted. And the last point made is that he didn’t kill prostitutes, he killed women while they were asleep. By themselves. I was a woman. By myself. About to go to sleep. Not exactly conducive to a restful nights’ sleep that.

Normally I like to pick up biographies because they’re not only informative, but they’re also incredibly easy to put down. That’s not the case with this novel. The first few chapters didn’t quite hook me, and I was completely able to put down the book whenever I needed to be productive. However, once I passed that point… I just couldn’t stop thinking about these five women. I couldn’t stop wondering about their lives, their loved ones. What they thought and experienced in their mysterious last moments… I just couldn’t stop thinking about it all!!! Which I think was the whole point of it… but still, not exactly my normal response for a biography…

I am still in awe of what I’ve read. I actually finished this book twenty-four hours before sitting down to write this review. And it took me so long to do so simply because there is an intense feeling that you get once you turn that final page. This intense feeling of not only wonder and amazement at what you just read, but also, for me at least, a sense of guilt. I’m fascinated by murders, but I have rarely seriously considered the Ripper women as individuals and women. Which is something I will endeavour to do more so of in the future. When I started this book, I couldn’t even remember the names of The Five. But now, I don’t think I’ll ever forget them…

<- The Covent Garden LadiesHarris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies ->

Image source: Penguin Books Australia

Red as Blood Collection by Tanith Lee

Overview
Image result for red as blood tanith lee book cover

Title: Red as Blood Collection
Author: Tanith Lee
In: Red as Blood (Tanith Lee)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Fairy tales, Feminism, Retellings, Short story collections
Dates read: 23rd October – 17th December 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Wildside
Year: 1983
5th sentence, 74th page: There were carvings in the sides of the tower, the magic symbols from the chamber as it had been, the zodiac, the Crown, the Sword, the Chalice – she knew such seals must hold the spire safely.

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Synopsis

Here are ten devilishly twisted fairy tales as the Brothers Grimm never dared to tell them. With her brilliantly macabre pen, Tanith Lee retells some familiar tales, and concocts some new and unusual ones, as she asks us to consider the possibility that things may not work as our fairy tales have them… In the title story, Lee shows us a perfectly good stepmother, whose Princess stepdaughter reeks of evil. Then there is Ashella, the Cinderella-like girl who, “When the Clock Strikes”, intends to give her Prince Charming a deadly surprise. In “Wolfland”, Lisel takes a trip through the woods to visit her grandmother – who bears little resemblance to the loving old woman we expect. And in “Thorns” you’ll find the haunting answer to the question, “What if awakening the Sleeping Beauty turns out to be the mistake of a lifetime – of several lifetimes, in fact?”

Populated with demons and devils, vengeful gods and not-so-innocent young girls, the ten tales of Red as Blood weave a tapestry of chilling visions, spun by the incomparably fiendish imagination of Tanith Lee!

Thoughts

This is the second feminist collection of fairy tales I’ve ever read. And I don’t know if I like this or Angela Carter’s version better. What I do know is that I love both of them and I will read them again and again. They’re fun, kind of brilliant and super dark. Much more likely in our lives than the pretty Disney-versions that I grew up with.

There wasn’t one story in this collection that I didn’t absolutely adore. Normally I’ll find one or two that just aren’t as good… but that most certainly wasn’t the case. This was brilliant! Honestly, as I turned the last page, I could have quite happily turned around and just started this all over again. I didn’t, because I have a whole stack of other books I want to read by the end of the year… but I don’t often have that desire in the first place.

Now I need to find some more Tanith Lee books. I have one other sitting in my shelf, but I want so much more now! There is no way that I won’t love it after this. Especially when you’re looking at a story which has a beautiful wordplay on the Brothers Grimm… equally dark versions, but with a focus on the women and the battles that they face.

 <- The Waters of Sorrow ReviewPaid Piper Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Mr. Speedy by Elda Minger

Overview
Fantasy

Title: Mr Speedy
Author: Elda Minger
In: Fantasy (Christine Feehan, Sabrina Jeffries, Emma Holly & Elda Minger)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary romanceFeminism, Gender
Dates read: 21st September 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Novella
Publisher: Jove
Year: 2002
5th sentence, 74th page: I’m disappointed, but I have to respect your judgement.

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Synopsis

In a private, all-male school for seduction…
…she might just graduate with honors. If she can only maintain her disguise long enough to teach the man of her dreams a few lessons.

Thoughts

There are so many issues with gender and courting. There’s also so many things about it that are ridiculously fun. But those people that think women are just something to prey upon? Well, that’s where it gets seriously problematic… and this novella perfectly encompasses that. By featuring a backdrop of a seminar designed to get women into bed… in the worst way possible.

Miranda is a driven, independent and strong woman. Her slightly insane drive causes her to make a decision, one that I’m not entirely sure I would do myself. I might be driven, but I’m not sure I would want to immerse myself in a world of toxic masculinity, discussed as an incredibly effeminate man. Yet, this obviously works for her, because she manages to find the man of her dreams, get to know him, and find a bit of understanding about how truly insecure most of the attendants at the seminar truly are. It would probably help all of us to understand what sometimes seems incredibly confusing (actually, scratch that, I’m never going to understand the decisions my partner makes)…

I loved this novella, but I did spend the entire time thinking about the movie She’s the Man. There is something that seems to be recurring in this theme of cross-dressing to get what one desires. And then falling in love. Which is both annoyingly predictable, and so beautifully, dreamily fun. Actually, mostly it’s just fun. It’s hard enough to get to know the people that you’re interested in, but when there are extra boundaries… I can kind of understand going undercover as a man after all…

 <- Luisa’s Desire ReviewThe Awakening Review ->
Image source: Christine Feehan

The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren

Overview
Image result for queen victoria's book of spells ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Unwanted Women of Surrey
Author: Kaaron Warren
In: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5:  4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Death, Feminism, GaslampHistorical fiction
Dates read: 19th September 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tor
Year: 2013
5th sentence, 74th page: We went walking early in the evening.

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Synopsis

In a house of unwanted women, the Grey Ladies have decided to make their presence known. But these unwanted wives don’t really know what the cost is going to be… will it be too late when they find out the truth?

Thoughts

This is kind of a strong story. It intertwines death, feminism and the choices we make in life. And it truly asks the question: what is right and what is wrong? Where are the shades of grey? Or in the case of this story, where are the shades of the Grey Ladies? After all, they haunt through this story in an eerily familiar way with each flick of a page.

The mix of a tale about women attempting to find their power and place in the world. the five women in this story are all unwanted by their husbands for one reason or another. In some circumstances, I think that this unwantedness is completely understandable (there was a potential murderer among them). But in others it is just kind of tragic. At the beginning of the story, all of these women are kind of just gliding through life with no real aims or decisions as to where they want to go in the world. By the end, that has changed and there is a sense of purpose and desire in all of their actions.

The use of the cholera outbreak and a mass murder gave this tale an entirely haunting feeling. And one that made you feel a little less comfortable with the decisions that are being made by the unwanted women of surrey. Yet, it also provides a great placement in history as this was a moment that actually happened. And houses provided for married, yet unwanted women was also quite a common occurrence within this time period. The fantastic blend of historical fact, and the fantastical nature of the Grey Ladies completely swept me away.

 <- Smithfield ReviewCharged Review ->
Image source: Amazon

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Overview
Related image

Title: The Radium Girls
Author: Kate Moore
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Feminism, History, MemoirsNon-fiction
Dates read: 30th April – 5th May 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: The girls of Radium Dial, outside their studio; forever young and happy and well.

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Synopsis

All they wanted was the chance to shine. Be careful what you wish for…

‘The first we asked was, “Does this stuff hurt you?” And they said, “No.” The company said that it wasn’t dangerous, that we didn’t need to be afraid.’

As the First World War spread across the world, young American women flocked to work in factories, painting clocks, watches and military dials with a special luminous substance made from radium. It was a fun job, lucrative and glamorous – the girls shone brightly in the dark, covered head to toe in dust from the paint.

However, as the years passed, the women began to suffer from mysterious and crippling illnesses. It turned out that the very thing that had made them feel alive – their work – was slowly killing them: the radium paint was poisonous.

Their employers denied all responsibility, but these courageous women – in the face of unimaginable suffering – refused to accept their fate quietly, and instead became determined to fight for justice.

Drawing on previously unpublished diaries, letter and interviews, The Radium Girls is an intimate narrative of an unforgettable true story. It is the powerful tale of a group of ordinary women from the Roaring Twenties, who themselves learned how to roar.

Thoughts

There are books that will completely change your world. Reconfigure everything that you think, believe and feel and make the whole world slot into a new form. That’s what this book was for me. When I bought this book, when I first started reading it, I was fully expecting an intriguing tale. One that would be about some amazingly strong women in the past. But not anything beyond a really good read. I was wrong. I felt like my entire reality was shattered and then remade as I read this.

I had no idea that radium was something that was once used in industrial processes. Really, my only knowledge of this element comes from the fact that Marie Curie discovered it. That, and I know that it is very, very dangerous and kills people who come into contact with it. Beyond that knowledge, all I knew about the potential for this story was that these girls used radium paint and were all going to die. That in and of itself was going to be a tragic enough story. But then the large companies and legalities of their fight started to make its way into the storyline… cue a number of very late nights because I couldn’t wait to find out how the bad men were going to get their legal comeuppance.

We don’t think much about many of the health and safety legislations that we all tend to obey. Or at least, I know that I don’t. I don’t really worry all that much about whether my place of employment is adhering to the laws. I just figure that they are, and I’m not going to get sick and die from their activities. Mostly, I still want to believe this, but after reading about a bunch of young girls who felt the same thing, and got burned for it… I’m a little less willing to follow anything on blind faith. After all, even when the girls questioned whether their activities were safe, they were still reassured. Repeatedly. And then they died.

This story might not have had an overarching happy ending. But it did have a triumphant one. Though so many women lost their lives before they could gain compensation for their trauma, many more were able to stand on the shoulders of those before them and find a way to get justice. And their legacy remains today in every moment that makes businesses culpable for their actions. In the amount of knowledge that we now have about the long-term effects of radioactivity, and in the understanding in why it is important to fight for what’s right. Even in the face of insurmountable odds.

 <- Black Saturday ReviewLaughing All the Way to the Mosque Review –>
Image source: Simon & Schuster

Crow Roads by Charles de Lint

Overview
Image result for coyote road book cover

Title: Crow Roads
Author: Charles de Lint
In: The Coyote Road (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Feminism, Tricksters
Dates read: 27th April 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Firebird Fantasy
Year: 2007
5th sentence, 74th page: But I overheard Woody and Les at the corner store a couple of days later, laughing about the hippie they’d sent packing, so I could guess.

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Synopsis

Annie wants something more from life than a small, dead-end town and a teenage pregnancy. So when a young man comes into her life, she finds his intriguing outlook on life fascinating. But not fascinating enough to follow him to the Crow Roads.

Thoughts

Crows are kind of fascinating birds. And although there are some more horror-inspired relations to them, I love their symbolic connection to tricksters. Anytime I read a story that mentions these birds in any way, shape or form, I feel completely drawn in. The fact that this short story not only included that aspect, but also a woman’s will to become something more than just a mother and a wife… well, I fell in love with it completely.

Annie is a young woman from a small, poverty-riddled town. Most people believe that her only future in life is to get pregnant young, and become a mother, and maybe a wife. If she doesn’t, well, she might end up becoming a beautician or hairdresser. Yet, she wants something more. And not even a chance meeting with a boy who intrigues her on the deepest level will deter her from her course. Even if he does truly want her to journey the Crow Roads with him.

I love the fact that although this feels like a bit of a teen romance, Annie decides to show people that she can make something of herself. She still wants to ride off into the sunset with the boy, but she’ll only do it after she’s shown herself and others that she can be whoever, and whatever she wants to be.

 <- How Raven Made His Bride ReviewThe Chamber Music of Animals Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill

Overview
Image result for princess princess ever after book cover

Title: Princess Princess Ever After
Author: Katie O’Neill
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Feminism, Graphic novels, LGBTQI, Strong women
Dates read: 27th March 2019
Pace: Fast
Format: Graphic novel
Publisher: Oni Press
Year: 2014
5th sentence, 74th page: ‘We must disillusion her.

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Synopsis

“I am no prince!”

When the heroic princess Amira resuces the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress with a dire grudge against Sadie.

Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means – and how they can find it with each other.

Thoughts

This is such a great fairy tale! It’s filled with beautiful pictures, different outlooks (like an ogre dancing) and a great couple at the very centre. The fact that this great couple happens to be a lesbian one just makes this story all the sweeter and greater. It becomes this beautiful, encompassing storyline that makes you swoon again and again and again.

This is my second graphic novel by Katie O’Neill and I have definitely developed an obsession. There are strong messages of equality and independence throughout. And there is this idea that women can be whatever they want to be. Sadie is the perfect example of this – she is a curvy cry-baby, and she completely owns this quality as the story unfolds. Finally finding her own happiness in exactly who she is. There isn’t a need to change who Amira and Sadie are in this story, but an ability to finally accept and embrace who and what they want to be.

 <- Aquicorn Cove ReviewThe Tea Dragon Society Review ->
Image source: Oni Press

The Anachronist’s Cookbook by Catherynne M. Valente

Overview
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk

Title: The Anachronist’s Cookbook
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
In: The Mammoth Book of Steampunk (Sean Wallace)
Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this)
My Bookshelves: Feminism, Steampunk
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: It is No Crime to destroy the Devil!

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Synopsis

Jane Sallow is taken into custody for the paraphenalia that she is distributing. But as the story unfolds, a strong message is given to the Baliffs who have trapped her.

Thoughts

The flow of this is not even remotely what I’m used to, or what I expected. Jane’s story is told, but it is also partnered with the wording in her fliers. Quick, pithy sentences that get the point across – mostly about feministic values such as equality. Or at least, that was what I got out of this story.

There is a sense of Jane being the messiah and the one to teach others to better their ways. Although, this was kind of hard to get at – because the storyline is jumpy, kind of complex and just generally a lot of fun.

Although this short story didn’t have the same intensity of steampunk as the rest in this collection so far, it did have the themes and messages that I’m becoming used to.

 <- The Armature of Flight ReviewNumismatics in the Reigns of Naranh and Viu Review ->
Image source: Amazon

The Heart is a Burial Ground by Tamara Colchester

Overview

The Heart is a Burial GroundTitle: The Heart is a Burial Ground
Author: Tamara Colchester
Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this)
My Bookshelves: FeminismHistory
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Scribner
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: ‘No time.’

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Synopsis

On a brisk day in 1970, a daughter arrives at her mother’s home to take care of her as she nears the end of her life. ‘Home’ is the sprawling Italian castle of Roccasinibalda, and Diana’s mother is the legendary Caresse Crosby, one half of literature’s most scadalous couple in 1920s Paris and widow of Harry Crosby, the American heir, poet and publisher whose surreal excesses epitomised the ‘Lost Generation’.

But it was not only Harry who was lost. Their incendiary love story concelaed a darkness that marked mercurial Diana and still burns through the generations: Diana’s troubled daughters Elena and Leonie, and Elena’s young children.

Spanning the decades and moving between France, Italy and the Channel Islands, Tamara Colchester’s debut novel is an unfrogettably powerful portrait of a line of extraordinary women, and the inheritance they leave their daughters.

Thoughts

This book isn’t the kind that I normally read. That’s not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it. But it is certainly a different way to spend a few days. And it was definitely an education. One that I will probably repeat at some point in the future. I get the feeling that this novel is one that will reveal hidden gems with each and every re-reading. And when I’m in a more reflective mood, there are going to be some amazing gems that reveal themselves.

Although this isn’t my typical pace of story, I loved the techniques and the writing used within. Struggling to become captivated because I was too busy running around pursuing studies and dealing with family dramas ironically helped to highlight the strength of some of the themes and storylines throughout this novel. Having a number of storylines flowing throughout and jumping across timelines means that this can be a little more of a convoluted novel than the types I normally read when I have mountains of study. But it also helped to highlight the complex relationships, intricacies, and lingering effects of the past.

I loved the strong ties of mothership and womanhood throughout this tale. The intergenerational tale was a little difficult to follow, especially at first, but it highlighted the complexities that such relationships have. Not only between one generation and the next, but the ones that will follow too. The power of these women not only helps to sculpt the children, but also helps to scar them. The flightiness of one woman creates a more secluded personality in the next. And so on and so forth so that the actions of the past can be felt to reverberate throughout the generations.

I loved the themes of strength, honour and loyalty between the three women. The idea that there is a bond that can’t be broken, even when there is a multitude of bitterness is an interesting reminder of the fact that we can’t choose family. The fact that it runs through the women of a generation, emphasized not only the ties of family, but also the bonds of womanhood. Strong women are often ridiculed, and there are so many ways in which being a strong woman, in any generation, can be difficult. These difficulties not only carved themselves onto the lives of the women who experience them, but also the children that they bring into the world.

I look forward to summer every year (I hate the cold). But I especially look forward to it this year, when I have no study, and I can really sink my teeth into the complexities and intricacies of this amazingly complex tale.

<- More feminism reviews More history reviews ->
Image source: Simon & Schuster UK