All posts by FlorenceT

A human Being and Doing, on living a meaningful and purposeful life.

@FTThum #BookReview ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr

This is a Christmas gift which took me three months to read (yep, been extremely busy) and another four months to review…

all the light

Title:          All the Light We Cannot See
Author:          Anthony Doerr
Publishers:     Scribner, Simon & Schuster (2014)
Format:          Hardback
Website:         www.anthonydoerr.com
Pages:             530
Genre:            Literary fiction; Thriller

What’s it about?

This is a story of morality – of doing and not doing, of being and non-being – and science set in Germany and France during WWII. It tells of how the two protagonists’ lives intersect in the lead up to the German occupation of France.

I was introduced to Werner a 7-year old German boy gifted in science who lived in an orphanage with his sister, Jutta. Marie-Laure was 6 years, blind and much loved by her father, a locksmith and the keeper of keys at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. And there in the museum was hidden an accursed gem, which would be the thread running through both Werner and Marie-Laure’s lives.

From 7 to 18 years old where the story ends, Werner knew he had a calling, to repair and build radios. This brought him to the attention of the Nazis and subsequently sent to a school that produced elite cadre for the Third Reich. There, Werner’s friendship with his best friend Frederick was tested repeatedly as he experienced the conflict between his love for science and his love for his friend. Jutta’s voice rang as his conscience until he chose not to listen. Ultimately Werner’s fate was tied to the accursed gem, with which his commanding officer was obsessed.

During these years, Marie-Laure had a happy life deciphering puzzles her father built, and learning about her sightless world through the delightful miniatures her father had constructed. It was because of them that she managed to survive when she was brought to live with her great-uncle’s home in the town of Saint Malo, on the coast of Brittany after escaping Paris when her father was entrusted with the accursed gem. Her great-uncle, Etienne, a former soldier suffering from psychological distress, had been using his radio transmitter for the Resistance.

How do all these lives intersect? I suppose you can see the obvious connection, however there are many more. I will leave you to discover what they are.

For me, the only character that seems to be predominantly two dimensional is von Rumpel, Werner’s commanding officer. The  book’s approach to Nazism fell short of the realism that was conveyed throughout other parts of the book. The other secondary characters were fascinating and I almost wished they had their own words for their experiences.

Would I recommend it?

‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is thriller and literary fiction, rolled into one. A delightful book with detailed descriptions of the towns and well-presented characters – Marie-Laure more believable than Werner, nevertheless entirely absorbing.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think:                   3.5/5
Overall enjoyment:               4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                     4/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 11.30
  Hardback USD 16.39
Booktopia Paperback AUD 39.25
Bookdepository Paperback £8.87

 

~ FlorenceT

florence-2

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong #bookreview by @FTThum

Fear of Dying

Title:                    Fear of Dying
Author:                Erica Jong
Publishers:        Canongate (29 October 2015)
Format:                Paperback
ISBN-10:             178211744X
ISBN-13:             978-1782117445
Website:             http://www.ericajong.com/fear-of-dying.htm
Pages:                   288
Genre:                 Adult Fiction; Women’s Fiction
 

What’s it about?

This book is further evidence of Erica Jong’s courage in tackling personal politics through fiction.  This poet and author of ‘Fear of Flying’ to ‘Fear of Fifty’ now tackles the issue of ageing and death and our very human reaction to fear of dying through the pursuit of sex.

Fear of Dying opens with an advertisement on Zipless.com – an internet sex site, by the protagonist, Vanessa Wonderman, which read in part,

“Happily married woman with extra erotic energy seeks happily married man to share same.”

Vanessa is a 60 year old woman exposed to deaths around her from the loss of her beloved father, to the process of losing her mother whom she admired and loved, to the shock of almost losing her husband. And her psychological response? To cling to life, to the symbol of life and vitality that is, sex – the “life force, the fire that goes from loins to navel, navel to heart, heart to brain”.

Vanessa is married to a man two decades older and impotent whom she loved yet found wanting, he met her needs yet she is unable to appreciate some of his ways, particularly the interference of his work.

Vanessa have always had the adoration of men, whom she in turn adored and flirted with and more. Ageing threatens her, as the first line in the book states, “I used to love the power I had over men” and later, “I hate, hate, hate getting older”.

Written in the first person, I encounter Vanessa’s mind in Fear of Dying as she experiences conflicted emotions and confusion. Vanessa does not profess to be the ‘good daughter’ or the ‘good mother’ or the ‘good wife’…quite the contrary. And it is the flawed aspects of Vanessa that makes this book entertaining and humorous. Her honesty is refreshing. It kept me turning the pages.

How does it end for Vanessa, the cynical somewhat jaded actor? You must discover this for yourself.

And if Fear of Dying is semiautobiographical then it is a testament that 60 year olds are still sexually passionate and not just in their minds.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, an intelligent and entertaining book that kept me wanting to know how it ends for Vanessa.

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think:               3.5/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                       3.5/5
Recommended:                 3.5/5
Overall Rating:                   3.5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD $4.44
  Paperback USD $15.99
Booktopia Paperback AUD $17.95
Bookdepository Paperback £12.23

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

 

Creatures of A Day by Irvin Yalom #BookReview by @FTThum

It is such sweet anticipation knowing a book by Irvin Yalom awaits me.

yalom

Title:                    Creatures of A Day and Other Tales of Psychotherapy
Author:                Irvin D Yalom
Publishers:        Piatkus (5 March 2015)
Format:                Paperback
ISBN-10:             0349407428
ISBN-13:             9780349407425
Website:             http://www.yalom.com/index.html
Pages:                   224
Genre:                 Literary Non-Fiction; Psychology
 

What’s it about?

Once again, Irvin D Yalom does not disappoint. On the contrary he proves (not that he needed to J) yet again his mastery in conveying the complexity of the human psyche into short stories designed to engage the imagination and to teach. For those who do not know, Yalom is an eminent existential psychotherapist and author. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Standford University who is cautious of the perils of diagnosis and pathology, rather preferring to delve into human psyche. At the age of 82 (when the book was written), Yalom’s curiosity and ‘work’ on himself lies with the reality of impending death.

In ‘Creatures of a Day’, Yalom explores through ten tales (of real cases) the existential theme of ‘death’ or ‘existential death’, and how we, no matter our age, experience and respond when confronted with our own mortality. There is no formula, no correct answer – just a deep appreciation for the complexities that is the human psyche. Yalom’s humility and candour shine in the short stories. Though a master therapist, Yalom does not shy away from owning his missteps in therapy sessions, nor his judgment, non-engagement and not-knowing. What is important, as he highlights in ‘Creatures of a Day’, is the therapeutic relationship between him and his clients, one that is authentic, honest and transparent. He demonstrates the transformative power of this healing relationship.

If there is one ‘flaw’ it is that ‘Creatures of a Day’ through Yalom’s exquisite storytelling makes the psychotherapeutic process seemed a ‘natural’ process and can be attempted with ease. Here is the paradox – the therapeutic process is hard work and difficult for the client and the therapist; it is never simple.

As Yalom states,

The patients in these stories deal with anxiety about death, about the loss of loved ones and the ultimate loss of oneself, about how to live a meaningful life, about coping with aging and diminished possibilities, about choice, about fundamental isolation.

Yet this book provides such an uplifting, hopeful perspective to our humanness and our capacity for growth.

Would I recommend it?

So would I recommend this book? A resounding ‘yes’.

And the book’s audience?

I will quote Yalom. “I write for those of you who have a keen interest in the human psyche and personal growth, for the many readers who will identify with the ageless existential crises … and for the individuals who contemplate entering therapy or are already in the midst of it.”

Savour the book not just its entertaining tales but take time to explore the nuanced interactions between Yalom and his patients.

 

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think:               4.5/5
Overall enjoyment:           5/5
Readability:                       5/5
Recommended:                 5/5
Overall Rating:                   5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD $8.27
  Paperback USD $15.99
Booktopia Paperback AUD $23.80
Bookdepository Paperback £9.38

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2016 LitWorldInterviews

 

Interview with Anne Goodwin @annecdotist – Author of ‘Sugar and Snails’

I have the privilege of interviewing author, Anne Goodwin about her debut novel ‘Sugar and Snails’, of which I did a review here on LitWorldInterviews.

To cut a long story short, Anne thought it would be good idea for someone who is associated with psychology to review her book, and I couldn’t be happier to do so. Of course, after reading ‘Sugar and Snails’, I do have a few questions for Anne.

So here goes:

An interview with ‘Sugar and Snails’ author, Anne Goodwin

Anne, what an incredibly thought-provoking book. I guess readers will want to know how you come to conceive the idea/theme for ‘Sugar and Snails’?

Thank you, Florence. I’m not totally sure where the idea came from – I think these things can lurk in our subconscious for quite some time – but there seem to have been three strands, which I have written about in more detail elsewhere: taking almost half a lifetime to figure out my own difficult adolescence; an awareness that many competent professionals have hidden vulnerabilities; and the discovery, part way through a long overseas trip, that an administrative error had led to my travelling on a passport that had registered me as male.

Find out about Anne’s difficult adolescence here.
Look here for Anne’s take on the vulnerabilities we harbour.
And finally, Anne registered as a male? Look here for what she means.

Your bio states you worked as a clinical psychologist in the UK for some 25 years. What was your area of practice or expertise as a clinical psychologist? When and how did you come to study psychology? And with mathematics?

I specialised in working with adults with severe and enduring mental health problems, often psychosis (Diana’s methodology for researching adolescent decision-making actually comes from a study of psychosis). Many of those I worked with were in residential care, which sparked my interest in organisational dynamics, so I did some additional training in psychoanalytic approaches to organisational consultancy.

I went to university straight from school at eighteen without a clear sense of what I wanted to study. In Britain, you’re expected to specialise early on, but I hadn’t had much guidance. I began studying languages but, being rather shy, I struggled with the spoken side, but eventually found the right place for me in the combination of psychology and mathematics. I liked the fact that in the former “the answer” is always provisional, while in mathematics, if you follow the logical process, you get to the correct solution. I loved reviving these subjects for ‘Sugar and Snails’, making Diana a psychologist and her best friend, Venus, a mathematician.

While maths is conceptual, it is easy to assume there is ‘the’ answer. Perhaps that is where its similarities lay with psychology – we must remember the factors and variables involved in the psychological makeup of a person. It is indeed fascinating to compare the different approaches Venus and Diana have to problem solving, to life in general.

How has your work experience assisted in writing ‘Sugar and Snails’?

As a basic level, it gave me an insight into Diana’s job as well as her, somewhat disastrous, experience of the health service. Yet, when I first answered this question in a Q&A, I didn’t fully appreciate quite how much my professional background has helped. But, having returned to this question after the one on research (below), I realise that the capacity to empathise with lives very different to one’s own is second nature to anyone who has worked therapeutically, as it is to the experienced writer of fiction. Although I was nervous that insiders might doubt my character’s authenticity, my work experience gave me the confidence to give it a go.

I can appreciate this. You certainly haven’t inundated the book with psychological profiling of each of the characters. And to think I wasn’t the first to ask this of you? 🙂 Here is Anne’s interview with Carys Bray  on Blogger.

Next, how much research did you have to do for ‘Sugar and Snails’? What did you research?

 I probably didn’t do half as much as I ought to have done! There’s a “secret” page on my website that lists my main background reading on attachment, gender and adolescence, although some of this I would have read anyway. I had to check out some legal and medical detail regarding Diana’s situation, but mostly I proceeded on the basis of imagination and intuition. Then I was lucky to have experts-by-experience among my prepublication readers who I hope would have flagged had I got anything drastically wrong.

Well, I’d better check out that secret page 🙂

Are the locations in the book real places, and if so, which are familiar to you and why?

The contemporary strand is set in the city of Newcastle, where I went to university and lived for twenty years; I might have used poetic licence, but the backdrop to Diana’s adult life is very real. The small town where she grew up was imagined, but the country walk she recalls taking with her father is one I’ve trod frequently.

Check out Anne’s interview with Geoff le Pard regarding the country walk.

And why Egypt? Do I sense a certain personal ‘love affair’ with Egypt?

My research suggested Diana could have gone to Casablanca but, never having been there, I crossed my fingers and used a setting in another part of North Africa. While I enjoyed revisiting my memories of a month-long visit twenty years before, many of the Cairean scenes were cut from the final version, so I’m pleased my affection for the place still comes through.

Find out  here the scenes of Cairo which were cut from the book   A photograph Anne shares.

WP_20150710_003 (2)

I am intrigued by the nature of Diana’s relationship with Geraldine which isn’t exactly explained. Is it intentional? If not, what is it?

Mmm, I’m intrigued by your being intrigued, although another reviewer did comment she didn’t quite “get” it. I think their early childhood relationship is quite intense, as such friendships often are, with Geraldine initially the more “knowing” of the two, using the relationship to explore her own sexual and gender identity. When, at secondary school, she becomes more conscious of social norms, she distances herself from the “oddball”, but still enjoys having power over another child who’ll do anything for her. When they meet again as adults, Geraldine has moved on in a way that Diana hasn’t. I find that quite poignant.

It is indeed poignant, especially when I see how Geraldine is now leading a ‘normal’ internal life while Diana’s somewhat stuck. Yet the book also highlights to me how the world would see them in such a different light.

When did you begin writing ‘Sugar and Snails’? Describe the writing journey from beginning to getting it published – as well as getting the book to us, the readers.

I started it in 2008, filled with confidence after completing a long-distance walk, but it took many drafts to get it right, partly because I didn’t realise what a complex task I’d set myself, followed by two years to find and sign with a publisher (and, yes, I’m still waiting for a couple of agents who enthusiastically asked for the full manuscript to get back to me). So seven years from inception to publication, which felt inordinately long when I was in the thick of it, less so now I’m through to the other side.

When did you get the writing bug? Describe the circumstances which led you to first put pen to paper as a writer?

 I’ve written all my life but lacked the courage, early on, to consider myself a writer. Busy with my studies and career, fiction took a backseat until a complicated bereavement about twelve years ago forced me to take stock. I reduced my hours at work to have a day for writing and have never looked back.

Now this is an example to follow – at least one day a week 🙂

I note the contribution from book sales to Gendered Intelligence. What is your relationship with this organisation? Why do you support Gendered Intelligence?

As a social enterprise, Inspired Quill is committed to improving community well-being. Although a new venture, their pledge to give ten percent of profits from book sales to selected charities is part of that. Gendered Intelligence is the perfect fit for Sugar and Snails because Diana would have been saved a lot of grief had she been able to draw on the kind of support they offer young people who are gender variant today.

What message, if any, would you wish  ‘Sugar and Snails’ to convey regarding the important issues of gender and sexuality?

Be open to diverse ways of being human in yourself and others; I truly believe it will make the world a better place. But I think fear of difference is also part of being human and acknowledging our discomfort can be a step towards transforming it into empathy rather than hate. Fiction can help with this process by offering a safe space in which to be curious about difference.

Let’s end on a lighter note. Describe your writing spot and how it came about.

My writing space has extended over the years and I now have the luxury of not just an entire desk to myself, but a room I’m only intermittently obliged to share with my husband. We have a rather large house and I dread to think of what I’ll do with all my books if we ever downsize.

WP_20150810_006

What is your beverage of choice when writing? You may be as specific as you wish.

Because I use voice-activated software, I need to drink a lot to protect my throat. I tend to drink a variety of herbal teas throughout the day, often just a sprig of sage, lemon balm, mint, fennel or rosemary from the garden doused in boiling water. I also like very weak lapsang souchong with a slice of lime. You must be thirsty yourself after all these questions. Could I offer you a cup?

Most certainly. I drink green tea for its clear crisp flavour.  It’s a psychological trigger for me to relax, usually at the end of the day.  I need a strong coffee to wake me up in the morning.

Thank you, Anne for your time and sharing your writing with us.  I have thoroughtly enjoyed reading ‘Sugar and Snails’ . Wishing you the best in your writing endeavours, and a positive outcome as you wait to hear from publishers.

*******************************

My review of Anne’s book ‘Sugar and Snails’ is here.

Visit Anne on her website, annethology; or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Anne’s book ‘Sugar and Snails’ can be purchased here:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Booktopia Australia
Bookdepository
Inspired Quill
Barnes & Noble

Now there is no good reason not to go get a copy.  It’s a worthwhile read!

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

 

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin #BookReview by @FTThum

Sugar and Snails

Title:                     Sugar and Snails
Author:                Anne Goodwin
Publishers:         Inspired Quill (23 July 2015)
Format:                Paperback
ISBN-10:               1908600470
ISBN-13:               978-1908600479
Website:             http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/
Twitter:                @annecdotist
Pages:                   342
Genre:                 Contemporary Fiction, LGBT
 

What’s it about?

This is a story of a woman’s journey of self-discovery.

I am introduced to Diana through the narrative of the life she’s lived, so far filled with insecurities and fears. The story begins in the present day with a confronting scene of Diana self-harming as a result of, so it seems, her partner leaving. The vivid description of her bringing a knife to her arm, after many years of abstinence, caused me to put the book down and almost not returning to it. But I did, because I wanted to know more.

What happened in Cairo? Why is it significant? What is she hiding? Why? What? How? So many more questions asked as I followed Diana Dodsworth’s life journey…from a young kid to a professor of psychology at university.

Diana’s story weaves in and out of different pasts as she held the attention of the reader, slowly and steadily divulging the story of her life.  Goodwin has written real characters, not just in Diana but with each of the significant figures in Diana’s life – flawed, conflicted. As the reader, I can empathise with each of them. What are the motivations for parental love? How is one changed by childhood events? Is an adolescent capable of deciding her future? What is the value of friendship and love in shaping a life?

As a therapist, I would have loved to get greater insights and explore Diana’s psyche as she slowly comes to the realisation that she has held herself back and living in a time bubble, and that she is indeed alright. Not that it is indeed the case, or is it? I appreciate a psychological study however may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This said, my reading experience was not compromised in any way. There is enough to maintain my attention and interest. After a somewhat slow and for me, perplexing take by Goodwin in ‘jumping’ across time and events, the second half of the book provide resolutions which showed Goodwin’s skill in weaving all the threads into a coherent tapestry.

Goodwin has created an intriguing story of a person’s life, complex and filled with the confusions of a child, the pain of existence, of irrevocable decisions and the effects on the subsequent decades of her life.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. Mesmerising, especially the second half of the book, thought-provoking and sensitively written.

If you enjoy reading real and flawed characters set in a  contemporary background with controversial issues (still!) to boot, this is the book for you (and your book club, if you belong to one).

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:               4/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                       4/5
Recommended:                 4/5
Overall Rating:                   4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 4.31
  Paperback USD 12.99
Booktopia Paperback AUD 38.95
Bookdepository Paperback €15.47

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

 

Book review @FTThum : Voice of Innocence by @LindsayDetwiler

Enough said that after reading this book, my interest in Romance is rekindled, the book genre that is. 🙂

Voice of Innocence cover

Title:               Voice of Innocence
Author:          Lindsay Detwiler
Publishers:   Satin Romance, Melange Books LLC (2015)
Format:         Paperback
ISBN-10:        1680460595
ISBN-13:        9781680460599
Website:         http://lindsaydetwiler.com/
Twitter:          @LindsayDetwiler
Pages:             249
Genre:            Contemporary fiction – Romance

What’s it about?

This is a story of love lost and found, of second chances.

Emma and Corbin – teenage sweethearts, first loves. Corbin finally found someone who believed in and supported him, despite his somewhat cavalier attitude to life and the sadness that permeated it.  In Corbin, Emma experienced what it was to have someone truly see her, her ‘wildness’. Their love seemed impenetrable, that is until disaster struck on the eve of Corbin’s marriage proposal to Emma.

The lovers are separated by time and space yet they are never far from each other even as they moved on with their lives, or at least Emma appeared to have. When another twist of fate caused them to confront the reality of their love.

This is not YA romance. It is much more as I am taken from Emma’s and Corbin’s teen to mature years – their voices sounding through the years as they wrestle with the dilemmas of,

Does true love exist? Can one ever know for certain? Is it worth sacrificing a life for? Does one follow one’s heart or mind? Does one stay true to oneself yet betray another? Is it impulsive to abandon a happy comfortable life for a dream? Is it too late for second chances?

Ultimately, what price truth, peace or love?

Would I recommend it?

‘Voice of Innocence’ is a book with mature themes yet handled skilfully. Once began, it was hard to put down as I was hooked into discovering ‘why’.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it moves from moments of fairytale-like happiness and joy to harsh realities and great despair. Detwiler’s deft hands in portraying characters with depth made connecting with them easy.

I wonder, will there be another book for Emma and Corbin? If there is, I most certainly will not miss it.

Highly recommended.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:                3.5/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                        4/5
Recommended:                  4/5
Overall Rating:                   4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 4.55
  Paperback USD 13.12
Booktopia Paperback AUD 38.25
Bookdepository Paperback € 18.03

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

Book review @FTThum : The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by @JoelDicker

Harry Quebert

Title:               The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair
Author:          Joel Dicker (translated to English by Sam Taylor)
Publishers:   MacLehose Press, London (2015)
Format:         Paperback
ISBN-10:        1848663269
ISBN-13:        9781848663268
Website:         http://joeldicker.com/
Twitter:          @JoelDicker
Pages:             624
Genre:            Fiction; Crime Mystery

What’s it about?

And if every writer had to limit his writing to his own experience, literature would be impoverished and would lose all its meaning. We’re allowed to write about anything that affects us. And no one can judge us for that. We’re writers because we do one thing differently, one thing that everyone around knows how to do: write. All the nuances reside there.              Harry Quebert

And so it is that Marcus Goldman seeks to write a particular story about his mentor and inspiration, Harry Quebert.

Marcus Goldman is a high achieving and competitive writer, who has returned to see his mentor Harry Quebert in the quiet seaside town of Somerset, New Hampshire as the deadline for his second book looms. He is experiencing a severe case of writer’s block in the wake of his first highly acclaimed book.

It was while visiting Harry that the body of Nola, a 15 year old girl lost for some 30 years, was uncovered in the backyard of Harry’s house. As things unravel, stories involving Harry, Nola and the many characters in the town came to light as Marcus was compelled to investigate. There are twists to the story at every turn so don’t get comfortable. 🙂

Beyond the murder mystery/thriller (it is indeed difficult to slot this book into a particular genre), this book is also about the relationship between Harry and Marcus, the bonds they forged and the meaning of trust and loyalty. I can’t help being a vicarious mentee to Harry!

Don’t write in order to be read, write in order to be heard.     Harry Quebert

This is also a romance novel, documenting a love story between two unlikely characters, a story of love and sacrifice that is rather unexpected, and makes the reader (moi) question the usual conceptions of love, age and romance.

What she felt for him was something I had never felt before…and it was at that moment that I realized…that I had probably never been in love. That lots of people have never been in love. That they make do with good intentions; that they hide away in the comfort of a crummy existence and shy away from that amazing feeling that is probably the only thing that justifies being alive.                     Robert Quinn

The conclusion was a little disappointing to me in that, after the twists and turns, it wrapped up neatly. Don’t get me wrong, it wrapped up well, the resolutions to a complex plot and multiple timelines are well executed but I was expecting one final twist but alas, no.

Would I recommend it?

This is a compelling book, a page turner expertly told with an engaging voice of Swiss writer Joel Dicker and translated seamlessly into English by Sam Taylor. It is a book which takes you into the life (and thoughts and emotions) of the characters, and you will lose yourself in that world.

There is dry wit and humor in the dialogue, a simplicity to the narrative which makes this book an entertaining easy read.

Highly recommended.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:                4/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                        4/5
Recommended:                  4/5
Overall Rating:                   4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 14.74
  Paperback USD 21.49
Booktopia Paperback AUD 16.75
Bookdepository Paperback € 14.58

 

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

 

 

 

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

Book review @FTThum : Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

Well, it has an interesting title, don’t you think? Provocative, really.

Perv

Title:                Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us
Author:          Jesse Bering
Publishers:   Penguin Random House, UK(2015)
Format:         Paperback
ISBN-10:        0374230897
ISBN-13:        978-0374230890
Website:         http://www.jessebering.com/
Twitter:          @JesseBering
Pages:             333
Genre:            Non-fiction; Psychology

What’s it about?

Jesse Bering is a former director at the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast and also a former professor of psychology at University of Arkansas.

The book begins with the characterization of sexual deviance, and the label ‘perv’. Bering provides the evolution of the term ‘perverse’. It would seem the moniker of ‘perverse’ is attributed to one who is turning away from what is right according to the Judeo-Christian religion, namely an atheist. It was only in the late 19th century that ‘perv’ is common usage in reference to sexual deviance.

Sexual deviance is only deviant as compared to a persisting standard or norm. It was not that long ago that masturbation was considered a sexual deviance and a psychological illness. Further Bering claims, as the title indicates, we are all sexual deviants in varying degrees. We have all thought sexual thoughts which we would not divulge to others in general conversations. Consider, rape fantasies or voyeuristic or exhibitionist fantasies… There is a social standard or norm which few of us would casually flout.

Which brings us to the notion that what goes on in our minds is no one else’s business unless and until we act it out, and perhaps not even then.

Bering states that the present debate on sexual deviance rests on the dichotomy of ‘what is natural’ against ‘what is unnatural’. He suggests perhaps a better test may be ‘what is harmful’. His argument is rather convincing, at least to me.

Treating an individual as a pervert in essence, and hence with a purposefully immoral mind, because his or her brain conjures up atypical erotic ideas or respond sexually to stimuli that other have deemed inappropriate objects of desire, is medieval in both its stupidity and its cruelty.

The gendered conception of sexual deviance between the sexes can be seen from the psychological explanation and treatment approach to nymphomania and satyriasis (this being the male counterpart to nymphomania) – for example, satyrs are men who do sick things, while nymphos are women who are sick as women cannot possibly have sexual desires.

Bering then went on to explain and describe the many different sexual inclinations and with case studies to match, including ornithophilia (an intense desire for birds), necrophilia, foot fetish, podophilia (toes being the object of desires), etc. They are mind-boggling to say the least. His take on paedophilia and the age of consent is courageous indeed given the prevailing sentiment surrounding it. I will leave you to read it for yourself. He does make a sensible point.

Of course, a book on sexual deviance would be incomplete without addressing the issue of sexual orientation – homosexuality, transsexuality etc. Bering states that a person’s sexuality is determined by a lottery at birth – our sexuality is determined through a combination of 4 factors

  • Sexual orientation – homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual or asexual;
  • Erotic target – person, animal, inanimate or none;
  • Erotic behaviour – normal intercourse, courtship paraphilia, other paraphilia or masturbation; and
  • Erotic age orientation – pedophilia (prepubescent), hebephilia (pubescent), ephebophilia (older adolescent), teleiophilia (mature adult), gerontophilia (elderly), or none.

Fortunate for me living under present societal standard and norm (‘social jackpot’ in Bering’s term), I am heterosexual, person, normal intercourse and teleiophilia. Care to identify your combination? Remember, it need not be acted upon, thoughts count too 🙂

This book is made all the more interesting by Bering’s irreverence, dry wit and humor, with his deft handling of the ‘intense’ topics. His humane liberal approach is endearing.  There were many laugh-out-loud moments, which earned me quizzical looks on the train commute especially when I was holding up a book titled ‘Perv’.

Perhaps it is time to look at issues of sexuality from the lens of ‘harm’ instead of ‘nature’ or ‘religion’, and to differentiate the harm value between thought and action. Just because we think it, does not mean we will do it. And if we do do it, are we harming others? And if not, is it a matter for public or private governance? And why the condemnation and/or persecution? As a psychotherapist, my question is this – what benefits can shame, stigma, ostracism and separateness create?

And a word of caution from Bering – when we identify a person by his or her sexuality,

“…we’ve lost the trees for the forest. … our knowledge of a person’s hidden sexual desires overshadows everything else we know about him or her…

Who would I recommend this book to?              

This is a book of ideas, visions and possibilities on sexuality. It is intended to challenge prevailing views, standards and norms rather than a book for scientific study. The 13-page bibliographic notes is indicative of a well-researched book.

I recommend this book for the curious minds, as well as those open and willing to explore, at the least intellectually ;-), different paradigms of human sexuality.

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   NA
Made Me Think:                   4/5
Overall enjoyment:                3.5/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                      3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Audible Audio USD 23.61
  Kindle USD 9.64
  Paperback USD 12.97
Booktopia Paperback AUD 20.95
Bookdepository Paperback €11.01

 

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

The honesty in poetry @FTThum

My love for poetry grows… Why? The honesty to be found in each pause, the depth of emotion in each word… insight through the spoken and the unspoken.  The freedom and space for the reader to imagine a world.

Listen.

May you find your words,
– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

Florence 2

Book review by @FTThum – Second Life by @SJ_Watson

I read SJ Watson’s debut novel ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ when it was released in 2011, which was then made into a film in 2014 starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.  I enjoyed the book tremendously so when his second book ‘Second Life’ was released in February this year, how could I possibly resist?

 

second life book coverTitle:               Second Life
Author:          SJ Watson
Publisher:    Doubleday (2015)
ISBN:             9781922079251 (paperback)
ASIN:             9781921961472 (ebook)
Website:       http://www.sjwatson-books.com/
Facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/S.J.Watson.Writer
Genre:          
Fiction, Psychological thriller

 

 

What’s it about?

How well do we truly know another?

When Julia Plummer’s sister, Kate, is found dead in Paris in suspicious circumstances, she sets out to uncover the truth. This takes her into the world of internet dating and hook-ups where her sister was known to traverse. All this at the risk of jeopardizing her relationship with her husband and the life of her son.  It is gradually revealed that Julia’s 14-year-old son, Connor is actually Kate’s child, the result of a fling with an unknown man.  Julia, now a professional photographer, appears to be a respectable middle-class woman, a dedicated mother. Then her past returns to haunt her – her alcoholism from her days in Berlin. Julia is trapped in her mind – constantly questioning her own motivations and desires; ignoring her intuition and burdened with baggage.

While Julia is filled with pathos (complete with baggage), there is a lack of depth in comparison for the other characters, particularly that of Lukas, the man Julia met online. The same for her long-suffering husband, Hugh who is 10-years older encountering problems of his own.

Watson’s attempt at eroticism through Julia’s ‘online dating’ seems forced, although his portrayal of the dark side of internet relationships is horrifying. The voice of Julia is less believable than the voice of Christine of Watson’s first book. The ending is for me dissatisfying – abrupt and utterly convenient.

Simply put, this second book of Watson’s did not live up to his first.   Nevertheless, it is entertaining.

Recommendation:

This book is a well paced and easy to read psychological thriller with enough suspense to carry it through, yet containing loop holes easily identifiable if one is to go looking. So don’t. Just read for near-mindless pleasure.

LWI Rating:

Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think:                   3/5
Overall enjoyment:             3.5/5
Readability:                            4/5
Recommended:                    3/5

Overall Rating:                    3/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback USD 19.88
  Paperback USD 19.88
  Kindle USD 9.99
Bookdepository Hardback Euro 19.47
  Paperback Euro 14.52
Booktopia Paperback AUD 25.50
  Ebook AUD 42.40

 

Happy reading!
– FlorenceT

 

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

Florence 2

Book review by @FTThum – The Fictional Woman by @Tara_Moss

 

I picked this book off the shelf because its cover caught my eye- the labels written on the author’s face and the title jumped at me, speaking to me of something that I feel very strongly about. What is being a woman in this world about?

Fictional Woman

Title:               The Fictional Woman
Author:          Tara Moss
Publishers:   Harper Collins Australia (2014)
ISBN-10:        0732297893
ISBN:              9781460700587
Website:         http://taramoss.com/book/fictional-woman/
Twitter:          @Tara_Moss
Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/taramossauthor
Pages:              328
Genre:             Non-fiction; Biography; Feminism

What’s it about?

Tara Moss has worn many labels in her time.

Now, in her first work of non-fiction, she blends memoir and social analysis to examine the common fictions about women…

The question is – why do I want to read a biography of Tara Moss? I knew of her as a fiction writer and some vague reference of her being an ex-model. Curiosity. I was curious about the world of modelling and how a model became an author. I had my reservation about Moss writing an interesting and convincing feminist text (at first glance from the cover) not because of her ability but merely a change in writing genre. Well, I took a chance and I am glad.

The book does not disappoint. Readers will get a perspective of Moss’ life – early life in Canada to her modelling days in Europe then later life in Australia. She presents the narrative of her life in a well-balanced manner – enough emotions to allow readers to see her humanness, passion for her beliefs and convictions, strength to protect herself and hers.

Most interesting is the weaving of Moss’ life experiences with social analysis, telling her life from the perspective of a woman – to show to the world how her experience is gendered. She is not only ‘woman’ say, when a mother or a female model, but all the time. She reminds her readers she is ‘woman’ in everything she does and because of this, her experiences are what her experiences are.

This book is definitely not a feminist text, if one defines ‘text’ as being academic and peppered with research and studies. Being a Ph.D candidate at the University of Sydney, Moss is certainly capable of writing a text. But this book is something better – story-telling by a woman of substance who presents her life from a feminist sociological perspective, supported by credible statistics and references. It is an erudite perspective on common labels forced upon women such as ‘gold diggers’, ‘mean girls’, ‘femme fatale’, and ‘crone’.

To clarify, Moss’ defines ‘feminism’ as

…the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

And if you believe and expounds (or fight for) one or many of these equalities, whether on the world stage or at the dinner table, then you are a feminist.

Moss is even-handed in her approach. She raises anomalies, paradoxes, conundrums, and questions about gender inequality. She challenges the readers’ perceptions and acceptance of pervading normative philosophy. There are few judgments as Moss presents a matter-of-fact exposition about the state of gender disparity in our world.

Moss touches on many topics, which central theme is to debunk the myths and stereotypes of a ‘real woman’ and along the way, of ‘real men’ in our society.

She calls for greater female participation, direction and management in the arts and media.

More and more, women are participating in the storytelling that shapes our perceptions of the world. Perhaps in time, with a different balance of storytellers, we will be less reliant on the old sexual stereotypes…

According to Moss, gender stereotyping is not just about women, it is also about men. It prevents both women and men from realising their potential, from embracing aspects of themselves. Her narrative on the ‘beautiful man’ is inspiring – analogies to the Spanish flamenco dancer and matador – where both men and women imbued with sensuality are ‘permitted’ by society to express it. To quote Moss,

Why has our culture, specifically, rejected or forgotten ‘male beauty’? Why are men and boys commonly humiliated and ridiculed for grooming or dressing in a way that aims to be aesthetically beautiful…

As we associate emotion, caring and sensuality with the feminine, and we penalise men for identifying with these traits, we have in essence excised male vulnerability, caring, emotion and the ‘desire to be desired’ from the mainstream…

The beauty myths for men and women continue, it would seem.

Moss also questions the role we as a society allow the media and advertising to play as moral guides as well as the reflectors of societal expectations and norms.

How did advertising cease to be a thing that existed to try to turn us towards something, but actually became as real to us as the thing itself?

I have highlighted a few topics which Moss addresses in this book through the lens of her lived experience. There are many more topics which are highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Moss owns all that she says, the labels that have been applied to her, the labels which she now assumes, the reasons for her being.

And the ending to the book is heartfelt:

Now I have laid my own truths bare in the Fictional Woman, because today I can afford to tell my story, emotionally, but also financially, without worrying about where my next meal will come from, as I once did…

The next chapter is yours.

A challenge? A call to activism? Your call.

Who would I recommend this book to?

The Fictional Woman is a page-turner, written with passion and conviction, concise and succinct in its exploration of feminist issues which have touched Moss’ life.

This is a book for you who wish to see the world a little differently.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Tara Moss, or the life of a model, or the life of a writer, or the journey of a woman.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   4.5/5
Made Me Think:                   4/5
Overall enjoyment:                4/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                      4.5/5
Overall Rating:                     4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Audible USD 26.95
  Kindle USD 9.10
 Booktopia Paperback AUD 25.25

 

Enjoy!
– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

Florence 2

Book review by @FTThum – Sword of Air by RJ Madigan

sword-of-air-florence-thum-review

I rarely say ‘no’ to new experiences in books, which was why I was keen to read this book.

Sword of AirTitle:               Sword of Air
Author:          RJ Madigan
Website:          http://swordofair.net/author/swordofair/
Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Sword-of-Air/855233981196248
Genre:           Young Adult – Fantasy
Available for purchase:       iTunes (USD $3.99)

What’s it about?

This is a YA fantasy about Niamh, a young woman discovering the power she possesses, and her destiny and quest to save her world from the Raven Queen.

Who is the Raven Queen? What is Niamh’s true quest? A question which only Niamh herself can determine.

And as she fights for her life being hunted by the Fomor army controlled by the Raven Queen, Niamh is caught between 2 men – Lorcan, Crown Prince of the Fae who is rebellious and arrogant; and Rauri, her childhood friend, a talented tracker and hunter; and a fighter. Who will betray her? Who will stand by her side?

I’ll begin with the format of this book. This is a “multi-touch iBook”. As denoted by the ‘i’, it is available on iTunes and to be read on iPad and Apple computers only. The ‘multi-touch’ means it’s more than an ebook – there are some pretty cool interactive stuff within the book. Yes, interactive.

It’s FX in a book – so when images within the book are tapped – they expand or audio plays or 3-D rotations up close and personal or video/movie plays. This is my first multi-touch interactive book and it’s awesome. That is until the novelty wears off. Both my adolescent children had a look, and one of whom read parts of the book. They were intrigued by the effects but not for long.

The interactive parts can be considered an enhancement to book illustrations, but different. Utilising the same part of the brain, looking at book illustrations and reading the written words are complementary. However, reading then watching a movie, listening to sounds require a re-focusing on the written words. This irritates me at times.

Ultimately, I bought this book for the story. And for me, the interactive touches distract from the reading flow and can take the focus away from the novel.

Now onto the storyline – it is intriguing and engaging. The characters are attractive though some lack depth. Certainly, the relationship between Rauri and Niamh can be better developed.

Madigan’s writing is simple and lacking in complexity of structures at times. Simply put, it is more tell than show. Please do not be discouraged. Once I accept the simplicity of the writing, I am captivated by the story which unfolds. The plot is gripping, and has much potential beyond this book.  Madigan has painted a vivid picture of this fantasy world of an altered medievil Ireland – that of the forest of Nadur and the Fae world.

There is good pacing in the plot. One thing did strike me – it is not quite believable that Maev, the Raven Queen, would believe in Niamh’s almost immediate capitulation – unless she believes Niamh is acquiescing for her friends and/or Maev’s frenzied mind wants her to believe so…? Perhaps this is Madigan keeping the reader in suspense for the next book in the series.

The ending seems a little protracted although it does provide a credible twist and a fantastic lead-on to the next book.

Recommendation:

I recommend this book on 2 bases – it is worthwhile for writers to experience this new format, the interactive iBook; and the story is indeed captivating. It is suitable for young adult readers, especially those who have found reading to be a ‘novelty’ and need some motivation to persevere.

Do read Madigan’s post on the thrill and challenges of publishing an iBook.  Such worthwhile information about publishing through iBook Author.

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:                     3/5
Overall enjoyment:                3.5/5
Readability:                             4.5/5
Recommended:                      3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  3.5

 

Happy reading!
– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

Florence 2

It’s just a word but… by @FTThum

words

Words…I love them.  So my nerdy self downloaded the Dictionary.com app on my smartphone, and subscribed to ‘Word of the Day’.

I get a word sent to me every day… some are quite interesting but not so worthwhile remembering, while others make my list of Use-able Words.

As part of the ‘notification’ there usually is a short list of things, or a short article about the history or origin of certain words.  Again, interesting to a nerd like me and a time-killer.

Nevertheless, I am going to share this with you – ‘7 Words with Real Character‘.  Let’s see how long it will take for you to use all of them in your writing 🙂

Another list of 7 – ‘7 Chinese Loanwords to Expand Your Vocabulary‘.  How many have you used?  Know any other ones you wish to share?

Finally, a list about heart – ‘8 Expression with Heart‘.  Know any other ones?  Share them in the Comments section below.

That’s it, something light from me. Enjoy!

– FlorenceT

 

@FTThum

MeaningsAndMusings

7 books to re-think Life by @FTThum

Book n coffee
My favourite things…

 

I question my life. It is what I do – not in a ‘my life sucks’ whiny way, but rather as a search for clarity and meaning, to better understand my words and deeds. And please don’t get me wrong, it is not done in an angst-filled manner either. It is reflective.

I realise I have read many books about living life… some I agreed with, others not so. All have made me pause and re-consider. These books are not ‘how-to’ books but rather books that provoke thoughts, reflection, evaluation…

I have selected 7 books from my bookshelf to share with you, in the order they were read by me to the best of my recollection 🙂 .

An aside, ever wondered why ‘7’ is so popular in Eastern and Western cultures? I have used ‘7’ because it is my favourite number. It is an auspicious number in Chinese culture symbolizing ‘togetherness’ and representing ‘yang’ or masculine energy.

Now, the books:

  1. The Road Less Travelled by M Scott Peck

This is a classic on confronting pain and suffering, and the significance of loving relationships.

  1. Unconditional Life by Deepak Chopra

Consolidating different disciplines from quantum physics to ancient traditions, this is an exposition of the impact of consciousness on our reality and in turn, our health and wellbeing.

  1. The Call by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

An excerpt of the poem, The Call, from the book:

I have heard it all my life,
A voice calling a name I recognized as my own.
 
Sometimes it comes as a soft-bellied whisper.
Sometimes it holds an edge of urgency.
 
But always it says: Wake up my love. You are walking asleep.
There’s no safety in that!

    4.  The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

What makes you happy? What makes you a true warrior, a champion in life? Whether you agree or not, it’s a different perspective worth considering.

  1. Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Dr Gordon Livingstone

A collection of essays written by a psychiatrist, that is akin to ‘life lessons’. Definitely gets you thinking.

  1. Codes of Love by Mark Bryan

A look at the family and how it influences who we are, and how we are able to learn to re-connect with our loved ones, or gain deeper intimacy. Think your family’s normal? 😉

  1. The Good Life by Hugh Mackay

A social commentary on modern life, and in particular the Utopia complex we as a society and as individuals are buying into, by a modern philosopher. What makes a good life? A life worth living?

I hope you find little gems within the pages!

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

Florence 2

Book Review by @FTThum – Adultery by @PauloCoelho

Right, I am not sure about this book. I have been a fan of Paulo Coelho since reading ‘The Alchemist’ some 20 years ago. So let me ramble as I sort through my feelings and thoughts…  🙂

Adultery

 

Title:               Adultery
Author:          Paulo Coelho
Publisher:    Penguin Australia (19 August 2014)
ISBN-10:       1101874082
ISBN-13:        978-1101874080
Website:       http://www.paulocoelho.com/
Pages:            287
Genre:           Fiction – General, Spirituality

 

What’s it about?

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, ‘Is this it?’

A novel about discovering who you are, where you’re going and what matters to you most.

These first and last lines, on the back cover, coupled with the title ‘Adultery’ created a certain expectation even before I began. So, my expectation? A story of a woman who will or has been involved in an adulterous affair and, knowing Coelho’s writing, is grappling with her sense of self and the revelations which ensue.

So did it deliver? Yes and no.

A judgment-laden phenomenon, adultery I expected would invite a richly profound and complex study of the human psyche, at least of the protagonist. This I did not get from the book. Nor did I get depth of characters or the moral debate over adultery. Yet there is something in this book that appeals.

First, a little about the storyline:

The protagonist, Linda lives in Geneva with her husband and two children. Geneva is, according to Linda, a city that has everything but feels ‘sterile’ – like her marriage. All things good but a bit grey, boring. Her husband is the owner of an investment fund, madly in love with her and the ultimate provider, father and spouse. Linda herself is a journalist, who begins a destructive love affair with Jacob, a politician who was once her teenage sweetheart.

Linda’s initial obsession with Jacob borders on being stalker-ish while the affair that follows is fueled by more lust than real emotions, dissatisfyingly shallow. The word ‘adultery’ comes with a whole lot of baggage – judgments about the adulterer, the state of a marriage, whether it is ever justified for adultery to happen; and the whys and hows. Yet this book barely dwells on these; instead it proffers Linda’s depression and the affair as natural consequences of each other – a rather flippant approach at that. While the book has the potential to address many issues in greater depths, Coelho it seems has chosen not to do so.

The narrative written from Linda’s perspective, is easy to read, its spiritual messages simple. Such as “Come, You are heaven and earth, the wind and the clouds, the snow and the lakes” or “Wisdom and experience don’t change the man. Time doesn’t change the man. The only thing that changes us is love.”

The book contains quite a few of these ‘quotable quotes’, as they are to me, about love and living which were not given space to blossom.

The crux of the novel – that no matter how good your life is, sometimes you do have to lose yourself to find yourself again – is offered through revelations to Linda as the affair progresses.

Maybe I don’t actually love him. But I love what he has awakened inside me. He treated me with zero respect, left me stripped of my dignity. Undeterred, he did exactly what he wanted, while I strived, once again, to try to please someone.

Then,

Today I realize that yes, I was in love…that all married people always have a secret crush. It’s forbidden, and flirting with the forbidden is what makes life interesting. But few people take it further…a little thrill to make sex more erotic and hear “I love you” shouted out at the moment of orgasm. Nothing more.

There is no romanticizing the affair.

There is no debasing her marriage and the family that seems loving and functional. Here is a husband who stands by his woman, who tells Linda:

Everyone has days when they say: “Well, my life isn’t exactly lining up with my expectations”…Going after a dream has a price….But however costly it may be, it is never as high as the price paid by people who didn’t live.

And,

I controlled the jealousy I feel because of you…Because I always have to show I’m worthy of your love…I can’t stop you from leaving one day…I would never stop you from being happy.

Ultimately, this is about Linda – her depression and her need to find contentment or fulfillment in her life.

I can’t shake a sense of incompleteness in this simplicity. I wonder if the message is lost in translation – the book being an English translation of the original in Portugese. This is not to offend or criticize the translators but rather speak to the possible loss of the nuanced language it was originally written in.

Perhaps the simplicity of Coelho’s writing is analogous to the need to sometimes take things as they are, not to over-think and to judge but to feel and go with what is, however painful. Perhaps there is a need to ride through the storm, as Linda did, and emerge with greater awareness. Therein lies a journey that each of us may need to traverse.

Or am I over-thinking? 🙂

To get a sense of Paulo Coehlo, whose spirituality is so evident in his previous books and his astute business mind, here is an interview he gave just prior to the release of ‘Adultery’.

Recommendation:

‘Adultery’ is an enjoyable light read though not the book I had expected from Coelho, whose previous writing has been filled with spirituality and wisdom.

If you enter without expectations, you will enjoy it.

LWI Rating:
Realistic Characterization: 3/5
Made Me Think: 3.5/5
Overall enjoyment: 3/5
Readability: 4/5
Recommended: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
 

Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback USD 15.26
  Paperback USD 6.99
  Kindle USD 9.40
Bookdepository Hardback Euro 19.73
  Paperback Euro 13.25
Booktopia Hardback AUD 33.25
  Paperback AUD 23.95
  E-book AUD 11.99

Florence 2 

 

 

 

 

@FTThum

MeaningsAndMusings

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 19,500 other followers

© Copyright-All rights reserved by litworldinterviews.wordpress.com 2015

50 Shades – Storm in a Teacup a Woman’s Thoughts by @FTThum

50 shades of grey

I asked Florence to write a piece about 50 Shades of Grey since she had both read the books and seen the movie. With her therapist and lawyer/professor background I thought it would an interesting and intelligent experience for us all. Did it turn out as I expected? Read and find out. If you dare.~Ronovan

Fifty Shades of Grey (’50 Shades’) – trilogy and movie – have caused quite a storm in the media. Its critics have labelled it anti-feminist, for glorifying abuse and violence, for normalising domestic violence, and the list goes on.

In the wake of socio-political discourses rippling through social and news media, I (and eleven gal pals) went to see it on the second day after it was released.

50ShadesofGreyCoverArt

The story in a nut shell

A little about the trilogy and the movie for those who have not read or watched it. The trilogy is largely written in the first person – the voice of Anastasia Steele, the female protagonist, who is a twenty-something senior at university in the first book to a journalist in later books. Anastasia meets Christian Grey who is in his late twenties and a billionaire entrepreneur. There is a sexual spark in their first meeting which led to her being ‘pursued’ by the guy in question. What then transpires is open to interpretation (I will get to this shortly).

The movie follows the book closely, with a few inconsequential differences. As in the books, the plot is thin revolving around Christian’s past returning to haunt him and a typical separation and reunion of lovers. There are few heights to attain, except sexually J. This trilogy could have been contained in one book if the explicit sex scenes were removed, but then it would not be Fifty Shades, now would it?

The plot is simplistic – addressing the tension between the influences of the past on the present, and whether present lust and love can assure a future together; the conflict between what each of the protagonists consider right and wrong, normal and abnormal, pain and pleasure. Oft times, the boundaries are blurred, hence the grey metaphor. By the way, Christian describes himself as “50 shades of fucked up”.

Yes, it is a romance/fairytale, with a significant difference – a male protagonist with BDSM proclivities. Like any other romance, Christian Grey is ‘wooing’ Anastasia, except here, that means she is to ‘submit’ to him.

As a reader, I found the prose in the book lacking. Somehow I suspect EL James did not proffer the trilogy as a literary masterpiece. Then again, millions (around the 100 million mark internationally at last look) have bought this book. Why? Because most readers, I am led to believe, are focused on the emotional relationship instead of the sexual one between Christian and Anastasia. I found the trilogy an easy read, an enjoyable romp, and from these perspectives, entertaining.

The same goes for the movie. I did not go expecting the sensuality and mystery of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, neither was I expecting the arthouse production of ‘The Lover’, ‘Belle de Jour’ or ‘Sex and Lucia’. Fifty Shades is modern erotic romance/fairytale, pure and simple, with a screenplay very much in line with the first book in the trilogy. The actors are a surprise – Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of Anastasia is accurate though a little grittier. Jamie Dornan’s depiction of Christian – brooding, dark and with enough mystery to invite exploration – is attractive enough.

Overall, if I must, I will give this movie a 2 out of 5. And I guess if your child is sufficiently curious to want to see this movie, then perhaps it is time to begin those difficult and exciting conversations. It is unlikely to be suitable for those under the age of 16.

Now we come to the crux of this post – the controversy surrounding issues of abuse/violence.

Another interpretation

But first, AN interpretation of the storyline.

I see a man traumatized by his past, who exerts controls to feel safe and secure. I see a young woman naïve in the ways of love, sex and relationships who fell in love with a man who is perhaps too complex for her. He wants her on his terms (the much referred to contract to be specific) and takes steps to ensure she understands the terms, urging her to research and also explaining what and how. She in her innocence believes she could be what he wants, who could satisfy him, and that love can surpass every obstacle. There are emotional conflicts and moral tensions.

What I have said so far does not justify the potential harmful effects this relationship could have on Anastasia. Not at all. Yes, Christian could be a predator. Yes, Anastasia could be a victim. And yes, the relationship could be fatal.

‘The Storm’

50 Shades doing

What bothers me about the Storm are these:

  • As I read the many articles urging women, particularly young women, not to go see the movie because they would be drawn into romanticising abuse/violence, expecting violence to be ‘normal’, I feel disempowered. I feel angry.
  • As I read of pronouncements of the negative impacts of Christian’s behaviour, and his all-powerful and manipulative personality presented as a given, and against whom women have no defence and so must hide, I feel fear then infuriation.

Once again I, a woman, am being told to do this but not that, be this or else. Once again I, a woman, is considered incapable of caring for myself, to make decisions that are right for me. Once again I, a woman, need to be protected from my own actions.

And because I am potential prey, potential victim, then I must behave as one – disempowered and in fear.

In the name of protection, and dare I say it, paternalism is alive and well. Oh, just to clarify, I am not referring to men or male persons, but rather paternalism.

So not much exhortation of the behaviour of men in this respect. Much less empathy for a man in Christian’s situation. Yet lots have been said of what women (we are all Anastasia it would seem) should or should not do.

Take for example the movie ‘The Hangover’. I find it offensive in its portrayal of what is acceptable men behaviour, it normalizes binge drinking, drug taking, ‘lad’ behaviour and despite some criticisms (it is crass and has a rather thin plot line), the majority opinion falls onto the side of ‘boys will be boys’. Any calls for men not to watch this movie? Somehow the underlying message may be that men have and can make choices, or that it is fine for men to behave so. Regardless, it is just a hilariously funny comedy. Well, 50 Shades is a romance story with a twist. It does not agree with our consensus reality of (i) damsel in distress being rescued by the knight in shining armour or the all-powerful woman who fully knows her heart and mind; and (ii) ‘normal’ sexual expressions for a woman.

Heaven forbid that a woman desires sensuality. Is it shocking that a woman might choose to explore? To entertain the possibility of engaging in something beyond vanilla sex? To have emotional conflicts or doubts about a sexual relationship?  It is perhaps more palatable to explain this ‘aberrant’ behaviour from a place of victim than choice.

Here is a twenty-something young university graduate with a major in English Lit but somehow she cannot be responsible say, for her alcohol consumption vis-à-vis this man? Ok, that is not the point, maybe it is. We have at times in our lives been naïve, we have battled our emotions, our rational thoughts, our lust; and we have made decisions that are not for our well-being.

I am not perfect. It is alright to not-know, to grapple with my emotions, my desires, my rational mind. Yes, if Anastasia was my daughter, my protective instinct would have me say ‘stay away’ yet somehow, I suspect in the seduction of passion, my words may fall on deaf ears.

To demonize Christian as THE predator and to portray Anastasia as THE prey/victim do not allow space for the grey-ness that is life. Most importantly it suggests in this instance a given immovable power of men over women.

punishment

Another approach

I am a mother of a young daughter. I know to prohibit would most likely have the effect of arousing her curiosity. To prohibit imposes my values, my views on her. Most importantly, it disempowers her.

The books and the movie show the conflict Anastasia is confronted with, of having to decide ‘will she’ or ‘won’t she’. Ultimately what matters more is the process and what ‘tools’ she has to make this rather significant decision.

So, I will teach my daughter the difference between love and lust, romance and real life, sensuality and violence. I will teach her that to understand a man (or anyone) and the reasons for his flaws does not mean we have to accept them, that for everything we do sexually merely for the sake of sex, we lose something precious within ourselves. I will teach her to listen and trust her instincts.

I will guide my daughter as she discovers love does not require self-sacrifice or compromising her self-worth, her pride; love does not demand mindless giving in. I will journey with her in her life which will have conflicts and tensions she needs navigate, difficult decisions she will have to make.

And all these I will also teach my son – respect for self and others, self-love and compassion.

My daughter I trust could hold to this – to resist the decisions and consequences that make her small. To quote a wise woman, that which would cause her ‘to bonsai herself’ – small and bound. No pun intended here.

Perhaps the storm is a storm in a teacup, if we could speak another story, another narrative that unites rather than judges and separates.

My final words

As a professional woman of a certain age and a feminist who has read the trilogy and watched the movie, I will say that I enjoyed them all, for what they are.

This need not be just a story of BDSM and abuse/violence and a woman who fell prey to the ‘evil’ man, a victim. I will privilege a different narrative. It is a story of both protagonists’ journey of manoeuvring through the confusing states of being human – our desires, our wants, what’s good for us, what’s not, what do we value, what we are willing to compromise – and the outcome.

Ah, the outcome is like a fairytale. And like watching any fairytale, I leave with a smile and return to my real world.

I AM capable of distinguishing which is which.

 

– FlorenceT

Florence 2

@FTThum

MeaningsAndMusings.WordPress.Com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 19,500 other followers

© Copyright-All rights reserved by ronovanwrites.wordpress.com 2015

#BookWorm @FTThum Review of Letters of Note by @LettersOfNote

February 2015, and I am here (finally!) to share a book which I bought myself for Christmas 2014 – a little self-love J. Yes, it has been a busy January but better late than never because I am compelled.

Title:               Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
Compiled:      Shaun Usher
Publisher:       Canongate Books Ltd & Unbound (24 October 2013)
Website:         http://www.lettersofnote.com/ & www.shaunusher.com
ISBN-13:        9781782112235
ISBN-10:        1782112235
Pages: Hardback, 384 pages
Genre: Literary Non-Fiction, Anthology

What’s it about?

This is an anthology of letters from the 17th century to present day written by a myriad of personalities including the likes of Zelda Fitzgerald, Albert Einstein, Mick Jagger and Roald Dahl.

These letters compiled by Shaun Usher were selected from a vast number of online contributions (see website above) consisting of different types of letters ranging from humorous to angry, sentimental to dispassionate letters, and in different contexts. They provide deeper insights to the events of history and the people we thought we knew so much of.

This is a book filled with beautiful words, expressions, styles; and worth having a copy if only for posterity.

To quote the website’s blurb about the book:

Letters of Note is a collection of 125 of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters.

 From Virginia Woolf’s heart-breaking suicide letter, to Queen Elizabeth II’s recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower; from the first recorded use of the expression ‘OMG’ in a letter to Winston Churchill, to Gandhi’s appeal for calm to Hitler; and from Iggy Pop’s beautiful letter of advice to a troubled young fan, to Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable job application letter, Letters of Note is a celebration of the power of written correspondence which captures the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up all of our lives.

And it is indeed the case.

And here’s an excerpt from a letter from Rebecca West to HG Wells. To understand the context, the book provides the background story. In this instance, HG Wells invited Rebecca West to dinner in response to her scathing review of his book, ‘Marriage’ in 1912. They met and fell in love, and went on to have an affair which lasted 11 years. This letter was West’ response when HG Wells’ attempted to break out their relationship about a year into the affair.

I don’t understand why you wanted me three months ago and don’ wan me now…Of course, you’re quite right. I haven’t anything to give you. You have only a passion for excitement and for comfort. You don’t want any more excitement and I do not give people comfort….

I always knew that you would hurt me to death some day, but I hoped to choose the time and place…I can’t conceive of a person who runs about lighting bonfires and yet nourishes a dislike of flame: that seems silly to me.

… I know you will derive immense satisfaction from thinking of me as an unbalanced young female who flopped about in your drawing room in an unnecessary heart-attack.

…But I hate you when you try to cheapen the things I did honestly and cleanly…You once found my willingness to love you a beautiful and courageous thing. I still think it was. Your spinsterishness makes you feel that a woman desperately and hopelessly in love with a man is an indecent spectacle and a reversal of the natural order of things. But you should have been too fine to feel like that.

I wish you have loved me. I wish you liked me.

Now doesn’t that give a certain insight to this relationship and perhaps to HG Wells, the man? Doesn’t it cause your imagination to take flight?

As an  aside, this book began as a blog (see website above) by Shaun Usher, wanting to share what he considered to be correspondence deserving a wider audience.  The book compilation was published by Unbound, a crowd-sourced publisher, and Canongate.

Recommendation:

If you enjoy or love the written word, then you can’t miss this book. It is a book you can flip open, even if you have only 5 minutes to spare, and find yourself moved by the sentiments. You will be inspired to find within yourself that expression of your soul.

Long live the art of letter-writing.

LWI Rating:

Realistic Characterization: N/A
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Readability: 5/5
Recommended: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback $28.09 USD
  Kindle $9.80 USD
Bookdepository Hardback €28.07 Euro
Booktopia Hardback $41.75 AUD

 

Florence 2

 

 

 

 

@ftthum

MeaningsAndMusings,WordPress.Com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 19,500 other followers

© Copyright-All rights reserved by litworldinterviews.wordpress.com 2015

#BookReview @FTThum – Straight Jacket by Adrian Deans

This book was published in 2013, I read it at the end of that year…and re-read it recently.

It deserves a review. Why? Read on.

straight jacket

Title:             Straight Jacket
Author:          Adrian Deans
Publisher:     High Horse Books (7 August 2013)
ISBN-10:        0646906259
ISBN-13:        9780646906256
Website:        http://www.adriandeans.com/
Pages:           Paperback, 278 pages
Facebook:       https://www.facebook.com/StraightJacket242
Genre:            Fiction – Crime

 

What’s it about?

“If God is too indifferent, or too non-existent to take care of His creation, then clearly it’s up to Me.”

This is Morgen Tanjenz, a lawyer with a God complex, or maybe Devil complex… or simply misunderstood? As he intervenes in the lives of those around him, his life intersects with Detective Sergeant Peter ‘Blacksnake’ Fowler who has problems of his own not least the woman he loves is having an affair. With a serial killer on the loose, Fowler is under intense pressure, and the pressure valve is sure to explode when taunted by the likes of Morgen?

This is an edgy crime novel set in Sydney – dark and interspersed with moments of humour. The protagonist and other characters are quirky and believable, a twist from the usual crime novel characterisations.  And what’s with the cicada on the book cover…and the reference throughout to these insects prominent in the Sydney-scape in summer?

Deans once again has enthralled his readers with his dark sense of humour and unusual perspectives. A book for those willing to explore difference and open to the less than beautiful side of life – its sexual overtones and drugs usage. Morgen is not a lovable character, I don’t think, but captivating.  I want to be on his side. Compelling read as I begin to invest in Morgen’s life – curious to know what happens to him, not wanting anything negative to occur to him. Persuasive writing.

Definitely a worthwhile book to read, especially if you enjoy intense dark crime novels with drama and humour.

LWI Rating:
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5
Readability: 3.5/5
Recommended: 3.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 5.27
Bookdepository Paperback Not available at present
Booktopia Paperback AUD 21.25
eBook AUD 4.50

 

Florence 2– FlorenceT

@FTThum

MeaningsAndMusings.WordPress.com

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 19,500 other followers

© Copyright-All rights reserved by litworldinterviews.wordpress.com 2015

#BookReview @FTThum – All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness @DebHarkness

The ‘All Souls Trilogy’ by Deborah Harkness consists of:

 

discovery of witchesTitle:               A Discovery of Witches (Book 1)
ISBN 10:        0670022411
ISBN 13:        9780670022410
Publisher:       Penguin USA
Publication date: 8 February 2011
Pages:             592 pages

shadow of night

 

 

 

Title:               Shadow of Night (Book 2)
ISBN 10:        0670023485
ISBN 13:        9780670023486
Publisher:       Penguin USA
Publication date: 10 July 2012
Pages:             592 pages

book of life

 

Title:               The Book of Life (Book 3)
ISBN 10:        0670025593
ISBN 13:        9780670025596
Publisher:       Vikings Books
Publication date: 15 July 2014
Pages:             561 pages

 

 

 

Genre:            Fiction – Fantasy
Website:        http://deborahharkness.com/all-souls-trilogy/
Twitter:         @DebHarkness
Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDeborahHarkness 

 

What’s it about?

The All Souls Trilogy centres on two protagonists, Diana Bishop, a witch yet to come to her full power, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire determined to find the origin of species. It is set in our world with one distinction – daemons, vampires and witches dwell here too, hiding their essential nature, and unbeknownst to humans, have been co-existing with us since forever. If you are associating this with the ‘Twilight’ series, don’t. It is not. To suggest it is a thinking person’s ‘Twilight’ would do the Trilogy a great disservice. It is so much more.

Deborah Harkness is a professor of history and teaches European history and the history of science at the University of Southern California. Her vast scholarly knowledge is evident within the pages of these 3 books. The science is so intricately woven and the history exact. Of course there is literary or artistic license but then the reader will know where they lie.

Harkness’ depiction of the creatures and each character in this compelling tale is flawless. It is so believable that I can almost see demons, vampires, and witches living in this world of ours.

All Souls Trilogy is a story of acceptance and denial, of collaboration and division, of love and loss, of trust and betrayal, of family and enemies, and ultimately it is a story of acknowledging and being true to oneself.

Now, to each book in the Trilogy:

Discovery of Witches (Book 1)

I picked this book up in the local library. I was bored and thought to try something new – I am not usually a Fantasy book reader. I was hooked from Page 1 and finished the book in no time.

This first book touches the heart. It begins with Diana, an American and Yale historian over in Oxford researching at the Bodleian Library whereupon she attracts from the archives an alchemical manuscript of Elias Ashmole with missing pages of great significance. Diana is also a woman in denial of her genetic heritage, for she is a witch of potential great powers.

Then there is Matthew, an Oxford biochemist, whom Diana encounters in the Bodleian Library. A vampire fully aware of his power and on the search for that elusive manuscript. A man of apparent strength and intelligence is so attractive (okay, I was drooling :-)).

Bound by a common purpose, Diana and Matthew begin their journey of discovery of their history and their future.

Harkness has created multi-dimensional characters – of Diana and Matthew, and their family and friends – which makes me so curious to meet them, to want to know their depth, and Harkness did not disappoint as I delve. Each of Diana and Matthew’s strength and vulnerability are endearing. Their relationship of love resplendent with complex emotions yet so honest. This book is a page-turner and a surprise at every turn.

Rating: 4.5/5

Shadow of Night (Book 2)

This book begins with Diana and Matthew arriving in 16th century London, using Diana’s time-walking ability. Elizabethan England is a place which Matthew is familiar. So it continues, Diana and Matthew’s search for the manuscript with stunning revelations about the manuscript, and of Matthew’s and Diana’s history.

Of the three books, this book is especially captivating for lovers of history and science. Based primarily in Tudor London, we meet the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Kit Marlowe (a daemon playwright in Harkness’ world), Thomas Harriot (a daemon astronomer) and Sir Walter Raleigh (a human confidante to the Queen).

The progress of Diana and Matthew’s relationship creates new intrigue, as they cross the great divide prohibited by the Covenant, an agreement between the 3 species, daemon, vampire and witch, which have governed the way of being for centuries. The book canvasses the notion of what intimacy can be and how it can be demonstrated through these two different-natured creatures.

It just gets better and better, as Harkness explores the meaning of loyalty and trust, and tests the limits of love. Diana accepts the possibility of her immense power and takes steps to own it. Matthew’s vulnerability is exposed, his strength a mask behind which he has hidden for centuries from all that he has been and done.

Rating: 4/5

The Book of Life (Book 3)

The Book of Life was published some 2 years after Shadow of Night. It was too long a wait for me :-).

Diana and Matthew return to 21st century France, the location of Matthew’s ancestral home. Their fiery relationship continues to be challenged as Matthew wrestles with his past and attempts to build his future, with great implications. Matthew’s journey has tested his resolve, his sense of self.  Will he learn the ultimate lesson – to trust himself and others who love him? That love is not destructive but constructive, and all powerful?

Diane fully in control of her magic and confronting the Congregation is an imagery to behold. As she takes charge, it is clear she has travelled a long way from her mind to her heart, both in her relationship with Matthew and her past.

Harkness continues to weave a story of enchantment, heartbreak, and resilience into her amazing alternative world. Reading the third book of this Trilogy, it is clear the magic of Harkness’ writing is how she manages to insinuate the supernatural creatures and substantiates normalcy in the daemon-vampire-witch-human world.

So the array of creatures is now bound by a common purpose to retrieve the manuscript and the secret to survival of the species. This final book of the All Soul’s Trilogy captures the imagination, speeding to a climatic end which comes full circle…”It began with a discovery of witches…”

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Recommendation:

Need I say more than, this Trilogy is a must-read?

If you don’t enjoy historical or fantasy fiction, step off and read something different…

And for Fantasy enthusiast, this Trilogy delivers on so many levels.

 

LWI Rating:
Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5
Readability: 4.5/5
Recommended: 5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback  
  Paperback  
  Kindle  
Bookdepository Hardback
  Paperback
Booktopia Hardback
  Paperback

 

Florence 2

 

 

 

 

– FlorenceT

@FTThum

MeaningsAndMusings.WordPress.com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 19,500 other followers

© Copyright-All rights reserved by litworldinterviews.wordpress.com 2015

#books #boOKs & more #BOOKS Recommendations from @FTThum

If you are in doubt as to which books (I am using plural as I presume one won’t be enough! 🙂 ) to read over the holiday season, here are some suggestions from some creative and innovative people who were presenters on the TED stage.

I have only read 5 of the many on that list, I’d better get cracking… If you wish, listen to the TED Talks of these talented people.  They seem interesting and might just inspire… I for one plan to catch up on my viewing… thus speaketh the nerd 🙂

 

OR you can browse these Lists for ‘recommendations’:

If you are into poetry or plain curious, the anthology for the 2013 Montreal International Poetry Prize Longlist is available for free download. So enjoy!

Then again, I find I spend far too much time browsing Lists, sigh!  Of course, there is the road less travelled 😉 .

Follow your heart, your intuition and have a wonderful reading experience!

 

Florence 2

 

 

@FTThum

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 19,500 other followers

© Copyright-All rights reserved by litworldinterviews.wordpress.com 2014